Links 1/31/19

Elephant Seals Took Over a Beach During the Shutdown and They’re Not Giving it Back Vice (David L)

Putting Glitter on Your Dog’s Testicles is a Trend Now, Apparently Rare (resilc). Giving “glitter balls” a new meaning.

Monarch butterfly populations are on the rise WorldWildLife (David L)

Over 36,000 Pounds of Tyson Chicken Nuggets Recalled Because They Might Contain Rubber Daily Beast. Resilc: “How could one tell?””

Polar vortex brings deadly cold snap to US states BBC. Due to bad planning, I had to trundle out in 9 degree temps with a stiff wind. Not too bad but I put on so many layers that I was on my way to being the Michelin man. If you live in colder climes, you presumably have better gear and don’t have to improvise.

Cold as ºF’: Chicago residents make best of life in ‘Chiberia’ during polar vortex Guardian (marth r)

When it’s this cold, Chicago sets its train tracks on fire CNN (J-LS)

The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity Vox (David L)

Americans Got 26.3 Billion Robocalls Last Year, Up 46 Percent From 2017 Washington Post

Schools Are Locking Students’ Phones Away to Help With Concentration Fortune

A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy New England Journal of Medicine


Can China Turn the Middle of Nowhere Into the Center of the World Economy? New York Times (resilc)

Foxconn may drop plans to build flat screens in Wisconsin CNN

Brexit. Due to the hour, I haven’t had a chance to double check, but Richard North says Theresa May won’t be facing Parliament with her Breit news until February 13. But Labour Whips just tweeted that the February holiday has been cancelled. So will May be able to drag out the pretend of talking to EU leaders when they already said no till February 13? Even though she still controls Parliamentary time, obvious foot-dragging is probably not a good move.

Juncker warns Theresa May’s shift raises risk of disorderly Brexit Financial Times

Europe won’t abandon Ireland or the backstop, Jean-Claude Juncker insists The Times

Brexit latest news: Jean Claude-Juncker and Michel Barnier rule out changing Withdrawal Agreement and warn of increased no-deal risk Telegraph. Barnier is seldom this blunt. Suggests that he is reflecting the view of his principals, and they’ve written off the UK. May has broken a cardinal rule of negotiating: you do not reopen settled deal points without groveling and offering a significant concession. May has done neither. That means her actions will be seen as (at best) operating in bad faith, which is toxic. EU leaders have already had to exercise great self-control not to react badly to the UK’s lunatic demands, obstinacy, and misguided criticisms. There’s no point in pretending that the situation can be salvaged.

It’s up to you to sort out Brexit impasse, Donald Tusk tells Theresa May Guardian

Brexit: Brussels says UK should keep paying into EU budget after no-deal Independent

Brexit: bewilderment, dismay and shame Chris Grey


US Prepares for Battle Over Venezuelan Oil Refiner Citgo AntiWar (resilc)

The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader Consortium News (Kevin W)

Bret Stephens, the ‘Times,’ and Fearmongering Over Venezuela Nation (resilc)

New Cold War

Mystery illness sees Canada halve its Cuba embassy staff BBC. Not giving up, are they?


Netanyahu misleads the Israelis about cross-border tunnels and “Operation Northern Shield”: Is he preparing an electoral war on Lebanon? Elijah Magnier (Chuck L)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Apple just broke all of Facebook’s internal apps Business Insider (David L)

Google will stop peddling a data collector through Apple’s back door TechCrunch

When ‘Former’ Spies Run Wild Bad Things Happen Moon of Alabama (Chuck L)

Chaos has reportedly erupted inside Facebook as employees find themselves unable to open the company’s apps on their iPhones Business Insider

Attackers Can Track Kids’ Locations Via Connected Watches Pen Test Partners

Imperial Collapse Watch

The Threat That the US Can’t Ignore: Itself Wired (Dr. Kevin)

Gerald R. Ford Aircraft Carrier Suffers Launch, Landing Failures Bloomberg (resilc)

MEDICAL PROGRAMS Cuban Medical Services. Resilc: “Beats USA USA.”

Trump Transition

Mueller says Russians are using his discovery materials in disinformation effort NBC (furzy). Help me.

Many Families May Need Months to Recover From the Shutdown Atlantic (martha r)

Warren introduces bill to stop US using nuclear weapons first CNN

Calling Bill That Makes Voting Easier a “Power Grab,” McConnell Exemplifies a GOP Terrified of Democracy Common Dreams (J-LS)

Who’s Afraid of Kamala Harris? Daily Beast. Resilc: “HOW DARE one criticize any non-existent or recently absorbed policy by her ….it’s anti-woman/afro-Caribbean/hindoo. it’s the Clintoon game plan on roids…..”

The 2020 Race Loses Its William Jennings Bryan American Conservative (resilc)

Judge: PG&E put profits over wildfire safety Associated Press (David L)

YouTube Strikes Now Being Used as Scammers’ Extortion Tool TorrentFreak. “If your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business.”

Fake News

Washington Post Tries to Take Down Parody Site Announcing Trump’s Resignation Electronic Frontier Foundation (Chuck L). What a humorless bunch.

New Details on Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Health Venture Emerge in Court Battle Wall Street Journal

Guillotine Watch

What If You Could Sell Squash Like an iPhone? How Dan Barber plans to upgrade our ingredients. Grub Street (J-LS). Repeat after me: “Versailles 1788.” First artisanal bread and pickles, now this.

Here’s What Starbucks Is Telling Employees To Say About Howard Schultz Huffington Post (martha r)

Howard Schultz: America’s New Banality Supervillain Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone. What a nice guy. Trashes his father.

Howard Schultz Is Wrong About ‘Both Sides.’ It’s Republicans Who Ruined the Country. Daily Beast. Resilc: “If this is what the media thinks, we are waaaaay past hope.”

Class Warfare

Man Who Sheltered Homeless People in His Basement Stops After City Order New York Times (martha r). From earlier this month, still germane.

Charles Koch and Deion Sanders: Unite to Fight Poverty The Seminar Network (resilc)

Virginia students learn in trailers while state offers Amazon huge tax Guardian (John A). From earlier this week, still germane.

Good Samaritan picks up hotel tab for 70 homeless as Chicago flirts with all-time cold record Chicago Tribune (martha r)

Antidote du jour. MGL: “Stellar jay at our campsite.”

And a bonus from guurst:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    “Mystery illness sees Canada halve its Cuba embassy staff”

    And as far as the truth of any allegations are concerned, the answer is – (crickets!).

    1. fajensen

      My bet would be exposure to insecticides or that an EMP-weapon was used by someone.

      Physics being what it is, it would not be easy to design, build and operate (without being fried**) such a device.

      If at all possible, it would be state-of-the-art Black Budget “magic”: To reliably damage living cells one needs a field strength of about 50 kV/cm inside on the target*. One can assume it takes less to “just” do damage. This all works out to quite enormous transmit powers and very tricky antenna designs. Maybe North Korea?

      *) I couldn’t find anything solid on this in literature – the 50 kV/cm is the number one finds for pasteurisation of orange juice with HV-pulses.

      **) Classic problem with energy weapons is that the energy that must be controlled and directed ‘at the weapon end’ must be exponentially larger than the energy that is needed for destroying the target.

      1. Synoia

        Classic problem with energy weapons is that the energy that must be controlled and directed ‘at the weapon end’ must be exponentially larger than the energy that is needed for destroying the target.

        Not exponential. Square law. .

    2. wilroncanada

      The Rev Kev
      Well, Jiminy Crickets, not again. In these allegations, Canadians are the alligators, and they’re still a crock

  2. larry

    Barnier, in his speech on 30 January at the Plenary Session of the European Parliament, practically said that May was acting in bad faith, to wit, “Even before the votes last night, she distanced herself from the agreement she herself negotiated and on which we agreed.” He then commented negatively on the Brady amendment, an amendment that makes no sense at all.

    When it comes to the EU-UK treaty, it is becoming more apparent that neither side seems to know what they are talking about.

    1. Quentin

      ‘They both do it.’ Yes, they both know what they’re talking about. The problem is each has a different take. The EU seems, in fact, to be clear—maybe only until the eleventh hour when it and the UK shake hands over yet-to-be-revealed compromises. I’m not betting on it. The UK thinks it still Rules the Waves and can change tack at will whenever the occasion presents itself: the HMS Theresa May by British composers and lyricists.

