Links 12/28/18

The 25 Worst Headlines of 2018 Current Affairs (UserFriendly). Most were not just “worst headlines” but “worst stories”.

Indonesia tsunami: volunteers rescue dozens of stranded turtles Guardian

Satellite images show collapse of Indonesian island volcano Associated Press (Kevin W)

Explosion at a Con Edison plant turns the NYC night sky bright blue, bringing a stunned Big Apple to a halt as parts of Queens lose power and all flights are grounded at La Guardia airport Daily Mail. American infrastructure.

Cryptocurrency dreams went bust in 2018 Axios

Philippines becoming a rich world dumping ground Asia Times

Green Fashion? When Clothing Industry Decides Ecology Is In Le Monde (Leslie T). The most sustainable thing is….drumroll…buy second hand, or vintage, if you prefer.

Seaweed-munching microbes produce sustainable bioplastic New Atlas (David L)

Plastic Water Bottles, Which Enabled a Drinks Boom, Now Threaten a Crisis Wall Street Journal

Users Report Losing Bitcoin in Clever Hack of Electrum Wallets ZDNet

One Giant Step for a Chess-Playing Machine New York Times

Simple Sugars Wipe Out Beneficial Gut Bugs Scientific American (David L)

A Yale scientist who pioneered a cutting-edge approach to cancer treatment is warning that the field is going off-course — and that drug giants could be making it worse Business Insider


China is finding new ways to hurt U.S. businesses Politico (Kevin W)


How a no-deal Brexit could affect your Christmas dinner Independent. A bit late but still germane.

MPs urge Commons veto over post-Brexit trade agreements BBC

EU planning to hit small businesses in UK with VAT bombshell after Brexit, MPs warn Telegraph

No-deal Brexit could put public at risk, warns Met chief BBC


A Reuters Report on Iran That Fueled US Diatribes Consortium News

France emerges as latest source of Turkey’s ire in Syria Financial Times

EU slams Israeli settlement plans DW

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech New York Times (David L). Notice all the supposed problem calls are outside the US.

Trump Transition

Iraqi politicians attack Trump’s visit to US troops as ‘blatant violation of sovereignty’ Independent

The Memo: Trump puts isolationism at center stage The Hill

Trump DOJ Lawyers Won’t Work Amid Shutdown. Judges Say They Must Bloomberg

Bloomberg says he’ll insist presidential candidates have climate change plans Politico

Nearly one week in, where things stand on the partial government shutdown Los Angeles Times

The DNC Is Putting Its Thumb on the Scales Again — This Time in the Right Direction Intercept

Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Push For A Green New Deal Committee Other News

Coal Ash Dumps Are Contaminating Groundwater in 22 States TruthOut

Hospital Prices Are About To Go Public in the US Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Of course, hospitals have found a way to make this largely meaningless.

A Worrying Rise in Gun Suicides Bloomberg :-(

Elon Musk Says Pedophile Accusation Against British Man Was Protected Speech Wall Street Journal. Help me. But it is very hard to win defamation suits in the US

U.S. holiday shopping season best in six years: report Reuters. EM:

Those numbers are very strong – clearly most voters are viewing all the hue and cry over the trade war with China and the government shutdown as a ‘so what?’ Without a major recession between now and then, Trump’s re-election odds seem pretty good. OTOH bubble watchers like myself think the odds of a bubble-burst recession in that time span are pretty good. OTOOH bubble watchers like myself are known to nearly always underestimate the length of time such bubbles can last before reality sets in.

Fretful over incoming tariffs, retailers are ordering ‘unprecedented volumes’ to West Coast warehouses Business Insider

Mr. Market Has a Nervous Breakdown

Biggest Stock Reversal Since 2010 Rings of Bear Market Bounce Bloomberg. Lead story.

Putting sticky-price DSGE lipstick on the RBC pig Lars Syll (UserFriendly)

Class Warfare

In Some Bay Area Counties, College Grads Have Higher Unemployment Mercury News. This was broadly true right after the crisis.

‘A kick in the stomach’: massive GM layoffs leave workers distraught – and angry Guardian

Rio Tinto hits $1.3b driverless Pilbara trains target West Australian (Kevin W)

Antidote du jour (MGL):

From “The ‘cutest sheep in the world‘ became the stars of the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch in November. Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep have a black head, black knees and fluffy white fleece.”

And a bonus from guust. The mother looks tired!

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    1. David

      Water’s being put back to work.

      Since 1901, global precipitation has increased at an average rate of 0.08 inches per decade, while precipitation in the contiguous 48 states has increased at a rate of 0.17 inches per decade. Source

      Lowest water unemployement evah.

    2. ewmayer

      I find the single-human-scale ton (irrespective whether long or short) entirely inappropriate for measuring such continent and global-scale phenomena. Better – but less clickbaity – headline would be “Eight thousand cubic kilometers of Arctic ice lost since 1971”. Or, since arctic sea-surface ice is quite shallow compared to the glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica – let’s just use 1m average thickness for sake of argument – perhaps “Eight million square kilometers of Arctic ice lost since 1971”. That 1m avg-thickness guesstimate is clearly too low (but within the correct order of magnitude), since as this this sea-ice tracking site notes, total arctic sea ice extent historically is ~10m km^2 at the present time of year:

      “Arctic sea ice extent for November averaged 9.80 million square kilometers (3.78 million square miles). This was the ninth lowest November in the 1979 to 2018 satellite record, falling 900,000 square kilometers (347,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average, yet 1.14 million square kilometers (440,000 square miles) above the record November low in 2016.”

  1. Wukchumni

    I was driving towards Santa Monica about an hour before the dawn, in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 earthquake, and had segued from the 405 to the 10 freeway, when a few miles away, a transformer blew up, resulting in a light show, that while short, was pretty sweet.

    Imagine a kaleidoscope of colors bursting at once, not unlike a fireworks show, but much more intense.

    Here’s a similar blue lights episode in Fort Worth in 2011 to the one in Queens yesterday, but not just in one place, they pop up all over the city.

    Another blue hue moment from 1955, this one involving a house.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Ah, yes, infrastructure failure as enjoyable performance art… to be deliciously savored and shared, especially if one is fortunate enough to have a camera recording the event…

      I prefer the “aerial bomb” events myself — power transformers on poles in my former marina neighborhood exploding in a thunderclap, with a bright white flash, followed by the interesting smell of decomposed dielectric insulating and heat transfer oil. Will be more interesting in my new neighborhood, since the transformers include ground-based sub-sub-transformers at the yard lines every ten or so houses, driving the buried electric lines that are starting to fail due to groundwater intrusion. There’s one transformer, square military green with lots of danger labeling, just fifty feet from my back door…

      At least in this part of the subdivision, where monopoly-delineated boundaries only provide “natural gas” pipelines to houses across the street and further west, the row of houses on my side of the street might not experience a PG&E moment…

      “Live, live, live, until you die.” Lyrics from a bland “Children’s musical” I starred in, back in third grade. I’d link to it but when I looked it up, this innocent little fable of a foundling princess adopted by Romany Roff’s tribe of gypsies and restored to her noble family, sorrow mixed with joy at the end, was bracketed and buried in links to porn of nastiest kind… One more line I recall from the closing song:

      “Dance, dance, dance!
      Dancing, music, laughter!
      That is they Gypsy Way
      No matter what comes after” ending on a minor chord fall (“All weep,” say the stage directions).

    2. Oregoncharles

      In about 1963, a monster windstorm – effectively a hurricane – hit Portland OR. (It was a year after the notorious, and similar Columbus Day Storm.) I was in college there, up on a hill. That night, there was a lot of lightning, unusual here, so from our perch on the hill, we could see transformers blowing up, in various bright primary colors, all over the city. The next day, most of the city was blacked out.

      Explosive failure is a problem with transformers in general.

      We also discovered that if we put our arms out, we could just about fly. Not much homework got done that night.

    1. Wukchumni

      So far, experiments with transplanting young donor blood into aged donkey show adherents & apparatchiks, haven’t panned out as hoped.

      As expected, they have more energy from the vim & vigor of youth, but none of the money worries, or acne. Attempts to apply a strap-on conscience met with much resistance, as members of the house were stiffly against it.

    2. The Beeman

      from that article

      “Maybe we ought to learn how to present to the American voter who cares more about putting dinner on the dining room table,” he added.

      Care all you want, you haven’t delivered to the masses only to the donor class

      1. Jen

        He doesn’t care. He just thinks they need better PR. This is quite priceless: “While Schwartz would not say who he sees as the megaphone for his message, former Vice President Joe Biden has a knack of connecting with voters and has previously seen support from the New York donor.”

