Links 11/19/18

How Your Field Notes, Dusty or New, Can Help Science The Wire

United Nations considers a test ban on evolution-warping gene drives MIT Technology Review


How Local Governments Are Addressing Climate Change Mother Earth News

Missing St Mark mosaic finally returns to Cyprus The Hindu

El Al diverts flight after religious passengers cause uproar over Shabbat scare The Times of Israel

Megafloods on Mars Carved Giant Canyons Into the Red Planet Motherboard

Huge, previously unknown impact crater found beneath Greenland’s ice Ars Technica

Waste Watch

We can’t just change our coffee cups, we have to change our lives TreeHugger


For Once, Theresa May is Very Accurate Craig Murray

Brexit: an information desert

May to face down Tory rebels: Prime Minister will insist her Brexit deal delivers on immigration promises and tells ministers her Northern Ireland plan cannot be changed Daily Mail. See above.

Brexit deal: Theresa May faces defeat over plan to force release of economic analysis of her plan Independent

California Burning

California governor: Climate science around fires will be so clear that ‘even the worst skeptics are going to be believers’ The Hill

California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how LA Times

California wildfires: Finland bemused by Trump raking comment BBC. Dear Finland: Welcome to the club! Much of what Trump says bemuses the rest of us.

Democrats in Disarray

The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About Truthdig


Syria Sitrep – Army Wins Al-Safa Battle – More Troops Move Towards Idelb Moon of Alabama. Missed this yesterday.

Yemen’s Houthis say they are ready for a ceasefire Al Jazeera

‘A Truly Spectacular Ally’: Trump’s Saudi First Foreign Policy American Conservative

Refugee Watch

Barricaded refugees ‘ready to die’ than return to Libya detention Al Jazeera


Narendra Modi Stacks RBI Board With Allies to Turn Heat up on Governor The Wire

India’s first elephant hospital cheers animal activists, draws tourists Reuters


Why the security of nuclear materials should be focus of US-Russia nuclear relations Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America.Counterpunch. Very much on my mind, as I recently visited Hiroshima, and spent several hours in the museum. If you’ve not yet seen any of the excellent interviews Paul Jay conducted with Daniel Ellsberg on the Real News Network, do. I link to the first of twelve, of which I believe eight are up. The Doomsday Machine: The Big Lie of the Cold War – Daniel Ellsberg on RAI (1/12) Real News Network.

Class Warfare

Apple’s Tim Cook says tech regulation ‘inevitable’ because free market isn’t working MarketWatch

Opioid Nation New York Review of Books

Michael Bloomberg: Why I’m Giving $1.8 Billion for College Financial Aid NYT. He’s running. But what we really need is free college, which would  force private universities to cut out admin featherbedding and other waste and reduce their tuition,  fees, etc. else they risk losing too many students to public alternatives.

Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses CNN

Pope decries that ‘wealthy few’ feast on what belongs to all AP

The dark side of Germany’s online shopping boom Handelsblatt

Fresh clashes in French ‘yellow vest’ fuel price protests

Why Losing Out on Amazon HQ2 Isn’t So Bad for Cities The deck: A new study points to evidence that luring a large corporation isn’t the best way to spur job growth. Moi: Quelle surprise!

Kill Me Now

Eliminating All Student Debt Isn’t Progressive NYT (RM). Readers?

2018 Post Mortem

Why the Perfect Red-State Democrat Lost ProPublica

Weekend midterms update: Democrats concede Florida and Georgia but complete their Orange County sweep Vox

Facebook Fracas

The Punctured Myth of Sheryl Sandberg New Republic. Today’s must read. Obviously her enemies have been storing up info, waiting for their chance to pounce on a wounded animal and leak, leak, leak away. But still…

Yes, Facebook made mistakes in 2016. But we weren’t the only ones. WaPo. I remind readers that to link is not to endorse – and I generally leave it to the commentariat to debunk rather than impose my reading on everyone. You always come up with a range of far more interesting things to say than I could possibly think of.

Tariff Tantrum

Apec summit ends without agreement as US and China’s deep divisions over trade emerge SCMP

APEC summit presents stark US or China choices Asia Times

Trump Transition

Trump pondering Kelly’s status, 3-5 Cabinet changes AP


With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the U.S. Change Policy? Foreign Policy in Focus

Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump’s court picks The Hill

The EPA Gave Its Website a Pro-Fracking Makeover Motherboard

Antidote du jour:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. taunger

    Student debt forgiveness is not progressive. True. But still worthwhile, not necessarily for the short term, direct effects, but in conjunction with free higher education as a way to reorient the economy in general. Plus, removing means testing, stigma, etc. for social services is necessary. Finally, I am not taking this bald assertion, on which the author’s argument rests, as fact: I know you’ve probably read stories about liberal-arts college graduates who ran up enormous debts and now can’t find decent work. But they are the rare exceptions.

    1. Dan

      I am absolutely against outright forgiveness. Being progressive does not mean one ignores the opportunity costs of your proposals. There would be far better, and more deserving uses of 1.4 trillion dollars than this. Especially without addressing the costs side, which this conveniently does. Targeted programs of relief are fine. But outright forgiveness just screws the person again who struggled, skimped, and chose a less costlier higher-education option over someone who spent their time at a private or ivy league school and had to have the most recent Iphone iteration and jetted off on spring break vacations.

      1. taunger

        I’m not big on your moral hazard argument, and also, your cost argument side-steps an important economic principle re: MMT that most on this site accept, so it might be worthwhile to think if your argument holds up without either.

        1. rd

          I think the moral hazard solution is to allow student debt to be forgiven or restructured in bankruptcy. That puts the onus on both the lender and lendee to be prudent in their decisions.

          In many cases, the long-term problems are not the original debt but the accruing interest and fees when somebody can’t pay for a while. Just the threat of bankruptcy discharge would probably make it much easier to renegotiate favorable terms with the lender, such as fee waivers, due to temporary poor financial conditions. Right now, why would a lender negotiate at all?

          I think there should be much more education of the students and their parents on the long-term costs associated with expensive schooling funded by student loans. Students that credit card companies won’t give $2,000 credit limits to are getting 10s of thousands in student loans. Understanding that they are effectively mortgaging their life with the lenders able to foreclose on their finances all the way into retirement is probably not factored into many of the students’ decisions.

          Based on personal experience of several children having gone through variable levels of post-secondary school with varying amounts of student loan debt, I think that up to about $30k in student debt is very doable if on track for a career that will pay above the household median income. Above that requires a steely-eyed financial assessment. If they are likely to make about $40k or less, then anything over $10k in student debt is probably unwise.

          Following these types of guidelines to help select schools would also put the schools on notice that they need to control their costs or students simply won’t attend. I think there are now enough student debt horror stories out there now that the myth that getting a college education is the global solution is deflating.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            It’s hard to believe we’re even debating the pros and cons of getting our kids educated at any cost to society while The Party of Davos sneaks away with $21 trillion in “bad debt forgiveness” courtesy of the Fed and QE.

            Hapless punter borrows $50K to try and get ahead: no soup for you. Wall St billionaire needs his portfolio to keep pace so he gets that second private island: what a hero! Give that man as much free money as he wants.

            Seriously, people, cui bono. Can we agree it should be the many, and not just the few for a change?

            Value to society of bailing out the 1% from their bad investment decisions = +/- zero. Value to society of having an educated and productive citizenry = immeasurable. You might even call it “mission-critical” for every nation on Earth.

            1. Stephen Gardner

              Bravo. Thank you for pointing this out to those who still haven’t grasped that morality and moral hazards are class-based–not universal and self evident. I’m tired of the divine right of the Davos set.

          2. Procopius

            I am strongly in favor of your idea, “reform” the bankruptcy law again, to remove Lovable Uncle Joe Biden’s denial of discharge for student loans. The institution is already in place to determine the validity of the petition for relief. The think I like most about your solution is it blocks calls for means testing, which I think is the worst policy preference the New Democrats came up with. I will always and everywhere oppose means testing. No means testing for free tuition at public universities. If some multibillionaire wants to send his kids there, fine. I get no heartburn from letting a fellow citizen get the same benefits as me. You want to make them less rich? I’m in favor of that, too, but adding means testing to any public good makes it too complicated and a lot too expensive.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Here’s a nightmare scenario from means testing.

              If the Means-Testy Catfood Democrats take power again, they will impose a means test for Social Security. What that will mean for me is that if I am lucky enough to have a house AND a car by the time I want to receive my FICA-tax pre-paid-for benefits, the Means Testy Liberals will tell me that I have to sell my house and live in my car and spend all my sold-the-house money down to zero. And when I have zero money and my car is my only home, then they will let me have my Social Security.

              That’s the ultimate endpoint of Means Testing. And that’s the ultimate Means-Testy Liberal Catfood-Democrat goal.

        2. JP

          Given the parasitic nature of the student loan program, it makes some sense that the lenders should take a haircut. Doling out govt. money to the borrowers just supports the giveaway to the lenders. As far as MMT goes, it should be remembered if money created out of thin air by the govt. is not made productive then we all get a little poorer. Productive can be interpreted many ways and can be sustainable. It doesn’t have to be resource destructive but it must increase the well being of society, material or otherwise to be a worthwhile investment in the future.

          1. Grand

            Here is a paper co-written by Kelton on forgiving student loan debt.


            Goes over the numerous macro-economic benefits. Inflation is moderate, according to the study, and while it would result in larger deficits for the federal government, it would actually greatly improve the fiscal position of local and state governments. Since the federal government can create money and the states and local governments cannot, that is a huge. I thought that one of the huge insights from MMT was the use of double entry bookkeeping to analyze this stuff. Seems that while the federal deficits might increase with a program like this, removing 1.4 trillion in private debt seems to be an obvious net collective benefit.

            “But outright forgiveness just screws the person again who struggled, skimped, and chose a less costlier higher-education option over someone who spent their time at a private or ivy league school and had to have the most recent Iphone iteration and jetted off on spring break vacations.”

            So, this is the typical situation in your mind? This is how you summarize this complex issue from the vantage point of students?

            1. JP

              I think you meant to reply to Dan. I am not against dept forgiveness. I am against the congressionally protected rapacious rent extraction of the lenders. Your first paragraph makes good points to be further explored. My point is govt. money should not be wasted to buy political power.

            2. Oregoncharles

              ” I thought that one of the huge insights from MMT was the use of double entry bookkeeping to analyze this stuff.”
              It’s a side issue here, but I’m not an accountant, so I find that argument utterly unconvincing, as in, why make it? It doesn’t connect with the real world, which arguments from productivity or resource use do.

              I also don’t think this affects the validity of their main arguments.

              1. Grand

                “It’s a side issue here, but I’m not an accountant, so I find that argument utterly unconvincing, as in, why make it? It doesn’t connect with the real world, which arguments from productivity or resource use do.”

                So, removing 1.4 trillion dollars in private debt doesn’t have any connection to the real world? You ever studied any economics of any kind? You know, that study I linked deals with real world impacts. Maybe I am missing something in what you are saying.

                1. Oregoncharles

                  I’ll have to go back and look at your link. I wasn’t commenting on it, but on the MMT arguments from double entry bookkeeping, which I’ve seen repeatedly.

                  Those may apply to the real world, too, but so far I haven’t seen anyone make the connection.

                  Actually, I think Hudson’s piece on debt and the Jubilee raises questions about how “real” private debts are, if they can be canceled by the local authorities.

                  1. Stephen Gardner

                    I find this amusing. Of course private debts can be cancelled by local authorities. Who do you think enforces collection?

