Links 1/26/19

Happy Australia Day! Kiss a ‘roo, or if you can’t do that, toast with some Shiraz or antipodean sparking! I really miss Sydney.

And big thanks to Izabella Kaminska of FTAlphaville, who linked to our post on the Tepper Tantrum.

This Valentine’s Day, give the gift that lasts: A hissing cockroach Grist. The video reminds me why I had as much enthusiasm for dating as for getting a root canal.

Why paper maps still matter in the digital age The Conversation (martha r)

Hundreds missing after Brazil dam collapse DW :-(

DARPA outlines adversarial AI defense GCN (David L)

Rocking improves sleep and memory, studies in mice and people show MedicalXpress (Dr. Kevin)

Muscles may preserve a shortcut to restore lost strength MPR (Chuck L). This cheered me up, having been off my regular regime this month.


Alibaba slams U.S. treatment of Huawei, efforts to curb China’s rise Reuters. Um, as if American citizens should care what Alibaba thinks? The fact that Huawei can’t get closer-to-US proxies to pump for them is telling.

Amazon planning to build physical shops across the South of England in another assault on Britian’s struggling high streets Daily Mail


Brexit might have to be delayed even if MPs approve Theresa May’s deal, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom warns The Sun. This really is the gang that can’t shoot straight.

Varadkar warns of army checkpoints on border after a no-deal Brexit The Times

EU could move on ‘red lines’, says UK chancellor BBC. A unicorn that refuse to die.


Venezuela – Trump’s Coup Attempt Is Based On A Seriously Flawed Plan Moon of Alabama (Kevin W)

Venezuela’s US-Backed Coup Leader Immediately Targets State Oil Company and Requests IMF Money Consortium News

Venezuela Is Not Trump’s ‘First’ Intervention American Conservative (resilc)

New Cold War

Adversary Russia Counterpunch


Women detainees ‘being sexually assaulted and flogged’ in secret Saudi prisons Independent (Kevin W)

Congress Is Pushing Sanctions Against Supporters of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad Intercept. Blobs gotta blob.

Airstrikes in Taliban Area Kill 29 Afghans Despite Peace Talks New York Times. Resilc: “We are so evil in so many ways. a non-stop hate generation machine.”

Make Congress Vote on Syria and Afghanistan American Conservative (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Illinois Supreme Court rules against Six Flags in lawsuit over fingerprint scans. Here’s why Facebook and Google care. Chicago Tribune. Hooray.

Zuckerberg is breaking promises to Instagram and WhatsApp. Be concerned. Mashable (David L)

The Pitfalls of Facebook Merging Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp Chats Wired (Kevin W)

Some lawmakers are already raising concerns about Facebook’s plans to merge its messaging apps Business Insider

Undercover Agents Target Cybersecurity Watchdog Haaretz (David L)

Millions of Bank Loan and Mortgage Documents Have Leaked Online TechCrunch

Trump Transition

Shutdown ends without funding for Trump’s border wall The Hill

Trump announces deal to temporarily reopen government, ending shutdown Washington Post (furzy)

‘Complete, total surrender’: Why Trump waved the white flag Politico

Remarks: Donald Trump Announces Deal to End Government Shutdown From Rose Garden – January 25, 2019 Factbase. Resilc: “NOT The Onion!!!!”:

You are fantastic people. You are incredible patriots. Many of you have suffered far greater than anyone, but your families would know or understand. And not only did you not complain, but in many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and about its border security.″ rel=”nofollow”>You are fantastic people. You are incredible patriots. Many of you have suffered far greater than anyone, but your families would know or understand. And not only did you not complain, but in many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and about its border security.

Airport Delays Ripple Across Northeast Due to Air Traffic Controller Shortage New York Times. Wonder if this is what drove the timing of Trump’s climbdown, and not Federal worker missing another paycheck. Oh, or getting his SOTU next week?

Steve Bannon is the ‘high-ranking’ Trump official in Roger Stone indictment who asked about future WikiLeaks releases in October 2016 CNBC

Roger Stone says he won’t testify against Trump after Mueller indictment Guardian

Why Trump Will Lose in 2020 New York Times. Resile: “We will see.” Moi: Only Trump can beat Trump, but he is very capable of doing that.

BuzzFeed Releases Renderings of Trump Tower Moscow Core77

Bernie Sanders set to announce 2020 presidential run Yahoo (martha r)

Florida secretary of state resigns after newspaper obtains photos of him in blackface The Hill (Kevin W)

Machine Politics Fred Turner, Harper’s (martha r)

Global shipping rates slump in latest sign of economic slowdown Reuters (resilc)

Google Memo on Cost Cuts Sparks Heated Debate Inside Company Bloomberg

MTA Memo: Cuomo’s L Train Plan Will Cause Crowding ‘Greater Than Anything Ever Experienced’ Gothamist (martha r)

Party Is Over For Dirt-Cheap Solar Panels, Says China Executive Reuters

Guillotine Watch

The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite New York Times (resilc)

Teenage activist takes School Strikes 4 Climate Action to Davos Guardian

Davos Erupts in Laughter at the Notion of Tech Billionaire Paying More Taxes Motherboard. Paging Madame DeFarge…

Class Warfare

A new message from Democrats: it’s time to empower workers in America Guardian (resilc) If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Recall that Lambert’s analysis of 2017 Elizabeth Warren speech had her celebrating Uber as a boon for workers.

California Sues City Over Lack of Affordable Housing Wall Street Journal

Poor southerners are joining the globe’s climate migrants Scalawag (martha r)

Antidote du jour. Bob: “The picture doesn’t really show it, but the white horse is huge.”

And a bonus (martha r):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    Working link for “Why paper maps still matter in the digital age” article at-

    And the article is right. With a paper map you can quickly get the big picture and then check out the part of the map of interest to you while keeping the whole area shown on the map in context. Using a digital map is like using binoculars in that you can only see what you are directly looking at.
    And from Oz, Happy Australia day to everyone – especially in those regions where it is not about 95 degrees Fahrenheit at the moment.

    1. skippy

      I wonder how much gold this heat wave will cost [tm] … just kidding … no national energy reserves or policies. BTW Barnaby chortle … and some thought the rot was severed with Obied.

      1. tegnost

        if they want to distract you from something else they’ll dangle their shiny trinket and say look over here. Works every time.

    2. JacobiteInTraining

      Ugh too hot. You might appreciate a digital snow-map story: Picture a mountainous hilly terrain, consisting of mixed-use forests (both private timber and some cabin land) that is on the reverse side of a small hilly range opposite a National Park.

      It is little traveled, as most people use the main road to get to the Park entrance…but some, enticed by the ‘road less traveled’ (or, a desire to get into the park without paying fees) like to navigate digitally off-highway to the side road, up through the maze of private logging roads, and thence to an even worse maze of Forest Service roads, in order to get to the base of a ridge with a trail that leads into the Park and its wilderness.

      Picture a young couple in an expensive SUV who have done everything digitally correct – they have downloaded the map data to their smartphone in case cell signal is nonexistent,which it is – and their weather app didn’t predict any storms bringing snow that weekend. At least, not below 1500’… so after their quick overnighter snow-shoe/snowcamp inside the Park they emerge to a slight dusting of new snow on their SUV parked at 1000′ level, but otherwise looks good.

      But, now, after driving a bit they are in a quandry – the road they took in, and the one their phone says to take back out…has unexpectedly deep new snow in sections. That particular area has a couple odd little microclimates that push wet clouds up from the Hood Canal through little saddles to meet frigid air and thus tend to dump excessive/unexpected amounts of new snow….and weather apps never get it right.

      Its an SUV though, so they press on….and on….and….get stuck. Luckily, a group of local snowshoers happened upon them and were able to dig them out, and direct them to the random side logging road the locals take in that scenario….one that (because sheltered by trees most of its way) tends to not have snow build up, and is also not visible on a satellite map. (and thus, presumably invisible to sat-to-digital-map AI bots)

      Nice city couple escapes alive without making the headlines as ‘Missing After Snow Camping Trip!’, Local snowshoers get to feel good about helping, and a bottle of expensive scotch is consumed around bonfire that night…..Happy ending.

      1. Swamp Yankee

        I love this story. I experienced something similar. I used to live in a little cottage in the extremely sparsely populated pine barrens of Southeastern Massachusetts, immediately adjacent to a large state forest. When visitors from metro Boston would come down to see me, they’d typically use their phones to direct them.

        The only problem is that this region is criss-crossed with public ways that are 17th and 18th century wagon-roads used for wood-cutting, charcoal-making, digging bog ore, grazing cows and goats, gathering wild cranberries, hunting, fishing, etc. They are impassable to even the most rugged automobile. A range of steep glacial hills acts as a barrier to any but foot traffic.

        However, the computer only recognizes this as a public way, and so consequently directs city people deep into the woods, to the point where someone who, like me, lived in a remote cottage, affixed a sign saying something “GPS — NO! — GPS is Wrong — Turn Back!”

        At a deeper level, relying on computers to navigate for us is a waste of a finely evolved human skill, and it atrophies the brain, to my mind. Not saying there are occasions where it’s useful, but it won’t save you.

        I also had a friend from the lower Midwest accelerate with her SUV into a 5-foot deep snowdrift on the shore of Lake Superior outside Sault St. Marie on the erroneous reasoning that, because it was an SUV, it could somehow handle that.

        Digging away we went.

        So it wasn’t just people coming to visit me.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Oregon had a GPS tragedy a couple of years ago: family from California trying to get from the Rogue Valley (IIRC – SW Oregon anyway) to the coast in winter. The GPS misdirected them to a logging road, which wouldn’t have been so bad except someone had left the gate open when the snow hit. They got stuck, of course, triggering a huge search-and-rescue effort. Eventually they were found, but not before the father had tried to hike out and died of hypothermia.

          Of course, we’ve also had paper maps direct us unto roads that had been closed, sometimes after miles of heavy going. Not in snow, fortunately. But I agree: paper maps are better for planning a route, because they show context and alternatives – we’re allergic to the road-most-travelled.

        2. RMO

          Swamp Yankee: My wife and I watched the total solar eclipse near Madras Oregon. The highway got gridlocked after it was over and we – along with many others tried to use the side roads as an alternative. We were really just looking for a good place to stop and camp out while the traffic cleared. We got to a place where the road turned 90 degrees right. Straight ahead and to the left were farm driveways. There was a local woman there with a sign that said “Your GPS Is WRONG!” She was giving advice. The digital maps showed a couple of backroads which took and alternate route to Warm Springs and that’s what people were aiming for. Unfortunately for them the roads hadn’t been passable for a few years… We asked her about a farm with a for sale sign just up the road that seemed to be uninhabited and whether she thought it would be alright if we parked in the shade of the equipment barn. She said no one would mind so that’s what we did. We were joined by a young couple from the Oregon coast who decided to do the same thing. I had awoken at 2:30 in Battleground Washington to drive us to the viewing spot so I really needed the rest.

          I’m still a paper map/chart user both on the ground and in the air. My glider has a moving map display but it’s fitted into a standard 80mm instrument so the scale is a little small for primary reference. Very useful, but it works in synchronicity with the paper chart not as a replacement.

        1. BrianC

          The real shame is that the family stopped driving down hill very close to where the road terminated at Black Bar Lodge on Oregon’s Rogue River. Had they continued maybe a 1/2 mile they could have broken into the lodge and had access to food, cooking facilities, water and shelter.

          Plus they would have been on the river and chances are a passing float group would have discovered them.

          We often arranged in years past, with the owners, to stay at Black Bar after it had closed for the season on various winter trips.


          Bill and Sally Hull purchased the lodge in ~1960, I think. Her family told a story about the trip President Carter took down the Rogue. The Secret Service came to the Lodge, prior to his trip, to check her out. They happened by while she was cutting up firewood with a chain saw. After she shut the saw off they asked her what she thought of Carter. The response was “I don’t give a damn who my customers are as long as they pay their bills.”

    3. map this

      I create and publish paper maps. Unfortunately, sales keep going down.

      It’s more disturbing that map reading skills are declining. How many people do you know who are clueless without GPS navigation and online maps?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        A friend who is a mountain guide says he finds it very heartening how many teenagers he teaches are keen to learn map and compass skills. But I suspect these are very much a minority – its hard to prove, but I’ve a feeling many people are losing their map reading skills even if they have some. This is anecdotal, but in my experience women seem to depend more on gps and digital maps while men rather stubbornly cling to paper maps – I’ve wondered is this due to men tending to have better spatial orientation skills.

        1. Lee

          Perhaps you are confusing resistance to asking for directions with better spatial orientation skills. ; )

          Actually the linked article is interesting, particularly as it cites an evolutionary basis for the difference, which corresponds to the greater expendability of men theory to which I subscribe. Being more expendable insofar as propagation of the species is concerned, men are better adapted to higher risk tasks, including scouting new territory. OTOH, as is noted in the article, human brain plasticity and educative processes enable us to a large extent to slip the gender based bonds of natural selection.

          Her basic premise is that men have evolved to wander, in search of both food and more mates. Males who travel more and farther have a reproductive edge—as do women who stay closer to home, focusing on protecting and raising their offspring. Studies of traditional and modern human societies have demonstrated larger ranges correspond to better spatial cognition, both in mental rotation and with wayfinding, the ability to navigate and find one’s way around.

            1. newcatty

              Ha, bet you could ask my male husband why his female wife was usually the one in our younger days to suggest to move to a new adventure!

            2. Lee

              Gender based capabilities and behavioral proclivities are hardly absolute or fixed, are now more culturally determined than the result of selective pressures, allowing and promoting more different strokes for more different folks. A good thing, I’m sure you’ll agree.

              1. Lee

                Interestingly, not all successful species selected for more physically robust, risk taking males— hyenas, raptors and bonobos being notable exceptions not to mention the superior hunting prowess of female lions. As for mental mapping capabilities, among herd animals such as elk, bison and elephants, it is the older females that typically lead migrations and know where the resources ample enough to feed the group are to be found.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Per Lee above: as a woman who has more math than verbal aptitude, and has tested extremely high on spatial skills, I don’t buy these gender theories. I recall a teacher presenting a spatial task to me and some other girls in elementary school and actively discouraging performance: “Of course, you’ll find this hard, boys are better at this.” Similarly, God forbid that a woman drive the car except to spell the male driver.

            I grew up in a house where my mother was always the navigator, wonder if that had any influence….

            1. PlutoniumKun

              So far as I’m aware (not my area of expertise), men consistently and across cultures score higher than women on the type of specific spatial skills associated with map reading – but it is a matter of dispute as to whether this is a nature vs nurture thing. Obviously, this is an ‘average’ difference and doesn’t account for individuals.

