Links 12/6/18

Flaming hole in Arkansas found to be intentionally set, not the work of Satan or meteorite Japan Times

Bizarre ‘dark fluid’ with negative mass could dominate the universe – what my research suggests The Conversation

These ants decorate their homes with the heads of their enemies National Geographic

Pistachio Wars: The Back Story Yasha Levine

Facebook’s Very Bad Month Just Got Worse The New Yorker. “The documents also reveal that, in 2015, a permissions update for Android devices, which users were required to accept, included a feature that continuously uploaded text messages and call logs to Facebook.” Holy moley. That’s some feature.

Wells Fargo computer glitch blamed as hundreds lose their homes CBS

Occupy Jamie Dimon: Activists Are Chasing the Billionaire Across the U.S. Bloomberg. Much better than accosting politicians at dinner.

What is the yield curve and why has it spooked investors FT

Why isn’t Investment More Sensitive to Interest Rates: Evidence from Surveys (PDF) Steve A. Sharpe and Gustavo A. Suarez, Divisions of Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs, Federal Reserve Board. From 2014, still germane.

Brexit

Brexit: Theresa May urged to call off vote The Times

WRECKSIT Double-dealing MPs accused of plot to ‘steal’ Brexit from the British people as top Tories say May will be forced to resign if she loses key vote The Sun

These 20 Labour MPs Are On A Brexit Watchlist Drawn Up By Remain Campaigners And Momentum Buzzfeed

Italian Police Make Major Arrests Linked to Sicilian Mob Courthouse News

Luxembourg to become first country to make all public transport free Guardian

‘Gilet jaunes’ movement spreads to France’s truckers, farmers and students EuroNews

ANALYSIS: The yellow rebellion is threatening to engulf France – Macron must act The Local (France).

What are their demands? Thread:

China?

Canada arrests Huawei CFO after US extradition request FT

Canada arrests Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Vancouver Globe and Mail

Millennials in China Are Using Nudes to Secure Loans Vice (UserFriendly).

Chinese hospital compensates man put off operating table and sent to pay US$2,200 bill South China Morning Post. Impressive.

Three questions no one wants to ask following the Ghosn scandal Automotive IQ

Indonesian authorities release preliminary Lion Air crash report Leeham Air (SS). SS writes:

Like all catastrophes, it aint just one thing.

1. Boeing adds a new safety system (MCAS) to cover up the fact that the new 737Max doesn’t fly the same as the older 737s, and doesn’t’ disclose the new safety system. They don’t want airlines to have to re-certify pilots on the new plane (“Any 737 cert pilot can fly the 737MAX”).

2. Lion air pilots fly this plane for an entire flight with the Angle of Attack (AOA) sensor mafling, don’t return to base, don’t adequately describe the problem in logs. They also had runaway trim due to the AOA failure.

3. Lion air follows Boeing reccs for repair of the AOA sensor but don’t test fly it. AOA won’t come active until it is flown, and it fails again in the next fatal flight.

4. Something else unknown happens as the pilots are struggling against the new MCAS system that deployed incorrectly based on the bad AOA sensor data.

5. 189 people die.

Man, modern airplanes are complicated. I’m an engineer and I can barely read this report. I”m sure we are ready for self driving cars running on black box AI.

Indian Cop Killed by ‘Cow Vigilantes’ as Hindu Nationalists Riot Bloomberg

31 pct of elderly people land low-wage jobs after retirement Yonhap News Agency

New Cold War

U.S. Moves to Defy Russia Through Navy Operation US News (J-LS).

As Dead as a Doornail Handle The Blogmire. The Skripals case.

Health Care

Inside the Trump Administration’s Proposed Medicaid Managed Care Rule Health Affairs

Four small cities may have played an outsize role in spreading deadly flu Science

Carbon emissions from advanced economies rise for 1st time in 5 years Axios

Put more carbon in soils to meet Paris climate pledges Nature

New study explains creation of deadly California ‘firenado’ AP (DL). Original.

West Coast fishermen are suing oil companies for climate change damages LA Times (MR).

Inside the Sunrise Movement (it didn’t happen by accident) E&E News (MR). My concerns are somewhat eased, though it’s certainly odd to see this reporting in a trade magazine.

Our Famously Free Press

“Everyone’s for Sale”: A Generation of Digital-Media Darlings Prepares for a Frigid Winter Vanity Fair

The Club and the Mob LRB

Democrats in Disarray

Sorry to Bother You The Baffler

Imperial Collapse Watch

The Dirty Secrets of George Bush Rolling Stone. From 1988, still germane.

“Education Corporation of America, Virginia College, and Brightwood College Turn Out the Lights”: Important Advice to ECA students from Steve Rhode Condemned to Debt (UserFriendly).

Not-So-Funhouse Mirrors Inside Higher Ed

Class Warfare

Global Wage Report 2018/19 (IPDF) International Labor Organization (UserFriendly).

Your ZIP Code Determines Your Life Expectancy, But Not in These 7 Places Governing

Margaret Atwood warns ‘French Revolution’ is inevitable if US political system does not change Independent (Re Silc).

‘My life is spent in this car’: Uber drives its Indian workers to despair Guardian (Re Silc).

Teaching Civil Procedure with Political Economy in Mind Law and Political Economy

The Unheard-of Center: Critique after Modern Monetary Theory Arcade

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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

129 comments

  1. Jon

    MMT. I have read a lot about MMT but have never seen an adequate answer to this failure of the theory. To use the points awarded by a referee analogy. Let us suppose I am a very progressive referee an I decide to award 10 points for each goal in a game of soccer instead of the usual 1 point. Let us further suppose that after the match the teams get to trade their points on real goods and services – like the “points” of money awarded by governments. Now, anyone observing my progressive scoring will only be willing to exchange these points for goods that would previously have been worth 1/10 of a point. No real value has been created – the points have simply been devalued. And therein lies the flaw in MMT.

    Reply
    1. human

      Huh?

      MMT describes how currency is created in a fiat money system.

      “Value” is an agreement between a buyer and a seller.

      It is disingenuous to attempt to disparage MMT with examples of inflation caused by market manipulation.

      Reply
      1. JP

        A lengthy conjecture containing loads of assumptions. Invokes Marx throughout without really delving into the nature of moneyness beyond Marx. Good grief, we only just really set on the path of fiat money, formerly called script and not really trusted. I don’t think Marks really thought of money as anything other than mediated by gold. Even Keynes, the father of modern economic thought, was forced to form his ideas in a gold-centric global economy. The article is political philosophy not monetary realism.

        Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            Until around 1900, there was relatively little paper money in circulation in Europe compared to the onslaught during & after WW1.