      2. AdamCoppola

        NYT’s double-bind — can’t help the lower class, because that would help the middle class more — divides and distracts. The issue is that education is claimed to be an equalizer and a source of class mobility, but instead, on the whole, funnels money from the gov’t to universities and (predatory) lenders, while the costs reinforce class distributions. Students themselves don’t actually receive more than a small stipend of loans, the rest goes to the university at ever-rising price points. Instead of being driven by opportunity, graduates are driven by the threat of default. This is a regressive pipeline already, and the destruction of this pipeline should be considered progressive. In the long run, free college is progressive. Debt forgiveness is a means of free college. At least it is helping individuals rather than unis and lenders. Debatably, it might help some more than others. Even if the US government had a finite budget, debt forgiveness programs may be socially progressive in that it reduces the barrier to entry for individuals who would not be willing to take on the debt in the first place.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          if universal free education means that my boys get to go to college…but that also trump’s grandspawn also get a free education…I’m all for that.
          Universal means Universal. Full stop.
          that trump’s grandspawn get in for free, too…is not a very good argument against the idea.
          maybe we could then get busy crow-barring the finance parasites from the university system…and maybe(!) undoing the hypercredentialization of everything by flooding the “market”.
          “an educated citizenry….”, and all…
          as it stands, this portion of the Social Contract was long ago broken…forced into stem degrees on the promise/justification of future Jobs which never materialise…and all the stadiums and sports complexes and administrative bloat…fie.
          I’d prefer that we focus on creating Humans.
          being able to quote Shakespeare with ease in any situation is something I look for in potential farm workers.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              as you like it.

              I just think it would be cool if more people in real life understood my jokes.
              I suspect that a Liberal Education would help.

              an anecdote comes to mind: post-911, after lunch rush in my little cafe. waiting around to see if hunting season was gonna happen(it didn’t), and I’m at the front table reading a book(Visions of Cody, Kerouac), waiting to close.
              waitress…high school girl, now a pretty good mother…says incredulously, “you’re reading?…and you don’t have to?”
              like I had grown horns and disrobed.
              when I observe all the idiocy that surrounds us and penetrates us, I think of her in that moment.
              adolf hitler said, “what luck for the rulers that men do not think”
              and yet the local isd threw away all their plato and aristotle and thucydides(I have an in with the librarian, so they’re in my Library, now…for loan, if anyone is interested)
              something must be done, lest the stupid inherit the earth.

          1. wilroncanada

            I quote Shakespeare all the time. Irving Shakespeare, who owns a terrific deli in town. His motto: “My Meat Can’t Be beat”

            1. Stephen Gardner

              As Emerson said: “The right tool for the right job won’t hurt the tool, the man, or the job.” That was Fred Emerson. He used to be my foreman at the paper mill where I worked as a young man.

      3. Mark Gisleson

        Forget about forgiveness. Just let student borrowers declare bankruptcy.

        Joe Biden won’t approve, but this would save countless lives from debt peonage.

        1. cm

          Yes, this is the only rational solution, which of course returns us to the low-tuition days of the 80’s.

          Lenders are immediately forced to share the risk (and be warier about lending $$$ for worthless degrees and to students who are destined to drop out), and as a result college administrators will be forced to lower costs.

          R’s can be persuaded by saying it was good enough for Reagan, and that Biden is a scummy D.

          D’s should already be persuaded because it is the right thing to do, correct?

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            State Legislatures would have to re-raise taxes on their States’ citizens to have the money to restore budget subsidy to the State Univerisities back to pre-tax-revolt levels.
            And State citizens would have to be so willing to pay those higher taxes that they would elect State Legislature which would raise those taxes.

        2. The Rev Kev

          Not too familiar with this topic but all those student debts which last time I heard, was over 1.5 trillion dollars in size. I don’t know if this pool of debt has collateral loans based on it or not but the point is this – if it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, would that not make that debt pool basically government-backed debt (as in the government says that you cannot discharge it)? That may have been the point of having those loans non-dischargable – to have basically AAA rated debt for Wall Street to play around with and monetize.

      4. tegnost

        why not take your “targeted programs” idea to the incipient hillary 2020 campaign, I bet there’s a job for you there. Are elite dems really just protestants who think this world is where you get what you deserve? The costs side that you mention, for instance, has been impacted severely by student loans driving up the cost of college. Where do you stand on this issue? Simply by bringing it up (…then letting it go as if it were self explanatory) proves that maybe your own debt (you do have debt, don’t you? If you’ve already paid off your loan, which you most certainly had, then you went to school when it was a lot cheaper.) was not used to it’s seeming goal of making you capable of critical thinking. Your two choices don’t come close to describing the ecosystem of student loan borrowers, and says zip about the wealthy (iphone and jet using and most certainly spring break attending) scions of affluenza whose parents in this control fraud nation managed to reap the vast majority of gains to the economy since the student loan program began.

        1. You're soaking in it!

          I’m all for removing the horrific restriction against discharging student loans in bankruptcy. That seems like such a simple step; but before discussing dumping subsidies into an already bloated higher education system, why not stand up for the more universally beneficial program of free child care / early education? The benefits to the kids are well documented, the benefits to the parents are self obvious and more broad based (from a workers perspective) than free college, and the federal program (namely Head Start) to equally distribute the benefits, in theory, exists. Unfortunately, both parties in power see fit to ignore spending this money (already mandated), preferring to concentrate on shoveling it at the military. Until I hear the youngest children’s education is taken care of, spare me about free college.

        2. Katniss Everdeen

          The costs side that you mention, for instance, has been impacted severely by student loans driving up the cost of college.

          It’s also worth remembering how this tsunami of student indebtedness that has morphed into a generation-killing crisis began–with a craven, reckless, profit-maximizing deindustrialization that robbed high school graduates of opportunities for a good life without the charade of a college “degree” which they are now forced to mortgage their lives for.

          Confining any debt forgiveness “debate” within the narrow parameters of whether or not it “helps” some who don’t “deserve” it obscures the fact that the american economy has been “restructured” to the detriment of a large portion of the population without any thought for their welfare.

          Expecting them to play by rules deliberately made by somebody else for the benefit of somebody else must surely put the lie to any concern expressed for their well-being or that of society at large.

          It’s nothing more than defense of an indefensible status quo.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Debt forgiveness – deserving or not, means test or not.

            The other day, there was a discussion about Prof. Hudson’s debt Jubilee. He made a distinction between forgiving business debt and consumer debt.

            That seems to point to direction of some sort of test, and whether one kind of debt is deserving and another kind of debt is not.

            There (broader debt relief) and here (specifically relating to college), I think another alternative is to give a sum of money to everyone, debt or not debt. Those in debt (for college, for an abortion in a hospital, etc), and those not in debt (skipping college last year, but hoping to go in 2020, for example), can all benefit.

            In that sense, I am against student debt (and other debts) forgiveness. But I would in favor of giving money to the people.

          2. polecat

            As with such supposed wide-ranging concepts as 401Ks and “telecommuting”, to name but a few .. higher Ed has become both fraud and farce. Just another grift engine for the skimming !! And as you elude to, Ms. Evereen, blue-collar work (dealing with real, tangible, physical things) should not by any means be considered a second-class alternative.

          3. knowbuddhau

            Yes, hear hear, and tegnost too.

            I don’t get this “but what about me!” reaction.

            How does someone else being done justice, being relieved of a crushing personal burden that is dragging us all down in the aggregate, and never should’ve been imposed in the first place if any of our fine words mean any thing, hurt you?

            Is the opposite of schadenfreude, jealousy?

            1. Eureka Springs

              Wouldn’t real progressive taxation and perhaps a hard cap on wealth eliminate the issue to a large degree?

            2. Doug Hillman

              Indeed. Such miserly self-centeredness betrays depressingly short-sighted blindness to the national tidal surge in value created by broad and deep education. This neoliberal bullshit will instead lead to national disintegration, “…dragging us all down in the aggregate.” as you say.

              Yikes that sounds dangerously collectivist doesn’t it. “We’re all in this together” should be strictly reserved for bankster bailouts, only when needed to preserve the free market..

          4. Doug Hillman

            Spot on!

            For-profit education, apart from specialized intensive training, is such a ridiculous zero-sum ego-centric position, reminds me of the scholarship campaign for the Negro College Fund. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”. A modified parody soon appeared on bumpers. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste . . . tax dollars on!” At least I think it was parody, self-parody anyway.

            It’s the depth of zero-sum stupidity for country to ration education to it’s young, to ration its own future. On healthcare, okay I can understand the logic, shorter lives, even culling the population makes perfect sociopathic sense. But deliberately dumbing down your population is really shooting your own feet and kneecaps both. Do they really want to emulate El Salvador or Nicaragua? Maybe so, maybe that’s their Utopia.

            The crime syndicate known as the USG spends, what, 15-20 times more on military than on education? Then let’s banks parasitize students with zero-risk govt guaranteed loans. They’ve rigged the entire economic structure to bleed its people dry. They are not idiots; they’re criminals. Period. No matter what laws they’ve conjured as cover.

            1. Katniss Everdeen

              What I would really like to see is some analysis of how much of the $1.5 TRILLION in student loan “debt” outstanding was actually borrowed to finance the education, and how much is comprised of negative amortization, collection and other obscure fees (+ interest), late fees (+ interest), forbearance (+ interest) and, of course, interest on the interest.

              As far as I’m concerned, it’s unconscionable that wall street banks and corporations “borrow” at 0% while not-yet-even-employed students pay in the double digits.

              The individual student debtor stories are replete with examples of people making payments for years and finding their remaining balance is higher than their original loans. How many could have paid off their debts but for the rampant profiteering of financing firms, including the department of “education,” that have been allowed to prey on the least sophisticated borrowers. Not to mention passing an actual law against discharge in bankruptcy.

              And further as far as I’m concerned, the debts of those scammed by those for-profit “universities” should be canceled outright. The department of “education” knew full well that it was allowing those “students” to borrow for garbage and allowed it anyway. That’s on them and those corrupt, bought-and-paid-for heads should roll.

              The fact is that most student debtors understand their responsibilities and are willing to live up to them. Within reason. And it’s the reason that’s sorely lacking here.

              1. polecat

                When you combine these usurious policies with some of what I would consider blatantly absurd and devisive social college curricula being put forth to young folk attending various uh .. ‘institutions’ of um .. ‘higher learning’ …. well, let me just say that I think many students are receiving double the disservice and connivance brought about by duplicitous, and spiteful profs, and administrators that take the easy path of least resistance, with the intent of drawing in even moarrr gullible, and as yet ‘untwisted’, pliable young minds !!
                And for what ? .. DEBT, THAT’S WHAT … along with a gob of hatred thrown in for bad measure !!

      5. dcblogger

        the person who struggled and skimped is going to get far more job opportunities when all that money starts pouring into the economy. Student loan debt is holding back the entire economy. I say this as someone who graduated debt free in 1975.

        1. polecat

          An entire ‘economy’ built on the idea of extraction of ever diminishing resources, vapid consumerism, and an ‘I’ve Got MINE, Jack ! cult of hyper-economic nihilism ?? …. That economy ?
          We, collectively, minus the Grifters in our government, high finance, and the corps(e) need to restructure everything about our ‘economy so as to retain Terran viability going forward.
          I have my doughts this will happen… as neither legacy poltiical ‘paaaartaaays’ will budge .. from what they do best: Lie, Cheat, and Steal from the mopes holding them up, even as they put up a defensive block against outliers within their ranks !
          We will get to enjoy a date with Chaos instead.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That sounds like trickle down. Perhaps it’s good here to trickle down.

          Better still is for everyone to get some money and the recipients decide how to spend it – pay down debt, go to college, take a vacation, buy a house, move to a better apartment, go see a doctor, etc.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              If the bottom can buy food with that money, to feed themselves and get the necessary calories, they can ask later why it should trickle up and perhaps have the energy to do something about it.

      6. covergirl

        “But outright forgiveness just screws the person again who struggled, skimped, and chose a less costlier higher-education option over someone who spent their time at a private or ivy league school and had to have the most recent Iphone iteration and jetted off on spring break vacations.”

        How exactly does this work? What about those who chose a less costlier higher education option and didn’t have the connections to get that fine, fine job? Or the single woman who had to stay at home with her colic child instead of getting to the interview on time? Or the billion other scenarios that affect people’s decisions – and outcomes – that have absolutely no relationship to your self perception whatsoever?

      7. eg

        In reply to Dan waaaay up the posts:

        I’m not entirely clear on how someone else getting a benefit is axiomatically a cost to yourself?