              I do quite a lot of outdoor navigation in one form or another and I’ve consistently found that men are more comfortable with maps and using natural senses to orient themselves, but I’ve also noted that women seem to defer to ‘the man with a map’ more than other men do, so I’m sure there is a strong cultural/nurture aspect to it too.

              1. Susan the Other

                I dunno. My husband is a math head. Engineer. But he could never ffind his way out of a cardboard box. I used to navigate on trips and I used pure logic like: Don’t turn right you goofball, the ocean is on the left and our hotel is on the ocean.

              2. FluffytheObeseCat

                As a mining geologist I rarely had the opportunity to “defer to the man with the map” since I was 1) the trained expert and 2) alone in the field. My experience is:

                I’m better at spatial tasks than most women and most men. Much of this is due to experience and practice. Some of it may be inherent. I’m left handed and I was drawn to the physcial sciences from an early age, possibly due to spatio-visual gifts. I’ve worked for years with other field geologists and a handful among them are far better at spatial orientation and visualization than I am. All are men. I have not – to date – met other female geologists or engineers who are that consistently more capable than I am wrt spatial skills, although I’ve met plenty who do better on an intermittent basis.

                I’ve discussed details of this with a few of them over the years. One of the best of the men can mentally rotate 3D objects with insane ease. I.e. I can readily spin an object through three 90 – 180 turns in my mind’s eye but begin to lose it beyond 3, particularly if the rotations are orthogonal to each other. He could maintain a minds’s eye view of a moderately complex rotated object almost indefinitely. His spatial visualization abilities are rare even within our discipline. I’ve met perhaps 6-7 other geologist who seem to be close to him in visualization ability, and all are men.

                The distribution of spatial abilities among men seems to have a thicker high side tail. However, most of them are just as unremarkable as most women. Also, spatial-visual skills also are not purely inherent, and they are not static. You can get better with practice and training, and you lose skills if you are trapped in an office for years.

                The Charles Murray types who argue that ‘spatial skills’ correlate positively with general intelligence are, IMNSHO, looking to elevate themselves and other men like them in defiance of reality. The virtuoso-level spatial visualization/navigation skills possessed by a (very) few of my male colleagues seem to have little impact on most key aspects of life. Some of these men are poor writers, are easily swayed by conspiracy theories, and/or lack social skills. Others are shrewd and articulate. None of the ones I’m thinking of are broke, I’ll grant that, but I suspect that correlates most strongly with their middle class upbringings and college degrees.

        2. Harry

          Last time i checked i was male. I am too lazy to read a map if i have gps. I hope i don’t find myself in a deadzone when i need to navigate.

        3. Laughingsong

          @PK 11:56 am PST
          Not in this household mate: I’m the map reader/lover and Himself can’t get anywhere without that stupid GPS even with maps in the car. You’ve maybe experienced some of the remote boreens a Garmin will put you onto if you pick “shortest route”.

          I love maps, and I do regret their seeming demise. At least David Imus and Delorme are still out there. I work closely with our GIS developers in the County and love their mapping applications.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Oh yes, I’d never trust any GPS driving minor roads in Ireland. I’d only trust them in urban areas (where to be fair googlemaps has found me short cuts I’d never have found myself).

            I once drove from Donegal to Dundalk, which involves skirting the border several times. Due to roadworks I was diverted onto minor roads, which hopelessly confused my Garmin (for once, I’d forgotten my road atlas). It brought me and my passengers on a very interesting and quite eery tour of minor boreens through what was known as Bandit Country – still dotted with monuments of one killing or ambush. It pretty much delivered us to Dundalk without ever touching a main road. Luckily the sun was out so I knew all the time we were going in the right direction.

            1. Wukchumni

              For about a decade now, some GPS units informed their drivers desiring to go to Sequoia NP, to make a right turn onto Mineral King Road instead and drive 25 miles until it dead ended.

              99% of visitors are headed for the Giant Forest and environs, and the NP has gone to the effort of erecting 2 signs, pleading with drivers to go another way, but to little avail to a small amount that do as they are told by a computer.

              A ranger friend told me that once a day on average in the summer, tourists go the wrong way.

              I’ve run into waywards many times over the years…

      2. polecat

        Evolution seems to be in play … wonder what new subspecies the screen-tethered demographic will develope in into .. and if said cranium size increases, or becomes deminished, in time. Same goes for limbs — to atrophy, or not to atrophy … I guess that’s a question for future anthropologists, should any survive our rocky transition through whatever bottlenecks come our way.
        I can’t help but think, with the increasing availability of all these ‘wonderous high-tech experiments, how human devolution, in some form, is baked into the genome.

        1. Lee

          Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were bigger, stronger and, individually, probably “smarter” in the sense that survival required a more complex and varied array of skills and knowledge of the natural world than are typically required of modern humans. For better or worse, we have transitioned from a small population to a large population species. The way things are going, it looks like we may have to transition back, assuming that is even possible.

          1. Procopius

            I’ve seen a couple of articles recently saying fertility rates in Japan are already below replacement level, and other advanced countries are heading that way. Less advanced countries are seeing diminishing fertility rates as well, although they aren’t down to the replacement level yet. Doesn’t the Gaia Theory say that the whole Earth ecosystem functions like a living being, adjusting itself to sustainable parameters? I sure hope so. I think total human population is already two or three times capacity.

      3. JBird4049

        It seems to get harder to get good accurate up to date maps especially as map companies are bought out and have their product crapified or at least the selection severely downsized. I am still unhappy with the death of Thomas Brothers maps for example. Updated yearly, easy to use, and better than any other map I’ve ever used, but bought out and just about killed.

    4. Wukchumni

      I’ve never used a GPS in the backcountry, as 7.5 minute quadrangle topo maps tell you everything you need to know about the lay of the land, how steep is the terrain and is it wooded or rocky, and all landmarks such as mountain peaks and other features are splayed out as things unfold on paper.

      Can I walk off-trail w/o being cliffed out somewhere, and is there a perfect passage somewhere in the midst of terrain that will allow me to walk unimpeded to my destination?

      1. VK

        the fun part in preparing a tour always was taking the topo map and imagining the landscape with it, and a geological map for what to find there…

        1. Wukchumni

          A favorite 13 mile long day hike is to a series of caves, sinkholes and a creek that doesn’t exist on any topo maps, which disappears and then reappears.

          Bathing Cave is the perfect cave for anybody, a tall enough passage to get in w/o much bother with a little stream beckoning you furthur, and 50 feet later you’re at the end of your journey in a 20 foot wide chamber, with that aforementioned creek supplying a 20 foot high waterfall crashing down in the middle of muted light emanating from above.

          I’ve come across the most interesting rocks/boulders in the vicinity, when en route off-trail.

          Panorama Bowl is a spectacular alpine karst valley. A single stream flows through three separate caves in this area. This complex hydrology-pattern begins when a surface stream flows into Alto Cave, sumps and then appears again in Bathing Cave where it plunges over a 20-foot high waterfall. The water flows from Bathing across the surface and into Sink Cave where it disappears again. Dry passages connect Sink to Panorama Cave where the stream again appears. Panorama-Sink is the longest cave in the area with nearly 4000 feet of passage. Panorama Cave is one of the most unique caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. It is formed in black marble, which contains amphibole asbestos minerals in the form of tremolite crystals. The cave’s passages have developed in a varied pattern of rising and falling tubes and canyons, denoting a complex hydrology.

      2. flora

        Good beginners map&compass book, imo, especially for reading topo maps :
        ‘Be Expert with Map & Compass Book ‘, by Bjorn Kjellstom.
        Originally published decades ago. Still available, now updated. Available in many public libraries.

    5. Wukchumni

      And from Oz, Happy Australia day to everyone – especially in those regions where it is not about 95 degrees Fahrenheit at the moment.

      Hoist a XXXX for me!

      I haven’t been to Australia since the late 80’s, and probably visited 5x since 1981, and I loved the groovy slanguage utilized, every new phrase was music to my ears, the fair dinkums et al.

      Does it still pepper the conversation?

      1. ChristopherJ

        Fair dinkum still around in my group of friends in far north queensland, where XXXX Gold (mid strength alcohol) is the beer of choice.

        G’day, struth, bugger and would you believe that you can use the c word in polite company? Even woman I know will use the word to describe someone as (say) selfish or rude.

        Yes, lots of the old Australia still in the lingo, just not as good as the place was 30 or 40 years ago. A wet dawn is what I can see outside, so will wait a few hours before joining you in a toast

        1. Procopius

          Sounds like the c word has a different meaning, just as in pommie slang. In American it refers to a part of the female anatomy which the English Victorians considered improper to speak of. I never have a problem with it because I’m vulgar by nature, but I find it amazing how shocking Americans find it. Almost none of them know that Pommies or Aussies say it they aren’t even thinking of that female anatomy and don’t know the peculiar American meaning given to the word. Well, I could be wrong. Maybe there is some association there, but I’ve worked with several Englishmen, and they didn’t seem to think so. I always heard the word applied to men.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Geez mate, you know that I would never come the raw prawn with you. I mean fair suck of the savaloy, I have always given you the drum and would never give you a furphy. There would be Buckley’s chance of that happening. And me mate Nino Culotta would agree with that.

    6. kgw

      Having been a High Sierra backpacker in my younger days, topo map and compass skills were developed…Later, I had a small catamaran and began the practice of navigation on the coastal waters of the California Bight: mostly the southern portion.

      The open water stuff is great when you can see landmarks, but they look so different from 5-10 miles out. Charting skills are mandatory! I use GPS as well, but …It is under the control of other people!

      Situational awareness is key. The best navigation text I encountered for small boat owners was written by a former Coast Guard Captain. He used all manner of “eyeball” practices when in proximity to the ground that were very old-school. Quite applicable to land-based navigation as well!

    7. barefoot charley

      My only difficulty with maps, which I’ve loved my life long, is when kids peer into our car and see a map spread on the seat. They smile–the little feckers think I’m cute! They smile like I did when Grandmommy in rural Kansas offered me a chamber pot to put under my bed. I guess I too was once obnoxious.

    8. Mark Alexander

      With a paper map you can quickly get the big picture […]

      Last year I was at a dinner gathering with a younger (late 20s-ish) couple, one of whom had never learned how to use a paper map. We used a map of Vermont to show her how it worked, and she was amazed, saying something like, “I never knew how these towns were related to each other geographically!” It was difficult for me to imagine how it must have been for her: I grew up riding a bicycle everywhere and I obtained free (!) maps at gas stations to keep from getting lost.

      Recently I was alarmed to learn that DeLorme no longer sells their big topo atlas of Vermont. Now they only offer a dumbed-down combined Vermont/NH atlas that has much less detail than the old single-state ones. I thought about buying a used second copy of the old VT atlas as a backup, but they’re going for $50 on eBay now. Yet another triumph of crapification!

      1. dcrane

        Such a shame! I lived inside those DeLorme atlases for decades. Yes, the 1990s-era editions were the best ones.

        Bought a new Rand McNally Road Atlas the other day, with the feeling that one can’t be sure even those will be around much longer.

    9. ChristopherJ

      Cheers, Kev and Yves.

      Think our rainfall was around 250mm in last 24 hours up here in Cairns, while rest of country in drought and/or heatwave… So hard to celebrate Australia Day, but we managed a couple of schooners at the local pub and had a laugh at the thong throwing and pav eating contests…

  2. Jessica

    About Venezuela, it is useful to remember that back when it was called the Spanish Main, Venezuela was mostly slave plantations. It has the slave economy of a Caribbean island, only on the mainland. So its racial divisions have been as severe as in the US. In this sense, it is more like Brazil and less like Chile or Argentina.
    The majority of the population is ‘pardos’, which means mixed race. There has long been a split between those who identify as white and everyone else. This race difference is overlaid on the class difference. Chavez and Maduro represent the pardos and the lower class. The US-recognized politician and his friends represent the (not so large) middle class and upper class. The voices of Venezuelans outside of Venezuela tend to come from the middle and upper classes.
    Second, although the Chavistas have succeeded in winning elections and holding electoral power, most of the economic power in Venezuela has been in the hands of the same old ruling elite. This economic elite has undermined the Venezuelan economy in order to regain political power (and to ensure continued economic power). The US has leveled sanctions on Venezuela in the hope of creating chaos and bringing down the Chavista government.
    Third, during the years in which China was buying up commodities worldwide at a prodigious rate, this created an opportunity for left-populist governments in commodity-exporting countries to create political gains for the lower classes without having to confront and disempower the traditional elites. Venezuela, Ecuador, and Brazil did this. (Thailand did too, but the timing there was less driven by the commodity market.) This meant that the reforms they could enact while the had political power were limited. Worse, when the tide receded on Chinese commodity purchases, that window of opportunity closed. Whether any of these countries would have been better off trying to take control of the economy, not just of the state, I can not say, but the fact that they did not means that the traditional elites are returning with a vengeance.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for this, an excellent overview. I’ve never been to Venezuela, but I’ve a few close Venezuelan friends from mixed backgrounds (father a ‘negrito’ as his daughter called him, mother a ‘blondie’). I was always surprised at just how much these racial differences fed into their conversation, and even who they would approach – my friend would often comment walking down the street on ‘oh, that girl is Venezuelan’ from hearing a snatch of conversation, but she would make an immediate decision based on appearance as to whether that was the type of Venezuelan she’d want to talk to.

      But it does show that no matter how bad the economy gets, Maduro will keep the loyalty of a very significant section of the population. Which could mean civil war if he is pushed out. This will not be pretty, there are a lot of guns in that country.

      Your analysis of the economic situation is spot-on I think. To be fair to Chavez he did recognise the need to build a more mixed economy, but it proved beyond him to do it, especially as the high currency value made it almost impossible to shield the domestic agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Where are the folks here who have been offering that the people (some set,at least) of Venezuela would be so much better off if they were not led by economic illiterates who every day, all by their policies alone, have birthed and fostered this chaos and the daily inflation of the sovereign currency?

        Not enough gold, or oil, in the whole world to satisfy the greedy, who will suffer none of the consequences in their special lives…

      2. Swamp Yankee

        Excellent points about the lasting impacts of being a slave society on Venezuela. A friend who is an historian of Latin America (Gran Colombia, the state Bolivar created which eventually broke into Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador — formerly the New Kingdom of Grenada under Spanish rule) made the point to me that it is almost necessary to understand the racial system described above as a sort of caste system. There is not the ‘one drop’ rule we have in the US and other Anglosphere settler colonies; you can be ‘white’ but have admixtures of Native and African ancestry. Despite this fact, in his view the classes, which do heavily map onto ethnic/racial categories, are so rigid as to be effectively a kind of caste system.

