Links 12/30/18

The Terrible Destruction of Pinyon-Juniper Forests Counterpunch

The Malaysia Scandal Is Starting to Look Dire for Goldman Sachs Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Eddie Lampert launches last-minute $4.4bn bid for Sears FT. Not from his cell, sadly.

As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions. WaPo

Why Whistleblowers Come Forward, And What Happens Next AMFA National. Short Southwest?

As oil and gas exports surge, West Texas becomes the world’s “extraction colony” Texas Tribune

The case for “conditional optimism” on climate change Vox

The Year in Review

The 2018 Trends and Developments: Valdai Club’s Top Five Valdai Discussion Club

The Ten Category 5 Storms of 2018: 2nd Most on Record Weather Underground. Maybe “Noah” as 2018’s #3 baby name for boys is telling us something…

The Real Fake News: Top Scientific Retractions of 2018 Live Science

From Meghan Markle to Mega Millions, These Were 2018’s Top Google Searches Fortune. Before or after censorship?

The 2018 Audubon Photography Awards: Top 100 Audobon

Sussex chief: Some drone sightings at Gatwick may have been of police drones The Journal


Cross-party move to stop the clock on hard Brexit Guardian

‘Yellow Vests’ and the Wages of Violence The Wire (part one).

‘Yellow vest’ protesters try to storm Macron’s holiday hideaway The Local

Port Tunnel closed off on both ends as protestors block entrance Hmm. A supply chain chokepoint.

Macron ‘lost authority’ after caving to Yellow Jackets, says Oettinger Politico

Two Roads for the New French Right NYRB


Trump hasn’t ordered Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan The Hill (MR).

Critics of Syria Withdrawal Fueled Rise of ISIS Consortium News

The perils of trusting America: A reminder for Asian allies Straits Times (Furzy Mouse). “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” —Lord Palmerston. As any student of statecraft would know in their bones.


China’s private economy set for winter ‘colder and longer than expected’, warns billionaire tycoon South China Morning Post

China’s middle class hit by shadow banking defaults FT. “Investors interviewed,” the best that can be done.

What China’s Online Shopping Craze Says About Its Bubble Economy Michael Pettis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. From November, still very interesting.

University authorities suppress student protest in China WSWS. Slogan: “Give us back our Marxist student society!”

Chinese students miss out on early places at MIT but what’s to blame for the change in fortune? South China Morning Post

The Failure of the United States’ Chinese-Hacking Indictment Strategy Lawfare

China and US play the Great Game in South Asia Nikkei Asian Review

Ten events that rocked India’s banking industry in 2018 Quartz India

North Korea

In good company:

Trump Transition

To Win The 2020 Race Trump Will Need To Fire More Of His Staff Moon of Alabama

Democrats in Disarray

New Chair of Climate Crisis Committee Owns Shares in Fossil Fuel Fund ReadSludge. Shocker.

* * *

LinkedIn Co-Founder Apologizes for Deception in Alabama Senate Race NYT. Mark Ames: “Now we know why @nytimes weirdly tried minimizing the importance of this stunning story about Dem Party spy contractors planting fake ‘Russian bots’ in Alabama election—the Times journalist who wrote it signed an undisclosed NDA with [New Knowledge].” I don’t think we need to worry about whatever it was the NDA said. This episode is obviously an “isolated incident,” caused by a few “bad apples.”

A NY Times Reporter Spoke At An Event Organized By Alabama Dirty Tricksters Buzzfeed. New Knowledge again. Move along, people, move along. There’s no story here.

New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in US Politics Aaron Maté, The Nation. “The Alabama Senate race cost $51 million. If it was impossible for a $100,000 New Knowledge operation to affect a 2017 state election, then how could a comparable—perhaps even less expensive—Russian operation possibly impact a $2.4 billion US presidential election in 2016?”

* * *

No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They’re Not Trump GQ (MR). I dunno. Did this guy check with Neera first?

Health Care

Johns Hopkins wrote the rules on patient safety. But its hospitals don’t always follow them. Tampa Bay Times

Our Famously Free Press

Banishing Truth Truthdig (SimonGirty). On Seymour Hersh, exiled from the Acela Corridor (along with Thomas Frank).

Class Warfare

Political Apology of a Lingerie Model Politics Slash Letters (witters). Worth a read; the headline speaks to the fact of precarity, not as clickbait.

If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours Pro Publica. And only 15 short years until Medicare!

A $21,000 Cosmetology School Debt, and a $9-an-Hour Job NYT. From The Department of People Who Do Everything Right and Are Terribly Punished….

The Prophet of Envy NYRB. Slow going at first, but gets rolling at “mimetic crises.”

You Don’t Want Hygge. You Want Social Democracy. Jacobin

Commentary: How to get over your fear and learn to speak up Channel News Asia. If you make New Year’s resolutions, this one might be worth considering.

Antidote du jour (via):

And a bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Lee

      Ever the optimist, me. To paraphrase Karl Kraus, things are either hopeless but not serious or serious but not hopeless. It’s a win, win attitude.

  1. Louis Fyne

    re. gold.

    wolf’s point dovetails with a long time nak. cap. point…you can’t pay the sovereign its taxes in gold (or crypto). and with an over-leveraged system, the old maxim still applies—you (big institutions/oligarchs) sell what you can, not what you want. (see 2008)

    hope this point is self-evident and not controversial/spark of a flame war :)

    1. Wukchumni

      In terms of stability, the spot price is more or less exactly the same as it was on election day in 2016, while the objects of desire in other financial veins have made huge gains & losses amid wild gyrations.

      One point I would make in terms of ownership, very few in the USA have much (the exception being the evangs-as it’s in the bible and you know how fruity they are about a word mentioned 417 times in said sacred tome) and the vacuum cleaner of the “We Buy Gold”* places that popped up circa 2010 to present, really did a number on most everything anybody had in jewelry, save their wedding ring.

      In my worst case scenario, said evangs by virtue of being one-eyed kings in a country full of financially blinded people, it would give them much power in a political sense, possibly in total.

      * I counted 17 of them in Glendale,Ca. one day in 2011.

      You can walk into a bank in Europe or Asia and buy or sell physical gold pretty easily, know any banks here that do that?

    2. Lee

      Lambert here: There’s no way I’m opening up comments for a post about gold, and be very careful not to go crazy over in Links

      What’s the matter with crazy?

      The only gold I own is in my teeth and in the form of a wedding ring I no longer wear. One reason for this is that the stuff is of very limited material usefulness and the other is that should the collapse of civilization increase its utility as a medium exchange, I have learned the secret of turning lead into gold: as I have previously stated here, simply add charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter.

      1. CraaaaaaaazyChris

        At the risk of sounding totally craaaaazy and pissing off Lambert, the hot metal now (besides cobalt, which came up in links recently with the Amsterdam heist) is palladium. I don’t recall this being covered here on NC, but there is a connection between the VW diesel emissions scandal and Pd. Platinum is the preferred metal for catalytic converters in diesel engines. But for standard gas engines, palladium is the better catalyst. See item 2 in this Bloomberg article.

    3. rd

      My little theory about gold is pretty simple. It is a good diversifier against central bank incompetence or malfeasance and as a store of value for civilization disruption events. However, in both of those cases, paper gold is probably not worth anything and so little bars in a coffee can buried in the backyard would be the appropriate diversifier.

        1. rd

          A way to evaluate potential gold bubbles or undervaluation.

          Historically an ounce of gold will buy a good handgun or a decent men’s wool suit. Gold is probably near the upper range of its fair market value right now.

          1. ambrit

            I don’t know about good suits, but a nice Glock 19, a very good handgun, will set you back between $500 and $600 USD. So, using your measure, gold is overvalued.
            What does not get talked about very much is the degree to which the precious metals markets are manipulated. Especially silver.
            Basically, anything has the value that people as a group agree to accept for it. Metals have industrial uses, and jewelry, aesthetics.

        2. polecat

          It’s those silver bullets you need to have at hand … when the clinton zombies come sprinting for your vital organ-ich victuals ..
          Keep practicing your headshots, ambrit.

          1. ambrit

            And always save one…
            I’m sort of curious to see what the trigger mechanism will be for the Jackpot Process.

    4. Oregoncharles

      Just the facts, ma’am: Silver (which I track because I own some) was oddly stable at about $14.50 for a long time; now it’s up almost a dollar. Gold is up over most periods, but not a whole lot and, in the recent period, not as much proportionally as silver.

      I assume they’e basically indices of Mr. Market’s sense of security, which is justifiably falling. Better metal than stocks.

      (Personal note: I have silver mostly because I literally found it at the thrift store, for about $10 all told; plus a donation to the store since it’s a good cause and I felt guilty as well as lucky. Not a huge amount, but significant in relation to our finances.)

      I assume this doesn’t qualify as “crazy.”

      1. ambrit

        Lucky you. All I ever find at the thrift stores is silverplate. Some small silver, like earrings and the like, but nothing big. A friend found a pair of gouache small paintings, really costume studies, by Erte in a New Orleans thrift many years ago. She liked the Deco period so much, she kept them and hung them on the wall at her home. I may be ‘crazy’ but it seems that there was a lot more interesting stuff in the thrift stores forty years ago. Until the Katrina Potlatch, all our good furniture was from the thrifts: solid wood, carved, good fabrics, and real leather. Today’s youngsters don’t know what quality furniture is anymore. All they are offered is cheap junk from ‘somewhere else.’

        1. polecat

          I found (and restored’ to polecat’s perfection ) a nice (as in ‘good bones’, probably built in the 50’s) 4 door, 1 drawer oak hardwood & veneer cabinet … which now resides in our kitchen … for 10 quatloos .. a real steal !! With some elbow grease, and a fine faux-distressed paint job, I could resell it for hundreds of quatloos more … but alas, it is now another ‘new-old’ family heirloom, never to be sold … and will outlast any cheap particleboard-laminated junk by many more years !

          1. ambrit

            Heavens man! 10 quatloos! Restore it and trade it to the Gamesters for a pliant combat thrall. If the femarch of your creche approves, of course.

    5. Dan Berg

      off topic; just wanted to get it into the conversation

    1. Irrational

      OMG, that made me laugh! I know I shouldn’t. Not planning any trips over to London until I see how things pan out.

      1. a different chris

        And this made me laugh even harder, because it’s probably true:

        You have to register any drone over 250g (…) but that only comes into effect after Dec 2019

        That’s EU legislation, so after brexit that won’t be implemented, of course. Deregulation is always wonderful and is going to free us all!

        I suspect somebody Important will catch wind of this and they will make sure to have a “drone policy”, but I bet if it hadn’t happened now they sure would not have thought of it.

