Links 1/5/19

Oh-ho! Elephant tusk trinkets in Cambodia are actually woolly mammoth! PhysOrg (Lance N)

AI-Equipped Cameras Will Help Spot Wildlife Poachers Before They Can Kill The Verge

Once considered outlandish, the idea that plants help their relatives is taking root AAAS (Dr. Kevin)

Data mining adds evidence that war is baked into the structure of society MIT Technology Review (Dr. Kevin, David L)

PepsiCo is rolling out a fleet of robots to bring snacks to college students The Verge. Resilc: “Just what we all need, junk on demand.”

Link Between Social Media and Depression Stronger In Teen Girls Than Boys, Study Says CNN

The Best Skin-Care Trick Is Being Rich The Atlantic (Dr. Kevin)

China?

Will China’s moon landing launch a new space race? The Conversation (Kevin W)

Chinese scholar offers insight into Beijing’s strategic mindset Pepe Escobar, Asia Times (J-LS)

The US and China are in a quantum arms race that will transform warfare MIT Technology Review

Asia stumbles into year of the currency war Asia Times (resilc)

Brexit

Ministers plan for a ‘practice traffic jam’ to prepare for no deal Brexit: Up to 150 lorries will be sent from Manston Airport to Dover during Monday’s rush hour in last minute test Daily Mail (Kevin W). I am waiting for Richard North to laugh at this.

Brexit: changing the business model Richard North. A must read.

Britain is on the brink of an historic strategic decision Chris Grey. Another important post, but disconcerting to see how someone who nailed the big picture believes in the referendum unicorn

Patrick Cockburn: Brexit bluster has stopped us taking on the true challenge of nationhood in the grip of globalisation Independent (rfd)

The new Brexit movie with Benedict Cumberbatch wants to understand voter anger. And it’s causing plenty. NBC (furzy)

Bolsonaro and the Rainforest LobeLog (resilc)

New Cold War

Integrity Initiative’ – New Documents From Shady NGO Released Moon of Alabama (Kevin W)

Syraqistan

Has Trump Been Outmaneuvered on Syria Troop Withdrawal? Consortiumnews (furzy)

The Saudi Lobby Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (resilc)

Trump Just Endorsed the USSR’s Invasion of Afghanistan The Atlantic (furzy)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Amazon Says 100 Million Alexa Devices Have Been Sold The Verge. 100 million places yours truly will not go.

The Weather Channel app sued over claims it sold location data NBC. Haha, this is a lovely source of revenue for budget-starved governments. High time someone go after these data-whores in serious way.

German cyber defense body under fire over massive breach DW

Ecuador to audit Julian Assange’s asylum & citizenship as country eyes IMF bailout RT (martha r)

Trump Transition

Schumer: Trump threatened to keep government shut down for years The Hill

Trump threatens to wield executive power on border wall Financial Times

Trump threatens ‘national emergency’ BBC

Mueller’s D.C. Grand Jury Granted More Time to Investigate Bloomberg

Trump Just Killed His Own Defense Strategy – Defense One. Resilc: “The military industrial cpomp]lex is just pissed that they will have to do new marketing plans for new products. The horror of new Powerpoint sales presentations…..”

ICE Now Locks Up Everyone American Prospect

The US Government Has Always Been a Tool of Greedy Corporations VICE (resilc)

The $9 Billion Upcharge: How Insurers Kept Extra Cash From Medicare Wall Street Journal. Important original reporting.

Six-Year-Old Moira Is One of the Sickest People in America. So Why Is North Carolina Trying to Gut Her Health Care? – Mother Jones. Resilc: “The GOP stopped caring when she stopped being a fetus.”

Clinton Crony Says Bernie Supporters Must Be Silenced For 2020 Primaries Caitlin Johnstone (furzy)

Don’t Underestimate Elizabeth Warren and Her Populist Message New Yorker (resilc)

Pelosi Burns Republicans To The Ground By Invoking Reagan During Speech Marking New Session Of Congress The United States Blues (resilc)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Attempt to smear congresswoman with clip of her dancing backfires Sky News (Kevin W). Following up on Lambert’s coverage: Right. It’s OK for Theresa May to embarrass herself by dancing horribly in South Africa and then unironically doing a cringe-making mini-reprise at a Tory party conference but not for a young woman to have some really good dance clips from college…..long before she was in public life (if think that dancing is Too Unserious to be caught doing it, or even worse, to do it well).

Powell stokes market rally with promise of ‘patience’ Financial Times

The lies Comcast allegedly told customers to hide full cost of service ars technica

Robinhood Checking Moved Fast and Broke Bloomberg (UserFriendly)

Apple has way bigger problems than China, analysts say Business Insider

Devastating Wildfires Force California’s Largest Utility To Plan Sale Of Gas Assets NPR (David L)

Class Warfare

Why Aren’t Democratic Governors Pardoning More Prisoners? New Republic

Robots Are Taking Some Jobs, But Not All: World Bank Mercury News. Yet more “Let them eat training.” Will someone please inform the people in power that it isn’t too smart to have the only jobs left in advanced economies for unskilled men to involve carrying a gun?

This Is Everything That Is Wrong With Mainstream Feminism Caitlin Johnstone (furzy). Oh, sorry, because feminism, women will have equal opportunity to have otherwise unskilled gun-carrying jobs.

The trouble with WOKE comedy Jonathan Pie

Antidote du jour (Tracie H):

And a bonus antidote (martha r):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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180 comments

  1. The Rev Kev

    “Oh-ho! Elephant tusk trinkets in Cambodia are actually woolly mammoth!”

    I wonder if they are getting the mammoth bones from Siberia which then gets slipped over the border into China before being worked and shipped onto the rest of Asia. Certainly Siberia is a region where more and more animal remains are being uncovered from the distant past and it is virtually risk free as compared to poaching.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      I’m not sure why this is news, here’s an article from a decade ago in regards to the Asian trade in woolly mammoth ivory…

      I see the businessman’s arguments, too. Mammoths are already extinct and people need an economy.” In addition, the Russian government examines the tusks to make sure none bearing disease, prehistoric human markings or other scientifically valuable elements are exported.

      About 90 percent of the Siberian ivory is exported to Asia, where it is principally used in the manufacture of personal seals that in Japan, China and Korea are used in place of signatures for business transactions. These seals support much of the Siberian industry.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/world/europe/25iht-mammoth.4.11415717.html

      Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          I remember reading an article about the Russian woolly mammoth ivory business in the WSJ in the early 90’s, after the fall of the USSR.

          Reply
      1. LifelongLib

        IIRC I heard about this several years ago from a crafts person here in Hawaii. I was a bit skeptical but apparently it”s true…

        Reply
  2. Lee

    Trump Just Endorsed the USSR’s Invasion of Afghanistan The Atlantic (furzy)

    If the Russians want another go at Afghanistan, better them than us. Then we can go back to funding the anti-Russian jihadists.

    Reply
      1. David

        If you’ve ever flown over Afghanistan, you’ll have seen that it’s a country mostly made of walls. Terrain has been very helpful in keeping invaders out, and encouraging them to leave, throughout its history.

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          The same is true for the Swiss Republic and typically invaders have gotten themselves mauled by the locals as so much of it is made up of steep mountains and (formerly) swampy plains.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            One thing about the extensive orchards that go on forever in the Central Valley, rarely do you see a ‘gated community’ of plums or peaches or pistachios or whatnot, as in no fences.

            Walls would be really expensive, and self defeating, as it would make it harder to access with farm equipment, etc.

            Reply
        2. Lee

          Afghanistan’s area is 251,830 mi². Does this calculation include all those vertical surfaces? Is the country bigger than it appears in your review mirror?

          Reply
          1. David

            Probably not … let’s just say Afghanistan is one giant mountain range separated by valleys and plateaux, and the actual distance from one side to the other is quite a bit greater than it looks. It’s (relatively) easy to cross the border. It’s much more difficult to go anywhere afterwards.

            Reply
          2. Anon

            Yes. If you walked across Afghanistan it would appear larger than in your mirror.

            Acreage is a two dimensional measure that does not account for the slope of mountains. In fact, an acre in Afghanistan is different than an acre in Siberia; because the earth is a spheroid and not a plane.

            It is for this reason that the extent of the USA on a globe appears bigger than it actually is.
            Compromises.

            Reply
    1. tokyodamage

      re: TRUMP ENDORSES RUSSIA DOING SOMETHING article. . .

      Didn’t Reagan (Pelosi’s new BF) himself endorse USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan?

      To this day there are neocons who think that Reagan’s “Arm the Mujahedin To Bleed Russia” strategy was a success!

      They think, “OK we might have had some increase in worldwide Jihadism and 9/11, but so what? No more USSR! So, long term, the good of that strategy still outweighs the bad.”

      And these are the same people (think HRC’s campaign promise of a ‘red line no-fly zone in Syria’) who are trying to start a proxy-war with Russia again, in Syria.

      Because, to them, it worked out so well the family-blogging first time!

      Wacky, wacky stuff. . . compared to that, hanging out with Fat Joe The Gangsta on TV was the most normal thing Bill Kristol did all day. . .

      Reply
      1. knowbuddhau

        Now hold on, give Democrats Jimmy Carter and Zbig Brzezinski their due. Reagan’s crazies (some of whom went on to be GHWB’s crazies, then GWB’s, and now, Trump’s crazies), recognizing a horrible mistake from their vast experience, kept keep it going.

        https://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/

        Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

        Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

        Brzezinski: It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

        Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?

        Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

        Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic [integrisme], having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

        Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

        Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

        Brzezinski: Nonsense!

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          I wonder what Brzezinski thought when he learned that those very same Mujahedin had launched the attack on 9/11 that killed 3,000 people? Probably didn’t care as he was not really American. Probably though ‘Oh good, here is another great opportunity that we can take advantage of!’

