Links 1/9/19

Some say they’re pests, but opossums can be helpful Bangor Daily News. Opposums eat ticks!

Jellyfish Genome Hints That Complexity Isn’t Genetically Complex Quanta

U.S. Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018 Even as Coal Plants Closed NYT. “‘The big takeaway for me is that we haven’t yet successfully decoupled U.S. emissions growth from economic growth,’ said Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group.” Hmm. Do I detect a pony?

Cory Doctorow: Disruption for Thee, But Not for Me Locus. Today’s must-read.

Volatility: how ‘algos’ changed the rhythm of the market FT


May Is Cornered by Parliament as She Fights for Her Brexit Deal Bloomberg

Parliament can agree that it doesn’t want a no deal Brexit, but that’s it New Statesman

U.K. Finds a Faulty Shipping Safety Net for Brexit WSJ

Dublin remains top ‘Brexodus’ location ahead of Frankfurt and Paris, EY says The Irish Times. Waiting for the Bob Marley parody, here…

Brutal attack on five Romanian men blamed on loyalist paramilitaries Belfast Telegraph. Just baseball bats. Not guns.

French official tapped to lead Macron’s ‘national debate’ quits amid salary controversy France24

Forgotten France rises up Le Monde Diplomatique

20-year-old German hacker confesses in doxxing case Handelsblatt

Europe shaken as political systems splinter FT


Why Gulf Banks Are Merging Like Never Before Bloomberg

Iran Prepares Satellite Launch, Ignoring US Warnings, Says It’s For Peaceful Purposes International Business Times. Cue the war drums.

Asia in 2019: from elections in India and Indonesia to US-China tensions, Xinjiang and extreme weather South China Morning Post

ARIA: Congress Makes Its Mark on US Asia Policy The Diplomat


As India heads for polls, does its media pass Chomsky’s five-filter test? Quartz

India’s lower house passes citizenship bill that excludes Muslims Al Jazeera

Is India Really 96% Open Defecation Free? The Wire


Chinese business failures set to outstrip other big economies FT

Why China is determined to connect Southeast Asia by rail Nikkei Asian Review

Chinese buyers expand their reach in the US housing market as the middle class gets in on the act CNBC

With US on sidelines, China drives Latin America mobile tech boom Asia Times

Guangdong Man Fined $150 for Using a VPN Sixth Tone. Caveat that I don’t know if this is pro forma, or part of a real crackdown.

WSJ investigation: China offered to bail out troubled Malaysian fund in return for deals The Star

New Cold War

Manafort Accused of Sharing Trump Campaign Data With Russian Associate NYT

Unnamed corporation seeks to file petition for review in grand jury dispute (UPDATED) SCOTUSblog

The Antichrist will control mankind through gadgets and the Internet as people ‘fall into slavery’ to smartphones, warns leader of Russian Orthodox Church Daily Mail. Seems legit.

Trump Transition

Trump’s Not-So-Bully Pulpit Politico

Full text: Pelosi and Schumer respond to Trump’s immigration speech Politico

AP FACT CHECK: Trump and the disputed border crisis Associated Press

Trump opts against declaring national border emergency — for now Roll Call

McAllen Mayor Says A Wall Won’t Solve The Realities Of Texas’ Border Problems KUT. Which is what the locals have been saying through the Bush and the Obama administrations to the present day.

* * *

Trump team promises shutdown won’t stop food stamp payments in February, says program lacks funds for March WaPo

Did CIA Director Gina Haspel run a black site at Guantánamo? McClatchy. Another career triumph for Gina?

Democrats in Disarray

Why the Differences Between Sanders and Warren Matter Zaid Jilani, Jacobin. This:

When I worked at PCCC [supporting Warren], I was once told that Warren decided to run for the Senate after witnessing the amount of power she had as an oversight chair for the bank bailouts. She believed that “being in the room” with decision-makers in the Obama administration was essential to creating change. While Warren wants to be at the table with elites, arguing for progressive policies, Sanders wants to open the doors and let the public make the policy.

The House Democrats’ Best Path Forward The New Yorker

Class Warfare

How Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor NYT. Everything is like Ferguson.

Highly paid substitutes, lessons in large spaces — how L.A. Unified is preparing for a teachers strike Los Angeles. Scabs, naturally.

Unprovability comes to machine learning Nature

‘Thinking About Distant Civilizations Isn’t Speculative’ Der Spiegel

How Climate Change Caused The World’s First Ever Empire To Collapse Eurasia Review (Furzy Mouse).

Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century Dmitry Orlov. From 2005, still germane. I hate to link to GoogleDocs, but I’m assuming this is the original. Best I can do, given time constraints and Google’s crapification.

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Light a Candle

      Thank you for the link to the presentation. I haven’t read Dimitri Orlov in a while and his observations ring truer than ever.

      1. Wukchumni

        I feel a giant factor will be our anonymous culture where its common for people not to know their neighbors a few doors away, with no real reason to get to know them, as they share few concerns collectively.

        When you have nothing invested in strangers in your neighborhood, it’s easy to not care about them, when push>meets<shove.

  1. Carl

    RE: Dmitry Orlov. Or you could just buy his book; it’s pretty short reading. Premise: the US is headed for an economic collapse similar to the one Russia went through, but the Russia was much better prepared for it, and so the US will suffer more. Of course, he’s been saying this for quite awhile now, as the US is still out in mid-air, frantically pumping its legs a la Wile E. Coyote…

      1. a different chris

        Beyond that, we have the famous “the future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed” by Gibson.

        There are many Deplorables living in at least stage 2, a fair amount in stage 3.

      2. abynormal

        Appreciate this particular blog share! Did you know that at the crash of 29 and the next ten years saw no serial killing? Criminologist around the world are guaging economies to serial killer actions. Sooooo i ponder…mkts are up but main Street is down and how volatile are our freaks of nature/nuture doing? Loss of community, lack of basic support systems, individual denial coupled with police quotas for revenue infractions…must have bearing on the average numbers of 20 serial killers a year with average 10 killings under their belt.

        Jeez Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Louise

          1. JBird4049

            Co-incidence is not causation.

            And that is a fabulously insulting and trite putdown.

            Correlation and causation are not the same, but they are often indicative. It is not an accident, or a coincidence, that social dysfunction tends to greatly increase when a society is under increasing stress especially economic.

            It is probable that the increase in mass shootings is like the increase in deaths of despair happening as our society slowly unravels. It is interesting to note that the murder rate has trended down over the past thirty years, while the mass shootings have increased in the past twenty. The availability of drugs and guns has been high for generations, but only has the currentl levels of death, or more accurately, the currently popular methods of death have changed in the past generation.

            1. Yves Smith

              There are public health studies going back to the early 2000s showing that highly unequal societies have a life expectancy cost, even for the rich. A 2007 writeup in the Financial Times by Michael Prowse explained why:

              Those who would deny a link between health and inequality must first grapple with the following paradox. There is a strong relationship between income and health within countries. In any nation you will find that people on high incomes tend to live longer and have fewer chronic illnesses than people on low incomes.

              Yet, if you look for differences between countries, the relationship between income and health largely disintegrates. Rich Americans, for instance, are healthier on average than poor Americans, as measured by life expectancy. But, although the US is a much richer country than, say, Greece, Americans on average have a lower life expectancy than Greeks. More income, it seems, gives you a health advantage with respect to your fellow citizens, but not with respect to people living in other countries….

              Once a floor standard of living is attained, people tend to be healthier when three conditions hold: they are valued and respected by others; they feel ‘in control’ in their work and home lives; and they enjoy a dense network of social contacts. Economically unequal societies tend to do poorly in all three respects: they tend to be characterised by big status differences, by big differences in people’s sense of control and by low levels of civic participation….

              Unequal societies, in other words, will remain unhealthy societies – and also unhappy societies – no matter how wealthy they become. Their advocates – those who see no reason whatever to curb ever-widening income differentials – have a lot of explaining to do.

      3. Hepativore

        This reminds me of a 1970’s-era science fiction book, the Mote In God’s Eye. It was about humanity’s first contact with an alien race called the moties. Because of their biology, a motie had to get pregnant, or else the hormonal stress would kill it. While moties did have access to some forms of contraception, the moties that complied would quickly be out-bred by ones that did not. As a result, moties had a strong fatalistic streak that the collapse of their civilization was inevitable as overpopulation inevitably led to competition and wars over resources on their planet with their society regressing back to the hunter-gatherer level.

        As a result, moties maintained special archival buildings that allowed them to jump-start civilization quickly again at the end of each of their collapses. The book explores how the moties deal with humanity and their fatalistic outlook on life. The moties have a cautionary tale in their culture about a phenomenon called “Crazy Eddie”. A Crazy Eddie is somebody who has ideas that sound brilliant or idealistic on paper, but ultimately leads to further disaster and ruin.

        That sounds eerily similar to the ideologues of Silicone Valley.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Orlov missed one important point about the Soviet collapse which is vacuum at the top was accompanied by a vacuum at all levels. States and local governments will still function. Yeltsin won’t be left on top with an entire state to sell off. The civic life necessary to head off problems will still continue regardless if people can’t start a fire from scratch (which I can do).

      The Communist Party disappearing from so many sectors of society ended too much.

      1. Summer

        One other thing different about USA and Soviet Russia: The sheer amount of material goods Americans have accummulated in garages, attics, basements, and storage facililities.
        Soviet Russia didn’t have the consumerism that produced such overflows ready for resale, reuse, trading.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          On the one hand, the USSR did not produce all the excess consumer products.

          On the other hand, many smart young* soviets wanted to consume like their Western counterparts.

          *Not sure about older soviets at that time. They probably were too slow to adjust, having lived through the Great Patriotic War.

          1. Wukchumni

            It was standard operating procedure for my parents to take a few rolls of toilet paper in their luggage in their visits to various communist countries.

            If they couldn’t produce the most basic item to satisfy ‘demand’, it gives you an idea of how the rest of manufacturing went.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Some spent days chasing after rolls of toilet paper.

              The more fashionable, likely young, ones tried to track down pairs of jeans.

            2. Olga

              This is really an old trope. Maybe your family thought it’d be a nice gift, but I do not ever recall not having toilet paper. Soviet Union was a bit different, though. In some parts (remember, it is a big country), some folks used newspaper. Put it to good use…

              1. Wukchumni

                My parents traveled extensively through the Soviet Bloc party from 1973 onwards, after the smoke had cleared from my dad being convicted of treason and sentenced to death in absentia in 1948.

                His crime:

                Leaving the country.

                My mom told me it was the same saga in every communist country they went to, and we’re talking about 15 years of experiences in that regard.

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  Even today, in some countries, one needs an exit visa to leave.

                  You can’t just leave, without permission.

                    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                      Look up Wikipedia, People’s Republic of China Permit for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macau, for residents of China.

                      For foreigners, to leave China, for anywhere, requires a exit visa.