  2. The Rev Kev

    “No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They’re Not Trump”

    Based on the information that I have read in this article I say that the Democrats should nominate Neera Tanden to be their Presidential candidate for 2020! She sounds like exactly the sort of candidate that the Democratic National Committee would love to have nominated. She is a woman, she is a coloured daughter of emigrants, a Yale Law School graduate and – for the cherry on top of the ice cream – she was a member of Hillary Clinton’s “inner circle” of advisors. She even has a story to identify with “the little people” where her mother was on welfare for nearly two years before obtaining a job. A Washington insider through and through. Sound good?

    1. willf

      I was struck by this line:

      “Even when the pragmatic, centrist choice defeats the hardline right-winger, that’s not necessarily a long term win.”

      The word pragmatic there needs to be in quotes.

    2. Carey

      Notable that this article should even need to be written. Elites’ minions working so hard (hej Neera!) on that Overton Window…

  3. Darius

    Sickening about the destruction of the pinyon-juniper forest complex. I had no idea. Perhaps it’s less of a crisis, but in the middle Atlantic, suburban sprawl willy-knilly destroys the oak-hickory forest complex, a concept most people can’t even grasp.

    I had forgotten about Ken Salazar, as bad a corporate shill at Interior as any Republican. Another of Obama’s many crimes. Although to be fair, no one surpasses him in personal brand curation.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Agreed about the destruction of the pinyon-juniper forest complex. This is destruction on an industrial scale with the full cooperation of the Bureau of Land Management just so people like ranchers can put a few more bucks in their pocket. It did trigger a memory though. Wasn’t there a similar process at work back in the early 20th century on the American prairies to increase farm crop yields? And then when the climate shifted, this led to the whole region being turned into a Dust Bowel ( This sounds like more of the same. I doubt that these ranchers would become the new “Okies” if this happened though. They would be more likely on the first plane to Washington with their hand out for relief and subsidies.

      1. Wukchumni

        Pinyon pines are pretty common on the east side of the Sierra, and the nuts an important foodstuff for the Paiute Indians, pre-us.

        I don’t know how extensive the forests of them would’ve been historically, but there’s no shortage of them in my experience, once you leave the Owens Valley floor and head up into the Whites or Sierra range.

        There isn’t much animal grazing going on, I wonder if that’s a factor in their survival?

        1. sd

          There is some cattle grazing up east of the Marvin Pass Trailhead. It’s not unusual to run into the cattle around there. They come from neighboring private land but roam more or less free through the area.

        2. JCC

          And the Panamint Range between the Sierra Range and Death Valley are packed with them, too. But neither the east side of the Sierra Range or the Panamint Range is inhabited by many corporate farms (the Panamints are pretty much empty of people of any kind). Isolation is probably all that that has saved these areas.

      2. JacobiteInTraining

        In my twenties I helped out with a non-profit/private ranching partnership thing in Central & Eastern Oregon basin and range country – wherein the ranchers agreed to place a large swath of their riparian lands off limits to cattle grazing (via fences built up in a narrow but long corridor enclosing the creeks/streams) and in exchange for that, the organization itself provided many of the resources and volunteer labor to actually build the fences, tie them in to existing fence lines, and connect properly with cattle guards and other creek crossings for the grazers.

        The theory was that by having unrestricted grazing in the actual creekside area, as had been the case previously, natural re-growth such as willows would not happen, the creeks were not as shaded as they would normally be, and bare cattle-churned ground would allow much quicker runoff in the rainy season. While a lot of the lower ground was mostly grassy, nearly all of the upper ground in the drainages worked was some form of juniper ‘forest’ — that remained completely untouched.

        By adding the fencing to prevent the cattle churn and grazing of streamside stuff….new growth helped runoff *not* rush through the drainage, willows and other creek/streamside trees would also fill in the banks, a certain amount of shading and evaporation would not happen during the heat of summer, and the overall water table would rebound/recharge.

        The practice certainly seemed to bear that out — I went back about 10 years later, and the differences were striking both in size and scale of the creek flow, the degree to which streamside tree growth had grown up and around, the diversity of birds and all sorts of other things that expanded right into the new creekside habitat, as well as rivulets and previously seasonal/dry stream beds that were now flowing year round. It wasn’t a ‘squint yer eyes to see the difference’ kinda thing, it was ‘Beautiful and Dramatic Postcard from the West’ improvement.

        These particular ranchers were (and, likely, still are) convinced it was the right thing to do and continue doing it. I mean, big-ag and big-money aside, the ‘Deplorables’ that live and work the land themselves are no different then any New York apartment dweller in that they have a direct incentive to make things sustainable and livable for their kids and grandkids in the environment generally and the land they own specifically. (a fact that is often overlooked when demonizing the country folk by the city folk)

        Plus, the juicy sizzled steaks the rancher provided for us both on the work days and on the re-visits were simply awesome! :)

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Have these ranchers tried to find a way to brand their particular beef as “riparian friendly” or “streamside safe” or some other name designed to catch the eye of potentially discerning meat-buying customers ( at home or in restaurants) who want to vote-with-their-dollars FOR eco-friendlier beef?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Would there be a way to track the Bundy’s beef animals through all the channels of sale and handling and processing so as to identify every final point-of-sale outlet handling Bundy beef and boycott those points-of-sale until they can guarantee that they only sell Bundy-Free beef or No-Bundy beef or whatever they might want to call beef which can be definitely certified as untainted by any Bundy sourcing or presence?

          1. a different chris

            Maybe but the neo-libs would stop that quickly. They are still mad about us unwashed types support of COOL.

            Hmmm. This would be a great line of attack, if the Dems had any balls (well, the women maybe do) at all. “Ok we want to label the source so carefully that people can boycott Bundy meat if they want. If we can’t, then we will drop the whole thing and nobody will know where their meat is coming from. Which one do you want?”

            Trump would do it, if they family-blogged him off.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              So this makes it sound as though labeling a particular bad-actor’s meat by name is probably not do-able.

              But it should still be do-able for those riparian-friendly ranchers to be able to set up a riparian-friendly label for themselves to label their riparian-friendly meat with.
              So people who support the concept can make their support pay from the standpoint of the supported.

    2. anon in so cal

      The Counterpunch article on the destruction of the Pinyon and Juniper forests is beyond sickening.

      If anyone has time, are there any environmental organizations attempting to specifically challenge this? The article mentions a couple, are there others?

      Much smaller scale, but throughout California, native Oak woodlands are continually razed for subdivisions.

      IMHO, this leads to the taboo topic of demographic growth. 9+ Billion people clamoring for an upper middle class lifestyle spells doom for all other living species.

      The Malaysian 1MDB Goldman Sachs scandal also indirectly involves deforestation.

      I did not have time to follow up on this old article that possibly implicated DuSable Capital and an Obama fundraiser:

      “Najib Razak has directed his denial against the testimony of a key aide of Obama himself, his chief fundraiser, the businessman Frank White Jr of DuSable Capital Management.

      “Our research shows that White registered a half million dollar payment from the Government of Malaysia with respect to 1MDB and he is assumed to have been one of the key facilitators of the friendly relationship between the two politicians, who played golf in Hawaii during the Malaysian flooding disaster at the start of the year”

      1. Cal2

        “the taboo topic of demographic growth”

        America’s population growth is due to immigration, legal and illegal.
        That’s the issue that needs to be addressed.

      2. juliania

        On pueblo land in New Mexico, most juniper/pinon covered hills have been left as is (with some expanded housing or business operations, but not a lot.) In my environment, first the local pinons suffered tremendously due to bark beetle predation, which was due to increasing drought conditions in the time I’ve lived here. And then those drought conditions moved to weaken the long lived juniper population significantly. However, most of those dead or dying junipers have hosted new, tiny pinons. And lately our drought conditions have improved slightly, so maybe the children of pueblo children today will again see the pinons in greater numbers. Who knows?

        That Indonesian tsunami lets us speculate that a karakatoa-like eruption somewhere could change things a lot.

        1. Oregoncharles

          That volcano IS Krakatoa. But Yellowstone would be vastly bigger, and there are some other supervolcanos around the world; Long Valley in California is one.

  4. crittermom

    I love today’s antidotes!
    The kitten & parrot is adorable.
    In the 4 act of the two cats, the Siamese must be a banker.
    Nice to see the ‘homeowner’ in this case, get revenge.

    1. ambrit

      I imagine the parrot is leaning against the kittens stomach and saying; “Tweety! You in there?” It’s clearly listening for a reply.

    2. rimus

      The story in 4 acts has a missing panel, a secret hand of god that reassigns stolen dwellings to the less desirable floor area. Obviously the writer is trying to glide by this very important part of the story :)

      1. ambrit

        A panel showing the displaced cat rising up in righteous anger and detabelating the offending rentier feline would be considered Russian Propaganda and censored as “contrary to site policies” wherever that quadtich was first shown. So, the author has engaged in self censorship to salvage the essential point of the display. Ah, the compromises artists have to make with officialdom!
        “I serve Art. I work for Mammon.”

  5. C.Hingy

    I was in Indianapolis for the decline of Marsh. As soon as Sun Capital bought Marsh, it really started to decline. The son who inherited Marsh drove it into the dirt, but Sun buried it.
    In the neighborhood I lived in, we had a term for all the out-of-towners buying up all the housing and businesses. We called them ‘carpetbaggers’.
    What I saw going on in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse reminded me of the history of Venice. Once the rich had set themselves up in the city, they then went about buying up (what we would call today “flyover states”) farmland out on the mainland to extract as much wealth as possible out of the countryside. There used to be forests in Mestre. It appears New Yorkers have exhausted all means of moneymaking at their disposal and are now hollowing out the center.
    What could go wrong?

    1. cnchal

      > It appears New Yorkers have exhausted all means of moneymaking at their disposal and are now hollowing out the center.

      I would not put all New Yorkers as members of the Wall Street criminal gang,

      This article lies by omission. Omitted is the query of who the actual “investors” are into Pirate Equity.

      The yachting criminals running Sun Capital got the money from someone to buy Marsh. Who might that be?

      Oh yeah, public sector pension funds are big investors that hand money to the pirates, so their own pensions are as fully funded as possible, although how anybody can square that circle is beyond my understanding. The public sector pension funds get their money by taxing the profits of the private sector, which are used to fund Pirate Equity, which results in the destruction of private sector, profit making companies that will never pay a dime in taxes again.

      It would seem logical for public sector pension funds to immediately halt all investments with Pirate Equity, unless the goal is self strangulation.