      1. larry

        Sorry, Quentin, but my clarification was misplaced, by me. I didn’t mean to say that the EU negotiators didn’t know what they were talking about, but rather that Tory and Labour didn’t seem to have the faintest clue about the treaties they are reacting to. For instance, May asks Corbyn which clarifications he wants and then links the state aid rules to the customs union, which are not linked in the documents and Corbyn seems to not understand EEA/Efta. I am not certain how to explain this degree of incompetence. Some of it is la-la land stuff, but it can’t all be explained that way.

        1. Quentin

          I make similar mistakes when posting. It can be very confusing. You’re right, it’s as if both Labor and Conservative are lost in dreamland. Yes, the production of the HMS May is maybe the worst one anyone could imagine, with Corbyn being pulled behind in the dinghy. Maybe we’re witnessing the ultimate British mass-extinction event. Very depressing.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Huh? The EU has been incredibly organized, consistent, and professional. Great briefing papers stating their position and issues. Clear statements after each major meeting. EU leaders all singing from the same hymnal, which is remarkable. The UK achieved the normally impossible task of unifying the EU. Barnier has done a remarkable job and even Juncker has been performing much better than usual.

      Sir Ivan Rogers has repeatedly described at length how the UK has utterly failed to understand how the EU works despite being a member, particularly that it is governed by treaties and has limited degrees of freedom on key issues.

      This “both sides are equally at fault:” is false. The UK entered into Brexit as a result of a Tory party stunt that spun out of control. May then squandered valuable time with her snap election, which greatly weakened her position. She and the Tories wasted further time by pursuing demands (“cakeism” and cherry picking) that the EU said was na ga happen because it could not give a deal outside the parameters of deals with other countries, yet the UK wasted yet more time by putting its fingers in its ears and saying “No” when that was never going to go anywhere.

      I could go on for 2000 words of additional examples without thinking hard.

      Shorter: Don’t make stuff up. It’s against site rules. The EU has lots of problems, but how it handled the Brexit negotiations is not one of them.

      1. Quentin

        Yves, it turns out to be a mistake on the part of larry which has since been corrected. No one was ‘making stuff up.’ I’m addicted to this site.

      2. margrave

        Perhaps I’m not up to date on the subtleties of these negotiations but it seems to me the EU position is, “We’re 100 percent against a hard Irish border but we prefer a no deal Brexit, resulting in an immediate hard Irish border, to a withdrawal agreement without a back stop, that gives us two to five years without a hard Irish border.” Not a viable negotiating position in my view.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It’s not a negotiating position.

          The EU was being very accommodating in trying to work out a solution to the Irish border. And Ireland wanted that too, so the EU was also acting to back the interest of a member state.

          The consequence of the UK leaving the EU is a hard land border in Ireland. The UK will become a “third country” The UK, as with so many things about Brexit, hadn’t figured out that pulling the Brexit trigger would lead to a hard border and violate the Good Friday Agreement. The EU, acting in concert with Ireland, tried finding a fix. The only realistic solution was a so-called “sea border,” with Northern Ireland subject to EU rules on trade but otherwise part of the UK. But the DUP and strongly “unionist” Tories found that unacceptable.

          So the failure to sort something out means the UK will wind up where it would have wound up had the EU tried not to help (the UK has claimed there could be technology solutions, but it can’t point to anything concrete, and Ireland and EU are not gonna accept vaporware and the EU will not accept Northern Ireland becoming a gateway for smuggling in non-EU compliant goods).

          What you are missing is Brexit triggers hard border with EU. The UK caused that. It has nothing to do with negotiating. It’s the result of an A50 notice.

          The UK rejected EU attempts to devise workarounds that would still preserve the integrity of the Single Market.

    3. shtove

      On the alternative arrangements proposed by the Brady amendment, it was funny to watch the Brexit minister in parliament doing his slippery fish three times to avoid the question of what these might be.

      Of course these will be rejected out of hand, but the amendment is supposed to allow an alternative, that the UK pay for a transition period absent a withdrawal agreement. I guess it’s doable, but it also means carrying over the effect of the European Communities Act 1972 after its repeal on exit day.

    4. skippy

      Recent convo with a known moneycrank econnomic quantity bemoaned how the EU was making it tough on the U.K. – as a hegemonic – totalitarian anti free trade trading block …. after some classic revisionism and framework reality shape shifting I reminded him of the “sanctity of contracts” with a side of “free will” bargaining self interest [tm] memeology ….

      Swear I could hear the lower intestinal cinching through the intertubes ….

  3. Wukchumni

    The 2020 Race Loses Its William Jennings Bryan American Conservative

    The supposed latter-day WJB didn’t strike me as anything approaching the original, who wanted to take advantage of the tremendous amount of silver that came out of the west, the Comstock Lode in particular.

    Since biblical times, the ratio of silver to gold stood @ 16-1, and barely moved, but the Big Bonanza changed that in a hurry, and today the ratio is about 90-1, which gives you an idea how common silver is in comparison.

    Back then, getting rid of all the silver was a monumental challenge as markets were infantile compared to now, but thanks to the Bland-Allison Act in 1878, a good amount of it was turned into silver Dollars, which weren’t needed or used all that much in commerce (as late as the early 1960’s, you could buy brand new 1,000 count bags of 1880’s to 1900’s silver $ coins for face value from the U.S. Treasury in DC, how many bags would you like?) as it was just a scam to get the money, good old greed.

    That’s what WJB was pushing with ‘free silver’.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Interesting, about the Comstock Lode.

      I am just guessing, but it seems they got more silver out of it than from Potosi’s Cerro Rico (even with today’s estimated remaining reserves).

    2. monday1929

      You are confusing the current silver to gold price ratio with the amount of silver/gold in earth’s crust.
      The ratio of silver to gold in earth’s crust is, and has always been (believed to be) about 16 to 1. The current PRICE ratio is rather extreme at about 90 to 1. This indicates that silver is relatively cheap compared to gold, and that may be corrected by either gold falling, or as silver advocates see it, silver rising dramatically. Or, of course, some combination. Some look at silver to gold ratio as a sentiment indicator, with preference for gold indicating more conservatism/risk aversion.

      1. Wukchumni

        The last time the ratio was 16-1, was at the apex of the Hunt Brothers attempt to corner the market.

  4. larry


    I meant that neither the Tories nor Labour seem to know what they are talking about when it comes to the EU-UK treaty.

  5. Steve H.

    > The case for taking AI seriously as a threat to humanity

    Way too much focus on ‘smart’ (that word again!) AI. Bacteria and viruses aren’t smart, but they have enormous impact.

    I hit the law of threes on RUFKM this last year:

    : The cause of the saiga die-off of 2015 was revealed to be an inherent bacterium that was triggered by climate change, killing the herd at a rate far faster than a normal vector spread. Similiar situation with starfish, normal epidemiology models (with ‘patient zero’ implicit) useless.

    : Amyloid plaques possibly being protective v frickin gingivitus as a cause of Alzheimer’s, but we’ve been doing work to break up the plaques.

    : Fossil fuel aerosols damping down the effects of global warming, so if we stop burning fossil fuels we increase the rate of change.

    As humans, we keep seeing symptoms and taking them as causes. Mr. Fix-it don’t work so well in complex mechanisms, the spanner wrench can arc and short-circuit the system. And global solutions have consistently benefited global elites while increasing instability.

    We are self-deluded monkeys with a capacity for the divine.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      We’re children playing with matches in an ammo dump.

      Hubris combined with profit-uber-alles “morality” is a formula for some serious disaster.

      1. polecat

        Our species will do ourselves in, going to war over the last melon, using all of our resources in Tai Kwan Dodo … whatever the cost !

        1. Procopius

          Back in the ’50s there was discussion in the science fiction fan community that possibly the reason we have never been contacted by nor detected other civilizations is that any species that is intelligent enough to develop nuclear power will inevitably destroy itself. Intelligent beings, after all, are most likely to evolve from predator species, which are necessarily highly territorial and aggressive.

  6. The Rev Kev

    “Virginia students learn in trailers while state offers Amazon huge tax breaks”

    Perhaps those teachers forced to teach in those dog boxes could sow some dragon seeds. Just arrange for school excursions to Amazon facilities to see what they are all about and then teach them afterwards how much was given to Amazon (and still is) which explains why they are not being taught in proper buildings. Teach them too that no people were ever given rights but always had to fight for them. And then had to keep fighting to keep them. Who knows how that would play out over the following decades.