                    2. Grant

                      I used to live in China. There are actually internal passports, part of the Hukou system. Other non-communist Asian countries had something similar, South Korea is one if I am not mistaken, Japan another, although I think they got rid of those systems. Most people cannot go from one province to another without that internal passport, especially if you want to qualify for basic government services and protections.

                  1. The Rev Kev

                    Can’t leave the US while owing money to the IRS. The Lord may forgive us our trespasses but the IRS won’t. They have actually yanked people off a plane for that.

                2. a different chris

                  >my dad being convicted of treason and sentenced to death in absentia in 1948.

                  Wow, um, it doesn’t get much more interesting – using the word in it’s most menacing sense – than that.

                  Hopefully you can share some of your parents stories with us when appropriate.

                3. Olga

                  I have no doubt that transitioning to a socialist system was hard. I’d not want to live through a revolution. The dominant power does not want to be replaced and the incoming power does all to assert itself – one point; second point, the late 40s and early 50s were a time of heightened paranoia, including in the west (HC on Un-American activities and good ol’Joe Mc ring a bell? – how many careers did he destroy?).
                  At least, your parents were allowed to return and travel widely. Looks like the commies do not hold grudges.

              2. SoldierSvejk

                And while we ponder sugar plums dancing with toilet paper, let’s just remind ourselves that socialist countries had free healthcare, free education, full employment, everybody had a place to live (no gold-plating, though), they were food production self-sufficient, and economies were fairly diversified (they had to be because the west limited trade). USSR provided subsidized energy (nat-gas and oil).
                Now, not every socialist country was at the same level. In my experience, Bulgaria and Romania were poorer – they still are (even after 30 yrs of capitalism). They were no homeless and no mass shootings. Streets were safe. In the 4th grade, kids went to a three-week (very cheap) “school in nature” – out in the mountains, where we learned to appreciate nature. At the primary-school level, in high-school, and at the universities, kids got to go for a week to ski (extensively subsidized). Opera artists and philharmonic orchestras staged concerts for kids. Kids went to museums (no school, yipee!). There were great puppet theaters. Since the great change, education costs money and the quality went down.
                Many – if not most – workplaces owned some type of recreational facilities, and families got subsidized holidays. Yes, it was hard to travel west – in large part, because hard currency was scarce. The USSR, in particular, made very significant scientific and artistic achievements – all in spite of a revolutionary war, civil war, and intervention war (all before 1920), and the total devastation of WWII – plus sanctions, embargoes, mortal threats of nuclear war, and a refusal to trade and exchange ideas.
                In 1994, the US govt was terrified, when 486-level computers were exported to those countries.
                I though at least here folks would not fall for easy cliches, but search for a more complex analysis.
                And yes, we gave it all up for jeans! (I think I’ll grow up to be a revolutionary!)

                    1. georgieboy

                      Berlin Wall/Iron Curtain to shoot own citizens.

                      LIfetimes spent fearing being snitched upon, or snitching on neighbors.

                      Hungarian revolt of 1956. Prague 1968.

                      These are supposedly happy citizens held prisoner in their own countries. No comparison.

                    2. Elizabeth Burton

                      The Haymarket Massacre

                      Anything involving Native Americans in the 19th century

                      “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” — Matthew 7:3

                1. Grant

                  LS Stavrianos, in his classic Global Rift, went into the studies at the time (published in 1980, I think), showing the vast differences in wealth between eastern and western Europe going back centuries. I realize that there were problems with centrally planned economies, there are larger problems with decentralized market economies now (and any economic system, socialist, capitalist, communist, anarchist or otherwise that uses markets to a great extent, given the prevalence of non-market impacts), but the fact of the matter is that as of 1917, Russia and Eastern Europe were much poorer generally than Western Europe. Given that fact, and given the economic war and sabotage against the region during the USSR period, I think it is hard to isolate the shortages in those countries to communism as a system, versus the external factors and the fact that they generally began at such a relatively poor state. Would there have been shortages if 18 countries didn’t invade shortly after the revolution, if there was no civil war, if it wasn’t destroyed by WWI and WWII especially, if it wasn’t economically isolated and attacked, if it was given aid after WWII like the capitalist countries, etc.? If the invasion didn’t happen, then the civil war, and the internal and external attacks, and if Lenin didn’t die when he did (or if his letter warning about Stalin saw the light of day), could it have avoided Stalin? Maybe. Hard to say for sure, but I think it is safe to say it would have performed at least moderately better. I mean, the USSR did some things well, other things not so well, but a logical point of comparison might be Brazil. About the same stage of development as of 1917, vast natural resources, and in no way a socialist system. Were standards of living in Brazil higher generally by, say 1980, than in Eastern Europe or Russia during the old USSR days? I don’t think that is generally the case.

                  I find the same problems with modern Venezuela. Has the government made some bad decisions? Yes. Is corruption an issue under Maduro? Yes, but not an issue that just emerged in 1998 or 2013. But, according to World Bank data, the economy shrank by 26% from 1980 to 1998. The country saw the first IMF riots in the region in the late 80’s. There were multiple coups in the early 90’s, one of which Chavez took part in, that had broad popular support. In decades past, collapses in the price of oil causes numerous economic crises, which is why Venezuela was one of the founding members of OPEC. The country has long struggled, far before 1998, in regards to diversifying the economy (something all poor countries struggle with). The country dealt with dictatorship, then a corrupt two party state for many years. And since 1998, there have been coup attempts, sabotage, the oil industry lockout, the NED, CIA, USAID, the International Republican Institute (among others) have supported the right wing and often fascist opposition too. The country had problems, like inflation, but until 2013, the inflation rate in the years leading into 1998 was generally higher than the 1998 to 2013 period. That was about the time that Chavez died, and the economic attacks intensified. Not only are large portions of the economy controlled by the opposition, who have all but announced their intentions to cause collective misery in the hopes of removing the government from power by causing mass shortages, but the US has economically blockaded the country, not allowed it to renegotiate its debt and have frozen assets. We also know of the role of the opposition, thanks to the Panama Papers, in regards to stealing subsidized foods, then taking it out of the country, as well as the role of Colombian paramilitaries in violence and unrest. Like with the USSR, to what extent can we blame the system versus the state of economy before Chavez, the things it struggles with that other poor countries struggle with and the things countries with oil struggle with, and the internal and external attacks? I forgot which politician said this in Bolivia, but it was a good comment; the politician said that building socialism in the modern economy was like trying to change the engine on a car when the car is driving. It can be done, with the environmental crisis it should be done (democratically as possible), but it is hard, and the capitalists try their best to make the system fail. If the power differential between the capitalist systems and socialist systems were reversed, and if socialist countries attacked capitalist countries like the capitalist countries attacked socialist countries, would outcomes be different within the capitalist system? Of course.

                  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                    To what extent is, say, Swedish or Nordic Socialism (ttoday and past) different from the USSR socialism of the 80’s and before?

                    1. Grant

                      I just read Leftism Reinvented, and it goes over the changes to the social democrats and social democratic/socialist parties over the course of the last century (focuses on the parties in Germany, Sweden, the UK and the US, although it acknowledges that the Democrats were never socialist or social democratic). Sweden had a pretty radical form of social democracy, based on national economic planning (which involved a very strong union movement, about 80% unionization rates, negotiating with capital). The big issue, according to that book, was balancing full employment and inflation. From the union side, it involved solidaristic union bargaining. In the mid 1970’s, the social democrats came up with a plan to move the country to a full socialist system, called the Meidner Plan. The Meidner Plan called for a fund that would have allowed workers to progressively buy up shares in enterprises, eventually shifting to a worker owned and managed economy. It was attacked by the right generally and the right within the social democratic camp (neoliberalism was already by then on the march in Sweden). It was re-introduced in the 1980’s, when the social democrats were voted back in, but it was watered done and not tons like the original plan, which was pretty radical. To me (not an expert), it reminds me of the very early part of the Russian Revolution, where the idea of soviets (workers councils) was to be central to Russian socialism. The Bolsheviks rose up under the slogan, “All power to the soviets”, or all power to the workers councils. There are debates as to why the Bolsheviks made them essentially instruments of the party and the state, but that could have formed a pretty democratic, decentralized socialist system. Interestingly enough, the Mensheviks, who were persecuted by the Bolsheviks, went to Georgia and had a pretty democratic socialist revolution and system for a while in the early 20’s. Had a multi-party democracy, freedom of speech and assembly, but it was put down by the Bolsheviks. There is a recent book by Eric Lee on this, on their forgotten revolution in Georgia.

                      Here’s a link on the Meidner Plan, if you are interested:

                2. The Rev Kev

                  Thanks SoldierSvejk and Olga for these insights on the former socialist countries. Not something that you normally hear about and you do wonder about the nostalgia factor for some of the better parts of how things worked within living memory in these countries. I have heard that lots of people in the former East Germany miss the feeling of community that the people had.

                  1. gepay

                    I have read interviews with people who had leave Chernobyl.
                    They miss their life there. Seemed to be at least on the level of coal mining communities in Great Britain before Thatcher.

          2. Summer

            It would be interseting to know about pawn shops in Russia.
            Did they have anything like that in the collapsing Soviet Union?
            Pawn shops could in many ways become a community “currency” issuer….

            1. Olga

              My experience from a life in two socialist countries – I do not recall pawn shops. Ever… now, very different.

            2. Wukchumni

              Soviet citizens had to carry internal passports that allowed them to be in a given area, and anybody with gold, diamonds or whatnot, wouldn’t have hocked them at a pawn shop in Moscow-as none existed, and it would’ve been ample evidence to send them away on an all expense paid trip to a gulag, if they did.

              1. Olga

                Can you get by in the US w/o an ID or a DL? No
                The problem with some of this debate is that isolated tid-bits are dragged out, without any context. It should be obvious to any anyone willing to put a bit of energy into thinking that the topic of socialism and socialist countries is vast, complicated, cannot be stereotyped, and was – and still is – coloured by ideology and deep bias. I do realize that US kids were taught the opposite – but by now, maybe it is time for a more serious examination of the issues. If for no other reason than to learn from that experience and improve.
                Socialist countries achieved a lot (in difficult, after-war conditions) and also screwed up. This should be examined extensively – but with the full acknowledgement that they lived in a world dominated by the west, which set out to scuttle and even destroy them. (I am reminded of “just ‘cuz you’re paranoid, does not mean they’re not out to get you.)
                And oh – police did not shoot minorities on sight (and there was none of this:

                1. todde

                  one of my daughters friends mother was from Russia.

                  Stalin murdered her grandfather (the mother’s father).

                  Well, no one knows, the man just disappeared after being picked up by the police. When the USSR fell the mother went back to find out what happened to her father.

                  She spent a year there and never found out what happened to the man.

                  having said that – the USSR is gone and there is no point in fighting for or against ghosts. The family members may think different.