      1. C.Hingy

        My apologies for misspeaking and implying New Yorkers were the problem. It was the easiest thing my stream of consciousness came up to refer to the wealthy hollowing out my neighborhood. The problematic liquor store with police runs to it daily: owned by New Yorkers. Strip club that had multiple shootings and a murder in the parking lot? Co-owned by New Yorker. One half of the slum properties are owned by a cult called People of Praise, the other third are local northsiders, and the rest pretty evenly divided between Miamians, New Yorkers, and Californians.
        The true problem, as you state, is Pirate capital, I agree. Just most of those pirates, in my experience, have been from NY.

      2. j

        Just for a change why not stiff the “investors” (who apparently would take the gold from their aged mother’s teeth) and fund the employee pension fund or is that against the rules for guys partying in the Hamptons?

    2. DJG

      C. Hingy:

      Well, what could go wrong? These appalling paragraphs from the middle of the article:

      At Powermate, a manufacturer of electric generators with a factory in Nebraska, Sun Capital took $20 million from the company as a dividend in 2006, according to court documents. Two years later, it sent the company into bankruptcy court, leaving the government insurer to pay for the underfunded pension covering 600 workers.

      At Indalex, an Illinois-based aluminum parts maker, Sun extracted a dividend of $70 million in 2007, according to court documents. Two years later it sent the company into bankruptcy, leaving the government insurer to pay more than 3,000 pensioners.

      At the other two companies, Friendly’s in 2011 and Fluid Routing Solutions in 2009, Sun Capital used the bankruptcy court to shed the pension obligations — and then kept operating. First, Sun put each company into bankruptcy, essentially relinquishing control. In bankruptcy court, the companies were absolved of their pension debts of $115 million and $30 million, respectively. Then, once the companies were pension-free, Sun Capital bought the same companies out of the ensuing bankruptcy auction.

      Sears. Toys R Us. And it goes on and on. If I recall correctly, Smuckers and Stella D’Oro may be in there somewhere too (that is, destroyed by so-called investors).

      1. David Carl Grimes

        Aren’t pension liabilities and unpaid wages higher in seniority to other creditors? Maybe someone here can chime in on how these pensions get whacked. There should be a law against this.

        1. nycTerrierist

          Agreed! not a lawyer here, but how is this legal?

          we’ve been seeing this happen for years now

          1. ChristopherJ

            Theft has been legal for years. Well, theft at scale

            How do these thieves sleep at night?

            Probably, very well

            1. ChristopherJ

              I’ll add that leave entitlements and pension funding, from within companies, should be monies that are held in trust, by a trustee.
              Instead, we let companies mix this money up with the rest of their working capital and use it like any other source of cash.
              There, nice and legal for ya

        2. Yves Smith

          Unpaid wages used to be top of the bankruptcy hierarchy but no longer. I think the change was by statute, as in during one of the bankruptcy “reforms”.

          In general, pension and other liabilities will be further back in line than any “secured” loans that have particular assets as collateral.

          1. Cal2

            Why couldn’t future labor negotiations, lower salaries going forward in exchange for a future pension, include some kind of securitized title to the real estate of the company as the pensions themselves are a form of loan from the pensioners to the company?

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            If Sanders were to run on seeking the repeal of all such bankruptcy reform laws, how much primary-voter attention might that attract?

            Might it be a good way to differentiate himself from Biden in particular, to Biden’s detriment in the eyes of people ( like college-debt owers) who can be brought to understand Biden’s authorship of their situation?

      2. Cal2


        What happens to our society when the most import public employee pensions–police and fire– are looted the same way that private pensions have been?
        e.g. California goes “bankrupt”, all pension obligations are discharged, then the state is reincorporated as a state tax sucking corporation with a “clean slate.” How will paramilitary public employees react to that?

        Sounds farfetched?

    3. Cal2

      “they then went about buying up (what we would call today “flyover states”) farmland out on the mainland to extract as much wealth as possible out of the countryside”

      Michael Hudson’s …And Forgive Them Their Debts, discusses this going way back, over 5,000 years.
      It’s finally occurred to me after years of reading this great site, and the comments, that
      Politics is economics-economics is the creation of money-the creation of money is claims on real things–claims on real things is debt.

      Ancient debt cancellation guaranteed a steady supply of food from owner occupied minfundia farms, payment of taxes, voluntary labor for public works and military service. Private business debt was not cancelled, just taxes, fees and the slow accumulation of working debt.

      The Romans were the first to not cancel debts on productive homesteaded land. Look how that turned out for them. Hungry mercenaries with no land, lack of recruits, barbarian invasions, debased currency etc.

      Jubilees and debt cancellations–i.e. expanded bankruptcy protections, are the only way to prevent “New York” from ending up with the ownership of every productive and rentable asset in our current society through the magic of compounding interest on debt.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        What would the response be if compounded interest were forbidden by law and only simple interest were permitted by law? Would that be legally do-able even in theory?

  6. allan

    Re: As oil and gas exports surge, West Texas becomes the world’s “extraction colony”

    Just to be clear, the colonizers in question (the oil and gas companies and their subservient “regulators”)
    are located in Central and East Texas. To quote Justice Brandeis, a “state may, if its citizens choose,
    serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”
    Shouldn’t we be celebrating this intrastate innovation? /s

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      yep. they all moved from Dallas to the Woodlands(north of Houston) several years ago.
      exxon and anadarko were where a few chefs I knew worked.
      but to be fair, those corporate critters are pretty much from there to begin with.
      Humble Oil(=> exxon) began in the woods north of Houston, and east texas as a whole is where modern oil began. It peaked a long time ago, and folks have forgotten, perhaps, what it was like.
      I’m from Magnolia(toddlin’ town,toddlin’ town), and George Mitchel was a sort of neighbor.
      40 years ago that area was woods and pasture, and few people. Now it’s overgrown and crowded(I remember 30 miles to a “real grocery store”, with oranges year round,lol)…so I’m sure Big Oil will be back there with their more gross and terrible side at some point…when scarcity overcomes the political hassle that would ensue if they tried to frack there, now.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    Two Roads for the New French Right NYRB

    Thanks for this link, its very interesting.

    The Catholic right’s campaign against same-sex marriage was doomed to fail, and it did. A large majority of the French support same-sex marriage, although only about seven thousand couples avail themselves of it each year. Yet there are reasons to think that the experience of La Manif could affect French politics for some time to come.

    The first reason is that it revealed an unoccupied ideological space between the mainstream Republicans and the National Front. Journalists tend to present an overly simple picture of populism in contemporary European politics. They imagine there is a clear line separating legacy conservative parties like the Republicans, which have made their peace with the neoliberal European order, from xenophobic populist ones like the National Front, which would bring down the EU, destroy liberal institutions, and drive out as many immigrants and especially Muslims as possible.

    As regular NC readers know, the cartoon ‘left/right’ dichotomy is much more complex in reality. Plenty of lefties are very much in tune with the beliefs of the paleoconservatives writing in The American Conservative. I’ve met many very religious, deeply socially conservative people who have very progressive beliefs in economics and environmentalism. In many ways, the ‘mainstream’ in both the left and right works very hard to try to suppress these renegades. But it may well be that if real progress is to be made in economic equality and anti-imperialism, conventional left wingers may well find surprising allies in various shades of the ‘right’.

    1. David

      Yes, I was going to make much the same point. This article is much better than the usual run of head-scratching elite analyses of the gilets jaunes, although it goes off a bit towards the end.
      The reality is that the the Left:Right distinction is, for practical purposes, quiescent for the time being. Instead, the dynamic is between parties and opinion-formers largely representing elites and those who have done well out of globalisation/neoliberalism, and parties representing basically everybody else. What elites can’t understand (and I’m not sure the author really grasps it) is that the second category includes the vast majority of ordinary people in every major country. Their worries are not only economic, but also social, partly because of the destructive effects of neoliberalism on the social fabric, but partly also because the Left has abandoned its historic role of representing ordinary people, and disintegrated into competing tribes of grievance warriors. Hence the stunned surprise of the elites at the degree of support for the “Manif pour Tous” mentioned in the article. It’s not that most French people “support” gay marriage, it’s rather that they can’t care less, and aren’t especially against it. But some figures on the Right had correctly analysed this initiative (and others like it) whose avowed purpose was the replacement of the traditional family by the equivalent of short-term contractual relationships between partners of varying sexes. Not everybody thought this was a good idea, the more so since it had no connection with traditional leftist politics, but was rather liberal (or neoliberal if you like) in its inspiration.
      The problem is that the Right has a consistent and thorough-going analysis of the social and economic consequences of globalisation and neoliberalism, and proposals for remedies, partly based, ironically enough on traditional ideas of the Left. The Left has nothing. Worse than that, any criticism of neoliberalism or globalisation is silenced immediately with cries of “fascist” and “xenophobe.” Indeed, even to argue (as Michel Onfray did recently) that immigration poses problems which need to be addressed, is to invite full-page evisceration in major national newspapers, since that is “playing the game of the National Front”. The Left appears to want to commit suicide, and it’s not clear how, if at all, it can be stopped.

      1. TimR

        Good comment, thanks. I agree the divide is manufactured by the opinion formers, but I see too many regular people falling for it… Taking their cues direct from the talking heads and joining the tribe they culturally identify with, pseudo left or pseudo right.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        Excellent, David.
        the people, mostly redneck men, whom I encounter at the feedstore don’t fit into the current L/R=D/R schema any more than I do.
        they are only against “socialism” because of 100 years of anti-socialist=commie==USSR mindf%ck in support of Big Bidness and their cold war, and their counter-revolution against FDR. IE: they re against it because they don’t know what it is(crop subsidies!).
        Yes, they are “Conservative”—but at the root in ways that are far different from the way that Ted Cruz or…really…anyone with an (R) for the last 50 years….is “conservative”.
        They generally don’t care if someone’s queer or black or brown…but might maintain space between themselves and those and other “others”.
        I also allege that they have, in general, evolved a lot on those issues over the last 30-40 years(=”we’re winning”)
        so they vote(if they vote at all) for the party that doesn’t insult them to their faces, and for the one who scares them and pushes their buttons and at least mouths words on occasion that gels with their monkey minds.
        The rural vote could be won by a Green New Deal…but the focus group driven AI in the basement of hillary’s castle perilous would have to be unplugged and mothballed.
        since that is unlikely(and i’d argue unwanted–they’d just muck it up), i hope Bernie hasn’t forgotten us out here in his movement building plans.

        1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

          Thats my take with Louisiana and the Army.

          These trap words are the last thing standing between the 1% and Tar & Feathers.

      3. neo-realist

        The right may have an analysis of the social and economic consequences of globalisation and neoliberalism, but what do our right wing sages have as remedies for you and me—-more tax cuts for the rich, more military spending, more privatisation of public services, no spending whatsoever on our crumbling infrastructure. Yes, while they’ve used wits, organization, and money to get themselves into power, the right hasn’t got a damn thing for the benefit of 99 percent other than sophistry to get them to vote against their own interests.