        There is also a geographical aspect — regions of Colombia, e.g., that are up higher and were thus settled by small, mainly European-Native mestizos and European farmers, tend to be pretty highly economically developed. Medellin, e.g., at about 4,000 feet, is a modern, developed city, at least in its core (not talking about the Communas, what are called favelas in Brazil).

        Go down to the lowlands, where slave agriculture predominated, and the weather gets much hotter and more humid, the water is worse, and the economy is much less developed. The region is still ruled by a tiny plantation style European-descended elite, but African and African-Native mestizo populations dominate. (There are some regions, that I didn’t visit, where colonial style peonage among Native populations persists — yes, they’re legally liberated, but they live on the same hacienda that they’ve lived on, and whose owner they have served, since the 16th c., similar to many of the sharecroppers post Reconstruction in the US — de jure free, de facto unfree).

        One of the persistent legacies of slave societies is economic under-development. Look at literacy rates in say, early New England vs. early Colombia (other differences, like the Protestant-Catholic divide, are critical here as well). Puritan New Englanders were obsessed with literacy — if you can’t read the Bible you’re going to hell — and achieved literacy rates of 90% and higher. My friend estimated the comparable figure for early modern Colombia would be 5%. The first printing press comes to New England in 1640; to Colombia, sometime in the 1820s. So when you are actively trying to prevent the majority of your population from reading, the economy remains essentially feudal in important ways, and this has lasting effects.

        And yes, this is basically riffing off Max Weber’s thesis in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (i.e., there is a reason the leaders in capitalist development have roots in reformed Protestantism — the Netherlands, Scotland, New England, Philadelphia, etc.).

        1. anon in so cal

          Brazil apparently has / had some form of a “one drop” rule, according to which one drop of white blood gets one designated “white.”

          “According to Jose Neinstein, a native white Brazilian and executive director of the Brazilian-American Cultural Institute in Washington, in the United States, “If you are not quite white, then you are black.” However, in Brazil, “If you are not quite black, then you are white.” Neinstein recalls talking with a man of Poitier’s complexion when in Brazil: “We were discussing ethnicity, and I asked him, ‘What do you think about this from your perspective as a black man?’ He turned his head to me and said, ‘I’m not black,’ … It simply paralyzed me. I couldn’t ask another question.”[18]”

          Otherwise, some studies suggest that the common interpretation of W’s PE stands on shaky ground, because W’s study was not historically accurate.

          “many of the business
          practices W associated with the Reformation, including usury and speculative
          purchasing, were already legitimized in Catholic sixteenth-century Mexico.”

          1. Swamp Yankee

            Interesting quote in the cited article from the great French historian Braudel about the northern Italian origins of capitalism that definitely leaves a lot to think about.

            FWIW my doctoral dissertation argued (in part) that 18thc New England was essentially non-capitalist in crucial ways, so I’m certainly not all the way on board with Weber; that said, I think he raises interesting questions (why do Protestant countries dominate late 19th c capitalism?), esp. about why northern countries take over from the Florentines and Genoese et al.

            Thanks for the link, I’m interested to dig a bit deeper!

            (I think the points about the underdevelopment of slave societies is relatively uncontroversial, I will say, but that’s a different issue than Protestantism vs Catholicism and the origins of capitalism).

            Thanks again.

            1. deplorado

              >> 18thc New England was essentially non-capitalist in crucial ways

              Would love to be able to read your dissertation, or a quick summary of it, if you don’t mind sharing here. High literacy and town democracy in colonial New England are fascinating artifacts of a culture that helped shape early US and I think now is more important than ever to understand in what ways its non-capitalist characteristics (complementing its capitalistic ones maybe?) made it so successful.

              Sorry for posting this request late…First time my comment fell thru. I hope you will be able to see it and follow up with a little bit more on NE.


              1. Swamp Yankee

                Deplorado, thanks so much! I’d be delighted to give as intelligible summary as I can of it. And I totally agree about the importance of these early American lifeways for our era and the coming era, which will not look like the 20th c. in very important respects, ecology not least of it.

                I suppose I should start with ecology. It is a Left ecological, political, and economic history of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, from the 17th century to the end of the War of 1812 (1815).

                One of the pre-conditions for the rise of capitalism in England and elsewhere, as the great English Marxist historian E.P. Thompson demonstrated, was are called The Enclosures — the centuries long process by which the landowning aristocracy took, piece by piece, the Commons of England, where the relatively free late feudal English commoners were able to gather firewood, water, honey, peat, graze livestock, etc., including rights guaranteed, essentially, at Magna Carta. It was the destruction of these common liberties by the ruling class, the aristocracy but also the gentry (1% and 10% in today’s terms), aided by Parliament, that created a vast proletarian ‘reserve army of labour’; English farmers, thrown off their land, would come to toil in the “dark Satanic mills” of new industrial cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, and so on.

                Thus, I would argue, following Thompson, that the persistence of a Commons regime is a key marker of a pre-, or more properly, non-, capitalist economy and society. The Common weal vs. private acquistiveness. This is what I found in my native Southeastern Massachusetts through a close and extensive examination of Town Meeting Records. More on that in a bit. (Indeed, the term “Commonwealth” itself is a product of Puritanism – Cromwell renamed England the Commonwealth of England after executing Charles I; this ideology heavily influenced the Revolution here, and that’s why you have Commonwealths of MA, VA, PA, KY).

                This contest over the Commons also occurred here in the United States. Historian Gary Kulik, for instance, has written fantastic stuff about contests between farmers and fishermen, on the one side, and nascent mill-owning capitalists, on the other, in the Blackstone Valley, a river which flows from Worcester, MA, to Narragansett Bay at Providence, RI. This was America’s first industrial corridor, e.g., Slater Mills, the first factory in North America, was built at Pawtucket in 1795. Kulik traces how the individuals who wanted to build mills, which required water power, were opposed by a vastly larger faction of yeoman farmers and fisher people who particularly relied on anadramous fish runs, fish that migrate up the river from the sea to spawn, e.g., alewives (herring) and shad, as a crucial food source. It took enormous breaking of the popular will for the factory owners to defeat the yeomen, but there, they did.

                Well, I went looking for similar things that Kulik found in my own neck of the woods. I grew up next to a herring run; most towns in coastal New England have something similar. So in my town and neighboring towns I went and looked at the Town Meetings, all of them, which are still kept, the originals (!!!) written by Town Clerks, by hand, in each Town’s elected Town Clerk’s Office. So I spent many, many hours reading these Old Meetings.

                And what did I find?

                They are obsessed with the regulation and preservation of various Commons: not just anadromous fisheries, but things like meadows, bog iron ore, physical features like beaches (i.e., preserve it from being destroyed by over-grazing), etc. It’s the thing they most legislate about. And here, in Plymouth County, the factory owners were far less successful; the yeomanry to a much greater extent preserved the Commons.

                These Town Meetings of course, were not perfect democracies; neither was Athens’. But they were the most democratic form of government in the Atlantic world to that point (with the possible exception of some pirates). Now, of course, there were barriers to participation in the political community — you have to be English (i.e., the Wampanoag cannot vote; the small number of slaves or free Africans cannot vote); you have to be a man; you have to be over 21; you have to hold property, though a relatively low threshold. They also are dominated by local notables, as was Athens.

                Yet for all of that, they are a far cry from the seigneurial societies of say, New France (Quebec) or New Spain (Mexico; Don = Lord). They vote, a lot, they use parliamentary tricks on each other (“vote to reconsider the vote”), they write petitions to President Jefferson protesting the Embargo Act. They argue for years about how to build a bridge but keep the fish. They are highly literate but also disputatious. They understand themselves, though, as a body politic, like the Greek polis — they are a corporate body not in the sense of the modern business corporation, but in the literal sense of corpis, body. They are inextricably intertwined. There is something almost medieval about it, you might say, and I mean that in a positive way.

                Why exactly these towns in Plymouth County (the three towns I examined most closely were Pembroke, Duxbury, and Wareham, Mass., though I looked at records from a number more) preserved their Commons more thoroughly than the Blackstone Valley towns, in both RI and MA, is something I’m still working on and trying to figure out.

                At any rate, my larger point was to challenge the so-called Consensus (late 1940s-mid1960s) and Neoliberal (mid 80s to the present) view that the Pilgrims basically stepped off the Mayflower as fully formed capitalists. No, the process of capitalist transformation was uneven, took a long time, and required wrenching political conflict, and in important ways, we still have non-capitalist traditions persisting today (i.e., my mechanic is my friend’s cousin, I get a better deal — kinship, not the market).

                So that’s a long summary, but thanks for your interest and letting me jabber.

                1. amfortas the hippie

                  ive done similar(and less rigorous lol) investigation around here, in the texas hill country(see:adelsverein). the german idealist legacy is strong, if largely inconscious… and has a large effect on community relations at all levels.
                  id love to read your thing when its finishhed

                  1. Swamp Yankee

                    Thanks so much, amfortas! I have always wanted to visit the Texas Hill Country. I had no idea until I visited Texas the strong German presence (was only in Houston, or rather Sugarland for a few days to visit a girlfriend’s mother).

                    I actually finished it a few years ago, am trying to turn it into a book now, but teaching duties make that very much a back-burner project.

                    If you and Deplorado email swampyankee1246 at gmail, I can try to send a digital copy your way. Thanks again for the kind words and interest! Would love to hear more about Texas Hill farmers and esp German Idealism, which is a pet interest of mine!

                    You both might enjoy a collection of essays, ed. by Stephen Hahn, from the mid-80s: _The Countryside in the Age of Capitalist Transformation_. Examines a number of regions in the US.

                    1. deplorado

                      Thank you, I will send you an email. Thanks for the other tips too! – lots of great stuff to read.

    2. Olga

      Had an ex whose family were sent to Venezuela in the 1950s – the father worked for Gulf Oil. By all accounts they lived a very nice, neo-colonial, white upper-middle class life – big house, several maids, the works. Tales of a very unequal society, with no way out. (Unfortunately, they paid a price, when – upon returning to Houston cca 1963 – the kids, who spoke perfect Spanish – were teased as “wetbacks.” They barely recovered and never spoke Spanish again.)

      1. Olga

        And thanks for a great summary that makes much more sense than accounts of self-selected escapees in Colombian hotels (plus – I think y-day’s comment about those Colombian hotel refugees was a recycled one – I recall seeing it quite a while ago).

    3. lee

      Third, during the years in which China was buying up commodities worldwide at a prodigious rate, this created an opportunity for left-populist governments in commodity-exporting countries to create political gains for the lower classes without having to confront and disempower the traditional elites.

      And that is the fatal error.

        1. Lee

          Political realism isn’t for the faint of heart. I spent some time with Laura Allende after she was released by the Pinochet regime. I asked her if they did not see the coup coming and could they not have taken counter-measures. She recounted how the MIR warned them of the coming coup and offered to collaborate with the Allende government in a revolutionary “white coup”. “But we refused”, she recalled, and with a thousand yard stare she concluded, “we didn’t realize how much they hated us.”

    4. Harry

      Absolutely spot on. I have family in Vene and have visited many times, both before Chavez and after. 95% of the population is POC. I am treated well, but i am gringo as well as brown. The behavior of lawyers supposedly looking after my half brothers disgusted me.

      That said, things are very bad. Even among the poor people want change. It is now only the poorerst (and darkest) 40% that still support Maduro, in my opinion.

  3. Jessica

    On coups, I ran across a book (I apologize for not being able to remember the title) that claims that who wins in a coup is not decided by which side is stronger, not decided by which side everyone thinks is stronger, but rather is decided by which side everyone thinks everyone else thinks is stronger.

    1. stefan

      For a coup to succeed, you must assassinate, detain, or otherwise eliminate the opposing leadership, AND you must seize control of the means of communication–radio, TV, news, and so forth. These two events must occur simultaneously, which means that a coup requires a conspiracy of two operational forces who must each trust the other and run the risk of not knowing whether the other has succeeded while taking their operational action.

      1. Summer

        Capture oppo leadership and communication…
        I’d add transportation to that: airports, anything major.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Yes, of course. When the Russian green men locked down Crimea, they shut down the airport to stop anyone flying in. I have read a report, which is unconfirmable, that the Turks had brought several dozen of their Jihadists out of Syria and were about to fly them into Crimea to support the Tatars there aboard two airliners. They would be the local muscle to keep the local Russian population in line and to give Turkey an ‘in’ to that peninsular.

    2. Ptb

      Coup d’etat (To be clear, pretty much universally a bad idea) : possible with as little as 30-40% of the general population, provided 80%+ of the police and military are going along with it.

      If officers / enlisted are split, tense situation.

  4. Amfortas the hippie

    regarding maps: I love maps. (Natgeo Kid).
    I learned the other day that Google has moved Google Earth into their cloud…only accessible by using their Chrome.
    at the same time, at least for my luddite self,Google Maps seems to have caught an imbecile bug.
    Anecdotally Correlative, as fitting the new ontology of billions of tiny hillforts/enterprises.

    regarding Sirota on the Jailer…if my limited interactions with my sort of extended family about Kamala are any indication, this is gonna be a hard fight. Dems…even those farther to the Left…have definitely entered the Silo…both about Bernie, and whether or not the DNC rigged anything…and about the Emotionalist Reality Distortion Field surrounding Kamala.
    (and note…the only Ringwraith we have a name for, was named “Kamal”. Just saying…)

    regarding American Refugees, in America(!)…NOLA…and the Plaquemines…and the 9th…and…
    disaster that dis-proportionally effects po folks, and/or black folks, is used to further curtail the New Deal, and force Neoliberal predation. what’s the threshold, I wonder, when lack of housing becomes noticeable to “ordinary” Americans in their daily comings and goings?
    Considering all the other presumebly obvious(to me, at least) civilisational failures that so few seem to notice(or at least be willing to talk about, if not acknowledge)…I reckon it’ll take a lot.
    we are well conditioned to ignore things that don’t fit the catechism, or explain them away as personal failings.
    Those scales can’t fall away soon enough

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      and in the NYT, no less: “…In Davos, executives tend to speak about automation as a natural phenomenon over which they have no control, like hurricanes or heat waves. They claim that if they don’t automate jobs as quickly as possible, their competitors will….”

      further, complimentary, displacement, as an inevitable,providential and achievable goal.
      It would be one thing if automation leaned towards a Roddenberian Freedom from Want…but that won’t be allowed.
      Instead, 1100 AD seems to be the target….but with the Manor and the Monastery wired for Alexa(see: Aeon Flux, Altered Carbon, etc)

      1. Judith

        Yes. Neo-feudalism is the goal. Of course, for some people in this world, feudalism has never ended, so maybe scratch neo.

