Links 12/29/18

Giraffes just silently went to the list of endangered animals facing extinction India Today (furzy) :-(

Richard Overton (1906–2018), oldest U.S. WWII veteran Legacy (EM)

Dramatic collapse of Indonesian volcano BBC

New calculations may finally make fusion energy a reality Futurism (David L)

Under current policies, residential batteries increase emissions in most cases ars technica

Chinese Gene-Editing Trial Loses Track of Patients, Alarming Technology’s Inventors Wall Street Journal

China?

China’s African debt-trap: Beijing prepares to seize Kenya’s port of Mombasa Taiwan News (Paul R)

Australia is now a popular destination for a Chinese wedding photography craze SBS. Kevin W: “Not just Australia either. Chinese pre-wedding photos are apparently big thing with the Chinese.”

Brexit

PM accused of Brexit deal desperation over John Redwood honour Guardian

Exclusive: Civil servant accuses ministers of ‘Project Fear Mark III’ over no-deal Brexit Telegraph. I’m skeptical due to repeated demonstrations of the Government’s incompetence. Richard North concurs, albeit for different reasons:

This is quite unlike anything written by a civil servant that I have ever seen and, given the propensity of Telegraph journalists to make things up, we cannot avoid the suspicion that this is another piece of fakery to which big-name journals are prone.

Varadkar says he’s reluctant to use the term ‘vulture fund’ to describe firms that have bought up Irish mortgages The Journal. PlutoniumKun:

Some context – it is much harder under Irish law for banks to foreclose on mortgages, hence they are often stuck with underperforming loans on their books for many years (some claim this has led to Ireland having higher mortgage costs than anywhere else in Europe). Hence the attractiveness to the mainstream banks to sell these off to vulture funds. To be fair, some do seem better than Irish banks at more imaginative ways to manage these loans, but there are increasing fears that they will start ejecting people (no clear evidence of this yet).

Syraqistan

Syria Sitrep – Army To Regain Northeastern Territory – Political Isolation Ends Moon of Alabama (Kevin W)

On the Front Line of the Saudi War in Yemen? Child Soldiers from Darfur New York Times (resilc)

Saudi king shakes up government in wake of Khashoggi killing CNN (furzy)

Two new US bases in western Iraq Sic Semper Tyrannis. Resilc: “Why not fund a wall here too?”

Former McKinsey Executive Imprisoned by Saudis Wall Street Journal (Brian C). As one former McKinzoid noted, “I remember a time when acquisitions were as verboten as operating in dodgy countries….”

Trump Transition

Trump administration asks top investor for advice on markets amid wild ride for stocks CNBC (Scott)

Trump threatens to shut ‘entire’ border as shutdown stalemate drags on Sydney Morning Herald (Kevin W)

Trump Scores, Breaks Generals’ 50-Year War Record American Conservative (resilc)

EPA Proposes Rule Change That Would Let Power Plants Release More Toxic Pollution NPR

FCC Says It is Investigating CenturyLink 911 Outage Slashdot

Martha r: “I (left) was proud to appear with my partner and his son and daughter this afternoon
and thrilled to be retweeted by greta around the world!”

Why did nobody mention that Beto O’Rourke’s wife is a billionaire heiress? Spectator USA (furzy)

California Town OKs Destruction Of Police Shooting Records Days Before They Could Be Obtained By The Public Techdirt (Randy K)

Hoyer says House will not seat a North Carolina Republican amid questions about integrity of election Washington Post (furzy)

Maine governor deems congressional election ‘stolen’ while certifying result CNN. Kevin W: “What a dick! He actually wrote ‘stolen election’ next to his signature. You can see it in the image.”

As U.S. soldiers battle landlord, confidential records shine light on his lucrative business Reuters (resilc)

Tesla adds Larry Ellison to its board after SEC slapdown Engadget (EM). What sexual favors were exchanged for Tesla to get this headline? As if Ellison were a model of corporate governance. Gah. His board is packed with cronies. An even more telling take: Tesla Brings On The Grizzled Theranos Team Seeking Alpha

Sears wins reprieve from liquidation as Chairman Lampert makes last-minute bid on bankrupt company CNBC. Kevin W: “Am I reading this right? He destroys Sears and the uses his hedge fund to buy it up on the cheap?”

Confirming our dim vies of Paetron (Chuck L):

Class Warfare

Ohio Minimum Wage will Increase to $8.55 on January 1 ClevelandScene (Carla R)

$800 Million in Taxpayer Money Went to Private Prisons Where Migrants Work for Pennies Daily Beast (resilc)

Teachers Quit Jobs at Record Rate Wall Street Journal

‘Shameful’: As Shutdown Continues, Trump Administration Suggests Unpaid Federal Workers Do Odd Jobs for Landlords to Cover Rent Common Dreams. “Let them eat barter.”

SF to developer who tore down landmark house: Rebuild it exactly as it was San Franciso Chronicle (Kevin W)

Accounting as if people mattered Richard Murphy

Antidote du jour (margarita):

And a bonus video:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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190 comments

  1. Vastydeep

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the addition of Larry Ellison to Tesla’s BOD. Larry spent decades stoking “crazy Larry” in the press, but in my years at modestly-senior positions in big tech companies, the Larry-of-the-2000s is by far the sharpest operational manager I ever met. He may be seeking what his friend Steve Jobs called a “brand injection” – a cameo role to finally shine some light on how Larry managed all these years.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      *Sigh*

      As a board member, Ellison will not be getting into operational details. That is not what board members of public companies do.

      And Ellison’s governance practices at Oracle, which IS what is germane to his role at Telsa, were notably poor.

      Reply
      1. Vastydeep

        Larry ran the Oracle I knew with ~50,000 employees and basically a single P/L. For swaths of time all the big decisions — down to signing manager-level offer letters, even when Oracle was > 10K employees — were Larry’s. How can *any* single person run that big a company that big with a single P/L — particularly when he would spend months “on the boat” from time to time? There is more to it than “operational details.”

        Larry Ellison and Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard are the only two people that I can imagine who could possibly “mentor” Elon Musk. Love him or hate him, Larry was that remarkable a manager.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          With all due respect, you don’t get it.

          1. A board member of a public company is neither a manager nor a mentor. Boards set, or more accurately, approve broad policies [that are served up by management]. The most important functions of the board of a public company are a. the audit committee; b. the comp committee and c. firing the CEO when things get out of hand.

          2. The model you describe for how Ellison runs/ran Oracle is a terrible approach for anything other than a trivially small company. It’s a French court. Everything depends on the CEO since no one knows anything and the records (the thin financial and presumably MIS) are inadequate. Indeed, it could be an indicator of fraud, since fewer records means harder for internal and outside auditors to figure stuff out. Also makes succession planning impossible, which is also irresponsible in a public company.

          The only other large firm I have heard run along the lines you suggest is AIG under Hank Greenberg. I know a senior executive who joined three months before Hank was forced to resign. He said no decisions were being made because everything had gone to Hank personally and no one knew what process there should be for making them. He added: “It’s like being in a moving car where both axles have been pulled out and you are waiting for the wheels to fall off.” Which proved to be an accurate call.

          Reply
          1. Vastydeep

            It’s not about “getting it” — it’s merely a matter of describing what I saw back then (Oracle passed 10K employees in the early ’90s) on why Larry Ellison can be a rare asset to Elon Musk on the board.

            The key facts are these:

            1. In the 50 years that followed Bardeen, Brittain and Shockley’s 1956 Nobel prize, Intel (et. al)’s advances in microelectronics were going to produce a $trillion-dollar industry. There weren’t any books on “how to grow a trillion-dollar industry” when Ellison got started.

            2. Ellison grew Oracle by growing 100% per year for a decade. 100% is crazy (your sales may not go up 100%, but your expenses sure will), and Oracle almost went broke in the early 90s trying it. Grow a sane 40%/year with a great product and you have Informix – sold to IBM for 1/20th Larry’s net worth in 2001.

            3. Larry might have made all kinds of mistakes, but in the “wild west” that was late-20th-century information technology, his great ideas made him rich, and his bad ones didn’t finish him off. “Buy the ticket, take the ride” — Larry has taken the full ride, and with the passing of a generation (Adam Osborne, Grove, Jobs) there aren’t many people who have seen such a ride.

            So today we have Elon Musk, who made a fortune with Paypal and was first-mover in companies with crazy ideas: landing boost vehicles for reuse after launch (SpaceX), and ye-gods-another-Tucker? car company (Tesla).

            Elon doesn’t need Ellison to give his board the basics of corporate governance and I would never suggest that that’s Larry’s benefit to the board. Elon does crazy things that might change our world — who else has the standing to provide the insight to keep the crazy from finishing him off? Larry’s financial stake in the company should ensure that his heart and his wallet pull in the same direction.

