Links 2/16/19

Jokers please: first human Mars mission may need onboard comedians Guardian

Watch a satellite spear space debris with a harpoon The Verge (Kevin W)

School climate strike children’s brave stand has our support Guardian (martha r)

ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com uses AI to generate endless fake faces The Verge (Kevin W)

Don’t Call JP Morgan Chase’s New ‘JPM Coin’ a Cryptocurrency Motherboard. This relates directly to Bruce Schneier’s discussion, which we flagged the other day, that “private cyrptocurrencies” are uninteresting and there is established tech that already does what they do.

Monitoring Heart Health, One Toilet Seat at a Time IEEE Spectrum (Chuck L)

New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood New Atlas

China?

China’s housing glut casts pall over the economy Nikkei Asian Review (resilc). Hoo boy:

Moody’s Investors Service has assigned junk status to 51 of the 61 Chinese property companies it assesses….

The property slump has also triggered several episodes of social unrest, which Beijing seeks to avoid at all costs. In October, Shanghai homebuyers came out in droves to protest a developer’s decision to cut prices in an apartment complex. The angry residents screamed slogans denouncing the developer and carried placards saying: “Give us our hard-earned blood-and-sweat money back!”

Brexit

Barnier: May’s Brexit strategy has failed after latest Commons defeat Guardian. A big deal. Barier has been unfailingly polite heretofore.

Pound Shows Signs of Creaking Under Weight of a No-Deal Brexit Bloomberg

Pro-EU panelist strips on Sky News to call attention to Brexit The Hill. BoJo’s sister!

Economist is late. Richard North said a week ago this was already an issue for shipments that had recently left for China:

Recall May refused to face Parliament after the vote. She looks like she’s about to cry:

Labour and Tory MPs in talks over setting up new centrist party Guardian (Kevin W)

Venezuela

Virgin’s Branson plans humanitarian aid concert on Venezuela border Reuters (Kevin W)

Syraqistan

Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies Counterpunch. Resilc: “USA USA will just move the lies to another location.”

This Is What the Beginning of a Real Israel Debate Looks Like New Republic (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

18,000 Android Apps Track Users By Violating Advertising ID Policies Bleeping Computer

US Investigators Probing Years of WikiLeaks Activities, Report Says Reuters

Even Years Later, Twitter Doesn’t Delete Your Direct Messages TechCrunch

GAO Gives Congress Go-ahead For a GDPR-like Privacy Legislation ZDNet

Imperial Collapse Watch

How the US has hidden its empire Guardian

Army calls base housing hazards ‘unconscionable,’ details steps to protect families Reuters. Resilc: “Sorry we need to build a wall. Take out a loan and check into a Trump hotel.”

Elliott Abrams Defends War Crimes As Happening Back In The ’80s When Everyone Was Doing It The Onion (Chuck L)

Why Are These Professional War Peddlers Still Around? American Conservative (resilc)

Hating Neocons Is Becoming Mainstream Again, And It Is Excellent Caitlin Johntone (Randy K)

Trump Transition

Fact-checking Trump’s speech declaring a national emergency to pay for border wall Washington Post (furzy)

Mueller recommends Manafort serve at least 19 years in prison The Hill

Trump will win ez Private Mossad for Hire New Yorker (resilc)

The Migrant Caravan: Made in USA New York Review of Books. Resilc: “When I left the us embassy there in 2002, I was almost willing to walk back myself to get away.”

What If There Were 42 Million at the Border? Gallup (Li)

This Is How AIPAC Really Works Nation

No, Gavin Newsom Didn’t Just Kill California’s High-Speed Rail Project Capitol Public Radio

Trump’s national emergency declaration undermines SCOTUS. Slate (resilc)

Ilhan Omar, Elliott Abrams, and the El Mozote Massacre Atlantic (resilc)

Alphabet unit seeks share of property taxes for Toronto smart city Reuters (JTM)

Amazon Got Exactly What It Deserved—And So Did New York Atlantic (resilc)

Amazon May Get Tax Break for Poor With Project in Richest County Bloomberg (resilc)

Scarborough rips Ocasio-Cortez’s Amazon response: ‘She needs to learn basic things’The Hill. Resilc: “So you know she’s spot on.”