        1. newcatty

          Judith, you are stating an opinion that is, imo, the truth about things. Feudalism never died. It got all pretty with monarchs facing that they, and their landed gentry and courtiers, had to give in for a pretend vote for the peasants and plebs to create a “constitutional ” “democratic government ” for the masses. The ruling families allowed some new money into the ranks. The ruling families control the wealth of the planet…despots come in all stripes. How can a real democracy exist with rampant inequalities? Slavery exists in cleaver disguises. When families in our country hover up the wealth to a few golden ones, then something’s gotta give. The greedy and powerful insatiable elites will not, through a come to Jesus moment, turn into empathetic or compassionate rulers. There’s another interesting point, the rise of AI and the globalization was inevitable. What kind of dystopian future lies ahead is the stuff of reat writer’s like Atwood. Until us mopes face the fact that most of us are well trained and conditioned slaves, then the PTB will keep on keepin on…Maybe , part of the problem is that people who are not wealthy and sociopathic or , what some may call evil, can’t fathom that they are just fodder ( for example, in the military) or useful slaves in the great game of domination of the planet and her life. Keep the peasants divided, fearful, sick, increasingly more without decent shelter and food, mind controled with “media”, hypnotized with bread and circuses ( whoo hoo! Its Super Bowl Sunday! Academy Awards! Vegas Games and has been pop rocks! Cheap drinks and junk food at “happy hours”! Friday night lights at any high school! Disney Land is bringing Star Wars to life this very summer! Donuts are making a come back! Kids are, unless emotionally immune or fortunate to have supportive and mature parents, more pressured then ever to “be strong”, ” work hard in school”, “be the best they can be”, excell in your sport, girls: looking sexy and pretty is imperative, boys: looking sexy and cool is imperative. Some kids are “woke”, but will their generation have a chance? The recent images of the smirk high school kid from the Catholic High School in Kentucy trying to share down a native American elder, who was praying and singing for peace and calmness while surrounded by teen aged jerks was a sign of these sad times.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            If one accepts a self-image of oneself as being fodder, then one will not see anti-fodderization tools and pathways available to be used and taken even if they actually exist in usable take-able form.

            Now, about those kids and that elder, it turns out that before that elder walked among those kids . . . . some members of a blackkk raycist hate group called the Black Hebrew Israelites ( thieving cultural appropriators that they are) had been race-baiting and race-taunting them. So those kids may have been primed for nasty behavior when walked among without warning by an American Indian elder with apparently zero actual knowledge of who the real raycists really were.

            That issue was illuminated at some length on Public Radio’s “On The Media” program this morning.

            1. newcatty

              Don’t see that the kids, having been “race -baited” or “race taunted” is any rationale whatsoever for their disrespectful and taunting behavior to a elder American who “walked among them without warning” singing, playing his drum and giving no feedback to smirk stare down to an elderly man. Saw this covered on Democracy Now. The fact that any persons doing any taunting is not excusable. This doesn’t negate the fact that one could see with one’s own eyes the large group of high school aged males surrounding an elderly man who just walked toward the group to diffuse the situation. Disgraceful, for the boys and for the adults, who were supposed to be supervising them.

              1. Morgan Everett

                Don’t know why people are still trying to make the kids into the villains here. Virtually everything that has come out after the initial story has made the teenage boys look better (who are again, teenage boys, a demographic not prone to making good decisions), and every other party look worse.

              2. drumlin woodchuckles


                Your response was exactly predicted by the “On The Media” program about this affair. This program then went on to discuss the equally predictable counter-responses by the right-wing-media to the left-wing’s completely predictable life-size cardboard-replica model-outrage to begin with.

                Here is a link to On The Media podcasts. The podcast titled Close Encounters is the relevant podcast here.


              3. drumlin woodchuckles

                Videos lie when liars video.

                The video-liars who first posted the very carefully selected tail-end of the video in order to conceal the fact that the elder walked uninvited into the bunch of teens after falsely assuming the teens were somehow “at fault” for being racistly aggressed-against by the blackkk raycist “Black Hebrew Israelite” thieving cultural appropriationists was covered in detail in the On The Media podcast.

                Other people may want to look at more complete non-lying extended versions of the Whole Video as posted by non-lying video non-liars and referred to by the On The Media podcast. Whether you choose to look at them or not is entirely up to you.

      2. Hepativore

        Margaret Atwood was on to something when she wrote Oryx and Crake. The world was split up into little corporate fiefdoms that were literally enclosed and seperated from the outside environment. Within these fiefdoms, high-ranking corporate officials and their family members ran them and they literally owned the rank and file employees as slaves. If you were in charge of the corporate facility or related to somebody who was, life was great. For the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, however, you were literally corporate property.

        1. John Merryman.

          Some book by Gilbert Murray, I can’t remember which, commented the Ancient Greeks viewed the Persians as monothiests and despots, while seeing themselves as poly and panthiests and thus democrats. Baked into the cake.

        2. Oregoncharles

          See also Marge Piercy’s “He, She, It,’ which also has the wold largely governed by feudal corporations. That’s a common trope in science fiction – goes clear back to Brunner, I think.

          Piercy also foresees the Middle East being, around this time, a blasted, irradiated wasteland. Which seems more likely all the time.

      3. Cal2


        Automation destroys lives—save lives, destroy automation

        We need more “Disruptive Customers” who fight automation.
        Resist it whenever possible. For example, our health care provider, yes, the actual doctor’s office, not the insurance company, wants all patients to sign up for “an internet portal.”
        We flat out refused. “Why?”, asked the woman at the front desk.
        “Because they want to get rid of as many people as they can who work here. “
        No further questions were asked.
        Anywhere you spend money, opt for where there are lots of competent human interactions versus corporate automation. Demand a discount if you have to complete part of a business’ task for them.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Yeah, I wouldn’t sign up for it, either; if it’s accessible from my computer, it’s accessible from any computer. The receptionist was very unsurprised when I told her I didn’t have it, so I think I was not the only one.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Good point. When my healthcare system sold me on “portal”, they sold it as a way to look at all my records from any computer location. They never explained that it was a way to get out of calling me and sending me letters about my appointments.

          But that is really what it was. I will see if they will allow me to cancel my portal. If they will, I will cancel it. If they won’t , then I can’t.

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          interestingly, the only places i see people actually using the automated checkout things are in higher end neighborhoods, where everyone drives a lexus or an escalade.
          literally everywhere else, there’ll be long lines for the 2 actual human checkers…and the poor bored guy who oversees the robots twiddling his thumbs.
          this is a good thing…which I didn’t expect…and indicates at least some awareness on the part of the masses.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            I see it too. And I am part of those long lines patiently waiting for my turn at the humanned checkout line.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, paper maps are still irreplaceable when it comes to getting a ‘big picture’ of the place you want to see. Yes, googlemaps and gps direction finders are very good at times, but I’ll always plan a hike or trip or any type of journey using a paper map, or a paper map in association with a digital map (especially as the best of the latter are good at finding the most efficient route, not always the shortest one).

      I find it sad that some people seem to be losing their ‘mental maps’ of where they live due to overuse of gps. A friend of mine moved to a small village and went everywhere using her car gps, or hiked with her phone maps. After a year, she admitted to me she had a very poor grasp of where to go if she didn’t have one. I persuaded her to keep the gps off and try to use her natural sense of direction and a paper map. Pretty soon she was exploring all over without the need of any digital aids.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        re: lack of geographical awareness…indeed.
        Folks by default aren’t really cognizant of their environ/habitus as they perhaps could/should be…but my experiences asking for directions over the years indicates that it’s getting worse.
        I can excuse not knowing where Khartoum is…even Iraq, when I’m feeling generous….but people don’t seem to know where they live,lol.
        I think it’s a combination of busyness, incuriousness and the overusage of digital orientation.
        Siri wants to take me right through the middle of a big city to get to the urban antipode…even when there’s far better ways to go…and many places out here aren’t even on the digital maps(I’m forever arguing with various customer service people on the phone who’s machines reckon my road doesn’t exist.)

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        again, luddism may be a factor. Mea culpa.
        wouldn’t allow it for me for firefox.(“With Google Earth for Chrome,…..Coming soon to more browsers. “)
        i’m averse to chrome, IE ,”edge” etc.
        I have it on my old laptop…running win7…I somehow doubt that it will work for win10.
        Siloing at it’s best.
        I use paper maps and state atlases, when I need to go somewhere unfamiliar…along with innate spidey sense.

        1. aletheia33

          i love maps too. with the strange add-on that i wonder if i am somehow “diagnosably” “gps-challenged”. i tried it a couple times for a 5 hour trip. it kept giving changed instructions that i could not seem to “get”. i couldn’t get myself to trust it. i turned to the rand mcnally road atlas.

          i think i have something funny in my brain where i HAVE TO orient myself in actual space. doesn’t mean i can’t get lost like anyone else. but wherever i’ve lived i’ve experienced a strong urge to know the whole terrain around the place i’m in, whether it’s a rented apartment in a town or big city or a cabin in remote woods, or even a vacation spot. i have to know where the sun is coming up and going down, where are the rivers and streams, uphill and down, the whole basic structure of the surrounding landscape/cityscape.

          wherever i’ve lived for awhile, i’ve compulsively explored the area on foot the way children do. they have made paths, probably over generations, through the back yards in my town. i learn the surrounding terrain to a level of detail that i’ve discovered does not interest many people.

          i think it has something to do with feeling safe when you know what’s around you. and spending many hours in childhood prowling woods and biking back roads.

          lately due to my car dying and no $$ to replace it, i’ve been car free in my small town. i now walk 15-25 minute distances to town destinations 4x per week minimum. it’s been a revelation. if i had a car i would not choose to take these walks. i already walk for an hour every morning for my health. the additional walks take time away from getting things done, and i have to carry stuff all the time, which is sometimes hard on an old neck injury. and the cold, rain, snow, ice etc. are doing their worst now. i mind them much less that i thought i would. 2 years ago before semi-retiring i simply could not have fit these walks in.

          to my great surprise, i love them. they seem to be nourishing at some deep level i could not have predicted. i think it has something to do with some primal satisfaction that comes with physical/sensory connection with the earth under one’s feet, the sky overhead, the expanse of a great river, etc., without the intervention of a window. and the way i love maps and not gps is associated with that too.

          just speculatin’.

          . . . in general, these days i’m beginning to feel as though my luddite inclinations actually set me apart not in a good way. i feel out of my depth–as though some strengths i thought i had are not just irrelevant but are becoming liabilities. maybe it is just aging. does any of this resonate?

          1. Summer

            “I think i have something funny in my brain where i HAVE TO orient myself in actual space.”

            Because being lost is not about not knowing where you are going, it’s about not knowing where you are.

          2. juliania

            It resonates with me, aletheia. I love walking ‘out’ places I have lived in, as somehow foot-souling terrain to really know a place. In my younger days it was easier of course, but when I injured a hip and had to have a partial replacement, my cry to the doctor was “I love to walk!” And the most reassuring reply was “You will walk again!” which turned out to be correct. And this is not the kind of hiking most folk find enjoyable, but traversing my lived in places, which happily I can still do.

            But you shouldn’t feel this sets you apart ‘not in a good way’, even though for me as well, it makes me a bit of a loner, or even classed among the homeless. For the latter, it is rather a compliment to me that they consider me one of them as I meet some amazing people that way. I just hope it will cause others to reassess their own lifestyles when they see me out there under my pink brolly, and take some moments for themselves to get anchored once again to the Good Earth we all inhabit, in this the most fundemental connection, foot to ground, we are privileged to make.

            1. aletheia33

              juliania, thank you. i left out the part where in my town walks i now encounter the homeless people on the street along with all those walking for all their different reasons. the people who spend a lot of time on the street now recognize me, and we nod to one another, and smile if we happen to be in the mood, in passing. this gives me a particular sense of belonging to the human race that i suspect i could not have any other way, and did not have before.

              i “knew” this, but i’m learning it now with my body: in an automobile, one is cut off from the human world, from the agora, in a way that is tragic.

              so like you i find myself hoping it may cause “others to reassess their lifestyles when they see me out there,” actually enjoying being out in whatever is coming down from the sky (under decent cover when necessary, of course, though not [yet!] pink in my case).

              i mentioned seeing the sky and the river (as i do on my way into town from just outside it), but you mention the difference between “the kind of hiking most people find enjoyable” (sky, river, mountain, forest, unpaved “earth”) and yourself “traversing” your “lived-in places”. this shows me you understand me exactly.

              again, thank you. your wisdom is a gift.

    3. sanxi

      ontology? Like as pertaining to whether or not these things you claim actual can, could exists? Not existential, as to there existence? Just trying to understand your poetry, dude.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        “Anecdotally Correlative, as fitting the new ontology of billions of tiny hillforts/enterprises.” == “my own private reality” under the aegis of neoliberalism’s insistence that “there is no such thing as society”, and that we are not “citizens”, but “consumers” and “enterprises”…little islands, alone….”sad little kings on our sad little hills”.
        post modernism, taken to it’s most absurd extreme….we’re deconstucted into Neitszche’s Nihilism…the Last Men, who hop around…and blink…
        I’ve feared for a long while that we are now in, not an existential crisis, but an Ontological Crisis(or crises).
        person next to me at the bus stop is a flat earther…guy on the other side thinks the moon landings were faked. Bus driver believes that an angel rides around with him. half the people on the bus think Hillary is a Socialist, the other half say “Hillary who?”
        we live in a mediated reality(Baudrillard), and can’t agree on what’s real.
        To an extent, it’s a feature of Homo Sapiens…but I fear that this perhaps innate feature has been weaponised.

    4. Craig H.

      > Google Maps seems to have caught an imbecile bug

      On my computer google maps works fantastic in Chrome and it kinda sucks using any other browser.

      I wonder if this is common to other users and how much of it is actually intentional on googles’s part.

  5. jackiebass

    I just got a survey from the DNC to fill out. To me it seemed to be rigged to get results they wanted. The only part of value to me was the place where I could leave a written comment. If they bother to read it, I’m certain they will ignore it because it critter the DNC policies. The biggest insult was the note to supply your own stamp so they had more money to spend. The whole thing was nothing more than a soliciting contributions disguised as a survey. I filled in $0.00 as my contribution.

    1. mle detroit

      Ditto. All DNC junk mail now gets recycle-before-reading treatment. And “stand with” or “fight for” means “help pay for this mailing.”

      1. tegnost

        if they need money so bad they should auction off nancy’s red coat, this undervalues it of course…
        “It’s unclear precisely how much the coat cost, but generally speaking, Max Mara coats retail for anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000.”
        yes you love republicans and you think you can make them even better by going and being one thanks good riddance. If corporations and their upper level employees are your main concern you are a republican. If that really bugs you, then change your views, if it doesn’t bug you, be a republican. It’s ok to be yourself.