        I see crabs in buckets …

      8. HotFlash

        But outright forgiveness just screws the person again who struggled, skimped, and chose a less costlier higher-education option over someone who spent their time at a private or ivy league school and had to have the most recent Iphone iteration and jetted off on spring break vacations.

        Thems the breaks. If somebody gets a good deal, and you didn’t maybe it’s not fair but it is a *good thing* for them. Seems to me there was a parable about that, in Matthew 20. I am not a Christian, but the reasoning seems good to me.

    2. Frenchguy

      Progressivism: the fear that somewhere, somehow, someone is getting something without rigorous* means testing.

      The day those kind of leftist rediscover the virtue of universal benefits is the day they will start winning elections.

      *and complicated, and painfully resarched beforehand… Consultants and think-tanks have got to keep busy after all.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Absolutely. And exactly the argument trotted out periodically to “reform” Social Security.

        And precisely the reason FDR insisted that it be universal.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sometimes, it’s OK to fear that somewhere, somehow and someone is getting something without rigorous means testing.

        For example, we fear that on Wall Street, by all means, bankers are getting lots of money without rigorous means testing.

        Other times, it’s a needless fear, and it’s OK, everywhere, by MMT, we all are getting something without rigorous means testing.

    3. In the Land of Farmers

      I agree with the writer! So screw student loan debt forgiveness, how about Homlessness Forgiveness? That is why it is not student debt forgiveness is not progressive, it is not looking after the people who are suffering the most. How about making their loan repayments go strait into a fund to house and feed the indigent?

      These “progressive” programs all are just looking for votes.

    4. boz

      Here in the UK it has been justified by calling it a “graduate tax”.

      That’s fine, as long as it actually reflected in the tax codes for graduates. That is, it actually is a tax.

      But it isn’t, so it is not.

      What it does do is drive the wrong behaviours at universities. Obscene salaries for senior management. Major debt for students. High class ratios. Attention falling away from academic standards.

      There is a connected question of economic planning – should everyone go to university? I’ll be telling my kids to get into the trades instead, if it’s still like this when it’s their turn.

    5. Rojo

      One thing’s certain, you can’t do loan forgiveness without free college, and vice-versa.

      I think the left with their “greater good” zeal often neglect that people can be petty.

      And I’m not sure it is pettiness. If I’m 40 year old who’s just finishing off a $30K plus interest loan and a bunch of 25 year olds get their debt wiped out, that wouldn’t strike me as fair. Frankly, it isn’t.

      Right-wingers understand this stuff.

      I would just make a cash voucher, kind of like an IRA, that one could apply to tuition or past student debt and if neither of those are relevant would stay by deposited in the IRA for retirement.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The cash voucher should be more universal, for paying anything, and not just tuition or past student debt.

        Basically, not student debt forgiveness, or any debt forgiveness, but a sum of money for all.

        1. Rojo

          I’m not against it, but that would be a different thing. The greater purpose of a benefit that would be universal in population but targeted in use would be to relieve a bunch debt, which would have a great multiplier effect going forward, while also upping the education level of workers and shoring up the fortunes of retirees.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Why limit it to education or the retirement account?

            It would seem to be of help to expand it to, say, health care, both time-wise (visit a doctor now, and not for retirement in 20 or 30 years), and number-wise (more people can use the extra money, thus more political support).

            1. Rojo

              Well, I wouldn’t be opposed to including health care.

              And I’m not opposed to “helicopter money” in time of recession. But, long-term I think you want something that works, well-long term. A big raison d’etre for student debt forgiveness (and for Jubilees in general) is to loose the debt-yoke off of the consumers — not to just getting them buying more.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                The debt-yoke comes in many forms.

                The debt-is-take yoke.

                And the debt-is-not-taken yoke. Here, for example, it could be someone who needed money to move out of Paradise. But for not taking on debt to get out, they stayed.

                And with that, we come to the same question – why the reluctance for free money for everyone? Why not universal (more than basic – MMT, we can splurge, for once) money?

                Why free money only in time of recession?

          2. jrs

            but others go into debt just to survive (for healthcare yes but also when income in insufficient to pay bills despite frugality etc.) … granted it is dischargable in bankruptcy.

    6. NotTimothyGeithner

      If the opportunity presents itself to pass a student debt forgiveness, it means there is an opportunity for all kinds of radical changes.

      FDR didn’t worry about one program’s political problem because he was rolling out the next program. Its when those programs stopped and he started fretting about the national debt he ran into troubles. The Great Society wasn’t stopped because there was fussing about one group getting a benefit (a rising tide lifts all boats after all). The problem was Vietnam.

      I know it was W., but the donut hole in Medicare and prescription drugs still represented an improvement even if it wasn’t everywhere. And there is all kinds of corporate graft on top, but we aren’t discussing repealing it. 9/11 spending mattered.

      Student debt relief turns into free college so easily. Expansion of Medicare to age 55 turns into 50 into 40 into everyone. Of course, there is infrastructure. What can’t be done is an argument about “how we are going to pay for it” a la Nancy Pelosi.

      I hate to say it but its useful, but “No drama, Obama.” Keep the eye on the prize and don’t get distracted about perceived battles. The NAACP didn’t worry about black farm workers in Florida or Texas who weren’t going to be the beneficiaries of the Pullman Porter’s Strike turning to the GOP because they were grumpy. One has to play to the base. Lowering the Medicare age and then calling it a day similar to the Obama Presidency with ACA will aggravate divides as there is so much demand. If student debt relief is in reach, everything is in reach.

      1. Rojo

        And FDR understood that SS couldn’t be “the dole” because that would kill the program.

        Expansion of Medicare would be universal, except for those unlucky enough to reach 55.

        The best programs are universal.

        Even though I agree with the maxim that “programs for the poor are poor programs”, I’d say non-universal programs that are aimed at the poor are the second best programs.

        The least desirable are those that aren’t quite the other two. And I think this where student loan forgiveness might enter. Unless, as I sketched out, it’s part of a broader initiative.

    7. rabbit

      Student income contingent loans such as in UK & Australia are an example of a progressive approach that in effect allow debt forgiveness and ensures those who can pay do. Particularly in Australia because the interest rate is CPI, so real interest = zero & hence non-payment doesn’t increase the real cost of debt.

  2. Henry Moon Pie

    Coffee cups–

    The article makes a good point:

    Back in the day, if you wanted a coffee, you sat down in a diner or restaurant and you had a coffee. You got it in a china cup and you drank it right there. It was called a coffee break for a reason: you were taking a break. You were having a coffee. You weren’t driving and drinking coffee or walking and drinking coffee. When you were done, your cup was washed and then used again in the same location. It was nice and circular.

    Don’t you know we’re all too busy these days? Multitasking is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the world might collapse if I don’t get to my next bullshit meeting related to my bullshit job.

    I’m reminded of Jackson Browne’s “Bright Baby Blues:”

    Everybody’s goin’ somewhere
    Ridin’ just as fast as they can ride.
    I guess they got a lot to do
    Before they can rest assured
    Their lives are justified.

    So much churn and so little accomplished that’s real.

    1. Quanka

      This is actually an important point – probably missed on most people (not necessarily the NC commentariat). We all have to consciously make these decisions ourselves, b/c society is not going to do it for us. Society is not going to give you the time to have coffee. You have to take it. And you have to make a point of taking it, and of standing out. This is how you get other people to venture to the dark side (of resistance, and no not the big D type of resistance).

      We live in this hyper liberal/capital focused economy. Literally time is money and we are all poorer so that numbskulls like Trump and Bezos can fly private choppers everywhere. They run the world – we have to take it back. And it can start with something as little as 10 minutes for a cup of coffee.

      By the way – as a coffee lover, I’ve been learning more about the importance of Yemen to the history of coffee. The plant was born in Ethiopia but the art of coffee making was a gift from Yemeni descendants from 5,000 years ago. Modern day Ethiopia gave us the plant, Yemen gave us the art. Its a crime against humanity what we are doing there with SA help.

      1. polecat

        I never, ever buy coffees (lattes, mochas, or unadulterated). I use a frenchpress, or barring that in a pinch, a coffee cone and paper filter. Then poured into this thing called a coffee cup … made of fused clay and glaze, go for many uses. No waste, the spent grounds ending up as a composted soil amendment. For the creatives among us, even a worn-out ceramic cup can become a constituent addition to, say, a mosaic or other art endeavor ..
        Can’t say that about ‘take-out’ coffee, OR the paper and styrofoam cups to contain it.

        Speaking of ceramics .. whenever I’m perusing through a ceramic arts magazine, I find myself gobsmacked at the plethora of equipment/supply stuff advertised throughout said zines .. Now, extrapolate that to every mag. published, trade or otherwise, to get a handle of the real, and deadly, plight humanity faces in light of this thing called we are all currently wedded to … Hyper-capitalism !!

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          I finally got a french press, and it’s well worth it.
          the cheap drip thing finally bit it(hard water), so I’d been using the ancient enamel cowboy pot that i keep in the truck. One spits a lot with that one.
          I have a small enamel pot–prolly 100 years or more old–that belonged to my great grandma. the little basket had worn through long, long ago…so she had a special sock she used for the grounds.

          in all the time I’ve spent in and around the big hospital in the last few months, I’ve noticed what accumulates when one must go out for coffee.
          No one at the hospital even thinks about coffee until 6am…aside from the dinky little cups of bag coffee(ugh).
          So at 4am, I go to Whataburger(open all night) and get enough to tide me over till starbucks opens. 4 big cups, at $2-4 per, and my morning routine generates a stack of styrofoam, along with the lids and the damned plastic sticks that they refuse to forgo.
          First time I went, I brought in my big thermos…but it just confused and upset them…they filled it all the way, and made a mess…and I knew then that they had never seen one, which confused and upset me.(it’s a coffee place,lol)
          (and I’d never entered a starbucks before this…so had no idea what a “venta” was, and was clueless to a lot of their rituals and fancy-schmancy esoterica. Hot Hawaiian chick was sweet, and deigned to flirt with the wild man from the wilderness, and I tip well, so all was not lost)
          The alternative to all this is a coleman stove on the tailgate in the parking lot. not sure hospital security is ready for all that

          1. Carl

            One good thing about San Antonio (there may be others, I’m not sure) is that we finally have some good, i.e., not Starbucks, coffee joints. If you’re ever down my way, Hippie, I’ll treat you to a real coffee at the best place in town.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        Society is not going to give you the time to have coffee. You have to take it.

        Exactly. My job does not require me to be available outside of normal work hours so I don’t make myself available – no cell phone and the laptop stays at work always. And yet many of my coworkers work after hours all the time even when it isn’t required of them at all.

        I have to say I do not understand those people one bit.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And bringing one’s own handkerchief is also a good idea.

      Both (taking a break and own napkin) can be good for one’s health as well as saving the planet*.

      (* we can also try to resist the temptation, from time to time, of jetting to vacation in that tropical paradise we have always dreamed about. Was watching BBC’s Wild Pacific. One episode deals ocean acidification and overfishing. One nation opens up an underwater park where eco-tourists could experience being around sharks…big sharks. This helps the locals financially so they don’t have to catch those sharks for their fins prized in Asia. But I wonder about the carbon emitted for those eco-tourists to get to that island in the Pacific…and more ocean acidification).

    3. Michael

      Next time you are in a coffee shop, look at the people sitting down. Do they have reusable cups or throw away cups? You will see that almost all have throw away cups. The coffee shops don’t ask if you are staying or going. You have to specifically ask for a mug. Should be the other way around. My guess it is cheaper for coffee shops to use throw away than wash cups.

      1. John

        It is cheaper for the coffee shop to use disposable cups, but costlier for society as a whole. Lots of things are like this. A person or small group get the benefits and the costs are exported to the public.

  3. Livius Drusus

    I am sympathetic to this argument. I largely agree with Matt Bruenig take on the issue.

