Links 12/31/18

Bacteria found in ancient Irish soil halts growth of superbugs: New hope for tackling antibiotic resistance Science Daily (original).

California Becomes 1st State to Ban Retail Sale of Dogs, Cats, Rabbits NBC Los Angeles

Meet The Man Who Lives With Hyenas National Geographic

How to re-establish​​ trust in economics as a science Lars P. Syll (UserFriendly).

Wells Fargo agrees to $575 million settlement affecting all 50 states in wake of fake accounts USA Today. And no executives go to jail, despite outright theft from customers’ accounts.

Lord Abbett Affiliated v. Navient Corporation: “We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you!” Condemed to Debt (UserFriendly). “Forbearance” lets Navient keep non-performing loans on the books…

Regional US central bankers turn their focus to Main Street FT (SF). “…as it becomes clear that the gains of this recovery have not been evenly spread.”

Top architects are left stunned by giant cracks that appeared in Sydney’s Opal Tower just months after the $165million building opened – as it’s revealed the block was built on a reclaimed swamp Daily Mail. From last week; the start of a continuing story. And a metaphor for the Australian housing market?

Year in Review

The Story of 2018 Was Climate Change NYT

A Look into Hindsight Capital’s Spectacular 2018 John Authers, Bloomberg

From Encrypting the Web to Encrypting the Net: 2018 Year in Review EFF

The Year in Math and Computer Science Quanta Magazine

Year In Review: 2018 The Onion

Syraqistan

Saudi Arabia gets back to basics Asia Times

Inside The Country Where You Can Buy A Black Man For $400 Buzzfeed

Brexit

Juncker calls on UK to ‘get your act together’ on Brexit talks FT

How the right’s Brexit dream died The Spectator

Brexit: a ship too far EU Referendum. A blow against optimism re: post-Brexit supply chain adjustments.

Dealing with the dead — the year disaster capitalism came home Bella Caledonia (DG).

U.K. Reportedly Seeks Military Bases in Caribbean and Asia Bloomberg

Slow progress on EU army as states protect sovereignty, national industry Handelsblatt Today

New Cold War

Putin to Trump: Moscow ready for ‘most extensive’ talks Politico

Republicans quietly end probe into FBI ‘bias’ against Trump during Clinton and Russia investigations Independent (Furzy Mouse).

Health Care

Judge clears the way for appeal of ruling against health law AP. But he stayed his ruling.

Short-Term Health Plans Hold Savings For Consumers, Profits For Brokers And Insurers KHN

China?

China’s economy slows further as manufacturing contracts for first time in two and a half years South China Morning Post

An ‘atheist’ empire? Trump aides rally evangelicals in China fight Politico

Trump Transition

After Syria, Trump Should Clean Out His National Security Bureaucracy The American Conservative. Plus Jim Webb SecDef trial balloon.

Democrats in Disarray

Bernie alumni seek meeting to address ‘sexual violence’ on ‘16 campaign Politico. Paragraph eight: “Several people who signed the letter said that their effort is not just about Sanders’ 2016 or 2020 presidential campaigns, but rather about what they called a pervasive culture of toxic masculinity in the campaign world.” Let the ratf*cking begin!

Fake-porn videos are being weaponized to harass women: ‘Everybody is a potential target’ WaPo. Digital evidence is not evidence.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

How an Undercover Oil Industry Mercenary Tricked Pipeline Opponents Into Believing He Was One of Them The Intercept

Popular apps share data with Facebook without user consent FT (DL). “[T]he US company’s developer kit did not give the option of waiting for a user’s permission before transmitting some types of data.”

Didn’t Get the Job? The Robots May Not Have Liked Your Social Media Activity (video) WSJ (UserFriendly). Clever use of slider-bars to model personalities as bundles of entirely independent traits, driven by data mined from social media personae.

Incremental Despotism: Losing Our Freedoms Small Steps at a Time Ghion Journal (CL).

Imperial Collapse Watch

Rising Tides Will Sink Global Order Foreign Policy

A Critique of Liberal Imperialism Valdai Discussion Club

The coming reckoning for capitalism Axios (!).

Books That Challenge the Consensus on Capitalism Bloomberg

Class Warfare

Amazon’s Anti-Union Past Is Coming Back to Bite It Vice. A new partnership with SEIU…

The Carceral Problem Is Getting Worse Jacobin

Here’s how federal inmates made an Alabama sheriff $1.5 million Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Art-School Confidential Chronicle of Higher Education

Agentic appeals increase charitable giving in an affluent sample of donors PLOS One. n = 12,316.

Chuck Todd Refuses To Give Air Time To Climate Deniers: ‘The Science Is Settled’ HuffPo

Prosecutors say California utility company PG&E could face murder charges for wildfires Business Insider

Here’s how Paradise ignored warnings and became a deathtrap Los Angeles Times. Sounds to me like the street system was never going to support evacuating the whole town at once, no matter what.

A rogue bald eagle at the Cotton Bowl lands — on a Philadelphia Eagles fan, naturally. The Inquirer. The bird was lucky. In Philly they would have thrown snowballs at it. Kidding! There were two fans, actually:

Antidote du jour (via):

And a bonus antidote, or anti-antidote:

Ingraham had me at “a shipment of crickets for the lizard.” A master class on pacing, the thread is better than the author’s subsequent story in WaPo.

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.

226 comments

  1. The Rev Kev

    For those interested, New Year’s Eve is almost here. In about an hour and a half local time but an hour earlier down in Sydney where they have about 12 minutes of massive fireworks each year. Call it taking place at 8 am local time in New York or 5 am in L.A. Below is a link to what looks like the live broadcast from Sydney Harbour and a show leading up to midnight and the fireworks-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmaDLV1CnDM

    Happy New years, guys from the Land of Oz.

    Reply
  2. William Beyer

    Since reading Econned I have not trusted economics as a science; probably never did. I see economics as a blend of art and science, much like architecture. We architects subscribe to the “laws” of physics, but also know that water sometimes runs uphill.

    Reply
    1. Jason Boxman

      I remember sitting in my Econ 101 class, and then I learn that the models I’m taught assume perfect information. Immediately alarms go off in my head, because as we know, that’s pure fantasy. I’ve been skeptical ever since, and certainly since 2008 and reading Econned.

      What I’ve learned from life in the US is you can never be cynical enough. Low trust society. I wonder what it’s like to not live here?

      Reply
    2. Reality is an option

      Art would have been fine. Maybe something beautiful mat have come out of it. Austerity and QE to drive asset prices lack aesthetic qualities
      It is ideology with a science-looking presentation.
      Read Steve Keen Debunking Economics for details about the disconnect between economics (neoclassical) and reality

      Reply
      1. marku52

        That really is a phenomenal book. He lays out the basic assumptions fundamental to the “science”, shows how badly they are contradicted by simple ordinary experience.

        like “An additional dollar is equally valuable to Bill Gates and a homeless person”

        Incredible. Case after case like that. Its no wonder that they can’t predict a thing.

        Reply
    3. Brian (another one they call)

      My degree was in biology. The existence of constants, measurable responses and physical law is not comparable to something derived from wishful thinking that can not perpetuate itself past the theoretical stage.
      Or, when the money supply and its value are based solely on the whim of people that control printers and place bets on the outcome of herds, it is more closely akin to religion. A control fraud doesn’t fit within the definition of science.
      Our world has progressed (devolved) to fighting entropy. Are we approaching critical mass?

      Reply
    4. Jeremy Grimm

      I lost all confidence in economic theory after a couple of decades trying to understand the US Economy and the stock market. Nothing made sense in terms of anything I learned in the sampling of economics classes I took in college. I used to read Krugman before and after the crash but he explained little and came up with excuses and rationales for everything else. Shortly after the Great Recession I heard Yves speak on a television show [I don’t remember which now — I think it was PBS Bill Moyers (?)], got a copy of Econned, read it, and became a regular lurker at NakedCapitalism.

      Reply
      1. Massinissa

        I don’t even remember how or when I found NC. I know I’ve been a regular daily lurker for at least half a decade now. I guess it may have started during or just before OWS.

        Reply
    5. ChrisPacific

      I think at its worst, it’s more like religion than science. Theory is not tested against reality but accepted as an article of faith. Discrepancies between reality and the theory are regarded as evidence that reality is deficient, and the solution is to take steps to better align reality with the theory, rather than vice versa. The goal of economists is to achieve a well-functioning economy, where ‘well-functioning’ is defined as acting in accordance with their principles, models and assumptions. Economies can be ‘well-functioning’ while also causing a great deal of harm, putting people out of work or homes, inhibiting action on urgent problems like climate change etc. Conversely economies that don’t align with the theory are deficient and must be corrected, even if they happen to be delivering good results for people, businesses and society.

      Reply
    6. Tomonthebeach

      I think Paul Solman of PBS fame characterizes economics appropriately – it is an effort to make sense of things through the lens of financial transactions and economic investments.

      Amos Tversky and Dan Kahneman started publishing in the 70s pointing out that too often economists overlook an important disturbance term in their equations – the human factor. Their work led to what is today called “behavioral economics.” The dilemma as I see it is that Economics models are generally linear (apologies to Joreskog) whereas human decision-making, even in the aggregate, is not linear. Sometimes macroeconomics gets it right, but just as often they get it wrong. That is called chance in statistics.

      We have seen most dominant economics models refuted, if not turned on their heads. This is mainly because they were never empirically-based in the first place. Nevertheless, they still influence public policy and central banking. I attribute this to the fact that not all users of economics want scientific precision. They are brokers, financial advisors, bankers, and hustlers who apply economics as an art form. It is the applied part of any field that conflates fact with fiction.

      There is a science of economics. Like all science, it stipulates disprovable hypotheses, obtains valid and reasonable data to test the odds of it predicting better than chance. The rest is opinion, at best, reliant on hunch and ceteris paribus aggregate analyses of data with dubious validity or even appropriateness. Until Economics decides to be more science than art, it will be vulnerable to ridicule.

      My field, Psychology, started out as art (mythology even thanks to Freud), but the last century has witnessed a shift to scientific psychology. Alas, mental health service providers still benefit from the art and myths of yore, so the field as a whole, like Economics, is still widely viewed to be art. Ce la vie.

      Reply
  3. Steve H.

    > Agentic appeals increase charitable giving in an affluent sample of donors PLOS One. n = 12,316.

    Useful. Our community theater has been struggling with making a transition from a proposal model, where the proposer is charged with coming up with the cash, to a seasonal model where the Board does. A lot of work was done to make a capital campaign aimed at local businesses, but I was noticing that past business donations had a background connection, like a relative was in the show. In other words, the business Owner is making a donation, using the business as the means.

    Then I picked up a book by Twink Lynch and read this head-popper:

    “In reality, corporations and foundations only supply about 10 percent of all donated dollars nationally. Ninety percent of the funds come from individual donors, living or dead.”

    O!

    From the article:

    > In this study, 4.1% of respondents donated (N = 494).
    > After viewing the agentic messages, participants who contributed to the campaign donated an average of $431.70 USD. After viewing the communal messages, participants who contributed to the campaign donated an average of $270.30 USD.

    We have a hard budget cap under $20k, and were looking at finding 6 donors of $500 apiece from a pool of about 150 people. This study suggests we couldn’t do that if our pool was all income >$90k. Which (Ho Ho Ho) it ain’t.