                  1. Olga

                    My grandfather was shot during the time of war – not on the battlefield, and for helping those who were less desirable.
                    But at some point – when one is older and wiser – one has to look at the large picture instead of being steeped in old wounds, painful though they may be. Those times were terrible and many bad things happened. But nothing is black-and-white – and by focusing only on the black it is easy to miss most of the rest of the picture.
                    And it is ironic that we are discussing all this – while also talking about AOC’s prospects and those of gilets jaunes.

                  1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                    Ditto and thanks to Olga for your comment that “‘the topic of socialism is vast and complicated”. Amen.

                    So let’s be clear: we have ample big S Socialism in the USA but it’s just not the kind for you and me.

                    It’s for mega-banks, who get capitalist upside on their gains but socialist safety nets for any downside.

                    It’s for arms merchants, who get multi-billion $ no-bid contracts with guaranteed locked-in socialist profits.

                    It’s for pharma billionaires who get Medicare Part V that prevents any trace of capitalism from seeping into drug pricing.

                    It’s for the most profitable companies in history (fossil fuels) that nevertheless receive tens of billions in socialist largesse.

                    It’s for state-subsidized monopolies in cellular, internet, social, search, and e-commerce (Verizon, Comcast, Facebook, Google, and Amazon)

                    So if we’re actually going to debate socialism in the USA let’s try to keep it real.

                    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                      As with any system, there are down sides.

                      Here, you rightly point out the version of Socialism this is for megabanks.

                      Another case is Socialism for high ranking party comrades.

                      And many other versions, becuase humans are creative.

                    2. Oh

                      And the endless propaganda has taught the american people that welfare payments to the poor drains the economy and is unfair ut coporate welfare is never talked about or questioned.

                      I know people (elites) who look at the panhandlers in disdain and claim that they make several hundred dollars a day on the streets. I’d like to see these folks try to stay alive on the streets for a week or two.

        2. Pat

          But, and this is a big but, in a society in collapse how much of those goods will still have value.

          And I’m not just thinking of things like beanie babies, which were seriously traded for a period.

          So many of the material things that the public have valued have little value in a society which is being stripped back to very basic requirements.

          1. Summer

            Think of the value of acoustic (non-electric) musical instruments and the role that could play in socially. I think he emphasizes social cohesion as one of the most important assets (along with food, water, shelter).

              1. ambrit

                There has indeed been an explosion in pricing for “prepper” goods. What that says I do not know. Too many variables. Late stage capitalism is a big factor in “crazy” prices and fees, etc.

          2. Summer

            Think of drums being used again for communication over distance.
            (Dramatic example, but still….)

          3. carycat

            With the transition to rent extraction and crapification well underway, there is a lot less utility than you think in the consumer goods the the common folks are left with if the US collapses. Think of the many things the will be bricked when the network goes out (or the servers on the other side of the cloud dies), let alone if the power grid goes down. Acoustic musical instruments and hand tools will be appreciated again.

        3. polecat

          The advantages (from what I recall having read Orlov’s book) that the former communist citizens had were : basic infrastructure that still functioned (minimal electrical service,heat, transportation, to name a few examples) to one degree or another, living space (many did not own their own domicile .. however, the State subsidized many block apartments/structures, so at least many of the populus, generally, were not homeless …), and kitchen gardens the kept many families in food stuffs, when the central gov. could not provide … and grow they could !! .. which would put most americans to shame !
          Was there a lot of hinky sh!t going on ?? (drug abuse, raging alcoholism, gaft, lack of monetary recompense) .. absolutely ! .. but I believe they were of a tougher stock, having lived constanly with privation, and trying to do the best under funky circumstances. I think many Americans would suffer for the worst, under similar havoc, having had it so ‘good’ for so long !
          I would only hope that the rich and connected suffer their proportionate share of comeuppance !

          1. ambrit

            In that regard, the more rural poor should do better than most in a SHTF scenario. The richer cohorts will suffer big time from the depredations of looters and neo-bandits. Just the expense of fielding ‘security’ forces for defense will seriously tax resources.
            Realistically, I do not foresee modern iterations of “Seven Samurai” popping up. Honour is in short supply in the best of times.
            What your military population might end up doing is something on the order of the ancient ‘colonia.’

    2. Grant

      This political system is obviously dominated by two parties, not one like in the USSR, but it has many of the same deficiencies as one party states. Our political system is collective property, but two private entities have come along and taken control of the system, our collective property. In the economic sphere, we have anti-trust laws (on the books at least), but we have nothing like it in politics. These parties have made it almost impossible for other competitors to emerge, and can create the rules that their potential competitors will have to abide by. Because of the political structure of this system, like one party states, any structural economic changes essentially have to go through one of the two parties. In other systems, like the political systems in Greece or Spain for example, traditional social democratic or “socialist” parties can dominate systems or have strong control over political systems for decades, but then be replaced within a few years if they prove to be ineffective. In Greece, Syriza emerged, in Spain, Podemos. Parties can win or lose elections, sometimes for many elections in a row, but they don’t control the systems themselves like the Democratic Party and the Republican Party do, or the Communist Party in the USSR used to. Colombia had the same deficiencies with their decades long two party state, and Venezuela had a similar setup for decades too. It seems then that the system will be as democratic as those parties are internally. We know that neither is really democratic internally, but in key ways, the Democrats are thoroughly undemocratic internally.

      One small thing though, as people and followers of MMT know, the US’s deficits and debt aren’t the same problems as the USSR dealt with, and aren’t problems that people make them out to be. To me, the problem isn’t deficits, it is where the money goes in the economy once it gets created by the state, and it is the power we give private interests in regards to creating credit money, that are among our fundamental problems. We have massive power differentials, an economic system dominated by the rich and financial capital, and so once public or private money gets created, it goes to pretty narrow channels. We could theoretically deal with these types of structural problems, they aren’t unsolvable, but the political system is ossified and controlled by empty and corrupt nothings that have lots of power within the two parties, and they have the capitalist version of Pravda with the dominant media too. Like in the USSR, actual change will likely have to happen outside of the system that is dominated by one or two parties, which means that a political revolution and a social revolution have to go hand in hand. In states not controlled by one or two parties, a social revolution doesn’t require a political revolution. It doesn’t really require parties at all.

      Also, the problems we have in the US are found in most other Western countries, since the elites all bought into the same rough economic model. If the US collapses, the EU won’t be far behind, and the environmental crisis is the end of capitalism as we know it any damn way, whether we like it or not.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You’re right to connect the EU to the US.

        Moreover, the collapse this time is not just the US and the EU, but the whole planet (as you say, the environmental crisis).

        And that makes this time different fromt the USSR collapse. Perhaps Mr. Orlov is looking at it too narrowly.

        1. Grant

          I think he is. I also don’t think the USSR and the US is an apples to apples comparison. There are some similarities to be sure, but vast differences too. The US could collapse, but I think that would almost certainly coincide with a collapse of capitalism as we know it, at least as a worldwide system. And as you and I have mentioned, the environmental crisis will bring it all down one way or another anyway. There is no way capitalism as it is currently constructed will survive the environmental crisis.

      2. a different chris

        > and they have the capitalist version of Pravda

        On MSN – they have, instead of taking the criticism about both siderism, now seem to have doubled down with a “for” and “against” on everything. So Trump’s speech. The “for” opinion is Marc Theissen. Fair enough.

        The “against” is Bernie S… no, it’s Liz Warr… oops, no, it’s David Frum.

        Give me a break.

        1. Grant

          I know, and it drives me crazy. Every time I hear things being discussed in a binary manner, I get frustrated. There is no “both sides”, as if the two parties are THE two sides in policy debates, or even the topics chosen to debate. Up until recently, the media never really got around to discussing the environmental crisis. Kind of odd to not focus on the potential collapse in human civilization. Stormy Daniels and what not was far more important. The opinions of the two parties are two opinions in a sea of opinions, two sets of policies in a sea of possibilities. They are sometimes both horribly wrong. NAFTA, the Iraq War, they were bi-partisan, right? Both these parties were and are fully on board with the way they have structured the international economic system. If the media ever critiques both parties, it is often for not being right wing enough. Like, both parties have added to the deficit, which I am told is just horrible, and both parties shy away from cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare that don’t need to be cut. The media will wag their finger at both parties for not getting serious about “entitlement reform”, but they don’t wag their fingers because of the parties doing nothing about a healthcare system that kills up to 45,000 people annually.

          Chomsky’s critique of the media is still highly relevant.

      3. John

        It’s true that there are just two parties and they block any other parties from gaining power. But the two parties are fairly open. If you have a large enough grass roots movement you can take over a party. The tea baggers took over a while back and now the Trump fans are running the Republicans. Currently it seems that the Progressives are ascendant in the Democratic Party. You can go to your local party meeting and volunteer. You can’t do that with a corporation.

        1. Grant

          The Tea Party backed policies that benefits the owners of society, and those that own and control the media and these two parties. So, saying that the Democrats can be reformed because the Republicans were open to a right wing group that largely wanted to give the store to the rich and corporate interests doesn’t seem to be entirely true. I don’t think that making the Democratic Party a social democratic party is any smaller of a task than forming a third party. You have to confront powerful capitalist interests, including the interests that own the media. You have to confront the affiliated “think tanks” like CAP and the Democratic consultant class. You have to essentially beat or throw out those on the right to have some ideological and policy coherence and to stop them from internally undermining anything the left wants to do. Those people and their donors won’t just go quietly, and they will throw their power and money behind groups that fight that party. In addition, you also have to prepare for capitalists and the right trying to undermine the state. When Mitterrand was elected in the early 1980’s in France, the financial markets did attack the government, and the government did do an about face on some of the left-Keynesian policies in response. Eric Helleiner wrote about how the Mitterrand government debated what to do. The left within the Socialist Party wanted to institute more radical policies in response, but the right won out. Finance is even more powerful and mobile now, and the power of finance to undermine a government is even greater now. So, in addition to a progressive or radical platform, the Democrats would have to have even more radical policies that they are willing to implement when interests attempt to undermine the government. How far is that party from that? I realize that the party could be reformed, and it was possible to reform the Communist Party in the old USSR too, but that is a tall order. In a progressive state like California, look how that party installed the recent chair of the party, a former pharma lobbyist, over the will of the rank and file. Or how they used superdelegates last time in 2016, hell, look at the existence of superdelegates and why they emerged in the first place. They used superdelegates to install Bauman, and again, it is in a progressive state. That points to the need to make the party internally much more bottom up and democratic.

          Besides that though, it still is an issue that this system is controlled by two private interests. They shouldn’t be controlling debates, creating rules for who can take part in debates, they shouldn’t have the power to create the rules where their potential competitors could emerge either. That should be done independently of the two parties.