    The problem is that college students are already a disproportionately well-off group and on average have better life outcomes than non-college graduates who are still the majority of the population even among younger generations. People without college degrees need more help than college graduates. Also, as Bruenig points out in his article free college feeds into the meritocracy ideology that is very damaging to the cause of social justice. Here is a good excerpt from Bruenig’s article:

    Although extending extra benefits to such a disproportionately well-off group is a deeply suspicious idea, the way American student benefit campaigners talk about it is somehow worse still. Due to the toxic American mix of aversion to welfare benefits, love of individual rights, and faith in meritocracy, the typical line you hear about free college is that it should be a right of students because they have worked hard and done everything right. The implicit suggestion of such rhetoric is that students are really owed free college as the reward for not being like those less virtuous high school graduates who refuse to do what it takes to better themselves through education.

    Free college would just make things worse for non-college graduates since there would be another “What is your excuse for not bettering yourself?” argument as it would be free or at least very inexpensive to go to college. Also, I fear that having more people going to college would result in even more credential inflation than we already have now. You will be seeing more and more employers demanding degrees for jobs that really don’t require them, creating more hoops that workers must jump through just to get a foothold in the labor market.

    I am in favor of making college less expensive and taking on predatory for-profit institutions but we really need to move past the “everyone must go to college” idea. Most of the jobs of the future are going to require a high school degree with some job training at most. Most of us won’t be working in the vaunted STEM fields.

    Politically speaking, free college would be a gift to the Republicans who are already winning more people without college degrees. They will use it to stoke resentment among workers without college degrees. If I am a conservative politician I would say that the liberals want to tax you so that rich kids can go to college and party and study medieval Chinese poetry for free while you are working your butt off in your tough, dirty and underappreciated job. That would be a great campaign tactic.

    I suspect that free college is politically popular because upper middle-class people vote at high levels and are disproportionately involved in political activism and fill the ranks of the political and journalistic elite so it gets a lot of buzz but it is potentially explosive from a class perspective. If college debt forgiveness becomes a live issue I think the Right would capitalize on it big time. It is one of those areas where the class composition of the modern left really shows itself and it is worrisome.

    1. Victoria

      I certainly agree about degree inflation. My perspective on this is that all career education should be “free” in the sense that a public education should leave someone able and prepared to work for a living. So that includes trades, of course, as well as basic work skills training and even subsidized apprenticeships. By the way our state universities started as agricultural colleges and then expanded to include useful subjects like medicine and engineering–they didn’t initially try to be Harvard. I think this avoids the issues around our elitist ideas about what higher education actually is.

    2. Carla

      I like your point about credential inflation. Actually, all of your points are well-taken.

      What if college tuitions were just slashed to a point commensurate with where they were in the 50’s and 60’s, with some public institutions offering free tuition as they did then? Millions of people worked their way through college then, many of them with help from Mom & Dad, but many did it all on their own, and emerged with no debt. A return to actual need-based scholarships at private schools would be helpful, too.

      1. jrs

        I think the way the California system used to work even when it wasn’t free is good. Actually it’s still *relatively* affordable, it’s just way overcrowded at this point.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        If college tuitions were forcibly slashed to pre tax revolt era levels but state taxes were not raised back to pre tax revolt era levels, and all that re-raised tax money used to restore state support to state universities and colleges; then a college-tuition slashathon in isolation would drive the state universities and colleges into swift liquidation and extinction by slashing their incoming money stream while they are unable to slash their expenses down to match the slashed incoming money stream.

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      You raise good points, most especially that we need a German-type system of two-track education and apprenticeships for skilled labor and craftsmen that is a conduit to living wage jobs. An awful lot of the bullshit initials after people’s names now are specialized credentials within an area (like HR) that frankly shouldn’t even require a college degree.

      I do think though that making tuition free for those without family assets will make them likelier to apply themselves in high school and in fact be more competitive with their better-off brethren. After all, why bust your ass for a total pipe dream?

      1. rd

        I agree that we should have much more two-track training, but it should not be as rigid as exists in some countries where it is purely defined by test scores.

        I think a benefit of the North American systems is that people can redefine themselves at a later date when they are more mature and can make it through university. So this should be encouraged, but there should be respected paths to do many jobs without requiring a four-year degree.

        I disagree with free tuition for post-secondary education, especially university. I think it has value to the individual and there should be some cost. However, subsidies of many programs by either the government or the private sector makes a lot of sense and those subsidies should not simply increase administrative staffing, but be focused on actual teaching programs.

        For some critical sectors that get public subsidies in the industry (e.g. health care with VA, Medicare, Medicaid), I think subsidizing the training programs (e.g. med school) makes a lot of sense to reduce the financial pay needs of the graduates because they won’t need to payback large loans and so reduce overall costs in the system.

      2. jrs

        “I do think though that making tuition free for those without family assets will make them likelier to apply themselves in high school and in fact be more competitive with their better-off brethren”

        maybe it depends on if their peers are applying themselves, so maybe. Stuff at that age is mostly about peer pressure, but if their peers also did so then yes.

    4. Bandit

      I have a hard time believing that free college is somehow detrimental to society. All of this upper class vs lower class bs completely misses the point. Having come from an impoverished background, I was able to start my college education in what was then called a Jr. college or more recently a community college, which was a 2 year institution to help those students who did not have the money to start in a 4 year college, or servicemen and women recently discharged.

      It was a great opportunity to learn how to study and to think critically, something that is missing from current education curriculum. When students transferred to a higher learning institution, they were more mature and had acquired some important skills to navigate through life. Moreover, as a working student I found employment through the college employment service and kept that job for the remainder of my college education. And the best part of all: it did not cost students a cent, as in totally “free education”.

      At some point in my second year at Jr. college, the administration was instituting a $10 tuition fee per semester. I remember some of the student body actually protesting, which I thought was pretty ungrateful for what was basically a free education even if you did not plan to go on to matriculate for a 4 year degree. A two year degree was called an AA degree. So, it is beyond me why anyone would argue against free education. WTF is wrong with these people? An educated citizenry is much more beneficial to a democratic society in so many ways. Should we really have to list them? It not only advances the interests of the individual and therefore society, but it lays out a more even playing field, where smart and ambitious poor students can be of equal educational status with the more financially able students.

      1. Todde


        Went to community college, then another cheap local uni.

        It was tough enough doing it that way.

        I don’t understand any argument against free school.

          1. Todde

            The ‘we cant help them with college because if they fail it we be harder to help them later’ seems circular.

            1. Olga

              It does not just seem circular, it is circular. And kinda daft… Bandit is right… the only question really should be: is a nation better off with more educated people or fewer? If the answer is – as Bandit says – “[a]n educated citizenry is much more beneficial to a democratic society in so many ways,” then that’s all one needs to know. And the society should work to make that happen (at least, a healthy society). OTOH, there could be many arguments for not providing affordable education – but they are irrelevant if the above point can be agreed upon.
              And there is one more point that rarely gets made: we never know where our next Einstein is going to come from – so providing opportunities for as many young people as possible makes a lot of sense.

      2. Katniss Everdeen

        I have a hard time believing that free college is somehow detrimental to society. All of this upper class vs lower class bs completely misses the point.

        Couldn’t agree more.

        Consider this really remarkable passage from Livius’ Bruenig link:

        …….If we are actually going to push a free college agenda, it should not be under a restrictive students’ rights banner, but instead under a general pro-welfare banner. The goal of free college should not be to help students per se, but instead to bind them to a broader welfare benefit system. By presenting their tuition subsidies and living grants as indistinguishable from benefits for the disabled, the poor, the elderly, and so on, it may be possible to encourage wealthier students to support the welfare state and to undermine students’ future claims of entitlement to the high incomes that college graduates so often receive. After all, the college income premium would only be possible through the welfare benefits to which the rest of society—including those who never went to college—has contributed.

        Free / affordable higher education goes from societal benefit to welfare state handout at warp speed as a means of creating more and more well-heeled “welfare” recipients committed to the cause.


        1. a different chris

          Add me to this group. Because if you are making that argument, then my question is when should education start costing money? Maybe we shouldn’t edumacate most people for free past the 8th grade level, that used to work fine. Right? Get them up to the point where they can hopefully balance a checkbook (6 years should do that) and then spend 2 years teaching them a trade. We’ll show those little have-it-alls and their iPhones.


      3. knowbuddhau

        I so wish I had done that. Especially the chance to get my study skills up to speed. Just because you can peg the needle on standardized tests, doesn’t mean you know how to learn.

        Nor does it mean that the trades aren’t “good enough” for you. I have a passion for painting, it turns out, but that never came up in career counseling overshadowed by exorbitant test scores.

    5. Not From Here

      University / College
      Pre-WWII, it was seen mostly as a finishing school on how to express oneself, communicate, and otherwise prepare for participation in government. Graduation ceremonies, nothing like they are today, were disputations where graduates defended theses, usually on governance, against the audience. STEMS was something graduates mostly picked up after graduation, that is until the horrid Bismarkian/German education of a skilled slave class, for most students, became the preferred USA model. Perhaps that old style of education should be more universal, as it’s what’s needed to run a democracy, which the USA still does not have.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        To have a democracy, we need people who can think critically, and communicate well.

        To have an empire, we need STEM graduates.

        “More creative hackers.”

        “More genius drone designers.”

        Maybe STEM degrees should not be free, but degrees in Humanities should.

    6. taunger

      I see this comment as a reflection of the zero-sum, classical or neo-liberal economic thinking. Those grads already have too much pie, can’t give them more, they didn’t earn it. Gotta make it easier for the laborers to earn it …. MEANWHILE, the tip-top Yalies spreading this nonsense walk home with entire pies made of caviar. There is more to this than political optics. I don’t understand this shades of grey fairness regarding a completely blogged higher education system.

    7. UserFriendly

      The problem is that when I was working my but off to get into college and then more so at college no one bothered to tell me that we don’t live in a meritocracy. I didn’t find that out until my useless $100k Chemical Engineering degree sat on the shelf while I pulled 60 hour weeks at part time jobs. I was the not rich kid in a rich town in highschool. All the rich kids, especially the stupid ones, were going to college. I think that anyone who wants to get more education should be able to do so without having to risk the entire rest of their life on the crap shoot of a job market when they graduate. Every public high school should do a better job explaining what different majors are, what job prospects they might entail and what salary goes along with it. Colleges should not be paid anything until the student graduates and has a job. That would kill the over credentialing right there. EVERY college should be REQUIRED to work with recent graduates until they have a job or the student refuses the service. No student should have to pay anything in loans until they have a solid year of employment under their belt.

      I am sick to death of the democrats and their endless ‘disadvantaged olympics’ as if people with rich parents have necessarily had a charmed life. UNIVERSAL BENEFITS EVERYONE CAN GET BEHIND. Make it progressive on the back end with taxes. Democrats are so totally feckless because they always want to separate the worthy from the non-worthy with there stupid neoliberal gate keeping. As soon as you make it non universal you lose the support behind it. Why the hell am I going to go push some feckless democrat to support something that isn’t going to help me at all when I am already several feet underwater myself?

      1. tegnost

        I agree. At the very least there should be no interest accruing on those guaranteed loans… guaranteed for who?

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        The underlying issue that’s not being mentioned: Why should going to college be career-oriented in the first place? Why are third-graders being encouraged to decide what they want to be when they grow up, and then having the rest of their education be targeted toward that goal? And yes, believe it or not, that is happening.

        School should be about learning. I’d speculate that two years at community college is often spent exploring one’s options, even if one goes in thinking “I want to do X.” Without the sword of debt hanging over one’s head, there’s more incentive to expand the mind and the horizons. Not to mention discovering just what decent-paying jobs are going begging and deciding if one has the skills and interest necessary to hold them.

        Isn’t it a measure of just how deeply the whole neoliberal message has resonated with the mythical concept of American individualism and bootstrapping that no discussion of post-secondary education can carry on without the subject coming round to “getting a good job”? Maybe the question we should consider is How do we convince people who’ve absorbed that message into their DNA there are alternatives?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Thank for mentioning that.

          You and I are the only two I can remember off the top of my head right now (perhaps there are more) who write that education should be about learning, and not as a gate to go through in order to find work.

          Maybe that sort of thinking is idealistic, and not realistic enough.