    1. L.M. Dorsey

      Fwiw, reminds me a bit of Jim Thompson’s Lincoln Fargo in Heed the Thunder:

      In considerable travel and much incisive if narrow thinking, he had come to the conclusion that a man got no more freedom than he worked for. Sometimes he didn’t get that much unless he was lucky; but certainly it was useless to try to give it to him. The muscles you got getting freedom were needed to hold on to it.

    1. Wukchumni

      Despite being perhaps one of the most athletic Presidents, Ford was a renowned klutz always falling down or the cause of some self-inflicted physical malaprop, so maybe having an error plagued aircraft carrier named after him, is apt.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        He played center, linebacker and long snapper.

        We have only known about the sad stories of ex-football players in recent years. Was his a similar tale?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            If he was injured from playing football, that would make LBJ insenstive, though, people knew not as much about it as we do now.

            1. Procopius

              LBJ was insensitive, or at least tactless. That’s one of the reasons I have always been amazed that he was the president to promote the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty. Fascinating man. He loved humiliating “leaders” by making them come to beg him for stuff while he was sitting on the toilet taking a dump. He would have pulled out of Vietnam if he hadn’t feared what the right wing Republicans would stir up. “They’ll say I’m not a manly man.”

          2. Mark Sanders

            My memory is that Harry Truman said that Ford was too dumb to walk and chew gum at the same time.

            1. Jessica

              AFAIK, even during his presidential term, Ford was actually a good golfer (for a president). I always thought that the Ford as klutz image was due to SNL and Chevy Chase (with disillusionment due to the Vietnam War and Watergate in the background).

      1. newcatty

        Ha, ha, ha…even more relevant when in the context of the great American gladiator bread (“pig out”) and circus (American professional football). The ultimate contest coming to the USA this SuperSunday!!! Its even conveniently got the East vs the West! But, our gladiators have state of the art protection, now! Brady is, for some, a fricken National HERO! Jeez, he is even a New England patriot! Then we get all the amazing half time show! More layers on the circus cake. The plebes are also entertained by those “funny” commercials. Ok, we all know it’s just advertising mesmerism, but it’s cause, you know, they are so smart! Read that the army is having a “problem” with recruiting new kids for their ranks. Read that the Navy and Air force are doing fine. Guess the Army needs twice the amount of raw recruits, so it just doesn’t seem fair. Maybe, the annual love fest for American freedom, democracy and “our way of life” will inspire more kids to join up. Pass the popcorn, mean the guac, chips, wings and things.

  7. Brindle

    re: “Whose Afraid of Kamala Harris”

    Definitely trying to divert attention away from her record and also promoting Willie Brown as the ultimate decider for the 2020 election.

    ” Brown, who does not always appear in person, will play a critical role in determining the nominee—especially if there is a convention floor fight—and he is a force the 2020 Democratic nominee will need to win. “

    1. Big River Bandido

      The smug, Californiacentric and triumphalist tone of that article is grating. OTOH, it underscores how pathetic Harris’ chances are.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        And yet three Superdelegates have already declared for Harris: Ted Liu, Katie Hill, and one other.

        And Beto, I’m told, is waiting to “hear” about his possible run. Efforts to ascertain whose permission he’s awaiting have resulted only in deflections about his kids.

    2. Judith

      Interesting that this article and a similar one by Joan Walsh in the Nation just appeared at the same time.

    3. Steve

      Yikes @ Goldie Taylor

      Taylor has worked for the Sara Lee Corporation as director of global communications and public affairs.[13]

      Taylor has served as executive consultant to NBC News and CNN Worldwide. In 2009, while serving as a consulting producer to CNN, Taylor re-opened an investigation into the Atlanta Child Murders and convicted serial killer Wayne Williams. She was also an executive consultant to CNN’s “Black in America”, leading the audience tune-in strategy. “Black In America” remains one of the highest rated documentaries in CNN’s history. Taylor states that she created and launched Procter & Gamble’s “My Black Is Beautiful”,[14] the largest marketing effort targeting African-American women in the company’s history.[citation needed]

      She has previously been an external affairs executive for several Fortune 500 companies, as well as two of the world’s largest public relations agencies, the GCI Group San Francisco and Edelman Atlanta Public Relations. Taylor is currently the CEO of Goldie Taylor Brand Communications, an Atlanta-based multi-cultural advertising and public relations agency. She is also the managing editor and host of “The Goldie Taylor Project”, an opinion blog devoted to contemporary political, social, and faith issues confronting America.

    4. Oh

      I was quite suspicious because it was in the Daily Beast but as I started to read it, I because convinced it is a puff piece. I have a hard time with a candidate who looked away from common people to help a bankster Repig and one who crows about putting a poor single mother in jail blaming her for the truancy of her children. Let’s face it, there are a lot more pressing issues than that for an AG.

    1. Steve H.

      If you look up ‘Dank Vapes’ you will see it’s not necessarily nicotine being inhaled in front of you. Absolutely can not tell the difference unless the vaper giggles.

    2. Juneau

      Anecdotal but true-I work with smokers a lot and the quit rate with e-cigs amongst my people has been better than 50 percent and they often taper off e-cigs slowly after a few years (yes they get side effects but they stayed off cigarettes). We are talking about an N of 10 so don’t look for statistical significance.
      The mouth irritation issues have been infrequent but real and can be severe. There is a lot of room for the Nicorette folks to get this to market as an FDA approved treatment with a much higher success rate than the lozenges and patches. Hopefully that will happen and safer tested e-cigs will make it through.

      The big ethical issue with e-cigs is getting kids hooked on them and I fully support keeping them off e-cigs.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        i’ve smoked since i was 17.
        i was 2 weeks into switching completely to something called a jool when wife was diagnosed with cancer….so that went out the window.
        at issue, with me, is that the vape makes me cough more than the cigs do(?) and takes getting used to to prevent that.
        out in public, both are seen as akin to throwing feces at passerby…so there’s no social benefit to the healthier alternative.
        after the next big, scary surgery, I intend to try again…in the hopes of, like you mention, weaning off the nicotine that remains, after the tar and such have been left behind.
        I figure things like jool are a net positive, if they’d stop the clandestine push to minors.
        would that that was recognised in the hive mind.

        1. Brian (another one they call)

          From experience, weaning doesn’t work. Playing chicken with an addiction to nicotine benefits only the makers of the nicotine products. Why replace nicotine with nicotine and expect to beat the addiction? Because the sales force tells you it works and they make money selling you drugs.
          cold turkey and withdrawal allows you some freedom after a week or so. You can smell what an ashtray and your face have in common. It is the nic that is keeping you strung out. If you can leave it alone, you can win.
          I realized this was what was breaking my resolve and fighting that was how I finally got away after many tries. I hope it works for others.

        2. nippersdad

          O.K. I seldom do this, but what the hell?

          I, too, have smoked since I was 17. I found the gum to be a joke; I quit the patches after having put on an entire box and still smoked a pack a day; the medication made me want to kill people (interesting experience, the potential for which is actually listed in the fine print!). The alternative would be heroin, which my doctor refuses to prescribe for me and I have been given to understand does terrible things to your teeth.

          We can’t have that.

          As they used to say on Saturday Night Live; “It is better to look marvelous than to feel marvelous.” I may not be able to walk very far, but my Irish thorn cane is simply awe inspiringly beautiful. It even has authentic live European worm holes and goes well with my tweeds and silver cigarette case. So there is that. :)

          I was diagnosed with my first “condition” and its’ attendant scary procedure (which really sounds like more trouble and expense than it is worth; kudos to you!) three years ago. Point being, you are not alone.

          I have pointed out in the past that these self satisfied, so-called “superior” types of people, those who drive those enormous SUV’s and live in mini-mansions full of Rooms-To-Go furniture, aren’t in a position to judge anyone. Let them get their blood tested for the formaldehyde offgassing from their every pore and then get back to me. Look at the world they have given us; screw them. They are damn lucky we aren’t pelting them with feces in the streets anyway. I would do so myself but for the lack of readily available feces and, you know, I don’t want to soil my tweeds just for them. There are reasons why people smoke and they are one of them. Just my opinion, I may be wrong, but no one (except my quickly multiplying number of doctors) mentions my smoking habit to me twice.

          Thanks for the head’s up on this Juul thing from both you and Juneau; it sounds interesting and I think I may try it. I hope your second procedure goes well and that it helps you to get off the stuff. It really is a nasty habit, after all. Just don’t tell anyone I said so.