        1. Wukchumni

          “Well, that’s about it. That’s what we have and that’s what we owe. It isn’t very much but Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we’ve got is honestly ours. I should say this—that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat. And I always tell her that she’d look good in anything!”

      2. Cal2


        If you are upset about Big Brother and the Borg, fill out those surveys!
        Make sure and lie about your age, your gender, your race and most importantly, your income. We noticed a big drop in our junk mail after reducing out stated income, anywhere we could, by a factor of 90%.

        Any, and every time, I am asked for personal information outside of official functions, like opening a bank account or paying taxes, I slightly modify personal details or just blatantly invent the names of adult children. Does it work? Have gotten robocalls for the invented people, so yes it does.

        mleDetroit, the “Go green, go paperless” messages mean
        “We have ten million customers x 12 bills sent per year x the price of postage.
        If you “go green” it means more green in their pockets without any discount given to you.

      3. Jack Gavin

        Same here. The ‘questions’ are more propaganda rather than any ‘seeking of truth’. Got one today and tossed it. Makes me wonder if the Dems (or Repubs) honestly seek out opinions.

    2. notabanker

      This isn’t unique to the DNC though. Every single email I get from progressive orgs are a solicitation for money. It would be nice to just once open an email that says ‘ Hey here’s what’s going on today and some future plans, thanks for your support’.

      Instead it’s usually some doom and gloom about establishment person x,y,z and if we don’t urgently fund the cause we risk losing all hope. They really could be a lot smarter about this.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Somebody once told me those emails would stop if I hit unsubscribe. I hit unsubscribe but they did not stop. When I told someone else about that, they told me that hitting unsubscribe showed the target that there was still somebody getting the email who was live-enough to actually respond by hitting unsubscribe. So unsubscribe just inspires them to keep sending emails.

        So now I just delete them.

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      I got something I thought was important to pass on, to sign a petition to Jayapal and make a call to her office re M4A.

      After forwarding, I went to do the call and sign myself. Why did I have to call through THEIR calling system, for which I had to enter personal info? Ditto for the petition. When clearly they already have me on their list (I think it was HOPE).

      I just made the call directly and didn’t sign the petition. It is really unfortunate that progressive causes are sucking up your data like they’re Google or FB. Also that so much of what goes on you can’t follow without Google or FB.

      1. Richard

        This might not really connect, but I want to add my experience with contacting Jayapal herself by email (though I suppose this holds true for almost ahy congresscritter).
        One of the first things they always write in an email reply is: “Your thoughts are very important to me.” Well then why do my words disappear forever, when I go to your website and leave a message? The villain messages you back, a month later if you’re lucky, with no record of what you said, no thread so you can compare their response. They pronounce, turn around, and leave. And if you want to continue the conversation you go back to their website and start from scratch again. It’s truly like reasoning with a sociopath, where you start every conversation back at “we just met and have no existing agreements that bind me whatsoever”.
        So the truth is Pramilla, you family blogging liar, my thoughts and advocacy mean nothing to you. I asked you why you were writing the bill in secret, and you ignored me. And now there’s no record I ever even asked you. Oligarchy in an email exchange.
        ps – I know there might be some tech solution to my problem, though my device (Ipad) is well known for being difficult to do intellectual work on (though great for play).
        My feeling is, I shouldn’t need to find a tech workaround for a communication system that creates barriers to authentic conversation and being a better citizen.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          “Arguing with a sociopath”? Isn’t it more like “arguing with an Alszheimer’s patient”?

          1. Richard

            If it was unintentional and relatively benign, I might use that analogy. My few, very sad, personal interactions with sociopaths seem have demonstrated this tendency. I don’t think I’m imagining it, but you never know.
            Mind you, I’m suggesting that the “communication system” between legislators and constituents, like so much else around us, is designed to abet sociopaths. Not that Jayapal herself merits the diagnosis.
            But then again, no matter where you start from, you are what you do. Intentions don’t really mean s&^%.

          2. Eureka Springs

            The old evil or stupid? The answers are along the lines of a brick wall (why keep beating ones head upon it?), anti-democratic, deliberate, designed like comcast, verizon or most every other corp. customer disservice in the USA.

            Everything is like Calpers

            If I were AOC I would seriously consider rolling the text of the old Holt Conyers H.R. 676 into a new number and introducing it. I mean she’s got a tweet today of someone looking for a job in order to get health coverage for her little kid.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              One hopes AOC has people steadily reading NaCap, Sic Semper Tyrannis, and Ian Welsh to bring back to her good ideas like this.

        2. polecat

          They don’t want you to be a better citizen. They, by their attitudes and the kinds of legislation they push …. or not !!, are to encourage you, me, and everyone else not of their club to be a consuming, apathetic moron … to be the grist for Their mill.
          It’s a rare politicain who actually responds to their (non-lobbyist/vampiric contractor) constiuent’s concerns … let alone push for meaningful laws that have lasting public benefit.
          Notice also, that al ost without exception, one can’t question, in person, unless at some ersatz venue, where participants are screened for docility, with only prescripted safe questions allowed … with sycophanic news in tow !

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        during the 6 1/2 years i spent waiting for a hip…slogging through “Disability” 4 times…I sent a lot of emails to congresscritters…mine and yours.
        when I started with things like “dear prostitute,”…or threatened to steal a boat and go to Cuba for my hip, filming the whole ordeal…I got almost immediate callbacks.
        now, my critters don’t have working emails….and don’t answer the phone.
        when they make it to my little town, I only find out about their visit after the fact…weekly local paper buries the notice for some reason…if they have one at all.
        Frelling reptiles.

  6. The Beeman

    from Adversary Russia – this is the money shot –

    “Could anything be more obvious than that the United States is more capable than any Russians could possibly be at undoing or otherwise delegitimizing American institutions. Democrats do it all the time and, since Trump has been president, Republicans do nothing else.

    For the Russians to be the formidable foes that American elites need them to be, they would, at minimum, have to be clever enough just to stand aside and watch. In what possible universe is that not better than putting themselves at risk to make outcomes worse?”

    1. Olga

      From a distance – it seems that that is exactly what they’re doing (they = the collective “Russian,” although not clear there is such a thing). But watch they do – in utter amazement – the self-destruction of once great nation (or, at least, perceived as such and/or self-persuaded of its greatness).

      1. Off The Street

        That would fall into the Napoleonic saying about never interrupting your enemy when he is making a mistake.

      2. Summer

        “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by…”

        And Indispensible Nation’s claim to fame is being a protection racket. “Keepin us safe” etc.
        It needs enemies and will create them as needed.

    2. whine country

      I wonder sometimes whether the PTB are concerned about Russian interventions because they are worried that the Russians may slow down our demise.

    3. RMO

      The Beeman: Yes, it still makes my brain hurt to hear it stated as hard fact that “The Russians” nefariously delegitimized and subverted American democracy by (supposedly) “hacking” the DNC and revealing their emails… and there’s almost no discussion in the mainstream media of the fact that the content of the leaked emails showed that the DNC itself was actually deligitimizing and subverting American democracy by rigging the primaries!

      1. Laughingsong

        Yeah no kidding! If the Russians truly did attempt anything in 2016 they were sure late to the party (yeah I’m lookin’ at you Supreme Court 2000)…..

  7. John

    Zuckerberg is breaking promises to Instagram and WhatsApp. Be concerned.

    I am shocked! shocked! (Round up the usual suspects.)

  8. The Rev Kev

    “Davos Erupts in Laughter at the Notion of Tech Billionaire Paying More Taxes”

    And this is what happens when you have an elite that does not have a education in history – a fatal flaw that. Unlike that Erik Brynjolfsson and I would have loved to have watched the faces of the audience when he gave them that historical lesson. And yes, Michael Dell does have a Foundation and he gives to all sorts of good causes – like $1.8 million to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
    I wonder if the Davos crowd are familiar with US corporate tax rates in history as well? Last I heard, it was down to about 9%.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      DAVOS laughed because those greenhorn freshies just do not understand how the real world works. Of course, because that is how it has always worked does not mean that neolib capitalist crony politics will endure forever. If they are wrong — the harder they will fall. Such let-them-eat-cake behavior has contributed to the saying “Heads will roll.” because in the past many have.

  9. PlutoniumKun

    Muscles may preserve a shortcut to restore lost strength MPR (Chuck L). This cheered me up, having been off my regular regime this month.


    Muscle weakness is a major cause of injury in the elderly, and as we age it becomes harder to grow new muscle. “Of course we need further confirmation in humans, but the idea that is you exercise, you get more nuclei and you have them forever,” says Gundersen.

    Schwartz adds, “If we can bank muscle nuclei early in life, when it’s easier to build muscle, we could then draw on these later in life to slow the effects of aging.” He thinks early physical education classes, which are often on the chopping block when schools tighten budgets, gain added importance in light of this research.

    I find this quite interesting in the light of my family history. My father died at 92, and right up to his death was immensely physically strong – he would accidentally crush peoples hands when handshaking and survived numerous heart attacks and other illnesses in a manner which genuinely amazed his doctors. The same with his younger brother. Yet apart from daily walks and gardening he never really exercised. He did, however, grow up on a mountain farm, doing extremely hard labour, there were no machines available then, everything was by hand. He told me that in the war years he would cycle on an old single speed iron framed bike from Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains – a distance of about 15 miles each way with 1500 foot altitude gains – twice a day on a sunday to cut turf (peat) for winter fuel for himself and his elderly neighbour.

    His doctors regularly made comments like ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’ commenting on his strength and toughness, and they may well be right. But it is interesting to see scientific evidence that a very high level of fitness when young can provide benefits all the way to old age. And quite disturbing, given how many chronically unfit young people there are out there.

    1. Ancient1

      I am 82 years old. I grew up on a hard grabble farm in Tennessee and then went to the big city to seek my fortune. I took up weight lifting and researched body building. In that culture it was known that when a muscel was subjected to stress and recovery, the muscle fiber had a memory of that stress and groth. Over tthe years, I have lapesed in weight training and then started again to exercise over and over. Each time I found that muscel development would regain some of it’s past growth with exercise in a short period of ttime.

      I am in good health and have aged well. I blame that on my early years struggling on a farm and with weight training exercises and diet. Today, I still use the weights along with yoga and a good diet. If you want to age well, exercise your body and your mind and don’t forget spirituality.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Thank you, wise words. The older I get, the more I find it important to keep both mind and body in its best condition.

      2. newcatty

        Thanks Ancient1,
        Wonderful that you included spirituality. Without that, one can have a sharp mind and a fit body, but still be a poorly functioning person. Like to point out: spirituality does not always equate or even relate to religiousality.

  10. rd

    Re: Poor southerners as climate migrants

    Here is an interesting story looking at Houston after Harvey from earlier in January:

    Rising Tide by John Barry is an excellent book about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and how it forced many poor black southerners to move north:

    Of course, The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck’s classic about climate and soil erosion migrants from the Midwest in the 1930s.

    The worldwide impacts from the temporary climate change from the Tambora eruption in 1815 are covered here:

  11. The Rev Kev

    “This Valentine’s Day, give the gift that lasts: A hissing cockroach”

    And for that unforgettable gift, how about a box of chocolate-covered cockroaches. Hard on the outside, crunchy and juicy on the inside and all organic! A gift that will talked about for years to come. Now that is going green!

    1. polecat

      If I had to .. If I was forced to make a choice .. I would prefer my roaches ‘roasted’ before being smothered in chocolate !

      1. Sastun

        On this topic, never eat a invertebrate raw (some small specific exceptions for highly monitored delicacies), their immune systems leave them vulnerable to many parasites that we fight off when they’re immature, but can find a foothold when they’re developed and given a free ride into our system.

        1. Bugs Bunny

          Excellent advice. You might have studied marine biology, I imagine. So many idiots out there think that “raw” is better.

          Know your food, doc!

  12. Wukchumni

    Muscles may preserve a shortcut to restore lost strength MPR (Chuck L). This cheered me up, having been off my regular regime this month.
    My knee bone bruise I suffered in August was anywhere from a 2-6 on a pain scale of 1-10, and I was a regular hopalong cassidy for 4 months, and then it all went away-no more limping, and i’d been favoring one side of my body, so it took awhile to get my stride back. I’m still nowhere near up to where I should be in terms of fitness, and my muscles are sleepy, but know the drill. One foot in front of another, repeat alternating feet.

    1. Susan the Other

      Speaking with one foot in the grave here;-) my advice is to do everything you always did but just do it slower. It’s not just muscles that atrophy, it’s joints and tendons too. I like to concentrate on which muscles I’m actually using and sometimes do a cautious experiment on substituting other muscles for some old movement gone sore. But definitely keep moving.

      1. Wukchumni

        Thanks for the advice~

        On a 6 mile hike a few weeks ago, my ankles were hurting after I got back, so yes, lots of parts weren’t in play when out on vacation.

        My days of going fast are long since past, and if you are too speedy, you might miss something along the way.

    1. Carey

      I didn’t like it: all those manipulative, *extremely short cuts*, meant to play on emotion; and the vagueness: “No force more powerful than Love.”


      1. Jeff W

        I didn’t like it either. There is no policy except for an aspirational mention of “peace” (which is better than not mentioning it, I suppose).

        And the first 20 seconds of her delivery sound, to me, very stilted and unnatural as if Gabbard is unsure of what she is reading. (Don’t the makers of these types of ads employ voice coaches?) And I say that as someone who, whether I agree with any given position of hers or not, generally loves to hear her speak—she has a great speaking voice.

          1. Jeff W

            Haha, no, I caught that one, too! It was way worse, even with the beat—which, I guess, is your point (or, really, the beat made it even worse—Ron and Steph in that Jimmy Dore clip are clapping along in mocking derision).

            Tulsi Gabbard’s ad struck me as platitudinous but at least allowed for the possibility of sincerity. (And, on one level, “love” can be viewed as a cop-out, as Yves says, but, on another, it’s operating on a different plane, like “kindness” and “generosity,” unlike the standard buzzwords that Kamala Harris rattles off—so, if it’s a cop out—and I’m not saying it isn’t—at least it’s a different, non-standard kind of cop-out.) Kamala Harris’s ad struck me as platitudinous and utterly insincere—from the dated faux hipness of the beat and the kinetic typography to Harris’s insistence that the words she says “aren’t just words.” Sure, they might be, I suppose, “the values we as Americans cherish” (along with, well, practically everyone else)—but I think it’s one thing to spout platitudes and another to insist that the platitudes you’re spouting aren’t platitudes.

      1. Carey

        Yes, Gabbard at least used the word “peace”. Harris’s ad was more the buzzword/
        fastcut/rhythm stuff. More cynical than Gabbard’s, though I’m wary of both of them.