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Imagine thinking Biden connects with voters. This is like Wolf Blitzer levels of thinking. It’s not like we don’t have two just comical Presidential runs to judge Biden on.

        2. Anonymal

          Ahh Bide, that ol’ rascally racist. comforting like your Confederate Grandfather and a knack for ‘funny’ racial jokes!

      2. allan

        “putting dinner on the dining room table”

        Before retiring to the kitchen to tighten their belts around entitlements.

        How many people actually eat in their dining rooms anymore (if they even have a dining room)?
        Get out much, Mr. Schwartz?

        1. Lambert Strether

          > How many people actually eat in their dining rooms anymore

          One index is dining room furniture sales. Furniture Today (2017):

          It seems the formal dining room is on the decline. Additional research from Furniture Today’s Furniture Store Performance Report shows that the median price point for formal dining room sets is decreasing as well, down 12.5% from 2015 to 2016. Furniture Today’s Furniture Store Performance Report from 2006 indicates that share of sales of formal dining room has decreased 75% in the last ten years, while percentage of sales floor has only decreased 20%….

          However, it is not all bad news. Research from Gallup indicates that most U.S. families still eat together: 53% of families with children under the age of 18 say they eat together six to seven nights a week at home, which is unchanged from 2001. ….

          The question then becomes, if most homes have dining rooms, but people say they could live without them, what is going on? It seems, looking at anecdotal evidence, that people are using their dining rooms either for other purposes or for multiple purposes. Everyone from Bob Vila to the L.A. Times to The Land of Nod have written about ideas on how to use that space for more functional purposes.

          But it’s natural that Schwartz would think everybody dines in the dining room*:

          In the early 20th century and prior, many homes had servants. The kitchen was their separate domain, while the family ate in the dining room,” Kueber says. “As that tradition died away — and as Mom began to do all the kitchen work herself — we wanted to hang with her and she wanted to hang with us, so the lines between kitchen and dining room began to blur and design evolved towards the ‘open concept’ kitchen so popular today.”

          Schwartz probably still lives in that world. His people eat in the kitchen. He and his family eat in the dining room, or one of their several dining rooms.

          (This is actually an interesting topic and there’s a lot more subtlety to it than I’m quoting here.)

          NOTE * The cliché, well known among political operatives as opposed to squillionaire wannabes, is “ktichhen table issues.” Not “dining room issues.”

      3. FreeMarketApologist

        Given how much we’ve seen Pelosi and Schumer together in this last year, I expect they’re planning on being the annointed candidates (Schumer pres, Pelosi VP). You heard it here first.

        1. polecat

          Why not have a surgical procedure done, whereby they be joined at the heel. They could then be known as the Trans-Parency Twins, who walk in circles .. grubbing railcar loads of cash as they spin !

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          also from that article:
          “…Other Democrats pondering a run for the White House include Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.”

          let the Bernie Erasure begin!

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Other Democrats pondering a run for the White House include … and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.”

            Not that I particularly care for Spartacus, the cop, and Obama but completely pointless, but its not really fair to suggest a man who was a Republican every day of the Bush Administration is also a Democrat because he wants to tax soda.

            1. Jen

              Well, he did register as one in 2018. With the press all squee about W passing mints to Michelle, Bloomberg would be the perfect spawn of the uniparty, but for one thing: no mayor of NYC has ever gone on to win higher office. The traits that lead to success in that job tend to translate poorly outside the 5 boroughs (or even within, depending upon which borough you live in).

          2. Elizabeth Burton

            Bernie’s not a Democrat, remember? The paid Democrat trolls are leaning heavily on that one already. They tend to go away when you tell them he was in Vermont the minute he said he was, but I suspect that’s going to be a major mantra again this time around.

            What I find encouraging, although only in a small way yet, is the media’s turning elections and political activity into team sports seems to be losing a bit of power. I saw two complaints about it just yesterday on Twitter, of all places. If that makes any headway, the not totally mind-controlled may be open to being encouraged to look at policy instead of personality.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Syraqistan:

    Not that I’m inclined to believe Guardian reports too much, but it seems that the Kurds may well have already decided that their only option is to do a deal with Assad – Syrian forces are already moving into Kurdistan to protect areas from possible Turkish incursions.

    Syria’s military has arrived at the frontline of the flashpoint town of Manbij, as Kurdish fighters appealed to Damascus for help in the face of the imminent threat of attack by Turkey.

    It was not immediately clear whether US personnel, who have been patrolling Manbij and the tense frontline between it and adjacent towns where Turkey-backed fighters are based, were still present. The US-led coalition against Isis did not respond to a request for comment.

    “We invite the Syrian government forces … to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion,” a statement from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) said.

    I think this was inevitable – accepting the unification of Syria is really the only hope the YPG have of maintaining some form of independance, I don’t think Assad will be too interested in disarming them so long as they don’t interfere with his recovery of oil assets.

    I think this indicates that if Erdogan thought persuading Trump to leave Syria was a way to expose the Kurds, he may have underestimated just how fast the Syrians/Russians would be in moving into the vacuum.

    1. ewmayer

      That would actually be a fantastic outcome – for that region, mind you, not for the U.S. Imperial War and Democratic Regime Change Project™ – given recent history.

      Not that the orange-haired doofus would ever be remotely considered a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize should such happen, mind you – we are nearly a century past the days of Fridtjof Nansen and his like. The modern version of the prize is meant strictly ironically, in that it most often goes to actual warmongers or to “peace advocates” who – whether intentionally or not – in some way serve as useful tools for the aforementioned USImpWaDRCP.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      It was interesting watching how this story moved from that to “a ping” to “a cell phone signal” in the space of a day on social media. Encouraged by the MSM, of course. The overall theme, of course, was that this indubitably proves the veracity of the Steele Dossier. The general ignorance of the public with regard to how cell phones work is, of course, useful when combined with the “facts” they’ve gleaned from watching TV and reading thrillers.

      1. Bill Smith

        What’s the difference between a “ping” and a “cell phone signal” for purposes of this story?

        1. Duck1

          Random paranoid thought, but is it beyond the capabilities of our dearest leaders to spoof the signal from a cellphone, putting inconvenient people in inconvenient places at the convenience of the master narrative?

          1. Lambert Strether


            This is what I’ve been worried about all along; the political class, and many if not most liberal Democrats, have such a deep investment in RussiaRussiaRussia that evidence will be manufactured to support it (and it’s not like the intelligence community won’t have means (they are expert in faking evidence, particularly digital evidence), motive (they are now political actors who have openly picked a side), and opportunity (pick up the phone and leak to an asset in the press). For a historical precedent, see Alger Hiss’s typewriter* in the previous McCarthy period. I know this sounds foily, but it’s why I keep insisting that all the evidence has to be public, so the people from whom sovereignty supposedly derives in our system can examine in. After WMDs, we really can’t be too careful.

            NOTE * I’m not taking a position on the validity of claims about the Hiss typewriter. What I am saying is that the case turned on physical evidence that — with a level of effort — could have been faked, and that the level of effort required today, especially with digital evidence, is much lower.

  3. Brindle

    re: shopping…

    Maybe if it’s Trump vs Biden, Harris, Gillibrand or O’Rourke … vs Sanders–I would like Bernie’s odds.

    —“Without a major recession between now and then, Trump’s re-election odds seem pretty good.”

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I can’t recall the source, but I do remember reading an analysis which suggested that the absolute level of the economy at the time of an election is less important than the economic trajectory in the 18 months before an election. In other words, incomers get the most boost if things have been ‘on the up’ in the year or so before the election. If this is true, then Trump may have mistimed his boost, with the economy peaking a little too early for him to get the most of the bounce. Having said that, the fall in the price of oil, if continued, could continue to provide juice for the economy long enough to help him.

      I’d also note that other links suggest quite a bit of building up of stocks by retailers for fear of a trade war with China. This could be very bad news for next year if they then decide to run those stocks down rather than buy more.

      1. Eureka Springs

        The 90 percentile don’t know what a good economy is. Certainly those in the 90% under the age of 50.

        And do recall Obama ’08 racing to out McCain, Mccain in saving the banksters in the run-up to election day. What should have been the most gobsmacking election losing move on domestic reasoning ever. That promised more of Clinton-Bush corruption for the rich as clearly as anything before it. And then of course he was re-elected. So I don’t know about trajectory.. perhaps better called propaganda and hopeful trajectory?