            Business schools don’t teach “how to be Elon Musk,” and they didn’t teach how to be Larry Ellison. Who else could offer such advice in the creation of how-to-be-Elon-Musk?

            Reply
            1. ChrisPacific

              Oracle had a first mover advantage in the database sector, and benefits from very high switching costs. Ask any big customer who has been using Oracle for decades to cost out a replatform, and see how long it takes them to throw up their hands. Oracle are not shy about exploiting that to extract maximum profit. They have been fortunate enough to achieve a dominant position in a critical industry, but I’m not sure how much of that is down to Larry’s brilliant management. If it wasn’t them it would have been someone else. And I agree with Yves that the management style you describe sounds terrible.

              It’s also far from clear to me that it will continue. The nature of the game is changing, Oracle is engaged in a massive turf war with Amazon and Microsoft over the cloud, and is straining the patience of its customers considerably in the process. I suspect this will have long term repercussions.

              I do give Larry credit for shaping the industry in line with his vision, namely the consolidation of lots of specialist providers under the umbrella of a few behemoths. I thought this was nuts when I first heard it but he (and others) have made it happen. I’m not sure if it’s to the overall benefit of the industry though – it looks a lot more like the exercise of leverage based on scale to me, and in my experience the quality of the offering and customer experience does not improve once everything comes under the great Oracle overlord. I am far from convinced that he is a friend to technologists, or customers that depend on technology.

              Reply
            2. Yves Smith Post author

              Your comment about Ellison’s role is sheer invention.

              The only reason Ellison is joining the board is as the result of an SEC settlement:

              Oracle co-founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, an EVP and global head of human resources at Walgreens Boots Alliance, have joined Tesla’s board. The pair were appointed to ensure Tesla complies with a Securities and Exchange Commission settlement following allegations CEO Elon Musk misled investors over a plan to take the company private.

              https://www.engadget.com/2018/12/28/tesla-larry-ellison-walgreens-board-sec-settlement/

              The SEC has not imposed extra duties on Ellison or Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, save that they and the other independent directors also serve on a newly created independent director’s committee and that “Tesla will…put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications.” So do you posit that Ellison will be in charge of Musk’s tweets?

              https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-226

              And misleading press reports to the contrary, Musk and Ellison barely know each other, so it’s not as if there’s a personal basis for Ellison going beyond his formal role. Again from Engadget:

              A Tesla spokesperson suggested to CNBC Musk and Ellison perhaps aren’t as close as the latter has made it seem. The spokesperson said they had only met a few times and only in group settings, while they hadn’t spoken for around a year before Ellison joined the board.

              But Ellison does own a lot of Tesla stock, and Engadget suggests his motives aren’t exactly friendly:

              Ellison also holds 3 million Tesla shares, which were worth almost $1 billion as of Friday morning, so he has more reason than most to keep Musk in check.

              In addition, Tesla is a car manufacturer. Oracle is a software company. There are loads of jokes along the lines of “If cars were built like software…” Even in industries where there are far more commonalities (say continuous process manufacturing, like steel and oil refining), acquisitions have almost without exception bombed because the 20% that was different between the two businesses mattered, but the acquirer kept applying his way of doing things whether it fit well or not.

              Finally, Financial Times readers are far less starstruck by Ellison than you are:

              Aussie Red
              Is this a joke. Larry isn’t the calmest of guys — now let’s see Larry has yachts, cars, films (through his daughter)…oh, and a company called Oracle…. and somehow the cloud passed him by with Amazon and Microsoft running ahead and SAP and Salesforce.com eating into Oracle’s base, and of course he starred with Theranos (as did Rupert Murdoch, not son James).

              WendellMurray
              Mr Ellison co-wrote an early database management system for the early PC clones. I did something similar at the time, but made no effort to further develop it or makret it in any way. Rather simply used it for my own needs. 

              That database management system eventually turned into Oracle, as Mr Ellison dumped any colleagues along the way to that he could keep all riches to himself. Furthermore, I remember that a friend told me that a college friend of his who sold commercial software for a livelihood and who at the time worked as a salesman for Oracle noted that Oracle had/probably still has astonishing unethical business/sales practices. My friend, albeit someone who for decades has built up his own remarkable services business, started out as a salesman of industrial products, so was well aware of the techniques for selling used by sundry industrial products. 

              Thus, one self-centered egomaniac, who has never acknowledged the crucial contributions from a long string of able individuals for the riches and power that have accrued to him, Mr Ellison, is supposed to “control” the fruitcake egomaniac, Mr Musk?

              https://www.ft.com/content/b98cef0c-0aa5-11e9-9fe8-acdb36967cfc#comments-anchor

              Reply
    2. ewmayer

      Many thanks for your insights, but I think you and Yves are talking at somewhat cross purposes – you describe his management acumen, she was focusing on his new Tesla board-governance role, and the disagreement seems to be about to what extent those are 2 different kettles of fish.

      Oracle-board-stacked-with-cronies aside, I’ll just make one comment reinforcing your “sharp” point – my sister was working at Sun at time of its demise. To anyone who saw the rise of commodity-CPU-based Linux server farms between roughly 2000 and 2010 it was clear that Sun’s ‘strategy’ of selling high-priced server gear based on its proprietary Sparc CPUs was doomed, even aside from new iterations of said CPU family routinely disappointing starting with Sparc 3. But ponytailed Sun poseur-in-chief Jon Schwartz never seems to have gotten the memo, and watches as his company becomes a cautionary tale about resting on one’s Silicon Valley laurels, as Sun goes belly-up and upstart Facebook takes over the same Menlo Park office space and pointedly leaves the glass doors etched with the iconic Sun logo in place as a reminder of the cost of complacency. Meanwhile, Ellison buys the Sparc-processor IP and *immediately* shows the solution to the how-do-we-sell-expensive-proprietary-CPU-servers-when-x86-based-linux-gear-is-eating-our-lunch riddle – require Oracle software to run only on “approved enterprise class” (my term, not theirs) hardware based on – ta da! – Sparc-based servers built and sold by Oracle. Customers in that niche pay enough for the software to justify the added expense of running on custom 100%-uptime-guaranteed server hardware. Genius move, and note I am by no means an Ellison fanboi.

      Reply
  2. WhatAreYouDoingRoy?

    Still searching… but I was hoping there would be some balanced views linked here; NPR has been hounding the radio, whether its a funds drive or not, with military figures and hosts reciting verbatim the destructive effects of removing soldiers from Syria/Afghanistan… Anyone talking about the benefits?

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We don’t do balance here. We do what we think is important.

      And your comment re NPR is an ad hominem attack. I suggest you read our site Policies before commenting again.

      We don’t promote them but we run pieces from them upon occasion when they have something worth featuring. And as to them running fundraising campaigns, if you were paying attention, pretty much every independent media outlet (Real News, Common Dreams, Public Citizen, to name a few) is too. In fact, we should be as well, we are leaving money on the table by not having a year-end campaign.

      Reply
      1. Schmoe

        I’ve seen far worse ad hominems on this web-site than that. To me, the NPR comment was an observation (I haven’t read your commenting policy, so am speaking anecdotally).
        I recall a comment where HRC was called a “neocon warmonger” by another commentator, and I agreed.
        This is your web-site, so I feel awkward posting this.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          What makes an ad hominem attack an ad hominem attack is arguing by criticizing a source, as opposed to the argument. It is logically fallacious. Getting more colorful about it does not make a fallacy more of a fallacy.

          Re calling Hillary a “neocon warmonger,” if this was about her suitability for office, that’s not ad hominem, that is an assessment of her views and record.

          Reply
          1. Richard

            Couldn’t one say that WARDRoy critiqued the argument, by suggesting that its sources were imbalanced?
            Not sure if I totally get ad hominem sometimes, is why I ask. It seems insinuated almost everywhere, twisted in with nearly all arguments, good and bad. Maybe a bit less in the good :). But it may be there is something essential I am missing.

            Reply
              1. WhatAreYouDoingRoy?

                I am sorry I wrote my comment so quickly!! Let me correct myself.. too little too late maybe.. I meant to underline that I am *annoyed that NPR is continually inundated with a pro-military subtext. I assume they get away with it because at times being pro-military can be considered left.. I guess center left.. Anti-Trump Policy?? Its a mess.

                My intention was not to suggest that this site was unbalanced! I love the critique and the journalism NC supports. I think what you guys do is terrific. I’ve was just looking for a subject-specific bit of information..