        We are, in my opinion, now in a new dark age. Maybe JM Greer is right: “collapse now and avoid the rush”.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Very pronounced Hawaii intonation. Dunno if that is a plus or minus for most people, but it made what she had to say seem leaden to me.

      Also I hate to say it, seems way inferior to the Bernie “America” and AOC ads. Didn’t like “Love” as opposed to more specific policies. “Love” sounds like a cop out.

      But I would imagine still better than 80% of typical Dem ads, and vastly better than Clinton’s.

      1. Carey

        I noticed but didn’t mind the intonation; I think the insubstantial nature of the
        ad is way more concerning. So many willing to “lead” us to dog knows where..

        Provisional take: Grandstander with hidden agenda, funded by quiet, deep pockets

        Maybe I’m wrong.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I have read that something called ” the Aloha spirit” is upheld by self-consciously self-aware Hawaiians as being an important part of Hawaiian-ness. And that “Love” is considered part of “the Aloha spirit”. If that is true, then ” Love” as Gabbard used it might seem sincere to herself and other Hawaiians. She may not know how grating it can sound to some non-Hawaiians.

    3. Richard

      Thanks for the link! I like Tulsi most for the enemies she inspires; it clarifies things perfectly, as Lambert likes to say. I noticed as I’m sure you did about 5 million visual references to military service. It’s amazing someone with her record would still need to retreat to the flag so much. I’m a little disappointed she did. It’s a disgrace what people are doing to her.
      But not enough policy content in the ad Tulsi. Not nearly enough policy. You won’t scare us, don’t worry!

  13. Brooklin Bridge

    Yea for paper maps! Another advantage is that they provide a historical record that digital maps don’t or if they do, to which the average user does not have as easy access. Well, I assume that at least. I very much enjoy looking at road maps from the 30’s and 40’s before highways worked their dubious mix of good and evil.

    I have to admit, I find both forms very useful, but I still find my way around mostly using either a paper copy of digital for the granular view when needed, or a printed map. I’m still uncomfortable relying on GPS – one tends to rely on it too much and geography becomes a sort of magically isolated series of snap shots that congeal into the place you are at vs. the place you started from with GPS doing all the thinking about everything in between. I enjoy the spacial and time sense of the whole trip.

    Thankfully GPS readers have become much much better in the cities where I do find it useful (when I remember to take it – still don’t have a smart phone) since when in cities I’m usually more interested in the destination than the navigation of getting there.

  14. PlutoniumKun


    Varadkar warns of army checkpoints on border after a no-deal Brexit The Times

    He was later quoted as saying he didn’t mean the Irish army, he simply meant that there would have to be some sort of armed security.

    There is an excellent primer here by Tony Connolly from RTE on the state of play over the Irish border and the backstop – it explains the politics and issues very well.

    The border remains the focus of a maddeningly intractable piece of circular geometry involving Europe, Ireland and the British government.

    Ireland’s strategy has been to avoid a hard border by convincing the EU to make it a precondition of Britain’s withdrawal. Britain’s resistance to that precondition could bring about the hard border.

    This paradox forced Ireland into saying it has no contingency plans as a way to keep pressure on the UK, but also to avoid the obvious political risk at home.

    Contingency planning would leave Leo Varadkar exposed to attacks from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.

    Yet, the claims that Dublin is not making contingency plans also plays into the hands of the DUP and assorted Brexiteers who have claimed that because Dublin and Brussels weren’t serious about erecting a border, even in the event of no deal, the backstop was unnecessary and a trap to keep the UK in a permanent customs union.

    For the EU, an open border is incompatible with the internal market and would not be accepted by other member states. The UK, having become a third country, could produce unregulated goods to be pumped into that market through the backdoor of an open border.

    1. sanxi

      I’m of the mind with this whole RoI, EU, and UK border to say, “what if they declared war but nobody came to fight.” Ya, treaties, binding agreements and all that so what?. Who is going to use force to build the border? There is a difference between saying it must be done and the actually reality that no one wants it done. The UK isn’t going to build it nor RoI. So, then EU army? Nah. Oh, they don’t have one. Or is the EU going to go all tit fir tat. Aside from all historical hilarity as to how this point in history came about. And the current nonsense that the EU position is on a border is almost completely moviated by RoI politics, not trade. The EU states on a regular basis, well, UK, Just don’t leave the EU and borders aren’t any issue. If your really want to get simplest, the real choice is no border and no backstop versus the illusion of control, the technocrat kind of the EU causing this mess in the first place.

      1. Jeff

        If RoI cannot control what goods enter their country then
        a/ they will receive lots of ‘unfriendly’ stuff (bleached chicken from US, motor oil packaged as cooking oil from Ukraine, …)
        b/ they will no longer be allowed to export to Europe.
        So border control is in their own best interests (and honestly, you are not a country if you don’t control your own borders).
        Whet effect this will have on the relation between RoI and NI is another story.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “Congress Is Pushing Sanctions Against Supporters of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad”

    The deep state lost the war so now they are trying to blackmail Syria into accepting representatives of the Jihadists into government and for Assad and his allies to step down. Otherwise no money for reconstruction from the international community. No, I wouldn’t take that deal either. It could be a long wait for Syria if they are depending on the US to relent. When the Vietnamese defeated the US, the US slapped an embargo on Vietnam that was kept up for about 20 years and did not end until 1994. I do wonder about the Law of Unintended Consequences here in how this may play out with Syria and what they do to recover. Russia has spent too much blood and treasure to let the place go down so they are safe, more or less military-wise. I wonder what would happen for example if Syria, needing the money, leased out a port and a military base to the Chinese military right on the Mediterranean. It could happen you know and would be epic blowback.

    1. Olga

      Yes, and one would think that between the Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and Turkish (perhaps even Indian) capital, there’s enough to do lots of reconstruction. Plus the unstable Gulf allies (i.e., who needs enemies with friends like this) may want to help remedy the destruction they so cheerfully supported. The so-called “international community” is just a very polite word for the fickle west – and why would Syrians even want them back?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Yes. China still has money. While China still has money, China could give enough money for Syria to pay non-enemy countries to rebuild things . . . as a show of economic power.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I should think the Syrian government would wish to avoid the cultural and political and social contamination which would come into Syria with any Saudi and/or Gulfie money.
        I suspect the Syrian government might be carefully watching its population to see if any of them accept Saudi or Gulfie money or contacts in any way. And if any Syrians are discovered to have any contact with Saudis or Gulfies or their money, those Syrians may well be referred to the Syrian Secret Police for personal follow-up.

        As well they should be.

    2. pjay

      “The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act is named after the whistleblower who defected from the Assad regime and smuggled tens of thousands of photos of those tortured to death in regime prisons.”

      So we are back to the “Caesar photos” campaign as a symbol of our “humanitarian” concerns in all this!

      For those unfamiliar with the Caesar photo psyop, I recommend reading through the comments on the Intercept article, many of which provide relevant information on this debunked story. It is extremely depressing, though not surprising, to find we are back to this. I also found it interesting that the proposed legislation allows for the operation of “humanitarian” NGOs in Syria. I can’t even…

  16. Wukchumni

    Hundreds missing after Brazil dam collapse DW :-(

    What a tragic story~

    To the south of us on Tule River below Springville (…the location of the survivors-post comet strike, in Nevin & Pournelle’s book Lucifer’s Hammer…) is the horribly misnamed Success Dam, which would cost about as much to fix as the Oroville Dam, and holds a scintilla of water in comparison, and will never be fixed, thus the only solution is to keep it only 1/3rd full.

    The USACE found in 1999 that the alluvial deposits that form the foundations of the dam were unstable and that the dam would be at a high risk of failure in the event of an earthquake. In 2006, new regulations were passed that limited long-term water storage in the reservoir to 28,800 acre feet (0.0355 km3), 35% of capacity. A proposed $500 million project would increase the thickness of the dam by 350 feet (110 m) so that it could better withstand a quake in the region.

    1. Summer

      And this about the mining company involved in this disaster:

      “The company was already under fire over a separate dam collapse in 2015, which killed 19 people and released millions of tons of toxic waste in the same area…”

  17. Wukchumni

    Merry olde England was pretty cagey in regards to using plundered pieces of eight purloined purposefully both @ home and in the colonies.

    In Australia they pulled off a neat trick in 1813 by drilling out the center of a silver 8 Reales and then overstriking it with a new coinage die, along with the leftover ring, and now they are known as the Holey Dollar & Dump, and worth big bickies.

    SYDNEY (AFP) – Three rare Australian coins including the most famous example of the nation’s first coin, the “Holey Dollar,” have fetched Aus$880,000 (US$911,000) at auction.

    The coin known as the “Hannibal Head” Holey Dollar – created in New South Wales state in 1813 from an 1810 Silver Dollar minted at the Lima Mint in Peru – sold for Aus$410,000 (US$425,350), an auction record for a coin of its type. (2012)

    In England, 8 Reales coins were counterstamped with King George III, resulting in this doggerel of the era:

    “The Bank (of England) in order to make its money pass, stamped the head of a fool on the neck of an ass.”

  18. paros

    In regards to the link on “DARPA outlines adversarial AI defense”, this is an area I know much about because I work in a related area. My opinion is that it is a self-licking cone. The AI researchers have been unable to get their methods to actually work, and this is shown by the fact that the output of the AI is not robust to changes in the system inputs. (In the case of image processing systems, this is so extreme that you can make the AI think a picture of a dog is actually a plane or anything else.) Instead of discussing the real limitations and practicalities of AI (specifically that AI is not able to do what they claim it can do), the AI researchers instead invented a fiction that the AI is fully functional but that it is sensitive to “adversarial attacks” and that now they should receive funding to study how to defend against these attacks.

        1. tegnost

          yeah I know, someone here recommended a lenovo or something with windows 7 but I’m not savvy in that area. I struggled with getting this one and I’d get rid of it pronto if I knew what else to get so suggestion are welcome

          1. Carla

            I have a Lenovo and Windows 7, but we’re switching over to Linux. And I use StartPage as a browser, and Mozilla Thunderbird for email.

    1. oliverks

      I think this is part of a larger problem, which is the lack of a good theoretical framework on how these big neural nets work.

      One of which is the “adversarial attacks”.

      Another big problem is testing of networks. How do you know the network will perform as expected in the real world?

      Constructing networks for new problems is also pretty much trial and error right now. A better framework could allow for more robust development.

    2. flora


      My opinion is that it is a self-licking cone.

      Yes. AI mystification (black box) is great for winning research grants.

      It crowds out funding for better research (imo) based on known or testable limits, unfortunately.

      1. oliverks

        There is probably a lot of chuff that gets published, but there are also fantastic breakthroughs. For example, predicting aftershocks recently saw a big gain

        Here the predictive ability was a huge step forward over the human derived models. The NN wasn’t even that big.

        Not only could this have practical applications to save lives, but it could help provide insights for seismologists.

  19. dcblogger

    The only good thing about the Trump administration is that billionaires are being exposed for the buffoons that they are.

    1. Pat

      You forgot Congress led by Pelosi and Schumer and McConnell doing the same for their millionaire class. Bonus!!!!

    1. Pat

      Of course all the female participants at Daily Kos are rising as one to demand that this be rescinded because FEMALE…

      Oh, wait that only applies to particular female politicians.

    2. Darthbobber

      Assumed that Moulitsas would be on board early with the raging anti-Gabbard frenzy. If he’s not being subsidized for some of the things Kos now routinely does, I’d be surprised.

      Do these people really see Gabbard as such a threat, or has epistimic closure reached a point where any deviation from the Blob (and now centre-right Dem) narrative just provokes this level of visceral rage?

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        Both I think. They want to punish her for revealing their institutional corruption in 2016. The kingmakers had handed her a plum DNC position – a stepping stone to genuine power – and she tossed it back to them in the most public way possible. They probably want to damage her as a lesson to other young, rising Democrats of color.

        Certain press courtiers and political consultants appear…… exceptionally sensitive to those sorts of desires. However, their recent spurts of fury look personal, and are so unhinged as to be damaging to their interests. They may be relying on the fact that only political junkies are paying attention at this point in the cycle. Hard to say. It’s amusing to watch “liberal” courtiers and neocon wingers using the same slurs against her though.

        Watching her spurn their demands for fealty is more fun than riding a unicorn pony.

        1. newcatty

          Reminds me of a lot of people in the world. When a person is a selfish and narrow minded man or woman, then nothing is more threatening or rage inducing than a person in their orbit who is not. The more the threatening person is like them in basic characteristics, the more the rage flames, Gabbard, not only is supposed to play along as a Democrat, she is required to have fealty to the queen Hill. Predict there will be few women in the Democratic party “leadership”, who will support her from any attacks on her gender.

    3. integer

      Also, Wikileaks tweeted a link to this email from the Podesta batch:

      Representative Gabbard,

      We were very disappointed to hear that you would resign your position with the DNC so you could endorse Bernie Sanders, a man who has never been a Democrat before. When we met over dinner a couple of years ago I was so impressed by your intellect, your passion, and commitment to getting things done on behalf of the American people. For you to endorse a man who has spent almost 40 years in public office with very few accomplishments, doesn’t fall in line with what we previously thought of you. Hillary Clinton will be our party’s nominee and you standing on ceremony to support the sinking Bernie Sanders ship is disrespectful to Hillary Clinton. A woman who has spent the vast majority of her life in public service and working on behalf of women, families, and the underserved. You have called both myself and Michael Kives before about helping your campaign raise money, we no longer trust your judgement so will not be raising money for your campaign.

      Darnell Strom & Michael Kives

      Michael Kives then forwards the email, along with the phrase “Hammed dropped!” (presumably a mistype of “Hammer dropped!”) to John Podesta and Huma Aberdeen.

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        The gut-busting content of these emails never got near enough coverage in the MSM. This one alone beautifully illustrates why the Clinton and DNC elite are so keen on promoting Putin Derangement syndrome in the Democratic rank and file. The haughty waspishness of “you standing on ceremony to support the sinking Bernie Sanders ship is disrespectful to Hillary Clinton”…. is just laughable. It’s as revealing and humiliating as if Wikileaks had published video of these clowns masturbating in the shower. While singing along to a Nickelback hit.

  20. vlade

    I don’t buy the digital vs paper on maps.

    I have digital maps that have are basically copies of cartographical maps, with elevations (, switch to “outdoor” in “change map”), walkways and what have you. They have a good app for both android and iPhone, where you can download those maps for off-line use (just the region you want, for most of the world, although some are quite a bit out of date as I found, but then, paper maps can be out of date just as well – I’d not use my lovely 16th-17th century paper maps of Central Europe for navigation ever – but then, they were not intended to be a navigation maps in the first place).