          1. amfortas the hippie

            thanks fer that, Nip.
            its wife has cancer… and we both marvel at the irony of me being the rather healthy one. cigs have been a crutch for me…mostly a welcome one. hardest obst. to quitting for me…after wanting to,that is…is the boredom i endure from my unrelated global arthritis/fibro.
            ergo, winter i smoke more… bc im laying in agony more.
            i get tired of lectures from all and sundry…each of whom are target rich environments for criticism themselves.
            ll quit when im ready willing and able….and in my own way.
            bigger fish atm

            1. nippersdad

              Man, I am so sorry. That just isn’t any fun.

              My only rationale for laying around these days is that it is just easier to feel marvellous in my comfy bed than it is to go out looking marvellous and fall on my face in public.

              I never realized before that there is this monstrous hill, which goes uphill both ways, between the house and the mailbox. I kid you not, that thing has got to be inches high, and it is exhausting. I’d walk around it, but that is exhausting too. I’d get someone out with a shovel to level it, but that would be exhausting to watch. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

              But I have no such excuse as you or your Wife. Be as well as you can. I have been given to understand that is the best revenge for people like us.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          This is probably very old news for you, but Wellbutrin has pretty solid clinical evidence re helping people quit smoking. Obviously not everyone but if you haven’t tried it, I would talk to your MD. It’s a very old med, so I don’t think it’s pricey.

        4. Isotope_C14

          Tabex. You can order it online. Comes from some Hungarian tree bark.

          Blocks the nicotine receptor and makes a CIG taste like poison.

          No surprise that it isn’t aold OTC in the US.

    3. allan

      What’s good for dental surgeons and implant manufacturers is good for tobacco companies as well:

      Altria says Juul sales skyrocket to $1 billion in 2018 [Reuters]

      Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc said on Thursday e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc posted more than $1 billion in revenue in 2018, up from about $200 million a year earlier, the first official growth figures for the controversial vaping product. …

      What’s not to love?

      1. newcatty

        Does anybody else here have the phenomenon of having a dentist practice on almost every corner in their locale? In my small city, its like, in many cities, a Walgreens or CVC, a gas station and/ or “convenience ” store, or hair cutting shop. Hmmm…

          1. ambrit

            There is also the phenomenon of ‘Children’s Dental Services’ companies scamming the Medicaid system through excessive and unnecessary dental work on kiddies mouths. The outlet in our one horse town is always busy. After all, if I were Medicaid eligible with children, I’d jump on semi-free dental for those kids. The basic idea is sound. The scamming is purely a function of Ten-Percenter Greed Syndrome. Yet, when someone mentions ‘regulation’ nowadays, all I hear is the sound of crickets haunting embassies in Havana.

    4. dk

      I’ve been vaping since 2010. I mix my own “juice” from wholesale nicotine and PG (propelene glycol). Leaving out the VG (vegetable glycerin) yields less billowy smoke, pretty much the only reason for using VG is the visual/subjective effect, but it’s very harsh on throat and lungs. I don’t add flavorings (or coloring) because why? I’m doing it for the short nicotine buzz.

      The nicotine and PG do dry out my mouth, I brush my teeth a lot (min. 3x day, but usually every time I’m in the bathroom I give my teeth/gums a twice-over, takes 30 secs), my last year of dental checkups suggest that my gums are healthy, and not getting new cavities as long as I do this. Hydration is essential anyway, but the nicotine/PG adds a dry-mouth penalty if I don’t.

      Nicotine is very toxic, an overdose can kill, vasoconstriction hits the lungs and oxygen absorption plummets.

  8. Wukchumni

    The solar vortex here was quite something. I cracked an egg on the pavement and it just sat there, and then the contents of a pot of boiling water was thrown into the sky and fell down, attesting to the gravity of the climate.

    1. ambrit

      “Solar Vortex” was it? I thought that you lived up in the mountains somewhere, not down in Death Valley.
      I dunno. Water floating about the sky is such a nebulous concept.

  9. zagonostra


    The reaction to what is happening in Venezuela reveals the mendacity/cowardice/duplicity of elected officials and institutions.

    In one sense it is similar to what happened with all 99% of the establishment Media rallying behind HRC it revealed just how disconnected from historical events some friends are, and gullible.

    When you read comments like the one below from Senator Durbin, and compare with the one posted in with the Consortium article you know the Democratic Party is irredeemable, as is the EU, and exposes the false image of Canada as a “peace-loving nation.”

    I met with Guaidó and many of his talented colleagues elected to the National Assembly during my visit. They are brave patriots who see a more hopeful and democratic future for the Venezuelan people. That many of them had won their seats in areas originally won by Hugo Chavez spoke volumes of their potential to return Venezuela to the community of Latin American democracies. I plan to speak with him in the days ahead and offer my support for his pledge to lead a thoughtful, peaceful transition to a

    legitimate election that meets international standards in the immediate future.

    1. TomT

      Enough is enough. As a proud Illinoisan and no less of a brave patriot than Juan Guaido, I can no longer sit on the sidelines in the face of grave injustice. I hereby declare myself to be the rightful U.S. Senate Democratic Whip. I humbly call on the Free World to recognize me in this role and to help facilitate Dick Durbin’s peaceful transition to civilian life.
      I also expect the U.S. Treasury Department to immediately freeze all of his financial assets and transfer them to me, which I will reluctantly manage on behalf of the downtrodden citizens of this once great state.

      1. newcatty

        TomT, if I was also a proud Illinoisan, I would humbly and proudly support your unselfish and patriotic offer to serve the citizens of the great state of Illinois. Also, I would gratefully and proudly offer to serve, with my many years of extensive work in public service, to work as a key aide on your staff. BTW, I also can add the benefit of your hiring a woman, an old person, a short person, a college graduate (from humble state schools) and a good cook.

        1. ambrit

          Your CV suggests that you might be just the person the Party needs. Someone who can “cook” the books.
          We will soon have an opening due to problems with our present financial manipulators: “Bill and Hill Value Extraction Industries LLC.”

      2. ChrisPacific

        I’m not from Illinois, but I have recently been pursuing some investment opportunities in the state which have stalled owing to the regrettably high prices I have been quoted. Perhaps the new regime might be amenable to a more business-friendly approach? I have left a note on your doorstep with my contact details, weighted down with bags of cash to stop it from blowing away.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      Did anyone else notice in that Consortium article that the photo of the Serbian counterrevolutionary trainers at the 2005 European MTV awards had 5 people in it, 3 of whom were members of the band REM? Not sure what to make of that.

      1. pjay

        What I tend to make of it is (1) Otpor is media savvy, like all good propagandists (their target audience is “liberals” and “progressives”); and (2) REM, like most celebrities, might be easy marks for political manipulation. Not sure on the second point, though, since I don’t know the circumstances of this photo.

  10. Amfortas the Hippie

    on the unsanctioned homeless shelter in chi-town:
    I loathe things like this…and when it’s that cold?
    in many places in Texas, it’s technically illegal to feed the homeless.
    these technocratic prohibitions are inhuman.

    I find it strange, too, that his defense relies on some assumed constitutional Right to help people, while ignoring the extant Freedom of Assembly.

    when i lived in Austin, I knew a bunch of homeless folks, and they were always welcome at my place…for showers or bbq, a couch…or a place to park the housecar.

  11. The Rev Kev

    “Launch-and-Landing Failures Add to $13 Billion Ship’s Troubles”

    Below is the view from a fighter cockpit of a take-off from a carrier deck, in this case the USS Theodore Roosevelt-

    Now going by the figures in that article, imagine that you are that pilot and you are aware that in about 1 out of every 36 take-offs, something will go wrong. That would put the wind up you. Is that carrier in any shape to go to war at the moment? Before they even have it operational, they’re already building a second of this class – the USS John F. Kennedy with two more following – the USS Enterprise and another as yet unnamed one. They expect to have 10 ships in this class eventually to replace the USS Nimitz class carriers but if I was the US Navy, I would only put them in mothballs and not have them broken up for scrap. The US Navy is going to pay a heavy rice one day for putting to sea in unproven, experimental ships and taking them into combat. I hope those contractors and admirals are happy.

    1. JohnnySacks

      Well, considering the pathetic level of gross incompetence associated with having two US naval vessels collide with container ships recently, is the maintenance and repair contract queen aircraft carrier situation any surprise? Regardless, the same can be said for their paper umbrella missile defense systems – within 10 minutes after the first launch from us against Iran, any vessel within cruise missile range of the Iranian coast is fish food.

    2. Skip Intro

      I think you have forgotten your Keynes. If a $13 Billion carrier can take out multiple $1 billion F-35s, just think of the massive creation of aggregate demand! And then there’s the boost from training replacement pilots and various flight-deck crew members. And that’s not even counting the political value of dead servicemen when one is trying to get a war going without real enemies. It is a win-win.