        1. Pat

          I don’t think you can discount how helpful Romney was to Obama’s re-election.
          A lot of Republicans kept their powder dry waiting for 2016, leaving them with possibly the most boring least appealing candidate for anyone who wanted change – Mitt Romney.
          I’m not sure how well Obama would have done against someone not so clearly similar to him. Corporate banker type who believes in war and propping up insurance (Romneycare being a slightly better version of the ACA) against corporate bank supporter who believes in war and propping up insurance.

          I’m not so sure he would have won against someone who really would have shaken things up.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The GOP was so openly egregious with attempting to block voting African American media outlets and community leaders really rallied. Those 2012 efforts were maybe the most nakedly aggressive moves by the GOP on a grand scale, and Obama is right about people wanting to vote can’t be stopped if they are prepared early enough.

            Never mind the consistent birther style attacks for four years and preceded by the 2008 HRC campaign.

            Mittens does strike me as what Country Club Republicans think a Republican should look like, so how did he play with evangelicals? I didn’t think he was much of a problem in competitive states in recent years.

            1. Wukchumni

              I think his problem was the evangs, as they look at the Mormons as some Johnny come lately dogma with it’s bible sometimes seeming like Joseph Smith did a lot of acid in the roaring 20’s, and nothing such as their true version of similar doggerel.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                Back in 2012 after the election, my sense was white evangelicals weren’t a problem for Mittens in recently competitive states. After all, Obama something something birth certificate. Mitt definitely took a hit in safe red states.

                Part of me wonders about the definition of white and evangelical. Shrub crushed it by GOP standards with non-Cuban young Hispanics in 2000.

          2. The Rev Kev

            Here is a thought. Obama stole the idea of Romneycare off Romney who got it off, I believe, the Heritage Foundation. OK. Now let’s assume a parallel universe where Obama lost to Romney back in 2012 so now you have President Mitt Romney due to Obama falling down the White House stairs or something. Question. Would Romney during his Presidency have tried to bring in Romneycare for the entire nation? It would be identical to what the US has now but it would be a Republican initiative. So would it have gone ahead?

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        “… the fall in the price of oil, if continued, could continue to provide juice for the economy long enough to help him…”
        out here, being mad about the lower oil prices is a sure indicator that the person your talking to drives 200+ miles to work in the Permian, or at a sand plant.
        at first, this counterintuitive stance confused me,lol.

        living where I do, the Bush2 era gas price spike was really painful.
        I also remember distinctly that when I started driving, gas was under a dollar a gallon…so there’s that.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, I’d forgotten of course that low oil prices are increasingly a two-edged sword for the US. Consistent sub $50 prices could mean real trouble for the oil patch (which is a hell of a big place these days) and for the investors who have poured billions into it.

          And during the last dip in prices output output increased as drillers desperately tried to keep cash flow going.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            Texas Tribune has begun a series:

            I can say from experience that the TCEQ is a joke of an agency…as is the “Railroad Commission”—which currently has nothing whatever to do with railroads.
            The Opacity of state gooberment is one of the things that shines forth for me in that article—can’t prove emissions violations because the responsible agency fails to put in the testing equipment…and when asked, says,” nothing to see here”.
            we’ve driven out that way every few years…mostly to look at the desert.
            thinking about another such trip this summer, on the way to Alpine and Davis Mountains and maybe even Guadalupe Mountains…to see what it looks like.
            I’ve been to Corpus 3 times in the last 10 years…2 during the Eagle Ford Boom, once after it busted.
            The Raiders just walked away once the loot was gone, apparently…all their pipes and pools and things just rusting/glistening in the sun.
            It is to be remembered that these places are out of sight, out of mind for most Texans.
            The Valley is mainly Hispanic and poor…so who cares, right?/s
            West Texas is all but empty—and far away from the urban centers.

        2. lordkoos

          I can remember gas prices under 50 cents a gallon.

          But then I’m so old, I can remember when the Dead Sea was just sick…


          1. Wukchumni

            About a decade ago, one morning the previous owner of a gas station/market in town decided to price 87 octane @ 99 & 9/10’s, when it was $2.50 everywhere else.

            It came as a surprise gift, as he told nobody of his plans…

            It caused such a traffic commotion on account of drivers making a line that impeded onto Hwy 198, that CHP insisted on ‘inflationary’ measures to ease quantities stopped, as in full retail.

          2. Janie

            Gas was 19.9 during price wars in Oklahoma City in the mid-fifties. That was when you could attend university on the proceeds from your summer job.

            1. Wukchumni

              You can still buy a gallon of gas in Oklahoma City for 2 thin dimes, as long as they are dated before 1965.

              14/100’s of a troy ounce of pure silver in content, or around $2 or so @ current spot price.

    2. John k

      Trump the outsider, or change candidate, ran thru the rep field like a scythe.
      IMO Bernie will do the same in the nom fight because he’s the only progressive.
      The general might be close if economy strong, or landslide if recession… looking at current gyrations, timing might be perfect, bottom coming about 18 months after peak.

    3. Tomonthebeach

      Banner Christmas sales may be good for retailers, but did anybody bother to look at how much of that new stuff was bought on credit? The debt balloon is bigger than ever.

      1. ewmayer

        No disagreement there – and I’m the (EM) who supplied the election-odds annotation accompanying the link – but strong holiday sales means people feel optimistic about the economy and their lives, which IMO correlates much more to how-they-vote than the level of debt they are carrying. In other words, the main question is whether they’ll still be feeling optimistic come 2020. Because when things go south economically and personal-financially then, yes, they do tend to suddenly pay attention to things like their levels of debt.

        1. Lambert Strether

          It has occurred to me that elites of both parties are talking themselves into a crash, Democrats because they think it will hurt Trump, Republicans (Mnuchin) because they want to get one out of the way before 2020. Who knows who is right?

          (Both parties are ignoring the possibility of a comet crashing into the earth, say via Brexit, and if that happens, all bets are off.)

  4. FreeMarketApologist

    In the “25 worst” category, and for your end-of-year dose of Schadenfreude, Business Insider has put together a “25 most valuable American startups that died in 2018” article. It’s not an in depth analysis, but a quick overview of who went under this year. Theranos is #1, but the others are worth a browse.

    What’s telling to me is the range of the gap between the highest valuations and amounts raised. It implies that some of these were reasonably valued, and could have had viable and practical products (ReVision, or Fallbrook’s automatic shifting technology for bikes, which could have broader applications for other human-powered lightweight conveyances).

    Then there are the completely upside down ones, implying that people were throwing money at buzzword hype rather than demonstrated needs (e.g., Airware’s drone analytics: max valuation: 59m, amount raised 104m).

    1. JTMcPhee

      Dumbest headlines:

      17. Only Chumps Work More than 40 Hours a Week

      I have chosen to misread this headline as “chimps.” Why do chimps work so hard? How long does it really take them to complete the tasks that tend to their biological needs? Who are they picking figs for, if not for themselves and their community? Is there some percentage of the chimp population—let’s just pick, for no particular reason, 1 percent—that claims ownership of the trees and takes an enormous cut of their fellow chimps’ production, forcing the worker chimps to put in much longer hours so they can afford enough figs to eat and not starve? What sorts of practices and behaviors should the chimps implement in order to take back control of their land and labor so they can have enough free time to relax and fuck and groom each other as nature intended?, we await your response.

      So I’m not the only one asking these questions about what kind of political economy “we mopes” want, and what might be done to bring it about.

      Is Yellow the new Red?

      1. Alex Morfesis

        Morpaine…cousin Thomas had an idea or two…some genius stuck in philly but born in scotland, named Aitken, was foolish enough to print his genesis gibberish…and the rest is forgotten history…

        The pamphlet you might be asking about went by the name…

        agrarian justice…

        but 4 shillings a week doesn’t go as far as it used to…

        And before anyone chimes in on how the rights of “man” is Missy oh jean ist…a review of his lesser known works under the foolish supervision of said mister aitken is in order…”execrable commerce” and all that…

        Poor cuz…he refused to die along the way…only to die alone in NYC…his bones never allowed a peaceful rest…his words today twisted by many trying to not listen to what he simply said…liberty vs freedom vs peace…always a tough question…

    2. Olga

      The 25 Worst Headlines of 2018 Current Affairs… A good list, though I’d move No. 18 to No. 1: CNBC: Goldman Sachs asks in biotech research report: Is curing patients a sustainable business model? (Socialists ask in economics research report: Is keeping Goldman Sachs undissolved and un-pitchforked a sustainable civilization model?)
      And – given the state of health care in the US – curing patients might not be something we’d have to worry about soon enough.

      1. JBird4049

        10. Forbes: Surging Wealth Inequality Is a Happy Sign That Life is Becoming Much More Convenient

        I’d nominate this as all the homeless I walk by don’t have to worry about rent, or the electric bill, and I am sure that getting good slave labor help is much easier now for the upper classes.