    Personally, I always found the paper maps with the need to fold, refold, and turn over here and there when one was “on the edge” (God forbid it was on the edge between two maps) pretty annoying.

    What I do agree with is the inability of most people to plainly _read_ maps – paper nor digital. W/o GPS, a lot of people can’t often even figure which way they are facing. But that’s about a skill, not the medium.

    Oh, and the old maps were often as much a work of art as a tool, which I doubt the new digital ones ever will be, but the new paper maps are not much better TBH than the digital ones on this.

    1. Wukchumni

      A couple years ago a friend was walking the PCT from Mexico to Canada, and I joined him on a 60 mile stretch, and i’d say every 3rd PCT hiker had a phone in hand en route.

      They had pre-loaded apps & maps, and where we were going from Big Bear to Interstate 15, there was often cell coverage.

      Talking with him a few weeks ago in regards to this, he told me it was the weirdest thing to get used to, why would you want to burden yourself with an electronic tether, and really, you only look at a map once in awhile, certainly not all the time when on your on a trail.

      In contrast, i’ve never seen anybody in the National Park with one in their hands, as there is no cell coverage in the backcountry.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’d agree with hiking, but in bike touring, whether on road or bike packing in the wilderness, digital maps are a godsend – it saves constantly having to stop the bike and fish out the map, or switch around the map in its holder. I’ve navigated down the Great Divide Trail on my mountain bike using the excellent maps from the Adventure Cycling Association, but it was a constant frustration having to stop and read, while simultaneously using a bike computer to measure distance (essential in bikepacking navigation). I swore after that I’d invest in a full GPS with a hub charger to keep the batteries up.

        1. sanxi

          One can get modern GPS devices to talk to you, even answer back. As a piolt I use both, but in actively flying GPS. I have enough distractions as is.

      2. Carolinian

        Smartphones can use offline maps depending on the app. I have USG topo maps for my area on phone and android tablet. The state park where I often hike has spotty cell coverage.

        Of course I know every square inch of the place so I don’t need a map at all but it’s still fun to have one. One advantage of digital is that it can tie to GPS and always show where you are at a glance.

        That said, an extended hike in the wilderness obviously runs into battery issues not to mention weight for those light packing enthusiasts. Paper maps and digital both have their points.

        1. Wukchumni

          All of those aforementioned PCT’ers had solar chargers splayed on the outside of their packs to keep their phones going, so you need to carry around a pound more in total into the back of beyond.

          One place a GPS would come in handy is Valley of Fire state park about an hour from Vegas. When in embrace of it’s labyrinth of canyons, you really have scant idea of where you’re at, as the landmarks all look similar.

          1. vlade

            If I was hiking for more than 8 hours, I may – depending on the area – take a paper map with me as a backup.

            I’d never use a smartphone app that relied on having a constant mobile coverage, that’s a certain way to run into trouble.

            But see, this is my point. If you know what you’re doing, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s paper or digital – to each their own I say (my wife swears by paper maps). If you have no idea what you’re doing, nothing will save you. And it’s true that people used to digital only lack some basic map-reading skills, but I’d say the “mobile generation” lack of map-reading skills is amongst the least important skills they lost with their mobile permanent appendages.

          2. Carolinian

            I’ve been there! Cool place, but I didn’t hike.

            But if I had no prob because when I travel I always have a GPS–perhaps several.

            1. Wukchumni

              It’s an amazing place, and if you are allergic to sin city, the perfect antidote when stuck there, with maybe a thousand 3,000 year old Anasazi petroglyphs gracing it’s walls.

          3. Oregoncharles

            If you can get a view of the satellite(s) from down in one of those slot canyons; it’s hard enough with trees. Might have to climb out to geo-locate.

    2. Carolinian

      old maps were often as much a work of art

      You can still download the old USGS Topo map pdfs from the web and print them out or even–with a good deal of trouble–use them inside some Android GPS apps. The more recent govt topo maps are computer generated and have no esthetic appeal at all.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      When the next Carrington-Level solar mass-coronal-ejection flare event blinds all the GPS satellites and fries all the chips and wires, then there won’t be any more digital maps. Just paper ones. And the argument will be moot.

  21. Louis Fyne

    10,000-mile supply chain for prescription drugs, yup nothing can go wrong. it’s pathetic that all medications sold in America can’t be wholly made in the USA (not that that’s a panacea, just ranting).

    …..As many as two million people world-wide have been exposed to a class of generic blood-pressure drugs containing probable human carcinogens from raw-material facilities in China and India, according to U.S. officials.

    …..The drugs are certain lots of some manufacturers’ products, including generic drugs going by the names valsartan, irbesartan and losartan.

    Not all generic products are affected, nor are the brand-name versions of the medicines, called Diovan, Avapro and Cozaar. The FDA’s website contains details about which lots and companies are affected………

    1. Lee

      I took several of the drugs listed for short periods of time. Fortunately, I developed a rare side effect in each instance and so had to discontinue taking it. The last one caused intestinal damage of the type associated with celiac disease. The effect is temporary and I am gradually recovering after quitting the drug. I guess the good news is that hopefully, I couldn’t tolerate the medications long enough to have been exposed to the full effects of the carcinogenic contaminant. Ever looking on the bright side, I think I’d prefer to die of a stroke or heart attack rather than cancer anyway.

      I completely agree that it is madness to outsource the production of medications to countries with health and safety standards less stringent than our own. Although with the race to the bottom and its attendant globalized crapification of goods and services, it may not matter that much any more.

        1. sanxi

          No as a MD, I see plenty of problems with how drugs are made and what is in them here in the US. No, I recieve no funding in any manner from RX companies.

    2. Annotherone

      Thank you for highlighting this. Last summer we were told that losartan was not affected in the re-call involving valsartan. Relieved, because losartan is one of my BP meds, I didn’t investigate further. A later recall, I today discover, has involved losartan, specifically those manufactured by Sandoz and Torrent. Having identified my pills as made by Aurobindo, they are not under recall (yet), although some valsartan made by Aurobindo are. I shall keep an eye on developments from now on. I wonder if pharmacists are required to alert all patients they supply when a drug is recalled – it would seem sensible and obvious. These days one can never be sure of sensible and obvious any longer!

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      We had a post a while ago (cross post) warning long form about how many drugs came from China (either directly or key active ingredients), how poor/non-existant the quality controls were, and how the FDA has refused to do anything about it. Also true of other chemicals out of China (many used in food production).

  22. Polar Donkey

    Women’s March today in Memphis. Or more accurately, the Nancy Pelosi rally. To show how full of bs democrats are, Rep Steve Cohen speaks at the rally. Says how great she is and complained about an op -ed a person wrote criticizing his support of Pelosi. Cohen also criticized AOC for not towing party line. It is amazing how much AOC freaks the democrats out. My poor friend at the rally described the “speeches are like watching your aunts and uncles ramble on through a wedding toast.”

      1. newcatty

        Yeah , I am an Aunt. Think some of my nieces and nephews may think I am “entertaining”, but I would never ramble on through a wedding toast. First, I would never offer or accept the honor. I am just a shy violet.

    1. notabanker

      AOC is remarkably succinct and on point. She is gifted and has also obviously surrounded herself with high quality people that are not messing around. It’s really unfortunate she has to be part of this party because they will do everything they can to neutralize her.

      Really very difficult to imagine anything but a poser Neolib candidate coming from these clowns. Again unfortunate because Trump would be crushed by a Sanders type progressive.

  23. Baby Gerald

    Extinction Rebellion is leading coordinated rallies across the US today to demand action on climate policy. The one in NYC is scheduled at 1pm at the southeast corner of Central Park. All the other events and locations can be found on their twitter page.

  24. Brian

    there’s not actually ANY article-specific link for the “Trump-Coup-Caracas” thing. It’s the front page at Moon of Alabama, to wit

    okay there in fact IS a specific link. I stand corrected. Shorter links=fewer points of failure. I’ll take mine! LOL

  25. Alfred

    Thanks a million times for the link to the renderings of the Trump Tower proposed in 2015 for Moscow — an important missing piece in the big cultural puzzle that is ‘the architecture of neoliberalism’. I did not catch these revelations when they appeared last year in the original Buzzfeed story: My knowledge of digital modeling is too limited to permit me adequately to analyze the renderings as such. Still, I would say that they strike me as quickly produced illustrations (so-called ‘concepts’) rather than as proofs of a developed design. The stairs are especially telling, I suspect. (The original Buzzfeed article included a third rendering, an elevation, which is also quite sketchy.) However, the design for a 100-story mixed-use skyscraper is easier to assess. It seems to follow the solution reached in 2006 by Foster + Partners in response to a similar brief for a Moscow structure of likewise superlative height: . If Foster’s “Russia Tower” project of 2006 did serve as the model for the “Trump Moscow,” it would explain in part why that latter (2015) design appears already (in 2019) to be so outdated: it would reflect tastes and mannerisms of a generation of designers now set for replacement. But the Foster and Trump designs do have very different tops, with the latter owing much to the highrise work of the 1970s by architects Philip Johnson and Der Scutt. Not surprisingly, I suppose, the rendering of the atrium strongly recalls the soaring lobby of the Trump Tower in New York, a Scutt design of 1975-82. Perhaps, consequently, it would not be altogether wrong to see the retardataire quality of the “Trump Moscow” as evidencing its status as a ‘colonial’ work of American intervention occupying European space. Are there any other assessments out there yet? Or is this design news, though almost a year old, still too fresh?

      1. The Rev Kev

        But damn, you are right about that white horse. He looks like he is seven axe handles across the broadside. Bet he is gentle though.

        1. flora

          an aside: based on your prior comments, I think that you are in Oz? If so, what is an ‘ax handle’ measure tick in measurement translated into cm or in? In the US the measure tick for horse height is ‘hands’- roughly 4 inches, or 10 cm, or roughly the width of an adult hand. We say a horse is so many ‘hands’ high at its shoulder. Thanks.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Yeah, we measure horses in ‘hands’ here too of about 4 inches in width. The term ‘seven axe handles across the broadside’ is an old slang term in Oz for having a huge backside. We just got rid of a black horse that was growing up huge like her mother but nothing like that white one in size.

            1. bob

              “The term ‘seven axe handles across the broadside’ is an old slang term in Oz for having a huge backside. ”

              HUGE ASS!

              I know that measuring convention from all the way up in upstate NY.

              I posted some more pictures of the horse below-



              It’s probably a draft horse. While it didn’t appear to be an Amish farm, there are a lot of Amish in that area.

  26. GroundZeroAndLovinIt

    On the shutdown: I’ll be damned if I know what the shutdown was supposed to accomplish. If you’re going to use a shutdown as leverage, its power lies in disrupting services and using that mounting disruption/discontent to force your opponent’s hand. So, going in, the Administration should have known that it would get ugly, yes? Wouldn’t his staff have war-gamed it out to try and figure out what the end moves/options would be and how to “win” in the end to get his border wall funding? It seems like they really didn’t understand the full depth or implications of the critical services that would be halted. Secondarily, it seems like they wavered between “eh, we’re just screwing over Fed. workers who are mostly Democrats,” as one line of thought and, between another fantasy take that “most Fed. workers support the border wall and will work for free for as long as it takes.”

    So, now, he’s lost his leverage. And in three weeks, if there is another shutdown, the same circumstances will play out because the same agencies and services will be impacted. Farmers will still need loans to plant seeds, people will still need to file tax returns, people will be traveling. In three weeks, if he declares a national emergency, people will ask, well, if it’s an emergency dire enough to impact the entire country, wasn’t it a serious enough emergency to declare it as such weeks and weeks ago?

    What a blunder. What a pointless blunder. I don’t think he’s got any moves left.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Not only that, he has now turned the federal employees against him. That will have all sorts of consequences. Pass the popcorn!

      1. David Carl Grimes

        Did he just transform himself to a lame duck President? I see Pelosi memes all over the internet. Or is 2020 just too far away?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I was gonna stick my neck out and post on that earlier….

          But on reflection, I think your second point is right. Stuff closer to the election, most important the state of the economy, will make a bigger difference.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Maybe it is because I do not have access to a large number of US papers but there is something missing about all these political maneuvers. You often read about Trump or Pelosi or Harris or whoever but one thing that I rarely see is how this is all playing out in Trump Land i.e. the people that actually voted him into office. Do they regard this as a defeat or a cause for vengeance come 2020? If nothing else, November 2016 proved that these areas are not to be lightly dismissed and ignored.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      But if the shutdown was also aiming for a secondary longer-range purpose of degrading government over time by making government work so unappealing that retire-ables would retire and new-entrants will not enter, then that long range goal is approached.

    1. Lee

      I am gripped by a sudden urge to sell my house and buy a little ranch up your way just so I could have one of them. ; )

  27. Pat

    Just for the record, at least on the Manhattan end, the MTA plan for the L train shutdown was not going to work. They were already destroying traffic on 14th Street, their bus plans slowing the buses as well as everyone else. Was actually talking to a Bus driver about the fact that even with select bus service, they were doing things that slowed traffic and inconvenienced riders. He flat out looked at me and went makes you think they want to screw it all up doesn’t it and then started giving me other examples of plan failure. Please keep in mind that the shut down hadn’t even started yet, and both us had experience with the weekend shut downs that were common for the last couple of years. As we both remarked, when the plan is making things worse before the shut down how are they going to handle thousands more riders an hour on the bus service. I hate to think how screwed up it was for people dependent on the L outside Manhattan where bus service is even sketchier and more infrequent and many of the trains they were being directed to already being stretched to the limit at peak travel times.

    Look I don’t know who is right about what will cause the least problems overall. And yes Cuomo did this in a way to garner the most political capital. Still it did sort of undercut his statement days later that the mess up in the MTA was that there was no one was directly in charge. But that is just me going huh logic you wouldn’t have been able to open this can of worms without having the ability to say ‘JUMP’.

    The problems of maintenance delayed, AND catastrophe. (The mess from the water main break on 15th and Seventh is spreading. They are doing work beyond that which indicates the failure was not limited.).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      How many millions of the unable-to-flee will die-in-place when NYC becomes truly physically uninhabitable and non-survivable?

  28. crittermom

    >”Millions of bank loan and mortgage documents have leaked online”

    Aha! While I fought for years (in vain) to obtain any records regarding my mortgage (simple things–like a statement!) before the bank stole my beloved home, it’s now apparent I was just looking in the wrong place.

    From the article:
    “But it wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access and read the massive cache of documents.”


    I may even forward this article to my former AG’s ofc since they were unable to obtain any records either, with my bank telling them ‘due to their records retention policies they no longer had them’.
    To which my AG told me, “Sorry. I know this is not the outcome you’d hoped for.”

    Yup. Still pissed.