    Reality checks is good.

    Reply
    1. Phillip Allen

      Two years ago I attended a regional arts economy conference and sat in on a presentation by Hatbox Theater in Concord, NH. They use a model that is something of a hybrid between proposal-based and company-based funding. Hatbox produces a two-week Christmas Carol holiday production on its account, but otherwise books their theater with productions from others. Once a year, anyone who wants to stage a production at their theater makes a pitch to their Board (or a subcommittee thereof). They book theater, music, stand up comedy, dance – any kind of performance.

      The theater commits to providing on-stage rehearsal time and use of sound and lighting equipment and the freedom for the presenter to arrange seating and stage to their production. The theater also does seasonal marketing via their calendar and other promotion. Individual acts are expected to vigorously promote their appearance to their own network/audience, and receive 50% of the door receipts.

      Hatbox Theater operates as a for-profit business and receives a significant portion of their annual income from advertising sales. They have a combination of volunteers and a small paid staff. They have managed to keep their theater open and booked to capacity for several years as far as their program calendar is concerned, some acts being more successful than others, naturally. All the artists involved make at least some money (unusual in the arts world). It’s an intriguing model.

      Reply
          1. Cal2

            “$372 billion in total compensation”

            What percentage of that went to CEOs of hedge funds, studio executives and media money-menschs?

            How much went to the actual artists, performers and craft personnel?

            Reply
            1. Polar Donkey

              I knew a guy who built a social network system similar to Facebook but 5 years late. Tried to then use system for fantasy sports, again 5 years to late. I pitched him an idea. Let artists post images of their art, and have other artists\teachers\art related people comment on the art. Remove the art dealer middlemen. I got the idea after seeing a tv show with these two rich twits telling other rich, clueless people what is good and what isn’t. Why do these twits get make or break artists. My friend didn’t see value in the idea and sold all his equipment.

              Reply
    2. bruce wilder

      Just some theoretical musing, but if I wanted to make a communal appeal and have it be successful, I would do it in a communal setting: have a meeting or a party. Context matters, not content.

      Reply
  4. Louis Fyne

    Economics is not a science like thermodynamics (except some discrete aspects of microeconomic)….

    As no one can rewind history and replay the last decade after changing one variable to prove/disprove most economic “laws”

    Immutable physcial properties/laws are kinda a big deal in sciences.

    On that grumpy, pithy thought….happy new year!! Now excuse me as i have to tell a puppy to get off my lawn

    Reply
    1. rd

      There is an immutable law in economics: People are people, not steel balls in a vacuum.

      As a result, economics is much more like trying to apply the laws of physics in “Alice in Wonderland” instead of a physics textbook.

      Reply
    2. tiebie66

      I disagree with point 3: “Stop pretending that there are laws in economics.” There very well might be such laws, as ‘immutable’ as those of the sciences. My suspicion is that our understanding of economics is comparable to the understanding of gravity before Kepler. Economics is yet too poorly understood for laws to be accurately discerned and formulated.
      Given that laws are perceived to exist in the sciences and we believe that they do not exist in economics, just where does the discontinuity occur between physics and economics? Do they exist in economics, but we are not yet able to tell or might never be able to tell due to the complexities involved, or do they not exist because the human factor introduces some supernatural aspect to economics?

      Reply
        1. Grebo

          Gases also have a lot of chaos but physicists have equations that describe their bulk behaviour very well with only a few variables.
          On the other hand, turbulence still stumps them.

          Economics may be tractable within certain parameters and intractable without. It is the current unscientific methodology of economics that is the problem, I don’t believe the economy is inherently ineffable.

          Reply
          1. ewmayer

            “On the other hand, turbulence still stumps them.”

            In a sense, but describing in what sense leads us to the crux of the matter: The ‘immutable laws’ underpinning the ‘hard sciences’ are all based in some shape or form on what is called a Conservation Law. Some examples:

            o Conservation of mass, momentum and energy – or in the relativistically-generalized sense, the first and last get combined into conservation of mass/energy;

            o Conservation of electrical charge;

            o Conservation of certain quantum-mechanical properties, where the appropriate conservation law depends on the context: e.g. only certain classes of QM processes conserve parity, spin, nucleon number, etc).

            In the case of fluid-dynamical turbulence, we know precisely what the relevant conservation laws are (Navier-Stokes equations of conservation of momentum, we usually also lump conservation of mass and energy into the term), but they admit of chaotic behavior with all its attendant difficulties to model/simulate.

            In the case of all but the most basic micro-econ (I give you $5 in exchange for a dozen eggs, I now have $5 less and a dozen eggs more, you have $5 more and a dzen eggs fewer), if you ask “what is conserved in this economic system?”, you get blank stares. Money? Nah, central banks can conjure it up from nothing in whatever quantity they want? Labor? Well, maybe in some sense, but ya gotta deal with unemployment, efficiency and demographic changes. Physical resources? There you actually have hard constraints of a sort (there will only ever be so much water on planet earth, ignoring the occasional ice-containing comet landing here), but most economists simply ignore those – thus we get models (and expectations of) exponential growth of economic output. It really is more a secular religion (like ChrisPacific notes above) than anything else.

            Reply
            1. Grebo

              That’s an interesting point. What is conserved? Value, nope. Utility, nope.

              I would look again at money. Sure, the quantity in circulation can change but if you do the accounting correctly it all comes from somewhere and goes somewhere, even if physically those somewheres are nowhere. Because it is just information.

              So is information conserved? Justin Smith’s work on Information Equilibrium comes to mind, though I don’t understand it.

              Reply
        2. Kevbot5000

          Actually, even in physics chaos shows up in relatively simple systems. Three body problems are probably the easiest example of a system influenced only by gravity that chiefly depend on the makeup of the system on whether they are stable or chaotic.

          Reply
      1. bstamerjon

        From Ishmael
        Laws (scientific) exist in nature.
        Rules (laws) are what a culture decides as a good way to live.

        No one has ever broken the law of gravity, but rules are broken every second.

        Economics is about rules, not laws.

        Reply
    3. flora

      Economics is not a science like thermodynamics?
      It’s not? How can you say such a thing!? ….oh. ;)

      “She was asking me if these things are so large, how come everyone missed it?”
      Luis Garicano on the Queen’s visit to LSE, November 2008
      .

      “I do not know anyone who predicted this course of events. This should give us cause to reflect on how hard a job it is to make genuinely useful forecasts. What we have seen is truly a ‘tail’ outcome – the kind of outcome that the routine forecasting process never predicts. But it has occurred, it has implications, and so we must reflect on it”.
      Glenn Stevens Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, 2008

      Reply
      1. Alex Morfesis

        Mr. Van Arsdale must be spinning in his grave…well…electchester lasted for a few generations…the river keeps rolling on…”we’ll be right back after our break sports fans, where we’ll…”

        Reply
  5. timbers

    Read the link:

    California Becomes 1st State to Ban Retail Sale of Dogs, Cats, Rabbits

    Started to think my ire would be gotten up until I reached…

    the new law, which does not impact the sale of dogs, cats, or rabbits direct from breeders.

    I’ve settled into getting my preferred pet – Labrador Retrievers – from breeders these past decades, and thought the law banned that until I saw that line. I do not like to neuter my dogs (I get males). My google search at the time told me un neutered dogs are on balance healthier than neutered. I could be wrong but that’s my thinking now. And animal shelters have to neuter what they have.

    BTW also saw this headline promoted in between text of the article:

    Prices Rise as the Minimum Wage Increases in Several States

    It caused me to wonder if i’ve ever seen a head line that read “Prices rise as as profits increase.”

    Reply
    1. Lynne

      It did get my ire up, particularly when I read the part about how stores may not sell animals “unless the animal was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, humane society group, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter or a rescue group that’s in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter.”

      Talk about a ridiculously obvious scam!!! “Rescue” outfits are importing dogs into the US because they don’t have “enough” strays to sell. Not only that, they ignore health requirements when they do so. It’s widely accepted that one of those outfits was responsible for the widespread canine influenza epidemic a few years ago. One of my dogs ended up in the hospital on IV’s thanks to that flu.

      Reply
      1. sd

        According to Best Friends, 4,100 dogs and cats are euthanized every day in shelters. Los Angeles has an estimated 44,000 stray dogs on the street.
        https://bestfriends.org/2025-goal

        California is actually trying to make a difference to stop puppy and kitten mills. Hopefully it will work, and the numbers of strays will go way down and animals will find forever homes instead of ending up euthanized in a shelter.

        Reply
        1. Lynne

          See, eg, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/investigations/dog-auction-rescue-groups-donations:

          But the success of the rescue movement in reducing shelter populations, some rescuers say, has been driving rescuers to the auction market. As the number of commercial kennels has decreased, so has the number of shelter animals killed in the United States: A February 2017 estimate put the total for dogs alone at 780,000, a steep drop from estimates for all shelter animals that were as high as 20 million in the 1970s.

          Reply
          1. crittermom

            Wow. I was never aware of such a practice until reading that link.
            Thanks for enlightening me!

            So it seems that ‘mutts’ are in most need of adoption & probably filling most shelters?

            I can’t even go into a shelter, as I want to take them all home. My dogs & cats have all been ‘rescues’. All but one came from people who didn’t take care of them & didn’t want them.

            My beloved Airedale, my only dog who wasn’t a mutt, originally came from an Airedale rescue in another state that was having trouble getting the litter adopted. At a reunion of the litter the first year, one dog was already on its fourth owner (but had obviously finally found its ‘forever’ home).

            I’m anxious for the day when I once again own a home & can adopt/save another ‘best friend’.

            Reply
          1. sd

            Charity Navigator has them rated at 87/100. Give.org is run by the Better Business Bureau. Just saying.

            Perhaps you would like to elaborate and go into more detail as to why you oppose the new legislation in California.

            Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            To the Homo ecconomicus, those darling little critters are just meat. From which profits can be extracted.

            And they are truly just meat in a lot of cultures where dog stew and cat fried rice are regular menu items. As are horses, and now once again whales. Which Japanese epicure will get to delectate the last whale stake on the planet? People pay a lot to get to deflower pretty virgins. What will that squllionaire pay to have that rarest of meat?

            Most people here love those little companion creatures. Not everybody has that sensitivity.

            Effing rotten humans.

            Reply
      2. crittermom

        ” “Rescue” outfits are importing dogs into the US because they don’t have “enough” strays to sell.”

        Sorry, but I find that very hard to believe. Do you have any links to support that?

        I can understand dogs from other areas bringing in diseases, but empty shelters? I’ve never been aware of any.
        The shelters that I know of have too many animals, which is why so many are euthanized each year, & there are many facts to support that. (Thankfully, it does seem that number has declined)

        https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics
        https://www.statista.com/chart/13493/pet-euthanasia-has-declined-sharply-in-the-us/

        Reply
        1. nycTerrierist

          +1

          Thanks for setting the record straight.
          I was composing my reply at the same time…

          shelters are certainly overflowing here in nyc
          I do cat rescue and we are in dire need of more shelter space
          most rescuers must appeal to the goodwill of fosters to get rescues
          off the streets…

          Reply
          1. wilroncanada

            Some “shelters” up her in the BC banana belt are importing “rescue” dogs and cats from both the southwest US and Mexico. Many people want small dogs, of which there are often few in local shelters.