          1. Elizabeth Burton

            And let us not forget the Tea Party had covert support from the Koch brothers, who saw their chance to own a political party and took it. The likelihood anyone with that kind of pelf is going to support the progressive movement is less than zero, Nick Hanauer notwithstanding.

    3. Susan the Other

      A day late here, but must comment on Dimitry. This essay is 15 years old and as salient as ever. I always find myself agreeing with him without even trying. So far, thanks to having crushed home ownership in 2008 and blowing out all the on-the-edge lifestyles, we are not in as desperate situation as we would have been – Orlov explains that (2005)… in the USSR nobody owned their place of residence so the economy could collapse without causing homelessness. No evictions or foreclosures. This prevented social disintegration in the USSR. But now we have pushed ourselves in the USA to the edge of collapse with corporate debt and no domestic industry and our cities are deep into tent city-parks and homelessness. Like Orlov predicted. But it is moving so slowly that we can ignore it until the grocery stores are bare and we must garden our landscaped back yard to survive. I think we are not told how dire it is. When Obama switched to domestic gas and oil he did so with an urgency that disregarded budget constraints; we still spoon-feed the frackers as they lose money. The situation is dire and nobody is willing to discuss it. We are collapsing in slow motion. Runway foam.

  2. cnchal

    > French official tapped to lead Macron’s ‘national debate’ quits amid salary controversy France24

    Macron, whose popularity has plummeted in 2018, is expected to send a letter to French citizens on January 15 explaining the objectives of the forthcoming debate.

    Macron, former Goldman 666 bankster and Davos Man will pretend to listen and then turn the screws on the peasants a few more revolutions.

  3. Henry Moon Pie

    Special thanks for that Orlov piece. There’s a lot to think about there. I especially got a kick out of this:

    But very few of them have ever heard of the real operative “ism” that dominated Soviet life: Dofenism, which can be loosely translated as “not giving a rat’s ass.” A lot of people, more and more during the “stagnation” period of the 1980’s, felt nothing but contempt for the system, did what little they had to do to get by (night watchman and furnace stoker were favorite jobs among the highly educated) and got all their pleasure from their friends, from their reading, or from nature.

    This sort of disposition may seem like a cop-out, but when there is a collapse on the horizon, it works as psychological insurance: instead of going through the agonizing process of losing and rediscovering one’s identity in a post-collapse environment, one could simply sit back and watch events unfold.

    It reminded me of Brewer & Shipley’s old tune, “Oh Mommy (I Ain’t No Commie)”:

    Mr. Nixon,
    I ain’t a-fixin’
    To speak Spanish on a plane or polish off the Liberty Bell.
    I just want to sit here on the shelf
    And watch you finish off the place by yourself.
    Please let me do what I wanna.
    I’ll just lay around the house and smoke marijuana.

    B&S sing “Oh Mommy”

    1. Cal2

      “Contempt for the system” and a willingness, almost a duty!, to subvert, cheat and lie to it with no moral opprobrium.

      Sort of how native San Franciscans feel about our local, and increasingly state, ‘government’.

      1. polecat

        The ones increasingly resorting to the joys of unintended ‘tent’ living ..or .. if their lucky, living in a ‘converted shipping container, dodging the mentals and skipping over sh!t piles .. or the ones living in the towers, floating in the cloud ….??

    2. False Solace

      You mean in communist Russia people were able to survive with a job as a night watchman or a furnace stoker? They kept an apartment with only one job and no worries about health care? Highly educated with no student loans? Sounds like utopia compared to here! Oh, aside from the oppressive surveillance state, I mean. /s

    3. mary jensen

      Regarding “Dofenism”, if I remember correctly the succinct definition is: “I pretend to work, they pretend to pay me”.

    4. djrichard

      Sounds like they were disillusioned with the illusion.

      In the US, the powers that be soldier on. It’s the only game in town: “must … keep … the … illusion … going”.

  4. zagonostra

    Border wall and immigration, yeah that’s what is most pressing in my life as I woke up this morning. What the F%*! universe did I wake up in?

    A secure job, healthcare that is affordable, collage tuition forgiveness, traffic congestion, a clean and safe environment, paying the mortgage, saving enough money to retire before I expire, these are issues that weigh on my mind.

    The yellow vests protest in France is fundamentally about real economic anxiety as it becomes ever more difficult to have a decent and dignified life. Until there is a similar massive collective response by ordinary people in the U.S., the res publica will continue to be a shadowy world of spectacle, focusing on the mote when the beam will soon make us all blind.

    1. Lee

      I’m doing my best to ignore the wall to wall wall coverage in the MSM. And I live in a border state and have very strongly held opinions on immigration. Grappling with issues of interest to obtuse politicians on behalf of their respective oligarchic factions is just so not worth the effort.

    2. Judith

      You said: “Until there is a similar massive collective response by ordinary people in the U.S….”

      I wonder what it will take to actually make this happen. I do not know what it will take to overcome the inertia and fear of action here.

        1. Judith

          Since there is great popular support for single payer, I would think that might also motivate collective action.

          From Stop Trying to Redefine Medicare for All

          “Only a mass social movement can overcome the huge resource and political advantages of the medical-industrial complex. It requires elected officials having to choose between voters and donors — and creating an overwhelming demand that forces them to accede to fundamental reform. To be clear, that means guaranteed health care for all with no barriers to care.”

      1. rd

        Farmers not getting their support payments due to the government shutdown especially considering the support payments are to replace the lost revenue from the Chinese tariffs on agricultural products in response to Trump tariffs.

        Small manufacturers moving their operations to Mexico because the steel and aluminum tariffs increased their costs while they are still competing with the same prices for finished goods.

        Losing their health care because they thought it was the other people that were viewed as takers.

        At some point in time, many of the people will understand that they are on the table as a menu item instead of being at the table being fed. The Twilight Zone was prescient when they did “To Serve Man”.

    3. JohnM

      Here, let me connect some dots between immigration and some of your personal, pressing issues.

      secure job…depending on your line of work, your job may have gone to an immigrant or you are competing with an immigrant for a potential job.

      traffic congestion (and other infrastructure usage)…population increase resulting from immigration results in overuse of existing infrastructure.

      saving money to retire…saving for retirement might be easier if your wages were not suppressed by labor competition of immigrant workers.

      clean and safe environment…population increase causing overuse of natural resources and/or exceeding assimilation capacity of nature systems.

      1. jrs

        and a border wall is going to solve that? I have a bridge to sell you er a wall to sell you um… some misdirected infrastructure investment! Yea that’s the ticket!

        1. Oh

          The wall is another corporate handout masked as a “people issue”. We already gave a billion $ to Boeing for an electronic wall that did not work! And that was for a short distance of the border.

      2. Aumua

        All of this is predicated on a certain viewpoint that I can’t help but see as limited and unsustainable in the long run: that the U.S. (or any country) is some kind of isolated, self contained entity, separate from the rest of planet Earth. Point by point.

        Jobs, retirement and wages: When you have globalist corporations that can (and do) move their manufacturing to wherever they can pay the least wages, then doesn’t the idea of immigrants coming here take our jobs lose all meaning? If wages are being suppressed, then who is to blame: the labor competition, or a system that puts profits for the few ahead of all of the laborers?

        Traffic, infrastructure and environment: When the air we breathe here in the U.S. is the same atmosphere that the Chinese breathe, then what effect does immigration ultimately have on how clean and safe that air is? In the long term, the same holds true for other uses/abuses of Earth’s natural resources. How long can living in a walled garden while the rest of the planet goes to shit be maintained? How long can we in the west live like kings at the expense of the rest of the world?

        American privilege, American exceptionalism, America first. Why should America be first? Because we have the biggest guns? Look at the bigger picture. In the long run, the problems of some of us are truly the problems of all of us. I know we still need to have borders, because of the way things are. A shift of perspective is all I’m talking about, to a more planetary view of our collective problems and solutions.

      3. zagonostra

        I’m not denying that immigration may have a marginal impact on my life, but it’s not top priority for me or for most of the people I know.

        Also, why not pass (and enforce) a law making any employer who hires an illegal immigrant subject to a $100K fine and a year in prison? I don’t think you would then need to spend billions on a wall.

        1. jrs

          I got the same impression from Trump’s speech and the Dem rebuttal, Trump and his useless symbolic wall, Dems and their tone deafness to the real issues affecting people. Why oh why is this our politics?

          Oh I definitely think Trump is the worst of the two, sui generis is he, if it’s not mental illness it’s something akin to it but more strategic, a willfully feigned delusion, faking mental illness almost. But yea …

          I’m still ot sure the yellow jackets have a real ideology and a political movement needs one *badly* but that has little to do with the farce that is the U.S. political system.

          1. c_heale

            Why does a political movement need an ideology? And the yellow vests from everything I have read are non-ideological, which is one reason they have been so successful in causing massive protests. They appear to just want to be given a fair go (as the Aussie’s say).

  5. David

    ‘For those who may be interested in more detail on the resignation of Macron’s nominee to manage the “national debate” arising from the gilets jaunes activities, here are a few more bits and pieces. Jouanno would have had a salary of nearly 15,000 Euros per month, which is more than a lot of French people earn in a year, and on the same sort of level as the President. This is a totally gratuitous and self-inflicted wound for Macron and co, and makes you wonder if there is an ounce of political sense to be found anywhere in the Elysée.
    For the brief period that Jouanno was in charge, she didn’t seem to have any clearer idea of what this “national debate” was all about or how it was intended to be conducted than anyone else. The government originally said that the debate would be limited to four themes: the ecological transition, tax and spending, democracy and citizenship, and the organisation of the state. Any reconsideration of the abolition of the tax on the richest was ruled out in advance. But some government members have realised, and begun to say, that you can’t actually stop people debating what the want to debate. Unfortunately, opinion polls suggest that some of the subjects people most want to discuss (including immigration and the abolition of the gay marriage law) are not those the government expected. Nobody, including the government, seems to know which subjects will actually be allowed to be discussed.
    As regards the modalities, in a few days the country is supposed to start the first phase, where citizens can register their demands at the Town Hall in what is being called a “cahier de doléances”, which historians among you will recognise as the term for the list of requests from the common people to the King to correct injustices, under the ancien régime. The fact that the term is being used now tells you something about Macron’s image of himself. After that, there will be a debate of some sort. Probably.
    As a reaction to the GJ, this is just ridiculous, and widely acknowledged as such. It’s also rank amateurism from a government which seems typically to engage its mouth before its brain is in gear.

    1. Redlife2017

      Wow. That is not just tone-deaf but blind and willfully a-historical as well. I’ll guess Macron and his people didn’t pay attention to what happened when the 1789 Estates-General met. The 3rd estate quickly got fed up (lots more detail, of course) and called a National Assembly. And what document was supposed to be used by the Estates-General as a document of issues people wanted discussed? Why, wouldn’t you know it? It was the above named “cahier de doléances”.