                I try to support public radio.. but I am very anti-military.. and NPR has been increasingly bombarding their shows with interludes of one-way versions of foreign policy. I get it — pulling out of Syria is a bad idea.. According to NPR. But All of the explanations that are given and explained by former generals and people who essentially incapable of self-reflective thought… Anyway.. I found what I was looking for later that day on Aljazeera!

                https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/pulling-syria-181220124910471.html

                Sorry about the miscommunication. And yes I attack NPR because I love it. love public radio at least. Hashtag I heartOn The Media

                Reply
        2. crittermom

          Perhaps this would be a good time to suggest a New Years gift to Yves, Lambert, Jerri-Lynn, & others who work so hard to publish this informative site?

          We should begin the new year with EVERYONE reading the NC policies–especially those under ‘Comments’.

          Just click on ‘Policies’ in the top toolbar & read ALL THE WAY DOWN under ‘Comments’.
          It can clear up questions you may have, & I’m sure they’ll be appreciative as it will allow them even more time to expose the truth on ‘finance, economics, politics and power’ for the benefit of us all.

          Reply
          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            Hear hear! I will forthwith do as you suggest!

            And thanks for all the gorgeous photos this year, looking forward to many more in the next.

            Reply
      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        Shouldn’t be any secret his editorial slant is heavily against US military intervention. He’s consistently also opposed to demonization of Russia. We have no shortage of Atlanticist voices raising alarms about the Iranian march of conquest in Syria and Russia’s diabolic plot to conquer the world and how Trump and Code Pink are just ‘Surrender Monkeys’.

        Reply
    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      So is the American Conservative article. Your comment suggests you maybe didn’t actually read the links?

      Reply
  3. The Rev Kev

    “Giraffes just silently went to the list of endangered animals facing extinction”

    This article is missing a very important factor. If you want to know what it is, go to Google and punch in the search term giraffes hunters. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people? I can understand wanting to hunt but a giraffe? It would have all the challenge of shooting a grazing cow. For those who see nothing wrong with this idea, here is the website for a mob that will arrange a tour so that you can go shoot a giraffe and which features a nice Giraffe Hunting Gallery-

    https://www.africanskyhunting.co.za/trophies/giraffe-hunting.html

    Reply
          1. Avalon Sparks

            Agree completely with your thoughts. Trophy hunters are repulsive, I absolutely despise them. The things I wish for them are too horrifying to express in this family blog.

            Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              It’s from an entirely different era, the trophy hunter. Now content to hang out @ Orange Julius across from the shoe store in the mall, where cougars have been spotted arching their heels.

              You kind of wonder what reception that Hemingway photo would have garnered in his time?

              Reply
            2. Cal2

              Anyone remember this famous horror comic book from the early 1960s? It was about a place in Alaska where hunters were run off a mountain road by a local lunatic, who then dragged their battered bodies to his workshop and placed the hunter in a machine that embalmed them, while alive.

              On the walls surrounding them, to their horror, were the mounted heads of previous hunters so taxidermied. I always thought that was a neat end for them.

              Reply
            3. ChiGal in Carolina

              In the excellent new Netflix film directed by Andy Serkis Mowgli which hews a bit closer to the darker tone of Kipling than the Disney films (it’s not a musical), a pivotal scene involves the horror of a trophy hunter’s private menagerie.

              Mowgli takes his revenge in spectacular fashion.

              Reply
      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        I wish they would confine their psycho bloodlust to First Person Shooters. You can really blow off some steam after work playing competitive MMOs!

        Reply
    1. carl

      Well, I guess we can get there either way: habitat destruction or just shooting them. Regardless, it’s depressing as hell.

      Reply
    2. cocomaan

      This is a little more complicated than that:

      1. It’s three subspecies of giraffe that are in trouble, out of nine. Others aren’t exactly thriving nor anywhere near their original range, but they aren’t endangered. I hate headlines like this.

      2. You posted a guided hunt that happens in South Africa. As far as I can tell, the endangered subspecies in question are in West Africa and Central Africa and somewhat in East Africa. My guess is that there is little to no hunting of the endangered subspecies in the other parts of the continent. I could be wrong, but once something slips this far generally the only hunting that happens is for infertile bulls who are still rutting and harming other bulls.

      3. South Africa has a pretty robust conservation culture and a solid hunting culture and is relatively economically successful with contained civil unrest. But West Africa has been rocked by conflict and terrorism and US/European meddling. Nature always gets second place when there’s a human conflict going on.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        It does not matter if those hunts were in areas where the giraffes were endangered or not. Such a hunt has all the thrills of going hunting after a cow or a sheep. What is the point? Look, if people want to go hunting, I have a better alternative. Tell ’em to come to Oz where we have something better waiting for them. Feral water buffalo that can weigh over a ton in bad attitude! Come across one of these bad boys out in the wild and they will know all about it and have their voices go up a coupla octaves – even the women. Even lined up a link for them-

        http://www.tropicalsafaris.com.au/safari-packages/free-range-buffalo-hunting/

        Reply
      1. Carolinian

        From Moon of Alabama above

        To cover the withdrawal from Syria the U.S. military established two new bases in Iraq. These are also blocking positions designed to prevent over land traffic between the Levant and Iran. It is unlikely that the U.S. will occupy those bases for long. The Iraqi parliament is already moving to again throw out all U.S. forces from its country.

        Reply
      2. kgw

        Not for long…After the Orange One’s “surprise” visit, all those militia members are agitating louder than ever for throwing the U.S. military out in one way or the other.

        Reply
        1. John k

          Sad, nobody wants us. Wonder why.
          Getting out sure sounds good to me.
          Course, the Syrians have been trying to do it for years, hasn’t happened yet.

          Reply
    1. Pookah Harvey

      The sad part of US withdrawal isn’t that we are just throwing the Kurds ,as a people, under the bus. From reports, the Syrian Kurds were establishing a multi-ethnic bottom up democracy with equal rights for women. David Graeber considers them the greatest social experiment since the Spanish Revolution in the 1930’s. From his Guardian article:

      The autonomous region of Rojava, as it exists today, is one of few bright spots – albeit a very bright one – to emerge from the tragedy of the Syrian revolution. Having driven out agents of the Assad regime in 2011, and despite the hostility of almost all of its neighbours, Rojava has not only maintained its independence, but is a remarkable democratic experiment. Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils, and, in a remarkable echo of the armed Mujeres Libres (Free Women) of Spain, a feminist army, the “YJA Star” militia (the “Union of Free Women”, the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

      The Kurds now are faced with annihilation from the Turks or assimilation from Assad. This seems a sad end to an experiment that could have served as an example to the others in the region, if not the world. Apparently this is the thanks they get for doing the hard lifting in defeating ISIS.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You seriously think US policy has anything to do with supporting interesting, egalitarian social models? We backed the Kurds because they were good fighters and bad negotiators.

        If anything, if the US had been in a position to be picky, it would have undermined the Kurds as proto socialists/Communists.

        Reply
        1. Pookah Harvey

          I never thought that we were there to support real democracy, but our being there gave them some breathing room. At least for a short while. I’m sure we were going to screw them over eventually. It is just sad.

          Reply
          1. Andrew Watts

            Who would’ve helped them during the Battle of Kobani? The Assad government withdrew from northern Syria to defend the populated west.

            Neither they, or their Iranian allies, were in much of a position to help ward off Islamic State’s offensive. Russia wasn’t even involved in the war until autumn 2015 when it looked like their client in Damascus was going to fall.

            Reply
        2. Andrew Watts

          There isn’t much room for negotiations when your choice is annihilation and unconditional surrender. The US tried every alternative before settling on the Syrian Kurds and assisting whatever was left of the secular Free Syrian Army after the Islamists/Jihadists crushed it.

          Reply
      2. Ford Prefect

        I am struggling to think of a bottom-up democracy that the US has actively supported since the Marshall Plan instead of sic’ing the CIA on. Poland maybe?

        Democracies in emerging countries tend to be bad for American multinational companies because those governments are focused on their own people instead of external business interests that pay the country’s leaders.

        Reply
        1. JohnnyGL

          With full compliments to the quality and visionary projects undertaken during the Marshall Plan, those democracies weren’t ‘bottom up’, they were managed from the top. Italian Communists (and I think the French Communists, too), in particular, had to be marginalized. The Christian Democrats were promoted as a kind of ‘sensible centrist’ party to anchor the political scene in Italy.

          But, the rest of your points are well-taken.

          Reply
          1. berit

            JohnnyGL: NKP, the Norwegian Communist Party, popular after the war, won 11 seats in Stortinget (parliament) in the first election after WWII in 1945, during which they fought bravely, had many NKP partisans killed by the Nazi-German occupiers. The 1949 election wiped them out, till the party, temporarily, held one seat. External forces and internal divisions contributed.The coup in Tsjekkoslovakia in 1948, Soviet pressure against Finland, divisions and expulsions within the party, official cold war politics nuturing fear of the Soviet Union. After Norway joined NATO, leading social democrats led by PM Gerhardsen saw to it that communists were put under (illegal) surveillance. NKP was gradually eradicated as a political force and competitor to DNA, the Norwegian Labour Party.