            Reply
        2. Lynne

          Just do a web search. You can start with:

          https://www.npr.org/2015/01/01/374257591/with-rescue-dogs-in-demand-more-shelters-look-far-afield-for-fido

          “In several parts of the country, shelters now import dogs for adoption from other regions — even other countries. That has veterinarians, and even some pet rescue groups, concerned about what some call “dog trafficking.””

          or

          https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/canada-rescue-dogs-import-canines-disease-1.3757656

          Reply
          1. nycTerrierist

            “Patti Strand, director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, an organization that represents the American Kennel Club and dog breeders, calls it “retail rescue.”

            This sounds like a lobbyist for the AKC et al.
            Not sure animal welfare is a top priority for them, especially for mixed breeds.

            Reply
            1. Lynne

              I have purchased four purebred dogs from three different breeders during my lifetime. Each one required a home inspection or references and a contract with specific requirements for the dog’s welfare (not kept outside, basic obedience training at a minimum, spay/neuter requirements, etc), and a specific promise that if I was not for any reason able or willing to keep the dog, it would be returned to them for a full refund (whether the dog was spayed/neutered or not). They have all kept in close contact with me over the years and shown great concern about the dogs’ welfare. Two of them make donations to mixed breed rescues and have encouraged me to do the same (the third is deceased). I’m more impressed with their concern about animal welfare than outfits that fly in dogs from overseas and ignores quarantines and health safeguards.

              Reply
          2. KB

            Yes, my vet in Minnesota is very concerned about the importation of dogs by rescue groups whether from the south or from out of the country. Apparently it’s operating like big business….
            I have only rescued a pup from our local humane society and then from the Pine Ridge Reservation from South Dakota.
            My sister rescues from the Rez, but sees groups doing things not right.
            It is correct to be concerned about this recent development.
            Diseases our Northern dogs are not protected/immune from from the Southern US and elsewhere is already happening.

            Minnesota looks like a great problem right now.

            Reply
        1. Lynne

          “just rescued”? How much time did the pup spend in quarantine?

          I did find it interesting that they have “partners” in Florida, Kentucky, and Alabama on their website, given the NPR article I linked above about some outfits importing dogs from other regions as well as other countries.

          Reply
          1. nycTerrierist

            fyi, there are many dog-fighting rings in the states you mention.
            the lucky ones who are rescued have a better shot at adoption elsewhere…

            Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              Now that this thread has pretty much run it’s course, i’d like to have a shout out for cats, which hardly rated a mention.

              Most cats are worth bupkis, you’re just happy to give away 4 out of 6 in the litter. Yeah, there are a number of breeds worth a few quid, but your garden variety puss and boots has no monetary value.

              Reply
              1. Lynne

                I know far less about cats, except that a good barn cat is highly prized. They are difficult to come by and unfortunately, they often don’t last long around here, mainly due to coyotes. I had one that was with me for 3 years and then disappeared while I was in rehab from surgery (suspect the neighbor was not diligent in putting out food). I kept hoping that she would come back some day but no luck. The local shelters will not let farmers adopt a cat. They insist cats be indoors only.

                Reply
  6. maria gostrey

    “a shipment of crickets for the lizard”

    iambic pentameter is always a lovely way to start the day, methinks.

    thanks!

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      It was perhaps 20 years ago today
      A friend who felt he was wronged
      By a unscrupulous merchant
      Into the mail slot
      In the wee hours
      Out on bivouac maneuvers
      An army of thousands of crickets
      Distributed a dish best served cold

      Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      lol. sent that one to my wife.
      we have experience with me ordering bugs without her knowledge….specifically, Lady bugs…came in a mesh bag in a box and—-although I opened them in the big greenhouse—ended up in both houses then extant.
      crawled in my shirt and my pants and my pockets, got stuck in my hair and beard without me knowing.
      pretty crazy.
      later, after they were established—along with the mantii and lacewings and things that came as eggs—I always had hitchhikers from the greenhouse to the house.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        Speaking of hitchhikers (an anecdote I can’t resist telling): once when I was mowing down in Albuquerque, I stopped to speak with my client and she pointed at my shoulder: “What’s THAT?” It was a gigantic mantis, happily perched on my shoulder and getting a handy ride around the property. I put it on a bush.

        Don’t usually have ladybugs in my beard, though.

        Reply
  7. Brindle

    re: “Bernie alumni seek meeting…..”

    In the article there is no specific allegation regarding the Sanders campaign—there is a specific allegation regarding a member of Kamala Harris’ staff:

    “A longtime top staffer to Sen. Kamala Harris resigned earlier this month after the Sacramento Bee found that the California Department of Justice had settled a lawsuit against him for $400,000 that included allegations of gender harassment and retaliation while he served under Harris when she was state attorney general.”

    Have no doubt that corporate Dem strategists and operatives will try and weaponize this legitimate issue.

    Reply
    1. The Beeman

      from their letter ““discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle,”

      Sexual Violence is a matter for the authorities, not for a private conversation

      Reply
        1. cocomaan

          Maybe. But this kind of thing is pretty much a monthly event at different universities. Considering what I saw being produced by colleges, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was genuine.

          I find it hard to believe anyone can take it seriously. It’s backbiting. Using rumors and threats to create backchannels of control.

          Reply
        2. Elizabeth Burton

          It’s a beautifully written piece of propaganda, revealed in an extremely timely fashion right after a week and a half of “war on Beto” nonsense that only the hardcore New Democrat cultists bought in to. You can’t prove a negative, of course, to begin with, so right off the bat anyone referenced is in trouble. Then the media publishing the news immediately focuses on the Sanders campaign, then reinforces the message by saying the complainants aren’t really targeting any single campaign.

          Then there’s the use of the phrase “toxic masculinity”, which is a dead giveaway there’s impetus behind this from the Democrats, because weaponized #metoo is their go-to when all else fails.

          Anyone remember back right after the ’16 election when Our Revolution was just getting organized, and Jeff Weaver was made interim director until it was in a position to elect permanent officers? And a bunch of “disgurntled IT workers” did exactly this same thing, complaining they refused to work with him because he was so nasty and domineering? Anyone else have a weird feeling of deja vu?

          Reply
    2. RUKidding

      I wondered why this article called out Sanders specifically, when, as indicated, the only known incident of sexual harassment happened during Kamala Harris’ campaign.

      Definitely smells a lot like propaganda and concern trolling to me… unless something can be proven otherwise with firm, clear evidence.

      Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    “An ‘atheist’ empire? Trump aides rally evangelicals in China fight”

    I would be more concerned about this issue if they showed equal concern to Christians in places like Syria. Since the US invasion of Iraq, half of Iraq’s Christian population have fled to other countries in fear of their lives and over 240 cathedrals and churches have been destroyed and I barely heard a peep raised about it during the occupation years. If the west’s plans for Syria had succeeded, Syria’s Christians would have been butchered by ISIS and I doubt that anybody in Washington would have cared. Do they really want to start sanctioning countries over religious matters now? I hope that Trump is not as stupid as George W. Bush was and start referring to “crusades” in his speeches.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      They are trying to bring back not just the Cold War but also “godless Communism.” Still I’m not sure this will have quite the resonance it did back in the churchgoing fifties.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        As proved by the state of the Empire and political economy, it does not take a mass of people to run the bus off a cliff. Dedicated, grim-visages or seemingly gregarious little sets and sects can, by determined attention to collecting power and wealth, bring about all kinds of morbid symptoms. AIPAC and Likud in concert with Revelation-building Rapturists, and the Kochs and their adherents, and the rest of the neo-neo sort, have got all of us to where we are now.

        Hey, I wonder when the Blob will change the State of the Union to the State Of the Empire, deleting that multi-meaning word “union” that they teach the mopery to hate anyway, and focusing us on the Greatness Of America the Vast and Terrible?

        Happier and healthier New Year, everyone! I’m hoping to see some real change, looking forward, not backward!

        Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      “It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener…”

      https://warprayer.org/

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        Yes – they’ve tried to appeal to fellow Christians in the US, and complained bitterly about being abandoned by “Christian” Zionists.

        Reply
  9. Carolinian

    The gist of the LA Times Paradise story is that the town never should have been there at all (although they don’t say that). It was on a ridge and at the head of a canyon that funneled high speed winds–100 mph or more–out of the Sierras. Better roads might have saved the people, not the town.

    Since it’s all gone now perhaps that particular message has been sent.

    Reply
    1. anon y'mouse

      when you get right down to it, most of California’s developments (of any kind) should not be there. massive agriculture on an arid shrub plain, skyscrapers on fault lines, landfilled condos below the water line, rich mcredwood mcmansionites complaining about fire insurance, and a society of people with the lawsuit lawyer on speed dial (right next to the Mexican gardener)….

      signed, Native No Longer

      Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      The message sent was to other picturesque foothill towns in the Sierra Nevada that are in harm’s way-such as ours, to start clearing out all dead fuels to 40 feet on either sides of the road, to allow for a better exit strategy in case of a similar fire here.

      The idea that this won’t happen until 2020 could make it a year too late if an old flame shows up, but i’m glad the county is taking steps to remedy the situation.

      The fire chief told us a few years ago that our saving grace was we really don’t get winds all that much in the summer months, but under the new climate change aegis anything is possible.

      We’re 600 feet lower in altitude than Paradise and it’s almost all oak trees here, save a few pine trees scattered about. From the photos i’ve seen of Paradise pre-fire, there was a lot of pines.

      Those kind of trees are primed to burn, whereas oak trees are lower in stature and less likely to go, but who knows.

      Reply
    3. RUKidding

      There’s a lot of small towns throughout the Sierra foothills – often the majority of the inhabitants are senior citizens living on limited incomes and not all that mobile – that “suffer” from the same constraints that Paradise did. There have been some movements afoot to deal with the situation in already established towns, including at least talking about adding more roads for ingress/egress. I don’t know how far along these talks have gotten.

      And yes, inhabitants are encouraged to clear out dead matter/wood as well as perhaps have less trees and shrubs around their homes and businesses. Again, not sure how much people pay attention and actually do this.

      Paradise is but a warning shot across the bow, I’m afraid. I live in Sacramento. We could be burned down, as well, but at least there’s options for getting away. I live near the river, so there’s always that as a fall-back plan.

      Good luck to those surrounded by forests. I have several friends who live in such places. Could be dangerous.

      Reply
      1. Cal2

        Creative laws could help here.

        Thousands of tons of firewood are harvested from forests and private woodlots.
        Make it a state, or county law, in fire-prone areas, that only wood cut from fire safety woodcutting on public land, i.e. next to roads, first, and then private land around homes, may be sold there.

        You’re welcome.

        Reply
    4. jrs

      no that particular message has most definitely NOT been sent. The L.A. county supervisors just approved Tejon ranch another fire trap. It will burn.

      Reply
    5. jrs

      No that message has definitely not been sent. Tejon ranch was approved by L.A. county just recently (after the Paradise fire), another fire trap if ever there was one. Developers rule local government, and never mind the fire danger.

      Reply
    6. drumlin woodchuckles

      As I have been reading about these fires and seeing videos, I begin to think they should not be thought of just as “wood” fires or “brush” fires.