Did Colin Kaepernick bring the NFL to its knees? Deadspin (Chuck L)

What’s Wrong With Functional Finance? (Wonkish) New York Times. Furzy: “More MMT trashing….comparing it to Lerner??….Krugman cannot divest himself of the notion of ‘debt’….”

MMT and Taxing the Rich Dean Baker (furzy)

CBS’s Horror Stories on National Debt Aren’t Actually All That Scary FAIR (UserFriendly)

The Electric Pickup Truck, Brought to You by… Amazon? Popular Mechanics (resilc)

Fare cutting puts the brakes on Uber’s revenue growth Financial Times. See Hubert Horan’s post today.

Amazon Will Pay $0 in Federal Taxes on $11.2 Billion Profits Fortune

Class Warfare

GOP wants to grab student loan payments right out of your paycheck Boing Boing

Elizabeth Warren’s popular plan to tax the rich is probably unconstitutional Washington Post

US Labor Organization AFL-CIO Urges Game Developers To Unionize In Open Letter Gamasutra

Antidote du jour. Phil H:

This is my cat Paka’s first Winter, & she gets excited whenever it snows. Loves to dash about, leap at snowflakes, pounce on imaginary mice, etc.

This morning on a walk in the woods she attacked a slender sapling, hung for a bit about three feet off the ground, then rapidly climbed to the very top. The tree has no branches except at the top, & is only about three or four inches in diameter & about 16 to 18 feet tall. After examining the
clump of leaves, she managed to climb down without falling.

I wonder if that means we will have an early Spring?

And a bonus (Chuck L). At first I wasn’t so impressed because a couple of times the parrot looked like he was first trying the wrong hole, but then I realized he had also had to work out that each shape had to be oriented properly to drop in and he’d mastered that.

And this weekend handyman special from bob. This appears to have been prompted by the death of my microwave, as in something I could do with it. But as you can see, the microwave plays the part of the stone in the “stone soup” tale. Among other things, you need a well-equipped tool shop for this project. Nevertheless, my deceased microwave is still here if anyone is game…..

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194 comments

  1. The Rev Kev

    Quite the acrobat that cat. Does it mean that there will be an early spring? It all depends if Paka saw his shadow or not. As for that Rube-Goldberg device, I can see what is meant by the “stone soup” method. Last I heard, that idea had a Patton pending on it.

    Reply
  2. Carla

    Re: New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood

    This is an impossibility, as any Capitalist will tell you. Such research cannot happen in Canada, where health insurance is socialized and drug prices are regulated. We all know there is no pharmaceutical research there — there cannot be, without drug companies charging whatever they want and impoverishing every person who needs their products. No. This is all a lie.

    ****
    Now that we have that settled, this line of research looks pretty exciting, doesn’t it?

    Reply
    1. el_tel

      Hehe re non-US pharma research, nice comment!

      Regarding the research itself. I really hope this research bears fruit across the relevant human population in large trials. Psychiatrists (the honest ones anyway) admit that pharmacological interventions for GABA-related stuff (at least, for mood, anxiety, memory and other such mental health issues) have had too many false dawns. Benzodiazepines are often the only option for certain mental health issues that seem treatment resistant/ineffective – despite the fact we know benzos are one of the biggest “double-edged swords” out there. Maybe the focus on memory (as opposed to mood/anxiety) with the “tweaks” they’ve made to the molecules will prove to be a more fruitful avenue of research.

      Reply
    2. DJG

      Carla: Thanks for the reminder that there is no research to create drugs outside the U S of A.