            Reply
      3. anon in so cal

        Before Assad was demonized by US NeoCons (YouTube of Diane Sawyer):

        https://twitter.com/inartic/status/985633265326292992

        ******

        “Debunking 10 lies about Syria and Assad”

        “Assad protects Christians and other minorities. There’s no Sharia Law in Syria, and religious minorities have full freedom. The only group that’s “oppressed” in Syria is the violent Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned for many decades. The Syrian opposition consists of Sunni extremists who have been persecuting and killing Shiites and Christians for the last seven years.”

        “In the CNN and Zogby polls conducted in 2009 and 2010, Assad was ranked as the most popular Arab leader. In the first 10 years of Assad’s government (2000 – 2010), Syria’s GDP tripled and the country was safe and peaceful.”

        https://www.nationofchange.org/2018/04/17/debunking-10-lies-about-syria-and-assad/

        Reply
        1. Pookah Harvey

          I think you have to take the Intercept story with a grain of salt. The author states that:

          With KRG assistance, I interviewed four deserters in the northern Iraqi town of Dohuk last month.

          I’m no authority but from a quick search the KRG is a rival organization with no love for the PKK.

          Reply
  4. jfleni

    RE: New calculations may finally make fusion energy a reality Futurism

    New may mean science fiction FANTASY; Keep going and good luck.

    Reply
    1. John k

      In 1960 I read that fusion was 30 years off. Electricity would be too cheap to meter.
      I worked on ITER for a while, still hasn’t lit a light bulb.
      Now a century away imo, and will never get closer.

      Reply
    2. Cal2

      “New calculations”=”Thorium reactors”, “New Nuclear”, “Carbon Free Nuclear Power”, et al.
      Reminds me of all the bad things that are predicted to happen to Trump:

      “It’s Mueller Time”, “Any day now”, “He’s done,” “startling new revelations”, “Impeachment’s on the table,” “women testify”, “Shocking revelations”, etc, etc.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I thought it was 30 years. That’s what I’ve been hearing since I was in high school. “Helium fusion power is only thirty years away. Always has been, always will be.”

        Reply
    3. John

      There is no way any of these approaches will be very efficient. They might become slightly net positive producers of energy. Even without radiation this is bad. Even at5% net positive it would take 1,000 GW to produce 5 GW. Getting rid of 995 GW of waste heat would take a lot of infrastructure and likely vast amounts of cooling water.

      Reply
    4. Oregoncharles

      We already HAVE fusion energy, from a very large source conveniently located at a safe distance, unless you sunburn easily. Available to everybody, for the cost of collecting it.

      Fusion reactors on earth are a technical challenge, not an energy strategy.

      Reply
    5. ewmayer

      Actually, clean, safe, virtually unlimited fusion energy already *is* a reality … it’s called “the sun”. Sure, it’s not quite as convenient as the personal Mr. Fusion devices of Back To the Future, but 1000 W/m^2 on a sunny day seems like it might be useful for *something*, were we only able to harvest even a small fraction of that. Hmm, you know, maybe some smart people should look into that…

      [ah, I see OregonCharles beat me to it … shoulda reloaded the page before commenting.]

      Reply
  5. Richard H Caldwell

    I hate to sound cranky, but the article and paper about HB11 fusion are from the end of 2017 — hardly “new”. The paper itself (yes, I read it — only 11 pp.) was clearly never edited by an English-speaker, and is filled with typos and agrammatical language. The author, Heinrich Hora, seems rather obscure, as an emeritus. Is he so obscure that he can’t even get someone to improve his grammar and edit out obvious typos in such a short concept piece? I understand that new ideas often come from outside the current paradigm, so tried to see how this could be important, but…

    The concepts presented are not particularly complicated, and the thrust of what he suggests is clear. It seems like a rather desparate attempt to inspire others still in the game to conduct research in an area dismissed as unpromising. If this is so grounbreaking, certainly it would have been picked up by others previously?

    What purpose does it serve to include marterial like this in Links? This is a sincere question — I am truly puzzled.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      One obvious purpose of a link like this is that it allows knowledgable people to discuss it BTL. I only gave it a glance (I’m tired of reading about ‘big fusion breakthroughs’, they’ve been happening for decades without actually generating net power), but its useful to have your comment – its hard for even knowledgable laypeople to be able to know how serious articles like that are.

      Reply
    2. Eclair

      I put this down to the ‘bargaining’ stage of climate change grief: if we throw immense amounts of money at fusion technology, can we avoid the disastrous effects of melting ice, rising, ever-more-acidic seas, drought and famine? All while not changing our gross consumerism.

      Short answer: no.

      Why? “If future research doesn’t reveal any major engineering hurdles to this approach, the scientists reckon that a prototype reactor could be built within a decade.”

      Umm …. a decade? Maybe? If we haven’t already pretty much gone to a zero carbon world by that time, we’re toast.

      Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      I think the link’s inclusion shows the zeitgeist in the world at the moment and what people are reading. If this article had been about the successful testing of a prototype model, then I myself would have been very interested. This article I would classify as showing progress – Real Soon Now! With Fusion power, it seems to be always this way. Instead of getting on with the business of adapting to climate change, people keep hoping for the next technological wonder to appear that will keep life as we know it chugging along. I find this very uncomfortable as I recall a mid-European people in the middle of a war that they were losing but kept going on because of the promises of wonder weapons that were always around the corner. In the end it was too little, too late.

      Reply
      1. diptherio

        Bought a couple of gifts at the local Sears. Thought I’d get some good deals as they’re all going out of business…or so I had been led to believe. Turns out, the local Sears is a locally owned franchise, and they’re doing just fine. I guess it’s just the stores owned by the company that are on the chopping block.

        Reply
  6. jfleni

    RE: Trump administration asks top investor for advice on markets amid wild ride for stocks.

    Why not just ask the tooth fairy?

    Reply
  7. cnchal

    Re Patreon: There is no justice for Scott Helme when all he faces is a machine.

    >Sears wins reprieve from liquidation as Chairman Lampert makes last-minute bid on bankrupt company CNBC. Kevin W: “Am I reading this right? He destroys Sears and the uses his hedge fund to buy it up on the cheap?”

    Yes, your eyes work perfectly.

    Last evening on the local MSM news there was an explanation by a business or finance professor on what happened to Sears, someone with supposed credibility, and we were subjected to a one minute helping of bullshit. Sears was too big and successful in the past and just couldn’t adapt to the new ways, says the believable but lying by omission expert.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      From where I sit out in the boonies it was Walmart that killed Sears as much as anything else. The merger with Kmart was acknowledgement of the rise of the discount department store. Of course better management might have revived the storied company but it’s also possible that things just wear out including retail formats.

      Reply
      1. Off The Street

        JC Penney, too. Their stock was trading recently under a dollar a share and less notoriety than Sears since no Lampertry involved. Montgomery Ward is a distant memory from the American catalog wish book shopping era.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          When I was a kid growing up in L.A. there was a department store chain called “White Front”. It sounds more like an angry white nationalist movement now.

          According to Wiki:

          “For several years, White Front was the leading discount store in the U.S.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Front

          Then there was Fedco, with it’s exclusive $1 lifetime membership.

          Reply
          1. polecat

            I remember White Front from way back. Then there’s Gemco, remember that one ! The location that I frequented was always hoppin with customers. Lots of japanese imports then — that was before the euphemism of ‘consumer’ got pushed into usage .. by ad-dled folk and eCONomists ….

            Reply
          2. Oregoncharles

            There’s a regional chain here called Bi-Mart; it’s a “membership” discount variety store, now worker owned. Seems to be doing quite well – I’m in there most weeks, mostly for hardware, garden, or drugstore items. Maybe the worker ownership is a good model – there are two different big retailers like that in my town.

            Reply
        2. Carolinian

          Hey I remember Montgomery Ward. Walmart also killed off their discount store competition like Woolco and (soon) Kmart. Whatever one thinks of them they are a behemoth.

          Reply
              1. CitizenSissy

                The Center City Philadelphia Woolworths (now a West Elm – sacrilege!) had an old-school lunch counter, and a mac and cheese special that was out of this world. Philly still has real-deal diners staffed by waitresses who call you “Hon,” but Woolworths closing was very much a loss.

                Reply
          1. Arthur Dent

            I did engineering work for Wal-Mart when they were expanding quickly in the late 80s and early 90s. They were, by far, the most organized company I have ever seen in their approach to site development. They knew what they wanted, why they wanted it, had detailed specifications, and were focused on getting good value (not just low bid). It was pretty clear to me why they were blowing their competitors out of the water.