      Anywhere where wind is blowing that fast brings a lot of oxygen to something burning so it can burn faster and release its heat-energy-of-burning faster. That could raise the burning temperature at the very least.

      Such fast burning would also generate a lot of infra-red radiation ( radiant heat) beaming away from the flames. Could such a blasting zap of IR radiation super-heat the nearest trees/shrubs/bushes super fast and cause all the resins/oils/terpenes/ etc. on them and in them to volatilize and cook off super fast into a fuel-air cloud which then ignites and flash-burns almost like a natural little fuel-air bomb? At these super heats and flash-pulses of IR radiation, might all the flammable volatile organic compounds in and on the vegetation cook off and aerial-ignite so fast as to render the trees into “bomb-trees” just like the “bomb-trains” of super-gassy Bakken oil?

      Certainly the temperature of mere wood-flame is not high enough to melt aluminum car wheels. These heats were achieved by the natural “blast furnace effect” or “natural forge-bellows effect” or whatever you want to call it turning the trees and bushes into “bomb trees” and “bomb bushes”.

      If my thinking is correct, then “fireproofing” any houses in such a “blast furnace alley” would involve making the houses immune to several minutes of 2,000-3,000 degree heat. The windows would all need pull-downable-in seconds super-InfraRed-reflective metal shutters to withstand and bounce-away the Infra Red radiant energy pulse to keep it from melt-warp exploding the glass from out of the window and then flash-igniting the inside surfaces of the house. Merely ember-proofing the roof will not be enough.

      And if these “blast furnace alley” communities are not mass-evacuatable, then perhaps every house should have a blast-furnace proof flame and heat fire cellar inside the house just like houses in tornado alleys have tornado proof storm cellars inside the houses.

      Just some thoughts.

      Reply
  10. Wukchumni

    {holds open trenchcoat exposing a wiener dog{

    “It’s a puppy from a family of AKC champions @ the Westminster Kennel Club dog shows, but if anybody asks about the pedigree, it’s a mutt from a shelter.”

    Reply
  11. jefemt

    Comments section on article regarding paying stay-at-home moms/dads not activated. UBI versus UJG …

    Seems to me giving people money to perpetuate a pretty broken system is screwy.
    A make-work moon shot 10 year effort to re-tool the US (and consequently as leaders, the world…) to a green-energy based sustainable full-life-cycle analyzed economic system would make more sense. Then a transition to less work less inane consuming could plausible ensue… and it might be that the Kurzweilian convergence would have less appeal and face a bit of deeper scrutiny.

    Recommend Chris Martenson’s xmas 2018 Ghost of Christmas future essay. Peak Prosperity indeed!

    Reply
  12. rob

    the story about incremental despotism, and the story of the sheriff in alabama who is embezzling(oh wait, it isn’t embezzling if the law allows you to do it) are just another couple of stories about the lawlessness our country has come to embrace.
    The author of the incremental despotism, is talking like this is new. But the same exact list, damn near, could be found in a book from the nineties “lost rights”. or can be found in project censored yearly compendium of news stories that go un reported by the media, since its inception in 1976.
    THis is a long train of abuses.
    Like the writer who is wondering about the rise of neoliberalism, is just is. It is people doing these things which are wrong, should be illegal, everyday. And no one person seems to be able to stop them. And the media is complicit and doesn’t want to cover the real stories that should be covered. lest they end up like some of the real journalists as were shown in the book “into the buzzsaw” where journalists who do stories their editors don’t want, don’t last long. or you end up like gary Webb, or mike ruppert.

    The problem is the incremental nature of the transgression. We are the frogs in the pot with the heat being turned up. and we have no easy way out, because we are all tied together, and unless enough of us get the picture to hop out, we will all cook..
    If there was something we could all agree upon, and we acted like the yellow vests in france, we could turn this whole thing around.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Bit of news, for us all: the Empire, from its inception, has been lawless, by any wishful and wistful definition an ordinary mope might cling to. “Government of laws” may be aspirational, but grossly inconsistent with The Way Things Actually Work.0

      And mopes too seem pretty much to have embraced that kind of “I’m exceptional” lawlessness as a basic tenet of conduct in both public and private dealings. E.g. patent medicines, land grabs and speculations, water wars, Gilded Age-isms, Bundy-isms, bubbles, dueling, and a host of other morbid symptoms. We are in no way, collectively, what we pretend to be, or what our institutions give out in the way of shibboleths and memes and such.

      Maybe gonna be some megadeath rude awakenings…? But then “events” are almost always surprising, aren’t they? “I/we just had no idea…” “How could this possibly have happened, especially to US? What did we do to deserve this?”

      Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      Looks to me at least that M4A is gaining traction as they say. Maybe because the potentates see it as a safe “path to ground” to deflate a lot of the building pressures and discontents? No doubt some of them are figuring how to game this to screw other potentates and keep the mopes in their places? Like “guaranteed income” and other “liberalism?”

      Reply
  13. none

    Warren is in. https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=677821948

    NPR.org, December 31, 2018 · Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has announced she is forming an exploratory committee as she considers whether to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. … The 69-year-old Warren was a liberal icon even before she was first elected to the Senate… Warren’s entrance into the contest to try and challenge President Trump in 2020 is a development he’s likely to relish.

    They’re right about that last part.

    Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        She’s of 1/1024th Cherokee consideration
        Now she wants to run the nation
        Change our way of life
        Gave us some reservations

        Reply
    1. jrs

      I don’t think she’s really the strongest candidate, but funny isn’t it how Warren’s whatever (lie, confusion, I don’t really know the motive) about her ancestry got so much attention and literal disenfranchisement of native american voters happening at the same time (because they had no address) by the Republican party and silence. And Trump thinks he can run on that. He’s so pathetic, maybe so are we if we buy it.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The msm is infotainment presenting gossip and simple stories as news with the occasional disaster thrown in. Without an organization of sufficient standing backing it, the story of disenfranchisement won’t get to the msm as its not really in their wheel house either.

        Warren is a nose to the grind stone type. She rarely looks up. When she does, she makes good choices, but this story is a good encapsulation of her flaw. It was obvious she put it on applications, but she denied that with a dumb story and doubled down on it because she doesn’t look around. The Republicans are going to come after anything they can. Its what they do. Never mind that everyone who heard the story recognized what she did.

        Warren insisted the middle class is “under attack” from corporations and the right,

        This is Warren’s problem. What “middle class”? The American middle class is dead and gone. In the 90’s, she might be a revolutionary candidate, and this is light years better than the “soaring rhetoric” of Obama. 44% of millennials “free lance.” $400 in savings! She’s less loathsome compared to Booker, but she’s potentially more out of touch.

        Reply
      2. Yves Smith

        1. She handled the controversy terribly. There were lots of ways to make it go away. She instead doubled down. That’s bad political instincts. Contrast that with how well newbie AOC is doing, for instance, with the attack that she spend the later part of her youth in Westchester County. Does anyone still talk about that? No.

        2. The reason that this could be a bigger deal than it seems is that Warren was unique as a law school faculty member at a top law school who was not a graduate of Harvard or Yale law school. Even Northwestern takes its faculty pretty much only from Harvard or Yale.

        Reply
  14. Dan

    Re: “Amazon’s Anti-Union Past Is Coming Back to Bite It”

    Best of luck to the residents of Queens and New York blocking that move.

    I am always amazed at these companies (esp Amazon and Google), who live and breath by cloud technologies that are distributed in order to provide high availability, can’t do the same with the work forces….

    Reply
  15. Carolinian

    Re Amazon–it’s rather ironic that a city that got on its high horse and refused entry to Walmart would turn around and embrace the equally anti-union Amazon. Not only did Bezos model his labor practices on Walmart’s, but arguably his warehouse operations are far more ruthless than the way Walmart treats its “associates.” Perhaps the diff is that Walmart is headquartered in faraway Bentonville–who even knows where it is?–while Bezos was once one of their own. That said, it’s good to see considerable pushback is building against headquarters 2.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      DeBlasio looked shell shocked when he was defending the deal. My guess is Cuomo et al believe their hype about the recovery and confused the convenience or TINA aspects of Amazon with popularity.

      The other side of Wal Mart is its easy to see the Wal Mart go up and towns die.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        Guess it depends on what you mean by “die.” There are plenty of small towns that would be delighted to have a Walmart. We’ve had this debate before, but I’d say that when it comes to discount stores Walmart is part of a larger phenomenon. They didn’t even come to my town until the downtown area was already pretty much dead and buried. Now it’s making a comeback.

        Reply
        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Your downtown died of causes, not Walmart. What lead to the your downtown’s demise? The coming of Walmart brought the downtown back? I am very curious to know what killed off your downtown and how the coming of Walmart lead to its comeback.

          Reply
          1. Carolinian

            It died of suburbanization and increased dependence on cars to go anywhere. The downtown dime stores like Woolworth and Kresge followed the public out to strip malls with plenty of parking and enlarged into stores like Woolco and Kmart. Walmart took what Kmart was doing and did it much more successfully.

            And those old and long empty stores downtown are now being reoccupied by millenials and others who want a taste of the urban experience. This trend is widespread and called the “new urbanism.”

            Reply
            1. Oregoncharles

              Are they craft stores, galleries, restaurants, and maybe antique stores? Those look for low rents, especially with some traffic. But they can revive a space, as they get replaced by higher-income stores – often chains.

              Reply
              1. ambrit

                I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but around here, the ‘artsy’ stores you mention have pretty much hit a brick wall called “lack of disposable income.” Also, the commercial landlords here are generally either out of towners or old money. Both groups don’t give a d— about small business owners and are so fixated on rates of return that they will leave a storefront vacant rather than lower their rents. What you can find around here in the commercial field for low rents are dumps.

                Reply
                1. Carolinian

                  From what I understand it was the same situation here. The downtown property owners refused to lower the rent on what was once prime real estate. That was another reason why the downtown stayed empty for years.

                  What we have now in our revived downtown are offices, apartments, condos and eating and (beer and coffee) drinking establishments–hardly any retail. The one attempt at a food coop grocery has now closed. So you still need a car to go shopping and suburbanization isn’t dead.

                  Reply
    2. Louis Fyne

      If it’s Walmart’s labor exploitation that lowers the selling price of white bread, it’s a tragedy.

      If it’s Amazon’s exploitation that lowers the selling price of Hillary Clinton’s newest autobiography, it’s innovation!

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        Exactly. I have given up on trying to explain why I boycott both businesses. My liberal friends have a hard time understanding why I boycott Amazon.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Too few people will boycott Walmart and Amazon to have any brute-force effect on Walmart and/or Amazon.

          But perhaps just eNOUGH people will boycott Walmart and Amazon . . . AND patronize the legacy stores and sites which came beFORE Walmart and Amazon . . . . that some of these stores and sites will remain alive and in bussiness until Walmart and/or Amazon begin to shrink and decay and degrade due to causes.

          Reply
  16. The Rev Kev

    “Top architects are left stunned by giant cracks that appeared in Sydney’s Opal Tower just months after the $165million building opened – as it’s revealed the block was built on a reclaimed swamp”

    The scene – Pisa, Italy in the year 1173.

    Foreman: ‘Hey Giovanni! I just checked the plans for the new Tower and they show that the foundations are only three yards thick. That soil is looking a bit slushy too and doesn’t look too solid.’