            This would be typical of the era, a 1910 Germany 1,000 mark banknote that was issued through to the end of WW1, they’re worth a few bucks.

            https://www.leftovercurrency.com/1000-mark-reichsbanknote-1910-value/

            Look at the collector value of pre 1900 German banknotes, they’re quite rare and desirable, because not many were issued, gold & silver coins dominated finance of the era.

            Then look at the collector value of post 1900 versions, they’re worth a little more than bupkis.

            http://www.sammler.com/coins/germanbanknotes_values.htm

            Reply
            1. todde

              Yes Europe resisted fiat money(different than paper money) unless they were at war

              But we have the English Talleysticks and the french Card money just to name a few off the top of my head.

              and of course they traded notes of credit since roman times

              Reply
              1. Peter T

                Notes of credit were the original “money” – coins came along roughly two millennia after. And notes remain the main form of money – from Sumerian clay tablets through Roman banking letters of credit through tally-sticks, medieval merchant credits to modern forms (T-bills, credit cards).

                Reply
          2. JP

            My point being, econ in general and monetary perspectives were very dependent on a different concept of moneyness, hard vs. soft on a global perspective. Former fiat moneys were pretty much a local and very local concept. International exchange was always settled in “hard” money. Gold standard money tends toward deflationary and fiat tends towards inflationary. Fiat money is liability against a future asset. You didn’t need reserves to loan gold. You needed gold. This simple fact makes a lot of econ philosophy before 1933 obsolete IMHO.

            Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              The gold standard really went away after WW1 among combatants, except for the UK.

              Everybody was well and truly broke and about 80% of the supply of all that glitters was in the hands of the USA.

              France & Germany issued a variety of different denominations of gold coins prior to WW1, but not one single gold coin was issued for use in circulation in the interwar period in both countries.

              Reply
            2. todde

              true – international trade was in gold and/or silver since the time of the Sumerians.

              Silver rings for international trade.

              Clay tablets representing grain in the temples granary for local money.

              It could be we need to revive keynes international currency concept.

              And as Wuk says, Western economies and the theories that came from them were more metallic based.

              Reply
        1. Procopius

          I don’t think Marks [sic] really thought about money. After all he had to define a hitherto unknown definition of “value” as a “socially defined amount of labor.” I stopped reading Volume 1 at that point, although I probably shouldn’t have. I can understand “use value” and “exchange value,” but what he called “exchange value” has come to be called “price.” Really, his shifting use of the word “value” makes it very difficult to be sure just what he is talking about. Same with lots of other people. The only intrinsic value gold has is as an electrical conductor.

          Reply
    2. Samuel Conner

      MMT theorists are well aware of the inflation/real resource constraint. This, for example, is one of the reasons why they generally prefer a ‘job guarantee’ to a ‘guaranteed basic income’.

      Bill Mitchell’s article here

      http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=14153

      outlines what he calls the “full employment fiscal deficit condition.” A referee employing this policy prescription will not award points without limit, but only up to the point of zero or very low involuntary unemployment. And he will award points for the purpose of creating public goods.

      The “points awarded in game and spent outside the game on real goods” comeback is not a great analogy. Bring the physical economy inside the game and constrain the referee to award no more points than will keep busy all the players who want to play. And the referee may find it necessary, to constrain inflation, to remove points (taxation). MMT does not in principle advocate the abolition of taxation.

      Scott Ferguson is saying that we are already all in this game, but don’t know it, and the referees are asleep, or worse.

      Reply
      1. LifelongLib

        My understanding is that in MMT theory taxes don’t fund spending, but they drive demand for the currency, as well as being used to redistribute money. So taxation would not be abolished.

        Reply
        1. Odysseus

          Taxes serve a number of purposes. These are straightforwardly laid out in Beardsley Ruml’s essay Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete
          What Taxes Are Really For

          Federal taxes can be made to serve four principal purposes of a social and economic character. These purposes are:

          As an instrument of fiscal policy to help stabilize the purchasing power of the dollar;
          To express public policy in the distribution of wealth and of income, as in the case of the progressive income and estate taxes;
          To express public policy in subsidizing or in penalizing various industries and economic groups;
          To isolate and assess directly the costs of certain national benefits, such as highways and social security.

          Reply
        2. Samuel Conner

          Taxation reduces the ability to consume out of present income, and so tends to reduce aggregate demand. So one of the effects of taxation is to reduce inflation (or increase deflation). I can’t cite “chapter and verse”, but I have a pretty distinct recollection of reading in the internet-accessible MMT literature that MMT people consider this a useful function of the fiscal authority’s tax power.

          Reply
    3. todde

      If the economy was operating at full capacity; I would agree with you.

      If points can only be added to the scoreboard and not taken back off the scoreboard; I would agree with you.
      (Of course, as the Yellow Jacket protests demonstrate, sometimes taking points of the scoreboard (tax increase) can lead to violence.)

      Reply
      1. In the Land of Farmers

        Yes, this. MMT is alive and well but right now force is needed to balance the deficits since the oligarchs are in complete control. Admitting MMT is the actual state of things would be admitting that all people should have a say in monetary flows. This wold lead to the oligarchs losing power but violence and suffering would be reduced across the total population.

        Reply
    4. johnnygl

      Congrats, you’ve just regurgitated the monetarist view of how the economy works by suggesting that any additional money put into the system will immediately result in price hikes.

      Somewhere, the ghost of milton friedman is smiling contentedly, knowing he’s got inside your head!!!

      It’s a neat theory but doesn’t reflect how the world actually works. MMT looks at how the world actually has worked since the end of bretton woods in 1971 and tried to formulate a theory to understand what’s happening.

      The real world analogy to what you’ve suggested isn’t really MMT related, it’s more like an across-the-board increase in wages for existing workers. Now, that can have important distributional effects, and also other positives, like bringing people into the labor force. “i’m not going to try to score goals if they’re only worth a point, but 10 points is definitely worth it.”

      Plus, you’ve left debt out of the picture. There’s a ton of people with point deficits. Awarding them more points inflates away their debts, freeing them up to spend more.

      Another assumption you’ve built in there, without realizing it, is that seller firms have total and complete control over price setting. That’s never the case.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        1971 gets pushed around a lot, and rightly so, as Tricky Dick cut off foreign Central Banks (the only entity that could do so) from trading in their greenbacks for all that glitters…

        But, let me introduce you to something with more bearing on the general U.S. Public…

        Up until June 24, 1968, the U.S. Government would redeem Silver Certificate banknotes in either silver granules or silver bars, and at the time each SC banknote was worth about $2.50 in silver, and there was quite the lively market in them, and they could only be exchanged for silver @ the SF or NYC FRB’s or Assay Offices.

        After that date, each banknote was still worth the face value, but not one cent more. The effective end of specie in the USA.

        https://www.usmint.gov/learn/history/historical-documents/treasury-publishes-procedures-exchanging-silver-certificates-for-silver-bullion

        Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        “…..SURPLUS.”