            Reply
          2. anon in so cal

            Woolworths and Kresge were fun places to browse and satisfy one’s commodity fetish with cheap but surprisingly decent-quality sundries, such as 100% cotton dishtowels. Kresge in Tustin, CA had a great lunch counter with ice cream sodas and grilled cheese sandwiches.

            Reply
            1. ambrit

              Oh do I remember the grilled cheese sandwich my Mom got for me one afternoon at the lunch counter at the Woolworth in downtown Miami. I was small and it must have been around 1960 or so. It’s funny how some things stand out in the memory while other, probably more important stuff gets disappeared. As in, I don’t remember the time I fell into a swimming pool, about the same time, and drowned. I was revived by an old lady who had been a nurse, or so my Mom tells me. Classic having to squeeze the water out of my lungs procedure. Strangely, I’m not afraid of water.
              Phyllis remembers the lunch counter at the old downtown New Orleans Maison Blanche department store. On Fridays, seafood gumbo made from scratch. Everything fresh made. Back then, even the poor people had better food.

              Reply
        3. a different chris

          I’m not much of a shopper, so this always confuses me: “things just wear out including retail formats”

          When I do (did?) go non-grocery shopping, say I go to Kmart. I need X, so I usually dumb around for a bit because I am shy and then I finally find somebody to tell me what isle to look in.

          Say I go to Sears. I need X, so I usually dumb around for a bit because I am shy and then I….

          Or I reluctantly go to Walmart. I need X, so I usually dumb around….

          I. Just. Don’t. See. The. Difference. Well, actually I did. Sears used to seem really stocked and professional (this was 20 years ago I’m talking about), Kmart was fairly neat…. I didn’t see the inside of a Walmart that long ago, but they always seemed a bit of a mess when I was finally forced to go. Even brand new ones.

          I’m just missing what “wore out” because it’s not like there are humanoid robots meeting me at the door and hovercrafting me around. I just see a big box full of s(family blog)t which hopefully has what I need.

          Reply
          1. Carolinian

            Sears appeal was rock solid among the middle and lower middle class but I guess by “wear out” I mean they grew to be out of step with the times. As that lower/middle cohort came under economic assault “always low prices” started to sound appealing to people who once would have scorned a discount store. And for the richer parts of the populace if you are going to a mall you might as well go to a classier department store than Sears which had begun to seem a bit stodgy. The appliances and tools were probably holding them up. Reportedly their appliance servicing business is the only section still making money.

            Reply
            1. Richard

              I live in N. Seattle. We had a Sears up the street forever; it closed last year. Customers were definitely predominately lower middle; I went there a lot. Because it was convenient and affordable; quality of some household products was low.

              Reply
                1. Richard

                  True! Come to think of it, Sears was the main place I bought clothes, bedding, appliances, etc. from, so my experience of crapification was very much funneled through it.

                  Reply
            2. JBird4049

              What has happened to these companies is a model to what has happened to our entire economy.

              The Emporium, JCPenneys, Sears, Wards, Brueners, Woolworths, and Kmart were created and segmented for the upper/middle/lower middle, working and poorer classes with great overlap between them; they were large department stores that were well stocked with good merchandise, fully staffed by well trained, usually decently treated and paid employees with a very large catalog that could delivery everything all the down economically to general Five and Dime stores still staffed with trained employees. The management was (usually) competent, long term, and very often from the sales employees. The employees were usually knowledgeable, dedicated, and long term. Ten, fifteen, thirty (more!) years.

              As the American economy has been neoliberalized, the varies classes from the bottom up have been impoverished and the varies companies that served them bankrupted. Add the economizing crapification of the merchandise, staff reductions, elimination of training, reductions in pay and benefits, the abuse of the trust of line management, staff, and even the customers by upper management and owners and why would anyone want to shop at those stores?

              Now most of them are gone, and so where do I buy a decent pair of pants or look at a sofa even when I have the money? If I need drapes, who do I see? It pathetic. I used to be able to walk into a store and walkout with a decent suit in an emergency, clothes for school, tools, or buy really whatever I needed. If I had a question, a problem, a worry, anyone at any of these stores would help. Not anymore. I sound like an old timer in his rocking chair, bemoaning the old days, but the situation we are in is just nuts.

              Reply
          2. Wukchumni

            It was all a chrysalis of selling tricks & technology that got us here.

            The aforementioned Fedco was one of the 1st ‘membership stores’, for which we now have Costco, and they were the first dept store to check to make sure you paid for what was in your shopping cart as you’re leaving, for which we now have Wal*Mart (who used to have ‘store greeters’, and no ‘exiters’ around 20 years ago) and other stores that don’t trust you after having patronized their store, nothing personal.

            A department store called Best Products, was a brick & mortar predecessor of Amazon in a pre-internet fashion.

            They were a catalog store that had single display items, but had all the inventory in the back warehouse, similar to Amazon having everything on display on the internet.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Products

            Reply
            1. kgw

              My mother, gone but not forgotten, born in 1924 loved Sears until the sales force lost all ability to give her the proper bra…The older sales force knew their stuff. Unfortunately, not so much anymore. Lots of reasons, as you all know, mostly relating to rentier capitalism.

              Reply
      2. paulmeli

        Loading Sears up with debt, extracting the cash, leaving it with suffocating debt service while not investing much if anything in a viable business plan for the future might have played a role in the demise of the company.

        I read somewhere (probably in the links here) that the stock market has become one big leveraged buyout.

        Reply
        1. ChristopherJ

          Yes Paul, how it has been able to trade at all is beyond me. It’s a dead business so why would anyone buy it as a going concern?

          Reply
    2. Alex morfesis

      Sears did not die…financializationeering from its spin offs to “maximize” value was the end of the beginning… Allstate and Morgan Stanley are still with us. Dr. Lampert seems to have wanted to do a buffet/munger and play with the pension cash of Sears and then Kmart…

      As a “free float” machina…

      “and Walmart, by itself, is unlikely to make a dent…

      So proclaimed the globalonizationalists at the New York Times on April 10, 1985…when Walmart had only 750 stores and did about only 6 billion in sale…

      ” Buy American ” Walmart proclaimed in 1986 and like baby ducklings walking into traffic…Americans believed and let Walmart destroy the competition…

      Walmart did/does was smart restaurants do…always look busy…always have staff filling shelves…

      Creates the illusion of activity and leaves/left in the mind of the customer…

      “Goodness…Walmart must be doing great…they can’t wait for the evening to restock the shelves…”

      Sears retail was the least profitable part of the sales/revenue stream…Discover card was to be an extension of their internal Sears credit card system…

      Became acquainted with the CFO of Sears in Chicago when Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett were working in the Department of Planning and the city fumble of a presentation of what would become of the old non downtown HQ almost turned ugly in a large local meeting at the site in what had become a shelled out husk of its past beauty by the mid 90’s…

      Sears was investing its energies into this internet thingee with Prodigy…

      this internet thingee being some sparkle pony unicorn thing they were doing to prop up its share price since it just was not something people were going to take to…

      Or so proclaimed the self appointed guardians of the wallet in the legacy media…

      Reply
  8. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Maine governor deems congressional election ‘stolen’ while certifying result

    So I’m assuming he must finally be admitting that he was really a Florida resident all along and had no right to be governor of Maine in the first place. And now that he’s finally out of office he cant wait to get back home to FL to escape the high taxes in Maine.

    If only he could have held some powerful position in Maine for eight years where he could have done something about those high taxes….

    All I can say Paul is on your way down 95, don’t let the door hitchya where the good lord splitchya!

    Reply
    1. kurtismayfield

      He did a great job at buying that house for 200k below assessed price.

      https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/18/lepage-pockets-tidy-profit-on-sale-of-boothbay-home/

      Coldwell Banker website says the couple sold the house in June for $397,500 after buying it for $215,000 in summer 2014. The sale price was $11,500 below their original asking price of $409,000.

      At the time the LePages bought the three-bedroom residence, it was in bank foreclosure. The home on Firth Drive in Muirgen – a private development off Back Narrows Road – was appraised by the town of Boothbay at $453,000 in 2014, and the average house value in that development was about $700,000.

      It’s amazing what kind of hit the banks will take for certain buyers.

      Reply
  9. The Rev Kev

    “Varadkar says he’s reluctant to use the term ‘vulture fund’ to describe firms that have bought up Irish mortgages”

    I wonder what would have happened if Varadkar had been asked if it was actually an accurate term?

    Great bonus video that. We had German Shepherds for over twenty years and found that when you have a good one, you have the best dog in the world. I would say that that German Shepherd in the video was one of the good ones and they can be a very gentle dog. We had one that was so calm-tempered that when our son was not even a toddler, he would lay his head on the belly of our German Shepherd to have a rest.