          1. Elizabeth Burton

            On the contrary, it’s been the underlying purpose of education since the storytellers passed on the tales of the past over the fire in the cave. It’s only been since Reagan that the purpose of education was corrupted to “preparing kids for work.” Now, we’re at the point where the only way there’s room for simple learning is if some dedicated teacher is willing to fight the standardized-test mentality and provide it.

            I could say the mindset started even before Reagan, because when I was in high school there were “tracks” for the college-bound and the kids who’d be going directly to work. Even the latter was divided between white-collar and blue. Still, there was still room for a kid to choose a major that might be iffy so far as a job after graduation was concerned, which is why I ended up with a degree in theater.

            But even that, which would seem to have been useless, given subsequent history, taught me things that I’ve used. Not just the academic stuff but the interaction with people I’d not have met otherwise, including the very first African American I’d ever spoken to. Now, we have people graduating whose course of study has been so narrowly defined they’re useless if they can’t find work in that specific area. Or next thing to it.

        2. eg

          The ludicrous careerism that has infected education is a direct corollary of the failure of business to train its own people anymore.

    8. anon

      What is the meaning of a college degree?

      “At Cal State, about 40% of freshmen each year are considered not ready for college-level work and required to take remedial classes that do not count toward their degrees….

      Students who need additional support in math or English, for example, could be placed in “stretch” courses that simultaneously provide remedial help and allow them to complete the general math and English credits required for graduation….

      …Faculty are also being encouraged to explore other innovative ways to embed additional academic support in college-level courses…”

      Last year, Cal State decided to eliminate its remedial classes.

      However, every campus has various skills assistance programs, such as this one that assists students with written assignments:

      Full disclosure: I teach at one of the campuses. A significant percentage of students struggle to read and write basic text.

      1. apberusdisvet

        “struggle to read and write basic text”

        Math is the same. Ask someone, anyone with a college degree under the age of 40 to accomplish a simple long division problem without a calculator; e.g after a gas fill up, how many miles per gallon for your auto? I haven’t found one yet.

        1. UserFriendly

          Why would I waste brain space with reminders on how to do long division? I can eyeball an anwser and know if it’s in the ball park which had been good enough. And if we were in the techpocolypse I’m positive I could work my way back to it with a few tries. The point of education is to master concepts not memorize trivial things that are easily found in a reference.

      2. jrs

        ““At Cal State, about 40% of freshmen each year are considered not ready for college-level work and required to take remedial classes that do not count toward their degrees….”

        this is sometimes UTTERLY IRRELEVANT though. People might not have great English skills and yet get a math degree and excel. Or conversely many people suck at math, but not all careers require math skills, much less advanced math skills (for advanced math skills most careers don’t!). So saying these people aren’t fit to be trained for a career because of one weakness (that they are trying to overcome anyway with remedial classes) of something the powers that be have determined they must have to be “generally educated” is rather flawed IMO. Whatever happened to the idea of several (was it 7?) types of intelligence, yea not everyone is going to score very high on all of them.

        But might the career choice they actually want to study in college still make a lot of sense for them, yes if they have chosen taking in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

        1. jrs

          or basically I’m saying I understand the desire to have people know some basics even if they aren’t good at them, but I don’t understand bashing people taking a few remedial courses and still wanting to go to college. They aren’t necessarily taking remedial algebra and want to be engineers, maybe they are taking remedial algebra and want to teach kindergarten or music classes!

          And no not everyone knows at 18 or 20 what their strengths and weaknesses are very well, the problem is they are too darn young to really make sense of things. But some people do and choose well.

        2. Elizabeth Burton

          And is it a coincidence this situation is contiguous with “education reform” that relies on standardized test scores to decide everything from what a child will become to whether their teachers and even their very school will continue to exist?

          Why is it so many post-secondary educators seem to be so oblivious to what’s been going on for the last 30-40 years in public education? Are they even aware that thousands of professional teachers are quitting or being fired and replaced with recent bachelor’s-degree grads who’ve taken six weeks of “teacher training”? Here’s a suggestion—do a search for “Teach for America”.

          It’s no longer considered necessary that students learn the theory behind math. All that matters is that they learn enough to fill in the right bubble. It’s no longer considered necessary that students study great literature—or even mediocre literature—as long as they have the reading skills to fill in the right bubble.

          Fewer and fewer people are choosing to become teachers, and those are among the many reasons why. There are shortages of teachers all over the country, and the states and districts suffering from them are turning to TFA and its for-profit ilk. Instead of blaming smartphones and video games, consider doing the homework on “education reform” and learning the real reason why so many young people are leaving high school ignorant. Then consider how that ignorance plays into the hands of the plutocratic aristocracy.

      3. Lambert Strether

        > A significant percentage of students struggle to read and write basic text.

        It’s OK. We have icons and emojis.

        (My friend who runs the coffee shop also says “kids these days” can’t make change.” Holy moley…)

        Sounds like one thing we can do when MMT carries the day is a massive project for restoring literacy. Because if you can’t RTFM…

    9. Massinissa

      “The problem is that college students are already a disproportionately well-off group”

      The reason they are a disproportionately well-off group is because only the disproportionately well-off can afford it in the first place.

      1. jrs

        and can afford the time to not work several jobs and support themselves and maybe their families immediately after high school which makes getting said education hard.

    10. Summer

      “Free college would just make things worse for non-college graduates since there would be another “What is your excuse for not bettering yourself?” argument as it would be free or at least very inexpensive to go to college….”

      No, things would be really simplified. Any one that did not “better themselves” will not have been able to afford K-12, which will still be looked at to be accepted into college. If you think people are written off based on their parents wealth now….you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    11. Huey

      I’m wholly behind free education, up to and including tertiary ed. You’re right, that in this climate some conservative could easily talk this up as a reason not to engage in progressive policies, but that’s a terrible reason not to advocate for something. I say let the results speak for themselves.

      To be clear, I am not saying everyone should go to college. I believe this is rubbish and wholly unnecesarry, however for those who wish to go, I cannot get behind limiting a person’s ability to learn. I believe that should be a right.

      To me, the argument that free college is a handout to the already priviliged is a questionable viewpoint. I know so many people who qualify, but cannot afford to go to college. These people inevitably never go, get a lesser degree, or put their education off for several years, why? At this point, it is worth mentioning that the education system at every level needs a massive overhaul, but in my experience the majority of potential and admitted undergrads largely consist of:
      1)Those who cannot afford college
      2) Those who get in on loans
      3) Those who have little to no financial concerns

      Most other situations are an infrequent occurence.

      The better the school, the larger the cohort of group 3 and speciak circumstance students, but I’d say groups 1 and 2 usually make up the majority. That said, whether or not college is free, group 3 is hardly affected, whereas currently groups 1 and 2 and disproportionately subjected to poorer life-experiences, and poorer outcomes, holistically, if not financially. Why then, not just do away with the cost of college?

      What does also have to happen, as you mentioned, is a complete education/valuation revamp. The level of accreditation required for borderline menial jobs is absurd. College itself should not be a barrier to advancements in all except a few fields. I would not want a high-school graduate as my physician or pharmacist, for example. This, coupled with better economic equality/oppurtunities overall, would reduce the majority of college applicants significantly. Only a select minority of persons actually want to go back to school.

      I’ll say as well I find is ridiculous that someone with decades of experience and ‘only’ a bachelor’s can be so easily dismissed or devalued simply bcus some fledgling has ‘better accreditations’. Thr vast majority of college graduates are bumbling idiots when it comes to practical applications, in my experience. I’d wager due to surviving college being more related to improving your ass-kissing skills, swatting, cheating, cramming, and ability to pass standardized tests/stations where you know what’s expected of you. I have many friends who cheated their way through school.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Aiee I really hope the odds you give yourself improve. Your fierce intelligence and ready wit belie your youth and it is hard to be reminded of the pain you are in all the time, having been so profoundly devalued by the system.

      You are of great worth to this community.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Agreed. Please hang in there, your country needs you.

        You’re a walking, talking, typing poster-child of the failure of the neoliberal project. All need to see you, because there’s millions more in some level of similar despair of self-blame.

        I walked out of college into a crappy job market (2001), missing out on 3 potentially very lucrative job offers after being flown to do on-site interviews and coming up empty. I carried $60K worth of debt and only recently paid it off after almost 2 decades of debt-service. I was lucky, in a sense, because the job market improved, I got my career on track, more or less, and got out of the mess.

        18 year olds shouldn’t have the option to ruin the next several decades of their lives.

        1. polecat

          Why is not everyone slinging mud at JOE BIDEN for the wreckage he’s brought upon our youth ?? He doesn’t deserve sqat for his actions. Liberal my ass !

    2. Geo

      Great response!

      I hope he reads it, takes the time to actually understand it, and bothers to learn what reality is like outside his ivy-blinded bubble.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I don’t read the links from the Gray Lady. Based on the headline, I have to agree that eliminating student debt isn’t ‘Progressive’ — whatever ‘Progressive’ means. Eliminating student debt is imperative for the very survival of our sickly Republic. A nation of serfs does not serve the Common Good. I view the mechanisms used to create this indenture as criminal and repugnant.

      Those who worry about the moral hazards of extinguishing student debts remind me of the old story about the bucket of crabs. As any crab might manage to pull itself up toward climbing out of the bucket the other crabs pull it back down, and all the crabs end up in the cooking pot.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Another thought strikes me. The Market touts its ‘efficiency’ but what great waste it makes of so much intellect and talent.

    4. coboarts

      just don’t. This is why we need a jobs guarantee, and colleges/universities/trade schools should provide the specific pathways. The reading, writing and arithmetic should be handled in high school. The liberal arts have a place, a small place. It is more important to earn a living. A well-stocked, apolitical library can provide the cultural, life-long learning. But less important than the mechanism is the intent that drives it. If the intent is vile and corrupt, there will be no good outcome.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Jobs guarantee.

        Can a job be as simple as study on one’s own at a local library, in lieu of college?

        That’s work and to me, qualifies as a job.

    5. UserFrIENDlyyy (@UserFrIENDlyyy)

      I appreciate the sentiment guys, but it comes down to not having any hope. When I had hope that I would be able to get a decent job and not have to deal with the 24/7 stress of never having any money I was able to keep going because there was a light at the end of the tunnel. When I got the job, had it pay crap and not improve at anywhere near the rate I needed it too it became apparent that i no longer had any control of the situation. I could work my but off, live in poverty, and pay off my debts by my 70’s, then start saving for retirement…. or I could just live in poverty and slip out when it will do the least damage to people I know as possible. It’s not an attention thing, it’s not a guilt trip; sadly it’s just admitting that there are no good options in my future and I don’t see the point of continued suffering for no gain.

      1. Todde

        Man there is always hope.

        You can meet the love of your life tomorrow.

        Job situations can quickly change.

        Politics can also change and bankruptcy laws can change with them.

        Have you discussed bankruptcy qith an attorney? Has anyone talked to you to see if yiu qualify under the Bruner test?

          1. Lambert Strether

            You still did the right thing; Chemical Engineering seems like a perfectly reasonable choice. It’s not your fault that deindustrialization (I assume) pulled the rug out from under you.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        blood from a stone, man.
        if the debt is unpayable…and has all manner of daggers sticking out of it anyway, placed there by pampered pols in pant suits…is it really a just debt to begin with?
        don’t let it define you.
        and by all means, don’t let it end you.

      3. crittermom

        “…and slip out when it will do the least damage to people I know …”

        I understand the despair you’re feeling as I’ve experienced it myself.
        But thinking you will be doing others a favor or even that they’ll understand your ‘slipping out’ is not the answer.

        There are still some things for free & one of them is this number which you can call to talk with someone ANY time about what you’re feeling: 800-273-8255.

        You’re obviously a compassionate person who doesn’t want to cause others, especially those you know & care about, any harm.
        Please call. Do it now. Right now…

        1. Lambert Strether

          UserFriendly, I agree strongly with Crittermom. Call that number. She writes:

          You’re obviously a compassionate person who doesn’t want to cause others, especially those you know & care about, any harm.