          Reply
        2. pretzelattack

          it got ramped up a lot under reagan, and were the saudis who attacked the towers mujahedin? taliban gave shelter to bin ladin, but did they supply him with either fighters or weapons or plans?

          Reply
        3. georgieboy

          great bit of history, thank you.

          Brzenzinski and Pope John 1 sure had an agenda. All politics is kind of local.

          Reply
        4. ObjectiveFunction

          Is this a clip from a larger interview with ZB? Who was the actual interviewer (seems unlikely ZB would agree to an interview with Cockburn), and was the date 1998?

          I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the dialogue – sounds very much like ZB to me! – but the context and timing matter.

          Reply
      2. Ignim Brites

        Well the fatal mistake was GHWB’s Desert Storm with the stationing of US forces in Saudi Arabia. Even after Desert Storm if the US had withdrawn forces from Saudi Arabia, Al Queda could have been supported as a proxy force against Iran. That is basically the US policy that developed under Obama anyway, 9/11 notwithstanding.

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          Plus the State Deppartment persuaded the CIA to support ISIS and Al Qa’ida in Iraq to operate in Syria despite warnings as early as 2012 from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

          Reply
  3. cnchal

    The rabbit hole took me here.

    https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/san-francisco-hotel-charges-170-for-gallon-of-coffee-during-conference-2019-1-1027845438

    Headline: San Francisco prices are so out of control that one hotel is charging the equivalent of $21.25 for a cup of coffee during a JPMorgan conference

    What conference is that?

    As if San Francisco wasn’t already ridiculously expensive, some attendees of the annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference will be paying upwards of $21 for a single cup of coffee at one participating hotel in the city.

    Give that hotel manager a raise. The greedy banksters and health care execs get a tiny taste of their own medicine, and find it unpleasant. Bet they won’t learn a thing from it.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      A few years ago the going rate for a hot dog @ Davos was around $40, and a chicken caesar salad $55.

      It’s around 5x stadium food pricing @ the ballgame.

      Reply
      1. Enquiring Mind

        Another linked article mentioned the skincare benefits of being rich. Davos attendees enjoy their richness and a better diet than the average person. Many of them probably have food processing companies or shares in their portfolios, but may not want to eat their own dog food.

        The halftime show there is probably to die for, with skimpy outfits made of natural skins that are hand-curated.

        Reply
    2. Cal2

      More importantly, the price of the coffee, the rooms, the food, the silverware and the janitorial service to clean it up is never mentioned and unknown until the final bill comes in to J.P.Morgan.
      Also, they need to make up front and daily co-pays as well as out of network service charges and adjustments afterwards.

      Reply
  4. Wukchumni

    The trouble with WOKE comedy Jonathan Pie
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Thank goodness nobody fvcked with the Jesus…

    Jesus Perez of San Pedro was inside during the shooting. “We just ran right into the bar and took cover. All we heard was just, like two people got shot.”

    Perez said he heard about four gunshots.

    “We heard there was a big fight before that. We just ran into the bar and we just took cover because after the fight we heard ‘pop! pop!'”

    Reply
    1. Darius

      I suspect killing monkeys isn’t as iconically manly as killing wolves. Hatred of wolves is baked into European culture, except Europe itself left it behind long ago.

      Reply
      1. Ignim Brites

        Not too many wolves in London, Paris or Berlin, I expect. Not too many in New York City either I suppose although it does seem possible that wolves and certainly cougars could be successfully reintroduced on Long Island. Maybe AOC will make that part of the Green agenda. And being supplanted as the apex predator in their weekend and vacation haunts might induce some humility in the Wall Street Masters of the Universe, which might recommend this proposal to AOC. No doubt the reemergence of Great Whites in Cape Cod has introduced some soberness in the Massachusetts elite.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          There was a proposal to reintroduce Grizzly Bears in our town about 5 years ago, by somebody not from the community. Yeah, no thanks.

          Black Bears are fun, they’re really shy big goofy dogs for the most part. I’ve never felt threatened by one.

          A friend that works in the NP was working up in Glacier NP about a decade ago, and when he went backpacking, there was this dread in his mind that never went away from the threat of a Grizz, he related.

          Reply
  5. a different chris

    100 million places yours truly will not go.

    Yeah, we wish. It’s half the size of a toaster and gray. And most houses do *not* look like those on TV with Alexa proudly sitting on some clean side table, instead they have the normal American clutter* and Alexa blends right in. I point this out because I didn’t know I was in an “Alexa” residence for most of a day, until it was addressed.

    I actually jumped a little.

    *Which economists tally up and claim we’re rich.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      It says 100 million devices sold but that would not mean 100 million households, would it? I mean, wouldn’t there be several of these things stationed around the house thus reducing the actual number of households? Of course that does not include Google’s offerings.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Correct, I would assume a lot of households have 2 or more. And some hotels are kitting out rooms with them (!!!) but you can demand they be removed.

        Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I am quite serious about not being Alexa-ed. I will pre-check before I go into anyone’s home or apt. They are being used to map close personal networks and I want no part of that.

      Ironically, one of my in-laws, who is not as tracking-sensitive, is the same way.

      Reply
  6. PlutoniumKun

    Data mining adds evidence that war is baked into the structure of society MIT Technology Review (Dr. Kevin, David L)

    I suppose its unfortunate from the point of view of humanity, but this seems yet another nail in the coffin of Stephen Pinkers pretty dubious argument that wars are becoming less frequent and less deadly. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has been giving the counterarguments for some time – that Pinker simply confused frequency and intensity and used the data sets incorrectly. This is another strike in favour of Taleb. Taleb may have a reputation as a bit of an arrogant **, but he’s usually right.

    Reply
    1. David

      Yes, he’s an arrogant ** certainly, but on this occasion he’s right. Pinker should have stayed out of this very complicated argument. See also my comment below.

      Reply
  7. Parker Dooley

    “Clinton Crony Says Bernie Supporters Must Be Silenced For 2020 Primaries”

    Is this the same David Brock who is responsible for Clarence Thomas?

    Reply
    1. Cal2

      Better yet, Bernie supporters should just stay home on the day of the general election.
      Unless of course, Bernie is on the ballot.

      Russian interference via Facebook ad buys? How about California’s current Secretary of State, and Hillary Clinton campaign official, Alex Padilla, recently reelected by a Democratic majority, being responsible for defrauding Bernie voters in the primary and causing him to lose the state?

      See Uncounted on Youtube for interviews with dozens of baffled poll workers unable to allow independents and decline to state voters to cast ballots for Bernie, as well as videos of the actual shredding of ballots.

      Reply
        1. Big Tap

          What the AP did was wrong very wrong but the networks planned in advance to call the California primary for Clinton before all the votes were in. They also were to declare that Hillary Clinton was the Democratic party candidate winner based on superdelegates only . Chris Matthews even implied so. The AP just jumped ahead of them and beat them to the punch. That still doesn’t justify what they did.

          https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/king-tv-networks-ready-give-hillary-clinton-premature-win-article-1.2649536

          Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If Bernie supporters don’t get the sort of Bernieform Sandercrat they can accept on the ballot, they might be more “counted” if they come out and vote for some Third Party thing. Or come out and leave the “President” portion of the ballot unmarked.

        If the Standard Democrat lost the election, and the various Leftermore Third Parties were seen to have collectively received more votes than what the Standard Democrat lost by, the Leftermore Third Party voters will be strongly encouraged and remoralized upon seeing they have the power to deny the victory to Standard Democrat. That seems like a pretty good reason to not just stay home.

        Reply
        1. jonboinAR

          Definitely, absolutely, pick a 3rd party candidate to vote for rather than stay away. Staying away rightly or wrongly marks one as simply apathetic and not worthy of consideration. It sends a much less useful-for-anything message, IMO.

          Reply
      1. Whoamolly

        The Smear is available at my local library and looks very interesting. May not read it tho, not sure I am up to a swim in that particular sewer.

        I think I reached maximum tolerance for slickly packaged night soil in the last presidential election and its aftermath.

        Good recommendation tho, for those with stronger constitutions.

        Reply
  8. ex-PFC Chuck

    re: “Data mining adds evidence that war is baked into the structure of society” MIT Technology Review

    Michael Hudson’s work over the past 30 years seems to show that over the past four millennia the periodic escape of financial sectors from the control of governance in is also baked into the structure of society. Might there be a correlation here? Or perhaps a causation?

    Reply
    1. David

      I have lost count of the number of studies I’ve read over the decades claiming to have discovered “rules” for predicting conflict. The only thing they have in common is that they are good for predicting the past (since they are based on past data) but lousy at predicting the future. Two obvious weaknesses with this study are the dearth of reliable information about deaths in history (or even a clear definition of what a war-related death is) and the blurring of the distinction between “conflict” and “war”, which are not at all the same.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Sir, can you explain the principled distinction between “conflict” and “war,” for the enlightenment of the rest of us? Since you apparently feel that the distinction is important? Since you have studied the subject over the decades?

        I look in the War Departmnent’s compendious and doctrine-reflective-and-driving “Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms,” which one would think would define both terms carefully and succinctly. I find dozens of uses of both words, in multiple contexts, but neither is defined except by inference from the contextual uses. http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

        I do find, of course, interesting compounds of “conflict,” to wit: “deconfiction,” a new one since the Russians began doing what they have done in Syria with all those war bands the US empire built and supports, and the Great Imperial Grand Wizards of Warfare here maybe realized that provoking a global war with nuclear-armed Russia over the de-fanging of the Imperial pet headchoppers was kind of self-“defeating.”