    Reply
    1. XXYY

      Not to be negative, but my “good dog”, a Great Dane that my wife and I had for years, one day decided to viciously snap and bite my lower lip most of the way off, needing 31 stitches from a plastic surgeon to reattach. Prior to this, and after, she never showed any violent tendencies.

      My point is (a) dogs are extremely dangerous and can hurt you badly in the blink of an eye, and (b) past behavior is no predictor of future performance.

      After this experience I would be extremely leery of leaving a toddler with any dog, “good” or not. They are animals, and have their own ideas and agendas that are inscrutable to humans.

      Cats at least have a physical limit on how much they can hurt you if they one day decide to do it.

      Reply
  10. James O'Keefe

    Re: Scott Helme Patreon suspension

    He was suspended because one his supporters looked fraudulent, which sounds like an overreaction on Patreon’s part. All Patreon needed to do was suspend the one supporter payment and notify the creator promptly about it.

    One additional problem with this process is that now trolls will use it to get Patreon to stop paying creators since just one iffy looking transaction causes Patreon to suspend all payments for up to a month.

    Reply
      1. Procopius

        With digital they can take a little taste out of every transaction. I don’t know how much you’d make from just ¼¢ on every purchase on the internet, but it would add up. I remember in the early days of computerization of banks, some buy got rich programming the computer to put every round-off in his account instead of averaging them. He was damned rich by the time they caught him.

        Reply
  11. allan

    Some sorely needed good news from Michigan.
    Despite their best efforts, the GOP majorities in the MI legislature are thwarted in their attempt
    to change the state motto to One Man, One Vote, One Time. At least for now.

    Snyder veto spree takes down GOP power play proposal, 40 other bills [Detroit News]

    Term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder went on a veto spree Friday, rejecting 41 lame-duck bills, including a controversial measure that would have given the GOP-led Legislature greater authority to intervene in legal battles next year as Democrats take over top statewide offices.

    The proposal, which generated national attention as a power play move to limit the authority of Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel, sought to guarantee that the Michigan House or Senate could join any court case challenging the constitutionality or validity of a state law or any action by the Legislature. …

    Snyder also rejected a separate measure to clarify that “memorandums of understanding” remain in effect after a governor leaves office. In his veto letter, Snyder said the proposal “appears to have a noble purpose — transparency” but argued the GOP legislation “has the potential to lead the way toward more routine legislative encroachment into regulating the activities of future governors.”

    Another bill Snyder vetoed would have made it a misdemeanor for public officials to force nonprofit charities and politically active groups to disclose their donors for government review. …

    Reply
  12. JTMcPhee

    What is truth? Re the claim that China is about to take the Kenyan port of Mombasa, this from MoA, https://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/12/open-thread-2018-70.html#c6a00d8341c640e53ef022ad3c9fd4c200b:

    Reading the news that China will soon be able to seize some major assets of Kenya, as a result of their debt-trap strategy to extract and transport needed resources from Africa. On the list Kenyas largest and port in Mombasa , the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi, and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

    Typical U.S. propaganda. Why not ask Kenya’s government? https://www.kahawatungu.com/2018/12/28/president-uhuru-denies-kenya-using-mombasa-port-collateral/

    President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured Kenyans that the port in Mombasa was not used as collateral in the Chinese contract with Kenya on the building of the Standard Gauge Railways.
    The Chinese government has also officially denied that Kenya’s port is collateral for SGR. https://www.kenyans.co.ke/news/35624-chinese-govt-speaks-siezing-mombasa-port-over-debt https://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/12/open-thread-2018-70.html#c6a00d8341c640e53ef022ad3c9fd4c200b

    Why not do some minimal research before spreading lies?

    FUD, deception, all in aid of the maybe unstoppable Jackpot extraction of resources/concentration of wealth/demolition of habitability? “Hey, if I’m skilled at lying and serving the kleptocracy, why shouldn’t I spread lies and stuff? It’s a living, after all!”

    Reply
    1. ChristmasAtRU

      Original Sin is the same whether the foreign currency in question is Yuan or Yen. What’s in play for repayment subsequently constitutes a form of resource exfiltration. Substituting one agent of hegemony for another doesn’t fix the fundamental problem. A transnational currency will.

      Reply
  13. The Rev Kev

    “Trump Transition”

    I think that the Russians just trolled Trump. Ever since they gained Crimea back, the Ukrainians have tried sending sabotage teams over the border resulting in the deaths of at least two Russian personnel along with the death or capture of the Ukrainian saboteurs. The Russians have now just finished a fence separating Crimea from the Ukraine to put an end to this and boast that the two-meter tall, 60-kilometer long fence took just over a year and less than $3 million to build. The fence is also reportedly equipped with high-technology surveillance devices, from vibration sensors to night vision cameras.-

    https://www.rt.com/russia/447629-russia-fence-crimea-ukraine-border/

    A coupla smart alecs on that page said that Trump should give the Russians the contract for his US-Mexican border wall. Working on a figure of $47,000 per km they worked out that if the price of the Crimea fence were extrapolated for the length of the southern US border, that it could be done for about $150 million. Chump change.

    Reply
    1. Ford Prefect

      2 m works for the Russians because they likely will have no compunctions shooting anybody who scales it; its real job is detect a scaling and then slowing them down to allow for somebody to show up.

      Trump needs a much taller wall because of all the tooth-gnashing that occurs in the US press if somebody gets shot at the border.

      Reply
  14. Wukchumni

    Trump Scores, Breaks Generals’ 50-Year War Record American Conservative
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If power is wrested from the Junta del Este in Humordor, they aren’t going to be happy with somebody taking away their rice bowl, but what can they do aside from ramp up the patriotic fervor another notch. (what would that entail doing, one wonders?)

    But how to pull greedy pigs away from the trough, who have been fattened to the point where they can’t even fit into the door of the abattoir?

    And more importantly, what does a post MIC bubble/real estate bubble dominated USA economy represent…

    …our 2 bubbles blown in tandem were beauties

    What made them perfect, was there was no competition from a smarter-faster-cheaper country elsewhere, really a last gasp homegrown effort, I mean what else could you have made bubbles out of involving the common consumer? (a car bubble involving all makes and models would be so odd, imagine a 1994 Jeep Cherokee with 184,945 miles being worth $100k?)

    These bubbles fueled collectible bubbles with the largess garnered at the high end in which 99.99%’ers could only participate, by hearing how a 1962 Ferrari fetched $48 million, or a 1917 painting got hammered down @ $170 million. You could toast your good fortune with a $558k bottle of old wine.

    The interesting part being that run of the mill collectibles that consumers are likely to own, have mostly dropped in value, some demonstrably.

    No bubble there.

    Reply
  15. Summer

    Re: Beto / Billionaire father-in-law

    I’m sad. This means he is not only running for President (the record setting findraising gave him the credentials enough for the Democratic Party), but that he will win the Democratic Party nomination.
    They are not a reformed party and they are a lot like the Republicans as far as doubling down on their main ideology: worship of wealth.
    They will pull out all of the marketing stops and plenty of celebrities are already onboard.
    Ideologically, it is important to the establishment that figureheads are like a Beto or Trump. The most important thing to the establishment is that wealth is worshipped.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      If Beta is the Great White Hope of the Democratic courtiers, I’m not particularly worried.

      Around 2013, there was a flurry of “where’s Obama’s groove” articles where authors lamented finding his once soaring speeches to just be empty as if Obama was just going through motions. They were always vacuous and dumb, but people wanted solutions, not easy answers. O’Rourke like the Hapsburg…I mean Kennedy is going to face a more skeptical electorate than Obama did, and Beta doesn’t have a story as nice as Obama. He’s not remotely as charismatic or as solid on the ground as Obama was. The support of Neera Tanden is probably not going to help an electoral effort in the long run, and she supported HRC in 2008.

      Reply
    2. Eclair

      It is a bit difficult to find consistent information on O’Rourke’s wife and her family. A quick internet search results in contradictory data: she is one of 5 siblings (3 male and 2 female); she is an ‘only daughter; dad is worth 2 billion, or 5 billion, or ‘only 500 million.’

      Sources do seem to agree that dad sold his company for at least $2 billion, that Amy graduated from Williams College and taught in Guatemala, and is associated with a charter school attended by the O’Rourke children.

      Pictures reveal her as a slim, healthy, all-American girl-next-door who has received excellent dental care. Put a hat that looks like an alien space vehicle (with added feather from endangered bird), on her head and she could be the latest British royal bride. Oh, probably the O’Rourkes and the Windsors use the same PR firm.