          I will add that I know some expats in Thailand, and every so often an expat — out of money, or luck, and thinking they can never go back … Well, the euphemism is “fell from a high place.” I know somebody who’s seen photographs of the faces of people who took that route. The expression on their faces is not happy. Do not do something that you will not be unable to undo and only in the last seconds know that you will regret having done (to say nothing of those around you).

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          “…and slip out when it will do the least damage to people I know …”

          By now you should know that you will do damage to many of the readers of this blog. We would be sorely damaged by the loss of your links, your comments, and your presence … and we know only the merest part of who you are.

      4. Elizabeth Burton

        Stop defining your life by other people’s criteria. I’ve been where you are—and had children to support—so I’m all too aware of how crushing that sense of futility is. Or was, until I realized it was my job to decide, not all the pundits and experts and self-help gurus and relatives and…well, you get the idea. I accepted the only thing I controlled was me, and that included not allowing others to define who and what I am and who and what I should be.

        Did I magically become a millionaire, the way all the prosperity evangelists claim will happen? Heck, no. The most I ever made working full time was less than $19K; at one point I was making $85 a week. I’m still one step away from living on the streets, and likely will be for the decade or so I likely have left. I have a mountain of debt, too. Don’t most people?

        You’re exactly the reason why the crap game that is student debt needs to be stopped. No one’s life should be lived solely to pay off debt. Right now, that’s only a goal to be sought, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a group where you live that’s working toward that goal. Find them, because it sounds like you’re trying to fight the battle all by yourself. We humans aren’t built for that; we thrive in groups. That’s what makes the current climate so exciting, as people fight against the ongoing effort to isolate us into individual islands who are bound to feel helpless before what seems an insurmountable wall of power.

        It’s not. And the fight needs people like you who know just how bad it is, and can stand with the thousands of others in that same place and say “Enough!” Ours are the voices that have been and continue to be ignored or, at best, dismissed, and we can’t afford to lose any one of us.

      5. UserFriendly

        The problem with discussing suicide is that there is a significant number of people who refuse to entertain the possibility that it isn’t an impulsive act from being depressed. I’m not all that depressed at the moment, I’m not planning on doing it either. It’s just that from all the available information I don’t see much in the path ahead except scrimping by and suffering. I know it would be hard for people in my life, which is honestly the only reason I haven’t done it yet. But unless I see a path to a life that consists of more than constant misery I don’t see why I should unequivocally rule it out or refrain from pointing to it as the most likely outcome.

    6. Lambert Strether

      Twitter is having a lot of fun with “_____ would be a giant welfare program for the upper middle class.”

      “Public libraries would be a giant welfare program for the upper middle class.”

      “National parks would be a giant welfare program for the upper middle class.”

      “Clean water would be a giant welfare program for the upper middle class.”

      Monbiot may not be sound on Syria, but I like his “public luxury, private sufficiency” formulation. Free college (and a debt jubilee for the, well, unfree) would seem to fall neatly under that rubric.

    1. jo6pac

      Thanks for posting a long read that I’ll finish later. I’ve read a lot about the General over the years but nothing this insightful.

  4. The Rev Kev

    “United Nations considers a test ban on evolution-warping gene drives”

    Back in the 90s and later when Bill Gates had the helm of Microsoft, it became a matter of faith never to buy anything marked Microsoft Version 1.0 as it was guaranteed to be buggy with all sorts of flaws built into it. Some people even reckoned that these were actually the Beta versions being released and that Microsoft was waiting for all the customer complaints to stream in to know what needed fixing. With this in mind, is it really a good idea to have Bill Gates wanting to release into the wild a genetically-engineered organism version 1.0 – and remembering that fact that if it went catastrophically wrong, Gates himself would not be legally liable for any damage incurred?

    1. Bugs Bunny

      This is classic techno-worship “let’s break things and see what happens”.

      I’ll tell you what happens: an entire ecosystem collapses because mosquitos do things like distribute pollen and serve as FOOD for other creatures, notably other insects, birds and fish – who also serve as FOOD for additional creatures, etc. ad infinitum.

      This man and his filthy lucre ilk should be ignored but they have too much moolah for that to happen. Bunch of maroons.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Do we really want to open up the flying blood-sucker niche to new entrants?

        It reminds me of these ‘GMOs are like any other plant breeding process’ memes. Luthor Burbank never crossed a potato with a starfish.

      2. polecat

        “We are but Gods .. trapped in Coccoons !!” ….

        That movie line kinda say it all, with regard to the hubris worn by the rich and powerful ?

  5. Not From Here

    The Biggest Threat to Free Speech No One Is Talking About – Truthdig
    Solon, the Athenian Statesman, would not be surprised. Part of his reforms to try to save the already limited democracy in Athens was to make it illegal for a freeman to sell himself into slavery, which prior his reforms was so popular it threatened the stability of the state. Other than a small section of the population, most of the current slave state doesn’t care what is done if it does not interfere with their watching Game of Thrones, etc. Better to pick a fight that might gain more traction.

  6. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, J-LS, for highlighting the gilet jaune protests in France and, today, Brussels.

    One hopes French based readers chime in.

    From this side of the channel, but a regular visitor to France and almost daily follower of French media, three things have struck me:

    This appears a grass roots movement, not dissimilar to the bonnet rouge movement that appeared and petered out under Hollande.

    Left wing politicians seem absent from the protests, which may be a good thing.

    Unsurprisingly, the neoliberal MSM on this side gives such discontent with Macron little coverage and, if it does, calls Macron a defender of social democracy (yes, really) and the protesters either right or left wing populists.

    EU27 officials based in London are not surprised and see similarities with what drove Brexit. It’s interesting to hear them talk out of turn when away from home / out or ear shot of the powers that be and observe how even the professionals tasked with enabling neoliberal rule are losing faith.

    1. Frenchguy

      Hello Colonel !

      My few cents about the “gilets jaunes”:

      _it is a grass roots movement, no mainstream political party is deeply involved so far. (btw the bonnet rouge movement did not really peter out, it’s first objective was the suppression of the “ecotax” which was attained).

      _more than anything, it is about car policies and it is the rest of the France vs Paris. Two measures really pissed off people that have to use their car daily: increases of taxes on gas and reduction of the top speed limit. It is that much more rattling that those measures are taken by “Paris” where nobody has to use a car. And there are a lot of condescension from the eco warriors in the capital towards the “beaufs” in the countryside. It is not especially anti-Macron (though he is obviously in the line of sight) and left-wing politicians have a hard time getting on board given the underlying anti-ecological message.

      _in a nice twist of irony, buying “gilets jaunes” was made mandatory a few years ago. There were some grumblings about the government forcing people to spend their money on something that was seldom very useful.

      All in all, I don’t see anything exceptionnal so far in this movement and it won’t achieve much. But it is a proof that Macron and his government, while quite thoughtful in some ways (really, we could do much worse), have very bad political instincts. He won because the press was unanimously on his side. He’s still lucky in the sense that there is no solid opposition. But if one ever emerges, he will be toast in 2022…

      1. David

        Agree with much of this, but the protesters have made it very clear that the increase in fuel prices is for them only the “last straw” in a series of measures which have chipped away at the living standards of people on minimum wages and pensions. Many live in rural areas poorly served by public transport and have no alternative but to own a car. Recent increases in fuel prices are going to make the difference between debt and solvency for some of them.
        The protesters have organisation but not leadership, and have resisted appointing spokesmen. They have also said they will not negotiate. They have refused to be associated with any political parties or trades unions.
        This has left the political system and the MSM in something of a quandary. The Right has been generally supportive, whilst the Left has, as you might expect, fumbled the ball completely. So far the dreaded word “populism” has been pronounced, but at some point it it may be wheeled out.
        In the meantime, this seems a genuinely popular and decentralised movement, worth keeping an eye on.

  7. The Rev Kev

    “Why the security of nuclear materials should be focus of US-Russia nuclear relations”

    This article included the following section in talking about different countries wanting to develop nuclear navies-

    Tony Abbott, a former prime minister of Australia, argues that a nuclear naval program is necessary to address the future security challenges in his country’s part of the world.

    Abbott can talk about stuff all that he wants. He is a very hard-right politician who never got to complete his term as Prime Minister as he was so obnoxious that they kicked him out first. For American readers, I equate him with Mark Rubio of Florida. He is obsessed with bringing in more coal plants online and would love nuclear power stations to be introduced that nobody wants to have near them, especially after Fukushima. He is the boogyman of Australian politics and the recent toppling of the Prime Minister was his handiwork. Most people down here don’t want a bar of him so his opinion on a nuclear fleet is to be dismissed.

    1. ChristopherJ

      TY, Kev. Yet they keep preselecting him (and Joyce) and the punters keep electing the Mad Abbot when every thinking person can see he is terrible, eh? Just shows how ‘rusted on’ some voters can be.

      Often wish voting wasn’t compulsory here, would change outcomes and the politics considerably…

  8. frosty zoom

    so glad to see mr. gates is pushing ice nine in order to eliminate malaria.

    “your planet has run into a problem and needs to restart. please allow a few moments for our team to finish our breakfast burritos and then we’ll see what we can do.”

    1. rd

      Here is a good little article looking at the complexities of forest management:

      The area around Paradise had undergone logging and forest thinning, but that doesn’t necessarily help as the biggest, most fire-resistant trees are what the loggers want and the smaller trees and shrubs that they don’t want is what burns. Opening up canopies allows for more understory growth as light and water get down to that tier.

      Ultimately, western forests that are not rain forests are designed to burn regularly. Interfering with that process simply builds up tinder, kindling, and fuel. Logging is not the solution to that as it leaves behind tinder and kindling. Zoning and building codes are the way to prevent the devastation – but it means that few people will be able to have pretty little wood houses embedded in a forest setting which is a primary to live there in the first place.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I read for some (or many) the primary reason is (or was) its affordability…which links the disaster back to the housing bubble, and Sacramento’s doing nothing about rent control or regulating tech companies to relocate away to cheaper places (say, in the central valley).

    2. wilroncanada

      I’m waiting for the next Trump tweet.
      ‘Those finish people should be banned from the US.
      They’re nothing but a bunch of hoers and rakists’

  9. Doug Hillman

    Pope Francis words are very similar to Jesus Christ’s. That raises the question, is the Pope a Christian?

      1. polecat

        Or the immense wealth and assets the Vatican maintains …. HeyZeuz would most likely be flogging the Pope himself, were he to today materialize via a second coming !

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          One Catholic told me she was not a Christian, but a Catholic.

          I asked if she meant Protestant instead Christian. She said no.

          It puzzled me, but I let it go.

      1. Doug Hillman

        Many people I know say they are Christians, but I’m skeptical. In most cases, their lives and political views bear scant resemblance to their namesake.

        My point really was to commend the Pope for practicing his faith and actually echoing Jesus’ core gospel…out loud. Jesus was crucified because he threatened the moneychangers profits and the wealth and power of the high priests and Pharisees — which is the basis of Pharisaism still practiced in neo-Israel today, rebranded as Judaism.

  10. The Rev Kev

    “California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how”

    This article is the stuff that nightmares are made from. It is like a series of horrors. I have thought about it but cannot recall any movie being made based on an actual event depicting a fire like this. Maybe one needs to be made to show people what the future is going to be like for a lot of people. Who am I trying to kid? If they made one, it would not be about the Camp Fire catastrophe but about the Malibu fires instead.

    1. Brindle

      Neoliberalism often leaves its footprints in these disasters. A warning system is the function of government–whether state, local or national—not a private contractor.

      from LAT piece:

      :”Following the lead of other fire-prone counties, Butte County contracted for a private warning system to alert residents in danger — if they had the foresight to sign up. The Paradise emergency operations director estimated no more than 30% of citizens were on the list.”

    2. anon

      And, directly above that passage, in the same LA Times article:

      “A grand jury report and county fire plans said Paradise needed a way to get everyone out quickly at once. Instead Paradise leaders divided the town into evacuation zones that could be emptied a few at a time”

      1. Oregoncharles

        Lambert posted a map of the area the other day. There is only one way out, plus a couple of slow back roads. They could not get everyone out at once; the quadrant idea made sense, at least in any normal fire.