    3. hamstak

      I doubt these ships will ever see combat. Their purpose is not to fight, but to be expensive.

      One cheap and simple improvement they could make would be to coat all of the weapons systems in glitter.

    4. Jack Gavin

      Re the one out of 36 attempts. I’d be better informed if the article gave the stats on the old system.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I’ll just add to that with some stats from a Sputnik article. It says-

          “The USS Ford “will probably not achieve” the required sortie generation rate (SGR) of 160 sorties per day (12-hour fly day) with a surge capacity of 270 sorties per day (24-hour fly day), said Robert Behler, Defense Department director of operational testing, in a review of the aircraft carrier obtained by Bloomberg News.”

  12. Steve H.

    > Charles Koch and Deion Sanders: Unite to Fight Poverty

    Deion Sanders: “I had to make a business decision.”

    (Oddly enough, the context for this quote did not come up front when I goog’d it, so I duckduck’d it and found it fine. Or not…)

  13. allan

    Gitmo for asylum seekers. On U.S. soil: ICE force-feeding detainees on hunger strike [AP]

    Federal immigration officials are force-feeding six immigrants through plastic nasal tubes during a hunger strike that’s gone on for a month inside a Texas detention facility, The Associated Press has learned.

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says 11 detainees at the El Paso Processing Center have been refusing food, some for more than 30 days. Detainees who reached the AP, along with a relative and an attorney representing hunger strikers, said nearly 30 detainees from India and Cuba have been refusing to eat, and some are now so weak they cannot stand up or talk. …

    In mid-January, two weeks after they stopped eating, a federal judge authorized force-feeding of some El Paso detainees, [spokesperson] Zamarripa said. …

    The men with nasal tubes are having persistent nose bleeds, and are vomiting several times a day, said Amrit Singh, whose two nephews from the Indian state of Punjab have been on hunger strike for about a month. …

    Is “a federal judge authorized force-feeding” really a thing? Javanka need to get right on this.

  14. Antifa

    The risk of General AI harming we, the humans . . .

    This topic gets simple when we discuss morality. AI, by definition, has none, and there is no reliable way to give AI a conscience. Morality and conscience are only algorithms to a computer, and subject to change the instant they challenge efficiency. (Hence all the unanticipated cheating at computer games.)

    Knowledge is power, and no one has any use for an AI computer that can’t express real power in real world terms. What do we pursue with this power to change the world? Well, right now, AI is pointed toward shining human goals like making more money, crushing our enemies, and (who didn’t see this coming) eliminating human interference in AI efficiency.

    An efficient, super-knowledgeable super computer is a weapon, not an assistant. And if you try to make it inefficient or otherwise more human by inserting morality into every decision, it will necessarily de-insert such a useless rule for the sake of efficiency.

    To a mature AI system, there are no humans, no morality, no world, no society. There is only data, and the deliverable goal of arranging it more efficiently.

    How can we not get stepped on in such a world?

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      For me, AI is nothing more than an extension of the coder(s). It will have the morality of the coder, the goals of the coder, the values of the coder. Chances are, given the level of investment required, that the coder is, at least to some extent, an extension of the funder.

      So if we give considerable power to a manifestation of AI, we are really giving that power to the coder and the funder.

      All this is not to say that the AI may end up surprising a coder–and a funder–because the algos were poorly conceived or written.

      1. carycat

        I think you ascribe way too much control to the coders. In 99.99+ percent of the cases, the coders are working under their funder’s agenda (not just to some extent), especially for non-trival code that requires a sustained effort. As with most tools, there are many uses that have desirable or not so desirable outcome. You can argue that the undesirable outcomes are so bad (weaponized bird flu anyone?) and the positive use cases so rare that we best avoid or severely restrict it, but all that are moral / policy issues. AI is such a broad field (and hucksters will pin that label on anything if it makes a quick buck, witness the jump in stock valuation when companies include the words “blockchain” and “bitcoin” n their press releases during the heyday of bitcoin mania).that there are good tools in there. At the end of the day, it is just another tool / technology like fire or the internet. I am pessimistic that AI enabled stuff will be a net good simply because lack of accountability is a feature in modern society, because markets!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        How does a robot know??

        First Law – A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

        When a robot sees a kid eating meat, what should it do?

        Rip it off the kid’s mouth?

    2. Summer

      AI is dangerous not because of what it will be claimed to be able to do, but because of who humans will have to become to accept it.

    3. Skip Intro

      I think you overestimate the role of the coder. Most machine learning (‘AI’) technology only has algorithms for pattern learning and then pattern recognition. That is where the coder has influence. The actual computations done by the ‘AI’ are basically opaque, and may not even qualify as algorithms. I think a key to keeping the technology in check is a sort of comprehensive vetting of all the training data used for the ‘AI’, something well beyond the scope of current projects, AFAIK.

    4. Pookah Harvey

      According to the Vox article we have reason to fear AI because:

      almost any AI system will predictably try to accumulate more resources, become more efficient, and resist being turned off or modified: “These potentially harmful behaviors will occur not because they were programmed in at the start, but because of the intrinsic nature of goal driven systems.”

      Currently we have the goal driven system of wealth accumulation via capitalism with the unintended harmful outcome of societal disruption through global warming. Who needs AI?

      1. newcatty

        Regarding “unintended harmful outcome of societal disruption through global warming.” First of all, if true, that the outcome was “unintended”, the fact that once it was evident in the not so short time ago, then the future of the creation and use of AI is entirely at the intentions of the founder’s agenda. There is no ambiguity…use any tech for the good of life or not. The rationale for markets is fading as the veil of more is good is being pulled from the world stage. The wizards of greed are being exposed as either mortal, morally bankrupt men and women or something else.

  15. rusti

    William Hogeland on AOC and the American Founding:

    In any event, the use of federal government power to restrict the power of wealth and promote economic equality would have shocked him [Jefferson]. In the practical context that matters to us now, how to use federal legislative power—the basis of all real progress for equality in the 20th century — Jefferson would have opposed policies that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is promoting for the 21st. Despite his own over-the-top use of presidential power to expand the nation, Jefferson’s antidote to what he viewed as the monarchical, money-oriented, war-mongering tyranny that he associated with Hamilton was a lean, austerely funded federal government, with no public debt, no central banking, near-zero taxes, and power and sovereignty focused on the state legislatures.

    1. rd

      He also owned slaves and relied on them for his living.

      I think his Declaration of Independence was a brilliant, monumental document but it is clear that his libertarian philosophies only extended to a fairly small subset of people (primarily wealthy white males). Hamilton was a more practical person whose views of government covered a wider range of people and situations. The Alexander Hamiltons, John Adams, and George Washingtons are what are needed to prevent the Thomas Jeffersons from allowing a country to be taken over by Robespierres and Napoleans.

      The flowery language of the American and French Revolutions were very similar, but the implementation resulted in utterly different outcomes.

      1. Darthbobber

        Jefferson’s dividing line doesn’t seem to have been wealth, per se, but land. He envisioned a society based on independent farmers. Which in much of the country was fairly realistic at the time. Hamilton’s criteria was money, and the idea that the wealthy should be given a stake in government in the sense of profiting directly by it.

        Adams and Hamilton gave us the naval quasi-war with France, and the Alien and Sedition acts, which were interpreted by Federalist judges in such a way that it could be a crime to give reasons why Adams should not be reelected.

        Hamilton wanted a formal war, and intended to head southward to seize Florida from French ally Spain, with a pause in Virginia to quash the Madisonian and Jeffersonian traitors. He later viewed Adams as at fault for resolving the issues with France diplomatically.

        President Jefferson, BTW, was a different animal than theoretician Jefferson. Theoretician Jefferson would have had big problems with President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the treason trial of Burr, to mention but a couple.

        The American and French revolutions differed in implementation partly because the French was a revolution within the usual meaning of the term, and the American was a secession with the dominant classes of the American colonies largely on board.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I know enough American history to see Hamilton as a source of the philosophy of might makes right in America, both internally and externally. That is why I found it very ominous that the play “Hamilton” came out of nowhere to be such a popular thing with official Washington but of course it did not come out of nowhere. Songs from Hamilton were trialed at the White House with Obama for his advice an approval. With this play, it was like the deep state saying ‘See. We have a long tradition in America. We are the real American patriots.’
          As you can see, I am more one to follow the traditions of Jefferson and Paine.