        There are ideas and policies on the left such as some of the ones Bernie and AOC have put out there—we just gotta understand that it’s a long term process to build support and movements—took the righties a decade or so after the Goldwater defeat–and it’s going up against a lot of money and manufactured consent of the critical american masses; they’ve just got to keep plugging away.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          which is the potential I was referring to.
          there’s a growing understanding among the sample i interact with…been growing for a long while, in fact…that the gop are not their friends. But the propaganda onslaught engendered terror of anything Left…while conflating Clintonism, and their kinder gentler neoliberalism, with the Left.
          ergo, there’s a confusion of tongues…i can’t talk about socialised medicine at the feed store….but I can talk about medicare for all, and tell my canadian er story, and contrast that with our current cancer travails.
          I have yet to find a farmer or rancher(aside from the one very rich ranching family that controls the local market) who is in love with IBP, Conagra or Pioneer..
          They hate them…but have been convinced that “there is no alternative”.
          so I talk about the Grange, and Farmer’s Co-Ops…and the New Deal…which are things they understand, and at least their parents remember.
          These people have been made into the teabilly hoards we know and love…it is entirely artificial.
          So, yeah…”keep plugging away”…although I’m not sanguine about our chances of success,lol.
          what I’m mainly concerned with is blowing fluffy seeds/ideas into ears and minds within 40 miles of me….for later, when/if the Machine reaches some as yet unknown critical stage of absurdity,decay and dysfunction.
          ….when such seeds being lodged in many local minds might be essential.

          1. a different chris

            When you’re on a tractor, and the only thing to listen to is Rush Limbaugh. Rush was like a stopped clock, correct twice a day. You have no other info, you have somebody who, again, twice a day says something that makes sense… and eventually you become softened to the rest of the crap. People are social animals. And note:

            who is in love with IBP, Conagra or Pioneer.

            I don’t think the RW radio talkers really say much about those companies, do they? From what I’ve heard, they talk about far-away things. They say “libruls are doing this to control your life” but they are mute on, say, ConAgra. Neither for, because that would give the game away, or against because that would get the plug pulled.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              “…I don’t think the RW radio talkers really say much about those companies.”
              Indeed they don’t…and the “Farm Report” is an extremely foreshortened hayseed fox bidness channel. But the farmers, etc(including former farmers, etc) know all too well. characterizing them as tenant farmers is their words, not mine.
              There’s no doubt that countering all that hateful nonsense and pavlovian trigger words is a tall order.
              We don’t possess a media conglomerate, after all…nor real lefty think tanks, nor billionaires’ wallets.
              But if it’s to be done at all, now—or soon—is the time.
              sure looks like multiple crises erupting all around for the status quo.
              Including a crisis of legitimacy that I can feel and see ,and taste in the very air of my little corner of the world.
              Dems abandoned these folks beginning in the 70’s…finally altogether in late 90’s with the farm bill.
              Gop has never really given them anything but things to get angry about…and vague promises.
              That hat trick is wearing thin.

              The “conservative” counterrevolution began in earnest in the churches and their peripheral communities.
              It was an evangelical effort…it was brilliant, really…lay political preachers, bringing the good news of hypercapitalism and that backwards revanchism they packaged it in to prayer groups and lions club meetings.
              I consider myself a secular evangelist for FDR American Liberalism(can’t use the phrase “social democracy” just yet)
              would that there were more than one,lol.
              I’m saying it’s possible—in spite of all the received “wisdom” of the focus groups and consultants and holier than thou vichy dems.
              a New New Deal could win big out here, among the less-comfortable.

        2. David

          You shouldn’t think in USian terms. The two right-wing tendencies described in the article are both traditional community-based, which is why they appeal to a lot of traditional left-wing voters. They explicitly oppose the application of the kind of neoliberal policies you are described ing.

    2. VietnamVet

      This is the great omission of fake media. The top 10% control the global economy and are looting the world to get richer. The prime directive is not to mention this. Someday, the 90% will realize that their lives are not getting any better. They have no control over anything. When food shortages hit due to war, climate change, supply disruptions, or unpayable debts; the collapsing middle class will revolt, as before.

  8. Off The Street

    The New Knowledge adventurers are only missing some mention of Rogue Operators to garner more points in the public relations spin or client representation category. Used to be that unwanted publicity was chalked up to those Rogue Operators, or that Rogue Memo or the Rogue Whatever.

    More people are onto that little semantic drift so the best and brightest in enclaves around the world are working extra hours to develop current tools demanded for a new environment. They probably don’t even get as many stock options or other perks as those initial investors in LinkedIn and other thought leader companies.

    It was surprising to read that apology, so rare in modern life. That must mean the feedback loops are better, at least four or five sigma by now.

  9. JohnB

    Heh – funny seeing an article about the Port Tunnel there – I used to pass through that twice every week for the last couple of years, to visit my partner in the North – before moving to Belfast recently (pre-Brexit, no less…) – partly due to the housing crisis in the South…

    Unfortunately, Ireland has a large band of crazies who hijack protest movements – including Freeman types (they make regular Libertarians look sane), who led Direct Democracy Ireland – among others (read the article in links above…they have a banner about fucking ChemTrail conspiracy theories…).

    They appear to have taken the initiative in hijacking the Yellow Vest name in Ireland. Which means regular people will avoid them like the plague…

    This is definitively a Bad. Thing. – because Ireland seriously needs huge government-ending protests, due to the housing/rental crisis here (in my personal opinion, the government is directly promoting and is complicit, in the gentrification of the entire capital city, Dublin – and is aiming to deliberately force a new decade of emigration for upcoming generations, by making living in Ireland unaffordable – I’m effectively a fucking emigrant now, up to the North…) – and these particular crazy people, are actually harming regular peoples willingness to participate, in these protests.

    This is a common theme in Ireland. This is a large part of the reason why protests are relatively muted, here.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t live too far from it and I’d no idea there had been a protest.

      But I agree those protesters really are an odd fringe bunch who seem to grab onto every fringe crank idea out there, mostly, but not exclusively, right wing ones, mixed in with an extreme hatred of governments and banks.

      1. ambrit

        I’d imagine that we here can all understand their hatred of banks. Distrust of government should be taught in the schools, if not churches, temples. mosques etc. etc.
        What is somewhat frightening is the number of previously dismissed as ‘conspiracy theory nuttery’ ideas that have turned out to be true. Operation Paperclip just leads the pack, ably enabled by Operation Mockingbird. Minds were ‘influenced’ by methods developed in Project MKUltra.
        Operation Paperclip:
        Operation Mockingbird:
        Project MKUltra:
        In my cynical squared old age, I imagine a worst case scenario, and go one step farther out. Then, maybe, I’ll be getting close to the truth.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          aye. my first wanderings on the intertubes, circa 1999 were in conspiracy theory land.
          fascinating…and I was careful to put everything at least in the JISO Drawer(jury is still out), if not the foil lined one.
          what a shock when I discovered FOIA Docs, lol…and Thomas.Gov, with historical records of words said on the chamber floor.
          Church, Rockefeller committees.
          There is much that is obscured….and a lot more muddled by deliberate mud and shit in the water.
          and, like you say, a whole lot of that is all but confirmed, now…and much of it is sort of lodged in the minds of a significant proprtion of folks I’ve known.
          But the confusion works….”Fake Moon Landings” is my personal peeve(Dad worked at JSC during Apollo)

          1. Wukchumni

            Those 6 different Apollo moon landings were clever, but anybody could tell how they all emanated from a warehouse set somewhere in beautiful downtown Burbank.

            1. ambrit

              I once got in a bit of trouble for a practical joke I pulled when I was working, as a plumber, on an addition to the Administration building at the Stennis Space Centre. It is where the space types test motors and other exotic stuff, like hypergolic fuels.
              There was giong to be some ‘official’ function at the auditorium there, having some current NASA astronauts in attendance. I was told that lowly beings like myself were not allowed. So, I made a poster board sized sign. If I remember it properly, I had it say “Apollo 18 Anniversary Lecture.” I made a quick NASA style patch logo for the centrepiece of the poster, showing a crude LEM sitting down on the moon. The three names of the “crew” I put as Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein. The motto, I think was something like, “We’re going to find out what it is.” I stood it up on an easel I found in the foyer, near the front doors to the building. All day, I heard nothing about it. My idea had flopped. The next morning the foreman says; “Don’t anyone tell me who put that poster up yesterday.” He looked at me. “I’ve been told by Stennis to fire that person. Oh, and I’m told, one of the astronauts saw it and broke out laughing.”
              My experience with NASA is that the administrators were a stuck up bunch of a–holes. The actual workers were just great.

              1. The Rev Kev

                That is absolutely hilarious that story, especially with the names of the astronauts. I can bet that the astronauts would have gotten a laugh out of it too. Ten out of ten for initiative, sir.

                1. ambrit

                  Thanks. Salad days. I once had a run in, on the same job, with a ‘security type’ who got quite mad when I looked at a map on a drafting table I was passing by, heading to fix something plumbing related, and remarked, “That looks like the Marshall Islands.”
                  I was obviously clueless as to why I had drawn the ire of ‘security.’ Well, it was explained to me, I was in the offices of the Naval Meteorology Office, and had been gazing at a weather map. What did I do wrong? I had wandered through the section that worked up the weather forecasts for the Navy’s nuclear submarines. They could receive communications, but were forbidden to transmit themselves. So, one was hiding deep in the Pacific Ocean off of the Marshall Islands. Why didn’t the weatherperson just cover the map when away? Good question was the reply. I never did think to ask, just what does a submarine want with the weather report anyway?

        2. Cal2


          Research “Laurel Canyon Musicians CIA” if you want to understand why the music scene shifted from NYC to L.A. practically overnight and why Hippies’ main interests went from effectively protesting the war and attempts at creating a new economy to instead just getting stoned.

          1. Carey

            Someone posted on that topic a few months ago and I dug in only
            a little bit. Very interesting, especially since some favorite musicians
            were mentioned! Thanks for the reminder to take it further.

  10. PlutoniumKun

    Commentary: How to get over your fear and learn to speak up Channel News Asia. If you make New Year’s resolutions, this one might be worth considering.

    As someone who struggled for years with shyness in public, making presentations of one kind or another has always been agony, and I’ve struggled at times to find the best way to do it. But this point in the article stood out for me:

    Ms Groskop sees many women make the mistake of over-preparing the mechanics of their speech — what they are going to say, which slides to use. Her advice? “You should fix them early in the preparation and keep them as minimal as possible.”
    Just as Coco Chanel advised women to take off one piece of jewellery before leaving the house, so too with speaking — strip it back.