    Giovanni: ‘Eh, don’t worry about it. The plans say that it will take about 200 years before the Tower is finished and by then I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone!’

    The scene – Olympic Park, Sydney in the year 2015

    Worker: ‘Hey Bruce! I’ve just been looking around and some of the work looks a bit on the dodgy side

    Bruce: ‘She’ll be right, mate! By the time any problems appear we’ll be long gone over the nearest horizon’.

    Reply
      1. JBird4049

        And I wonder sometimes if the current construction is like the then brand new pre-1906 San Francisco city hall, which fell apart not because of the quake, but because of the shortcuts taken in building it. Some of the new high rises are a lot taller than any city hall.

        Reply
      2. Rajesh K

        And don’t forget SalesForce Park. Peak Western civilization here. Can’t even build buildings anymore.

        Don’t know about Australia, but the US will lead the world in only three things: movies, microcode (software) and high speed delivery. At least that’s what William Gibson thought.

        Reply
  17. jfleni

    RE: After Syria, Trump Should Clean Out His National Security Bureaucracy.

    What to think about a clown who thinks his walrus mustache is growing out
    his butt making him more fearsome!

    Reply
  18. jfleni

    RE: Fake-porn videos are being weaponized to harass women: ‘Everybody is a potential target’,

    It will stop as soon as famous male politicians find themselves as stars!

    Reply
  19. Stephen Haust

    Where you can buy a slave…

    What was it that Hillary called that operation?

    r2p, wasn’t it? That stood for “Responsibility to protect”.

    And now she wants more military action in Syria. Where else?

    Clear evidence that this woman must never be elected, appointed or
    hired for any public office or position or any private position which
    carries any duty concerning the wellbeing of any other person.

    EVER!

    Reply
    1. Cal2

      Yes, but as a counterbalance to that bad hopium,
      it’s illegal to handle dogs and cats at retail in Jerry Brown’s California.

      Reply
  20. David

    The real importance of the “economics as a science” meme is political, not technical. Essentially, if you can establish something as a science, then its conclusions become indisputable, and anyone who attempts to disagree with you can be automatically dismissed. It’s no coincidence, of course, that “economics is a science” is a belief (sic) particularly attractive to neoliberal economists, who can therefore dismiss all proposals for progressive economic policies as “unscientific” and therefore wrong.
    Quite a lot of fuss was caused last year when a couple of French economists published a book criticising “economic negationism.” Proceeding from the view that (neoliberal) economics had now established itself as a science, at least at the level of reliability of medicine, they modestly compared criticism of neoliberal economic theories to denial of the Holocaust or the dangers of smoking or global warming. Of course, if economics is more akin to sociology or history, you can’t make that kind of comparison.

    Reply
    1. flora

      It’s no coincidence, of course, that “economics is a science” is a belief (sic) particularly attractive to neoliberal economists, who can therefore dismiss all proposals for progressive economic policies as “unscientific” and therefore wrong.

      This sounds remarkably like the old soviet union, especially under Uncle Joe, declaring their form of economics was both inevitable and scientific; therefore, any theory or real scientific finding that might challenge their economic dogma was either ridiculed or suppressed.

      Reply
    2. Left in Wisconsin

      Economics is way worse than history or sociology. History makes no claim for universal social laws. Some sociologists do but for every one that does, there are 10 that disagree.

      Reply
    3. marku52

      “The only reason to study economics is to avoid being deceived by economists.”

      Joan Robinson. (contemporary of Keynes)

      Reply
    4. TimR

      Excellent. I see the same danger in supposedly hard sciences, like climate. Money and power can make the “science” deliver any results they want, if determined enough. And as laypeople, we are not allowed to question the “science.” Ergo, policy implications of the science is whatever elites ordain.

      Reply
      1. witters

        “Excellent. I see the same danger in supposedly hard sciences, like climate. Money and power can make the “science” deliver any results they want, if determined enough.”

        If you write “science”, then I presume this is to distinguish it from science (the use/mention distinction that so confuses so many). And if you write “science” then you should have written “climate,” not climate. And, of course, hard sciences should therefore be “hard sciences.” The point here is not grammatical pedantry, but clarity of thought.

        Reply
      2. flora

        As you note, there is a difference between interested PR masquerading as “science” and science. Fortunately, thanks to public high school science classes, most people can discern the difference between “science” and science.

        Reply
  21. PlutoniumKun

    Top architects are left stunned by giant cracks that appeared in Sydney’s Opal Tower just months after the $165million building opened – as it’s revealed the block was built on a reclaimed swamp Daily Mail. From last week; the start of a continuing story. And a metaphor for the Australian housing market?

    I think it could be more than a metaphor. At the end of construction booms you often get a crazy rush at the end when smarter operators sense the end and try to cash out quickly. During the Celtic Tiger in boom in Ireland it was in the last 18 months that the worst construction practices set in – lots of engineers were setting themselves up and certifying buildings knowing full well they wouldn’t be around when the problems became apparent.

    A friend who was doing engineering surveys for major banks after the crash said he would tell everyone to never touch Irish property, especially apartments, built between 2005-2007, every possible shortcut was been taken. He showed me some jawdropping photos of construction incompetence, all signed off by fully certified and insured engineers and architects, all of whom had packed up and left the country (many, ironically, to Australia) in 2008. I recall some similar stories told to me by construction guys who were in London during the last boom and bust, in the late 1980’s.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      I know nothing in regards to construction, but when I see $2-3 million dollar new chalets @ Mammoth being built adjacent to the slopes from the vantage pointe of a chair lift, often largely utilizing particle board sheathed in Tyvek, it makes you wonder, could they do it any chintzier?

      Reply
      1. Cal2

        “could they do it any chintzier?” Sure, cardboard covered with saran wrap with a layer of stucco on top.

        The source of the labor, their training, experience, supervision and their language skills has a lot to do with poor quality construction/longevity.

        Talking about Construction material quality;
        OSB, Oriented Strand Board, or particle board, or
        “Let’s save on dumping fees by making fake plywood out of garbage”
        is ground up tree branches, shipping pallets, with pesticides impregnated in the wood, old lumber and sundry garbage, compressed under pressure with carcinogenic formaldehyde resin glue. “Things go better with Koch-a-Moolah.”

        If and when water gets in because of poor construction– it’s usually the flashing where the top of the wall meets the roofline, or around windows–the fragments of OSB all swell at different rates of absorption and in different grain directions. Thus the wall swells and this lets in even more rainwater.

        At least plywood only delaminates in one direction, like slices of bread falling off a loaf.
        Waterproofing is incredibly important in construction and is often the weak spot.

        Reply
      2. Anon

        The Tyvek is a wind/vapor barrier and required by CA state building standards: it improves energy efficiency of a heated building. While particle board (crazy mosiac of glued wood chips) is not as stable (long-term) as traditional plywood (more expensive) it is usually applied in non- structural locations on the building.

        Since Mammoth Mountain (city and ski area) are adjacent to the Long Valley Caldera (seismic activity) there are many State -mandated structural elements added to buildings in this vicinity. And if the building is a “one-off” designed by sole proprietor architect (full liability), in conjunction with a state licensed structural engineer, then I would expect the building to stand. (Builders in resort communities are highly susceptible to “bad rep” consequences.)

        Reply
          1. ambrit

            Oh, the Gods of Architecture save us from “engineered beams!” The first time I saw a preformed truss made out of laminated structural wood like product, I couldn’t believe my eyes. One thing about it, no matter how ‘high tech’ you engineer your composite materials, there is no ‘idiot proofing’ the installation.
            To the point of ‘idiot proofing.’ I was once told to drill a 4.5 inch hole through a 4×8 composit laminated load bearing post. I refused and was being run off the job when I tracked down the head carpenter and cued him in to the looming disaster. The plumbing foreman was visibly shocked by the cost of that beam he was told he would have to replace if he drilled that much out of it. I was still run off the job. Can’t make the head man look foolish in front of others, can we?
            I have seen ‘Gresham’s Dynamic’ up close and personal numerous times during my years in construction. Then I met it again in the Retail sphere. Now we all are seeing it in action in politics.

            Reply
            1. The Rev Kev

              Good on you, ambrit. Ever wonder what would have eventually happened if you had drilled through that load-bearing post? You would always be waiting for the other shoe to drop with that one.

              Reply
              1. ambrit

                I would have worried about it, but the top dogs on that type of project really have no conscience. That’s another flavour of Gresham’s Law. Sociopaths drive out empaths.
                The dangerous dimension to that story is that I was the ‘oddball’ on the job who cared about the other trades work integrity. Many, many tradespeople don’t give a d— about anything but their own job, and to h— with everyone else. This attitude runs rampant on a job when the top management obviously also doesn’t give a d—. The most valuable person on a commercial construction project is the Quality Control officer. Smart job superintendents will hire the most abrasive son of a b—- for that position. They know that only someone like that can get their job done right. Take care and show a bit of respect for the job and the QC will leave you alone. That is the utmost praise from one of them.

                Reply
          2. Anon

            “Chip board” (Oriented Strand Board) is NOT structurally defective. It is simply less expensive than similar structural grade plywood. An engineered beam is one that has had all the elements of stress/strain accounted for in its design, including the type of OSB used.

            Most of the time one sees OSB on a building as 4’x8′ sheets; where it is providing sheathing/backing for a subsequent exterior cladding (a less expensive substitute for full layer plywood). It is during that period of construction exposure when OSB can get wet from rain (usually) that it appears to flake and slightly warp and appear “shoddy”.

            As I mentioned, OSB is an engineered product with wood-chip orientation and glue-type (marine,non-marine grade) specified. It was developed because high-grade wood (trees) needed for quality plywood was becoming scarce.

            Reply
        1. ambrit

          Here Down South, the place of greatest damage seen arising from OSB failure is in the roof decking. Many times, the OSB roof deck will be carpentered on, and then wait a week or two for the roofers to get there to do their thing. Meanwhile, that OSB is exposed to the elements. I have seen the same happen to siding sub-layers. Tyvek will avail you nothing if the top is not sealed for a couple of weeks.

          Reply
        2. jsn

          Tyvek ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

          When I was taught to write specs about 35 years ago, the firm I worked for wouldn’t spec a product with less than a 20 year track record without commissioning extensive testing to be paid for by the entity requesting the product, usually a developer.

          Now, I don’t think there are any products with a 20 year track record.

          Reply
    2. Summer

      “He showed me some jawdropping photos of construction incompetence, all signed off by fully certified and insured engineers and architects, all of whom had packed up and left the country (many, ironically, to Australia) in 2008….”

      They had to get back to “feed their families”…to hell with those families or persons with families that may end up in one of thise structures at the wrong time.

      Reply
    3. flora

      Thanks for this story. There’s a larger point here, imo, about bubble frenzy driving out the sound builders and craftsmen building for the long term…. but I can’t figure out how to phrase the idea.

      Bubble frenzy: I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.

      Knowing the bubble frenzy dates is very useful for buyers doing their own due diligence before signing any mortgage purchase agreement. Sort of like knowing what auto model production years have higher than normal standard problems.

      Reply
  22. petal

    Elizabeth Warren makes big move toward 2020 presidential run

    Says she is launching an exploratory committee.