      I was struck by the mentions of memory loss related to depression. I had never thought of depression that way. And because low-grade depression seems to be wildly common across the U S of A, for good reason, what does this say about individual memory? Collective memory?

      Reply
    3. Lee

      A team of Canadian scientists has developed a fascinating new experimental drug that is purported to result in rapid improvements to both mood and memory following extensive animal testing

      How do they gauge mouse moods? There’s a Gizmodo snippet on that question but I remain skeptical.

      Let us not forget, there is many a slip twixt mouse and man in such trials. Still, all glimmers of hope are welcome, and kudos to the Canadians

      Reply
    4. Wyoming

      Umm…considering climate change is going to require at some point that we bump off all of the old people..wouldn’t it be better if we left them a bit clueless. It would be sort of a nicety I think.

      Reply
    5. ChrisPacific

      I am of the (heretical) opinion that severely limiting the funding of most US drug companies would probably stimulate their creativity. Right now (from what I can gather) they don’t tend to be especially scientific. They are more about testing lots of different things in Every Possible Combination (at enormous expense) in the hope that they will chance on something particularly effective. While this does turn up some unexpected successes once in a while, on the whole it’s a lot like trying to replicate the thought experiment involving millions of monkeys on typewriters.

      If they had less money, and had to make tougher decisions about how it was employed, they might be obliged to actually employ some scientific thinking in order to establish and rank hypotheses and make the most efficient use of available resources. One might even argue that the quoted story could be considered evidence of that, were it not, as you point out, an impossibility.

      Reply
  3. Mirdif

    I think we are still far from any sort of a crisis with regard to Brexit. I’m now sure there won’t even be a crisis in the final week of March as based on the rumours circulating amongst journos on Twitter I think it highly likely that a codicil will be produced as an addendum to the withdrawal agreement at the European Council meeting on 21-22 March. May will then request an extension to be able to consider the proposal.

    This buys her more time to get the wihdrawal agreement + codicil through. Part of this will be slicing away the fringes of the ERG to either abstain or vote for her deal and it will also mean trying to move public opinion away from no deal / WTO as business starts moving and the damage becomes apparent. The extension will be either to the end of May or possibly the end of June. May is more likely as MEPs retain their seats until new MEPs take their seats in July and so if MEPs need to vote on something there will be time to recall them.

    Therefore, the crisis is still more than two months away at least, IMO. I may of course be wrong. All this is predicated on May not getting her deal through before the end of March. Also, while the attitude in Brussels is hardening this is not necessarily the case in Berlin and Paris where they still prefer deal to no deal and will try by hook or by crook to achieve it.

    If a deal passes I expect May will resign and a new Tory leader followed by an autumn election in the hope of keeping Corbyn out before the worst effects of Brexit start being felt in the country.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      The discussions on Brexit now resemble that of two competing hermetic orders — sects with clearly delineated doctrine from which a member may not depart and still retain membership. But neither is either sect prepared to countenance engagement or dialogue with the other.

      Each has their high priests (I was about to add “and priestesses” but had to stop because, oddly enough, for reasons I can’t easily identify, they mainly are only priests). Jacob Rees-Mogg. John Redwood. Richard North. Boris Johnson. Alastair Campbell. John Major. Tony Blair. Nigel Farage. Dickens couldn’t have come up with a more outlandish and yet strangely believable cast of characters.

      Each has their house journals where true believers can find any amount of verbiage to support their chosen beliefs. The Guardian. The Daily Express. Brexit Central. People’s Vote. A vast army of Twitter stormtroopers. Every day brings new links, new “facts”, new arguments. I don’t, however, recall reading anything particularly new in the past two years or so, strangely, again, as it may sound.