        Maybe “deconflilction” is related to another missing definition, “retreat,” which my drill sergeant told me, in 1966, is unofficially defined as “a strategic rewarward advance to previously prepared positions,” because “The US Army NEVER RETREATS!” Said positions presumably including both foxholes and trenches and emplacements and dugouts, but also the canned language the Pentagram emits, to cover all those “failures to achieve victory” that make up Imperial warfighting over the last what, 60 years (other than “victories” that really count, the ones for “programs” and “contractors,” like the F-35 and Eisenhower carriers and Litorral Combat Ships and autonomous AI-driven battle robots and such).

        And speaking of “defeat,” the term is used multiple times, so the Warfighters and Planners are aware of the concept, but never defined specifically, only by implication, mostly in contexts related to “defeating” efforts by “enemies” (undefined term, again) to breach or threaten to breach the Imperium’s cyber-forces.

        Another curious inclusion is “conflict prevention.” Why that is there I cannot fathom, since nothing in the Imperial doctrine is “about” preventing, as opposed to fostering and exacerbating, conflict.

        And then there’s this silly inclusion, in the Webster’s for Warfighters:

        demobilization — 1. The process of transitioning a conflict or wartime military establishment and defense-based civilian economy to a peacetime configuration while maintaining national security and economic vitality. 2. The process necessary to release from active duty, or federal service, units and Reserve Component members who were ordered to active duty or called to federal service. See also mobilization. (JP 4-05) http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

        Silly, since there appears to be zero chance that the War Leaders and Owners will ever allow any kind of demobilization of the grand Imperial Force Structure, or “retreat” from any part of the self-defined Global Network-Centric Interoperable Battlespace.

        Thanks for your help here.

        Reply
        1. David

          OK, “war” is an internationally recognised state of affairs where there has been a declaration of war by one recognised state on another and the law of war applies automatically, as do various international legal obligations not relating to fighting as such. Ever since 1945, when Nazi leaders were hanged for starting an “aggressive war”, the tendency has been to look for other terms to describe the same thing. Korea was described as a “police action.” These days nations invoke the right to self-defence (which exists) the right to pre-emptive attack (which doesn’t) and a whole series of ideas vaguely related to “peace”, including “peacekeeping” “peace support” and even “peace-enforcement”, which is basically war when you think about it.
          However, most fighting is, and always has been, at a level short of war. So these days, people talk of “conflict” and sometimes “armed conflict”, which among other things a threshold for the law of war to apply. But “conflict” has been used, for example, to describe the Northern Ireland crisis (about 300 dead in the worst year) as well post-election violence in Kenya in 2007, where about a thousand people died, as well as the Syrian War where the death toll is, well, you tell me. It’s obvious that any definition which conflates political violence with hundreds of deaths, and the kind of violence which would earlier have been called a war is not a definition worth worrying about.

          Reply
        2. skippy

          “Eisenhower carriers” – you got to hand it to MIC … naming a pimped up O class ride after the guy that forewarned about MIC machinations ….

          Reply
  9. a different chris

    The weird thing about this part of the David Brock screed – ““Those attacks from her left laid the groundwork for copycat attacks lobbed by Donald Trump” – is that he cannot be serious unless he’s really dumb, and I do not think he is.

    1) Trump is lazy, but Trump isn’t Trump’s campaign. They would have dug that stuff up anyway. That’s what they got paid for.
    2) Receiving said stuff early, in the primary, gives the target a chance to craft a response.
    3) Even if that response ain’t so good, it still starts looking like old news by the General and loses its impact.

    Like I said, he’s not stupid. He’s just whining and lashing out. That’s what losers do, I guess.

    Reply
    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      Brock is advertising his services in that article more than anything else. It’s smart to cast it as the whine of a loser if – like me – you see his shtick as damaging and his business as vile. However, the piece is just a subsidized, targeted advertisement. What is bizarre to me is that any publication pays him for his ads, instead of requiring a fee to run them.

      Reply
      1. Richard

        Isn’t that kind of the whole point, him not paying for access to corporate media platforms to spread one or another establishment political narrative. Isn’t that what he sells to his clients right there? That access?

        Reply
  10. The Rev Kev

    “Once considered outlandish, the idea that plants help their relatives is taking root”

    This may not be an altruistic behaviour on these individual plants but part of an evolutionary strategy instead. If you accept the idea that each individual plant does best when it passes on its DNA in competition with other individual plants that is. Working as a network of individuals that are kin, that would serve to significantly increase the chances of competing successfully by passing on the DNA from this group which share the identical DNA in competition to other individuals or groups.

    Reply
    1. John

      What you are describing is called biological altruistic behavior and is considered a part of evolutionary behavior. The only difference with conventional altruism is about the issue of intent. Altruistic behavior is considered a good thing except among a tiny cult of confused hyperindividualists such as the former House Speaker.

      Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      The notion of competition, of zero-sum everything, is pretty well ingrained, isn’t it? The little I remember of botany and biology generally is that there is a whole lot of symbiotic interconnection in nature, which those who study such things are starting to perceive if not understand. Since we humans mostly are seemingly wired, by physiology and indoctrination, to see everything in terms of parasitism.

      “There are more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio…”

      Reply
      1. Tom Bradford

        To make proper sense of that quote I’ve always believed it necessary to place “philosophy” in quotes, as most competent actors do. As plain text it reads as though Hamlet is referring to Horatio’s personal philosophy while in fact it’s a dig at “philosophy” in all its shades as an academic discipline.

        My two-pennyworth, anyway.

        Reply
      2. ewmayer

        Uh, symbiosis and ‘altruistic’ group dynamics arise precisely because of the resulting sum-is-greater-than-the-parts-ness, i.e. are *not* zero-sum.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          Yes, that was part of what I was trying to convey. “We,” unfortunately is a crippled word, like so many others, by usage that defines out the symbiosis and togetherness that might have arisen in human space, if only we were less “human.” Though in smaller bands and groups, there seems to have been more wisdom in relations with each other and the wider world. Module “let’s sneak over into the next valley, kill all the non-men of the Qattchhk tribe in their sleep, rape the women and enslave them and the children, and steal all their stuff!”

          I believe the Cherokee and Algonkians did better. Until the Europeans came.

          Reply
    3. Cal2

      Apply the same process to members of large families where the brothers vet the sister’s suitors to assure quality passage of their DNA, which then exponentially becomes quantity of descendants.

      This is why, I am speculating, that people from, or closer to the tropics, where there are fewer environmental constraints to large families, will take over and overpopulate the earth.

      A paraphrased from memory line from Geodestinies, by Walter Youngquist, a book about mineral resources, such as soil fertility based on geology and including oil, being what allows growth and dictates the fate of nations;
      “Throw a sweet potato fragment over your shoulder in Equatorial Africa and you get a plant with more potatoes–Contrast that with farming near the Arctic Circle.”

      Reply
  11. PlutoniumKun

    Some lovely rants today, it must be the post holiday hangover.

    The trouble with WOKE comedy Jonathan Pie

    Hilarious and very on point (I’ve noticed how that Guardian has started dissing him).

    And Caitlin Johnson is on form:

    True feminism doesn’t hold that the world would be better off if women ran things; shifting control from one gender to the other would change very little as long as the current valuing system remains in place. True feminism holds that all of humanity needs to change its valuing system to one which rewards feminine work as much as masculine, instead of only rewarding women when they succeed at climbing the ladder of the patriarchal paradigm.

    Women controlling the military-industrial complex is not feminism, it’s toxic masculinity. It’s the fruit of the sick valuing system that is blackening our air, poisoning our water, filling the oceans with plastic, bulldozing the rainforests, and marching us toward the brink of nuclear armageddon. True feminism means turning away from the toxic valuing system which elevates the most ambitious sociopaths and toward one which values empathy, collaboration, nurturing and peace instead.

    Reply
    1. Plenue

      The Pie rant is a mixed bag.

      I’ve listened to the Louis CK audio (I’d link to it but YouTube seems to have taken it down), and he’s honestly just being an asshole. He mocks the idea of a school shooting survivor testifying before Congress, and that they only survived because they had the sense to shove a fat kid in between them and the bullets. It feels like a form of punching down. It doesn’t at all feel like some sort of critique of the absurdity of living in a country where school shootings are common place like Pie claims it is.

      The Nimesh Patel episode, which I wasn’t aware of before seeing this Pie video, however is insane. Here’s video of it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN-3DByTq6k that starts after the joke was told and they’re kicking him off stage Patel comes across very well, the college kids comes across as fools (I couldn’t see what happened, but apparently the girls on stage told him to ‘f**k off’ at one point). The ‘offending’ joke was that of course being gay isn’t a choice, because no one would willingly choose to be both gay and black. It was a joke rooted in intersectionality.

      It’s episodes like this that (unfortunately) show that people who whine about ‘political correctness run amok’ or ‘snowflake kids always being triggered and wanting safe spaces’ have an inkling of a point. It’s one thing to expect civil discourse, it’s another to just say certain things are just off-limits. And, again, the joke was ‘woke’; it was firmly based in intersectionality. Yet it still wasn’t allowed to fly. This is an example of a certain strain of leftist thinking eating itself alive.

      Reply
  12. crittermom

    Antidote, Quokka.

    I’d never heard of this animal so had to learn more about them.

    Very photogenic with their smiles, as the ‘happiest animal’.
    It’s certainly been a boost for the tourist industry in Rottnest. Now I’d like to travel there with my camera, too!

    Here’s a 22-minute clip about them. (FWIW, those interviewed say Trump wouldn’t be welcomed, but Meghan & Harry would).
    https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/579517/quokka/

    They’re adorable, but included are some great shots of other critter/people selfies that are funny or horrific (as in ‘what an idiot’), as well.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield

      They are adorable – I visited Rottnest, as a day trip from Freemantle in 2012. Fortunately, that was before this selfie craze took off. It’s a small place, and I could see it as easily swamped by a glut of visitors.

      Quokkas don’t seem to fear humans – their behavior reminded me a bit of wildlife in the Galapagos.

      Reply
      1. crittermom

        Your travels are obviously a photographers dream!