    “Now, as a likely presidential contender, she is making an appeal to the party’s base. Her video notes the economic challenges facing people of color along with images of a women’s march and Warren’s participation at an LGBT event.

    In an email to supporters, Warren said she’d more formally announce a campaign plan early in 2019.”
    ——————–
    The buzzfeed article was..interesting. Glossed over the role of the US(Obama and Hillary) in creating the mess that used to be Libya.

    Reply
  23. Henry Moon Pie

    Since comments are not turned on for the article about paying stay-at-home moms, I’ll use this space to thank our hosts for posting this very interesting piece. It reminded me of a piece i read recently that introduced me to the work of Lloyd Hogan, author of Principles of Black Political Economy. Hogan made an interesting and useful distinction between an “external labor process” that produces stuff and an “internal labor process” that produces people:

    Every economy, according to Hogan, is the interchange between the internal labor process and the external labor process. Other, more traditional, Marxist theoreticians would talk about the internal labor process in different terms. The idea of the value of labor power embodies the concepts that make up Hogan’s understanding of the internal labor process. But what Hogan does in his formulation is to center the production of people as an economic activity that is as important to the economy as the production of other stuff. What this does is to clearly center the activity of women as economic actors rather than people peripheral to the external labor process where food and tools are produced, an economy dominated by men. For there to be a continuous and sustainable community, the people made in the internal labor process have to be fully developed to become the productive members of the external labor process and also to continue to reproduce the internal labor process.

    Reply
  24. Richard

    I have ordered classroom crickets before. Well, it was some hoppy bug in that family. They do just come loose in a box like that!
    We were putting them in habitats the class created (this was back when I student taught 4th grade). IIRC, we were supposed to study the effects of differences in habitat, and practice using a control group, denying one group of bugs something they needed to live.
    Not only was the my first teaching experience with such jumpy, freedom loving bugs. It was also my first teaching experience facilitating a real life ethics situation. The 4th grade students voted not to have a control group It was pretty much unanimous that they thought killing bugs to acquire science knowledge was wrong. My mentor teacher allowed me the freedom to alter our investigation, which I still feel a little funny about. I have no regrets about allowing a group of young people to choose their ethical future, but it is really hard to study control groups with bugs in a non-lethal way (pretty much the only empirical evidence a 4th grader can collect from an insect is whether it’s alive or dead), so we had to ditch that part of the investigation. IIRC, we first tried using one of the plants as a control, but it didn’t work well for whatever reason, so the kids didn’t get a real good practical experience using a control group.
    The bugs were immediately released to the school garden, freed from their tiny Bastille by the Student Liberation Front.

    Reply
    1. Hana M

      No reflection on Richard….Yet somehow I had a sudden vision of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart releasing fresh caught Cornish Pixies In his first and last practical Defense Against the Dark Arts Class.

      ‘I must ask you not to scream,’ said Lockhart in a low voice. ‘It might provoke them.’

      Reply
  25. Lee

    Meet The Man Who Lives With Hyenas National Geographic

    A braver man than I. The trick must be to never let them get too hungry. During hard times when food is scarce, cubs kill and eat their own siblings. That hyenas are matriarchal has not made for a kinder, gentler, less ruthless social order.

    Reply
  26. TroyMcClure

    re: Deep Fakes

    So many layers. Since when did society care so much about the protection of women? Probably since two thirds of all social media posts are done by women and if they get scared off by these porn fakes then it’s curtains for the Zuck!

    Interesting how the tools used by the fakers are made by google and made available for free…if I were more cynical I might conclude that google made these programs available to achieve the aforementioned social media exodus. But our tech overlords would never be so treacherous…

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      “…made by google and made available for free…”
      “google made these programs available to achieve the aforementioned social media exodus.”

      it gets harder and harder to know when the tinfoil headwear is appropriate.
      someone mentioned Ruppert in relation to the colonisation of the Fourth Estate and the general trend towards Illegitimacy: I remember Crossing the Rubicon spent a great deal of time on something called “Promis” software…specifically designed for not only full spectrum awareness, but mind manipulation on the grandest scales.
      Add Snowden, et alia, and it’s hard to get your head around if you’re more on the luddite side of things.
      On the other hand, the ham handedness of the clintonite propaganda over the last few years was counterintuitively effective in a different way= confusion, mud in the water= even as that seeming incompetence might engender a sigh of relief,the narratives served as a shibboleth, whereby True Believers could find and police each other, and exclude others less pure..
      the Right seems to rely more heavily on more hardened silos…and volume to eleven within them. Keep out other narratives, and drown out and incorporate any that make it through
      we are ultimately not privy to what’s “really going on”….but to take that as an indicator that there’s no massive manipulation going on is silly.
      pentagon has maintained a stable of psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists for decades.

      Reply
      1. JEHR

        Amfortas…, I very much enjoy reading your pieces but because your writing is so often jerky and not logically paragraphed, I hardly ever finish them.

        Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Thanks for the link! Besides the Facebook theft of data I am concerned by their theft of bandwidth, especially given the extremely high costs of data through Verizon. My daughter has an iPhone, not Android, but she consistently goes beyond her data allotment. I couldn’t identify any particular thing she did that should have gone through so much data, which leaves me wondering about backflows from trackers. I’d love to send Facebook a bill for a chunk of my bills for data overages.

      Reply
  27. Wukchumni

    A soon to be on his way out Mattis, sent a farewell New Years greetings today prefaced with a Lincoln quote from February 1, 1865 to General Grant by telegram:

    “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.”

    Junta del Este is abrogating ‘the’ wall?

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      NYT:

      In a written farewell message, Mattis quoted a one-sentence telegram that President Abraham Lincoln sent to the commander of Union forces, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, on Feb. 1, 1865, in the final weeks of the Civil War. It said: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.”

      AP:

      Mattis quoted from a letter Lincoln wrote in 1865 to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. It said: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.”

      It seemed a veiled reference to the White House’s national security policy.

      Um.

      NOTE These clowns taking U.S. Grant’s name in vain make me throw up a little in my mouth.

      Reply
      1. Lee

        Or is it a sinister foreshadowing of what happened 10 weeks later in Lincoln’s case. Does Trump have any plans to attend the theater any time soon? We know the Blob is capable of any number of boneheaded assassination and destabilizing mass murder schemes abroad but just how hard and in what manner might the empire strike back at home?

        Reply
      2. ambrit

        Lambert;
        A day or so ago I replied to someone on here that we were edging toward a “Seven Days in May” scenario.
        With this “Farewell Address,” Mattis has firmly entered that week in May. The telegram he quoted from was from a legitimate and sitting President of the United States to a field General. There was no question as to who gave the orders, and who carried them out. In today’s case, the General is telling his fellow officers to ignore the instructions emanating from their duly constituted Commander in Chief. Trump cannot let this slide. He must ‘channel’ the spirit of Harry Truman and call Mattis in and read him the riot act. Nothing less than the primacy of the Law in America is at stake.
        I think that this is a Constitutional crisis. A General has proposed sedition.

        Reply
          1. VietnamVet

            This is really strange. Lincoln’s orders to Grant before the breakout from Petersburg that ended the Civil War couldn’t be more inappropriate today in the 18th year of an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. It could be a call to arms for the Blog to reclaim the hegemony; but, that is impossible with an insurrection ongoing in France, Syria winning its civil war and hints of urban/rural unrest in the USA and the UK. Tossing out Donald Trump is sure to spark a revolt.

            Reply
            1. ambrit

              Really, Mattis is telling the American officer corps that it is acceptable to continue with what they were doing, even if the President tells them to do otherwise. That is sedition, and a variety of coup. This is very dangerous territory we’re entering here.
              If Trump were playing Kreigspeils with live troops for fun, yes, I could see officers quietly finessing the orders. But Trump is signalling a change in official governmental policy. For the officer corps to go against that is an assertion of their primacy over the civilian authority. Furthermore, all this is occurring out in the open. So, we have not only insubordination, but contempt for the forms and functions of government as well.
              Trump has to stand up to this. If he does not, his authority as President is gone. Then, the Army and Security Services will be running the country. Considering how badly they have done with their overseas wars, that does not engender confidence in how they would run the country, even if through the back door.
              If there is a revolt here in America, what is to preclude the Alphabet Gangs from employing the same tactics that turned chunks of the Middle East into bombed out wastelands here? The cast of characters that constitute the neo-con/neo-liberal coterie of control are certified nutters. True Believers to the end, they will stop at nothing to get what they want. That is why Trump must show them who’s the boss now. Let Trump channel his ‘Apprentice’ persona and let fly “You’re fired!” to anyone who presumes above their station in the hierarchy of government. That’s how it was designed to function.

              Reply
              1. Anon

                …except that is not the way it was designed to function.

                There are three branches to our government. Only Congress can declare war, only the House can create the Budget, only the Court determines what is Constitutional.

                Only Red Haters are blind to this.

                Reply
                1. ambrit

                  The Supreme Court gained the function of vetting legislation through a massive power grab back in 1803. Marbury versus Madison.
                  The Executive branch initiates foreign policy. Not the Army. The Legislature gets it’s say through it’s ‘Power of the Purse,’ and the ‘advise and consent’ function regarding treaties and trade agreements.
                  Finally, al appointed functionaries at cabinet level serve at the whim of the President. No civil Service provisions for essentially political appointments.
                  Some may demonize the present occupant of the White House as a tinpot tyrant, but he’s not so far even close to Caudillo status. If the Military and Para-military services became involved in the domestic governance of America, we might as well Pledge Allegiance to the Junta of the United States.

                  Reply
  28. Wukchumni

    Axios’ Felix Salmon notes: The past four decades have seen massive global increases in wealth and income and productivity, thanks almost entirely to capitalism. (Look where South Korea was 40 years ago!)

    I was in SK 35 years ago when it’s turn to make athletic shoes on the cheap was the big game. You could buy Reeboks, etc pretty much all destined for export, for $3-5 a pair, and I remember legions of Korean women out in the streets sweeping dust, it was really 2nd world, or 2.5 world.

    When the 1st Hyundai cars showed up here, the main selling point was they were priced like a Yugo, but somewhat more reliable. I remember reading an article of a junkyard in the early 90’s, and they had a lot of those 3-5 year old Hyundais, mainly because the motors crapped out.

    And now, the SK car makes are considered top notch in quality, warranty, etc.

    I’ve yet to see any American women here sweeping out dust in the streets @ 6 am, but it seems we’ve fallen as much as they’ve gained vis a vis capitalism.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        I think that is a hippo. I’ve been in the water, in Biscayne Bay, with manatees. They don’t have ‘feet’ per se, but flippers. The snout also looks wrong. Very gentle creatures. Hippos I’ve read, can be very dangerous.

        Reply
        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          Yes, it is a hippy happy hippo come to wish us all a Happy New Year!!

          (manatees faces are more droopy, this little feller is wide-eyed if not bushy tailed)

          Reply
          1. polecat

            And I would add, vastly less lethal to one’s person !! … I don’t care How cute a hippo ‘looks’ to be ….