        BTW doesn’t the WSJ or Forbes have any producers, or assignment or copy editors anymore? Yes, I know that they costs money, but I would be surprised and embarrassed to see this stuff on a college or high school, paper. This isn’t even propaganda; it’s goofy nonsense.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Here’s the ending of the article:

        So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.

        So, vote for Vladimira Lean-in instead of Sanders because policy doesn’t matter? Or insist that AOC and CIA asset Abby Spanberger are interchangeable? Or that you can swap in Stacey Abrams for Nina Turner?

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Coal Ash Dumps Are Contaminating Groundwater in 22 States TruthOut

    One of the most frustrating aspects of this is that the amount of coal ash that would require dumping could be dramatically reduced if there were regulations/incentives in place for it to be used as a replacement for portland cement in concrete. This would very significantly reduce the CO2 impact of construction. But there has been little interest in the sort of concerted focus that would be required to ensure that the demand/supply side meet up – in fact sometimes poorly thought through regulations has made it more difficult, not easier to use.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        There is zero evidence that concrete from fly ash has radioactive levels even remotely close to those that can cause harm. Its simply not an issue (there are other contaminants that are definitely an issue, but not uranium or thorium). The radioactivity simply comes from concentrating natural uranium/thorium levels from that contained in coal, which is an issue with any combustion product. By diluting the material through concrete you bring the radioactive levels back to close to the original composition of the coal.

        In any event, concrete from fly ash is not particularly suitable for residential construction for other reasons – by far its biggest use in in major structures such as roads and bridges.

        1. bob

          I have been in an office building where it was used. There is a measurable increase in background radiation as measured with a Geiger counter. LEED, then giant tax scam of a “green” building code pushes it heavily for buildings.

          In practice, you end up with a substandard product that costs more. This is the problem I have with fly ash concrete. Yes, yes, it’s all in how it’s done. Who is doing it correctly? I’ve never seen it. Lots of people trying to get it just right. Then they move onto mining the next toxic waste dump and everything changes again.

          Why are you trying to sell the waste of a coal plant? I mean really, really trying to sell it. Just like the people producing the fly ash.

          They aren’t green. They burn coal and are trying to get you to buy the leftovers. It’s not worth it. The curing time problem alone makes it more expensive and nets any benefit right away (although not quick enough!) This part severely limits its use in roads and bridges.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Pretty much any mined material will have detectable levels of radon, to say there is a ‘measurable increase’ is a meaningless statement, unless those levels are sufficient to cause harm. There is a ‘measurable increase’ in radon in houses 10 miles from where I’m sitting now, because the area is over granite, which emits far higher levels than the limestone I’m sitting over.

            In practice, you end up with a substandard product that costs more.

            This is simple nonsense. Concrete is not a homogenous substance, there are numerous types. Using fly ash to replace pozzolans with some types (such as fine readymix) results in a substandard product, mixing it with other forms produces a superior form to using most types of virgin inputs. It entirely depends on the characteristics you are looking for in your concrete, and for that matter, the type of fly ash, as there are many different types depending on the source material, the combustion type and other factors. Making concrete is like cooking, you use and mix what is most viable and economic locally to get the particular characteristics you want. Fly ash is one of many very important ingredients. Its particularly good for making concrete which needs pumping, such as for grouting.

            And I’m not trying to ‘sell’ anything. Its widely acknowledged that the use of fly ash significantly reduces the carbon dioxide emission levels from concrete manufacture. If you don’t use it, it lies in waste ponds leaching into water tables – ironically yet more concrete (or more specifically, the raw line) often has to be mined and manufactured in order to seal storage tips or chemically stabilise bottom and fly ash tips. Its simply a commonsense way to reuse an extremely problematic waste product.

            And yes ‘they’ are trying to get us to buy their waste product, just as ‘they’ in the nuclear industry love to push the ‘everything else produces radioactivity too’ meme and ‘they’ in the quarrying industry love to scaremonger about recycled materials so they can open up yet more quarries. There are no good or bad guys here, just difficult supply chain questions where the answers to minimising environmental impacts are complex and multifaceted.

            1. bob

              #1- Fly ash cannot be used to completely replace portland cement in concrete or grout mixes. At best it can be used to replace 30% of the cement, with an associated performance drop.

              Fly ash in concrete makes it lower quality concrete which requires MORE concrete for the same use. It is that simple.

              You don’t address it’s use as a building material for buildings.

              Concrete and grout are two different things. Why are you trying to redefine the problem? Grout does not work where concrete is called for. Concrete doesn’t work where grout is called for.

              ” Its widely acknowledged that the use of fly ash significantly reduces the carbon dioxide emission levels”

              It does nothing to reduce carbon dioxide levels. At best it keeps them neutral. No one is claiming that fly ash reduces carbon dioxide. This is just another example of trying to double count “energy savings”.


              “In parts of Europe where underground mines frequently extend under urban areas this is common practice to stabilise ground levels. Fly ash in these situations is usually the simplest and cheapest solution.”

              Who is mining under urban areas? Coal mines. That a coal mining company finds that it’s garbage is “useful” is not surprising. It may very well work in those situations for solving a problem that coal mining created. So would portland cement based concrete with less portland cement. Would we then give an award to coal miners for “saving energy”?

              “mixing it with other forms produces a superior form to using most types of virgin inputs.”

              That’s flat out NEVER true, whatever “virgin” means.

              “and ‘they’ in the quarrying industry love to scaremonger about recycled materials so they can open up yet more quarries. ”

              Are you now trying to insinuate that fly ash reduces the need for aggregate in concrete? It does not.

              It’s a sales pitch for garbage. Trying to rebrand industrial garbage from one of the biggest polluters as “green”.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                Now you are getting silly.

                Fly ash cannot be used to completely replace portland cement in concrete or grout mixes. At best it can be used to replace 30% of the cement, with an associated performance drop.

                I’m not going to play games with this. I never suggested it could replace anything 100%, of course fly ash would be one of a variety of materials in modern concrete. Anyone can go to google scholar or any technical search engine and use variations on terms such as ‘shear strength’ ‘structural strength’ and ‘concrete’ and ‘fly ash’ and find literally hundreds of academic papers on the topic. There are many, many specific applications where fly ash improves concrete performance. I’d suggest in particular search for technical papers on ‘roller compacted concrete‘, there is a vast amount of research on this, as its used widely in dam construction where of course long term structural stability is of vital importance.

                You don’t address it’s use as a building material for buildings.

                Have you never heard the term ‘cinder block’? Look it up, and while you are at it, check where the term ‘cinder’ (or ‘breeze’ in the UK) comes from. There are literally millions of houses worldwide made from it, and have been since the 19th Century to the present day.

                Concrete and grout are two different things

                Structural grout is a liquid cementitious product, made up of variations of the exact same substances as structural cement. It is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same thing when used in construction. The difference between concrete and grout (or mortar) are their uses, not their composition. Again, google, or google scholar, or any search engine, will confirm this.

                It does nothing to reduce carbon dioxide levels. At best it keeps them neutral.

                Once again, a search through google scholar or any other technical search engine using the terms ‘concrete’ ‘fly ash’ CO2′ or similar search terms will find dozens of technical papers stating the exact opposite to what you have asserted. And no, its not double counting if the material will simply be dumped as an alternative to its re-use. The potential for significant CO2 emission reductions through the use of fly ash is openly accepted and actively promoted by the EPA in the US, the Canadian government, the UK government, and the EU.

                Who is mining under urban areas? Coal mines. That a coal mining company finds that it’s garbage is “useful” is not surprising.

                Its nothing to do with coal mining companies as they don’t sell fly ash, power companies or other industrial plants sell it as a waste product, or to be precise, they give it away or pay someone to take it away as its expensive for them to tip or store. In any event, subsurface grouting is necessary for a very wide variety of situations, some of which involve former coal mines, others involve a variety of other natural and man-made situations. Look at any construction site in an urban area where the geology is not structurally stiff rock and you’ll likely see some form of concrete grouting for deep foundations. Structural grouting is an enormous user of concrete with consequent huge environmental impacts.

                That’s flat out NEVER true, whatever “virgin” means.