        There are surpluses and there are surpluses.

        If Sam borrows $100 from a bank (the bank has $100 credit or surplus), it’s Sam’s problem.

        If Sam borrows $100 million from the bank* (the bank now has $100 million surpuls), it’s the bank’s problem…or so the saying goes.

        *Unlike, say Wells Fargo, this particular bank (you the people), must let Sam borrow anytime Sams wants. And that’s the difference – Sams can always borrow more So, you may not experience ‘it’s the bank’s problem” mentioned above. But that (not having a problem) is quite different from ‘Hey, it’s great to have that surplus.’

        But we’re conditoned, brainwashed, sorry, conditioned is better, to think ‘suprlus’ is good. Here, I’m doubtful that surplus is always good.

        Reply
        1. JEHR

          Just how does the Wells Fargo bank stay in business? It appears to me that they can defraud their customers any time they want to. I am appalled that such a bank is allowed to exist anywhere in the world. If I had my way, I would eliminate the whole kit-and-caboodle forever, in fact erase them from the face of the earth. Why does even one person offer himself up as a sacrifice to the Wells Fargo “cult of destruction of the little guy?”

          Reply
          1. Carey

            Friends in high places, is my guess; same as with the rest of our
            extractive/surveillance corps.

            “It’s a big club…”

            Reply
        2. Odysseus

          First, under MMT, federal debt does not fund federal spending. Sam never borrows at all. Federal debt is a good created to soak up excess money. MV=PQ. Adding a placebo to Q changes MV.

          Second, nobody familiar with MMT would ever say that deficits are always good. There are a number of situations where MMT suggests that reducing the money supply is entirely appropriate. Declining populations are inflationary. Fewer people buying fewer goods need less total money to keep price stability. A nation experiencing population decline and still running federal deficits better have a darn good reason. Similarly, a primary statement of MMT is that federal spending is limited by real goods and labor. It makes no sense to run a federal deficit when the economy is at full employment.

          Reply
          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Regarding the first point, it’s not in dispute that federal debt does not fudn federal spending.

            As for the second point, the choice of the word ‘surplus’ is being qeustioned (as the main point of that comment), and only secondarily that federal debt is not always good (and the word ‘surplus’ tends to mask that). For a couple of reasons, at least.

            1. when government incurs debt for war of intervention, that is not the surplus that the people would like to have. Most people think of ‘surplus’ as positive in the context was quoted above: “consider DC’s deficit as your surplus.’

            2. When government incur debts and that debt becomes new money, and when that new money goes to only the 0.1%, it’s surplus of the 0.1%, and not ‘your surplus,’ or ‘our surplus – i.e. the surplus of the 99%.’

            And we agree when we say ‘deficits are not always good,’ or ‘surpluses are not always good.’

            Reply
          2. djrichard

            A nation experiencing population decline and still running federal deficits better have a darn good reason.

            Does Japan have some explaining to do?

            Reply
        3. JP

          Exactly, somebody holds the bag. MMT is not the same as monetary reality. It is a close approach but has a decidedly political bent as demonstrated by its adherents.

          Reply
          1. LifelongLib

            The “political bent” is that a government that has its own currency can’t use lack of money as an excuse for not doing things the citizens want done. Lack of resources or (more likely) political will yes, but not money.

            Reply
    5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In the system we are in today, and people have offer descriptions of it (“It’s descriptive”), the referee doesn’t award points.

      For example, the referee sees players on the Venezuela team are mostly hungry.

      He offers one of them to beat up the neigbor of the referee for 10 points.

      And he offers another one from the hungry team 20 points to beat up another guy cross town.

      Then, he offers a third player 2 points to clean up the street where the referee lives.

      In this example, 32 points have been injected into the economy, with other people doing things the referee wants (for himself, selfishly, and for others, unselfishly, as well).

      The key point is the referee doesn’t award points to players so the players can spent those points into existence as money.

      It’s the referee himself (or herself) doing the ‘hard work of spending.’

      Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        (Revision)

        Wherever I wrote, ‘the referee doesn’t aware points,” I meant ‘the referee doesn’t award points to others for scoring goals. The referee awards himself/herself points first and always to him/herself. He/she uses those points to buy products and services.’

        That is, you (the reader) may wonder if he/she is a referee or a player.

        Reply
    6. apple

      New money / credit that is used for productive investments and labor is not inflationary. A sovereign government can conjure money for a job guarantee for the would-be-unemployed to work on tasks designated by society (trees, infrastructure, lead pipes…..). If that productive labour is working for say 18 or 20 an hour, the money is not inflationary. It is being used as an economic medium for the value of labour in just the same way agreements in the private market work.

      Reply
    7. ChrisAtRU

      “Now, anyone observing my progressive scoring will only be willing to exchange these points for goods that would previously have been worth 1/10 of a point.”

      #Sigh

      I suspect your mind is trapped in an exogenous world where the value of the point is tied to the value of some fixed thing (like gold, or some metal). This is the core of the chartalist versus the metallist point of view.

      Let’s change your story.

      Is a birthday party for five year olds; there are ten of them, and the kids play five-a-side soccer as the party activity. The prize is mommy-bucks – rectangular pieces of paper that the mother of the birthday child decides to craft up before the party. Based on the number of attendees, she makes 45 mommy-bucks. Each mommy-buck buys a little candy treat – let’s say she takes three little pieces of candy and balls them up in some thin gift stuffing paper. She makes 45.

      Suppose she decides during the first half of the soccer match that based on the massive amount of candy she bought to make treats, that she doesn’t want all that candy staying at her house for her own children to consume! At half time she makes an announcement – maybe the game is tied and she wants to provide some incentive for a cracker of a finish. She says that the winners will get 10 mommy bucks and the other team gets 8 mommy bucks! She then goes ahead and makes the extra paper notes to bring the total to 90 and creates another 45 little balled-up morsels.

      If the price is still a buck per morsel, your analysis falls flat. Why? Because you have ignored the real constraint with the creation of money: it is not the amount of money being created, but rather the real resources that the money can buy that dictate whether or not the additional creation will yield the “inflationary” aspect you stumbled toward. You should watch the video of Alan Greenspan giving (that odious toad) Paul Ryan the smackdown when Ryan tried to suggest that the social safety net was in danger of being insolvent – watch it here.

      From the transcript:
      Alan Greenspan: “I wouldn’t say the pay-as-you-go benefits are insecure in the sense that there is nothing to prevent the Federal Government from creating as much money as it wants and paying it to somebody. The question is, how do you set up a system which assures that the real assets are created which those benefits are employed to purchase? So it is not a question of security. It is a question of the structure of a financial system which assures that the real resources are created for retirement as distinct from the cash. The cash itself is nice to have, but it has got to be in the context of the real resources being created at the time those benefits are paid and so that you can purchase real resources with the benefits, which of course are cash.”