        Yes, it appeared to be a small place in the video & the thought of it being easily overrun by turroids* occurred to me, as well. :(

        *turroid* “Tourists are like hemorrhoids, in that they can both be a pain in the a**”

        My boss coined that phrase when working in a convenience store.

        Reply
  13. PlutoniumKun

    The Best Skin-Care Trick Is Being Rich The Atlantic (Dr. Kevin)

    Thanks for this – it answered one of the idle thoughts I’ve had on my very occasional visits to places the wealthy hang out – why is it that you can visibly see someones wealth just in the glow of their skin? I’ve assumed its a combination of healthy lifestyle and expensive spa treatments, but I’ve had many people insist to me that all expensive facial treatments are no better than simple creams. But then again, plenty of wealthy people have unhealthy lifestyles (unless perhaps cocaine is actually good for you).

    As a loosely related anecdote – my father died age 92, and up to the end visitors to him would regularly comment on how youthful his skin looked. This, despite most of a lifetime as a chainsmoker and very heavy drinker. He was, however unusual in a man brought up on a windy wet hillside on the west of Ireland as a frequent user of creams, thanks to an encounter with a skin condition as a young man. I grew up assuming real men smelled of Nivea. It certainly seemed to work for him.

    Reply
  14. Eureka Springs

    The defense one article “Trump Just Killed His Own Defense Strategy” is an excellent demonstration of why and how so many are flummoxed by Trump. A narcissistic bully in a boardroom who simply walks in and kicks over the table as the meeting begins – and will do it again throughout on a whim. If that’s all it takes for you to lose your focus, your ability to know who you are and why you are there… His opposition has no more coherence no more logical, sane or principled reasoning than Trump. That’s the value of Trump. He demonstrates so well it’s the system which is fubar.

    This and Iran seem to be the reasons the article author thinks the U.S. should maintain military might in Syria. It’s dishonest, belligerent hubris, illegal occupation/invasion as anything Trump could spew forth.

    Trump did not say that he saw in Syria a vital geopolitical location, or an unbelievable women’s movement or the seeds of true democracy sprouting amid the U.S. ground forces, or leverage toward a Geneva peace process on Syria’s political future to rewrite its constitution, end Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and create a U.S.-friendly Syria-Iraq axis that could be a bulwark to the Iranian regime’s regional hegemonic aspirations and from financing and arming terrorism.

    And of course further down the article “Iran”.

    You’ve really got nothing when you make less sense than a Trump. He should fire scores if not hundreds of these people trying to stay in Afgh./Syria. And perhaps most importantly he should pull out all the spooks. Leave no potential for subversion.

    Reply
  15. Steve H.

    Hm. Sponsored Fcbk post showed on my feed:

    “Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping: Thank you to our customers, partners, and the public for your trust and support in 2018. In 2019, Huawei will continue to face every challenge and dedicate its efforts to bringing digital to every person, home, and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. https://tinyurl.com/yavtgbo8

    https://www.facebook.com/huawei/posts/10156718940795874

    Never had seen before. To compare, they feed me sponsored dads from Geekwire, Yahoo jobs, a ‘telerobotic chessboard” and the Centre of Applied Jungian Studies. All about 45 degrees off of anything I’ll actually use.

    Never seen Huawei before. Point being, Fcbk thinks I’m an anti-Trump Democrat, and they target ads.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        Ouch! I’ve seen exactly that ‘in action’ as it were, around here.
        Plus, for an adaded bonus, it made me think of a “witticism” that even jaded, cynical old me won’t dare type out and click in.

        Reply
  16. PlutoniumKun

    Chinese scholar offers insight into Beijing’s strategic mindset Pepe Escobar, Asia Times (J-LS)

    I find Pepe Escobar writings very interesting and its very useful to have a counterpoint to the usual western-centric writing (both from neo-cons and anti-imperialists), but I do wonder sometimes if his fascination with China’s policy and obvious dislike of western imperialism has made him go ‘native’ with its Chinese twin.

    Extrapolating from Mao, Wenmu elaborates on a “Western Pacific Chinese Sea” uniting the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. “We can use the formula ‘southern zone of the Western Pacific Chinese Sea’ to describe the part that falls under Chinese sovereignty.”

    This suggests a combination of Chinese forces in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea under a sole Western Pacific naval command.

    It’s easy to see where all this is pointing: reunification with Taiwan.

    While I appreciate that he is in effect quoting others, there is no basis for calling a conquest of Taiwan ‘reunification’. Taiwan is an independent country the people of which have indicated repeatedly that they wish to stay that way. The Chinese ‘claim’ on Taiwan is as bogus as its claim on Tibet – it has as much claim on Taiwan as the Japanese and Portuguese, both of which have occupied it in the past. It is very clear from Xi Jinpings recent statements that China is planning, and will invade at an opportune moment over the next 2 decades. This will potentially create one of the most dangerous moments of this century.

    Reply
    1. witters

      “While I appreciate that he is in effect quoting others, there is no basis for calling a conquest of Taiwan ‘reunification’.”

      There is no basis for those he is quoting to say this? At all? (One may disagree, but ‘no basis’?)

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Certainly none linguistically, as they were never ‘unified’.

        Historically, of course, China has a claim because at times in the past Taiwan was part of broader kingdoms (Fujian) which are now part of China (although at the time they were not, or if so, only by conquest). The Qing dynasty did make a claim on Taiwan, but its questionable whether it was ever part of their empire, except nominally. The Qing dynasty had about as much of a claim on Taiwan as the British did on Hong Kong (arguably less, as at least the British actually built up what is now Hong Kong)

        Culturally, you could say the Han population of Taiwan (about 70%) are Chinese, except that mostly they are really linguistically and ethnically separate (apart from the post WWII incomers). What is unquestionable is that the majority of Taiwanese consider themselves to be Taiwanese, not Chinese, in linguistic, cultural, historical and ethnic terms.

        You can certainly argue that China has a ‘claim’ on Taiwan. But on no different terms than the Japanese (who also have strong historical and cultural links) and even the Portuguese and Dutch have ‘claims’ in that at various times they were all part of those countries empires, except the latter don’t pursue them.

        So there is certainly an argument to say that China has the right to pursue what it sees as its claim to the island. There is no argument to say it can ‘reunify’ with Taiwan.

        Reply
  17. The Rev Kev

    “New Cold War”

    Getting more mysteriouser and mysteriouser. The tweet link from that Integrity Initiative story mentions that Dan Kaszeta is a contributor to Bellingcat and is being paid to write articles. Sputnik now mentions that Pablo Miller, the MI6 handler of Sergej Skripal, attended Integrity Initiative meetings. The Institute for Statecraft and Integrity Initiative are new revelations but is is funny how you can see them connect with the usual suspects-

    https://sputniknews.com/europe/201901041071225427-skripal-integrity-initiative-miller/

    Reply
  18. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Brexit

    Brexit: changing the business model Richard North. A must read.

    Britain is on the brink of an historic strategic decision Chris Grey. Another important post, but disconcerting to see how someone who nailed the big picture believes in the referendum unicorn

    I think both are must reads, especially for those who somehow think that the UK can muddle through a no-deal.

    It has become commonplace to see Brexit as a backlash against globalization and/or to bemoan it for failing to accept globalization. In fact, it would be better to see it as a failure to understand the regionalization of economics and the multi-polar nature of international relations.

    I think this is accurate, and applies both to the right and ‘useful idiot’ left Lexiters.

    I’d also add to that, recent writing by Fintan O’Toole and todays article in the Guardian by Ian Jack on the influence of the film maker Alexander Korda (along with his friend, Winston Churchill) on English attitudes:

    The message that came from Korda and Churchill was double-edged. On the one hand, it was defiant. Britain/England was small and alone (despite its extensive empire), but it had been small and alone before. It was its natural condition – from 1940 to Nelson, to Drake, to Henry VIII, to people in woad throwing rocks at the Roman soldiery: always defiant and always, ultimately, successful. One of Churchill’s film scripts concluded: “In all her wars England has always gained one battle – the last.” On the other hand, the Korda-Churchill message was a cry for help. “Look at little us, America, being brave once again.”

    In 1942, Korda became the first film producer or director to receive a knighthood. After the war, he paid Churchill £50,000 (the equivalent of about £2m today) for the rights to A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, though no film was made.

    Their joint idea of England unhelpfully persists.

    For multiple reasons, the English (as opposed to British) establishment have persisted with a false notion of their place in the world, and simply don’t understand how trade and international relations now work. The Scottish – always a more international people – do understand very well. Most of the worst tragedies have come about through this type of blindness – the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, WWI. Brexit won’t kill that many people thankfully, but its still going to be a completely unnecessary tragedy.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Korda’s 1936 film “Things To Come” is pretty good, and includes art deco warfare that’s downright trippy.

      Reply
    2. flora

      I think one of neoliberalism’s greatest ‘crimes’ has been lobotomizing govt into thinking ‘how hard can it be.’* So we get these nonsense proposals from people who simply don’t understand how the analog, functional, real world works.

      *An example of magic, handwaving, ‘how hard can it be’ thinking that has no relationship to the functional analog world: mom could host large family dinners seemingly effortlessly. Everything – all the veg, and entree, and fruits, salads, bread, and deserts – came to the table ready at the same time. So, how hard could that be? She made it look easy. Let’s just say my first attempt at hosting a similar dinner (how hard could it be) was a disaster.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Indeed – neoliberalism in many ways has its own destruction built in. By undermining the sinews that keep nations together it is undermining the very foundations for prosperity and trade. Smart right wingers and capitalists always knew that their wealth was underpinned by a strong functioning government. The current generation have forgotten this.