                ‘Virgin’ is a term widely used in the industry to distinguish newly quarried/manufactured products from recycled/reused products. in this context, ‘virgin’ material would be mined and processed hydrated lime or filler materials such as sands or gravels or clays or other silicates. And yes it is true, I refer to my links and comments above. You will not find any structural engineer, anywhere, who would deny the advantages in a variety of uses of fly ash as a significant component of concrete. Again, just go to google scholar and search for ‘fly ash’ ‘concrete’ ‘advantages’ or any such mix and you’ll find numerous papers – from that link ‘When properly propor-tioned and placed, fly ash concrete generally shows improved workability, pumpability, cohesiveness, finish, ultimate strength, and durability. It has been found that fly ash is of particular value in high-strength concrete‘.

                Are you now trying to insinuate that fly ash reduces the need for aggregate in concrete?

                I’m not insinuating any such thing. I’m stating it. Fly ash is an alternative to aggregates and (in some cases) hydrated lime and other components in concrete (including clays often used in cinder block manufacture). It is used instead of the processed/mined material. Is this really a difficult concept to grasp?

                And incidentally, one of the biggest users of coal is… yes, the cement industry, for processing lime. So the insistence that there is something wrong with using fly ash would actually increase the amount of coal used if the use of fly ash was banned. Not to mention the increase in the amount of lime that would be needed to stabilise modern bottom/fly ash depositories (liming the ash is the standard methodology now for reducing run-off). So the ‘state of the art’ solution to dealing with fly ash waste is to… mix it with lime and stick it in holes. As opposed to mixing it with lime and using it for practical construction uses to displace other materials.

                1. bob

                  Please point to one single cement factory that has shut down because fly ash is replacing cement.

                  That is the core assertion, correct? That fly ash is a replacement for cement and that it has been for years.

      2. Todde

        They use ash bricks in coal mines to seal up tunnels in room and pillar mining and i thought shinglea for roofs.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Simpler than bricks, its common practice to mix fly ash with concrete and pump it back into mines at pressure to grout the voids. In parts of Europe where underground mines frequently extend under urban areas this is common practice to stabilise ground levels. Fly ash in these situations is usually the simplest and cheapest solution.

          1. Todde

            We always used bricks that we would mud over.

            Wasn’t to stabilize walls but to seal a shaft so the air flow would go to the face of the mine.

        2. JTMcPhee

          Thinking of one’s neighbor mopes, I wonder what kinds of toxics exposures are “internalized” (in addition to black lung stuff) by the miners who have to heave and place those bricks, or pump the “grout” slurry, into those mines…

          “Civilization” is built on the corpses of billions…

          What happens if “we” can somehow turn TINA inside out, to give “Is There No Alternative?” Or maybe “There Are Nicer Alternatives”?

  6. Eureka Springs

    What happened to McClatchy?

    I’m in Arkansas, that’s “outside” of Prague. When I was in Turkey that felt “close to” or “in the vicinity” of Prague.

  7. The Rev Kev

    “Explosion at a Con Edison plant turns the NYC night sky bright blue, bringing a stunned Big Apple to a halt as parts of Queens lose power and all flights are grounded at La Guardia airport”

    I have an explanation for this. It was the Men in Black at work. They were fighting off an alien Bezos infestation in Queens ( and when they were done, had to use one of their flashy things to make people forget what they saw. That bright blue was the residue of that flash which meant nothing to those who were not in direct line of sight of that flash of course.

    1. Big River Bandido

      In the War of 1812, after a failed attempt to break out of the British blockade of New London, Stephen Decatur blamed unnamed local spies, who he claimed were signalling British ships with “blue lights”.

      Perhaps last night’s explosion temporarily ruptured the space-time continuum, causing Decatur to see blue light from Con Ed in the sky in 1813.

    2. KPC

      I do not find this amusing.

      This is a very serious and critical failure in your infrastructure. You need to start paying some attention to these matter up there. E.g., the average age of your electric, gas and other urban infrastructure in the United States of America brings new meaning to third world.

      Given, for example, your dollar remains a dominant reserve currency or conveyancing system, you have a responsibility in this very area to the rest of the world which you voluntarily agreed to assume.

      1. Wukchumni

        Dominant into kinky perversion of other purveyors via fiscal bondage, your place or mine. (location: DC, but service Lower Manhattan also)

      2. ambrit

        Infrastructure for who? The present elites are hiving themselves off from the generality of the human terrestrial population. Thus, ‘necessary’ infrastructure becomes an order of magnitude smaller. That leaves much more ‘wealth’ available for the elites to utilize for their own ends, which do not overlap with the needs of the masses.
        Our Overlords new motto: “Jackpot Bingo. Many will enter, few will win!”

          1. ambrit

            I’ve never heard of the Heinkel 777. Was this one of the ‘Glocke’ designs? Powered by Vril?
            Either that or anti-helium?
            A Deuterium Jackpot = 111
            A Manichaean Jackpot = 222
            A Trinitarian Jackpot = 333
            A Square Jackpot = 444
            A Quinella Jackpot = 55
            An Anti Jackpot = 666
            A Casino Jackpot = 777
            A Chinese Jackpot = 888.
            An Dyslexic Anti Jackpot = 999
            A Digital Jackpot = 101010

            1. The Rev Kev

              I suspect that the Wuk is having a loan of us as 777əH is, when turned upside down, seems to spells HeLLL.

              1. ambrit

                Blast! I think that you are correct. It has turned my world upside down and inverse. Talk about disruption!
                He might have been afraid that MGM would come after him for copyright infringement in using something close to HAL9000. So, a Leonardoesque appellation.

      3. Eureka Springs

        @ KPC You say that is if we have a choice.

        The last time I felt safe about drinking water straight from the source was chipping off ice from a glacier in Alaska in order to make a ten thousand year old martini in a sierra cup. Nobody in my lifetime has or will insist we ever truly have safe (from the source) drinking water again.

        This is a country which prefers discussion of: Why Lethal Weapon Is A Better Christmas Movie Than Die Hard

        When we the people of Carroll county rose up in protest of toxic chemicals being sprayed on all our lands by the electric “co-op” we were herded into the county fairgrounds stock yards for a “meeting’ surrounded by security, and months later they secured a 9 percent rate hike. The spraying continues unabated. Cost us all days of standing in merde and years of higher rates for merely saying – don’t poison us.

        You, like many of us had better start making other plans.

        1. Oregoncharles

          If it’s a co-op, you and others presumably have a vote on the directors. Any luck on that approach?

          1. Eureka Springs

            Yes we tried to get a couple of seats on the board to no avail. Lots of backwoods driving, walking, creek crossing canvassing time. That board had all the (our elec) money, a monthly glossy magazine they send out to every address, bought security up the wing wang for what beyond intimidation tactics I don’t know. They pulled out all the stops and then some. So we didn’t get close to taking a seat anymore than we could even find out the names of the chemicals they spray. Nothing even sprouted for three years.

        2. KPC

          Understood. Been there, done this. Not in this event but throughout my life.

          So, from my point of view, everyone of you has an excuse to sit back and wait for others to do it for you. Well, if that is your wish, by all means do so. But do not come back to me and others who have worked in these areas and whine later.

          From our point of view, you have become a part of the problem. How very elite of you. How very tragic for you. How very tragic for the rest of us.

          1. Wukchumni

            We shall defend our infrastructure, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight the red tide beaches, we shall fight the pipes underground, we shall fight in the waste water plants and in the potholed streets, We shall fight in the landfills; we shall never surrender.

          2. Eureka Springs

            I could list many many times and ways I’ve tried. What I want is to quit pretending proven failed ways might work this time. We face opponents (D and R) who are actively sabotaging the will of the people. Were not going to fix the mafia by joining it and changing it from within.

      4. redleg

        The term “infrastructure” is a neoliberal term that conceals the public benefit of these systems. Better to use “public works” to describe these systems.

  8. Wukchumni

    Vancouver will begin offering pharmaceutical-grade pills to people with opioid-use disorder in the latest attempt to prevent deaths in a city that experiences one lethal overdose every day.

    A pilot project set to launch from Vancouver’s largest social-service provider will allow about 50 patients at a time to access the opioid hydromorphone in tablet form and ingest them on site while staff observe them. This offers a safer alternative to an illicit drug supply tainted by deadly fentanyl.

    At least 1,380 people died of illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia from January to November of this year, with fentanyl detected in about 84 per cent of deaths.

    It takes a pillage…

  9. jfleni

    RE: Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Push For A Green New Deal Committee.

    Castor was the perfect foil for the NANCY-crats, a lot like the defeated Crowley,
    a grovelling ####kisser who only wants to be relected at any cost, whether it works or not will depend on how much the Nancy-crats and Exon bring to the table!