    I’ve noticed this very often with female colleagues – more than male colleagues they put enormous effort into doing their presentations – but often end up boring everyone with too much information and facts and an over-rehearsed delivery. The very best presentations have a good mix of a simple, uncluttered presentation, with a reasonably off-the-cuff delivery – and men seem to be better at this, maybe because men value the ability to bullshit a bit more. I know my best presentations was when I was entirely familiar with the subject, but avoided writing or memorising a talk, and deliberately winged it a little (and always add in a joke if possible).

    But its a very hard balance to get – you can easily get caught out (just forgetting what to say), or panicking and ending up saying the same thing over and over. When I over-prepare or read a pre-written speech I feel like a robot and I can sense everyone going to sleep.

    The only solution I think for anyone is regular practice, painful as it is. So yes, its a good NY resolution for anyone to do more of it.

    1. Yassine

      During the first year of my engineering school, we were taught public speaking by a drama teacher. We had five sessions in total by groups of around ten students. We would start the session with each student making a five minute presentation that the teacher recorded. He then played it back to all of us while pointing out our mistakes (pace, posture, intonation, etc.). He also had very strict rules about slides : no more than one slide by minute spent talking and no more than 15 words on each slide (not including legends of graphs) and of course no full sentence written on a slide. By the third session, the teacher almost did not intervene and let us critique one another.

      The technical advice was very helpful, but I suspect that a big part of getting over the anxiety came from seeing oneself speaking on camera. Instead of imagining how people see you when you speak (which I think is a significant source of anxiety), you just see it for yourself and realize that it is not that bad and that the few glitches can be easily corrected with a bit of attention.

    2. David

      I recommend my students to look at videos of Steve Jobs’s presentations (current Apple ones are OK, but his are the best), to read “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds (he used to run a website of the same name), and above all to practice ahead of time, and to be comfortable with the relationship between the amount of material you want to cover, and the amount of time you have. You need a sense of what a ten-minute presentation feels like, compared to a twenty-minute or a thirty-minute one. A lot of bad presentations result from the presenter turning up with more material than they can accommodate in the time and panicking as a result. I’ve taught a number of courses where students take it in turn to make presentations and are then critiqued, and the standard always improves radically during the course.
      My rules (but I’m one of those odd people who enjoy public speaking) amount to (1) never have more data on the screen than the conscious mind can hold. This is in the hundreds of bytes, and of course people will be listening to you and taking notes at the same time. (2) Go back over the slides several times and take out every unnecessary word: never use full sentences unless they are quotes. (3) Use pictures to make a point (4) Don’t worry about the number of slides. Fifty slides with ten words each is much better than ten slides with fifty words each. (5) Rehearse until you are thoroughly familiar with the subject, and you can improvise around the slides. I often turn up for a two-hour presentation with 20-25 slides and no fixed idea about exactly what I am going to say. I adjust the balance according to what seems to grab the interest of those listening. (6) Notice and adjust as necessary your body language and gestures.

  11. JTMcPhee

    There was a nice “department store” of the old Marshall Field kind in Rhode Island. It was called Shepards, and there’s darned little about its decimation in DDG or Wiki, since it was run into bankruptcy in 1974. In an earlier, seedier iteration of what’s been done by “venture capital” vultures, the Mob, that is so very present and potent and tolerated (or else) in in RI, “made an offer the owners couldn’t refuse.” First thing they did as I recall, was fire all the buyers, and other “non-essential” staff, and start selling through the inventory on hand. Looted the pension money, of course.

    Nowadays, stuff like this is covered by a smokescreen of Bernaysian glop and the fog generated by well-paid lawyers and consultants. So “it’s all nice and legal, see?”

  12. PlutoniumKun

    Banishing Truth Truthdig (SimonGirty). On Seymour Hersh, exiled from the Acela Corridor (along with Thomas Frank).

    If anyone is wondering about New Years reading, I’d heartily recommend Seymour Hersh’s memoir. Its a brilliant read and a reminder of what proper journalism used to be about.

    The later part of Hersh’s career is the most distressing. He was writing for The New Yorker when Barack Obama was elected president. David Remnick, the magazine’s editor, socialized with Obama and was apparently wary of offending the president. When Hersh exposed the fictitious narrative spun out by the Obama administration about the killing of Bin Laden, the magazine killed the story, running instead a report about the raid, provided by the administration, from the point of view of one of the SEALs who was on the mission. Hersh resigned. He published the account of the raid in the London Review of Books, the beginning of his current exile to foreign publications. When we most urgently need Hersh and good investigative reporters like him, they have largely disappeared. A democracy, at best, tolerates them. A failed democracy, like ours, banishes them, and when it does, it kills its press.

    1. Goyo Marquez

      I’ll second that recommendation of Hersh’s bigography, Reporter: A Memoir. Been listening to it on Audible, most interesting, well written, suspenseful book I’ve listened to this year, with the possible exception of, Chernow’s biography of Grant.

  13. BlueMoose

    That ‘If you are over 50’ article hit close to home for me as I’ve know since November that my contract won’t be renewed for 2019. So back onto the streets looking for work as a programmer/developer at 61. I was hoping it would last until August when I was planning to take early retirement and try to continue on part-time, but no such luck. Our entire in-house group is being disbanded but most of the rest of the team are 30 or less, and the market is pretty decent here in Poland, so I doubt they will have much trouble finding a new job. I might try to ride it out (I might not have a choice) but it will be tight. Age discrimination isn’t that bad here but I’m sure it is a factor in the hiring managers mind. We will see. It is a shame, because I really like doing this (telecommunications/networking).

      1. Judith

        Hey Jason. An aside based on something you posted recently that ! am just getting around to posting.

        Somerville also has a winter farmers market at the Armory on Saturday. You may get really tired of Root vegetables by February but by March, some early greens sometimes become available.


    1. skk

      Good luck. At 65, I’ve been in this situation for 15 years and survived, prospered even, in it. Three observations, anecdotal of course:
      1. As ever, its not pounding the streets, its hitting the proverbial rolodex. All my best gigs have come from contacts – no doubt you’ve been nice and helpful to all the people around you “on the way up”, right ? and, yeah its the stuff of “old boys network”, “jobs for the boys”, but whachyagonnado, eh ?
      2. In the USA, the Trump restrictions on H1B visas ARE helping. I know “agencies”/ body shoppers and one I know has given up trying to get these processed. For myself, its raised my rates/hr substantially, whereas once the previous year, a recruiter, laughed, yeah LAUGHED, when I told him the rate I expected. ( Trump, of course is a total toad),
      3. Be ready to be a road warrior i.e. away from home Mon – Thu. – for the right price, expenses +rate, of course.

      These are all USA specific observations.

      1. BlueMoose

        Thanks. At the moment I’m leaning toward #3 either as a technical trainer working from home but on the road 80% of the time or possibly looking at a 2-3 hour 1 way commute, so I’d probably just rent a studio and stay there Mon-Thurs night and head home on Friday. The complicating factor is my wife has poor health (hip replacement in near future) and I’m not sure she can handle the farm while I’m away. At this point I’d just settle for some non-descript maint/test role. The good thing is my expenses are low (no mortgage/car payments/etc) so my pay requirements are minimal. I’m also not desperate (yet) so I think I’ll just take my time and give some thought to my options.

        1. Spring Texan

          Good luck, I think persistence, even at a low level, is a key. I’m an IT person who was out of work in my early 50s for several years after a long career and eventually took a job as a secretary/bookkeeper for a roofer and at that point glad to get anything (which I could NOT have gotten except the person who cleans house for me cleaned house for him – another endorsement for the rolodex). I still occasionally applied for stuff and got a (pretty low-paid, state) job at age 57 (as a programmer trainee, starting at bottom again, oddly!) which I still have now (age 68). [and now could easily retire if this job ended, or right now if I wanted]. I know I was lucky and am still thankful something worked out but it’s important to keep getting that lottery ticket in —

          Maybe you’ll get lucky and find something sooner rather than later . . . it is a lot of luck I think. But I definitely feel for you.

          There seem to be more jobs than in the past that allow a lot of telecommuting which might work if you got one with your wife’s situation — but ppl don’t vacate those jobs easily so probably fewer open than other types . . .

          1. RMO

            “1. As ever, its not pounding the streets, its hitting the proverbial rolodex. All my best gigs have come from contacts”

            Nicely sums up why I can’t work up more than a rueful laugh and a feeling of despair whenever I hear a pundit, politician or company/industry flack go on about the beautiful shining world just over the horizon that we can reach by retraining and reeducating those who have had their jobs disappear.

          2. BlueMoose

            You are right about the luck thing. My last 2 jobs (held for last 9 years) were simply being in the right place at the right time. It helped that I had a specific skill that most of the younger developers would have only heard about and most certainly would not have wanted to even think about learning.

            The rolodex is only a limited option for me as most of my earlier career took place on another continent. Could happen though – some former friend is now a CTO and they are looking to open a development center here in Poland?

  14. Jason Boxman

    On Texas oil and colonialism, ever since I read Jane Jacobs’ book on city economies that someone here recommended, along with discussions of rent extraction and MMT here, I always think of extraction of resources and/or money from communities as a kind of colonialism. I think it’s particularly insidious when a dollar store or other chain colonizes somewhere, because unlike natural resource extraction, without careful consideration it isn’t obvious that economic rents are extracted. I think balance of payments is a useful concept to apply here.

  15. PlutoniumKun

    What China’s Online Shopping Craze Says About Its Bubble Economy Michael Pettis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. From November, still very interesting.

    The cultural openness of younger Chinese people really is inspiring (and a little disconcerting for those of us from less dynamic and fast growing societies). About 15 years ago I stumbled across the amazing Beijing punk scene – it was both surprising and amazingly good – but the bands seem to have more or less vanished, either because they were replaced by something better, or the relentless blandness of ‘official’ Chinese youth culture eventually suffocated it.

    Emerging from a vast social transformation shoehorned into three tight decades, China’s new youth culture—both its admirable and banal qualities—is developing in great, ugly mainland cities that don’t fit into any standard Chinese stereotypes held either by foreigners or by older Chinese people. This culture is nonetheless profoundly Chinese in its urban rootlessness and fully representative of a China that is no longer rural, uneducated, and inward-turning. Singles’ Day looks like nothing in earlier Chinese culture, society, and history. And yet just like the loud, dissonant music pouring out of tiny, poorly ventilated clubs in many Chinese cities, it could not have emerged in any other place.

    Recent promotions by Alibaba and other entities have been quite crass. This year, for example, the company turned the one-day holiday into a two-day event. That being the case, it is not hard to imagine the next generation of young Chinese people turning away in disgust, just as young Americans in the 1930s turned their backs on flappers and drunken dance marathons. The profit-seeking zeal that powers modern China and turns off many Chinese people may well eventually kill the holiday.