      Even George Soros — dear old George! — weighed in last week, but it seems unfair to critique his latest addition to his oeuvre because I have an awful feeling that even he got told to keep it brief because readers had a limit for how much they were now willing to wade through (brave Guardian or Project Syndicate subeditor to Soros’ minion: “yes, sorry and all that, if you could just explain… I know it’ll need a bit of diplomacy but, well… you see… anyway, erm, to get to the point, and… actually, now, the reason for why I’m calling is, not to beat around the bush, is that could you just let him know — and do stress it wasn’t my decision, I did say I thought it a mistake but — the thing is, could you mention that we’re profusely apologetic but George, luvvie, we’re cutting the word count by 2,000 and yes, I know he’s going to be a tad sore about it, but, we’ve got Meghan Markle with a group of diversity champions pictured in the next column so we’ll be a smidge short for space…”)

      Unfortunately, very few are really paying any attention at this point. And even smaller a number are shifting their views. And even if there were to be a groundswell (Soros’ choice of words, I hope he won’t sue me for plagiarism) towards any particular side, it’s hard to see how that could permeate the Westminster factionalism.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Thanks for that comment Clive. Rings true for me. In my darker moments, I sometimes wonder if a root cause of this ongoing crisis was how over the decades, that a generation of second-rate politicians were cleared to be in power so long as they left their own corporate donors do what they wanted to do and were not thwarted in their schemes. Those that might have opposed them like professional politicians and public servants were bought out or marginalized and let go. When the Brexit vote hit, these same powers found that there were only these second-rate politicians and a gutted civil service left to deal with it and of course they are not up to the job.

        Reply
        1. Clive

          I think that is a good description of the mood music. And I also think that it contributes to what is bedevilling any prospect of progress. It’s not like there is the slightest interest, seemingly, in discussion. Of a genuine exchange of views with an open mind on the part of the speaker or the listener.

          It’s just become a big, long whingeing. No. Make that two big, long, separate, whinges.

          Reply
        2. ChristopherJ

          Thank you Clive, again, for your perspicacity. Those of us who vaguely give a toss, as we were born there, are over all the fuss. Just get on with it…. /.s

          Is that sort of the feeling for many, just bring it on? Just about all the media reporting is unreadable to outsiders and the actors who are in the midst seem like characters from a story, rather than real people. Bit like our politicians, to be honest.

          Reply
          1. Clive

            I’d say that’s correct, unfortunately. It’s posibly worth recalling that one of the reasons that voters gave May an election drubbing (and Corbyn a bit of a boost) was — arguably — so as to create a situation where politicians had to work out a compromise and extreme versions of Brexit (either ERG Ultra crash-out style or Continuity Remain) were to be avoided. Thus the current Parliament looks like it does.

            Alas, rather than the political class respecting that vote (you could almost call it tactical voting), all that’s happened is the hardliners on both Leave and Remain have blocked anything and everything so we’re left with stalemate in Parliament but an invoked A50 thereby setting up a ticking clock. As an illustration, the stupid vote on the 14th ended up (the reporting didn’t cover this point but it is highly informative) rejecting everything. Nothing made a majority.

            No wonder, certainly by my reading of the runes in the people I talk to, there’s merely a collective expression of “yeah, whatever…”

            Reply
            1. ChristopherJ

              Thank you, Clive.
              The UK is not in Greece type situation. If it had, stupidly, adopted the Euro, the desire to move outside the Euro would not have been possible, let alone voted upon in a referendum.

              There’s going to be some pain, but I think the UK will rise above it all in time.

              Reply
      2. flora

        Thanks for the Soros link. He starts off well enough but then seems confused about the source of the problem he names; suggesting democratic politics (messy as they are) are the problem instead of neoliberal economics, particularly austerity economics. I may have misinterpreted his meaning. (Does Soros himself know what he means? I often have trouble following his word usage, e.g. ‘reflexivity’.)

        Reply
        1. flora

          adding: or maybe his point is that democratic politics have become so congealed by factionalism they no longer properly function. It was hard for me to tell what point he was making.