  10. Andrew Watts

    RE: Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Push For A Green New Deal Committee

    The Democratic Party has internalized the view that political change is impossible and isn’t even a desirable goal to achieve. No matter how necessary it will become they’ve chosen to settle for enjoying the perks of office. Unlike their counterparts of the Great Depression, who accepted the need for “a generation of radicalism” as coined by FDR, the present D party doesn’t have a liberal-progressive future. It will exist as a reactionary conservative party that occasionally makes progressive noises if their response to Trump is any indicator.

    …and people wonder why America is in a state of collapse?

    1. lyman alpha blob

      And yet there so incompetent they probably won’t even get to enjoy the perks of office.

      If the party leadership didn’t want a “Green New Deal”, why block it before it even comes to a vote!??! Debate it on the house floor, put on a good show of “fighting”, and then let the republicans block it. That’s what they’ve done for years and now they can’t even be bothered to put on the show any more to deflect the blame.

      The feckless [family blog]gers who support this sorry excuse for a political party better get used to the idea of a Republican house again in two years and 2nd term for Trump because no alternative is being presented at all.

      It appears more and more that HL Mencken was right after all –

      Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

    2. PhillyPhilly

      The original New Deal came about in part because FDR and the ruling class had a knife to their throat. They were facing a powerful coalition of labor, socialists, and communists combined with the great depression and communism abroad. We won’t see a Green New Deal unless the ruling class has absolutely no other choice. The Dems won’t stand up to powerful interests if they have any other option.

      1. Wukchumni

        The original New Deal came about in part because FDR and the ruling class had a knife to their throat.

        I can’t recommend the book: The Great Depression-A Diary, enough. Written by Benjamin Roth, a Youngstown Ohio lawyer, he’s a critical thinker that writes down daily occurrences in his neck of the woods, and in the run-up to FDR being elected, banks are either closed, or not allowing withdrawals, and it’s a domino theory alright, like so many 10 pins.

        The one way that the banks would pry loose with your money, was if somebody wanted to purchase real estate they owned, and the way it worked was this:

        You could get cash money on the money in your bank, but it sold at a discount of anywhere from 40 to 70 Cents on the Dollar.

        The purchaser of your funds could then go to the same bank and cut a fat hog on properties in their possession, as they were only too happy to find a buyer, and the buyer made out nicely on the arbitrage.

        1. PhillyPhilly

          Thanks! I’ll have to check it out. I find the New Deal era fascinating since it’s the only time in American history I can find where we actually raised taxes on the wealthy.

          1. Wukchumni

            After FDR’s inaugural, the author’s tone goes from woe is me, to being a hopeful skeptic-whose business never really recovers during the dirty thirties.

            Along the way on the way to perdition, you learn the going rate for a bushel of apples (125 of them) is 25 cents @ roadside stand in Ohio, and lots of other juicy bits, such as ‘white rabbits’ which was local money-like script issued in lieu of greenback $’s, and only of value within the community where it emanated from.

            The yin & yang of then and now, was nobody had any available money back then, and now the world is awash in it.

              1. Wukchumni

                Not you per se, but a for instance from the luxury suites:

                You could buy a painting now worth $100 million for $10k- $20k in the 1930’s, as the masters of different eras were as well known and coveted then as now, but there were very few of the 1% capable of getting in a bidding war with one of their class, and one axiom of auctions always rings true on a individual basis, in that there is only 1 winner per item, the underbidders all being losers, by definition.

                Egos clash

              2. NotTimothyGeithner

                Sure it is, the problem is the rich have enough money to pay their bills while speculating versus investing in productive assets.

                I would argue the rich are a problem altogether, but if the lifestyle of the rich depended on regular returns versus big scores the money should wind up more evenly distributed.

    3. WJ

      “A poll released Monday found 81 percent of registered voters supported the policies outlined under the Green New Deal resolution ― including 64 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of self-described conservative Republicans. Last Friday, more than 300 state and local officials voiced support for a Green New Deal in an open letter.”

      Tells you a lot about the actual form of government we have…

    4. Lambert Strether

      > The Democratic Party has internalized the view that political change is impossible and isn’t even a desirable goal to achieve.

      Now I can’t find the Twitter chart I posted, but income since the recession shows the 90% flat, the 10% rising and ditto (naturally) the 0.1%. (Figures may not add due to rounding.)

      Since as Thomas Frank points out, the Democrats are the class party of professionals, they don’t see a problem.

  11. Andrew Watts

    RE: Biggest Stock Reversal Since 2010 Rings of Bear Market Bounce

    In other words, the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) overbought the market so volatility and uncertainty remains. The first rule of the PPT should be that you don’t talk publicly about the PPT. Forbes is even catching on and I’ve never known anybody with an IQ in the three digit range that reads Forbes.

    Fracking mediocrities.

    1. Wukchumni

      It really has the feel of the Star Trek episode “A Taste of Armageddon”.

      Artificial Intelligence @ it’s ne plus ultra, with humans heeding the call~

      Anan 7: Planetary disrupter banks, calculate orbit of 6 cruisers now circling. Stand by to fire full power.

    2. Lou Anton

      Guess the PPT also got a call from Mnuchin while he was poolside in Cabo. Oh hey guys, make the market for me just in case, wouldya? And the boss says the bounce-back has to be big and beautiful.

      1. Wukchumni

        Dowjonesdown cocktail:

        1,000 jiggers of anything 200 proof-mixed with raspberry kool-aide, and laced with larceny.

  12. The Rev Kev

    “The Memo: Trump puts isolationism at center stage”

    There is a military axiom that if you try to defend everywhere, that you defend nowhere. Certainly this was drummed into US soldiers in previous times. Maybe Trump is asking questions like what is in it for America to be occupying one third of Syria? And finding out that it is only Saudi Arabia and Israel that really benefits – with America bearing all the costs and the risks. Same with Afghanistan. If the Taliban has not been defeated over the course of some twenty years, then why not claim victory and come home? In the end, have only US troops where they actually serve vital US interests. Stop seeing them scattered to the winds and burning up all your resources. I believe that to maintain one soldier in Afghanistan alone costs approximately one million dollars a year. Could you call that being isolationist as a policy? Or a form of Realpolitik.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      You need only look at whats happening to the USAF to see the result of spreading everything too thin – its now acknowledged that they almost certainly can’t afford to replace the F-22 – they’ll probably have to simply order more F-35 Flying Turkeys to make up the numbers (they are actually increasing the number of squadrons).

      To be clear, the Air Force could opt to replace the F-22 with … the F-35. The service’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan” study from 2016 stressed the need for what it calls a “penetrating counterair” capability. In other words, a highly survivable air-to-air fighter.

      “Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability and supportability,” the study explained. But the study did not specify that the Air Force should develop a new plane for the role. The service could simply continue buying F-35s as the F-22s age out, the CBO advised.

      “Because of the high cost and uncertainty about the aircraft’s character­istics, reasonable changes in assumptions about the PCA aircraft could have a sizable impact on CBO’s projections of total Air Force costs. For example, the Air Force could decide that the PCA aircraft’s cutting-edge design is unaffordable and instead opt to purchase more F-35As.

      “Because the F-35A’s estimated average procurement unit cost is $94 million, compared with about $300 mil­lion for the PCA aircraft, the peak for new aircraft procurement in 2033 without the PCA aircraft would be $20 billion rather than $26 billion.”

      The Air Force also could cut costs by buying fewer new aircraft, resulting in an overall force smaller than today’s 5,500-plane fleet. But the branch’s plan to add, not subtract, squadrons requires more aircraft, not fewer.

      There are some jaw dropping figures in that article about the projected costs of just maintaining aircraft numbers – it will mean higher spending than even during the Cold War peak just to stand still. Clearly, somethings gotta give.

      1. SimonGirty

        Can’t Trump just get Ivanka to hire Israel to fight terror (wink, wink) with Russian weapons, while Erik Prince empties out Afghanistan, Venezuela or all the scary, shithole nations sitting atop our strategic reserves? Just claim our planes are now 100% stealthy & invisible?

      2. Mark Alexander

        they’ll probably have to simply order more F-35 Flying Turkeys to make up the numbers

        This is an insult to turkeys. Around here, they are surprisingly good flyers for their size. Last week I alarmed one that was picking up seeds under the bird feeder, and it flew right over the house at what I estimate was nearly a 45 degree angle. Impressive!

    2. JTMcPhee

      Dare I ask for a definition of “vital US interests,” please?

      That seems like a kind of key linchpin question that is seldom asked, but “defined” in the group mind only by grandiose speeches and press releases and white papers covering little bits of the vast bullsh!ttery that constitutes the “policy” of the Empire. Which itself is a dangerous personification of a complexity of selfish and destructive ownership and dominance drives.