      [Emphasis mine]

      Fiat money is not backed by anything that fixes its unit value. We left that world a long time ago. Money is endogenous.

      Reply
      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Riddle me this: we long ago abandoned the idea that price fixing is a clever idea. So why do we tolerate it for the most important price in the world, the price of money?

        Seems to me that MMT requires some all-knowing hand to divine using some set of inputs exactly what the future demand for money will be and hence its price.

        At least with corporate issued money (commercial banks creating money) there is a real-world connection to demand. When more money is needed (business is good) businessmen apply for loans and money is created. When business is bad loan demand falls off and so does money.

        The very premise that “recessions are bad” is also highly questionable. Recessions (and resulting bankruptcies) are essential to healthy capitalism since they clear out uneconomic activities (or at least they used to before we had such activist central banks). Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Catholicism without Hell, eventually any activity is tolerated.

        (Of course we are not discussing “money”, we are discussing “credit”. Money can be used to extinguish debt, which credit-based currency cannot do).

        Reply
        1. ChrisAtRU

          “So why do we tolerate it for the most important price in the world, the price of money?”

          LOL … #PetPeeve

          Money Is Not A Commodity*

          * – opinion is mine, and not necessarily that of the MMT Community

          PS: I think you answered your question – “we are discussing credit” – money is IOU and unit of account … ;-)

          Reply
          1. ChrisAtRU

            Addendum – an omission from my scenario:

            Initial prize was five mommy-bucks each for winning team, and four each for the losing side.

            #Details ;-)

            Reply
        2. todde

          because while recessions maybe good for ‘capitalism’ or ‘the Market’ they are bad on these insignificant things we call HUMAN BEINGS.

          So my mother had to quite school and go to work as a waitress when she was ELEVEN YEARS OLD during the Great Depression.

          You may think it was called Great because it was a good thing.

          Reply
    8. ChristopherJ

      Thank you, Yves. Nothing seems to incite and invite comments like MMT. And, we nearly always get a comment like Jon’s (thank you mate).

      Sometimes the analogies work, but awarding points in a soccer game is not like spending dollars. Agree that the referee doesn’t need to think about where the points come from, but that is the extent of the analogy: a sovereign government that issues its own tradeable currency doesn’t need to source dollars from taxes, banks or anywhere, it can just spend, not without real limits, but it can just credit accounts of welfare recipients, employees and so on. Because it can.

      What some people don’t realise is that MMT’s not a theory, it’s a description of reality. That taxes cannot be respent. That borrowing from the banks to fund deficits is a policy choice, not something that is necessary.

      USA, UK, Canada, Australia. Those governments already do MMT, just not for you.

      Reply
  2. Wukchumni

    Margaret Atwood warns ‘French Revolution’ is inevitable if US political system does not change Independent
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    It’s easy to see parallels to the French Revolution, or to a defeated on the field of battle Germany-but largely untouched @ home fatherland, circa xmas 1918.

    The giant X factor being our acceptance of mass violence across all socio-economic levels as an ordinary thing.

    Remember how shocked we were by Columbine about 20 years ago?

    Now the same thing happens and is forgotten a week later…

    Reply
    1. zagonostra

      I think it might have been Lenin that said that the “storming of the Bastille” was no longer possible in the age of the machine gun.

      As I drive to work, I often think where would people actually aggregate to protest, there is nothing around me but a highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Unlike in France, cities in the U.S. are designed to keep people from physically combining. Where would we start a ‘Gilet jaunes’ movement?

      I know clicking my discontent over the existing political regime is not going lead to any change to that decrepit and corrupt regime, especially when each of these key strokes is being sucked by the NSA and analyzed. As soon as they see a pattern of similar typed key strokes, you can bet they’ll take the necessary precautions through their main instrument of propaganda to defuse it, i.e., the corporate media.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Lenin couldn’t have conceived of computer glitches, or the concept that the thing that most Americans so desired, didn’t actually exist aside from a bunch of 0’s & 1’s in the ether.

        That’s where it gets interesting, when you start messing with manna.

        Reply
      2. Eureka Springs

        Just stop. General strike. Don’t give them bulls-eyes or jail bait by large assembly. Mass assembly is profitable (incarceration), sensationalist propaganda for them to use. Bring commerce/participation/legitimacy to a crawl. Make a pot of beans and tortillas…enough for you and friends or neighbors and rest or sing and dance. Go outside and shut off your elec. at the pole (not someone else, just your own). Shut it down.

        Reply
        1. Jean

          Refusal to file income taxes by a Pareto Principle number of workers who filed Exemption From Withholding and small business owners would probably have more effect without the methane.

          Reply
      3. JohnnyGL

        “As I drive to work, I often think where would people actually aggregate to protest, there is nothing around me but a highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Unlike in France, cities in the U.S. are designed to keep people from physically combining.”

        The answer is right under your nose: highway blockages. BLM dabbled in them. They’re VERY disruptive. State cops freaked out in a lot of places. Legislatures moved quickly to ban them in many cases and impose severe penalties.

        Now, the BLM crowd didn’t have enough broad-based support to pull off a power move like that on a large scale. But if a very unpopular, neo-liberal austerian type in the USA tried to ram through a massive cramdown of living standards with approval ratings of like 20-30%, a well-organized group could pull off a trick like that and would possibly gain popular support.

        It can’t be done against Trump, say, because he’s got a strong support base as it stands. But someone like Macron is widely hated.

        If a US president tried to….start a big war, hike taxes (income taxes, gas taxes, a whole bunch), cut Medicare and SS, cut minimum wages all right around the same time. That is the kind of context that would be the context to say, “okay, we’ve had enough, the country needs to come to a halt” and I think it would be supported by a broad base of Americans.

        Of course, Republicans aren’t stupid….so they NEVER raise taxes. They know that if they did, their support base would quickly turn on them.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          A friend was going to CalState L.A. in 1970, when the student body decided to shut down the adjacent 10 Freeway in a mass protest against the war in Vietnam, by ‘occupying’ it.

          No word though on whether they used silent hand signals and had a lending library on site…

          Reply
        2. JEHR

          Actually, it would make more sense to protest the lowering of taxes, not the raising, as that is what makes the wealthy even wealthier and increases inequality.

          Reply
          1. Altandmain

            Depends. If a tax is deeply regressive, it won’t work.

            There is a problem too – I could see homeowners in places like California demanding tax cuts … for capital gains on home sales.

            Reply
      4. In the Land of Farmers

        Where would we start a ‘Gilet jaunes’ movement? You don’t. These thing happen naturally. Just be patient.

        Reply
          1. In the Land of Farmers

            Yeah, good example.