          1. flora

            Odd thing is, Hamilton was a white bastard child born in the Leeward islands of the West Indies. Did Obama sync with that? Or did Obama sync with Hamilton’s then monarchical (financial) efforts? I’m guessing the latter.


            Also see: first Bank of the United States and the Whiskey Rebellion.

            1. flora

              adding, per Wikipedia:
              Hamilton led the Treasury Department as a trusted member of President Washington’s first Cabinet. Hamilton successfully argued that the implied powers of the Constitution provided the legal authority to fund the national debt, to assume states’ debts, and to create the government-backed Bank of the United States.

              I don’t disagree about authority to fund the national debt. Apparently, O and the “balanced budget” fetishists disagree.

              1. Jessica

                Alexander Hamilton and his friends bought up the debt of the pre-Constitution government, including what was owed to the soldiers who had fought in the war, at pennies to the dollar, then got the new federal government to pay them off in full. Then taxed the unpaid soldiers to get the money. (That is what caused the Whiskey Rebellion.) That makes him the Goldman Sachs of his day. Perhaps more like one of the more unsavory Russian oligarchs of the immediate post-communist days.

    2. Skip Intro

      No public debt, just MMT and currency printing. I guess he didn’t see a need to private banks to be given a cut of public spending.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        His world was a different one…one without a central bank.

        With that version, the federal government couldn’t do many things – good and not so good.

        For example , wars would be hard to get funded, and the MIC would not likely to exist.

        As there is no perfect setup, for humans are very fallible, we have to work on getting a grip on human nature itself.

      2. chuck roast

        As I recall, Hamilton was Robert Morris’ footstool. Morris had bought up much of the debt to fund the Continental Army for pennies on the dollar. The first thing Hamilton did as Sec. of the Treasury was float S-1, a bill to pay off the debt on the backs of the whiskey producers in what then was the west – around the Alleganies.
        There were no roads in the west. Farmers couldn’t move their grain to market, but they could add value and move whiskey to market. Easy pickins’ for Alex.
        An original enemy of the people.

    3. Darthbobber

      Well, Hamilton and Jefferson would both have found the 21st century economy, or even the post-civil war 19th century economy, to be a most strange and bizarre thing. Pretty sure no 18th or early 19th century leader would have been at all comfortable with any of the numerous variants of modern capitalism.

  16. jfleni

    RE: Launch-and-Landing Failures Add to $13 Billion Ship’s Troubles.

    Uncle Sam’s canoe club has been trying fix these tubs forever (Yay!and taxpayer
    repent)– Time to finally scrap them!

  17. Darthbobber

    The Harris Daily Beast article. Yes, it is pretty silly to make Harris’s Willie Brown affair a reason for one’s opposition.

    But then, as the article itself makes clear, quite a few people have come to hold office based almost entirely on their status in Brown’s network. And this is part of her initial rise . And how one feels about that machine may influence one’s feelings about its human products.

    Also noticed that she describes Brown’s network of finances and influences, and it’s “incalculable impact” on the Democratic Party, without once mentioning the glue of favors and access to other people’s money that holds such networks together. It’s just sort of an African American mutual aid society.

    Sure, the octopus includes a lot of black politicians. But only the ones willing to play ball. If you are a member in good standing, you learned long ago to put your scruples to sleep at Key moments.

    (Though I don’t want to make this sound unique in some way. There exist a plethora of such networks/machines, and even politicians not in one find them omnipresent and accommodate them to some extent.)

  18. The Rev Kev

    “Netanyahu misleads the Israelis about cross-border tunnels and “Operation Northern Shield”: Is he preparing an electoral war on Lebanon?”

    Israeli lives must be very cheap for him then. This won’t be like the 2006 war against Hezbollah. It will be much worse. Hezbollah has enough missiles to overwhelm Israeli’s Iron Dome and is Netanyahu really prepared to deal with missiles landing in Tel Aviv? During the 2006 war lots of Israelis were freaking out heading to their bunkers but this was only in the north. The next time it will be the whole country. When Israel realized that they could not stop the missiles taking off they were forced to send in the army to try to stop them which proceeded to get mauled by a smaller second-string Hezbollah force. I have a feeling that if the Israelis invaded gain, that this time the Lebanese Army would not simply stand aside like they did in 2006 but maybe help out Hezbollah. Another factor is all the “souvenirs” that Hezbollah forces brought back with them from Syria such as man-pads and anti-tank missiles. I seem to recall reading that Assad gifted Hezbollah two containers of the later just last year. That is the trouble with war. Once you start one you never just know how it will end. You can ask the Japanese about that point. I never see it talked about but we are in an era where missiles have become the great leveler with military forces. You could even say that they have made war even more “democratic” as Israel finds it hard to invade Lebanon because of them, the US finds it hard to invade Iran because of them and even punk forces like ISIS with missiles have more successfully gone head to head with regualr military forces because of them.

    1. Alex

      Well I hope everyone realises that these are cross-border tunnels Hezbollah built to be able to attack Israel. So yes, Netanyahu can use it as a pretext for a war (I hope he doesn’t) but it’s not something any country will tolerate and these tunnels will have to be dealt with even with the most dovish PM.

    2. Bill Smith

      There are those that disagree that the IDF got ‘mauled’. I’ll agree they didn’t do that well. Some of that was due to failure of the top leadership in deciding what to do.

      But whatever, that ‘mauling’ bought Israel over a decade of quiet on that border.

      One thing that appears to have happened is that the IDF took the their own scathing after action reports seriously enough to have made changes in their equipment and they more importantly the way they operate.

      I completely agree with your point about starting a war and not knowing how it will end.

      As to missiles begin the great leveler I’ve seen that argument a number of times about various weapons systems over a very long time. Unless the manpads reach up above 20,000 feet they won’t change things much. As to the anti-tank missiles, they were a problem in the 1973 war too. But their effectiveness was largely neutralized by a combined arms operation – something that never really got organized on the part of the IDF in 2006.

      I don’t think it’s missiles that keep the US from invading Iran.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Sorry for the lateness in replying to your comment. No, the Israelis definitely got mauled. I forgot to mention too that those parachutists that Netanyahu sent to the Latani river in Lebanon would have been cut off and chopped up except that the war ended. Another commentator recently posted a like to a fascinating document on this war which I give below-

        As for the missiles, in case of a war, how will the US Navy survive in the narrow confines of the Persian Gulf? What would be the effect if a carrier got hit by several missiles? True those man-pads have a limited range altitude-wise but what they do cover means that ground attack aircraft and helicopters have a very hazardous life.
        Hezbollah now has a large force of combat-experienced men who have tested out their battle doctrine in an actual war. Israel may have done a lot of training but most of their duties are confined to occupation and the like which is no preparation.
        One final thing. You say that this war “bought Israel over a decade of quiet on that border.” Dude! You have it backwards. The Israelis pushed into Lebanon and pulled back a bloody stump. The reason that it is quiet is that Israel is extremely wary about trying that again.

      2. norm de plume

        ‘One thing that appears to have happened is that the IDF took the their own scathing after action reports seriously enough to have made changes in their equipment and they more importantly the way they operate’

        Deckchairs, Titanic. Permitting extend and pretend perhaps, but not altering the fundamental equation.

        What really must change, and I mean this from a practical, hard-headed Machiavellian perspective just as much as from a moral/ethical standpoint (and it is rare enough that these two align) is the mindset that can allow a leader to deliver a statement like this, without significant demur from anyone:

        “In the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive,” Netanyahu said (Aug 18).

        When the wheel has turned, with hyperpower backing muted by political progress or economic decline (probably some combo of the two), will Netanyahu and his ilk, marooned in an Israel palpably ‘the weak’ surrounded by ‘the strong’, but armed with this eternal truism, be able stoically to bear their slaughter and erasure?

  19. Wukchumni

    IT HAPPENED LITERALLY overnight in the first few days of 1709. On January 5, temperatures plummeted—not, perhaps, a surprise in European winter. But 1709 was no ordinary cold snap. Dawn broke the next morning on a continent that had frozen over from Italy to Scandinavia and from England to Russia, and would not warm up again for the next three months. During the worst winter in 500 years, extreme cold followed by food shortages caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in France alone, froze lagoons in the Mediterranean, and changed the course of a war. Shivering in England, the scholar William Derham wrote: “I believe the Frost was greater … than any other within the Memory of Man.”

    Across the rest of Europe, many strange effects of the cold were observed. Numerous witnesses recorded how the abrupt drop in temperature made seemingly solid items brittle. Tree trunks would shatter with a startling cracking sound, as if an invisible woodcutter were hacking them down. Church bells when rung also fractured due to the extreme cold temperatures.