    But this brazen commercialism is also what makes the holiday a perfect symbol of China’s bubble economy. Singles’ Day and its staggering sales numbers stand out not just in economic terms, but also as an expression of an exuberant and confused urban youth culture as it fills in the generation gap left behind as a once-familiar, older China recedes. The holiday represents a certain conception of a new China—the China of e-commerce, smartphones, and consumerism financed by peer-to-peer lending—as much as installment buying, bootleg liquor, and nervous ragtime rhythms represented its American equivalent in the Jazz Age.

    As long as the country’s bubble economy can be prolonged, Singles’ Day will continue to grow and break sales records. But as nervousness deepens in China and as economic worries spread, Singles’ Day itself will be threatened. In fact, while this year’s 22 percent increase in sales may seem impressive, at least part of this increase may simply reflect the fact that many new vendors joined the program; if so, the sales these newcomers would have made anyway will have been added to the Singles’ Day total as if they represent new economic activity.

    One year on November 11, maybe next year or maybe in a few years, the dizzying sales growth of Singles’ Day will suddenly reverse. At that point, the exuberance of China’s bubble economy will almost certainly have ended and, as that happens, young Chinese people will probably increasingly reject the extraordinary commercialization of Singles’ Day as the very symbol of what went wrong in China.

    Anecdotally, I think there is a generational difference in China – there are the slightly older youth – who remember what China was like before commercialisation took over (it was visible even in ‘modern’ Chinese cities just a few years ago), and the younger younger Chinese, who have known nothing else. In my experience the slightly older ones have always taken the modernisation of China with a pinch of salt, and an awareness that it could all reverse in the blink of an eye (as it has frequently in China’s history). The younger ones… I’m not so sure, they may well be taken by surprise if something bad happens.

    The one thing for sure is that the CCP will do everything it can to keep a firm grip on ‘culture’ in its widest sense – they will allow the youth to blow off steam in creative ways, and through consumerism, but they will not allow real dissent.

    1. Cal2

      Highly recommend the ADVChina – YouTube series. A couple young expatriates, American and South African, live in China, married Chinese women, ride around on motorcycles in China and/or Taiwan, with great 4K video of out of the way locations, and they make astute commentaries that are neither pro nor anti-government. I learned more about China from watching 15 or so of their videos than all my other studies.

  16. PlutoniumKun

    Cross-party move to stop the clock on hard Brexit Guardian

    The moves of course depends on the EU allowing a very long time extension. And today Juncker says:

    The European commission president said the EU could not be expected to resolve the problems that continue to make it likely the British government will suffer a heavy defeat.

    “I find it entirely unreasonable for parts of the British public to believe that it is for the EU alone to propose a solution for all future British problems,” Juncker said in a wide-ranging interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “My appeal is this. Get your act together and then tell us what it is you want. Our proposed solutions have been on the table for months.”

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’m pretty sure its just something fed to an intern holding the fort at Guardian Towers while everyone else is on holiday. Its just an attempt to keep the second (or third) referendum campaign in the news. It makes no sense at all as its written.

  17. jfleni

    RE: New Chair of Climate Crisis Committee Owns Shares in Fossil Fuel Fund.

    This is just the normal result of what the NANCYcrats expected: Use and all any tricks to sink Green New Deal; Ocasio-Cortez and friends take notice of the shill roosting in your own House!

  18. jfleni

    RE: Johns Hopkins wrote the rules on patient safety. But its hospitals don’t always follow them.

    Stark reminder of how Semelweiss in the 18th century tried to stop his colleagues from cutting up cadavers just before they attended heavily
    pregnant mothers to be!

    Medics make the same dumb mistakes over and over!

    1. Chris51

      Semmelweis also thought it wise to wash his hands, followed by a rinse with chlorinated lime solution, before examining a mother to be. His low rate of complications and fatalities made him very popular with patients.

      He was shunned by his colleagues, and died in a lunatic asylum.

    1. a different chris

      Comical the people who try to defend McCaskill in there, including the ex-Senator herself -basically “well if you read further down she says….”.

      C’mon. You start out by calling somebody a “thing” and “shiny object” and you get the bloody nose you deserve. Nobody is required to read a single thing beyond that.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        Yeah…the claire-defenders are overcooked and inedible.
        Looks a lot like “sit down and shut up”, to me….and a lot less like anything “Woke”.
        another example of the contingent ethics and morals of team blue.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Its funny how someone who lost her election presumes to lecture someone who won her election about what it takes to win elections.

      What would Trump say about McKaskill? Pathetic? Sad? Loser?

    1. Richard

      He took them down pretty well. I was especially floored that the NK president was caught lying about russian influence in the ‘bama election, and no one, NO ONE, in msm has used that opportunity to think critically about the idea of russian influence in us elections. You’d think getting caught lying and being suspended from Facebook would be enough cross-blob static for the fake journalists to notice. After all, it’s not us crazy, marginalized lefties saying so now, but their own kind.
      It turns out, if you’re paid to not notice obvious things, that really works.

      1. JBird4049

        It turns out, if you’re paid to not notice obvious things, that really works.

        +1 Yes, it really does, but I think not enough people realize just how well the MSM is paid for that.

  19. Lunker Walleye


    Lambert. Thank you for posting the Paul Bronks bonus antidote. His former account was suspended and I had no idea that his new account is @SlenderSherbet.

  20. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Macron ‘lost authority’ after caving to Yellow Jackets, says Oettinger

    The EU will accept a French budget deficit above the EU’s 3 percent ceiling in 2018 “as a one-time exception,” Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in an interview published Thursday.

    Oh really?!? So no crushing austerity, no selling off of public assets, no adverts on the Arc de Triomphe. They’re just going to let it slide for the French while the Greeks continue to suffer for no good reason.

    Are the EU technocrats running scared here thinking the Gilet Jaunes could force a Frexit if they impose austerity or are they simply playing favorites here? Any EU readers know what’s going on?

    1. Yassine

      French reader here.

      A technical point first : the 3% ceiling is more a rule of thumb than a strict rule. The commission monitors the budgets of EU countries and issues warnings when it thinks the Stability and Growth Pact “rules” are about to be broken but a government would really have to consciously and repeatedly show the middle finger to the Commission for it to escalate to the next step which is financial sanctions. Moreover, f**k nazi apologist Oettinger and his “one-time exception”, nobody heard him open his mouth when his friend at the CDU ran deficits above 3% in 2008 and 2009.

      A quantitative point second : the GDP of France is 13 times that of Greece. If the Commission tried to make an example out of France like it did with Greece, it would certainly backfire and spell the end of the EU as we know it. The commission knows this and, beyond the posturing from the usual suspects, it will tread lightly when dealing with France on this subject (it does not have the same stick for France than it has for Italy in the form of a terminally ill banking sector).

      A political point third : you should not frame this issue as an opposition between the working classes of France and Greece. There are no “communicating vessels” of suffering and the French working class taking up the fight against austerity is one of the only possibilities that the situation of the Greek people will improve in the foreseeable future. Moreover, anyone on the Left should rejoice oneself that les smicards (people earning the minimum wage) got a bigger increase in purchasing power in one month of protest than in the last ten years.

    2. Oregoncharles

      France, like Italy, is Too Big to Fail. And the EU already has too many crises on its plate. It funked Italy, too.

      Long term, this is not a good sign, but they might just skate through.

  21. Wukchumni

    In regards to Cap’n Ahablankfein & Crew, or as some might want to call them from now on…

    Borneo & Bred Crooks

    The misrouted money went to lavish parties with celebrity guests like Alicia Keys, a $35 million jet, works by Monet and Van Gogh, property in New York, Los Angeles and London, and (ironically) the funding of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

    This is oh so par for the course, buy ne plus ultra paintings* with your gotten gains, and expensive toys, trinkets, & and other assorted over the topism. Yeah, as if I was expecting them to use some of their ill-gotten gains to fix the Flint water situation.

    * Any prole out there can ‘own’ a digital version of said artworks for a trivial cost, just type in Monet & Van Gogh, and then go to images & print it out.

    1. flora

      From Taibbi –

      “Malaysia is rich in copper, timber and oil. But Najib and his cohorts didn’t have to steal any of those resources.
      “He didn’t steal diamonds or bananas. He stole debt,” says Pang. “This is something completely new. And he couldn’t have done it without a bank the size of Goldman.”

      Sounds almost kinda like PE or a vulture fund taking over a whole country, with help from Goldman Sachs. That’s some “public/private” deal they had going.

      “Pang believes the public still hasn’t grasped the significance of 1MDB. The scandal showed that all it takes is a corrupt official and a morally flexible bank office to generate billions in public losses.”

      We don’t need no regulations
      We don’t need no fraud control
      No dark sarcasm in the boardroom
      SEC, leave them banks alone
      Hey! Fed, leave them banks alone

  22. Whoamolly

    Re: If you are over 50 leaving job wont be your choice

    My first thought was “in what world is this news?” I remember a big layoff at a high tech company where I worked 35 years ago.

    About a week after the layoff I was at lunch with a friend. He said “Have you noticed that everyone over 40 is gone?”

    This was back when fools like us still believed that age discrimination laws actually meant something.

    1. Wukchumni

      Would keeping transinformational employees be a burden on younger hires that largely only know the internet, along with that Willy Loman angle if you will.

  23. Craig H.

    > The Prophet of Envy

    There are two things I have never understood about Girard.

    1. He was born in 1923. I thought the most important question on everybody’s mind for a French guy who was born in 1923 was what they were doing in 1942. It says Girard was in school. I thought this was not the right answer to the question.

    2. The scapegoat gets away. “Scape”. Get it? That a lot of people don’t realize this is commonly used wrong is not a big deal. But this man is a scholar. This is a key word in his book.

    Anyway like a lot of warmed over Nietzsches (see Foucault, Rand, Crowley and LaVey) there is little to compare to the original guy. Also Friedrich N. had the greatest mustache ever.

    Here is a picture of a goat who hasn’t escaped getting a band on its right rear leg.

    1. David

      Why 1942? Girard was 15 when the war broke out, and 16 during the defeat of 1940. It wasn’t unknown for teenagers to take part in the Resistance, but obviously most did not do so. If it matters, Girard was probably doing the year of intensive study leading to entry to an elite institute of higher education. He was student until the end of the war. Girard’s books are long and dense, but “Violence and the Sacred” in particular is full of interesting things.

      1. Wukchumni

        My dad was 13 when the goose steppers came in without knocking and lived in Prague throughout the war and the Czechs only got uppity late in the game (nothing like the Yugoslav partisans, there’s a war within a war there) and my dad was involved in some capacity in the Prague Uprising in 1945, as you might expect of a 20 year old seeing a light at the end of the tyrannical tunnel.