            Believe me, I want this crap to change probably more than most people. And I have tried to start change with others several times only to fail. What we have learned that it is better to spend time getting prepared for change rather than trying to mobilize people who are not yet affected. The most important thing is to combat the fascist memes, not by attacking them, but by giving people an alternative source of power and agency, focusing on the power of community rather than individuals.

            Reply
            1. todde

              I like it Farmer.

              My opinion, which I believe I have derived from Milton Friedman, is that the economics being used no longer fit, and eventually the pain it causes will force people to demand ‘something else’.

              My job is figure out the ‘something else’, which I believe I can have a knowledgeable input in, as I deal with real people and businesses who have real problems that ‘something else’ maybe able to help.

              Reply
        1. JohnnyGL

          I wouldn’t argue they happen, “naturally”.

          They happen in response to a bulldozer-style approach to neo-liberalism that’s so arrogant it doesn’t care what happens to the rest of the population when the shock-therapy is implemented.

          Macron’s got a level of arrogance and determination that we haven’t seen in charge of the US. Obama was cautious by nature, Trump is populist-enough to get away with what he does while keeping his support base intact. Macron just does not care.

          Reply
      5. Amfortas the hippie

        Yup. Where is that bastille?
        I often feel like storming it, if it could only be located.
        Similarly, where does…say…Mr Exxon live?
        Can we burn his house down? Arrest him?
        We are well into abstraction, here.
        In the old, analog days, a revolutionary movement could take the capital and that was that.
        Under the Big Oak, I use the Matrix(first film) to explain the Machine…but even that doesn’t cut through the fog.
        The mostly republican people who visit might talk about “taking back America”…and after rambling enough to get to the concept of
        “everywhere and nowhere”, once used to describe God, they usually see the absurdity of the usual cognitive biases.
        There’s nothing to “storm”, or “take over”.
        Then they go off and ruminate for a time(if they have the wherewithal), and come back and wonder “what, then, is to be done?”(Lenin!)
        So we get to talk about Gandhi and Chaos Magick and the User Created Universe, and it gets weird.
        Gibbons said, “our desires and possessions are the strongest fetters of despotism”.
        I’d add that Belief is important for more than religion…our beliefs about the nature of the world and our places in it…about the legitimacy of Power…and even the reality of Money…these beliefs give the reality to the world.
        We are conditioned to fear and loathe the Other, and to ignore…or more often Accept… the Powers that Be
        I know people who stand when the national anthem comes on TV, ferdog’s sake!
        They’ll bite yer head off for suggesting that Viet Nam, for instance, was a colossal mistake, and a crime.
        As I’ve said before…what we face goes beyond an Existential, or even a Teleological Crisis.
        Our battlefield is Ontology
        What are we? Who are We?
        where do we belong? and who belongs there with us?
        Who deserves food and shelter and acceptance?
        and who arrogates the authority to decide these things?
        The Machine has not only a head start…but almost impossibly powerful weapons and tools.
        –witness the hagiographic orgy on all the networks surrounding the Bush Crimen Familia…and try to insert anything negative(however true) about that man—or consider that, to the average joe/jane on the street(especially in a Red Place like this), talk of MMT, or Universal Healthcare, or any number of things, really, are felt(if not seen) as attacks on something Foundational.
        Grab a hoe.
        Cuz it’s a long row ahead of us.

        Reply
    2. barefoot charley

      Not to defend either, but I distinguish vandalism from violence. Wholesale vandalism often leads to violence (rock-throwing, billy-clubbing), but the more general issue is that slurring one activity into another inevitably brings them all to frothed-up charges of terrorism, most recently eco-terrorism, a charge almost as brain-addling as RUSSIARUSSIARUSSIA.

      Jilets jaunes protesters overwhelmingly are not violent. A fringe of rock-throwers and bank-smashers may be thought of as the laurels of success at mobilizing. I don’t like this, but I observe that it was ever thus.

      Reply
      1. todde

        violence demonstrates the weakness of the State as it shows that the State no longer has a monopoly on the violence.

        if extreme measures are taken against the people who cause the violence, the State runs the risk of losing the consent of the People.

        Reply
        1. ChristopherJ

          Yes, I believe some of les flics have turned a blind eye, which is a first sign that they’ll turn when asked to shoot on their own people.

          Reply
    3. Craig H.

      The French Revolution was led by elites who did not know what was going to happen. This one example has never been repeated and never will be repeated. They ain’t going to let that happen again. You can take it to the bank.

      Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          #19 on the list, “Days of the French Revolution” by Christopher Hibbert, is a good start to understanding what went down and why. I just re-read it, and couldn’t believe how many historical parallels of sorts, apply currently.

          Reply
        2. Craig H.

          I like number 16 on your list.

          Twelve who Ruled

          In the copy on my bookshelf there is not much to dispute the idea the revolution was conceived, organized, and led from the beginning to the hand over to Bonaparte by elite members of the French society. Not even a single paragraph which isn’t immediately qualified or disclaimed.

          A bread riot is not a revolution. We will always have bread riots. Revolutions? Dream on.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            Oh, I don’t know, a riot where the palace guards get beheaded, with their heads affixed to a pike is no big deal, eh?

            Reply
    4. flora

      I see more parallels to the fall of the ‘inevitable and perfect’ soviet state. People stopped believing the cant and started believing their own experienced fall in living standards that wasn’t getting any better, and showed no signs of ever getting better. The people withdrew their consent. My 2¢.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        What kind of actual actions constitute ongoing consent to the political-economic social order within which those actions are taken? Focusing all one’s stuff-doing effort on one’s job-for-pay in the time-is-money hamster-wheel economy is fully consenting to that economy.

        Partial withdrawal of consent to that economy is possible around the fringes and edges. If one refuses all overtime-work-for-pay and uses the time not worked-for-pay working for direct self-subsistence instead, one has made a partial withdrawal of full eager consent.

        Not entirely happy with working for nothing-but-money all one’s worktime in the Mainstream Forced Market Economy? Perhaps you can make some unmoney in the Free UnMarket CounterEconomy. The vegetables you grow equal the money you don’t need to earn to buy the vegetables you don’t need to buy because you can grow them yourself for yourself. A partial withdrawal of consent to the total domination of the Forced Market Economy.

        Reply
        1. flora

          By ‘removing consent’ I mean no longer believing or at least accepting the basic premise given by govts for the economic system as practiced. Just that. So, for example, I no longer believe that the ‘market’ is self-regulating or will ever be self-regulating. I no longer believe that all market outcomes are ‘natural’ and can’t be changed, instead of man-made by govt policies and can be changed. See tax code, for example. I no longer believe tax cuts for the wealthy should be ‘paid for’ by govt spending cuts in the real economy justified by the idea that cutting taxes on the wealthy is “priming the pump” for future job growth. As long as I believed that stuff, or accepted it as a valid economic experiment I was ‘giving my consent’ internally. When I realized it was false, I stopped giving my consent. I stopped agreeing. Nothing dramatic.