      Ya, know, I’m thinking this might not end well for Macron and his cronies, as the French do have a bit of form in making radical changes.

    2. Bugs Bunny

      Hi David – from what I read this morning in Le Monde and Le Parisien, Jouanno retains her job and salary but is only bowing out of the task where she’d be confronted by the (angry) public…

      This whole “grand débat” is nothing but smoke and mirrors since Macron has repeatedly said that he intends to continue following his “reforms” roadmap. Except they apparently will delay the pension gutting measures until after the European Parliament election.

      1. David

        Yes, the actual formula she used was that she would withdraw from the “pilotage” (roughly coordination or organisation) of the debate, but she didn’t actually say in as many words she would resign as President of the Commission. But the current headline on the Le Monde site asks who will take over from her (answer, nobody has any idea). In addition, it’s now being suggested, in the same story, that other members of the Commission will resign as well, fearing political interference. And Jouanno is saying that protests at her salary are just manoeuvres on behalf of the politicians and the experts who think the public should have no say. There’s tone-deafness and then there’s serious tone-deafness.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Thanks for those notes David. Nice to be able to go deeper into the headlines. Cannot believe how detached from reality from most French people Macron must be. Hiring that person at 15,000 Euros per month was just throwing more fuel on the flames. No listening tours for Macron I guess. I wonder what will happen as the weather starts to warm up in France and more people are able to get out and about. Macron appears to want to fudge up some bureaucratic mechanism that will sap the energy of the protestors but as the problems that drove the protestors are not going away, I do not think that the protestors will either.

          1. Carey

            Some commentary post-Jouanno resignation:

            “…Not only is the economy facing a setback. The fabric of France could be at risk as France’s former Education Minister, Luc Ferry, who served in Jacques Chirac’s government and is now a philosophiser has said that the French police should be able to use their weapons once and for all and open live fire on “gilets jaunes” protestors.

            “…What I don’t understand is that we don’t give the means to the police to put an end to this violence. …”

            Yeah, that’ll work. Mind boggling.


            1. FluffytheObeseCat

              Well…. live fire works beautifully in the U.S. in keeping the more middle aged, middle class, respectable members of society from committing mass action. Similar, and indeed, more thorough means of suppression work great in China.

              The French have a storied history of successful mass defense against tyranny. But, they were tyrannized for centuries before they became Revolution-savvy. The Macron elite believe suppression tactics will work well…..when applied against an age and class cohort that still has a lot to lose. They’re probably mostly right.

                1. JBird4049

                  America is weird in that it is both a leftist and conservative and libertarian value among large numbers of gun rights and arms in general. The proportions are different among the groups and some have tried really hard to shoehorn a belief in the right to bear arms into only a fringish paranoiac conservative faction, but that is no different really than the use of identity politics and historical erasure, for political and social power.

    3. Craig H.

      I liked this article from Reuters:

      France’s Macron reeling as tough stance against ‘yellow vests’ backfires

      The government would not relent in its pursuit of reforms to reshape the economy, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on Friday, branding the remaining protesters agitators seeking to overthrow the government. Twenty-four hours later, he was fleeing his office out of a back door as protesters invaded the courtyard and smashed up several cars. “It wasn’t me who was attacked,” he later said. “It was the Republic.”

      1. ewmayer

        “It wasn’t me who was attacked,” he later said. “It was the Republic.”

        IOW, he is literally saying “l’état, c’est moi.” That sounds about right for this cozy class of entitled “meritocratic” elites, which uses its elite-uni degrees and bankster-jobs-on-the-résumé as titles of nobility. They like to call themselves technocrats, but they are simply modern-day aristocrats in business suits, and without even the minimal good grace of dispensing noblesse oblige.

        1. todde

          Benjamin Griveaux goes on air and calls the yellow jackets cowards.

          Within 24 hours they break down the door to his office building and force him to flee.

          “It wasn’t me who was attacked,” he later said.

          Maybe, maybe not. It was definitely you who ran tho.

          More of this please.

    4. Olga

      That is funny – “cahier de doléances” – have not heard it in a long time and instantly recognised from the French king biographies (what passed for fun in my teens (only partly kidding) was memorising all those kings in chronological order). If that is where the conversation is headed, Macron’s time cannot be too long. But perhaps his fate will be kinder than Louis XVI’s.

  6. The Rev Kev

    “Guangdong Man Fined $150 for Using a VPN”

    U.S. Justice Department seen to be furiously taking notes.

    1. ambrit

      The U.S. Justice Department should send a team over to the Silicon Valley and Seattle to study how the american it. companies helped design the Great Firewall of China.
      I’ll bet those companies have the relevant algos in their files to get the American Panopticon up and running at full strength quickly.
      The New TSA. Thought Safety Administration.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A reminder that the next potential hegemon might not be kinder nor gentler than the current one.

      Given the history of many records of ‘we invented here first,’ we should prepared to be impressed, though in many ways, it’s less likely to be about the fundamental ways humans intereact with the rest of the planet, but more likely to be of the ‘our surveillance is the first of its kind in the history of the word, and our hypersonic missiles and drones are more powerful than yours’ kind.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    Brutal attack on five Romanian men blamed on loyalist paramilitaries Belfast Telegraph. Just baseball bats. Not guns.

    Low level racist assaults like this have been going on like this for many years in protestant areas in Northern Ireland. Since the 1960’s Loyalist organisations have had strong links with neo-nazi groups in the UK and elsewhere (Republican groups have always opted for left wing politics when linking up worldwide), but since they have access to weapons they’ve always done what other groups just liked to talk about.

    The UK media likes to pretend this doesn’t happen, or vaguely connects it with ‘nasty things Irish people do to each other’. In reality these groups have always been closely related to the DUP, now a happy partner in government in London. And most loyalist groups are known to be heavily infiltrated by British Intelligence Services, but they’ve always turned a blind eye to this in order to maintain control (and occastionally as blackmail material).

    1. makedoanmend

      Yeah, I remember over a year ago reading an article in one of the Belfast rags which published a story that racial assaults had overtaken sectarian assaults statistically. It almost sounded like they thought that that was progress of some sort. Only in the North.

      On the grapevine, I heard years ago that when the Polish moved into East Belfast in numbers they were harassed by so-called loyalists. However, the Polish banded together and, shall we say, settled matters themselves.

    2. ambrit

      “Just baseball bats. Not guns.”
      I’ve not been willfully hit with a baseball bat. I’ve been willfully beaten with a two by four. Take my word for it. After a few moments, one wishes for the release from pain a shot to the head supposedly would give. Beating someone with a bat is on a par with tarring and feathering. Both can be incredibly painful and often fatal.
      Will we soon see the return of ‘kneecapping?’

      1. todde

        Just baseball bats. Not guns.

        It’s nice to see people going back to the traditional, hands on ways of yester year.

        release from pain a shot to the head supposedly would give

        My buddy took a .45 to the head one time. He didn’t die quick. The other murder I witnessed was a group of men beating another guy to death with bricks. He didn’t die quick either.

        It’s usually ‘dealer’s choice’ from my experiences anyway.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Are there some instances where the condemned or victimized are allowed to choice which way to go?

          And what do they pick? A bullet to the head or a knife (perhaps not to sharp) to the neck?

          1. todde

            depends on if they are aristocracy or not.

            I have been beaten with bats on several occasions. The thought of somebody ‘just shooting me in the head’ never crossed my mind, I can tell you that.

              1. todde

                Anger can get you far in these situations. We also trained, so there was a thought process that was going on.

                most of the time I was getting beat as fast as I could run.

                the unwritten rule was: ‘beat them until they see Jesus.’ Which means they weren’t going to beat you to death.

                We would also beat each other with light clubs that would cause bruises and welting, but not break bones so you would get used to pain.

                I got chased into the truck of an old abandoned car once, that beating went on forever because I was covering my head and they couldn’t swing on me, just jab me with the bats. probably the closest I ever wished to just being dead.

                They eventually drug me out of the back and beat me to sweet unconsciousness.

                1. todde

                  but it mostly had to do with watching the guy who took a bullet to his head die.

                  his heels were drumming on the floor, then he was twitching, then he died.

                  he had a hole in his head you could have stuck 2 fingers in, the blood poured from his skull like it was a water hose for a long time.

                  when it stopped, he was dead.

                  1. todde

                    mostly it is a sinking feeling, when the beatings go on and on.

                    like the ground will (hopefully?) swallow you up.

                    1. ambrit

                      That totally helpless feeling. Yes. I grok that. It was when I realized that the person beating me was out of control that I really started to get scared.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Historically, most Chinese aristocrats preferred a silk string to hang or strangle themselves to beheading (one whole body vs two separate pieces…the latter is hard for travelling about in the after life).

  8. PlutoniumKun

    Guangdong Man Fined $150 for Using a VPN Sixth Tone. Caveat that I don’t know if this is pro forma, or part of a real crackdown.

    This seems the next step in what has been a systematic crackdown over the past few years. The Chinese government for a long time turned a blind eye to VPN’s and the lively informal social networks online but have been slowly either closing them down or ramping up overt surveillance. VPN’s were useful for allowing legitimate businesses to bypass the ‘Great Firewall’, but China no longer cares about that – it is systematically pushing foreigners out of the country (not travellers, those who have settled for business or work). And increasingly this seems to apply to those Chinese who seem too comfortable with western ways.

    Its not just online – under Xi, China is becoming far more overtly nationalistic and authoritarian. At first, I think many people thought it was just part of the ebb and flow of CCP power games, but it is now becoming very clear I think that its a long term strategy to solidify centralised power, even if it is at the expense of some economic growth.

    1. 4paul

      I wonder if many of us have been looking in the wrong direction – we focus on parallels with the rise of the right wing in Europe, but maybe the US and China are developing in parallel; China is arming itself (South China Sea, aircraft carriers and ballistic missile subs) and is purging foreigners and dissidents, the US is arming itself and purging foreigners and cracking down on the press (thanks Obama!).

      The UK and France and Romania and Italy and … aren’t going to take over the world (they already tried, and succeeded). The Soviet Union sort of tried, but not that hard. The US and China, however: China has several thousand years of trying to conquer its neighbors, the US has five hundred but hasn’t done it all the way (like England or Macedonia).

      It certainly seems China is better at playing the long game, their entanglements in Africa and Central/South America (building infrastructure in exchange for plundering resources) seem to be succeeding while the US gets quagmired in the Middle East (didn’t a certain binLaden guy write that book?).

      1. PlutoniumKun

        There is a whole industry based around guessing ‘what China really wants’. I don’t think China seriously seeks world or even Pacific domination, but it is very clear that it (not unreasonably) seeks strategic depth, which in practical terms means complete military and economic control of the north and south China Seas (essentially, the outer Pacific rim line of islands), and a client state buffer on all its land borders (except Russia of course, but geography means this isn’t a problem China). It also seeks control of the key sea lanes for trade, which of course extends much further.