        Its been discussed here before, but over the past 40 years the once mighty and impressive British Civil Service has been reduced to a poorly staffed rump. Under the British parliamentary system (which has always given an enormous amount of unconstrained power to the elected cabinet, far more than most countries), its always been the civil service that acted as the counterweight to incompetent or reckless politicians. Its been perfectly obvious over the past 2 years of Brexit that it lacks the capacity to simply tell politicians what is possible and what is not possible.

        Reply
  19. The Rev Kev

    “Pelosi Burns Republicans To The Ground By Invoking Reagan During Speech Marking New Session Of Congress”

    Well, why wouldn’t she invoke Reagan? She and the top democrats are following Republican policies anyway. Jimmy Dore did a video on a Democrat named Joe Donnelly that did political ads that proclaimed Republican policies but as a Democrat (some language)-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL7ikmQB4OU

    Reply
    1. John

      I thought it was really funny to see them squirming in their seats while Nancy Pelosi quoted Reagan. I love her. This is going to be an interesting two years.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The House Democrats are going to waste all their Oversight time and energy in trying to gotcha Trump over this and that scandal . . . . RushRushRussia, The Emoluments Clause, or whatever. They will not be bothered with Oversighting the steady degrading and attriting of the various Administrative Agencies and Departments, the persecution and expulsion of scientists, etc.

        Reply
  20. Scooter

    Trump Just Endorsed the USSR’s Invasion of Afghanistan The Atlantic (furzy)

    I’m not sure why this is controversial, other than it came out of Trump’s mouth. The Brzezinski Interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (1998) showed that the US was indeed arming jihadists in Afghanistan to increase the chances of a Soviet invasion six months before the Soviet occupation. I’d add the jihadists were recruited and motivated by opposition to the communists granting equal rights, education, and freedom to the women of Afghanistan; they conducted cross-border raids and skirmishes into the USSR until the Soviets were compelled to respond. https://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/brzezinski_interview

    Why highlight David Frum and his bullpucky propaganda? Frum should be turned over to the Iraqis for justice seeing as how he was one of the chief liars and propagandists in whipping up support for the Iraq invasion. Trump’s a monster but in this case I think he just let something slip from one of his past NSA briefings.

    Reply
  21. jfleni

    RE: The lies Comcast allegedly told customers to hide full cost of service.

    Why would anybody actually sign up for these swindle-mechanics;
    convince your politicians that local internet, even if sponsored by the state
    or city or county, is far superior to plutocrat scams like Comcast!

    Reply
  22. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Pelosi Burns Republicans To The Ground By Invoking Reagan During Speech Marking New Session Of Congress

    Is quoting your opponents favorite statesman really a “burn” or is it propping up the reputation of a doddering fool of a warmonger? Didn’t FDR have anything quotable?

    After hearing Democrat after Democrat quoting Ronnie Raygun for years on end (looking at you Barry) you kind of have to wonder if these “Democrats” aren’t in fact Republicans….

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      FDR:

      “Great accumulations of wealth cannot be justified on the basis of personal and family security. In the last analysis such accumulations amount to the perpetuation of great and undesirable concentration of control in a relatively few individuals over the employment and welfare of many, many others.”

      “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

      Reply
  23. Todde

    Defense 1 article.

    Just a couple more surges and another decade and it will be won.

    How dare trump disregard such an effective strategy

    Reply
  24. Musicismath

    I quite like this new piece by R. J. Quinn in Jacobin, on what’s wrong with treating politics like an aspect of Harry Potter fandom: Politics Is Not Harry Potter (4 January 2019).

    This is a trend I’ve also noticed a lot, and I think the critique could be extended. There’s so much inane magical thinking on the “Left” at the moment and I really do think much of it stems from the breakout popularity of nerd culture since the ‘90s. That stuff—superhero films; HP; fan fiction and fan identity—just rots people’s brains and destroys their ability to think. It’s a big part of why, I think, a lot of people of that persuasion have taken to idealising certain elderly, rather flawed political figures, projecting all kinds of unrealistic expectations onto them. It’s because they’re looking for Dumbledore and they genuinely believe in magic wands.

    Reply
    1. willf

      Its a big part of why, I think, a lot of people of that persuasion have taken to idealising certain elderly, rather flawed political figures, projecting all kinds of unrealistic expectations onto them. It’s because they’re looking for Dumbledore and they genuinely believe in magic wands.

      Or, it could be that a lot of people, having learned to read at a young age, have developed the ability to look past the surface of a politician, to the policies for which they advocate. And these policies are what makes certain politicians attractive to them, rather than any wistful magical thinking nonsense of the kind attributed to them all too often these days. It simply couldn’t be that “people of that persuasion(?)” have good reasons for liking the politicians that they do. Heavens no. It must be the books they read in childhood.

      Reply
    2. willf

      Also, the author seems to think that the false world presented by Rowling is a meritocracy, not a fantasy of the “Left”.

      It is the ultimate “Revenge of the Nerds,” where the liberal priesthood of experts, technocrats, and wonks — who have found themselves hated and resented by the democratic elements of their societies — can retreat into a twee cosseted fantasy world. It is a place where their Harvard and Oxbridge pedigrees provide the foundations of the very laws of physics.

      Sure doesn’t seem like the author is talking about magical-thinking lefties pining for a Dumbledore.

      Reply
      1. Lee

        Being from an earlier generation, I believe, not in wands, but in Froggy’s magic twanger.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6a3fck0NBI

        If Bernie Sanders is seen as Dumbledore and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Superwoman, and Killer Mike as, well, Killer Mike that wouldn’t be such a bad thing so long as we get the votes and support to do the right thing. But if Tina Turner really believes we don’t need another hero, I’m down with all that too, because she is one of my super heroes.

        Meanwhile, I’ll just continue to muggle through.

        Reply
        1. Synapsid

          Thank you Lee for letting me know that I’m not the only one who remembers Froggy and his magic twanger. And, appropriately, on Saturday morning.

          Next up: Ramar of the Jungle.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            And then “Sky King” and “Commando Cody,” et. al. Then Kaiju films up till “Tarzan Theatre!” After that it was usually some sports, as in “Wide World of Sports,” or golf, or bowling, or college football.

            Reply
    3. Pat

      Funnily enough I consider my time believing that voting for the lesser of two evils actually made the world a better place as my time believing in fantasies. It only took close to three decades to finally understand that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome really is the definition of insanity.

      I do not idealize any elderly politician including Hillary family blog Clinton (or younger ones like Barack and Michelle Obama). I do however have more trust for the politicians who have a record for fighting for policies I support rather than just immediately cutting deals that provide little or no benefits for their constituents because “bipartisan” or “reality” or just convenience. Especially as usually those deals advance policies or benefit wealthy donors who aren’t even their constituents. If you start considering the record not the rhetoric, a whole lot of “realistic”choices are at best useless (even as opposition) and far more often consistently and consciously damaging.

      IOW, understanding the lesser evil as effective evil is not living in the fantasy, it is exactly the opposite. Could be why I am now far more accurate predicting how little the Democratic Party will support and protect their PR based policies.

      Reply
    4. Plenue

      For some of us it isn’t about idealizing anyone. What people who smear Sanders as idealistic don’t get is that he is the compromise candidate. If given a choice I’d rather have a genuine socialist, workers controlling the means of production and all that. In the absence of that choice though, I’ll settle for an FDR Democrat.

      Reply
    5. Richard

      It’s also possible some people tend to shoehorn condescending notions about other people’s political beliefs to fit a book that many of them haven’t read.
      So all the stuff about how certain kinds of materials “rots people’s brains”, isn’t really your main point, is it? Your main point is that people on the left are too given to magical thinking and hero worship. Seems to be. From which we might infer that free college and m4all and green new deal are all fairy dust.
      I don’t grant you that. That’s a begged question. You are asking me to assume that, so we can talk about the HP or whatever. I won’t assume that; you need to provide evidence of inane magical thinking.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Isn’t the whole centrist premise insane magical thinking? Bloomberg and others want pro business environmental policies. How is that not fantasy? Outside of a few Democrats and Sanders, its all magical thinking.

        The article on Nancy’s “sick burn” is an example of magical thinking at this point. Why is this particular example of Republican hypocrisy going to be the magic bullet?

        The idea debates or games which require no real sacrifice (canvassing is hard work) is going to solve our problems is magical thinking.

        Reply
  25. Eureka Springs

    This is what Reagan and Pelosi actually said.

    “And we will make America more American by protecting our patriotic, courageous Dreamers!” she declared. “And when we are talking about the Dreamers let us remember what President Reagan said in his last speech as President of the United States: “If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world would soon be lost.”

    Who is talking in earnest about closing the door? It is now and has always been a straw man argument. Just as whether Dems are actually Republicans is a straw man sort of question.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It would have been nice had Pelosi not bothered to quote Ronald Reagan, a known hate monger because it gives Reagan and his acolytes legitimacy, and exposing Republican hypocrisy has been such a winner over the years. In 2042, we might get some good policies.

      https://www.salon.com/2014/01/11/the_racism_at_the_heart_of_the_reagan_presidency/

      Reagan’s race-baiting continued when he moved to national politics. After securing the Republican nomination in 1980, Reagan launched his official campaign at a county fair just outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town still notorious in the national imagination for the Klan lynching of civil rights volunteers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner 16 years earlier. Reagan selected the location on the advice of a local official, who had written to the Republican National Committee assuring them that the Neshoba County Fair was an ideal place for winning “George Wallace inclined voters.” Neshoba did not disappoint. The candidate arrived to a raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000 whites chanting “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”—and he returned their fevered embrace by assuring them, “I believe in states’ rights.”

      Reagan was a thoroughly loathsome individual, but like Bobby Lee, he probably said please and thank you.

      Reply
    1. meeps

      Thanks for the recall, hunkerdown. I found and copied this reference to her quote; it’s a paraphrase:

      In her 1931 autobiography, “Living My Life”, she put it like this:

      At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha [Alexander Berkman], a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.