      Sorry for the snark. (Not really. Just realized I am becoming infuriated by politicians and their families who sport gorgeous straight white teeth and who don’t support Improved-Medicare-for-All. When the lovely young woman at the local, very middle-class organic food co-op, smiles at me and reveals missing front teeth and I realize that without expensive dental work, she is effectively banned from ever running for public office, I grow cranky.)

      Reply
      1. Unna

        The Windsors are too low class to share a PR firm with the O’Rourkes. More likely the “royals” share one with the Kardashians.

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          The Windsors have their own publicity department. They definitely do not share it with the Kardashians, who share nothing with anyone. Indeed, the Junior Senior male Windsor spokesperson apprenticed under the Goons. Excellent training for being in politics anywhere.

          Reply
                1. ambrit

                  Great Goons Above!
                  Spike Milligan was the primary writer for the Goon Show, a radio programme which, my parents asserted, was so popular that sometimes the public would slow down and stop to listen to it.
                  One of the original Firesign Theatre co-conspirators apprenticed under Milligan before returning to America’s Fabulous West Coast to set himself up in business.
                  The Goons were seminal in Anglo-American humour.
                  The aforementioned Windsor is Prince Charles who was such a fan, he developed a quite good ‘send up’ of some of the Goon characters.
                  The radio show “The Goon Show” was done live back in the 1950’s.

                  Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          I’ve never understood why dental care is considered separate from healthcare.
          my teeth, and my wife’s teeth suck…and there ain’t much to be done about it at this point, but wait for the pliers.
          adult medicaid(in Texas) has dental—sort of—if you can find a dentist who takes it.
          we haven’t.
          medicaid for kids is better on this front. only a 60 mile drive, one way.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            We have that children’s dental scheme here in Missip too. It has turned out to be a huge money grubbing scam. Over prescription of “services” for Medicaid covered kids is rife.
            Everyone “important” argues about the public’s ‘support’ for M4A, but this is, I suspect, a screen for the fact that what the majority of the population really want is total National Health, which scares the bejesus out of the ‘donor class.’

            Reply
    3. Unna

      At 2020 Dem Debate:

      Bernie: And let me once again say this about the billionaire class….

      Beto (interrupting): Bernie, I’m sick and tired of you and your constant insulting of billionaires like me and my wife, my family…ah well, what I really mean is, I’m personally not a member of the billionaire class you understand, well my wife is of course and her father, but…well, let me rephrase that…I know billionaires, and I’m a friend of billionaires, and I may live with billionaires, but me personally, I’m no billionaire, well at least not yet, legally, for tax purposes…and…or….

      Reply
    4. Unna

      And with that, I’ll make a wild guess and say that Beto’s done. Let the billionaire thing sink in for a little while. At least Bloomberg and Trump can say they earned it so they’re “savvy” businessmen as per Obama. But Beto didn’t, and he is definitely in the billionaire class through marriage, and I doubt this is a good time to be in that class if you’re running as a Dem. Just thinking out loud.

      Hope this is not a double post.

      Reply
    5. The Rev Kev

      Well it is not exactly like the first time this has happened. John Kerry married an heiress and so did John McCain after he dumped his first wife. Wealthy heiresses are a very valued commodity historically. As an example, in the 19th century cash-poor titled gentry sons would go to America to marry rich American heiresses. They would get the money and the American families would get social connections with the titled elite in the UK. Winston Churchill was the result of one such union. In the present century, wealthy heiresses are still valued but you do wonder if this is more along the lines of a business deal with such unions.

      Reply
  16. David

    On the Telegraph Brexit story, I can’t get to the article itself (paywall) but judging by the extracts Richard North has printed, I would agree that it’s inconceivable, even today, that a civil servant would write in such terms. You need to bear in mind, though, that the media is hopeless at understanding government structures, and applies the label “top civil servant” to virtually anyone, irrespective of their actual position. I doubt that the document is a complete fabrication: more probably a “Special Adviser” or some other ingrowth from the private sector wrote it. It’s not the work of a professional.

    Reply
  17. Ford Prefect

    Re: Chairman Lampert

    I was under the impression over the past several years that the entire Sears rescue strategy was to slowly transfer its assets to Lampert’s hedge fund through a number of creative means.

    Reply
  18. a different chris

    Ok I am a defeatist that thinks the only hope is for the human race to quickly half its size (without the normal use of war, which would leave so many toxins…)

    But I read the story under the headline “Under current policies, residential batteries increase emissions in most cases” again and again. Please point out where it says they will increase emissions? The story itself seems to reinforce my (again, defeatist) “won’t help enough or even much at all” attitude but it does not say “increase emissions”. Heck I finally tried searching for the word “increase” and got two hits, the headline and “increase grid flexibility”.

    Reply
    1. dk

      Yes, my thoughts as well. Batteries generally address issues with energy storage and distribution, not production.

      Found a related article that clarifies the thinking behind the first piece:
      https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/02/want-to-minimize-your-homes-carbon-footprint-go-for-solar-forget-the-battery/

      The increases in energy use come from batteries drawing on power while they charge and discharge, as well as losses introduced by inverters and thermal control systems used in the battery. In a blog post on Scientific American, Fares writes that “about 15 percent of the energy that goes into a state-of-the-art battery system is lost to inefficiencies.”

      Still, there’s nuance to the story. The researchers admit that on average, increases in energy consumption from a battery are small compared to decreases in energy consumption from adding new solar panels. So if your choice is to add solar panels and a battery, you’ll see a net decrease in energy consumption and emissions. But you won’t see as big of a decrease in energy consumption and emissions as you would if you simply added solar panels. And, if you’re adding a battery to existing solar panels, expect energy consumption to increase.

      One interesting thing the researchers noted was that their models—specifically for the “minimize power” batteries—reduced the magnitude of power flows from rooftop solar into the grid and reduced the need for new generation capacity to meet peak demand. So while overall demand for electricity might be higher, utilities might see less strain on the grid. That suggests that utilities might see reason to encourage home energy storage.

      So basically, the increased energy/CO₂/overall cost observations occur in the context of our existing energy distribution grid, and reflect some nuances of that scenario, including pricing and the specifics of local regulation and contracts. Putting batteries (local capacity) in homes doesn’t reduce power consumption, but it can help to stabilize the grid.

      The second article says “there are very few cases in which operating a residential home battery reduces overall emissions,” it would be nice to know more about and examine these cases, to see where creative opportunities my lie.

      Reply
    1. Eclair

      I want to be an ‘aging anti-Imperialist!’

      But who knows if we are in the putrefying mess of a decline or the uplifting chaos of a new era? A few years ago, a friend whose sister interviewed Angela Davis, recounted that she (Angela) never knew at the time what would be the outcome. Or, if there would be an outcome.

      Yeah, there is an old world dying, we hope. And, maybe we are helping to speed along its final days (or years). But there is something new and exciting out there and we don’t know if it will catch on. You just have to keep talking and working.

      It’s like sourdough starter. You have one that’s been sitting for a while and it looks dead. So, you take a couple of spoonfuls out, dump the rest (into the compost, natch), add some fresh warm water and a cup of whole grain flour, let it sit for 12 hours in a warmish room (or an oven if your dwelling is cold )…. and pretty soon you see the bubbles forming and the starter expands to fill the jar. From that active starter, you can fill ten jars, add more water and flour, keep it warm and … you get the idea.

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the hippie

        I, too, wanted to be an aging antiimperialist…and am,lol.
        I’m also the only steadfast anti-authoritarian I know in real life…which is sad as hell.
        Since I first read Zarathustra when I was 9-ish(!), I wanted to be a philosopher, living on a mountain and wearing robes.
        at least I’ve accomplished that…in spite of it all, and for whatever it’s worth.
        a link in the margin of JEHR’s links brings me to this: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/28/quit-america-the-case-for-moral-disengagement-from-american-politics/

        which wrestles with disengagement…a turning one’s back, like they still do in this tiny far place to unpunishable offenders of mores and folkways. It reads as if Shivani is wrestling with himself…and I totally understand the sentiment!
        Here in outback Texas, it has felt like literally tilting at windmills for a long, long time.
        while I’ve had much, unrecognised, success in meddling with the local hive mind regarding things like sustainability,mitigating the usual hatred of the poor, and even the provision of healthcare…the stone is too large, the hill too steep, and my shoulders too weary and broken.
        as much as I may want to abandon the “news” and disengage from it all…I am compelled to still be the first to show up at the courthouse when they allow us to vote.
        It’s a hard habit to break….even if I might, at some level, feel more peaceful without all this engagement.
        Because, Like Ms Davis said, we can’t know the outcome until it arrives….maybe we are Gandalf’s “….small stones that bring the avalanche…”…maybe the seed I plant in the kids that my kids bring around here will take root and spread….even if, on the surface, it looks like I am just entertainment: crazy dad,a hairy wildman speaking in epic poetry to uncomprehending adolescents.
        So I continue…including baring all of our cancer woes and my observations from the sidewalk…because we never know who is watching quietly, afraid to speak…lurking on boards like this and never commenting.
        with the kids, they read the last of Ahab’s last words over the gate to the cloister of my Library:”Thus do I give up the spear”…and ask what it could possibly mean.
        and I get to act it out in full: ““Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.Thus do I give up the spear!”
        …and am met with stunned silence around the campfire.