        One thing is clear though is that China has always seen becoming the ‘workshop of the world’ as a means to an end, not an end to itself. The ‘end’ is a self-reliant and prosperous China under the very firm guiding control of the CCP, which is increasingly being personalised as Xi himself. China seeks international respect and prosperity and domestic ‘tranquility’ as important targets. It is the misfortune of its smaller neighbours that it seems to see their domestication as a necessary part of this aim.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sixteen Prefectures (see Wikipedia).

        The last two Chinese dynasties (the Ming and Qing) controlled the Great Wall, and they could focus on conquering their neighbors (Hideyoshi dreamed of conquering China, but he couldn’t get pass Korea and their ‘turtle’ ships).

        In contrast, the Song dynasty inherited one strategic weakness from the Tang dynasty (towards the very end) and subsequently the Five Dynasties period – that is, the Sixteen Prefectures being ceded to Aguda and the Liao kingdom.

        Without the Great Wall (that lied within the Sixteen Prefectures), the Song was vulnerable. And that was what happened, when the tribe that replaced the Kithans, the Jurchens, seized Kaifeng, the Song capital.

        The parallel would like building a wall along the Southern Border, only to lose California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

      3. a different chris

        >however: China has several thousand years of trying to conquer its neighbors, …It certainly seems China is better at playing the long game

        Really? Seems like they are probably the world’s biggest failures, the Great Wall being a monument to their inability to hold their property let alone seize more.

        Now I know (dimly) that China is 4 (? again, dimly) separate regions that were (I think?) once roughly the modern equivalent of countries, and they got joined together, so maybe there’s that.

        But all they’ve done is lose (cough Taiwan cough) over the past 300 years, and so how long is the “long game” supposed to be, anyway? Heck if you extend it enough then the Greeks are only temporarily embarrassed.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Today’s China was forged by the Manchus.

          Traditionally, it did not include Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet.

          In the years and decades after the XInhai Revolution, Mongolia was ‘lost.’ Prior to that, in the 19th century, Russia wrestled Vladivostok from Beijing.

  9. roadrider

    Re: Cory Doctorow: Disruption for Thee, But Not for Me

    How about taking public transit or seeking out he co-op ride share on your own? Too simple?

    And why would we need a “Meta-Amazon” to find indie bookstores? I don’t buy anything from Amazon and don’t seem to have any difficulty finding indie book stores without some “app”.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Doctorow is a futurist and does seem to think the solution is better tech and not simply less tech. IMO the cab system isn’t and never was as bad and inefficient as he claims –

      Take taxis: there is nothing good about the idea that cab drivers and cab passengers meet each other by random chance, with the drivers aimlessly circling traffic-clogged roads while passengers brave the curb lane to frantically wave at them.

      First of all encounters between cabs and riders are not always random – riders can use these things called phones to call up these people called dispatchers who will send a cab directly to their door, usually within 10-20 minutes, often less. Cab drivers do not simply aimlessly circle because they are not brainless morons and understand they will have to pay for their own fuel – they are quite often parked at cabstands waiting for a dispatcher to match them up with a ride. This makes it quite convenient for pedestrians to know where to go to find a cab. When I have needed to find one, I generally either go to a cabstand and gently tap on the driver’s door, or if I’m on the street and see a cab driving with no fare, I lift my arm and make eye contact with the driver which is generally enough for the cabbie to pull over, no frantic waving necessary. If anyone is clogging the roads aimlessly circling, from what I can tell it is the app drivers who aren’t limited in number and must move from neighborhood to neighborhood as prices “surge” to get the best fares.

      But despite his hyperbole about the dangers and difficulties in finding a ride pre-Uber, the article is excellent in describing the ways these soi disant disruptors use existing regulation to their great advantage when it suits them (and rely on officials looking the other way when it doesn’t). I hadn’t realized that it’s the same Congressional regulation that prevents a person from refilling a printer cartridge that also allows these platform companies to stifle competition.

      Perhaps our feckless Congresspeople could do something about this if they weren’t so busy yammering about Russian bots – just a simple suggestion to any who might happen to be reading. Do your jobs.

      1. Cal2

        I was a cab driver in college. It was the finest way to lose fear of speaking to strangers that there is, the best way to learn to empathize, the greatest revelation of the misery and the joys that others have, the most revealing thing to learn the pulse of a community, and it might be a prerequisite to holding any high office where you deal with people.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          I worked in the restaurant industry for many years. I have always favored of a rule barring one from dining out until they have received a ‘Diners Card’ which can only be earned after having worked at least 90 days in the industry in some capacity. I like your idea of making something similar necessary for public office.

          You’d think our leaders would have a lot more empathy for the population they are regulating if they had to walk in ‘deplorable’ shoes for a while but then again you never know. Our recently departed governor grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, poor and abused himself, but in 8 years of office never seemed to meet a poor person he didn’t try to persecute more.

      2. a different chris

        >Perhaps our feckless Congresspeople could do something about this if they weren’t so busy yammering about Russian bots

        And that is exactly why they intend to continue to yammer about Russian bots.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Doctorow is a futurist and does seem to think the solution is better tech

        I disagree. To me, these are the two key points of the article.

        (1) Co-ops:

        But the drivers were undaunted. They formed a co-operative and in months, they had cloned the Uber app and launched a new business called Ride Austin, which is exactly like Uber: literally the same drivers, driving the same cars, and charging the same prices. But it’s also completely different from Uber: the drivers own this company through a worker-owned co-op. They take home 25% more per ride than they made when they were driving for Uber. Uber and Lyft drivers commute into Austin from as far away as San Antonio just to drive for Ride. That’s how much better driving for a worker co-op is.

        I remember when the term “platform cooperativism” was first bandied about to describe this kind of thing.

        That’s not simply “better tech.” It’s tech + better social relations in the form of co-ops + .a rethink of the “platform” business model. These are ownership issues, not technical issues.

        (2) Family-blogging rentiers in the so-called sharing economy space:

        That’s where the trouble starts. Tech law is a minefield of overly broad, superannuated rules that have been systematically distorted by companies that used “disruption” to batter their way into old industries, but now use these laws to shield themselves from any pressure from upstarts to seek to disrupt them.

        First is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act…. CFAA is used to threaten, intimidate, sue, and even jail people engaged in otherwise perfectly lawful activity, merely because they have violated some term of service on the way. The metastasis of terms of service into sprawling novellas of impenetrable legalese has created a world where anything you do to frustrate the commercial ambitions of digital monopolists is a potential criminal offense.

        Then there’s Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, a Bill Clinton bill that creates a felony for “bypassing an effective means of access control” (AKA Digital Rights Management or DRM) for copyrighted works.

        Together, the CFAA and DMCA have given digital businesses access to a shadowy legal doctrine that was never written by Congress but is nevertheless routinely enforced by the courts: Felony Contempt of Business-Model.

        IMNSHO, these are both important points — and original points, at least original to me (and I do try to keep track).

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Good points.

          My feeling RE: #1 was that he was still describing a business model dependent on a platform and all that implies, however if drivers are also part owners of said platform that does indeed make a difference. You do have a business in that case. I don’t own a cell phone so I’m sure I’m probably missing something, but my initial comment about the cab service is because I’ve always felt that all Uber does is allow people to be a little lazier – with pretty much everyone except me carrying around a phone on their person, how hard is it to simply look up the number of a local cab company and call for a ride? Uber isn’t revolutionizing anything – the cell phones did that. All Uber is doing is saving people about 30 seconds of lookup and dialing time. I do get Doctorow’s wish that these tech companies be hoisted on their own petard with his idea of a platform co-op to reroute calls from Uber’s own platform, but why not develop a co-op that doesn’t depend on Uber at all?

          As to #2, I agree wholeheartedly!

        2. cnchal

          And Uber and Lyft’s apps are encrypted on your phone, so to reverse-engineer them, you’d have to decrypt them (probably by capturing an image of their decrypted code while it was running in a virtual phone simulated on a desktop computer). Decrypting an app without permission is “bypassing an effective means of access control” for a copyrighted work (the app is made up of copyrighted code).

          Ignorance is me. How is code copyrighted? Wouldn’t code have to be published for all to see before it can be copyrighted? Confused in La La Land.

          The main point I got from the article is the same as yours. The Family blogging digital rentiers have double disrupted and broken people by making it illegal to disrupt back, thanks to the most corrupt family blogging politicians money can buy.

      4. RMO

        “Take taxis: there is nothing good about the idea that cab drivers and cab passengers meet each other by random chance, with the drivers aimlessly circling traffic-clogged roads while passengers brave the curb lane to frantically wave at them.”

        I don’t know a single person who has EVER hailed a cab on the streets. Every one always phoned the taxi company to arrange a pickup – and this goes back to the 80’s before cellphones became almost universal. For ages I thought that waving and shouting at a passing taxi was just a made-up or archaic movie and television thing. Even in cities where it was a regular thing are people like Doctorow really so freaking stupid that it never occurred to them that they could have picked up the dam phone to call a cab any time in the last half-century or so?

        1. JBird4049

          I don’t know a single person who has EVER hailed a cab on the streets.

          Really? I have seen others do and have done both in San Francisco and Manhattan. This was during the Dark Ages so cell phones were not a thing.


          1. RMO

            I live in Vancouver and yes, really – I don’t know anyone who has ever hailed a cab on the street. It’s all been done over the telephone, even in pre-cellphone days. I’m not saying my experience is universal just that it’s been easy to get a taxi by phone for decades and Uber/Lyft’s innovations seem to consist of 1: replacing a voice conversation with a dispatcher with a bunch of code 2: twisting the screws even tighter on the people who actually do the driving and 3: operating a huge loss.

        2. vegasmike

          I lived in New York for most of my life. I often hailed cabs, mostly when I was out late at night, because back in the 80s and 90s the city was a dangerous place,.

      5. Elizabeth Burton

        Re: taxis, in most cities these days there’s an app for those, too. And you know the driver has been carefully vetted. And is fully insured.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      In reading the comments in “Locus” made to Doctorow’s article the following caught my eye:
      Dave: “It’s kinda strange that numerous comments here are focusing on left-right political allegiances when the essay was targeting poorly written law …”
      I’m not sure “poorly written law” captures the full essence of Doctorow’s essay, but the left-right, Democrat-Republican flavor characteristic of much of what passes for “public debate” is disturbing.

      Doctorow slants to his futurist, techno approach but as you suggest the issues he raises present many avenues which deserve exploration and which he left unexplored.

  10. PlutoniumKun

    Dublin remains top ‘Brexodus’ location ahead of Frankfurt and Paris, EY says The Irish Times. Waiting for the Bob Marley parody, here…

    The most interesting part of that article is the very last paragraph, where they say that its clear that numerous smaller companies in the UK financial world simply have no idea what the regulatory issues they’ll be faced are post-Brexit. Its a bit late now.