      But “vital national interests” is laid on the table as the lexical ace of spades that beats all other considerations and notions into submission. “Everyone just KNOWS what it means,” of course, like we all Just Know what “Policy” means, for example, and “War,” and lots of other shibboleths, like “Enemy,” that toxic unexamined driver of so much horror…

      People here are concerned about clarity of communication and thought — maybe it’s a feckless task given the yuuuuge inertia and momentum of that oh-so-unsubstantive phrase, but how about challenging the Narrative on the use without referents of this and other “potent phrases?” I’m not smart enough to lay it out, or linked enough to try to viralize any such discussion, but I do poke this pig on a regular basis.

      A little help, if anyone thinks it is warranted?

      1. Wukchumni

        I heard that there was a situation out of LeMoore-adjacent, when the squadron of F-35’s scrambled on account of a herd of dairy cows that had broken through their CAFO, and were stampeding slowly in their general direction.

        The skimfidels were quickly routed and made it back in time for the 2nd milking of the day which resulted in more yield than usual, so plans are being made for more outcursions, with helpful herding overhead.

        1. JTMcPhee

          So other than that bit, you got nothing? Or maybe that reply was to a different comment? Or whateverrr?

          And the beating goes on,
          And the beating goes o-onnn…

      2. ambrit

        At the root of your conundrum is the definition of U.S. That goes squarely to the issue of politics. Don’t forget that there are many people who still argue over the definition of “consent of the governed.” The ‘Divine Right of Kings’ is easily repurposed as the ‘Divine Right of Elites.’ Now, let us argue about the definition of ‘Divine.’ (And yes. “Female Trouble” is peripherally involved. See: “The Deplorables: Origins and Behaviours.” Miskatonic University Press. Arkham, Mass.)
        For the adventurous:
        (In fill disclosure for the uninitiated, the University site is a parody of Lovecraft et. al. I have no connection to them. On the physical plane that is.)

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Is “consent of the governed” the same thing as ” sullen acquiescence of the governated” . . . ?

          1. ambrit

            Well, it can be one way that people internalize their status, or lack thereof in the socio-political matrix. I can imagine a spectrum of behaviours under the heading of ‘consent of the governed.’ The best version would be self government, as in ‘governing’ one’s passions. Externally imposed government would involve the manipulation of the passions. The consent there, as you implied above, would be a version of quietism or fatalism.

  13. The Rev Kev

    “France emerges as latest source of Turkey’s ire in Syria”

    Macron may say that he is there for the YPG/PKK but I have my doubts. Probably he is eyeing off the oil fields in this part of Syria in return for supporting the Kurds the same way France went into Libya for its gold and oil. This article mentioned that “Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency disclosed sensitive details about where the French soldiers were stationed in eastern Syria” and here is the article mentioned for those curious-

    A coupla artillery batteries and special ops but no real depth to their field force. And only 200 soldiers? You could put that many people into a suburban house with room to spare. They wouldn’t be so much as standing with the Kurds but standing behind the Kurds. I have the feeling that some in France have never forgotten when they had the Mandate over Syria back in the 20s and 30s and somehow want to revive those times again-

    1. PlutoniumKun

      If Macron has any sense he’ll use his ‘support’ of the YPG to act as peacemaker between them and Assad, and so get back on the winning side in the Syrian Civil War. The French are usually quite nimble at playing the MIddle Eastern ‘pick a parade to get ahead of’ game, it was unusually clumsy of them to get sucked into the anti-Assad coalition for no reason that I could discern.

      1. Chris51

        The Russians have been acting as peacemaker and mediator between Assad’s government and various moderate factions of the “other side” for the last two or three years. Syrians in the opposition forces have been offered two choices when surrendering. If there is no evidence of a criminal act, a fighter can repent and rejoin Syrian society with his family, including joining the Syrian Arab Army if he chooses. The other choice is for him and his family to be bussed to another opposition enclave, taking small arms only.

        Syria has consistently offered these options, and upheld its side of the agreement, with Russia acting as a mediator, negotiator and guarantor.

        Who in the Syrian battle zones in suddenly going to start trusting the sneaky French?

        1. redleg

          Don’t forget France and Russia have a cooperative back story that dates back to the Czars and Louis’. Visit your Russian friends and they’ll offer you vodka and cognac.

    2. VietnamVet

      The Kurds don’t have an Air Force. This is very similar to ethnic Russians in Donbass. There they encircled and destroyed the Ukraine invaders because the Russian Federation provided the rebels with antiaircraft missiles and intelligence. The MH-17 shot down was either a SNAFU or a Ukraine/NATO operation to try to negate the Russian missiles.

      Will France alone do this for the Kurds? Not likely, if the USA does pull out much to Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s displeasure. Like all Mountaineers, Kurds don’t want to face the fact that, all alone, their only choice is rejoining Syria to get the Russian Air Force flying missions overhead. This seems a better choice than a Turkish invasion and a forever insurgency. But, the Afghans are still fighting the invaders 18 years later in the Hindu Kush mountains.

      1. The Rev Kev

        The Kurds seem to want to keep their own Army and not have it part of the Syrian Army. They also want the Syrian Army to defend the border with Turkey and have the entire interior under their own control. In addition, they want magic, sparkly ponies. I tell you, the Kurds sometimes sound like the Brexit UK government in its expectations.

  14. Alex

    Re 25 worst articles the compilation is indeed impressive in a sordid way.
    However I was appalled that they found it totally okay to make fun of incels in a way they would never do to any other group of marginalised people.

  15. Mcwatt

    Coal ash in concrete. When our house and garage were built in 1910 coal ash was used instead of stone to level the ground before the concrete was poured. Apparently ground moisture affects coal ash in a negative way as our basement and garage floors have heaved unevenly.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      That was probably from sulphates in the coal ash – its a very common problem with 19th and early 20th Century houses. Its not an issue with coal used in concrete in a correct mix as the lime in concrete neutralises the sulphates, the problem is when its spread ‘raw’ as a sub-base. It can also occasionally be a problem if the mix involving ash is wrong resulting in water ingress, although this is always an issue with concrete manufacture.

    1. ewmayer

      Uh, doesn’t that – coupled with a “but where ya gonna go, loser?” – pretty much describe the effects of the NeoLib and NatSec projects? Both of which have overwhelming bipartisan support, naturally.

  16. Cal2

    Hospital prices?

    “Here’s a check for the number of days I was in there multiplied by your advertised price.”

    On the reverse “Cashing this check satisfies all bills due and outstanding”

    1. aletheia33

      the right attitude to bring.

      i just saw where a nurse in my town is offering services (sliding scale) to help people choose their insurance plans, fight claims denials, etc.

      one of the nurse’s thought-provoking questions:
      ”are you sure you really have to pay that hospital bill?”

      and by the way, one of my pet peeves is the media’s constant failure to mention that bankruptcy can help–especially if you own no significant assets, which is fairly common these days. the purpose of bankruptcy is debt relief, and it is still available in some forms in some states. even post- biden’s gutting of the law.

      but it’s treated as a fate worse than death, and the ultimate shame upon oneself, when in fact it has helped many people to make a fresh start. before indenturing oneself to paying off unpayable medical bills, one should at least look into one’s state’s bankruptcy law. before taking on a client and charging a fee, a bankruptcy lawyer may well be willing to advise whether and how filing bankruptcy will succeed. yet so many people never even look into it. just to talk about it is one of the last taboos.

      1. ambrit

        Yes, and the intricacies of the bankruptcy laws are used frequently by the financial elites to evade legitimate bills and debts. A classic double standard.

    1. ewmayer

      As the saying goes, “opinions are like assholes – everyone’s got one, but some are fuller of crap than others.”

  17. Wukchumni

    This from a friend who was up in Sequoia NP yesterday, @ the place every tourist must pay homage to, big wood.

    “Sherman tree area is an ice rink, someone should film that mess. I must have seen 20 people go down in 20 minutes, no maintenance-no sand-no traction.”

    There’s gonna be some interesting tales from the various NP’s that stayed open during the shutdown…

  18. Richard

    This is pretty massive. One of the authors of a “russian disinformation” report that’s been making the rounds among blob media has just been suspended from facebook for (wait for it) disinforming the public during the special alabama senate election. Lying about Russian support for Roy Moore.
    This was that New Knowledge report, the one that swore that BLM activists and Stein voters and all sorts of wrong-headed people were influenced by a russian campaign, which spent $ 4700 on google and about $100,000 on facebook to buy our election, with unclear and laughable memes, half of which aired after election day.
    Now it turns out that Ferguson, the New Knowledge co-founder, put out fake news facebook says, by completely making up the idea that Roy Moore’s social media presence was aided by russian bots.
    The irony is so rich that it lives in a gated community and won’t even admit it’s irony
    Here is a link to the J Dore show that covered it.