            Reply
  29. Grant

    I think one problem that people have with “economics” is that they identify neoclassical economics with “economics”. If anyone has taken a class in economics, it is basically neoclassical 101, not econ 101. As Michael Hudson has said many times, most economics students are not taught economic history. So, when Ha Joon Chang writes books on what countries have actually done in regards to trade, that would be far more useful than what Ricardo said, his theoretical argument. I mean, Ricardo did develop a theoretical argument in regards to comparative advantage, but does anyone ever mention his own assumptions? For example, he, like Adam Smith, assumed the factories stayed put. What moved freely was what capital produced and workers, and maybe under certain conditions knowledge. That gets at the root problem with neoclassical economics. The damn assumptions. No one would bother studying economics if students were told the assumptions of not only the dominant models, but something as simple as why a market demand curve is shaped the way it is. Why is it really smooth and pretty, what assumptions are needed for it to look like that? Any economics that is worth a damn would have assumptions that are at least somewhat related to objective reality. The validity of a model in regards to describing at least some objective reality (which is a thing, you post-modernists) and real world problems hinges in how much the model’s assumptions line up with reality. If the assumptions are radically violated in reality, then the model is useless as far as solving real world problems. Any model building will abstract away from objective reality to an extent, but neoclassical economics is off the charts in that regard. Think about all of the economists that have spent tons of time on general equilibrium, then look up the assumptions needed for general equilibrium. What a colossal waste of time. It is kind of obvious that neoclassical economics is just a weapon used by the powerful to justify particular policies, and to benefit particular interests, and it is important to note that it emerged in the late 19th century in large part in response to Marx. Marx used the tools of classical economics (class analysis, the labor theory of value) as weapons against the system. Think of all the problems that emerge from creating models based on an individual, a representative agent, then aggregating out to the macro-economy? Even if a class analysis also assumed things, it doesn’t do so to the same extent, and you could also modify a class analysis in ways you can’t when analyzing the economy with “microeconomic foundations”.

    It is important to note though that economics can be far more empirically based, and that non-mainstream schools of economics are very relevant, especially those that are interdisciplinary. Ecological economics, for example, has for decades now been drawing attention to real world issues that are now becoming apparent. Limits to growth in throughput and pollution generation, the fact that tons of information are missing in markets and prices, the fact that the human economic system is a subsystem of the ecosystem we live in and depend on. Read Karl William Kapp’s “The Social Costs of Private Enterprise”, written in the mid-20th century. If that book were the foundation of modern economics, not only would the field be in a better position, but so too would the worldwide environment and human civilization. But, instead, people like Robert Solow have dominated the field, and have been given Nobels. Solow, in 1974, infamously said, “If it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural resources, then there is, in principle, no ‘problem’. The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources”. How could any rational person say such a thing?

    MMT economics has been instrumental in taking us away from ridiculous BS in regards to treating money as being “neutral”, or people like Krugman still clinging to loanable funds models. I mean, it shouldn’t have taken MMT to come along to show how money was created, to explain what deficits actually are, to explain how private debt is different than what is called public debt, as well as the myths in regards to the government “borrowing” a currency that only it can create. Look at what most neoclassical economists believed in regards to that stuff though, especially before the crash. Costas Lapavitsas has been studying financialization, how it functions, its impact, how it has grown and developed, how to deal with it. He uses theory, like Marx’s theories regarding credit and money, but critically analyzes the models and theories too.

    Reply
    1. bruce wilder

      Rather than just saying, “yes”, to everything you wrote, I will try re-stating or re-phrasing.

      “economics” is neoclassical economics is Econ 101 — yes, that is a problem, maybe the problem in a sense.

      neoclassical economics is, at its core, an analytic theory and that theory is, effectively, identical with Samuelson’s classic textbook. (there’s another more esoteric economics practiced in graduate schools, used for professional socialization and a defense in depth for a method that produces so much ignorance).

      what is wrong, though, is not the theory per se, but the method.

      critical methods are what makes science, science. And, the method used by Samuelson and Solow and the academic mainstream sucks.

      Samuelson’s theory is, in its form, a kind of geometry. It uses the kind of reasoning used in analytic geometry, like the course you took in high school, to construct arguments out of axioms and deductive reasoning. The damn assumptions.

      The key move, though, is not “the damn assumptions.” No, the key move, the wrong method, is the handwaving out the window, the blithe assertion that the analytic theory describes the world.

      Economists think their analytic theory is a map. They think there is an adequate correspondence between the relationships of theory and features of the world. And, they do not need to go and systematically measure and observe and study the institutions of the actual economy. Or, if they do look at the world, it can be thru the gauzy lens of econometrics, focusing on statistical “stylized facts” rather than on the details of how economic institutions actually work and operate.

      Methodologically, it is a crazy idea, to use an analytic geometry as if it is a map, without doing the serious work of observation and measurement that goes into making an actual map. Land surveying, cartography, geodesy — these are technically sophisticated activities that make use of geometry to be sure, but go way beyond geometry, because actual knowledge of the actual world requires systematic observation and measurement.

      In any other field, anyone would see immediately that the pretense cannot work. It would be like taking Euler’s 18th century analysis of fluid dynamics and saying, we don’t need aerodynamic engineering or wind-tunnel testing to design and build an airplane. Or, if botanists and zoologists read a precis of Origin of Species and never ventured into the field or inquired into genetics.

      And, yes, the loanable funds doctrine is a good illustration of how wrong-headed this method of using an analytic theory as if it can be descriptive without studying the operation of actual institutions, is. all the effort put into the analytic theory of general equilibrium isn’t just wasted — by insisting with a wave of the magisterial hand, that the actual economy is a system of self-regulating markets coordinated by price, when the actual economy is not any such thing, it becomes a malignancy, a tool of agnotology. Economists make us talk about the economy and economic policy with the vocabulary of “a market economy” when that is not the world we live in. The economists can only keep the pretense going by resisting methodological critique at every point, which, I suppose, is why they insist that the esoteric theory locked away in the ivory towers of graduate schools is so damn rigorous.

      hopefully, my rant complements your rant. i enjoyed reading yours and writing mine. happy new year

      Reply
    2. Grebo

      MMT is built on mainly old ideas. Its advantage is that it can reach the masses directly through the internet whereas McCleod, Innes, Knapp, Soddy, Keynes et al could simply be ignored, distorted or forgotten by economists.

      Neoclassical economics was more a reaction to Henry George, who was a much more immediate threat to the robber barons, than to Marx who had not yet gathered much notoriety in the US.

      Neo-classical Economics as a Stratagem
      against Henry George — Mason Gaffney

      I would be interested to learn what Alfred Marshall got out of it.

      Reply
      1. Grant

        I have used Gafney’s work in the past, well aware of his argument in regards to George, but Marx particularly, and the left generally, were really important in regards to the development of neoclassical economics. The biggest way that George influenced the development of neoclassical economics was, at least in my reading of things, the folding of land into the broad category of “capital”, and treating land as being just another form of capital, which it obviously isn’t. In their damn production functions, land is part of K, or capital inputs. And Walras, Jevons, and Menger were all European anyway. But in regards to a class analysis, the labor theory of value, etc., Marx was a huge reason for the change, and he did develop the labor theory of value far more than Ricardo did. Also aware of the influences on MMT, but the fact of the matter is that it is a relatively new school of thought that has synthesized a number of different ideas that has pretty radical implications, and because people like Kelton have been able to get into government itself, and she was and is so close to Sanders (although I don’t see any evidence she has influenced him tons), those ideas were forced into the conversation. Lots more people now know of Kelton and Wray than they do Knapp, Soddy and what Keynes said on money and credit, etc. Those ideas were always there, they weren’t synthesized into a school of any kind and shown to be useful for actual policy until relatively recently. I mean, Soddy was also really influential on ecological economics. If you read Herman Daly’s book Beyond Growth, he talks a lot about Soddy and Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt in regards to the environmental insights there. In that book, Daly actually dismissed Soddy’s writings on things like fractional reserve banking. I bought that book years ago because of Daly. Those insights were always there, but Daly and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen had to come along and use those types of insights within a broader outlook. I think it was Samuelson that said that economists could understand, even if they didn’t like, many parts of the General Theory, but it was Keynes’ writings on money and credit that really baffled them.

        Reply
        1. Grebo

          In my picture of the development of Neoclassical economics it was invented by JB Clark (US) and Alfred Marshall (UK). They used the ideas of Walras, Jevons and Menger but none of them can be called Neoclassical. These three were disagreeing with Marx to various degrees, at least implicitly, but were hardly dedicated to disproving him in particular. Do any of them even namecheck Marx? Only Walras that I know of, and he was kind of a Socialist himself.

          Menger’s followers were all about kicking Marx, and after 1917 it became all the rage, but in the 1890s not so much.

          Reply
  30. David(1)

    Chuck Todd refuses to Give Air Time to Climate Deniers: ‘The Science is Settled’

    “We’re not going to give time to climate deniers,” Todd said. “The science is settled even if political opinion is not.”

    “We’re not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter and human activity is a major cause. Period.”

    Catholic Church and Science: Galileo Galilei

    After 1610, when Galileo began publicly supporting the heliocentric view which placed the Sun at the center of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615.
    …the Catholic Church…condemned heliocentrism as “false and contrary to Scripture”…and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it, which he promised to do.

    Nevertheless, Galileo continued with his heresy and managed to ridicule a Pope in one of his books.

    Galileo was summoned to Rome to be tried by the Inquisition in 1633…Galileo’s accusers relied on a forged document purporting to have, in 1616, forbidden Galileo from in “any way whatsoever” teaching theories of Copernicus, and thus could find him guilty of dishonestly tricking the censors and therefore ban his book without addressing the issues of substance relating to Copernicus found within it. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” for “following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture.” Galileo was forced to recant, and spend the rest of his life under house arrest.

    The important part, from the same Wiki:

    Galileo’s career coincided with the reaction of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation, in which the Roman Church found itself in a struggle for authority in Europe, following the emergence of the Protestant Churches and nations of Northern Europe. Pope Paul III created the Roman and Universal Inquisition to stop the spread of “heretical depravity” throughout the Christian world. From 1571, the institution had jurisdiction over books and created the Index of Prohibited Books. The historian of science Jacob Bronowski wrote that “Catholics and Protestants were embattled in what we should now call a Cold War. …The Church was a great temporal power, and in that bitter time it was fighting a political crusade in which all means were justified by the end.”

    I wonder what a Gulfstream V equivalent looked like in the 1600s?

    Fear not heretics, the Catholic Church rehabilitated Galileo in 2008, almost 400 years later.

    Note that Galileo’s theory is also wrong, at least according to current science.

    Happy New Year, heretics.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Heliocentrism is the idea that the Galaxy, not just the Solar System, revolves around the Sun and so yeah strictly speaking Galileo was incorrect; since the existence of other galaxies hadn’t been proposed yet (unless someone like Giordano Bruno?) Bthat is being nitpicking especially as he was being prosecuted in part for not at least mouthing support for the Church then preferred for the old Earth centric theory. Since the Catholic Church already knew that heliocentricism was at least more accurate but was itself involved with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation it, and more specifically the Pope, didn’t want to also change doctrine on astronomy right then. But Galileo was something of an arrogant ass so…

      Reply
  31. Left in Wisconsin

    Just noting here that I have been promoting paying family child caregivers in comments on this site for the last 2 years. Good to see the idea getting a bit of traction.