  11. GlobalMisanthrope

    Interesting as his article is, Doctorow is completely wrong about how/why UberLyft re-entered the Austin market. From the Texas Tribune:

    On May 29, [2017] Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation to place regulatory oversight of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft with the state. House Bill 100 pre-empts Texas cities from imposing ride-hailing regulations. Under standardized state rules, ride-hailing companies must have a permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, pay an annual fee to operate and perform local, state and national criminal background checks on drivers annually. But they don’t have to fingerprint their drivers, as an Austin ordinance previously mandated.

    This was a very public, well-reported fight that Austin lost. I’m really surprised by his mistake. Makes me wonder about the rest of the article.

    1. Carolinian

      Clearly you are correct but I’m not sure it matters much to his larger point (and ongoing theme as a writer) that the “felony contempt-of-business-model” is a tool being used by incumbents to thwart the innovation that they enjoyed when they were not incumbents. Indeed this model applies far beyond tech libertarians as those political party incumbents use gerrymandering and other legal measures to protect their business model and the medical profession uses licensing requirements to protect doctor and hospital business models under the rubric of “safety.” Dean Baker has long been one of the biggest proponents of reforming these “business model” measures.

      1. GlobalMisanthrope

        I’m not nit-picking. (I’m not sure what gave you the impression that I am unfamiliar with Doctorow’s work or the issue on which the article is centered.) If anything, the true story makes it a more powerful example. That’s why it’s so mystifying/troubling that he got it wrong.

        He also failed to ask SXSW why RideShare was missing from the packet, leaving the reader to assume it was due to UberLyft lobbying. I don’t know why SXSW made the choice, but I do know that most people I know have stopped using RideShare because of their erratic response times.

        So my point is that the reporting supporting his ideas is shoddy. The fact that I agree w his larger point makes that all the more concerning to me.

        1. jsn

          Excellent points all!

          His comment about the quality of Austin taxis pre-Uber does correspond to my experience however, but from a pretty long time ago.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          I take your point, though I disagree with the significance you give to it. Yes, it would be nice if Doctorow did better fact checking, and the facts would strengthen his case.

          But my mind coupled your concern over this matter with a concern increasingly troubling me. Notice how many of the links end with some variant of:
          “Enjoy the article? Then please consider donating today…”
          or “Please deactivate your ad-blocker.” [Before I turned on my ad-blocker my browser regularly crashed from the flow of ads which flashed and danced and made my eyes tired.]
          Wasn’t there a time when newspapers had people who were hired as ‘fact-checkers’? I think we will see many and more and more cases where opinions and reports have poor fact-checking, and where will the facts come from to check? We live in an unstable interstice between the ‘News’ of the past and whatever the future holds. I’m not so flush I could meaningfully spread donations across even a small number of the growing numbers of open hands. What will survive?

          1. Carolinian

            He’s not writing a report about Austin but using Austin as an example of how tech disrupters are hypocrites when they complain about others disrupting them. If he got some facts wrong it doesn’t invalidate his point, assuming one agrees with it, because the Austin situation is just one example of many.

  12. abynormal

    “The realative illiquidity of the small-company shares – which often contribute to their being undervalued – also increases their volatility.’ W. Tilson

    “Volatility is Good. Stock market volatility is what helps it give you stellar returns.” Manjo Arora

    Jack be nimble, Jack be quick…smash those candle $tick$

      1. Lee

        But is it bullet proof? It is my understanding that a bullet up the butt is quite painful, not to mention in certain cases, that’s the same place where some people, such as those who would promote and drive such vehicles, have their heads.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      First they walk on four legs.

      Then, they fly…I suppose (or are we imagining our future backwards – that is, haven’t we already dreamed of that years ago?).

  13. DJG

    From the short description of what is going on with that “unnamed corporation.”

    Although the filings in the Supreme Court are not public, a December 18 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reveals that the grand jury is seeking information from the corporation, which is owned by an unidentified foreign country. The corporation argued in the lower courts that it did not need to provide the information because it is immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and because doing so would cause it to violate the laws of its own country. The D.C. Circuit rejected both of those arguments, so now the company has asked (or soon plans to ask) the Supreme Court to weigh in.

    All of this is highly unusual. The article also notes that it is unlikely that if the case moves to the Supreme Court that questioning by the justices would be held in a closed-door session.

  14. Anonymous

    Re: Doctorow Disruption

    I am a Professional Engineer in Texas and had to undergo a criminal background check and fingerprinting. Its good to know that cab and ride share drivers have to do the same given their continuous interaction with the public in a way where somebody could take advantage. The process is not onerous and just takes a few minutes.

    A primary reason why I have shied away from heavily over-weighting my portfolio with technology stocks, especially service sector technology, is that I viewed it as having a fast business cycle time with huge potential for disruption before you could extract value out of a firm through dividends etc. So the automatic balancing that comes through owning tech through a total stock market index fund is just fine with me.

  15. DJG

    Did Our Gina Run a Black Site at Guantanamo?

    Of course she did. The patterns of evasion by the various “assets” (and are these people truly assets?) makes it obvious. Mohamedou Ould Slahi in his book Guantanamo Diaries repeatedly points out male and female “special interrogators,” one of whom portrayed herself as FBI. Which is too clever by half.

    This is what happens when the panic-stricken citizenry doesn’t deal with torture because people are too distracted by their own fear and economic insecurities. This is what happens when the government is filled with empty suits like George “Candy Man” Bush, Empty Obama, Claire “Bright Shiny” McCaskill, La Grande Clinton, Moral Beacon Dianne Feinstein, Weathervane Lindsay Graham, and so on and so forth. Torture, like de facto and de jure segregation, is the poison that just keeps on poisoning.

  16. a different chris

    The border wall links are great — and I can’t see (ok, sigh, maybe I can) why the Demostupids don’t make these easy points:

    1) We have plenty of walls built, they don’t really work all that well
    2) We spend a ridiculous amount of money on the Border beyond what we’ve spent on those walls. Every day. We have Border Patrol, ICE, etc. Trump makes it sound like it is wide open, and it isn’t, because he is an idiot. Cops are more effective than any wall.

    Of course, there would be a third point that they understandably won’t make via the Orlov links:
    3) Most of you are gonna want to leave the country in about a generation, do you want to spend your own money be fenced in?

    Canada will have the biggest problem, but actually Mexico would be a better destination except we will have screwed that up by warming the globe beyond all reason.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Democrats are still the Democrats, a party that heavily invested in defending our Southern border to one up Republicans by showing how tough they were when the 9/11 terrorists came through Newark. Before Richard Clarke was made persona non grata, he accused the CIA of not turning over the 9/11 terrorists to the FBI in a botched attempt to flip them.

      Being stuck in 1996 is a huge problem too. Being a less white male version of the GOP is the going to lead to a party of rationale people. After all, Nancy was part of the Gang of Eight. She was well informed of every war crime of the Bush Administration. It’s a travesty she’s not rotting in the Hague.

    2. a different chris

      Oh, but I forgot – one stupid question that illustrates my cluelessness: What “property” are they “seizing”? Are these properties in both countries? I would have imagined a “wall” separating me and my neighbor as running on my property line. That wouldn’t split anything, just make it annoying to go borrow something.

      Can’t believe I have to waste my beautiful mind on understanding such a stupid idea in the first place.

      PS: the aside in the one article about “breaking into a home” — yeah, that will never happen again once we build the wall! No home-grown criminals at all on this side of the border, no sirree!

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      1) plenty of walls built.

      I group all the customs and immigrants checkpoints at our border crossing, harbors and airports in the ‘wall’ category. There, you see room partitions, walls, barriers, etc.

      These ‘walls’ work quite well, though, the lines (or queques) can be quite all.

      It can be quite tempting, while waiting to enter, say, Tiajuana from San Ysidro, to just park the car somewhere close and bypass the whole thing.

    4. RMO

      “The border wall links are great — and I can’t see (ok, sigh, maybe I can) why the Demostupids don’t make these easy points:

      1) We have plenty of walls built, they don’t really work all that well
      2) We spend a ridiculous amount of money on the Border beyond what we’ve spent on those walls. Every day. We have Border Patrol, ICE, etc. Trump makes it sound like it is wide open, and it isn’t, because he is an idiot. Cops are more effective than any wall”

      Those would be awkward points to use because it would be difficult to avoid showing how many Democrats have enthusiastically supported previous wall building and border militarization efforts. That would kind of throw a spanner in the works of the corporate Democrat “we don’t have anything to offer you except to say we’re not Trump!” strategy.

  17. Stephen Haust

    “Forgotten France rises up” – Le Monde Diplomatique:

    In the short, angry video, viewed 6.2m times, that helped launch the yellow vest movement,
    Jacline Mouraud, 51, a composer and hypnotherapist from Brittany, asked Macron three times,
    ‘What are you doing with the cash?’

    LMD says this video was viewed 6.2 million times. Interestingly, Youtube credits it with only
    82,751 views, 2321 thumbs up and 295 thumbs down.

    1. FluffyteObeseCat

      It’s 2019. Add the views on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other news and social media venues to your total. Also email downloads.

    2. The Rev Kev

      YouTube does this. I saw a video of a Russian flashmob back about 2015 that was getting insane levels of views. Then one day the numbers dropped of Views to only a few tens of thousands. Just checked and saw that they are back up to over a million views again but still, why the drop?

  18. a different chris

    To go from being a stationary polyp to a floating medusa is almost akin to humans evolving the ability to swim through the air and capture birds with springy, netlike appendages.

    Wow. But I would fix that sentence to say “maturing into” instead of “evolving”. Evolving might be technically correct, but we non-scientists tend to use it to mean generational changes. But this is what happens to a given member of the group. This is adolescent changes on…on… on steroids is the usual moniker for massive changes, but that phrase isn’t even in the ballpark for this.

    Butterflies have, of course, pulled this trick off too.

    1. Lee

      Based on personal experience and observation, the great developmental miracle among humans is surviving the teenage years.

      1. Wukchumni

        A friend is a 7th grade teacher and has been at it for 25 years, and in my eyes he’s saintly, willingly hanging out with newly minted teenagers…

        He told me last week, he has students that can’t spell their own name~

        He’s in his mid 50’s and is calling it quits next year, along with most everybody his age, he related.

        1. Todde

          When i was growing up there was a kid who couldnt read as a teenager.

          He could sign his name tho.

          Probably more common than you think.

        2. Lee

          Both sad and frightening. Does he cite reasons for this state of affairs? Having been raised in at times dysfunctional circumstances, I owe a great deal to the kind encouragement and guidance of teachers. One of them in high school convinced me on moral and political grounds not to volunteer to fight in Vietnam, and then to become a draft resister. I blame her for all my best inclinations and good behavior.

    2. ewmayer

      What an inane comparison – how is said developmental (*not* evolutionary) process more ‘miraculous’ than a single fertilized ovum developing into a full-fledged sentient human, or into any other complex higher life form?