          Reply
          1. flora

            as an aside: either way, the libertarian/neoliberal billionaires have already designed a ‘fix’ for democracy. Now if they can just get countries to revisit their constitutions with constitutional conventions…

            Reply
            1. Clive

              Yes, I felt a little sorry for him as I suspect he wrote, or wanted to write, a much more comprehensive and better explained or reasoned piece but it just got edited down further and further until it reminded me of one of those coach trips my auntie and uncle go one where you are supposed to whistle stop your way around the whole of Europe in three days but you merely instead find yourself whisked away from a particular country just as you were getting started and have to plunge, headlong, into the next one.

              But as it was he simply comes across as wittering. Like an Edwardian lady complaining about ‘the servant problem’ (a complex situation whereby a system which the metaphorical lady might have benefited from and certainly saw the value in having access to and a belief that it should continue but nevertheless one which is subject to unavoidable changes they are powerless to influence or overcome).

              And on that it’s hard not to also feel a teeny weeny bit wistful for Soros. You can almost sense his frustration — used to, as he is, being able to buy the ability to move public perceptions and shift the Overton Window as easy as he (or his staff) can buy hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party. Once upon a time he could. But times change and he’s not updated his approaches. It is still possible to move mass sentiment but not, unfortunately for him, in the now outmoded way he still apparently is insisting on trying to do.

              Reply
              1. flora

                Yes. Thanks. Your analysis makes a great deal of sense. I’ve read other Soros writings, and this column seemed uncharacteristically disjointed.
                As an analogy: I can image Macaulay or Gibbon, being edited by an editor untutored in the subject matter, but a zealous word-count/column space adherent, having their meaning completely lost.

                Reply
              2. The Rev Kev

                Just finished reading his piece and it does seem sad. Where he says ‘The second is to awaken the sleeping pro-European majority and mobilise it to defend the values on which the EU was founded.’ I think that the bulk majority of Europeans think of themselves as Spanish or German or French but not European. He seems to decry all the parties that each State has and wants the to align with the EU even if it leads to their demise. Yeah, that’s gunna happen. Also wants the EU to have more power to punish member States. That should be no problem. Why should France have all the protesters? Soros and his time have now passed.

                Reply
              3. ChrisPacific

                I could kind of see where he was going with it, but there were some real clangers. For example, the bit about how anti-EU forces now enjoy a competitive advantage (because the universe is just one big free market, right George?) and how the main threat to the EU project was an excess of democratic freedoms and the exercise thereof in member countries.

                I agree with him that the alternatives range from not great to awful, but I would have liked to see a bit more reflection on the nature of the EU itself. The overall theme seemed to be that it was a terrible shame that Cinderella was off looking for handsome princes to save her, because her stepsisters really meant well and had her best interests at heart, even if they made mistakes once in a while.

                Reply
      3. skippy

        From the Adam Curtis frame work … where early discussion about the forefathers of the far right culminated in their ideological approach resulting in just the opposite of what was sold, resulting in its original proponents going fight club on each other.

        Fast forward … “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering” where game theory and PR marketing combine and ricochet around the space created by social media and MSM and through the force multiplier of ever present electronic personal devices and public screens.

        On the latter its curious to watch the amount of people getting on with white apple ear buds stuck in their heads, constantly, my two youngest kids seem like aliens moving around the house.

        Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The EU has repeatedly said is it not changing the Withdrawal Agreement and all it will provide is non-legally-binding side letters. The EU was not willing to negotiate with May earlier this month. Barnier’s message is that the EU regards May as even less worthy of consideration, if such a thing is possible. The only thing the EU will consider is the UK dropping one of its major red lines, and they don’t see May as capable of delivering that, hence Barnier also telling May explicitly to work with Corbyn.

      Having said that, Barnier is showing one of his rare points of weakness. He’s been urging a “customs union”. He’s acted as if he does not understand that “customs union” does not equal membership in the Single Market. It won’t create frictionless borders and therefore, among other things, would NOT solve the Irish border problem.