      I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world–prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.
      [Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934), p. 56]

      Of course, this pertains to the scowling visages of the ‘serious’ people of today but it also demarcates old notions of anarchist freedom from that of contemporary libertarian notions of freedom or liberty. It’s important ground to cover, lest the individual in context continues to lose ground to Code Name Cain or roving gangs by any other name.

      Fuddy duddies are lousy dancers anyway!

      Reply
  26. Wukchumni

    Somebody proudly mentioned a few days ago how Muir Woods was open during the government shutdown, but come Monday, it’ll be closed.

    In December, KRON 4 reported that “Muir Woods is still open because of a partnership agreement [under which] parking attendants and employees who work in the cafe and gift shop are able to work during a government shutdown.”

    [Update: NPS spokesperson Charles Strickfaden tells Curbed SF, “Thanks to donations from park concession operators Ace Parking and Muir Woods Trading Company, Muir Woods National Monument remained open during the government shutdown.

    “The agreements will expire on Sunday, January 6 and after that date the agreements will not be renewed. On Monday, January 7, MUWO will close and no services will be provided.”

    https://sf.curbed.com/2019/1/4/18168790/muir-woods-redwoods-government-shutdown

    Reply
  27. Wukchumni

    It’s somewhat fitting that our National Parks are getting trashed and one by one those that stayed open have resigned themselves to closing, just as Zinke resigned after trashing them using other methods.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Says a lot about us Americans and the people from other lands who “use” the national parks to get their what, bit of mostly tame wildness, and crap souvenirs, and Selfies, and stickers to put on their SUVs and campers. That when we humans go to places that some of us sort of see as sacred, that we can’t do anything other than trash them. And have the audacity, especially those who buy into the Great American Mythology and all that neoliberal, “patriotic” schtick, to whine and complain because the Nanny State minions wearing Park Service are not there to try to keep up and put up with their trashing.

      “Pick up your own goddam trash, people! Your momma does not live here!” “But I shouldn’t have to carry my beloved infants’ stinking Pampers ™ to some place outside the beautiful park that my tax money pays to maintain, or have to poop in the woods because the sh!tters are full! Or stop using or at least carry out the other single-use stuff I rely on to keep my life flowing sweetly!”

      Reply
      1. Enquiring Mind

        Take only photos and leave only footprints.

        That may be another expression dying with a bygone age, or at least maimed by a selfie stick.

        Reply
        1. Tom Bradford

          “Take only photos and leave only footprints.”

          Even 50% of that can be a problem now. In New Zealand the authorities have had to fence off an area surrounding the majestic Kauri Tree “Tane Mahuta” in the Waipoua Forest Reserve as so many people were “leaving footprints’ around in taking selfies that the earth was becoming compacted, starving its roots of air and water.

          In too many wilderness areas now you get multiple parallel grooves scarring the landscape as footpaths deepen and expand, actually altering waterflow after rainfall and laying the foundations for what will become brand-new, artificial gullies in time.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            Kauri trees are impressive, and sadly they shared the same fate as our coastal redwoods, in that so many were cut down, as they make for excellent furniture.

            In terms of size, Tane Mahuta would be another ho hum 15 foot wide Sequoia in a forest full of them here, but when it’s white bark is illuminated by the Sun’s rays, wow!, and I remember being awed by it from 100 yards away, and more so as we approached it.

            Reply
          2. polecat

            That same phenomenon might be what’s causing the decline of old stands of African Babob trees : ‘tourist compaction syndrome’

            Reply
            1. Wukchumni

              There used to be around 100 cabins you could rent out right in the middle of the Giant Forest Grove in Sequoia NP, and it’s where my family spent a week or 2 every summer from 1963 until the late 1970’s, as my dad loved the goliaths and imparted it unto me.

              Giant Sequoia roots spread out from the tree in a fairly shallow manner, and it was decided to get rid of all of these cabins built in the early 1930’s, as it was impacting them, and they were all removed in 1998, and everything is au natural now. Sometimes i’ll take a walk in the vicinity and reminisce of where I grew up amidst the land of the giants.

              Reply
              1. Oregoncharles

                We just saw the “world’s largest Sitka Spruce”, on private property (!) in the Quinault valley. Not as big as the Sequoias, but darned impressive nonetheless. There’s no protection around it and the bark is worn off the upper side of all the protruding roots right around it.

                The tree appears to be thriving nonetheless, but all that wear can’t be helping. However, the feeder roots are probably 100 feet away, so the compaction near it may not matter much.

                Reply
      2. Wukchumni

        The idea of creating National Parks came about after the crapification of Niagara Falls in the mid 19th century. It had turned into such a nightmare of overdone gimcrackery, that when the natural wonders of the west were found, it was decided upon to do something different.

        The past 2 weeks has given me a possible glimpse of what Niagara Falls must’ve been like say circa 1844.

        Reply
      3. KPC

        Spot on and North Americans are some of the worst individually and collectively. Thankfully, not 100% but distinctly noticeable. The post modern culture or the age of machines… .

        Reply
  28. Jeremy Grimm

    The Asia Times article on Chinese Strategy presents some odd strategic philosophy — “Wenmu introduces us to the concept of geopolitics as philosophy on the tip of a knife…” and assertions like “Halford Mackinder, the Englishman regarded as one of the founders of geostrategy, ‘influenced World War II and the subsequent decline of the British Empire’… ” without further explanation left me feeling as if Wenmu’s Chinese strategy were some sort of Chinese version of contemplating “one hand clapping”. The concept that history proves “…there’s always a natural proportion – a sort of ‘divine’ or ‘golden ratio’ between the three strategic powers in Eurasia…” and a supposed limit of 2.5 strategic forces between 30 and 60 degrees North in the continent, as well as a the idea of a power rarely achieving a 1.5 ratio — is bizarre to me. China’s intent on encompassing Taiwan is hardly news, although Wenmu’s tie-in with the “New Maritime Silk Road” slogan is cute. It’s hard to tell from this link but I don’t get the impression of Wenmu as a new Sun Tzu.

    My takeaway from this link was the following: “…Rear Admiral Luo Yuan said last month in Shenzhen: ‘We now have Dong Feng-21D, Dong Feng-26 missiles. These are aircraft carrier killers. We attack and sink one of their aircraft carriers. Let them suffer 5,000 casualties. Attack and sink two carriers, casualties 10,000. Let’s see if the US is afraid or not?’ ”. This coupled with the US Navy’s construction of aircraft carriers and Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and shift of military focus toward the Western Pacific shipping lanes — which the Neocon infestation of DoD seems to continue under Trump — seems like a recipe for disaster. But instead of calling this a Thucydides trap I think it’s more like a US stupidity trap.

    Reply
    1. Jen

      Ha! Received and binned my first 2020 campaign litterature on 12/26/2018 from the aforementioned Delaney. Ah they joys of living in the first in the nation primary state. He, like Michael Bloomberg (should he run), will receive fewer votes than Vermin Supreme.

      On a positive note, Martin O’Malley isn’t running.

      Reply
  29. Jeremy Grimm

    The article in Asia Times “South Korea flashes warnings signs for 2019” [http://www.atimes.com/article/south-korea-flashes-warnings-signs-for-2019/] caught my eye. The idea of Korea as “weathervane of sorts for trade-flow inflection points” — a ‘canary’ — is new to me but makes sense.

    The article suggests that President Moon Jae-in’s intention of “rebalancing the economy” … “wrestling power away from the family-owned giants, or chaebol” appears to have gone by the way as the Korean economy softens under Trump’s tariffs on Chinese exports. The planned minimum wage hike by 10.9% to 8,350 won, or US$7.47, for this year may be abandoned. “The real prize, though, is using tax incentives and regulatory tweaks to catalyze a startup boom. The rebalancing comes with steps to smash monopolistic behavior and increased anti-trust enforcement.” This — Moon’s larger promise — appears lost as he bends to the will of the chaebol. This outcome in South Korea echoes the effectiveness of liberal “rebalancing” efforts, such as there ever were, in the US. It is also interesting how close a raise in the minimum wage in Korea would come to the minimum wage in several US states.

    Reply
  30. BenX

    “war is baked into the structure of society”

    That’s a cynical interpretation of the data. An optimistic perspective would see a steady, progressive decline, followed by a period of collective humanity.

    That flatline at the end also correlates with the rise of nuclear powers.

    Reply
  31. rjs

    Has Trump Been Outmaneuvered on Syria Troop Withdrawal?

    he knew nothing about the Syrian Kurds & got snookered by Erdogan, plain and simple.

    this was as bad as he’s ever looked as president.

    Reply
      1. rjs

        the Kurds have been armed by and fought with US troops in Syria…Trump’s decision to pull out came after a phone call with Erdogan assuring him they would ‘clean up remaining ISIS pockets’…Trump did not know that Turkey had amassed troops on the border to take out the Kurds, who the Turks consider terrorists (because of their desire for a Kurdish state)…Trump announced the pullout right after that phone call with Erdogan, surprising all of his foreign policy advisors..

        days later, after the Kurdish problem was explained to him, Trump goes grovelling back to Erdogan: https://news.antiwar.com/2019/01/03/trump-sought-assurances-from-erdogan-about-fate-of-syrian-kurds/

        Reply
  32. Jason Boxman

    The Robinhood story is weird. At this point, US T-Bills pay enough interest, so I set up a ladder of 4 week treasury bills that reinvest for 25 weeks each. Done. What’s more, now that Firstrade offers $0 stock trades, I’m not sure what the point of Robinhood really is?

    Reply
    1. John

      Speaker Pelosi and AOC live in different worlds. AOC can and should be a cheerleader for minority causes, build consensus for them until they can be enacted as law. NancyPelosi has to deal with life as it is right now. She can’t snap her fingers and impeach Trump, enact MFA, or any other progressive shiny object. However, she would work with AOC to give her guidance about how to succeed.