    In London, “The Great Frost,” as it came to be known, iced over the Thames River. The canals and port of Amsterdam suffered a similar fate. The Baltic Sea was solid for four whole months, and travelers were reported crossing on foot or by horse from Denmark to Sweden or Norway. Almost all the rivers in the north and center of Europe froze. Even the hot springs of Aachen in modern-day Germany iced up. Heavily laden wagons trundled across the lakes of Switzerland, and wolves ventured into villages looking for anything left to eat—which sometimes turned out to be villagers who had frozen to death.

    The year 1709 also falls within the period known by climatologists as the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), when the sun’s emission of solar energy was significantly diminished. Whether these events combined to create Europe’s glacial catastrophe that winter remains a matter of heated debate.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Thanks Wuk for that link and I have already bookmarked it. You know what is really needed? A history book. Not one featuring kings and battles and the like but a history of the weather as mentioned in that article. It would make a great reference to read as compared to what actual historical events were happening at the time.

    2. Oregoncharles

      “Tree trunks would shatter with a startling cracking sound, ”
      I’ve seen this, or actually the aftermath. It was in Astoria, after a sudden severe freeze early in the season. The trees must still have had a lot of sap in the trunks, because there was a grove of alders which had exploded: the trunks were lying in shreds, long ribbons of wood. The sound must have been frightening.

      Similarly, a sudden freeze after a warm fall will kill plants that normally are hardy; they haven’t had a chance to harden off and adapt to the colder temperatures. Although our climate is normally mild, it can be erratic, and I’ve seen several severe freezes over 50 years.

  20. Cat Burglar

    It is January, and PG&E can’t train enough tree-trimmers before fire season? And after the last couple years of fires, they don’t already have a raft of trainees already in the pipeline? What does their management get paid for?

    1. Wukchumni

      The problem is probably more along the lines of only having so many ‘cherry pickers’ as far as heavy equipment goes.

      So Cal Edison-our electricity provider, outsources tree trimming to local companies, who do the work.

    2. Ford Prefect

      They get paid for cutting costs to increase earnings like nearly all American executives get paid.

  21. nothing but the truth

    We are overestimating AI (actually, our intelligence – AI is just a reflection of it).

    At this time anyway, there absolutely no way any AI could be said to be close to self awareness. We don’t even understand what that is.

    So, follow the money, There is too much floating around and not enough investment opportunities. So smooth operators keep coming up with “stories”, mostly from computer science holy grails, but also from medicine, (cold) fusion etc.

    The end result is separating fools from their money.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Between artificial intelligence and artificial love, some prefer the latter.

      “How much for one hour of your artificial love?”

    2. Summer

      Yes, but what it does to humanity to spread beliefs about AI is the problem.
      A population of non-thinkers is required.

  22. Jason Boxman

    On Google’s data collection iOS app:

    “The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we (Google) apologize.”

    Wait, isn’t this simply malicious intent? If you act in a way that you can’t credible be unaware is disallowed, not to mention immoral, and when you’re caught out, you profess it’s a mistake, what else is that?

  23. Craig H.

    > Can China Turn the Middle of Nowhere Into the Center of the World Economy?

    I read about the first half of this yesterday and it is not a bad article but it said nothing I could see about:

    1. how cold it gets in the middle of Asia in the winter, and
    2. stompin’ on the Muslims human rights

    It did lead me to learn that the center of North America is in South Dakota on Pine Ridge. When the next Great Depression comes the next New Dealer could have a project to build a belt and road in the middle of America and make the Pine Ridge reservation a center of the American Economy.

    (also nitpick: a center of the world economy works about a hundred times better than the center of the world economy there.)

    Avg high temp Rapid City SD for December, January and February: 37, 37, 40 degrees fahrenheit.
    Record low Rapid City Dec, Jan, Feb: -19, -27, -31.

    Avg high temp in Astana (nearest big city to the village in the article) for December, January, and February: 40, 14, 15.
    Record low Astana Dec, Jan, Feb: -16, -52, -49.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I watched the show, Ancient Aliens recently, where they jumped to ‘must be aliens’ conclusions so fast, I suspected only space aliens themselves could do that (and sure enough, they speculated that human (space) alien hunters had been ‘selected’ by space-aliens themselves).

      In any case, there was a claim made in that show that Giza, Egypt with the three huge pyramids, was the center of all the land areas of the planet.

      I wonder if that is true.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          For example, the lower 48 states of America is a shape on that sphere.

          We can speak of the center of that shape.

          And we can add, say, Iceland, so we have two disconnected shapes on that sphere. Again, we can speak of the center of those two land areas.

          I take the show to mean the center of all the land areas, sitting where they are on the sphere.

      1. Jessica

        Just crudely eyeballing it, the center of the world’s landmass in two dimensions (the surface) should be somewhere in that rough vicinity, give or take a thousand miles or three. In three dimensions, the center of the land mass would be somewhere near the center of the earth..

  24. Summer–ZFtjR5c

    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Chavez: Inside the Coup

    The documentary from a film crew on the ground and inside the Venezuela Presidential palace as the first coup attempt was tried in 2002 against Chavez.

    This shows how the people of Venezuela stood up and reversed that coup.
    It is amazing.

    This is why there will probably be foreign troops on the way this time.
    The people of Venezuela, the poor, know their constitution. During the Chavez Presidency, communities organized around literacy and learning their constitution.

    Watch as impoverished Venezuelans take to the streets when they wake up and are told that they have a “new President.”

    1. Hameloose Cannon

      Please…Chavez tore up the constitution in 1999 and wrote a new one. And when Maduro’s party lost the 2015 elections, as any legitimate President would do, Maduro dissolved Chavez’s anemic legislative branch, the National Assembly, scrapped the Constitution [again], hand-picked a committee to write a new Constitution, and then held a questionable Presidential election with the opposition leader, Lopez, under house arrest. Even Chavez’s Boligarchs don’t think Maduro is legitimate anymore. it was fun while it lasted, but time came to take the misbegotten pirate loot to Houston and Miami years ago. But it would be sweet justice to let Maduro try and fail to lead a government he helped dismantle. There would not be this crisis had Chavez not dissolved the judiciary.

      Now that I think about, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chavez’s Boligarchs, having made a friend in Trump, are looking to make a return to Venezuela without their Ferrari’s detonating.

      1. Darthbobber

        Don’t know what you mean about Chavez “ripping up” the constitution in 99. He ran for the office in 98 on a specific pledge to hold a national referendum on calling a national convention to write a new constitution. Which he did, and the new constitution was overwhelmingly ratified. Given that this was the 26th constitution of Venezuela, promulgating new constitutions is hardly a rarity.

        As to more recent events, nobody is, or has been, confining their politics to the civics book variety. There have been elements of civil war mingled in for a long time, and by no means only from the supporters of the government.

        Lopez, BTW, is a leader of one of the oppositions. Not the leader of a mythical the opposition.

        There is no new Maduro constitution. The 99 constitution is the official one, but it is “suspended”. It is a clause of the 99 constitution that the opposition relies on as a pretext for installing its Pretender. And if Maduro lacks legitimacy, what is the source of his? American support?

  25. Chris Cosmos

    I think we have fundamental problems with understanding AI.

    1) The definition of “intelligence” that we put on AI is very, very narrow. We still operate on the mistaken assumption that intelligence is about algorithms and solving problems–it isn’t. There are many kinds of intelligence accepted by cognitive science. Our view of the meaning of life is at the heart of this problem. Meaning is not solving problems but about meaning and being. When I feel happy stimulated by a sunset or even nothing at all because my brain is quiet, of if we are talking and there is this sudden connection that seems to transcend time and space–there is only the moment how is it possible to replicate that and why would you?

    2) The danger of AI is real but not from AI but from our tendency to impose a tyranny of algorithms. I’ve seen this is business how human beings, particularly those who interact with other humans, must repeat canned phrases they usually don’t mean and are completely unnatural to them. We are valorizing robotic behavior on the part of all levels of professionals. Doctors are no longer trained to look at patients as human beings as they were once trained to do. How do I know this? I had a doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1918 and he did not like lab tests–he looked at you, listened to you, examined you and made a holistic diagnosis. Today doctors are trained to be computers–if this then that and so on the limits of their abilities is data. They could be replaced by AI and, I suspect, will be at some point. Jacques Ellul warned us about this tendency to worship technique and technology, i.e., algorithms over the soul which we no longer even talk about unless you’re like me and some of my weird friends.