    3. Geo

      There are many movies that deal with the theme if not the exact premise. “The Road” may count as a movie about the fallout of such an event – though on a larger level. “The Mist” as well. Both are heartbreaking and difficult to watch. “The Mist” is a weaker film with a much more powerful ending. “The Road” is a brilliant film that blows it with a sappy and hollow ending.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I don’t know if “In Old Chicago” is in the category. It is about the Great Fire there.

    4. Earl Erland

      What the future is going to be like. Last week a national evening news program presented video/audio taken inside a car of a family fleeing Paradise. It was more horrific than anything I have seen in any horror/natural disaster film. This was followed by an off camera interview with the mother who captured the inferno. She said that during the escape they had passed a woman holding a toddler running down the road, a road where tires were popping from the heat. My first thought was to wonder why no assistance was offered, and for all I know the family in the car thought about doing just that. My next thought was the futility of a non swimmer trying to rescue a drowning person. A mother and father with children in the car unable to help that other, desperately frightened parent. What a future.

  11. Carolinian

    Re the Wired story on public wifi–I’ve always been a big user of wifi while on the road, shopping locally or most especially at our library. It’s good to know that HTTPS has more or less eliminated the well known eavesdropping/site spoofing threat. Your are still a risk if you mistype a url in the browser address bar, but the story says hardly anyone does that any more.

    However while now ubiquitous public wifi deals a blow to the power of monopolistic ISPs, it doesn’t solve another threat which is the outright censorship of sites by the wifi providers and the filtering they use to ward off legal liability. Which is to say that while your home ISP may not block porn sites, a library wifi or public computer almost certainly will. And more menacingly, political sites are now getting this treatment due to the fake “fake news” craze. I’ve found NC or Pat Lang’s SST to be blocked depending on the filtering software. Many Russian domains seem to the blocked at my library (which had a major hacker attack a few months ago). At the library they will restore sites if you complain that they are legitimate, and they did do this with NC after their filter claimed it had malware awhile back. But when businesses provide wifi you likely have little recourse.

    So yes it’s now probably safe to use public wifi, but perhaps a little too safe if the PTB continue to use legal excuses to ensure their on safety.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I sometimes attend agriculture-oriented conferences at grand middle-class hotels. The one website I have noticed that is always banned at every single hotel’s computer I ever spend a few minutes on is . . . Sic Semper Tyrannis.

  12. DJG

    Bird experts:

    What kind of birds are those today? (I suspect a South Asian species, because of Jeri-Lynn’s trove of photos.)

    They are not cranes, so far as I can tell. Legs are too short.

    One small argument for Facebook: A friend of mine who lives on the edge of Turin posted that a flock of Eurasian cranes went over his house and that he was shocked at how beautiful they are. Meanwhile, here in Chicago I am waiting for the sandhill cranes, which follow the western edge of Lake Michigan on their journey southward. I am not much for divinity (see below), but cranes in the heavens, making their eerie calls, are somehow divine, maybe even beyond our imagination of what may be divine.

    1. icancho

      I am pretty sure that the majority of them are Indian (or Asian) Open-bill storks, Anastomus oscitans, (you can easily see the curved bills on several of them); but I am unclear on the ‘white-winged’ one at upper left.

  13. The Rev Kev

    “El Al diverts flight after religious passengers cause uproar over Shabbat scare”

    I have seen a few clips taken on that plane and it looks like the flight from hell. The Ultra-Orthodox must have a lot of political power is all I can say. I checked on Israeli newspapers and they are mostly supportive of the religious passengers and are decrying the pilots as kidnappers. Note that this was an Israeli airline and not another country’s airline. In that article was this bit-

    “after six hours of flying, I suddenly heard screaming and saw a flight attendant crying after she was hit, pushed, amid threats they would break open the door to the cockpit.”

    And this is why I say that must have a lot of power. As this is an Israeli airline, where are the air marshals in all this? There must have been a few aboard. Guaranteed too they would have both weapons and full authority on that flight but it looks like they took one look at who was causing the trouble and said: “Nope!” Can you imagine if this was Christian passengers causing this trouble or maybe Muslim passengers what would have happened, especially after threatening to break into the cockpit?

    1. Ford Prefect

      I think they need to sit back and think about why God arranged for a snowstorm just before Sabbat that would naturally delay their flights to Israel from NYC. Everybody knows that flying airplanes out of the NYC airports during a snowstorm or thunderstorms is a virtual guarantee of major delays and cancellations that the airlines have only partial control over. Once a plane leaves the gate, the air traffic controllers, in conjunction with the weather, largely control the show.

      The obvious solution for the future is to simply not book a flight from NYC to Israel that leaves less than 24 hours (not including time zone changes) before sundown in Israel on a Friday. Booking later than that is putting your travel schedule in God’s hands. If you force a plane to return to a gate or change route in mid-air to meet your religious scheduling requirements, then you are both a poor planner (because you did not leave adequate buffer) and rude.

  14. Craig H.

    The American Conservative article on the Saudis et al is not bad.

    The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence

    On the other hand let’s see evidence in a due process open presentation or the CIA can go to hell at this point. They are institutionally worthless as a source to us regular people.

    1. Geo

      I still have a hard time reconciling this dilemma of the Trump administration: Do I side with our intelligence agencies which have lied to us and lead us into numerous disasterous conflicts and wars while subverting our laws, rights, and the stability of so many foreign nations… or do I side with (barf) Trump?

      1. cnchal

        Yes, that is a dilemma. It is at the point where even if one were told the truth, it’s unbelievable.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        The CIA and the House of Saud aren’t monolithic entities. It is possible for everyone to be a bad guy.

        Bear with me:

        -MBS represents a wing of the family that is not closely associated with the Bush family and American foreign policy, hence the Gates/Oprah goodwill tour. He needs Western associates, close ones at that.
        -Bush loyalists invested a great deal in the success of the Mittens/41 Republican elite. Without that patronage, they aren’t as valuable as they were. With a new relative on the throne of the Saudi plantation, they don’t necessarily have that feather in their cap.
        -Kirschner strikes up a deal with MBS
        -Bandar Bush’s wing of the family and the Bush loyalists want power back. They are also not entirely unaware Saudi Arabia isn’t wildly popular. I actually think Americans would overwhelmingly approve of a muscular regime operation.
        -The Bush alliance waits for MBS to go after a more sympathetic figure (a msm type stenographer) and then proceeds to leak, leak, leak. The imprisonment of Saudi royals didn’t matter because who cares? Its like gang violence. Drive bys are one thing, but outside of the innocent, we tend to be less than sympathetic.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Remember Billy Bush released the Trump ET tape. Trump for whatever else he is represents the collapse of the political power the Bush/Prescott alliance held. A Bush nephew/loyalist isn’t going to be a selling point going forward, but seizing power in a vacuum is still possible.

  15. Filiform Radical

    Regarding the article on public networks and how they’re not really so bad: I was at a hacking conference this past summer. One of the rooms in the venue was set aside for something called the “Wall of Sheep”. The deal was that, if you went there with a laptop, they would teach you to eavesdrop on the unsecured conference wifi – if you managed to recover anyone’s username and password, they would obfuscate the password and put those credentials up on the Wall. Even at a conference full of security-minded computer people, they got a lot of “sheep”.

    1. Carolinian

      That’s a bit anecdotal and vague. Are you saying that HTTPS encryption can be broken over wifi, therefore contradicting the Wired article? As the article says, some sites are still HTTP. And of course this is a different issue from cracking the logon password for wifi networks themselves.

      1. Filiform Radical

        No, HTTPS is still secure, at least to my knowledge. My point is that “don’t worry, most things are encrypted anyway” isn’t an attitude I’d recommend – even if 70% of sites are encrypted, that still means you’re vulnerable three-tenths of the time, and that seems like a bit much to me.

        Of course, you may personally visit HTTPS sites only, but even so, unless you’re a really serious power user, your computer is probably using your internet connection in ways you don’t know all the details of. Assuming that all the important stuff is getting encrypted puts a lot of faith in the competence of an industry that hasn’t earned it, IMHO. Of course, so is using a computer in general, but that’s a different conversation.

        1. Filiform Radical

          An addendum: Computer security at a personal level is more or less a matter of how much effort you’re willing to take to be paranoid – at some point you have to give up and accept whatever risk remains to avoid devoting your life to it. For me, that point is somewhere past avoiding use of public wifi unless absolutely necessary and somewhere short of any number of other steps I could be taking; your mileage may vary.

          1. Carolinian

            Oh I’ve used public wifi for years and personally think the notion that someone nefarious is always listening in (at least in my innocent burg) is remote. That said I don’t do anything financial on the internet and always use laptop Linux that I install and theoretically control for public wifi.

        2. Elizabeth Burton

          There’s a browser extension for Chrome called HTTPS Everywhere, created by EFF. As we speak it’s enforcing an encrypted connection to NC (and various connected sites and services). It works in Opera as well.

          1. Filiform Radical

            HTTPS Everywhere is a good extension, but it’s not magic. Sites that don’t support HTTPS can’t be forced to use it, and any communication with the outside world by processes other than your web browser will be unaffected.

            More broadly, if you’ve taken enough steps to secure your computer that you feel comfortable with public wifi, it’s your choice to partake. All I’m saying is that, if you’re not someone who’s put a lot of effort into such things and is confident in every detail, your takeaway probably shouldn’t be “jokers wild on airport wifi”.

    2. todde

      I was at an IT security seminar once and suddenly almost all the phones started ringing.

      It was one of the hackers who had switched the hotels wi-fi with his own and had taken over the phones.

      I stay off public wi-fi for that reason

      1. Carolinian

        The point of the Wired story was not that it’s impossible to intercept or divert your traffic but merely that they can’t read it if it’s HTTPS. I’m hardly a hacker myself, but if this is untrue it would be useful to know.

        1. todde

          I don’t know.

          But since he was taking over their contact list on their email(to use in phishing scams) and capturing their keystrokes (hope they didn’t log on to their secure bank account, as the guy running the seminar now has your password) , what security the website they were visiting seems irrelevant.

          The hacker insisted that the phone/computer you are on encrypt the data, but I am unsure if the article is discussing the same thing.

          Your traffic isn’t the only thing they are hacking. The go thru your devices data and get info that will be used later to hack others.

          1. Carolinian

            Yes this was only about reading public wifi traffic, not about other ways of hacking your computer–phishing, usb sticks, rogue software etc. The story also makes clear that you are still not safe if the NSA decides to target you. It was talking more about routine hacker attacks and said hacker attacks on individuals have declined because they are no longer as productive post https.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Maybe if using a laptop, have a bootable Linux CD in the drive so that after you use public WiFi, when you shut it down, it all goes away. Certainly using public WiFi to log onto accounts or even banks somehow strikes me as reckless.
        A few years ago I was reading of one guy that was at a place that offered free WiFi and decided to have an experiment. He got into the system and started to send messages to people who were also using the free WiFi that he could see what they were doing (and yes, he could). Some closed up their laptops but others persisted ignoring the messages. He would ramp up the messages but still some people ignored the messages and kept going on Facebook or whatever they were doing. Some people were so into what they were doing that they would ignore direct threats to them. Amazing.

        1. Lambert Strether

          I will avoid doing banking online at all for as long as I hold out, though doing it (or purchasing) on a hotel or public WiFi seems like a bad idea. But surfing? Why not?

          This, however, from the article:

          So few people actively type URLs that Google has considered doing away with them altogether.

          It seems like a really bad idea to let Google unilaterally change the architecture of the web. I would also be surprised if the people who typed URLs were not power users (like me), so I’m not sure “so few” matters as an argument. Finally, I assume URLs will still exist under the hood; so it would be some intermediary getting in between the URL and me because URLs are frightening or some such nonsense. And I don’t think I would like what this intermediary would so for the sake of “convenience” (i.e., rental extraction).