      Nancy Pelosi made an interesting point the other day that MFA would provide worse coverage than the ACA does. The devil is in the details.

      Reply
      1. marym

        If NP made that point in reference to the House bill HR 676, it was incorrect, not interesting.

        SEC. 102. BENEFITS AND PORTABILITY.
        (a) In General.—The health care benefits under this Act cover all medically necessary services, including at least the following:

        (1) Primary care and prevention.

        (2) Approved dietary and nutritional therapies.

        (3) Inpatient care.

        (4) Outpatient care.

        (5) Emergency care.

        (6) Prescription drugs.

        (7) Durable medical equipment.

        (8) Long-term care.

        (9) Palliative care.

        (10) Mental health services.

        (11) The full scope of dental services, services, including periodontics, oral surgery, and endodontics, but not including cosmetic dentistry.

        (12) Substance abuse treatment services.

        (13) Chiropractic services, not including electrical stimulation.

        (14) Basic vision care and vision correction (other than laser vision correction for cosmetic purposes).

        (15) Hearing services, including coverage of hearing aids.

        (16) Podiatric care.

        (b) Portability.—Such benefits are available through any licensed health care clinician anywhere in the United States that is legally qualified to provide the benefits.

        (c) No Cost-Sharing.—No deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing shall be imposed with respect to covered benefits.

        Reply
        1. cm

          Why not instead enforce existing anti-trust anti-monopoly law, where a hospital is required to provide uniform pricing information. Enforcing the law would shut down a ton of corrupt hospitals, and make health care affordable again.

          Reply
      2. voteforno6

        Nancy Pelosi made an interesting point the other day that MFA would provide worse coverage than the ACA does. The devil is in the details.

        How so? Please elaborate.

        Reply
        1. Pat

          Um, not likely unless they design it that way. She seems to be under the mistaken notion that the government is not in charge of MFA.

          But then I’m pretty sure Nancy doesn’t have to consider if she can afford the deductible before going to the doctor. From almost day one of ACA, or the government saves the private insurance industry and allows the private medical complex to rip the people off act, there have been increasing portions of the American public who have insurance but cannot afford to go to the doctor. If Nancy can explain to me how that will get worse under free at point of service Medicare For All, I’ll stop calling her liar. But since she won’t be able to, let me shout it.

          NANCY PELOSI IS LYING HER ASS OFF AND SHOULD ROT IN HELL.

          Reply
      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        Nancy doesn’t live in the real world. If she did, she might treat global warming like an actual crisis. Then again, Nancy might be better than Steny Hoyer or Chuck Schumer, but its such a low bar.

        Reply
    2. cm

      Nancy Pelosi promised:
      :

      House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday vowed to take up a $15 minimum wage in the first 100 hours of the next Congress if Democrats take back the chamber next year.
      If “we win the election,” Pelosi told the gathered audience, “in the first 100 hours we will pass a $15 minimum wage.”

      Reply
  33. eric

    “Amazon Says 100 Million Alexa Devices Have Been Sold”

    Do they count Amazon Fire tablets as Alexa devices? I have one and do not have Alexa enabled on it and as far as I know that means it does not listen to me. Alexa also works with Fire TV in some way for controlling your television. The real question is how many fully enabled Alexa devices are out there.

    Reply
    1. Whoamolly

      I do a lot of reading on an old Kindle. I began checking specs on new Kindles when the battery began to fail.

      Alexa is an app and must be installed (or so Amazon says). I do not trust them. I cant imagine these folks selling a new Kindle without a back door to install turn on Alexa silently.

      The incentive to do so is high, and the downside is negligible.

      Reply
  34. David

    For those who may be interested, the gilets jaunes have been active in France again today. The numbers – perhaps 30,000 are much smaller than last year, but the organisers have learnt that small numbers operating over a wide area can be very effective, and hard to defeat. Today’s exploits, so far have included blocking traffic, trying to enter various buildings, blockading a ferry port and spreading oil on the roads. There have been quite a few clashes, and much use of tear gas. There have been injuries on both sides.
    The government has opted to treat the GJ as a movement of the extreme Right, and to play the “brown” (ie Fascist) card. The government presents itself as the only thing standing between France and a takeover by the extreme Right. This was probably inevitable. An earlier attempt to present them as enemies of the environment didn’t get any traction, and trying to present them as figures of the extreme Left would just have invited derision. Nonetheless, it’s a bad move, because, whilst you can smear an individual or small groups that way, here they are trying to smear groups socially and economically representative of the vast majority of French people, who know perfectly well who they are and what they think. And having tasted power and forced Macron to retreat, the classes from which the GJ draw their support are not likely to back down either.
    Meanwhile, there have been attempts to smear (if it is a smear) Eric Drouet, a lorry driver and one of the leaders of the GJ for having by his own admission, voted for Le Pen in 2016. Except that he has made it clear that he didn’t, and there’s no evidence he even made such a statement.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for this – I’ve noticed how here in Ireland and in the UK too, the yellow jacket motif has been partly hijacked by some elements of the right (not really the far right, just the angry at everything modern-type right). But its good to see that in France they are holding their focus.

      Reply
  35. Cal2

    David, “The government presents itself as the only thing standing between France and a takeover by the extreme Right.” Wow, what a coup for the Right to get credit for the yellow vests. Predict they will win next election. Interesting things happening in Spain with the insurgent Vox party winning big.

    If Pacific Gas & Electric sells off their gas system, the funds should be seized and held in escrow to pay unresolved tort claims for the many hundreds killed by PG&E caused fires as well as compensation for property damage.

    Speaking of Caitlin Johnstone’s ”Feminism Gone Wrong in service of capitalism,”
    is there a more despicable, in both name and action, corporate criminal than PG&E’s president and CEO, chief apologist and recipient of mega-bonuses, Geisha Williams?
    Identity politics bonus, a woman of color, Nee Jimenez.

    Reply
    1. Enquiring Mind

      Wait until Geisha and PG&E have to open the kimono for damages. Oh, wait, bankruptcy should largely eliminate those based on their early signaling.

      Reply
  36. drumlin woodchuckles

    China will buy all the beef and soybeans Brazil can grow in a burned-over Amazon basin. China will even lend Brazil all the money needed for Brazil to move even faster into the supply-vacuum opened up by Trump’s trade war.

    Meanwhile, if indeed it is the Amazon forest which assists the air currents which pull ocean-moisturised air over and into Coastal Brazil, and the removal of that forest retards the insuck of that air, and the consequent perma-droughts over Coastal Brazil compromise food production there; the Nations of the World must be firm in their resolve to give Brazil precisely ZERO food assistance to make up for the food production which Brazil will have willfully destroyed.

    A vicious boycott designed to destroy the Brazilian economy faster-harder than destroying the Amazon could ever make up for . . . is too much to ask of the world. So expect a rolling Amazon burn-down.

    Reply
  37. ewmayer

    “The lies Comcast allegedly told customers to hide full cost of service | ars technica” — I resemble that remark … Moved into a new place last August, signed up for a basic Internet+TV package, which when equipment-rental and all the BS fees were included came to around $70/mo. As of 1 January I have a couple new roommates occupying the MBR suite of my 2br/2ba apartment, they like their fancier cable package and a DVR, so we did some comparative package-price checking, and decided on the Xfinity Double Play package, which includes (allegedly) somewhat-faster internet service and a bunch of added cable channels. Comcast advertised the price of same as $100/mo *if* you sign up for a 24-month deal, with a $230 penalty if you cancel or downgrade the service before the the 24 months are up. Adding all the monthly equipment-rental fees ($11 router, $10 dvr, 2 x $6 mini-dta boxes for the 2 bedrooms) and all the fees and taxes brought us to a whopping $160/mo, already a steep case of sticker shock. But then yesterday I get the following “your service changes are confirmed e-mail” with a bunch of fees for nonexistent TV boxes and “anyroom drv service” which we never requested and was never mentioned by the comcast rep. during the upgrade-request call. The () quantities appear to be credits for cancelled old service and equipment (we had to swap out all the existing gear except for the router); I’ve inserted []-subtotal lines to break things down more clearly by category:

    MONTHLY FEE
    Xfinity Bundled Services
    X1 Starter Double Play
    $120.00
    X1 Starter Double Play
    $104.48
    Internet Plus Basic
    ($66.12)
    Promotional rate
    ($20.00)
    [Total $138.36]

    Xfinity Internet
    Internet Equipment
    $9.57
    Internet Equipment
    ($9.57)
    Internet Equipment
    $11.00
    [Total $11.00]

    Xfinity TV
    Anyroom DVR Service
    $8.66
    Service To Additional TV
    $8.65
    Service To Additional TV
    $5.21
    Service To Additional TV
    $5.21
    Service To Additional TV
    $5.21
    Term Agreement APPLIES
    $0.00
    Anyroom DVR Service
    $9.95
    Service To Additional TV
    $5.99
    Service To Additional TV
    $5.99
    [Total $54.87]

    Monthly Subtotal
    $204.23

    Monthly Subtotal does not include a Broadcast TV Fee of up to $8.00 per month and a Regional Sports Fee of up to $6.75 per month (costs vary by region).

    Estimated Taxes, Surcharges and Fees
    $31.72

    Estimated Total
    $224.14

    So not one $100 “X1 Starter Double Play” line item but 2 seperate ones totaling $138.36 when the old “Internet Plus Basic” fee is subtracted and the mystery $20 promotional discount is applied, and instead of just the expected $9.95 + (2 x $5.99) TV-equipment rental fee we got $32.94 of mystery-equipment-rental charges on top of that. And when all the taxes and bogus “these are required by the government” broadcast fees are added, suddenly we’re looking at 3x our previous monthly bill. Tried calling Comcast repeatedly since getting the above e-mail, but after the automated system asks for my topic (“billing question”), I keep getting “we are currently experiencing high than normal call volume … please feel free to use the Comcast App on your phone or go online to manage your account” – basically they won’t take my call and let me speak to an actual human about the bogus charges. And I wouldn’t put it past these ratf*ckers to have programmed their automated phone system to simply shut customers out via the above message in the wake of such upcharging binges, which they know are gonna lead to calls. What a racket.