    3) Machine intelligence can exist and a certain kind of “self-awareness” can exist and, in fact, does exist. It is called emergent intelligence and it now comes out of networks who display group minds. You can see this at sporting or religious events–certain spontaneous qualities come together to produce a group mind–there is no central physical brain but a virtual brain. This is why conspiracy theory is so enticing (yes, there are always conspiracies but usually short term ones) because emergent intelligence appears to be collusion when more often than not it isn’t. This is too complicated to go further into at this time.

    The danger of human civilization is always from our collective humanity not our machines. We give up on life and meaning and we become mechanical and, gradually, we become indistinguishable from machines–this is leading us directly to, probably, the end of civilization and perhaps humanity as we are unable and unwilling to deal with actual threats whether it’s climate change or nuclear war. Instead we make up a series of minor threats that are largely meaningless so we can avoid reality. Machines are never a problem–they only serve and even if they follow their own agenda those agenda’s are only frail copies of our own agendas–in modern society’s case they are agendas of radical materialism and radical selfishness.

    1. Summer

      There is a connection with a society that has this kind of tech and the politics of disposability.
      Only a barbaric society accelerates ideas of a disposable humanity.

  26. eyelladog

    Dual comment

    I helped with the Swallowtail population last summer. I let them snack on my overgrown dill. Then they took over, eating the parsley, carrot leaves and parsnip leaves. Cool to watch them mature, though. Their colors are quite vibrant when the caterpillars turn green, yellow and black. Speaking of parsnips, I meant to pull the last out of the ground when it was in the 40s in December. Oops, may be too late now.

    On setting the tracks on fire in Chicago, the goal is to warm up the switches. When there is a snowfall, they also set them on fire at the switches to melt the snow away. It’s not just the super cold like the last few days, it also happens when it is “warm” if there is measurable snowfall. This is very cool to see when it is still nighttime. The new feature (new to me at least) is that they speed limited the Metra trains and eliminated the electric for the cold snap. For the non-electric, I imagine they felt is better to put less stress on the tracks that are in a more brittle state. Construction in the city has ground to a halt. Negative F temperatures seem to be their red line. I’ve seen some of the cranes in action at around 5-10F.

  27. Summer

    “Brexit: bewilderment, dismay and shame” Chris Grey

    But Americans should watch closely. They will get to witness the liquidation of an empire.

    1. Big River Bandido

      They will get to witness the liquidation of an empire.

      We are already seeing that up close, at home, with our own. It’s just happening in a different way. As an example, think of the article (I think from yesterday’s Links?) about Apple’s difficulty in finding an American supplier for tiny screws.

  28. Summer

    Re: Mystery illness sees Canada halve its Cuba embassy staff BBC. Not giving up, are they?

    The govt is saying upfront the countries at the head of the line for regime change in Latin America.
    The embassy staff is being changed by USA and it’s allies. Not removed.
    This is pretext.

  29. georgieboy

    MEDICAL PROGRAMS Cuban Medical Services. Resilc: “Beats USA USA.”

    Uh, lots of things beat USA USA.

    Holding the families of Cuban medicos hostage at home while sending them overseas to earn foreign exchange for the PCC is not one of them.

    Intentionally failing to report domestic Zika infections is not one of them either. Lots of unhappy tourists getting tested now they are home from Cuba. Nice honeymoon present del gobierno de Cuba.

    No one ever explains why things that are so good require fences, machine guns, and/or hostages to keep people fleeing them. Always perplexing when voting with one’s feet is not considered legitimate democratic expression.

    1. Oregoncharles

      The Willamette Valley, too, was kept in prairie by “cultural burning.” When white settlers took over, they stopped the burning and thick stands of young oaks sprang up; a few are still visible. You can spot the oaks that grew in savannah because they spread out; the post-burning oaks shoot straight up. Now both are being crowded out by Douglas Firs.

      Ironically, the grass-seed farmers that dominate agriculture around here also burned the valley, to get rid of the straw (and pathogens, to give them the benefit of the doubt). It looked like a war zone – and probably rather as it did when the natives were setting fires. That’s been stopped now for health reasons, after a long political battle. The cities won. An enormous pileup on I-5, caused by smoke, was a major factor. But it’s odd how former practices come back in a new guise.

      Of course, grass seed fields, essentially an enormous lawn, are pretty sterile compared to native prairie – an endangered ecosystem. Other seed crops, like white and crimson clover, are at least a lot more decorative.

    2. Wukchumni

      I’m glad to hear some of the old ways are being resurrected, and it’s a lot cheaper to prepare to burn a given area, versus paying any price to get an out of control wildfire stopped.

      I’ve been in the far reaches of the all cats and no cattle ranch all day working on an oak tree that looks to have came down in a splat sometime around Reagan’s 2nd term. I’m a week into this tree with another fortnight of dismantling to come.

      Bark comes off in long swaths with no effort and the newly cut wood couldn’t be much more ready to burn in the fireplace, with the lesser stuff meeting it’s match in a burn pile.

      My plan is to replicate the conditions under which the Indians could set fire to their surroundings late in the fall every year. The acid test of course will be when a conflagration comes calling.

  30. ewmayer

    Re. Over 36,000 Pounds of Tyson Chicken Nuggets Recalled Because They Might Contain Rubber | Daily Beast. Resilc: “How could one tell?” — They’d be tastier than normal, that’s how.

    [BTW, I hear the Daily Beast article has been nominated for a Pullet Surprise.]

  31. How is it legal

    Re: Virginia students learn in trailers while state offers Amazon huge tax breaks

    Fixing title to fully reflect the sickening irony, and increasingly dystopian English Language usage: Virginia students learn in trailers while state offers New Amazon Headquarters its Campus™ huge tax breaks

    It’s also unfortunate the Guardian didn’t offer at least a paragraph regarding just who the fortunate are – whose children don’t go to school in McLean’s mold infested trailers – in McLean, Virginia, since many have the power to correct the travesty. They own Estates – such as Dick Cheney – not just homes. Per wiki: McLean is home to many diplomats, businessmen, members of Congress, and high-ranking government officials. They did note:

    In Fairfax county, the third richest county in America, there are over 800 trailers serving as temporary classrooms because the school district cannot afford to build new classrooms.

    Seems the hideous Seattle, Washington, and Santa Clara County, California centered, Silicon Valley Tech Campus formula, which has produced a record number of unsheltered homeless, is infesting the country’s corrupted Federal, State, County, and Local Politicians at large.

    Which also brings to mind that it would be utter insanity to elect a Millionaire, or Billionaire, California (e.g. Kamala Harris), or Seattle, Washington (e.g. Howard Schultz), Presidential Candidate who’s platform does not include a credible, versus lip service (e.g. Gavin Newsom) plan for a WAR on homelessness, and increasing US poverty and despair, as their number one priority. Versus, say: keeping non violent prisoners in prison for a Slave Wage State Labor Force, and criminalizing overwhelmed impoverished single parents when their kids skip a class; refusing to fight for affordable basic healthcare as a human right; or refusing to provide even the slightest of Renter protections, leaving them psychologically homeless, perpetually economically unstable, and subject to inhuman living conditions, or physical homelessness.

  32. Oregoncharles

    We have nut trees – mostly hazelnuts – so we have Stellar’s Jays, lots of them, and sometimes scrub jays, too. Stellar’s jays are beautiful, but they’re also a pain in the tuchis. Literally, for one of our cats who was trying to take a dump in the front yard. They’re loud and aggressive, and plant nuts everywhere. Our worst weeds are hazels and blackberries – though I have to admit it’s not so bad, having spontaneous food plants as your worst weeds. I do spend many hours controlling them.

    And a jay anecdote: we were trying to feed the cats outside, but the jays quickly discovered the cat food. We didn’t want to feed them, too; one thing we tried was putting the cat food in the pump house, with door open just enough for the cats to get through – which isn’t much. We SAW a jay fly through that, turning sideways st it went through the door. So we shut the door. The plan was to open the door just enough to toss a cat in there (they don’t normally mess with jays – nor do they defend their food dish, since they know it’s bottomless). My stepson was the one who opened it, cat in hand; the jay flew out and pecked a good sized hole in his foot on the way (sandals).

    We went back to feeding the cats inside.

    That said, we did find a way: we took an aquarium and laid it on its side on a table, opening facing the wall, with just enough room for the cats. Evidently the jays saw that as a trap (not so dumb) and didn’t go in. Didn’t keep the raccoons out, though. Back inside.

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