    Reply
  32. shtove

    Those with Maguire/O’Rourke roots will find the Irish soil bacteria article of interest. Here’s a piece about the Boho Highlands – as usual, thousands of years of history as tragi-comedy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boho,_County_Fermanagh

    With Brexit bearing down, there should be a lively trade in bacteria smuggling: “Hold out your hands, Paddy – I need to swab beneath your fingernails.”

    Reply
    1. rtah100

      I have family from here. They have literally written the book on the local natural history, although not the microbiology. The whole area is very rural but Fermanagh makes “Irish jokes” about Boho being the boondocks.

      Reply
  33. Synoia

    And a bonus antidote, or anti-antidote

    A baby hippo, how cute. The large aggressive hippos surrounding it in the water – not so cute.

    I’ve been charged by a Elephant in Gorongosa. Best to keep your distance.

    Reply
  34. John Merryman.

    The problem with economics is we treat money as a commodity to mine from society, not the social contract enabling mass societies to function. We own money like we own the section of road we are on, because its functionality is in its fungibility. We have an individualized, atomized society, with money as the primary medium and our bank accounts as our personal economic umbilical cord and people wonder where economics goes wrong???
    Don’t get me on science either. Try explaining to a physicist that time is an effect of change turning future to past and is more like temperature, than space. Tomorrow becomes yesterday, because the earth turns.
    We are ruled by people who spend too much time in class rooms and think math is the “mind of god.”

    Reply
  35. Susan the Other

    Just mulling over the Valdai Club’s editorial on “liberal imperialism”. I don’t think democracy is really something that was invented by western nation states. It is the essence of our best method for consensus. Better democracy and voting than imperialism and pitchforking. Even in medieval times, and surely before and forever, there was democracy in cooperation and instinctive social responsibility. It is synonymous with sovereignty. Serfs were fed and housed and not worked to death because they were needed. The princes weren’t actually needed so what became the social contract was more important for the princes than the peasants. They were high-flying middlemen whose best scam was trade. Somehow the vulnerability of princes and aristocrats and kings and politicians and corporations has been glossed over. They are very vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if they are communists or capitalists. They only control government by our well being. So we shouldn’t agonize about what comes now, how will globalism cope, what will replace capitalism. That’s like asking What will replace insanity? So… Happy New Year.

    Reply
  36. Spoofs desu

    R. Schiller:

    “My belief is that economics is somewhat more vulnerable than the physical sciences to models whose validity will never be clear, because the necessity for approximation is much stronger than in the physical sciences, especially given that the models describe people rather than magnetic resonances or fundamental particles …

    “But all the mathematics in economics is not … charlatanism. Economics has an important quantitative side, which cannot be escaped …”

    Spoken like a true economist! This is a defense of the discipline? This is pure hand waving. I don’t even know what he saying; “All economics is not charlatanism” is not a very strong statement, to say the least. So can we say it is 95% B.S.?

    Similarly, to say “economics is somewhat more vulnerable to models…whose validity will never be clear” is not much of a defense either. What do you mean “somewhat”?

    This is a great example of how whole profession waves thier hands over huge swaths assumptions to come to very convenient conclusions/results.

    Not that I don’t like some of Schiller’s work…but the profession needs to directly start calling out people/economist who talk this way.

    Reply
    1. Left in Wisconsin

      the profession needs to directly start calling out people/economist who talk this way.

      Since that is 98% of them, not sure how that would work.

      I liked the line is the Krugman link:

      No, the problem lies not in the inherent unsuitability of economics for scientific thinking as in the sociology of the economics profession — a profession that somehow, at least in macro, has ceased rewarding research that produces successful predictions and rewards research that fits preconceptions and uses hard math instead.

      “Somehow.” Indeed.

      Reply
      1. Spoofs desu

        Yes. I liked the Krugman one much better than Schiller but this use of “somehow” is what I mean by needing to more direct in calling people out. Come on! You guys are economist! Do some research into this “somehow”; e.g. clearly there is a market failure that rewards suboptimal outcomes. What is the mechanism by which we arrive at this suboptimal outcome? What? You guys can’t figure this out?

        And Krugman’s back handed swipe at sociology is pretty lame. I bet the sociologist profession does a better job at explaining the ‘somehow” than economist.

        Nuff said…

        Reply
    2. skippy

      Lars goes way beyond poster boys for mainstream economics IMO, the two in the post were just common examples.

      He is directly challenging the entire methodology and core axioms of mainstream economics as contributors of economic dysfunction and acerbating its failures. To be honest I used to get the same reactions upon nailing some austrian down and the only game in town is rhetorical game theory with a big side of self awarded authoritarianism.

      Persoanly I think the sooner the science gravitas amplifier is removed from economics the better off the whole planet will be, ugh, so many cling to it, like its a car that improves their insecure egos or somehow deity is removed from religion and a great wail goes up … because how can you manipulate the unwashed when its just mere mortals writing the ecclesiastic social policy.

      Reply
  37. John Beech

    So ChuckTodd, a journalist, e.g. someone without a background in science, says the science is settled. Others – similarly lacking a background in science – accept and follow along like lemmings.

    Thing is, the scientists who say, ‘not so fast’ aren’t the darlings of the press and naturally enough, aren’t heard from. Global warming does seems to be happening, but that mankind is responsible is a stretch because there have been numerous instances of warming in the past. Even a simpleton can understand the concept of ice cores and how they form a climate record. But the herd mentality has led to a McCarthy-like wave of judgement that has many scientists pulling back from speaking up.

    https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/eminent-swedish-scientist-latest-victim-of-climate-mccarthyism

    Anyway, this would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Who appointed Chuck Todd the authority to decide when the science is settled? What a joke!

    Reply
    1. Grebo

      That mankind is responsible is not a stretch, it is the inescapable conclusion from basic physics that has been unchallenged for more than a century.

      That scientists are pulling back from saying stupid things about areas outside their competence is not sad.

      If you want to cast doubt on the current consensus you need to do two things:
      1) Show how the physics is wrong,
      2) Show how some other mechanism fits the data better.

      No-one has yet come close to doing either.

      Reply
      1. Alex morfesis

        That humankind has “accelerated” the historical ebbs and flows of icing and de-icing by the release of millions of years of carbon in a few centuries is factual… That well and “properly” initiated, “credible” and “scholarly” parties have extrapolated dozens of years of satellite data into millennia of “fact” is what allows the curious to ponder the capacity of the self proclaimed guardians of the truth to bestow upon us their wondrous “actualities”…

        Miasma they insisted as good gentleman can not possibly have dirty hands…

        Miasma they shouted despite
        the undeniable reduction in deaths…

        He must be mad…as they kidnapped him and beat him in an asylum and let him die…

        Semmelwise was just wrong they insisted… He is out of his mind…the puerperal fever is from miasma…

        The science is settled…

        Reply
    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      I miss the adventurous days of Global Warming denialism.

      You’re going to play games with Ice *Blogging* Cores? If you’re actually looking at those graphs, and seeing any message other than ‘Don’t F*ck with the Holocene!11!!,’ then you are either a masochist or a Vogon.

      In the cause of more interesting kibitzing, I would advise instead attacking the idea that CO2 absorbs infrared. Because that’s where the whole thing comes down to a back of the napkin calculation. Depending on the quality of your cafeteria of course. But you put insulation on a thing, it gets hotter. We worked this out on Mars. Really. It’s kind of a cool story if you like science.

      And I have yet to see anyone push the idea that we’re pumping up 90 million barrels of oil a day and hiding it somewhere! Pull your socks up man!

      Reply
  38. Oregoncharles

    I think this is relevant to more than one NC topic (including Class Warfare): https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/31/media-panic-over-the-stock-market-plunge/

    Dean Baker, saying the stock market plunge is not a big deal: ” In spite of the drop, the price to earnings ratio for the stock market as a whole is still close to 20 to 1. This compares to a long-run average of close to 15 to 1.” And a falling stock market is lowers wealth distribution ratios – though it’s also not good for pension funds.

    Reply
  39. bruce wilder

    Rein Müllerson’s A Critique of Liberal Imperialism is hard to read or take seriously as an analysis based in history.

    He has an argument to make, against liberal atomization hidden inside liberal individualism and the tendency of neoliberal imperialism to homogenize societies with respect to their inherited or chosen systems of political economy.

    But, for me, he ruins that argument with cavalier use of history as well as political sociology. His extremely superficial dialectics seem designed to create emotional word associations — nationalism has a dark side! — rather than insight drawn from historical knowledge.

    In one paragraph, he refers to the emergence of democratic institutions within the framework of nation-states, and in the next, he is quoting Charles Tilly on the emergence of nation-states from feudalism,

    almost all European governments eventually took steps that homogenised their populations: the adoption of State religions, exclusion of minorities like the Moors and the Jews, institution of a national language, . . .

    And, this narrative continues with scarcely any acknowledgement of the passage of centuries of time during which social and political dynamics drove feudalism into the modern.

    This is an analysis that tries to reconcile an understanding of political values based in moral consciousness with recent developments in political and social structure and simply gets lost.

    Reply
  40. JBird4049

    Inside The Country Where You Can Buy A Black Man For $400 Buzzfeed

    How nice.

    It’s not always easy to translate prices but in the Antebellum South, a prime field slave was roughly the cost of a new car today, which is why most Southerners did not own human beings. A human now in today’s dollars is $400 versus around $20,000 then. The wealth and income disparity then was much greater than it is now. A tiny filthy rich plantation class, a larger small business class, to serve them, the very large class of dirt poor whites, usually farmers, and then the enormous class of enslaved humans used for everything including farm workers, servants, prostitution, and manufacturing thereby squeezing out most Southern whites from everything profitable.

    It is also why the prewar South was economically the wealthiest, most politically powerful section of the country, which was why the Southern elites thought they could secede from and even beat militarily the North, once they realize that they were not going to be able to force the rest of the nation to accept slavery’s expansion. It might also help to explain why so many think neo-liberalism is viable. (Not really being sarcastic there, unfortunately.) Of course, after the Civil War the South became the poorest part of the country, but the old plantation class did, and does to some extent, remain in control although it did take some three decades of postwar massacres, lynchings, and armed city, county, and state level coups for them to regain their position. So perhaps the Old South did not really loose the Civil War as completely as many think.

    I can get why so many whites fought for the South as most people do not want outsides coming in and running things, witness Iraq and Afghanistan. The old us versus them. Otherwise, I cannot understand why anyone would say that the Old South was something to support or emulate unless they are morons.

    Reply
  41. disillusionized

    Not terribly important, but the “How the right’s Brexit dream died – The Spectator” isn’t written by the spectator, but the new statesman.

    Reply
        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Before we fire up the time machine, I need to point out that his input on Scottish Independence strikes me as being a lot more fun.

          Reply
          1. witters

            Johnson actually went to France! In 1775 for a couple of weeks. Apparently he didn’t enjoy the place. Boswell has him saying (roughly) “France is worse than Scotland in everything, apart from the climate.”

            Reply
  42. Big Tap

    In defence of Philadelphia as a fan I need to mention this Santa snowball stuff. It happened when LBJ was president – 50 years ago. ESPN’s been hyping this incident for years. We also boo supposedly all the time. I heard lots of boos in Minnesota yesterday when they lost. Also Happy New Year to all even you non Philly and non sports fans.

    Reply

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