  19. John Wright

    Re: In Some Bay Area Counties, College Grads Have Higher Unemployment

    This has “The trend is starkest in Sonoma County, where workers without a high school degree have a 0.2 percent unemployment rate compared to a 4.4 percent rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.”

    Much of this could be attributed to the various wildfires that ripped through Sonoma County in Oct 2017, destroying 5000+ dwellings in the county.

    A lot of retail and fast food places are advertising for workers in Sonoma County because anyone who could work for higher pay in construction left to work in rebuilding homes.

    The 0.2% vs 4.4% rate disparity will probably disappear when the rebuilding effort completes.

  20. JBird4049

    The most sustainable thing is….drumroll…buy second hand, or vintage, if you prefer.

    Most clothes made today are junk. Even my jeans don’t last as long. Unless one is talking about pre 1990s clothes that is before American clothing manufacturing was offshored to be more cheaply made in both production and quality.

  21. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Green Fashion? When Clothing Industry Decides Ecology Is In Le Monde (Leslie T). The most sustainable thing is….drumroll…buy second hand, or vintage, if you prefer.


    One other option, though probaby illegal in many places, is to wear your birthday suit.

    Still another one, more viable perhaps, is the Mao suit. Here, with its uniform design, it’s quite easy to borrow or to hand down/over the suit. It also reduces the desire to ‘get something new’ when widely worn. The pressure to get ‘this year’s fashion’ is removed completely.

  22. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China is finding new ways to hurt U.S. businesses Politico (Kevin W)

    Another reminder that every nation should treat others as (equal, hopefully) partners, not adversaries, when it comes to trade (or other activities).

    And while people in various places are not happy about the current superpower, it is not hopeful that those competing to join or replace it seek to do so with more powerful weapons, like hypersonic misslies, instead of, say, love.

    It’d be like ‘more of the same.’

    1. Wukchumni

      Hey nice crop of navel oranges you got there, it’d be a pity if they rotted on the way here, and you know it only takes one bad apple, and before you know it, the rot is in on whole kit and caboodle.

      Try to get them to us quicker next time, okthxby.

  23. JTMcPhee

    Re DGSE and “sticky prices:” I’ve always been fascinated by how pump prices of gasoline can revise upward so quickly, with every tiny MSM-announced “shock,” and how very slowly those prices are revised down when the impact of whatever said “shock” was has faded away.

    Currently hovering at a bit over $2.00 a US gallon around here – dare one speculate how such prices are really set? Does Nig Retail bribe Big Oil to turn the dial down to let us mopes feel like we are a bit “richer” in this Holy Consumption Season? And of course geopolitics. No input from preserve-the-habitability-Of-the -planet direction, of course. Not currently monetizable, or with current “economic tools and theories,” price-discoverable.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Interesting; it’s around $3.00 per here, higher still in back country areas. Some of the difference is state taxes, but surely not all.

      1. ambrit

        I once had an extended conversation with a petroleum engineer. One subject touched upon was exactly that, the disparities in gasoline retail prices. It seems that the road transport costs of the precious liquid is one factor in having higher prices the further into the woods one goes. Gasoline has to be trucked from the refinery or pipeline terminal to the vendor. That isn’t free, by a long shot.
        Another big variable from state to state is the state tax rate on fuel. There is such a thing as ‘Red Diesel’ fuel. It is tinted red to differentiate it from road diesel fuel. Red diesel is strictly for, farm machinery, heavy equipment, and various off road uses. I remember getting it for my father-in-law for his old Ford tractor back when he took a tax deduction for his “Gentleman Farmer’ mini farm. This fuel has a significantly lower tax than fuel for road use. Thus, money is involved. The lower price is an incentive promoting agriculture and heavy construction.
        Another variable is the distance from a refinery. Plus, as if it wasn’t complicated enough, is that oil, pre refinement is not one uniform price. Oil from different fields fetch different prices. Indeed, oil is rated by it’s sulfur content. Rules mandate a low sulfur content in refined fuels. Removing that sulfur takes extra steps in refining, and thus higher costs. I believe that the West Coast states have the strictest pollution controls, and thus different refining requirements.
        Soon to be enforced rules concerning the sulfur levels in bunker crude fuel oil for maritime shipping will drive demand for low sulfur oils even higher, and increase shipping prices.
        It’s one big unholy mess.

  24. ewmayer

    o “Plastic Water Bottles, Which Enabled a Drinks Boom, Now Threaten a Crisis | Wall Street Journal” — Like plastic bags, plastic water bottles can come in really handy. I don’t like the rigid, inflexible plastic or steel refillable water bottles, so simply refill a 20oz cheapie as needed. My current one has lasted around 6 months and counting. When it finally wears out I’ll recycle it and pull a fresh one out of the same the recycling bin, rinse with soap and water and voila! But as with plastic bags, far too few people use them conscientiously.

    o “EU slams Israeli settlement plans | DW” — But will the EU actually *do* anything besdies virtue-signal about the Little Apartheid State That Could’s latest land-grabbing settlement plans? Like, say, push for sanctions, like it is more than happy to do with other “rogue regimes”? Of course not.

    o “Iraqi politicians attack Trump’s visit to US troops as ‘blatant violation of sovereignty’ | Independent” — So the US troops being there to bein with is not a blatant violation of sovereignty, but the commander in chief visiting them is? Okee-dokee.

    o “The Memo: Trump puts isolationism at center stage | The Hill” — The mere use of the tendentious ‘isolationism’ tells me I don’t even need to read this to confirm that it’s some form of globalist/neolibcon propaganda.

    o “Bloomberg says he’ll insist presidential candidates have climate change plans | Politico” — So MB decrees that he gest to set the rules for what the 2020 candidates must have, policy-wise? OK, then, how about “prospective 2020 candidate ewmayer says he’ll insist presidential candidates have plans to actual bring Wall Street fraud and greed cartels to heel, in form of largets DOJ/SEC anti-corruption push in history.” So let’s hear about your plans for that, Mikey!

    o “Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Push For A Green New Deal Committee | Other News” — A Green New Deal Committee sure sounds to me a “climate change plan”. I wonder how Mike Bloomberg feels about this nixing.

  25. ewmayer

    Re. the Current Affairs piece “The 25 Worst Headlines of 2018”, the snarky commentary is of course hilarious, and while most of the cited articles really are awful, I did appreciate the humor in a few, e.g. the Scrabble one:

    Sorry, feminists. I know it’s always been a central plank of the feminist movement, this strident demand that everyone accept the equality of the sexes at word-based board games. But when it comes to competitive Scrabble, a sport that relies on a pedantic knowledge of rare words and the best configuration of triple word and triple letter bonuses, I’m afraid men are simply better. You see, men evolved to be more tedious than women, and to derive smug satisfaction from high skill at extremely unimportant pursuits. It’s an evolutionary strategy that allowed some men to appear too pathetic to kill even when they had nothing useful to offer the tribe, which allowed them to partake in communal meals hunted and gathered by more interesting individuals. Once in a while, these superfluous men were even able to breed, passing along their obnoxious genes to future generations of pedants.

    As for a select few of the cited perpetrators:

    “19. The Wall Street Journal: Ken Langone Wants You to Know He Loves Capitalism: Alarmed by what he views as some young people’s tilt toward socialism, the Home Depot co-founder has written a book defending capitalism” — And I’ll bet the non-chump (nor chimp) Ken Langone wrote said literary epistle in far less than 40 hours pre week, to boot.

    “21. The Spectator: It is time we civilised the Sentinelese people” — I’m picturing such a process of civilizing ending up with a new wildly popular breed of purse dog carried around by rich Asian ladies, said dog being named, of course, a “Sentinelese”. “Gosh, stop your tiny-voiced yipping, little Jessica – it’s just not civilized! Here, let me retie your precious little forelock hair-bow, and here’s a tiny little doggie-treat for you by way of reward. Now what say we girls buy a few more $10,000 purses?”

    And for some odd reason I’m picturing the late flamboyant-defense-attorney-extraordinaire Johnny Cochran waxing loquacious in his inimitable manner: “That article was outrageous, egregious, inflammatory and defamatory!”

  26. Synoia

    Explosion at a Con Edison plant turns the NYC night sky bright blue, bringing a stunned Big Apple to a halt as parts of Queens lose power and all flights are grounded at La Guardia airport

    No, Trumps ego did not reach critical mass! It was just a transformer, which converts AC electricity to a different voltage. Similar to the ethics transformation in the face of piles of money.

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