        “Carry the Fire”

        Reply
    2. oh

      Both your links gave me a fraud warning on my browser. When I saw that it was counterpunch, I ignored the warning. What’s with these browsers? Another way to keep you from reading news?

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        I got that, too ( using Opera); their security service is called Phishtank. I went to the latter’s site and decided not to enter ANYTHING; suddenly looked like malware. Anyone know anything about it? I’m a dunce on this stuff.

        At best, “security” warnings are being used for censorship. First step is to warn Counterpunch; next is to send threats to Opera – there are other browsers. If enough people do that, they might change their policy or dump Phishtank.

        Reply
        1. lyman alpha blob

          Same here – I got the warning when I clicked the links using Opera. I also typed counterpunch.org directly into the browser and just got the same warning message again. I’ve been using Opera for a few years now and have visited counterpunch many times either directly or via links and never got a warning message before. Something odd is going on.

          Reply
    3. Oregoncharles

      Update: didn’t happen this time. Don’t know whether that’s because I clicked through repeatedly, or because someone sent them a rocket. Not a good sign, though.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        Further update: I just wrote to Counterpunch and to Opera (based in Oslo! I didn’t know that.) Might even get a reply from one of them.
        Good to know I wasn’t the only one getting that odd message. NC has many uses.

        Reply
  19. Wukchumni

    Richard Overton (1906–2018), oldest U.S. WWII veteran Legacy
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The youngest WW2 vet to have seen combat action is now 92 years old. They’re fading fast.

    We were driving our 12 year old nephew back home and decided to stop in Westwood and see Dunkirk on the big screen, and it’s almost all visual, there might be 359 words said in the whole film, and he suffered through it, not having any relation to the past, nor any interest really.

    Reply
    1. ChrisPacific

      That looks a bit too complex to be of much value for illumination purposes. I think the upper left is pretty accurate but you could draw a big dotted line around the rest of it, mark it ‘nobody really knows’ and not change the overall message by all that much.

      I was amused at the fact that there was only one arrow emerging from ‘Parliament proposes further negotiations’ state, that led to the EU rejecting any changes. I agree that it’s pointless and I also agree that that won’t necessarily dissuade Parliament from attempting it.

      Reply
  20. Tomonthebeach

    Trump Administration Suggests Unpaid Federal Workers Do Odd Jobs for Landlords to Cover Rent

    This latest “let them eat cake” attack on the civil service is compelling evidence that Trump views the entire federal workforce as loathsome Democrats who are probably all card-carrying members of the Deep State trying to topple his regime. Thus, they are not only expendable in the war on government, but they deserve what’s coming to them.

    I don’t suppose it occurred to Trump that the same civil servants supported his Republican predecessors.

    Reply
    1. Ford Prefect

      I can assure you that the TSA agent checking my boarding pass yesterday is not a Democrat. I made a brief thank you to him and he clearly expressed his wishes that Pelosi and Schumer get run over by a bus.

      Reply
      1. Jen

        As a registered democrat, I share his sentiments. Actually, I think the bus should back up and run over them again a few times, just to be sure.

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          Scoff not. Duffelblog has gems of ‘ground truth’ hidden in their parody work.
          One of the best places to ‘score weed’ in Miami back in the day was the Coast Guard station in south beach. Just tell them “The Chief” sent you.

          Reply
        2. The Rev Kev

          Of course I do as I visit it daily. Headlines like “Troops ask to live with Mattis after divorce is finalized” & “Navy SEALs no longer allowed to wear blackface” kinda give the game away. :-)

          Reply
  21. flora

    From Taibbi: The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs

    A pioneering twist on third-world corruption might be the biggest scandal the Vampire Squid has ever faced”

    Goldman Sachs, which has survived and thrived despite countless scandals over the years, may have finally stepped in a pile of trouble too deep to escape.

    There’s even a Donald Trump angle to this latest great financial mess, but the outlines of that subplot – in a case that has countless – remains vague. The bank itself is in the most immediate danger.

    The company’s stock rallied Thursday to close at 165, stopping a five-day slide in which the firm lost almost 12 percent of its market value. The company is down 35 percent for the year, most of that coming in the past three months as Goldman has been battered by headlines about the infamous 1MDB scandal.

    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/1mdb_malaysia-goldman-sachs-criminal-charges-772795/

    Reply
      1. Carey

        Pardon my cynicism, but that article made me think that someone strongly suggested to Taibbi that he write a we’re-hot-on-their-trail article, pronto.

        How many times have we heard these “this changes everything!” refrains?
        No one of significance will go to jail; or, on the tiny, tiny chance they do, it’ll have to do with elite score-settling, rather than the crime they’re charged with.

        Happy to be shown to be wrong, here.

        Reply
      2. flora

        Expensive “caper”.

        Just before Christmas, Malaysian authorities filed criminal charges against Goldman, seeking a stunning $7.5 billion in reparations for the bank’s role in the scandal. Singapore authorities also announced they were expanding their own 1MDB probe to include Goldman.

        Reply
        1. Christopher Fay

          Time frame of this grand scam overlaps with the years Hillary was getting the Goldmine Sachs bloviating payments.

          Reply
  22. Unna

    Why haven’t I seen yet a political cartoon in the NYT showing Mattis dressed up as a little boy waving a toy machine gun in the air, with father figure Donald Trump standing over him with pointed finger out stretched saying, “That’s enough playing war, Jimmy. Now go to your room, it’s time for bed,” with caption, “The Adult in the Room.”

    Reply
  23. chuck roast

    So, it’s Gareth Porter’s view that,

    “…(Trump) must find people who have remained outside the system during the permanent war years while being highly critical of its whole ideology and culture. If he can fill key positions with truly dissident figures…”

    Billmon echoes this position.
    That’s nice. Where does he find these “people”. They would certainly not currently be anywhere near the levers of power. Could it be the guy I see standing out on the corner waiting for the #60 bus? Could it be Stephen Walt? Could it be Stephen Cohen? If it were anybody like that, Trump would be the guy under the bus.
    Moreover, “truly dissident figures” may well be anti-Zionists. And pretty soon they will be passing legislation that anyone who doesn’t pledge fealty to the State of Israel can’t ride the bus. No chance of those guys walking through Lafayette Park anytime soon.
    Maybe it is the guy waiting for the 60 bus.

    Reply
    1. VietnamVet

      This is why a peaceful restoration of the rule of law seems unlikely. Trump’s team was clearly second string. Now only his family is left. Academia, think tanks, and revolving-door jobs are all dependent on Bill Gates, the Walton Family, Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon or corporate funding. Anyone who dissents with the current system will never get within a 1000 yards of any money let alone a job at an Amazon warehouse. There is neither a FDR nor technocrats who can save capitalism. Instead from the Democrats and all those who are getting richer; “Everything is perfect in America except for the Russians using Facebook to undermine our democratic values”.

      Reply
      1. Unna

        Agreed. So maybe Trump needs to get people who don’t need a job. Guys like Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, or even, as Chuck mentioned, Stephen Cohen – well, Cohen would probably have to get a divorce first – but academics just like him with his views. Col. Pat Lang sort of jokingly said today that he’s ready. My point is that there are people out there who would work to carefully but purposefully pull out of unnecessary wars and seek to reinstate treaties controlling arms.

        Then again there remains the central problem of working for Trump and maintaining your reputation and dignity. Being able to actually trust him. This is almost in the realm of speculative fantasy, but what if Trump assembled an openly non partisan team all at once: Sec of Defence, State, Foreign Policy advisor, civilian heads of all the armed services, and military people who share his views. Fire and hire all at once, strength in numbers, with the firm understanding that they all stay for the next two years, and the only cause to be fired would be a violation of the Edwin Edwards caught in bed with a live boy/dead girl standard with the threat that otherwise they’d all quit at once. Trump would be deterred. In fact they would not be “working for Trump” but would be working for the Team and a policy. What could the Senate do? What could the Dems do? Something might get done.

        Now where is that bottle of Screech Rum I keep losing track of at this late hour…?

        Reply
  24. griffen

    That Reuters article on military housing deserves a second look. Not only does the housing provider profit while expending little, but the houses themselves sound like a death trap filled with mold spores.

    The fictional Weyland-Yutani Corp should take notes. Purely evil how to fleece the military families.

    Reply

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