      I get it – the creatures in question are amazing in their way – as are all the others – but why butcher the science in order to try to convey that point?

  19. Matthew G. Saroff

    Am I the only one who thinks that preparations for a no-deal Brexit should include going to a paper form based system for border controls, because any software based system will require at least 6 months of debugging?

  20. Eureka Springs

    Anyone who holds up the federal government over 6 billion bucks ought to have their head examined. Seems to me they are all doing it. Neither party wants to limit immigration. When they do there will be enforcement measures used against those who hire for exploitation not those who seek some lesser form of desperation and hunger. When I see chicken and hog factory owners/CEO’s frog marched into the county jail without bail for the weekend, or longer, I’ll believe otherwise.

    Look at the damn fence as a jobs program, ridiculous as it may be, and move along. At least they aren’t toting more guns or building bombs.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The fence would be a temporary jobs program which would affect prices across the board as well as an environmental nightmare.

      The consequence of the #resistance/the party of not Trump are part of the problem. Without an alternative program, long term failures such as Pelosi can’t pivot even if she was motivated to. They can only discuss the topic on terms set by the President.

    2. tegnost

      I’ve been loosely following the migrant caravan issue in my newspaper wanderings. I look at the local papers of places I’ve lived once or twice a month, and I noticed that outside of the la times and sd trib no one seemed to care. i scratched that up to it being a non story. Thousands of immigrants are clamoring at the gate is not a story, it’s just a description of every other day in the past 20 + years, but the southland in cali, which is where all the employment and community of immigrants are pervasive, and it is a story for them. Somewhere sometime someone should ask who benefits here outside of the hallowed halls of the nc comment section, and just fyi, it’s not the deplorables. I also, having worked side by side with many immigrant workers, find they have a much more nuanced view of the status quo and we see eye to eye in that we just want the people who hire us to pay us and treat us with respect. It’s Davos Man who is not like us. At any rate I am acquainted with a house cleaner of guatemalan birth who makes $40 an hour in the SJI’s. Pretty sure those rates would please most deplorables, it’s more than I charge for a much wider range of services. Once the immigrants have gotten away from the border regions, they’re no longer cheaper, so then you must ask yourself what is the motivation at that point. I also must add that latin workers are a sort of union, they hire among their own, and if you go to the congregation at home depot lowes et al and get 5 guys to work, don’t be surprised when you get to the jobsite when el jefe among them says $15/hr or we’re out of here.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        i scratched that up to it being a non story.

        This is the other problem Team Blue has with countering Trump on the border. The Cigna post is an issue, and so Pelosi quoting Reagan to burn Trump and make Republicans feel bad about hypocrisy (I know they don’t care) doesn’t provide feed back from the population because the populace cares about more pressing issues.

  21. John Wright

    re:U.S. Carbon Emissions Surged in 2018 Even as Coal Plants Closed

    It still irritates me that the press refers to it as “Carbon emissions” when should be “carbon dioxide” or abbreviated as “CO2” (which is shorter than “Carbon” anyway).

    The article states “As United States manufacturing boomed, for instance, emissions from the nation’s industrial sectors — including steel, cement, chemicals and refineries — increased by 5.7 percent.”

    The article didn’t note that if USA manufacturing were done overseas, it could have the same or larger CO2 footprint, but would not show up in the USA numbers, and USA manufacturing might also save CO2 as a result if less energy were expended in goods transportation world wide.

    The policy makers know what partially works to slow CO2 emissions as was observed in the Global Financial Crisis.

    Having oil at a high price and having a recession works to slow the growth of CO2 emissions.

    Note, CO2 was still added to the “installed base” but the incremental growth was slowed.

    See “Growth of global carbon emissions halved in 2008, say Dutch researchers”

  22. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    First they walk on four legs.

    Then, they fly…I suppose (or are we imagining our future backwards – that is, haven’t we already dreamed of that years ago).

    1. Oregoncharles

      So Macron wants to leave the field to the casseurs (the “breakers”) – besides turning the Yellow Vests into casseurs, themselves.

      Life in France must be getting very interesting.

  23. georgieboy

    Yves, thanks for the link to the Sackler Family/Purdue/Rhodes opioid peddling story.

    What a disgrace — their contempt for fellow citizens must be off the charts.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Lambert’s tried to figure out how to understand how the Dem party operates….this kind of stuff with ‘made men’ makes them only sound more like gangsters.

  24. SerenityNow

    Chinese buyers expand their reach in the US housing market as the middle class gets in on the act

    What a delicious irony. A lot of the push for single family home ownership in the early 20th century was to keep the middle class settled and stave off any interest in communism. And here a century later we have the “communist” Chinese using it as an appreciable asset! Or perhaps it was just the long game. Either way, internationalizing our housing-as-asset model will not be good for affordability…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How many middle class Americans had a second home in another country, way back when there as a middle class in the US?

      Mabye we can do a comparsion.

      1. SerenityNow

        Terrific question. I bet we would find there was some foreign ownership in places like Mexico or Costa Rica (do timeshares count?), but was that due more to leisure value than asset value?

  25. Carla

    Somehow I missed this when it occurred — saw it referenced today in the announcement of Bezos’ divorce.

    Is it a stretch to say that politicians having been bought by wealthy individuals and corporations has led to their somehow accepting — and convincing plenty of unthinking people — that rich people bestowing dribbles of charity on the unwashed masses is an acceptable substitute for a functioning government?

    Bezos launches charity to help poor people he created — a self-licking ice cream cone!

  26. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Some say they’re pests, but opossums can be helpful Bangor Daily News. Opposums eat ticks!

    Do ticks think of themselves as pests, knowing that plants care about their relatives?

    That’s my Zen question for myself today.

  27. Synoia

    Unprovability comes to machine learning

    Identical to human provability. The question should be “Can machine learning demonstrate provable beyond reasonable doubt,” which is the human legal test.

    Not forgetting the GIGO result. Consequently, the full test date must be available for inspection.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      When it comes to smart machines or intelligent machines, one issue is invariability, presumably.

      We think the machines will compute and arrive at the same result every single time.

      But I think it is probably that smart machines will argue among themselves, like us humans…especially intelligent machines made by different corporations.

  28. Oregoncharles

    From “Forgotten France Rises Up:” “Macron can count on supporters beyond the Parisian middle class with money to travel, including journalists. There is the EU. With the UK reverting to insularity, Hungary refractory, Italy disobedient, and US President Donald Trump encouraging all of them, the EU cannot do without France nor punish it like Greece when its books don’t balance.”

    Yeah, that’s what I thought. OTOH, Halimi is quite the optimist, here. Incidentally, the same logic applies to Italy. It’s unrest was expressed electorally.

    When does this stuff reach the US?

  29. frosty zoom

    i have figured out why so many american presidents are left-handed.

    it’s the american way!

    “why do what’s right when you can take what’s left!”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The left hand is related to the right mind or the right brain.

      Fortunately, the right brain is said to be less logical, less rational, but more intuitive, emotional and subjective.

      In the end, it’s like that Taiji symbol and the right is inside the left and the left is inside the right…that reality is not flat, but round, and you reach the right by going left, and you arrive at the left by heading rightward.

  30. Jeff W

    The whole frame of that Jacobin piece, starting with the dek “Elizabeth Warren is no moderate,” seems to be that she’s on the left in the party. Zaid Jilani says, for example, “That is not to say Warren is in the same political lane as Booker or Gillibrand — she is significantly to their left.” But, whatever she is, Benjamin Studebaker, in this blog post, makes the point that Elizabeth Warren is not left-wing.

    It’s not just a category error—placing candidates in that left-wing basket splits the left vote that would otherwise go to Sanders and makes it more likely that a (so-called) centrist will win. Studebaker makes the following point, at 1:03:51, in the Dead Pundits Society podcast embedded in the post:

    …If we drew an accurate line and said “Who are the people who are interested in fundamental institutional change and who aren’t?” we would say that Bernie Sanders is and no one else who has declared or seems interested in declaring is. And so we would say, so, OK, the left of the party is Bernie Sanders and then the centrists should be divided up among those candidates.

    Now that would clearly be a losing proposal for the center because, in that case, the entire left of the party would be behind Sanders and he would have his 40 or 45 percent, like he had last time and they [the center] would be split among five or six or seven different people.

    So the only way that they can win is by convincing people is that some of these centrists are actually part of the left-wing of the party by the use of misleading language and misleading policy proposals and pretending to support things that they don’t really support and aren’t going to be able to do. And that’s why there are loads of different candidates who are now being talked about positioned as alternative left-wing candidates or alternative progressive candidates to Bernie Sanders. And that’s all about creating a split in the left vote so that the center vote doesn’t have to deal with the united 40 or 45 percent behind Bernie Sanders. We’ve gotten that 40-45% behind him before and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do that again unless people believe, and are led to believe, that these other people are actually part of a bloc that they are not part of.

    [my transcript, emphasis added]

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for the transcript. The problem with the Dead Pundits podcast is that you actually have to listen to it. I can’t use it as a way to fall asleep…

  31. Rajesh K

    So the dividing line between going to Heaven and not is whether someone has a smartphone?

    Glad I am going to Heaven then. Phew!! It’s that easy huh :)

  32. bob

    Yves- heads up-

    I tried to email a few links a few days ago.

    ” Delivery incomplete
    There was a temporary problem delivering your message to Gmail will retry for 46 more hours. You’ll be notified if the delivery fails permanently. ”

    “The response was:

    The email account that you tried to reach is over quota. Please direct the recipient to”

    1. ewmayer

      I’ve also been getting failure notices for last several days, but my ISP didn’t provide helpful ‘why’ info – I let Lambert know yesterday in hope he would contact Yves about this.

  33. matsb

    “The 2018 Olof Palme Prize goes to Daniel Ellsberg for his profound humanism and exceptional moral courage.” “More than four decades later Daniel Ellsberg again takes on the Pentagon´s secret war plans. He warns us of a nuclear holocaust, caused by the refusal of the nine nuclear states to comply with the binding commitment of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to further the goals of a nuclear-free world.”

    Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s leading newspaper has an article (in Swedish, I’m afraid) about this. It disappeared rather quickly from the front webpage. Ellsberg’s views don’t exactly echo those of Dagens Nyheter, who have gone all in on Russiagate, are shocked and saddened by Mattis’ departure, can’t wait to join NATO etc.

  34. Elizabeth Burton

    Update on that NYTimes piece on Manafort per RT:

    Also, be advised that the Twitter version of PropOrNot, known as PropOrNotID, announced that the following terms are clear indicators the post is likely a Russian agent/bot/whatever: “Neocon”, “neoliberal”, “Zionist”, “corporatist”, “warmonger”, “Rothschild”, “imperialist”, & “establishment”. The response was hilariously satisfying.

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