          Reply
  3. Not From Here

    2. Lion air pilots fly this plane for an entire flight with the Angle of Attack (AOA) sensor mafling, don’t return to base, don’t adequately describe the problem in logs. They plane, not pilots, also had runaway trim due to the AOA failure.

    Typical McDonald Douglas management, who took over Boeing. They are putting blame on pilots for not properly explaining a system that they were never trained on, and for which pilots had grave misunderstandings based on past training about operation of systems on early aircraft models. Poor sods paid with their lives, and now US corporate management wants to shame their families.

    Reply
    1. ChristopherJ

      Yes, not from here. Understand the pilots tried to correct the auto pilot 29 times or something like that. When all they had to do was turn off auto and fly the plane?

      I hope the families take the company for billions

      Reply
    1. makedoanmend

      Yeap. +1

      Basically, Marcon, like every neo-lib-con politico, is paving the way for the financial and rentier class to further and relentlessly profit off the backs of working people. It’s telling that there is a concerted effort across Europe to dismantle public health services. The more precarious you make worker’s lives the more desperate they become to work, if work can be found, for pittances in order to survive – and the more exploitable they become every day.

      Yet, it only seems to be the French that kick up a fuss for the most part. But it will come to nought. The neo-libcon rule books is pretty well established. They kill with a thousand cuts. If one attempt doesn’t work, they try another and another and another. Every crisis is an opportunity. And they have all the time in the world.

      Reply
    2. Lee

      A good read. I liked his closing paragraph’s redeeming the term “populism”. I’m assuming that when he uses the term “left” that he’s using it as we here would use the term “liberal” as distinguished from left progressives.

      For some two or three hundred years, people one could call “left” hoped that popular movements would lead to changes for the better. Today, many leftists seem terrified of popular movements for change, convinced “populism” must lead to “fascism”. This attitude is one of many factors indicating that the changes ahead will not be led by the left as it exists today. Those who fear change will not be there to help make it happen. But change is inevitable and it need not be for the worst.

      Reply
      1. jsn

        Anything you find by Diana Johnstone is worth reading. Her “Fools Crusade”, on the war in Yugoslavia, is a great introduction into the imperialism and propaganda behind “responsibility to protect” interventions.

        Reply
  4. jhallc

    “Sorry to Bother You” – Lisa Featherstone

    “We were grubby interlopers in this world, canvassing for a democratic socialist candidate with a decent chance of winning her state Senate campaign.”

    I agree with the premise of the article that democracy requires direct involvment at the grassroots level and not reliance upon focus groups and consultants polls but, I find it it somewhat surprising that there is not a single reference I could find to Bernie Sanders in the entire article. Trump gets a mention for his “Rally’s”, as does AOC for the door to door approach she took but, nothing about Bernie and his engagement of people like me who had never gotten involved in a political campaign before. You would think maybe he deserves a mention.

    Reply
    1. Brindle

      Clinton’s focus group findings are symbolic of her vacuous campaign:

      “Theme: Fighter
      Fighting for Fairness.
Fighting for You. 

      She’s got your back
      Your family is her fight
      Your family. Her fight

      Your future is her fight
      Your future. Her fight.
      A force for families

      No Quit
      A fighting chance for families”

      How about:
      “A fighting family for your future” or “She’s got your family”…”A fighting force is her family”…”Her family is your future”—.

      Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The premise of the article could apply to the early 00’s. AOC is a more recent example of clear, direct action. At least with Sanders, there were definitely voters who made decisions based on the idea Democrats needed to unify and the inevitable nature of the SS Titanic…Clinton campaign.

      Canvassing wasn’t invented in the last couple of years. My mom and her sisters knocked doors in 1952 for a guy running against Henry Cabot Lodge after driving from Vermont to Taxachussetts by a 14 year old cousin.They didn’t even have facebook. When Dean was the new chairman of the DNC, Howard went on Jon Stewart and was mocked for explaining his great new idea was door hanger/mailers asking for input on the direction of the Democratic Party being delivered by volunteers. The stark contrast between the DNC between TerryMac and Howard Dean’s tenures is the same narrative, and once, Obama had what he wanted he brought back the Clintons, shutting down the organizational support from the DNC which means these efforts aren’t starting from scratch every year or risk falling into disrepair as block captain types become set in their ways.

      Reply
        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Maybe not Trump, but what do you think those church ladies are doing? Email chains? Even their candidate recruitment process is radically different than the grooming a distant lesser Bill Clinton and parachuting them in to a district.

          People who agree with loud mouths are invited out to meet the local Republican party and so forth, maybe through an other group. They field candidates in safe Democratic districts, just to stay relevant.

          I know Facebook is super trendy with Democratic Party organizing, but most computer engineers are Republican. They’ve been doing data collection for years. One of the secrets of the 50 state strategy was it was meant to copy everything the GOP was doing with a few relevant changes as in no mega church organizing.

          Reply
    3. zagonostra

      As much as I like Sander’s stance on M4All and some other policy issues i don’t understand his effusive comments on the likes of GHWB and McCain, these are nefarious folks who have much blood on their hands, and, I know he knows a lot more than I do with my feeble attempt to at understanding my history.

      Sander’s currency is continuing to diminish in my eyes, even if it’s the only fungible one in existence in this country’s politically impoverished environment.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Its better for Sanders to lead than to react. “No drama, Obama” is the proper call for his campaign. There are many of his future voters who have the memories of gold fish.

        Piling on a guy who lost to Bill Clinton. The periphery media was disgusting in its praise for Saint McCain, but the reaction to 41 has been better.

        Invoking the spirit of George H.W. Bush when its uncalled for is another matter.

        Reply
  5. Wukchumni

    Flaming hole in Arkansas found to be intentionally set, not the work of Satan or meteorite Japan Times
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    While it would be easy to insert a Hillary joke here, I won’t stoop that low.

    Reply
    1. Jessica

      Lambert, what is this rhetorical technique called, when you bring something up by saying that you are not going to bring it up?

      Reply
  6. The Rev Kev

    “U.S. Moves to Defy Russia Through Navy Operation”

    It’s all fun and games until the day comes when the Russian Navy conducts their own “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOP) twelve miles off both Pearl Harbour and San Diego.

    Reply
  7. pjay

    Re: ‘Everyone’s for Sale…’

    On seeing this posted I had hoped that it was an expose on media *content* in this age of instant digital propaganda, especially after I saw the subtitle: “Vice, Vox, and BuzzFeed, among other companies that once heralded the dawn of a new media age, are now grappling with decidedly old-media problems.” Alas, it was all about the financial struggles of these New Media darlings. Informative from a business perspective, but something is definitely missing in this story.

    Reply
    1. zer0

      Vice, Vox, and Buzzfeed are clickbait sites….they didnt hide this, they made it very apparent from the beginning.