    1. Laurel

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, crittermom. The institutional/collective memory of the 10 million or so foreclosures and millions of lost homes to the too-big-to fail predator banks, enabled by Uncle Sam’s bailout money may yet trigger the long overdue outcome to a truly corrupt society and its bona fide evil corporate entities.

      1. crittermom

        Thanks. I’m certainly not alone, but apathy & forgetfulness seem at times to be our biggest enemy.
        I keep telling myself ‘success is the best revenge’, so I continually work on ways to once again have a little off-grid cabin on some land of my own among the pine & aspen in the Rockies.

        Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall & Obama sided with the illegal activities of the banks while failing to enforce the laws of his own HAMP, so I’m trying to once again prepare to register as a Dem (rather than Independent), in order to vote for Bernie.

        The best revenge for me would be if Bernie won as an Independent, tromping both other party’s (like we still have two?). Then maybe they’d get the message THE PEOPLE are not happy.

        Yes, I know that’s not practical & not gonna happen.
        But one can dream!

      1. crittermom

        As the article stated, it is now password protected so that may now require the skills of a hacker!

        Not all banks, apparently, have records there (my bankster, Chase, wasn’t listed).
        Yet it makes one suspect that this was not the only leak.

  29. Geo

    A new message from Democrats: it’s time to empower workers in America Guardian (resilc) If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

    There’s an interview with Tucker Carlson at Salon that is a must read.


    Carlson: “Of the top 10 richest zip codes in the country, I think all 10 are now represented by Democrats. I think of the top 50, 42 are represented by Democrats.”


    “I find one of the groups that see this most clearly is the traditional left, the harder left, the ideological left. The anti-war people, for example, of Jacobin. I don’t agree with everything they say, but they tend to be less interested in Trump. They all assume that they have looked at him in many ways, whatever, they don’t care. But they’re fixated on ideas and principles and I find them much more satisfying to talk to.”

    He says things in this that almost no Democrats have said in generations. Talks about FDR and labor like Bernie. About how both parties represent labor but how Dems have the rich communities and the GOP should move in to represent labor. Pitching a changing of the guard so to say.

    A fascinating read.

    1. Carey

      Thanks for the link to this Tucker Carlson interview. He’s cutting through the deliberate
      obscurations of the Few on a regular basis, these days.

      Action for the Common Good

      1. GF

        Does “richest zip code” mean number of rich or the accumulated wealth of the residents? If it is number of rich then there may be non-rich that vastly out number them in number and thus could swing the vote Dem. Or the rich just don’t vote because it is beneath them as they just buy what/who they want.

      2. Geo

        He’s got a long way to go to unravel the conditioning from his entire life of affluent GOP/libertarian beliefs but he seems to be waking up according to this interview.

        His dismissal of left policies even as he embraces their messaging is fascinating. The fact he is reading Jacobin and quoting FDR, Sanders, etc (people the modern Dem party ignores and/or detests) while believing their policies are wrong is curious. He’s recognizing the problem but his ability to see solutions is still blocked by his ideology it seems.

        Either way, he’s a huge improvement over O’Reilly for Fox. Maybe Jon Stewart’s take down of him on Crossfire took root?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Maybe yes, maybe no. He still acts like Begala’s partner in the way he treats many of his guests. In fact, a lot of those guests are just designated punching bags and I don’t know why they even go on his show, unless they just want their fifteen minutes of fame.

  30. Summer

    Re: Airport delays / shutdown

    Every article avoided mentioning the Super Bowl.
    It’s next weekend, but beginning this weekend and, early next week, would be high travel for media and others part of the extravaganza.

    After their service to the high profile and well-to-do, the workers get tossed back into a state of precarity.

    If you can, talk me down from this perspective. But i’s definately part of the decisions made yesterday.

  31. nippersdad

    This Venezuela thing is just getting bizarre. It would appear that they are sending Elliott Abrams (of Iran Contra fame) to Venezuela to pump up a drug kingpin charge on Maduro whilst getting the European Union to force an election in eight days. Bringing a lot of pressure to bear in an effort to not have to Iraqicize them, but what happens when Russia comes in on their side and spoils their little party? This is becoming fascinating to watch.

    1. alex morfesis

      Richie Rich Trading company, Ticino, Helvetica: Hi folks, thanks for getting in on the conference call…yeah…I know it is old news but we have once again too much oil in the pipeline and we need to disrupt another country to keep the isda off our backs…this game of keeping crashed positions in mediation mode is getting old…can we do something again in kuwait…nah…didn’t think so…yo raz, you don’t have any real political opposition in Ruskaya…think we could turn up the heat again in chechnya and…okay…okay…no need to get so testy…anyone in the mood to tackle some noise in nigeria…look…i get this idea that maduro is ripe…but its really crummy oil anyway…and…hey…how about we get some oil workers organized in the U.S. shale biz all huffy and puffy and…yes I know there is no union movement there anymore…but that is the great part of it…everyone has forgotten how to work that and…look people help me here…between natural gas and people getting urbanized…we got maybe 25 good years left and then we can just basically forget what is under the ground until the next collapse of civilization and our ancestors can inch their way back into it…but for our generation…Libya is about to come back on line sooner rather than later…Iran and Iraq are going to get back up to speed no matter what is done to keep them distracted…and the shale technology is spreading around the globe…we have anywhere from 3 million to 8 million barrels coming back live in the next 36 months…if we have to pick straws to see which country goes dark for a while so the rest of us can make some money to put monets on the wall…okay…all right…venezuela it is…but the optics are really bad on this one…couldn’t someone have done a coup in Guyana first and then use a border argument to…oh never mind…okay, fine…maduro pancakes it is…

    2. The Rev Kev

      Bizarre is right. If the European Union expects to have Venezuela organize a Federal election in only eight days, then there is absolutely no reason why they cannot also demand that the UK re-do the Brexit vote in eight days as well. So, Brexit vote re-do on February 4th which I will mark down on my calendar. Would that work for the British?

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Russia better come in fast and come in big or otherwise not bother coming in at all. Coming in big means putting Russian advisers in every military facility and in every little police station all over Venezuela so as to physically deter any physical attack. And if Russia can’t spare enough advisers, get some Chinese advisers in there to bulk up the numbers.

      Coming in fast means getting all the advisers in place all over Venezuela before the opposition can mount the first physical attack.

  32. neo-realist

    Why Trump could lose in 2020 NYT—the Democratic candidate that can wage a strong campaign in the battleground and swing states (unlike HRC) in the national election can beat Trump. Those states are usually the difference maker in a close election and the Dems failure (with the exception of Obama) to campaign well and win in those states (Kerry, Gore, HRC) made a huge difference in the losses. As the NYT piece mentioned, it will matter immensely to win states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan as well as to place some other swings (NC, AZ) in the win column.

    The dems may have a demographic advantage, however, a strategy that overtly focuses on big blue electoral college states, e.g., NY, CA, while paying short shrift to the rest of the country won’t put them them over the finish line.

    I could see a divided democratic camp between the left and the centrists/neo-liberals/blue dogs factions where if one side feels extremely betrayed or disappointed by the nominee or by the process the nominee is selected that the aggrieved faction may end up sitting on their hands and dampen enough of the vote to push Trump over the finish line.

    That lack of a differing political/economic narrative from Trump by the democratic candidate (cough, cough, Biden) also would be very advantageous to the incumbent.

  33. Susan the Other

    So did I read Nouriel Roubini’s post correctly? The BIS just analyzed Bit Coin and has definitively declared it to be provably both a counterfeiting operation AND a ponzi scheme? Amazing. So is this a negative negative and therefore a positive? Not exactly because everybody who has already jumped ship has actually realized a real profit, a double profit because it was created at the expense of the other Bit Coin “investors” and at the expense of the dollar itself. How much counterfeiting can a sovereign currency absorb? Fortunately it looks like self-destruction is built in on the block chain which slows to a crawl. Blocking liquidity. That’s why they call it a block chain! And the SEC did nothing because… they were just sitting around watching porn on their computers.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And didn’t we read sometime in the past that some of the blockchain blocks contain embedded child porn images? BitPorn. BitPorn porn. Sooo meta meta. . . .

        As Will Rogers once said, ” I never meta meta I didn’t like.”

  34. Synoia

    Zuckerberg is breaking promises to Instagram and WhatsApp. Be concerned.

    I read the press release, and conversations are to be encrypted. That’s not very important, waht is more significant is the capture of Call Detail records, who called who. I see not promise not to capture and sell that information.

    Call detail records document relationships.

    1. allan

      “Call detail records document relationships.”

      No No! NO!!! Let’s listen to distinguished former attorney general Michael Mukasey at the time of
      the Snowden revelations
      in 2013:

      That is a hysterically inaccurately portrayal of what information is available to the government.

      What is available are two kinds of information. One is so-called metadata, which is simply a pile of numbers, numbers called and times. They are not even associated with particular people. …

      A pile of numbers. Not even associated with particular people. Trust us.

  35. John

    This relates to nothing in Links or in the splendid sets of comments. I prefer paper maps, but the digital really do have their place.

    Has anyone else upon seeing the pictures of Trump with Pence just behind him been reminded of the rhyme beginning: “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.” Is he afraid Trump will forget that he exists if he is not constantly there?

  36. drumlin woodchuckles

    In the “Why Trump Will Lose in 2020” article from the New York Times, I note that the author places her hopes on Trump failing to re-carry a hyper-partisanised Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Michigan. If the Mainstream Clintobama Dems come to believe this analysis, then they too will pin their hopes on carrying a hyper-partisanised Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan with a Mainstream Clintobama Dem nominee.

    If that is what the DemParty Elite ends up deciding, and acting on; then the DemParty Elite will accidentally hand the Dissident Dems a great deal of negative veto power over their strategy and hence, over the election. All the Dissident Dem Voters and Movementeers have to do is decide very sincerely and un-emotionally in advance: which Mainstream Clintobama Dem nominees are they prepared to tolerate and hence vote for? And which ones are they prepared to reject and vote against? For real? Ahead of time? Even if such a vote-against means that Trump wins by default?

    Because if the Dissident Dem Voters are really truly prepared to reJECT certain DemParty nominee choices ahead of time, and are truly prepared to ACT on that reJECtion, then those Dissident Dem Voters will already be psychologically and emotionally prepared to vote Third Party, leave the President line blank, stay home, or otherwise withhold their votes from any nominee on the list of designated reject-on-sight names.

    And if they are really truly prepared to do that, and if they really truly follow up on their preparation to do that by really truly doing that, then their vote with-holdments could provide the margin of default-defeat by subtraction against the unacceptable Democratic nominee. And it would take only a very small margin-load of such Dissident Dem votes in such very slim-margin evenly-balanced states . . . . to cause the Mainstream Dem to lose even without voting overtly for Trump.

    And if that is so, and if the Dissident Dems can all agree on a shared Kaput Parade of Hated Rejectables, then the Dissident Dems of all Fifty States can put all their effort into those three states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania . . . . aGAINST the Unacceptable DemParty nominee . . . and MAKE the DemParty candidate lose those three states, and hence lose the election.

    If Dissident Dems think this line of analysis has any applied functional merit, then they need to start planning to apply this functional line of analysis starting right now.


    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If you wish. Why not? Those particular three items I listed are just in line with my own personal distaste.

      Please feel free to consider the three hashtags free to take and use ( or ignore). I give them all away. And the whole form itself could be considered to be CopyLefted.

      I just listed those particular three because I like them in particular.

  37. tricia

    re Venezuela. Just watched the documentary The Revolution will not be Televised, about the failed 2002 US-backed coup in Venezuela. Independent filmmakers happened to be there when it happened.

    Wow, what a moving film about people-power.

    So relevant to what is happening today and highly recommend for anyone wanting to understand the perspective of the Venezuelan lower classes. What class consciousness.

  38. Basil Pesto

    Many thanks for the well wishes from the arse end of the planet, but I’m not sure you got the memo: it’s now terribly gauche and/or downright immoral to celebrate Australia Day. This is on account of the colonial oppression of the native population which began around January 26, 1788. There’s now a vocal movement to #ChangeTheDate (that’ll fix everything) to something a bit more palatable. It’s a movement which has been picked up by inner city millenials in the last few years and so gained a lot of traction. Arendt’s line in ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ re: young Germans cones to mind: “there’s nothing so easy as feeling guilty for what you weren’t responsible for” (I paraphrase.)

    Setting aside the obvious merit of the arguments, one questions the wisdom of a small tranche of the population telling the rest of the population to hate their country, which is more or less where the discourse is at at the moment.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Australia, America, Canada, and all the Latin American countries are in a slightly different position then the young Germans in that all of us who are far too young to have holocausted any First Nations persons in person up close and personal . . . still choose to benefit by choosing to live on the looted land.

      So that is something for us to either do something about … or not.

  39. How is it legal

    Re: California Sues City Over Lack of Affordable Housing

    i.e. California Governor Gavin Newsom once again being utterly duplicitous in his ambition to be POTUS [1], and painting California’s woes as being Republican oriented, despite the hideous reality of rampant homelessness and inequality in areas governed by Demorats (such as himself, as Mayor of San Francisco) for decades (not that those same people wouldn’t be homeless under majority Republican rule, they would, but that’s not the issue here).

    In a decent world, the entire Blue™ Demorat controlled San Francisco Bay Area (which also encompasses Silicon Valley), and the Los Angeles Metro Area, should have been successfully sued quite some time ago for the contribution to the homelessness of their own decades long Demorat loyal resident renters and precariat home owners who once could afford the rooves over their heads; right along with Huntington Beach, in Red™ Orange County.

    Even the Los Angeles Times hints that Governor Gavin Newsom is not planning on providing stable housing for those who need it the most: Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the tech industry to help pay for new housing. But not for the neediest Californians.

    [1] From Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for ‘Marshall plan for affordable housing- “We have a homeless epidemic that should keep each and every one of us up at night,” adds California’s new governor (lovely “should” word there, which cleverly prevented his statement from being ‘a lie,’ as California’s obscene homelessness tragedy has never ever prevented Gavin from getting a good night’s rest, he didn’t even support Prop 10 – which was very much needed, though stupefyingly weak tea in terms of fulfilling renters rights to affordable housing):

    Newsom went on to label California as one of the country’s few nation-states, noting the importance and effect the state has on the rest of the country and the world.

    What we do today is even more consequential, because of what’s happening in our country,” said the new governor. “People’s lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe, they all hang in the balance. The country is watching us. The world is waiting on us. And the future depends on us. And we will seize this moment [and share the secret as to how California Demorats legalized the rampant inequality and poverty amongst predominantly: homogenous white, ivy league male billionaires; and millionaire male and female politicians, actors, and actresses in California – which has the highest State poverty rate in the US – to the elite governors of the US, and the World – How is it legal].”

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