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            I assume that “doing away with” URLs means not showing them and not providing a place to type them in to be able to link directly to them. If I am understanding this correctly, it means that Google wants to be able to “erase” all the millions of URLs there are from “existence” as far as Googles’ users are concerned. Google can then restrict its users’ access to only those sites which Googles’ Search-Prevention Engine allows to show up at all on Googles’ Search-Prevention results pages.

    1. flaesq

      I can imagine a wide open Constitutional Convention hapenning. A couple of years ago when that simulation ran I didn’t think it plausible because, well, it’s so dangerous and I had more faith in our government. What an absolutely horrifying prospect.

  16. Summer

    Re: Bloomberg/College
    “But what we really need is free college, which would force private universities to cut out admin featherbedding and other waste and reduce their tuition, fees, etc. else they risk losing too many students to public alternatives.”

    I’m sure free college is right around the corner – as soon as K thru 12 is completely privatized or gutted.
    College free, but you will have to be able to afford to get there.
    Nk, this is not addressed enough with all I hear about “free” college.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Unfortunately, unless you have or have recently had kids in public school, knowledge of the gutting that’s being done to it in the name of “competing with other countries” is likely to be limited, if not outright false. The bulk of the corporate media support charters as an answer to “inferior public education” so rarely does the truth that charters are no better, and in many cases worse, than the schools they allegedly improve on.

      Or that millions in taxpayer money is going into private corporate bank accounts, often via real-estate scams like buying an abandoned store cheap then renting it to a charter chain owned by the same company at a huge markup.

      Among other fun and games, like filling public school boards with bankers and lawyers eager to make a buck who then spend the budget on fancy new “educational” gadgets.

  17. JohnnyGL

    AOC needs to be careful here…the plan from Repubs is clearly to get her to lose her temper and say something catty or dumb…then get fired up about how mean she is.

    She’s got to stay disciplined on this and not get dragged into the mud. Remember, if repubs are talking about her clothes and word choice….she’s winning!

    This is where she can learn from Bernie’s skill set. Always….on….message….

    1. voteforno6

      She does a pretty good job of staying on message. I don’t think it hurts for her to troll them, either, for their obnoxious behavior. She’s clearly gotten in their heads, too, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. I just hope she continues to rattle their cages the way she has already.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Agreed that she’s handled well thus far and done some effective trolling. But I think this sort of thing will continue, deliberately, from time to time to try to get under her skin.

        She can handle perfectly 9 times out of 10, but when she lashes out angrily that 10th time….that’s when the media pounce on her.

        I’m just pointing out that this appears to be with how they’re going after her. I think and hope she recognizes it, but with social media, it’s easy to be having a bad day and say something dumb.

        I don’t think I could pull it off, something/someone would just p!$$ me off one day and I’d overreact. I hope she can keep it up.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        Based on admittedly limited observation, I don’t think there’s much likelihood she’ll “lose it.” She knows what they’re doing, and she doesn’t have a sufficiently inflated sense of her own self-importance to take it seriously. For her, it’s a lot of “sticks and stones will break my bones”. The people who are really annoying are the smug Comfortable who condescend to take her to task for not toeing the party line, telling her she needs to “grow up.”

        1. Jeff W

          That’s my impression, too—Ocasio-Cortez seems unusually self-possessed and aware in a communication sense. Her answers are usually on-target but, even if they’re not quite, she’s nowhere near “losing it.” Something like that vapid snark by that Ohio state lawmaker commenting on her mistakenly saying “chamber of government” is really right up her alley—she gets to call him out on the pettiness of the tweet and point to something (healthcare) that he’s ignoring that actually means something. When your values center on what’s, in fact, important, it’s probably not that hard not to get rattled by what isn’t.

    2. a different chris

      I think she did exactly as you suggested? In fact she seems to rock this particular counter over and over.

      “hey actually step up enough to make the argument they want to make: that they don’t believe people deserve a right to healthcare.”

      Got a click bait headline, used it to remind everybody (deplorables especially) that our heath care sucks.

      Not getting my hopes up, but…. so far wow.

      1. johnnygl

        Yeah, agreed. I suppose i realized this isn’t just AOC making repubs crazy and seems like it’s more of a deliberate strategy to keep sniping at her and get on her nerves to get her to overreact.

  18. a different chris

    Haha a Freudian slip by Stamos?:

    “It is time for us to come together to protect our society from future information operations.”

    I really think he meant to type “disinformation” operations, but hey I think that is closer to the truth, given the biases of our betters. We’ll see if it gets fixed at some point.

  19. Jason Boxman

    On nuclear weapons, I’ve been reading Shockwave lately, which covers the timeline immediately before, during, and after we dropped the bomb. I picked it up in a bookstore in Waynesville, NC of all places. It’s an interesting read.

    It came out after we learned that the Russians had completely infiltrated the Manhattan Project, so it’s interesting that a concomitant goal was to cow the Russians by dropping the bomb, but ultimately Stalin was well informed about our progress and working towards his own nuclear arsenal.

  20. BoyDownTheLane

    Airplanes have transponders that continually beep out critical data; this kind of stuff can be radically condensed. In this day and age, I think it would be really cool if we each had transponders that made certain things publicly availabvle on inquiry. I wanted to ask at my 50th high school reunion how many times the people there has changed their worldview since graduation. (They didn’t have it, so I never go to to ask.) But, like LinkedIn can carry one’s entire c.v., I think we should broadcast a tight synopsis of our own religious and theological upbringing and beliefs when we comment on someone else’s.

  21. Geo

    Pope decries that ‘wealthy few’ feast on what belongs to all

    Has the Pope seen the Vatican and the hordes of wealth he is sitting on?

  22. Alex morfesis

    Bloomberg running for president or court jester…John hopkins ? ? Baltimore a city which is 65% black…John hopkins has maybe 6.5% black students…that is “point” five…in case someone reads it too fast…and here in st pete with the free handing off of the children’s hospital… Black employees ? Black contractors ? Black consultants ?…

    rumor hazyt Chloe Hardin drives a bus full of David and Dons friends who shout “skol” as she drives past all children’s hospital and says…”boyz…we couldn’t have done better if we tried…”

    Not sure what Hall of mirrors Bloomberg walks thru to make himself look six foot tall…but if he is running for president as a Democrat… He will have a little problem explaining why he gives his money to an organization that defines Jim Crow with a red color Democratic shirt with the word Hamburg and the number 76 on the back…

    Own goal…

  23. EoH

    Bloomberg would have been more creatively destructive of the non-working parts of the “free” market, if he had used his $1.8 billion not to curry favor with his alma mater but by creating a not-for-profit student loan portal that administered govt-backed student loans and their repayment without the cost and abuse so prevalent in the way the private sector currently does it.

    He might also advocate for rules that prohibit student loans going to for-profit colleges, aka, student loan factories, which offer little education in anything but how to get fleeced.

    He could have followed that up by lobbying Albany and NYC to keep up their funding of public universities, instead of offering the richest man in the world chump change to relocate to a city he already wants to live and work in.

  24. John Beech

    United Nations considers a test ban on evolution-warping gene drives MIT Technology Review

    Better let’s hope we get humans away from our sun and out into the stars. We’ll kill off mosquitoes here and the nuisance critters will turn out to have been the gene delivery mechanism that granted humans intelligence. We mutate away form intelligence (seems to be busily happening) and the race will have to hope the travelers took the DNA sequence to recreate them just in case millennia hence.

  25. Roger Smith

    Eliminating All Student Debt Isn’t Progressive

    Neither is free college (although free college is a ‘more’ progressive idea). What we really need is both of these policies together in one bill if we want a total progressive outlook for Education in this country.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe free college is a good idea, or maybe not.

      Does the world need more graduates with a free (or otherwise) degree in say, fracking?

      Another question that comes to mind at this moment is if we should make degrees ‘more efficient.’

      Can a graduate be as productive with a 3 year degree instead of a 4-year degree, for example, and we let learning continue, on one’s own curiosity leisure for the rest of one’s life?

      I think we desire more people motivated to learn, on one’s own time and initiative, life long. For example, that was how I learned to use the internet (which came long after I left school).

      1. jrs

        It’s job training for most people these days, for anyone who is being remotely honest about it and doesn’t want to feign being 100% out of touch with on the ground material realities. The type of commuter state U that working class and many middle class people might go to, it’s the practical degrees that fill up (to the point of having to turn qualified people down for admission), liberal arts and social sciences less so. People are NOT unable to find decent jobs because they get impractical degrees, when everyone is scrambling over each other to learn something practical almost. They are unable to find decent jobs because the job market …

        But it is an honest question, how many people with degrees do we really need? The answer isn’t none, and it’s probably not as many as we *already* produce, as we have over produced for much of that part of the job market that really needs degrees it seems.

        The more efficient degree idea makes logical sense for many things (it wouldn’t work for everything but it would work for many things), however it waters down one of the true purposes of degrees which is as a winnowing process, too many people are qualified for most jobs already, you have to have an obstacle course to reduce them, but then like I say at this point, even too many people with degrees are qualified for most jobs that require them.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Yes, Livius Drusus above talked about credential inflation…too many degrees, too many years that could have been spent learning something else (not for career or training for a job) that one finds interesting though if not immediately (or ever) monetizable.

          As for too many qualified applicants being turned down, that contrasts with anon’s comment at 10:51 AM above, and that added (on to it) by abperusdisvet.

        2. JEHR

          I think these questions about too many degrees, or having degrees on “fracking” (which probably doesn’t exist), are missing the point: one earns a degree in the process of learning to think, in order to apply one’s knowledge and ideas to unusual situations, to create unique ideas, to extend one’s horizons, etc. It is useless to earn a degree to merely earn big money (like bankers), or to become one of the elite of a prestigious school. A degree is a means of becoming a full and rounded, ethical and curious, human being who tries to make the world a better (not a worse) place. That is why college and university should be free for every person so he/she can reach the potential that lies within.

  26. noonespecial

    Re: Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses

    Permit me to take creative license and employ the phrase oft repeated here at NC: It’s a feature, not a bug.

    The legal constructs that are wielded to reward executives, boards and PE types care not about the persons, such as Ms. Brewer, who have to confront and deal with the effects of (potentially) an extended period of unemployment. What happens if someone like her misses a payment to a child’s school lunch program which results in her child coming home hungry with a stamp on her arm? Now that winter is upon us, will she face means tests to qualify for heating assistance?

    Yet, the privileged few as in the case of Sears’ top brass (as the article notes), could see, “…$240,000 a quarter in bonus payments…[and] could receive four times that much if Sears goes out of business, in something the company called an ‘acceleration event.’ ” Sounds like there is more of an incentive not to meet sales numbers and let the ship sink.

    Reading the article on Sears struck a note in me about the 2008 crash, including the part of the Sears article on the need to retain talent. Let’s harken back and review bonus time for Wall Street firms. The New York Times had this to say:

    “…[in 2008] employees at financial companies in New York collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year…[when]…the brokerage units of New York financial companies lost more than $35 billion in 2008…Financial industry executives argue that they need to pay their best workers well in order to keep them.”

    1. eg

      Eddie Lampert is conducting a control fraud to drain Sears of every cent and casting the husk onto the scrapheap of America.

  27. John Beech

    El Al diverts flight after religious passengers cause uproar over Shabbat scare The Times of Israel

    Couldn’t help reflecting on the old saw; A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part!, or put another way . . . Christians and Muslims don’t have a monopoly on religious-nutters.

  28. anarcheops

    As one who has been critical of Sandberg’s capitalist version of feminism I find it just a little bit irksome that she is now being taken down for being, quite frankly, *too* good at her job. Zuckerburg will go down as an errant genius no matter what, but she was the one who actually made Facebook profitable and is being treated like a failure. Just another woman who tried to rise above her station…

    1. EoH

      It’s not profitability that’s the problem. It’s the way in which unregulated capital makes its profits that is frequently objectionable.

      1. anarcheops

        Sure. I agree strongly. But the tone of the article is not “monopolistic businesses that actively make life worse for most people should be regulated” or even “we should reconsider what we consider success for businesses” it is “This particular woman did a bunch of things that we praised her for doing at the time and now we are upset about”.

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