      Reply
  8. Wukchumni

    Pistachio Wars: The Back Story Yasha Levine
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The back story not mentioned, is the 2014 California legislation regarding groundwater management, set to go in effect in 2020.

    The details of which aren’t public…

    Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

    In the midst of a major drought, California Governor Jerry Brown signed what is perhaps the most significant legislative water initiative in California in half a century: the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) [Ley de Gestión Sustentable del Agua Subterránea]. The act consists of three legislative bills, Senate Bill SB 1168 (Pavley), Assembly Bill AB 1739 (Dickinson), and Senate Bill SB 1319 (Pavley). The legislation provides a framework for long-term sustainable groundwater management across California. Under the roadmap laid out by the legislation, local and regional authorities in medium and high priority groundwater basins have formed Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) that oversee the preparation and implementation of a local Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

    The California Department of Water Resources has developed regulations governing the content of Groundwater Sustainability Plans. Local stakeholders have until 2022 (in critically overdrafted basins until 2020) to develop, prepare, and begin implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans. GSAs will have until 2040 to achieve groundwater sustainability.

    http://groundwater.ucdavis.edu/SGMA/

    Reply
  9. tricia

    @dovesandletters and Occupy Jamie.

    While I welcome any activist disruption including of individuals, whether CEOs or politicians (we need more incivility), we desperately need a militant GiletsJaunes movement. Comprehensive big-picture demands for changes to the system, rather than single-issue targeting of criminals like Dimon…wow, the difference…
    Solidarity is the refrain in their (the Yellow Vests’) demands. The Dimon disruption seems so quintessentially American. Or perhaps we’re just at a very early stage of “guerrilla warfare.”

    Reply
    1. BlueMoose

      I was actually amazed that they got so close to him. I agree that the message sounded a bit off. I would like to see him and his kind more than irritated. I’m sure that all of the head banker honchos have decent security but if ‘potential terrorists’ can get that up close and personal, I scratch my head and wonder why someone who lost their home in 2008 didn’t make it their mission to take them out.

      It seems like Americans are so easily diverted from what should be their primary targets.

      Reply
    2. Kurtismayfield

      Every year when we get the notice that out health insurance is going up again we should be marching on the insurance companies. They have very large corporate parks to walk around.

      Reply
  10. RUKidding

    31 percent of elderly people land low-wage jobs after retirement

    I didn’t notice where this was published before I linked out to it and discovered it was about the elderly in South Korea. I think a similar article could be written about the elderly here – well actually there have been several such articles, especially about those elderly who travel around the country doing a variety of low wage jobs, such as working seasonally for Amazon, picking crops and so forth, often living in recreational vehicles, if they’re LUCKY enough to have one of those.

    Of course, then there’s the Gilet jaunes movement in France, and apparently one of their main demands is “housing for the homeless.” Another situation that is equally dire here in the USA, where just yesterday I had long conversation – whilst walking to work – with a woman heading to her job but who is homeless due to lack of affordable housing in Sacramento, CA. She lives in a tent with her husband in an underpass near the rail yards. Merry Christmas, indeed.

    Will any changes be made to address these issues now common across the globe – including despairing Uber drivers in India? Not holding my breath, alas.

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      Yes, there will come a time when the mass of people will no longer tolerate their conditions of living. It just cannot be predicted. I feel as though I am ready to go right now!

      Reply
    2. BlueMoose

      Don’t hold your breath. It will simply keep going on until it can’t (the exploitation). Then, it will all come crashing down in flames. TINA, although there could be. But that won’t be allowed as long as there are a few dollars still to be grifted.

      Reply
    3. Amfortas the hippie

      In my recent excursions out into the world(between here and San Antonio, Texas) it’s striking how many older folks are working.
      There’s a truck stop about halfway that has clean bathrooms that we stop at. attched McDonald’s. I was standing in line for an iced tea, watching an elderly woman start her first day on the job…could tell that she either hadn’t worked in decades, or hadn’t had a job at all.
      She was prolly 70-ish.
      Manager(only one there who exuded competence) was more patient than I could be these days.
      as far as an American version of Gilet Jaunes…I don’t think that the pain is widespread enough to overcome the mental blocks(shame,internalisation, etc) put in place over so many years.
      This line stood out in the UNZ article: ” This is not a movement that seeks to take power. It simply seeks redress of its grievances”

      They had to go into the streets…in the big towns…and burn sh*t(why I love the French)…
      Because the bosses…both gooberment and corp…don’t listen until their house and cars are on fire and a mob is on their lawn.
      That’s what it will take, here…although our own Ministry of Truth seems to be more sophisticated(every report I’ve seen on this and other French uprisings indicates that they see right through the propaganda)….and will shout into every available orifice “terrist!”.

      Reply
  11. Jean

    About the sunrise movement,

    I see no mention of population growth or immigration anywhere. Don’t look to the Sierra Club for any hint of that either. Without those factors over the last twenty years or so, there would be no Victorville’s, as mentioned in the Pistachio Wars piece and probably little or no Wall Street abuses of junk mortgages etc.

    Looks like yet another front group for the profiteers ready to dip their public policy beaks into every single activity that Americans do like a VAT tax, except in this case it will be a Value Subtracted Tax.
    Suggestion to the Sunrise Movement– push for mandatory non profit status and public ownership of all carbon trading credit activity and then maybe we will be less skeptical.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      In the backcountry here, the 2 groups you most fear running into are the Boy Scouts or a Sierra Club group, as both tend to be {family blog-ups} the former often led by father figures that have no idea what they’re doing and their young charges simply repeat their mistakes, while the latter thinks they own the place, because they are named after it.

      The hard right likes to blame environmental groups for all that ails them (Ryan Zinke’s ‘environmental terrorists’ responsible for California wildfires, etc) but said groups had their salad days many decades ago, and are toothless in terms of making any sort of meaningful change.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        This was the classic Boy Scout story of the past summer…

        A large troop from Pacific Palisades (a rich enclave in L.A.) couldn’t do their planned trip to NM on account of wildfires there, so they descended on Mineral King and I can’t remember all of the miscues they made, as the ranger telling me rattled them off for about 10 minutes, but the highlights were spray-painting directional arrows and the name of the troop on a large boulder a few miles into the backcountry, and their packer had his horses/mules at a lake where no stock is allowed, and spread out hay and alfalfa for them to eat, a huge no-no.

        They were at Cold Springs car campground before their backpack trip and the ‘adult leaders’ had left food and about a dozen mostly full bottles of booze out on display and not put into the bearboxes on site, when they split to go do a dayhike.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          Could you imagine what that troop would be like in an emergency? A real emergency? It would be like “Lord of the Flies”.

          Reply
  12. Jean

    Diseases start in medium sized cities,
    look at the demographics, fueled by local industries,
    that will tell you about how things come into the county.