    Reply
      1. ewmayer

        We did our old-gear-for-new swap at the local Xfinity store (~15 mins drive away), but I don’t know if they handle such billing questions. More annoyingly, when I try to find the phone number for said store online, I get – you guessed it – the one-size-fits-all Xfinity number I’ve been calling, the one that keeps giving me the “unexpectedly high call volume … please fvck off” message. I’m sure we’ll get it sorted eventually, but it seems the whole point of the setup is to throw up enough hurdles that a lot of folks, busy with this thing called “life, work, family”, will simply give up and eat whatever charges Comcast foists on them. Rather like certain notorious insurance companies and their “always deny claims on the first submission” scams.

        Reply
      2. ambrit

        I’ve had one go round with them already. We have a local office, but all it will handle are Sign Ups, Upgrades and Taking Payments. Absolutely no help with complaints. “Sorry. You have to access our telephone or online customer services.”
        A real racket since they are often the only game in town, or one of two, the other usually being AT&T.
        Someone up above mentioned the necessity of ‘encouraging’ local politicians and bureaucrats to implement public internet. Really now, first we will have to (family blog) the local politicos who are in the telecom’s pockets.

        Reply
        1. Richard

          Such a racket. I get internet through them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found it hard to access the internet to get help with a busted connection, when I have a busted connection.
          So the phone. Oi, the phone. Whoever designed their phone system, and I know complaining about anti-human phone-based “customer service” is so old that I’m sure seinfeld covered it, but whoever designed their system truly hates people. I wonder how many people get through it without screaming. It is a pretense at customer service, as you would expect from a monopoly, and I’m certain it’s designed that way on purpose, to increase the % of people who just give up and hang up.

          Reply
        2. Cal2

          Call Comcast, or whatever ISP, tell them you are dropping them for the cheaper alternative, unless they can give you a special offer.
          You’ll possibly get a one year bargain rate which will automatically go back to the previous charge after 12 months.
          It’s worked for us, year after year.

          Reply
          1. aletheia33

            i have found a similar approach the most effective. to get a problem fixed, i call the main number and keep choosing “sales”. they’re far more easy to get through to of course. then i tell them politely that i would like to terminate my account please. they will bend over backward to ask me why and to help me. or if they don’t immediately, i just keep blandly repeating, oh i appreciate that, and i am sorry that you seem to be saying that you can’t actually help me, so sorry but therefore i do need to terminate my account. you can string this out and enjoy their angst as they struggle to help you (although this can prove demoralizing if/when one starts to feel sorry for them for what they have to do). if you don’t get what they promise you (and be sure to explain how you need it immediately), you can get the person’s direct line number and call him/her the next day to follow up.

            it still takes more time than it should, but it does get results. also, to hold myself back from screaming at comcast, i tell myself that the encounter is a game in which to lose one’s temper is to be defeated. when rage rises up inside, if i have to, i fall back on heavy irony, so heavy that they may only sense but not be entirely sure that i don’t mean exactly what i say in my soothingest syrupiest voice. even if they know the syrup is not truly meant, they have to act as if it is. such are the sad sadistic pleasures to be had in the course of these transactions.

            Reply
            1. ewmayer

              So, by way of follow-up on this Comcast-is-a-racket thread – following aletheia33’s hint, today I instead tried using the keyword “Sales” when calling (after first again trying “billing question” with same result as before), whaddya know, got through on the first try. Saleslady – who I must say was quite helpful and kind – did confirm that we should be paying ‘just’ the $155/mo. total I was quoted when requesting the service upgrade, *but* she also said she could get us a better deal than the promotional service-upgrade package we signed up for last week:

              – same double-play package, same internet, only $89.99/mo for a 12-month promo period, compared to $100/mo for a 24-month signup (of course plus all the usual equipment-rental charges and fees Comcast lards on to the bill);
              – free DVR rental (of same DVR we already have);
              – 3 months free Showtime, which just goes away after 3-months is up, i.e. we don’t need to call to cancel it to avoid being charged.

              That’s a monthly total of $134, still not cheap but around $20 less than before, and we don’t need to do anything equipment-wise. Many thanks for the tip! Come end of the 12-month signup, I’ll again be calling Sales and requesting a comparable-or-better-deal-if-you-want-to-keep-me-as-a-customer. I figure for $134/mo. they’re making plenty of money off me.

              Reply
          2. Richard

            Yeah. And the cheap rate (for me) is $75/month for internet alone. This has gone up, what, about 300% since internet access started being sold. 25 years. The salespeople tell me “I’m lucky” to have such a rate.
            They (Comcast) don’t have a 100% monopoly on telecommunications services, but they don’t need to apparently to charge monopoly prices. I hate doing that stupid dance every year (I’ll leave, okay, here’s a different offer). I would love for our community to invest in public internet access.

            Reply
            1. ambrit

              After Katrina, the French Quarter, which is on a ridge and thus suffered little flood damage, set up a public internet service for that limited region. A while afterwards, the City Council quietly did away with the system. The big telecoms companies are always up there near the top in the ‘political contributions’ lists.
              Until some “civic minded” groups start enflicting “concrete and material pain” on the politicos, nothing will change.

              Reply
  38. BoyDownTheLane

    In re: trying to “smear” AOC with that clip of her dancing in high school: Everyone in high school acts weird; it goes with the social transformation. Most of us have burned our yearbooks, and changed our worldview four times since the circumstance of pomp. Politics and culture have become satiated with celebrity and our cultural need to “gawk” and gasp in schadenfreude: witness today’s Google News packet about Kevin Hart and Ellen Degeneres [see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ellen-degeneres-kevin-hart-interview-oscar-host-controversy_us_5c2fb434e4b0bcb4c25b99cc and https://www.aol.com/article/entertainment/2019/01/05/cnns-don-lemon-emotional-criticism-kevin-harts-ellen-interview/23634382/, e.g.]. It’s become a socio-political game– a means of inflkuence and engineering that speaks poorly of those who play on either side.

    Reply
    1. voteforno6

      The video was actually from when she was in college. Even so, I don’t think she has anything to be embarrassed about; judging by her reaction to this “controversy,” she isn’t.

      Reply
  39. kareninca

    Re the article re skin care and the rich. Years and years ago, when I was in college, I met the wife of one of my professors. A rich professor, as it happens (some are; most aren’t); you might have heard of him. She used to be an Olympic skier and she was of Scandinavian descent. Her skin literally looked like leather, even though she was only in her 40s. It was so bad it was like a disfiguration. That scared me into wearing a hat and mineral sunblock always. I knew I would never be willing (even if able) to afford special treatments. The hat and sunblock have worked. All I need so far is OTC retinol, which is cheap.

    A few years ago I met another woman (this one in her 60s) of Scandinavian descent. She looked great, but not in any sort of rich or fake way. She was wearing a hat. I asked her if she used sunblock too, and she said no, just a hat; that a hat was crucial. I do know a few women who have unbelievably expensive treatments done, and they look pretty fantastic too.

    So, I tell young women to consider wearing a hat. But none of them ever listen to me.

    Reply
  40. BoyDownTheLane

    Instead of elections, we should ask the candidates to submit “selfie” videos AFV-style. The august Senator from Massachusetts was shown drinking a beer. A few of them might have something of themselves marching in a parade, doing karaoke, etc. to demonstrate that they are of the people, a regular “joe” (or judy). Then, guest appearances on celebrity talk shows would follow… perhaps a guest hosting of a lesser award show, on SNL, or even a prime-time knock-off of international recognition: the annual FRPPPies ( the fastest-rising popular political phhenomen).

    Reply
  41. VietnamVet

    Patrick Cockburn on Brexit Bluster is excellent. Even after the outstanding discussions here, this has been confusing. I’ve decided that it is because the media has left out all discussion of corporate Plutocrats control of the global economy and their primacy over nation states. Simply by exiting the EU, the UK is throwing themselves to the wolves who are salivating at all they can seize at the fire sale prices. Yes, the EU is an instrument of the oligarchs but other than chaos it is the only existing lawful alternative to try to regain sovereignty for Europeans without splintering into warring Statelets.

    The current Western national political systems are too corrupt to deal with globalization.

    Reply
  42. drumlin woodchuckles

    I offer a more carefully thought-out addendum to my Brazil comment upthread.

    “Boycott Brazil” is too crude and misdirected. If people outside Brazil wish to support the ongoing existence of Amazon rain forest, people outside Brazil should buy as much rain-forest products as they can possibly afford to buy, pay for, and keep using over the years to come. Products like . . . Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are gathered from the wild by wandering harvesters and require a viable rainforest to keep growing in.
    So buying Brazil nuts helps the rainforest to pay for its keep. And in a Market Stalinist world order, anything that can’t pay for its own keep will be replaced by something that CAN pay for its own keep.

    So “friends of the Rain Forest” will have to spend enough money on rain-forest-dependent goods like Brazil nuts and services like Eco-Tourism to create the big-money lobbies for rainforest preservation withIN Brazil that might be able to do combat on behalf of the rain-forest from which their money flows.

    Friends of the Rain Forest might also consider how to deprive China of enough bussiness over the years to come that China becomes too poor to be able to buy jungle soybeans or jungle beef. Because if China is rich enough to buy jungle soybeans and jungle beef, it is reasonable to suppose that China can pay more for a million square miles of soybeans and beef than the Friends of the Rain Forest will ever afford to pay for Brazil nuts and Eco-Tourism

    Reply

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