        For him the 6 long years were more of outwitting the Nazis, in that they had a doctor who was a family friend, and he diagnosed my dad with having a series of highly communicable-but not fatal diseases, over the course of the war, all of them imaginary.

        He wasn’t the only medical fraud, he told me. This one ward that was for those so afflicted and cordoned off, was full of phonies like him, and they got drunk on Slivovitz, and were sort of a leper colony unto themselves.

        Men his age would’ve been prime candidates to work in war factories, et al.

        …he lifted a finger for the 3rd Reich

    2. Anonymous2

      You have to remember that Girard wrote in French so he did not use the word ‘scapegoat ‘ but rather ‘bouc emissaire ‘.

      I find him a very interesting writer, very thought-provoking. I recommend him to others.

      The concept of mimetic crises is a very interesting one. IMO much of the West is caught up in an escalating crisis or series of crises if you prefer. Girard’s writings suggest that this will not end well.

      1. Craig H.

        All the bibles I see translate the Hebrew azazel to English scapegoat. The only French bibles I can see online have Leviticus 16:8 with azazel. No goat emissary. They have bouc in the first clause but seem to think azazel needs to stick in the second clause. Google translate does not provide any English or French equal to Hebrew azazel.


        The translation of Gerard I have has the context of the bad Sunday School usage of scapegoat. I get the impression his bible study was not advanced. But you could be right and it’s not well translated. Thank you for raising this point!

    3. Oregoncharles

      To my knowledge, your list of “warmed over Nietzsches” have little or nothing to do with Nietzsche – who is often misrepresented.

      1. Craig H.

        The common threads are: 1. religions are stupid & 2. genius humans deserve study and recognition and VIP sections; you regular humans are so lucky to have us.

        To be fair to Nietzsche his worst examples were written after he was already mentally disabled and yet could still write sentences. The others lack this excuse.

        Do you think he still had all his marbles when he wrote “Twilight of the Idols”?

  24. Wukchumni

    That Rolling Stone article has got some keepers…

    I mean there it is right in the bezzle’s very name: Low Taek Jhoo, or “Low Take Jhoo”.

    Lloyd is a bit height challenged, I could’ve sworn there was a few phone books underneath his posterior when testifying before congress and flailing arms about in a robot from Lost In Space example of having challenged limbs.

    What really set Wall Street afire was a pair of fall revelations. On November 8th, the Wall Street Journal reported longtime Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein – who stepped down on October 1st to “pursue other interests” – met on more than one occasion with one of the most infamous figures in the 1MDB scandal, Low Taek Jho, better known as “Jho Low.”

  25. Wukchumni

    As the partial government shutdown comes to the end of its first week, more national parks are being impacted. At Yosemite National Park in California, some visitor facilities were closed because of human waste and public safety issues.

    “Unfortunately, the following facilities and areas inside Yosemite National Park are closed due to impacts from human waste and public safety concerns: Wawona Campground and Hodgdon Meadow Campground,” the park staff said in a release.

    Additionally, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was to close today, December 29, due to impacts from human waste and vehicular safety concerns along Wawona Road, Highway 41. All park visitor centers are currently closed.
    I’m game to go up into Sequoia NP to check out the situation there-but only when the visitation plummets after the new year & if we’re still in shutdown mode, and we differ from Yosemite NP in that there’s just one road and limited possibilities of parking/access in the winter, a good bit of it funneled into going to the Sherman Tree, and there’s pit toilets there, maybe 4 of them, and things could be getting a bit tippy, and BYO TP.

    I’d imagine the concessionaire (Delaware North) is probably picking up trash on a regular basis, as they are unaffected by the shutdown, and it’s their bread and butter and you don’t want it in the gutter.

    A friend mentioned the other day that people were dropping flies on the icy surface of the approach to the Brobdingnagian, on account of NPS not putting out sand to enable traction, as is normally the case. He said among the fallen, there was enough to field a hockey team & the ice capades in their number.

    It’s decidedly bad value if you save the $30 entrance fee, but lose what it bought you.

    1. Cal2

      “Park is closed”
      “We’ll bike in anyway”

      “We can’t allow that, there’s no law enforcement in the park”
      “So who is going to stop me from biking in?”

    2. Oregoncharles

      We were just at Olympic National Park over Christmas; in particular, the Quinault Valley Rain Forest. The resort village was very much open for business, of course, but both the NF and the NP ranger stations were closed. They don’t charge admission on the Quinault River roads, which are pretty short; but we were blocked by a down tree (an alder, not giant but too big to move easily) a short distance in. It had been there a while; no one to move it. I’m surprised the locals hadn’t, but using a chain saw in the Park might be dicey. Of course, no rangers.

      The valley is famous for giant trees – 6 record conifers. We only had a day, so the only one we saw was the world-record spruce, which was at our motel! Not a sequoia, but darned impressive. We looked for the Western Red Cedar, couldn’t find the trail, and eventually learned from a neighbor that it had fallen several years ago, so the trail was neglected. Now there are only 5. I don’t know where the new record tree is. The others would require longer hikes than we had time for. And it’s rain forest, even more than here, so it was raining. We did see some pretty waterfalls and the clouds over Lake Quinault were spectacularly beautiful.

      The effects of the shutdown would be greater where there’s more traffic and more infrastructure – the Quinault River roads go in only a few miles.

  26. Outer station

    Macron snd Oettinger, Budget Commissioner: “we will allow one time deficit”
    – this is really interesting! Who are this particular “we”? Is Oettinger the black heart of the neoliberal evil of EU? If he can be persuaded to change his ways, can the EU take another turn?

  27. David

    Just to note that the “Wire” article on the gilets jaunes, whilst not bad, is very dated, and things have moved along a lot in the last couple of weeks.
    Effectively, the GJ have realised that they can achieve far more by sporadic and unexpected guerrilla activities than by large marches and demonstrations. They are still very active – thousands were out this weekend – and there is no sign of the commitment flagging.They are engaged in what is (to vary the metaphor) attrition warfare against the state, because the state simply cannot continue to deploy police and gendarmes all over France every time there’s a social media message saying “let’s go to X.” In the end, the GJ can keep their protest going longer than the state can supply the forces to counter them, and they will always have the initiative. The latest idea is a protest in Paris tomorrow night to coincide with the celebrations on the Champs Elysée. There may well be more fireworks than usual.

    1. flora

      Thanks for this update.
      Big demonstrations attract US MSM press interest; with fewer big demonstrations the US MSM has mostly decided the GJ protest has subsided and not now important enough to continue reporting, imo.
      Your updates are a welcome source of info.

    2. DJG

      David: Thanks. The article is interesting nevertheless, because in the U S of A, the so-called law enforcement agencies are so violent that there can be no discussion here of the populace acting up and burning a few things. In the U.S., as we see over and over, the cops’ guns come out and citizens are wounded and killed. This constant state of low-level threat by guns, built into the Second Amendment of the Constitution, puts a damper on speech and action in the U.S. Only the unions, back when we had unions here, were willing to take risks.

      I note the end of the article by Laurent Gayer, which is a kind of parable:

      The incident took place at another occupied rond-point, facing the local Auchan supermarket, following an even more aggressive intervention of the police. One of the last Gilet Jaune still standing on the roundabout was convinced, by now, that “the cops will hit everything that moves.” André, a retired worker formerly employed in a local packing plant, did not go as far as calling the episodes of civil strife that accompanied the movement in Paris a form of resistance to police brutality. Overall, however, he considered that they had been beneficial to the cause. “Violence brings dialogue,” he claimed.

      His sister-in-law, also in her seventies, opined: “At least, now, the rulers are shit scared.”

      This entire scene and the observations by the civilians would never take place in the U.S. of A. And Americans should start contemplating why.

      1. Cal2

        “This constant state of low-level threat by guns, built into the Second Amendment of the Constitution, puts a damper on speech and action in the U.S.” You claim the police arm themselves based on the Second Amendment?, or, people can’t speak or take action because of it? Am I misunderstanding you?

        Ever hear of the Bundy Standoff? Armed supporters with weapons made the well armed feds back down.

        Of course this was in Nevada and open country rather than an urban area.
        Maybe there was an election about to happen or something like that?

        1. Carey

          “Ever hear of the Bundy Standoff? Armed supporters with weapons made the well armed feds back down.”

          Yes, because they were from the Right. Lefties who might attempt that would be terminated with extreme prejudice.

          1. tegnost

            If the the bundy’s had foolishly opened up on the feds they would have been either annihilated or in deeper doo than they already are…the feds didn’t “back down”, the bundy’s had zero chance against them, and lost in the end due to reasonable policing of people who were clearly troublemakers.

        2. Yves Smith

          Citizens with guns have no chance versus the police. The cops can bring in helicopter gunships and snipers, and can use grenades, tear gas, sound weapons, and tanks. And that is far from a full list.

          1. ambrit

            Citizens with guns never have done well in any stand up fight with the police. What the police fear is guerrilla war waged against them by fanatics. It doesn’t matter what the fanaticism is about, the effect is the same. That is why, I believe, organizations like the IRA, or the Basque Separatists did so well with bomb attacks. Both the mentioned groups eventually reached negotiated political settlements with the ‘official’ powers where they lived. But the bombings were a necessary stimulus to force the powers to compromise. If one can establish a symbiotic relationship with the general public in any area, one can utilize Mao’s Axiom: Move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.
            The ‘Official’ Powers have not pushed the population to the brink of revolt yet. However, this is a self reinforcing process. Each time a new level of outrage is reached, the perpetrators feel validated and go on to new heights of outrage, until a threshold is crossed and everything falls apart. This is not a matter of if, but of when.
            Humans are so predictable, their institutions even more so.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              This was Michael Collins insight in 1919 in Ireland. Up to then ‘rebellion’ meant grabbing a gun or pike, putting on a uniform and then fight the power. It rarely, if ever worked.

              He pretty much singlehandedly re-wrote the book on how to have an armed rebellion. Essentially, keep your head down, develop a better intelligence network than the State (in his case, he ran agents inside the British establishment in Ireland), and pick your targets carefully for assassination or harassment – and never, ever, give the State forces a nice juicy target. Mao was a keen student of Collins apparently.