    Reply
  13. JerryDenim

    Lion Air disaster-

    The logbook entries for the doomed Lion Air 737 Max and the subsequent responses by the Lion Air maintenance technicians and the pilots that were responsible for that aircraft are horrifying. I wish I could say I can’t imagine how something so wreckless and foolish could have happened, but I can unfortunately.

    Two things from that report really jump out at me as an airline pilot, but they are non-technical factors that have nothing to do with systems or aerodynamics.

    1.) Incidents like this really illustrate why it’s in the public’s interest to have a skeptical, highly experienced Captain who is backed by a strong union on the flightdeck. I can’t imagine an ALPA (US/Canadian Pilots union) 737 Captain looking at that logbook and thinking, “What the hell, I’ll just cross my fingers and fly this obviously dangerous, malfunctioning thing with 189 people onboard, maybe it’s fixed now?” In an eighteen year aviation career I’ve refused two airplanes my employer insisted I should fly, based on logbook/maintenance issues that I believed were inadequately addressed. Both of those refusals were at times when I had a union standing behind me. When I was younger and flew smaller more dangerous airplanes without the benefit of a union, I wasn’t as concerned with the logbook because despite the very real risks to both my life and my FAA certificates, refusing to fly an airplane your boss was paying you to fly without the backing of a strong union was essentially submitting your resignation on the spot. If there was a clear cut safety violation, you could threaten your boss with the Feds if you wanted to force a hostile confrontation, but that approach carried a good deal of personal risk as well since there was no way to be sure the Feds/FAA would really ride to your rescue, and it was very doubtful they could protect you from retaliation later after the immediate issue was resolved. In situations like these, unless a pilot feels taking off in the airplane is certain death, 99 out of a 100 pilots chose to roll the dice and go in spite of their qualms. Your job, your career prospects and your rent money are at stake. Having your career prospects ruined in a bad job market while owing Sallie Mae a hundred-grand or more is a fate as frightening as death to most young pilots.

    I imagine both the Lion Air crew who made the inadequate write-up prior to the fatal flight (they down-played the severity and danger of the malfunctioning aircraft) and the crew who departed on the final fatal flight despite a logbook that indicated they were about to fly a very dangerous airplane that maintainance had *no clue how to fix*, behaved the way they did out of fear for their jobs.

    2.) If fully autonomous planes are the future, then expect way more crashes like this. An autonomous airplane is never in a position to argue with maintenance, dispatch, management or anybody. A fully autonomous aircraft will certainly lack the capability to refuse a flight assignment based on the ability to suss out suspicious logbook entries. The glibertarian, autonomous everything proponents will obviously point out, with glee, “but two trained, experienced, human pilots didn’t stop this crash”. No they did not, but it’s also not a coincidence this crash happened in aviation disaster-plagued Indonesia where pilots have very little job protection and no unions. It’s a very different employment environment and a very different safety culture from the norms in North American or Europe.

    *no clue* – Cleaning a wiring connector harness as a corrective maintenance action is always a Hail-Mary when everything else that should have already worked, isn’t working. Taking a chance on fixing a malfunction by cleaning the connector harness and seeing what happens is completely acceptable for minor, non-mission critical flight systems like a taxi or navigation light, nuisance message etc. but it is a wildly unacceptable attempt at a fix when the problem in question is a very severe one that could cause the airplane to become unstable or unmanageable in flight.

    Reply
    1. anarcheops

      Thanks for your insight JerryDenim. These things do often come down to people/management problems rather than pure technical issues. I prefer to believe the pilots were doing the best they could under the situation, not just wildly stupid and reckless. But the least powerful will always have the fewest options and take most of the blame when something goes wrong. Not that maintenance / ground crew / pilots shouldn’t take some responsibility, but firing them all wouldn’t stop the next crash.

      Reply
      1. flora

        +1.
        and
        If fully autonomous planes are the future, then expect way more crashes like this.
        I think that’s true. AI does not ‘do’ non-linear decision trees. Non-linear trees can’t be coded. Linear regressions, yes. Non-linear, no. Take the human pilot (or car driver) out of the picture and you are left with only linear code – perhaps extremely extended linear code, but linear code none the less.

        Reply
  14. ewmayer

    “In a country where cost of living is high and the chances of getting a credit card are relatively low, this new form of e-commerce has opened up a world of possibilities for a lot of Chinese millennials.” — And by “world of possibilities”, we mean “fast road to debt slavery”. But, as the article notes, if you can in over your head and you’re reasonably attractive, the innovative financiers pushing this stuff will generously allow you to engage in sex work to pay off your loan.

    Reply
  15. Savita

    Luxemborg free public transport. Good on them. 400,000 commuters – thats a lot!
    I just thought Estonia was the first country to do that, quite a long time ago. Maybe its just the
    trams (called trolley cars in the US of North America? )

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Well Luxemborg is only about 50 miles by 35 miles so its not like they have long transport lines or anything. And the place is loaded with wealthy people after all so there is a lot of money floating around.

      Reply
    2. ewmayer

      I wonder to what extent small tax-haven countries (Lux., Liechtenstein, Singapore, Monaco, etc) can afford this kind of largesse due to all that money flowing in from abroad, i.e. at the expense of other nations’ tax bases.

      Reply
      1. larry

        It is the fact that some possess their own sovereign fiat currencies that enable them to engage in fiscal expenditure for the common good. Luxembourg is part of the Eurozonem which makes it a different case than the others that you mention.

        Reply
        1. ewmayer

          That’s too simplistic – you can print all the money you want, but in the end all those material benefits require, well, materials. Singapore for instance, must import most of its goods, oil, etc. Having a large flow of tax-haven-seeking money from which to skim a few % would provide the kind of cash a resource-poor nation requires for its material needs.

          Of course Singapore also has a lot of non-financial economic stuff going on, e.g. high-end manufacturing and other forms of skilled value-add. But it is undeniable that, as with other tax-havens, a lot of its GDP comes at the expense of other nations’ tax collection.

          Reply
    3. Estonian

      As far as Estonia is concerned, public transportation is free only in the capital, but you have to be registered in the city. Recently, all county-level transportation was made free as well to help out the rural population.

      It is important to note that this has not resulted in decrease in vehicle use or congestion, so in that respect it has failed.

      Reply
  16. Jack Parsons

    “You get sick and tired of saying, ‘I’ve told the truth.’”
    – George HW Bush, in the Rolling Stone article.

    Wah-ha-ha

    Reply
  17. Raulb

    These are barbaric ants, kidnap, collecting skulls of vanquished enemies to decorate their homes, subterfuge by chemicals scents, chemical weapons and duplicitous sabotage of entire enemy colonies by propaganda.

    They seem to tick all the requirements to lead the ‘international community’

    Reply

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