          2. David

            I think there’s an NC law that, as a discussion thread gets longer and longer, the probability that it will turn into a discussion of the US approaches 1.0. That’s not surprising since most of the readers hail from there. But it’s worth pointing out that the French case is entirely different, not least because the French have a national police force with specially trained crowd control units, who are not usually armed when deployed. There have been some scuffles between police and protesters, and some gilets jaunes have been forcibly prevented from taking trains and buses, but that’s about it.
            More generally, what PK is describing is essentially asymmetric warfare, which goes back a long way (“guerrilla” is Spanish for “little war”, the war of resistance against the French invasion over 200 years ago). But the GJ are perhaps the first example of asymmetric political warfare I can think of.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              Yes, asymmetric warfare goes back a long way, although Collins specific insight was that the aim wasn’t to wear down the opponents military, but to make civilian administration impossible. By preventing the British State from running the country, this gave space for the ‘political arm’ of the IRA to set up a shadow alternative State and then become the legitimate government – this was the model followed by Mao and Ho Chi Minh. When you can show you can deliver basic services better than the existing ruler, then you’ve won.

              As for political asymmetric warfare, I suppose the old ‘flying pickets’ were an example of this.

              1. ambrit

                Oh yes. “We shall, we shall, we shall not be moved!”
                Grandad was involved in the General Strike in the London area as a shop steward.
                There’s an example of asymmetric political warfare for limited ends that worked.

  28. diptherio

    File under: Facebook is awesome

    * We found that at least 61 percent of apps we tested automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app. This happens whether people have a Facebook account or not, or whether they are logged into Facebook or not.

    * We also found that some apps routinely send Facebook data that is incredibly detailed and sometimes sensitive. Again, this concerns data of people who are either logged out of Facebook or who do not have a Facebook account.

  29. Tomonthebeach

    New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in US Politics

    The flawed assumption is that the volume of the roar correlates r=1.0 with the impact on the masses. That is nonsense. The article is a classic example of economic analyses drawing bogus conclusions. The main premise that even if Russia tried to meddle in our politics, their investment is too puny to have any effect on outcomes. Really? Hollering “Fire!” is still an effective means for emptying a stadium or theater causing panic, anger, injury – and it costs the price of an admissions ticket. A single video of a mushroom cloud killed Goldwater’s presidential run. Quantity only Trumps quality when quality is in short supply.

    1. ambrit

      A quibble, if I may.
      The famous Goldwater Flower commercial aired on prime time television during the era when that was “the only game in town” for video propaganda. Today, the video propaganda field is wide and bountiful. You need a lot of buys and the requisite money, to reach a similar percentage of the electorate as did the anti-Goldwater ad.
      One can argue that ‘cunning plans’ will overcome mass sleaze. But that is not a given. In military strategy, overwhelming mass has triumphed over ‘cunning plans’ many times. The ‘Big Lie’ comes to mind in the propaganda field. That strategy relies on constant repetition. Sadly, the ‘Big Lie’ method works.

      1. Wukchumni

        Constant repetition of roadside signage here in California’s red state bastion went from blaming Democrats for the drought, and then as if to flip a switch with the times, those all came down after the bountiful largess of a few winters past, to be replaced by “Dams not Trains” or other variants of a similar nature.

        Devin Nunes wins easily by 5+ points last month, and his constituency passes these drive-by suggestions all the time.

    2. macnamichomhairle

      I think IT is clear in THE article that THE Russian products were so feeble and unfocused THAT it is very unlikely they had any effect. Your point is extraneous.

    3. Todde

      The problem with your analogy is that it was a theater full of people all yelling at the top of their lungs, some of whom were also yelling fire.

      It gets drowned out in the other noise.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m imagining a mouse holding up a tiny sign reading “FIRE!”

        ZOMG!!!!! TEH MEMES!!!!!!!!!

        I’ve seen the memes. It’s no wonder they haven’t been able to come up with cases of people whose votes were changed by them. Everybody talking their book, so far as I can tell, very much including the political operatives.

  30. Wukchumni

    I want my
    I want my 1MDB
    I want my
    I want my 1MDB

    Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
    You loot the state investment fund of the 1MDB
    That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
    Money for nothin’ and your clicks for free
    Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
    Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
    Maybe get a blister on your little finger
    Maybe get a blister on your thumb

    We gotta buy expensive jets
    Custom celebrity deliveries
    We gotta move these funds
    We gotta move these overseas

    (See the little banker with the Mister Clean mane)
    Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
    The good lord’s right hand man got his own jet airplane
    (That little banker he’s an illionaire)

    I want my, I want my, I want my 1MDB

  31. Plenue

    >‘Yellow vest’ protesters try to storm Macron’s holiday hideaway The Local

    “the medieval fort of Bregancon that serves as Macron’s summer retreat”

    “Bregancon generated some unwanted headlines last summer when it emerged Macron was installing a 34,000 euro ($39,000) swimming pool at the fort, which already has its own private beach.”

    Elites really are a self-parody.

      1. polecat

        Maybe he’ll get the lead in ‘The Man in the Iron Tube’.

        And you never know … it could turn out to be a one-way ride.

    1. Yassine

      The institutions of the Fifth Republic are designed in such a way that we essentially elect someone that gets to play king for 5 years. The tacit agreement is that he should not flaunt it our face. Unfortunately for him, Macron does not seem to have gotten the memo from Hollande…

    2. flora

      an aside: I wonder if Macron and his wife ever attending the the musical Les Misérables, and if they enjoyed the show.

  32. Earl Erland

    I see that Mate is not down with the New Knowledge report on Russian 2016 election interference. I don’t know that he should be so dismissive of the “asset development” section of the report. For example, the IRA picture of Jesus consoling the teenager addicted to masturbation by telling the teenager that “we will beat it together” reminds me of a conversation I had with my Grandfather one day while fishing:

    Grandpa: Hey, Junior, do you know who catches the most fish?
    Me: No Grandpa.
    Grandpa: The master baiter.

    50 years later and I’ve not forgotten those pearls of wisdom.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      And it keeps getting better and better. From the horrid FAQ:

      This is 42 is a community of passionate people where members have access to exciting events.

      I guess I’ll give “community” a pass… And then there’s this:

      Where is the stage located?

      The stage is located at the bottom of the seating map.

      No. The stage is not located at the bottom of the seating map. That’s confusing the map and the territory. The stage can be located by inspecting the seating map, and although typically the stage is represented at the top of such maps, we have chosen the bottom….

      I bet there’s a lot more like this, but I’ve lost heart. I can’t look any more.

  33. Irrational

    Re. hygge:
    One of the few fairly sensible and fairly correct articles I have seen about hygge.
    More basically, I think it is also about having 6 months a year that are pretty dark and depressing and having plenty of candles around to counteract it, especially around the shortest day of the year, which is shortly before Christmas.
    On the specifics, plenty of Danes are complaining about the quality of healthcare and wait times. Also note that plenty of European countries match the leave entitlements of Denmark. OTOH the observation about work hours is spot on judging from my Danish friends.
    I am an expat Dane for a number of reasons.

    1. tongorad

      On the specifics, plenty of Danes are complaining about the quality of healthcare and wait times.

      And are they complaining about the fear of medical bankruptcies?

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      I am always disappointed when articles like this don’t address the role population homogeneity plays in getting buy-in for more egalitarian and supportive policies.

  34. Jessica

    About gold for diversification, did something happen in May 2018? Casually eyeballing the chart, it looks like in May 2018, gold went from correlating fairly well with the S&P to correlating almost completely negatively.

  35. ewmayer

    o “The 2018 Audubon Photography Awards: Top 100 Audubon” — I don’t know what fowl backwaters my subconscious is wading in, but on first sight I read this headline as “The 2018 Audubon Pornography Awards”. Please no one flip me the bird!

    o “The perils of trusting America: A reminder for Asian allies Straits Times (Furzy Mouse)” — Re. the Palmerston quote, that man is worth listening to – after all, they even named one of the 10 Downing Street cats after him. (There’s a whole series of these “bitter cat feud between larry and Palmerston” stories in the UK tabloids)

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I gather that gold is very soft and tungsten is very hard. If one had a narrow nail and the seller allowed one to test the bar, one could see if the nail drives easily halfway into the bar, or if it goes in just a little and then suddenly stops.

  36. Craig H.

    The year-end issue of the Economist has a pub quiz.

    e. g.

    Which well-known economist said, “Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog”?

    I got that one but I was stumped by darn near every other one they had.

    1. a different chris

      Dogs aren’t as stupid as economists. Why would you exchange your bone for an identical one? Actually one that is identical but has somebody else’s spit on it.

      But I have seen some surprisingly social behavior among both dogs and cats even when it comes to food. Not all of them, I suppose a few are the canine/kitty version of economists, but quite a few. We all know dogs are “social animals”, and it takes a lot of skill to be that way. What we have also learned is that cats, so often thought as “loners”, can play it either way. A contented cat alone in a sunny window, or a host of barn cats interacting. Cats don’t seem to suffer any psychological problems either way.

  37. Synoia

    No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They’re Not Trump GQ (MR). I dunno. Did this guy check with Neera first?

    Does that Include Beto O’Forke?

  38. Jessica

    About “Political Apology of a Lingerie Model Politics Slash Letters”
    Because capitalism cannot actually run the kind of knowledge-driven economy that industrial capitalism created the foundation for, we are still running mostly under the rules of late industrial monopoly capitalism. Society now is like a full-grown woman trapped inside a corset that was cruel, but at least kind of sort fit when we were maybe 14, but now we are 22 and our body is warped from years of this. But we live on a planet on which all leading societies are trapped in this corset, so we can only know something different in our imaginations. This is why imagination is so crucial to positive change nowadays.
    Three aspects of this warping are:
    1) Financialization
    2) Funding and therefore domination of knowledge creation and distribution through advertising
    3) Media paid not paid to enlighten us, to help us become wiser and more compassionate, but to grab our attention by any means possible, which often means triggering our lizard brain and bringing out our worst.
    In the past, industrial capitalism was contradictory enough. However, in creating a system powered by knowledge but in which media and other knowledge institutions don’t even have enough relationship with reality to be false, post-industrial capitalism has raised this to a new level.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There is a very good George Monbiot in the Guardian today on exactly this topic (creating false knowledge, not lingerie modelling).

      We can expect commercial enterprises to attempt whatever lawful ruses they can pull off. It is up to society, represented by government, to stop them, through the kind of regulation that has so far been lacking. But what puzzles and disgusts me even more than this failure is the willingness of universities to host research that helps advertisers hack our minds. The Enlightenment ideal, which all universities claim to endorse, is that everyone should think for themselves. So why do they run departments in which researchers explore new means of blocking this capacity?

      What struck me about the original article is just how shameless they were about essentially scamming the writer. Its one thing to take advantage of freelancers (and this seems yet another story about how prevalent this is nowadays), but to do it in a way that is so blatant, it seems almost wilfully cruel. It also shows that these companies have no fear of reputational damage – in most industries this is the primary thing that enforces some sort of ethical behaviour.

      1. David

        Money, I’m afraid. Universities are effectively little businesses nowadays, and many academics operate without tenure, depending for survival on the money they can raise.

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