      Reply
      1. larry

        Your second para is spot on. Perhaps Barnier is getting worn down by May’s intransigence and inflexibility. I would have been pulling my hair out long ago.

        Reply
            1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

              Yes I agree and I doubt very much that anyone could do that part better, although I enjoyed another if very different interpretation from Dick Shawn in ” The Producers “. Ganz working with Peter Falk in ” Wings of Desire ” was a treat for me, particularly as at the time of watching it I only knew the latter as Columbo, an impression of him that was finally banished by his work in ” A woman under the influence ” with the incredible Gena Rowlands who I believe should have got the Oscar.

              Film threads I am still following, Bruno & Dennis Hopper in ” The American Friend ” & so on & so on.

              Reply
          1. DJG

            Merci, Eustache de Saint Pierre.

            I’m gonna miss the fish and chips.

            Whenever I think that the WWW is mainly about porn, Etsy, and Basque dictionaries, I recall the Hitler rants, of which there are dozens, which showed us that the WWW did have promise at one time…

            Good night, sweet Bruno Ganz and derivative products.

            Reply
      2. shtove

        Yes, that Barnier emphasis on the CU has been a curiosity, accepted by Varadkar and Corbyn. I’ve assumed it’s a stalking horse for internal market adherence.

        Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    “GOP wants to grab student loan payments right out of your paycheck”

    And of course it is a Republican – Lamar Alexander – that came up with this idea. The guy is presently going out the door as he has already announced that he won’t be contesting 2020. At age 79 of course he won’t. But of instead of retiring gracefully he wants to put the boot into young people one last time before leaving office. Read up on him and found that he was once the Secretary of Sate but when I read through this episode, I found it very revealing-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamar_Alexander#United_States_Secretary_of_Education

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Just don’t forget it was good ole Joe Biden who stripped bankruptcy protection from student borrowers. Never forget, and never forgive.

      Reply
      1. Chris Cosmos

        Thank you. If you support perpetual war and the inexorable movement of wealth from the non-rich to the rich sure support people like Biden, Clinton, Obama and so on. The fact people support these sorts of candidates who aren’t rich or part of the con is pretty sad.

        Reply
        1. crittermom

          >The fact people support these sorts of candidates who aren’t rich or part of the con is pretty sad.

          I believe that is the very reason we have the govt we do.
          Too many watching Fox News & believing everything whatever ‘leader’ says, without question.
          They are in that sense, uneducated.

          I’m dismayed at how many people I’ve met in my age group (67) & older are guilty of that.
          One of the things I love about NC is it links to actual facts, enabling me to try to (gently) educate those I can (& get ’em to the polls?).

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            The problem is deeper and wider than Fox News and the Fox Audience. It isn’t Fox News which tells people to vote for Clinton, Obama, Biden, etc.

            Reply
    1. Yikes

      On Abrams: Onion should have wrote: Elliott Abrams Defends War Crimes As A Happening fashion back In The ’80s
      Which is now back in style.

      Omar is in more trouble for her stances on US sponsored genocide in Yemen, Syria.

      Reply
      1. integer

        As far as neocons are concerned, war crimes never went out of fashion. Regarding Omar, she is on fire. She drew attention to Abrams’ past, and the uproar following her AIPAC tweet has brought the schism between Israel-supporting and non-Israel-supporting Jews into the full view of the public, which has served to increase awareness of the disingenuousness of conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

        Reply
    2. Mark Gisleson

      Omar is courageous, but do not mistake the lightning rod for the lightning. Her knowledge of how to get things done in Congress is as limited as her fluency in English (which is oddly stilted for someone who did two years in the legislature and has been in the US her entire adult life.

      I applaud her for doing the things others should have done, but that does not make her the best person to be doing this. Just the only person to be doing this.

      Reply
      1. Cuibono

        Ummm if you are the only person doing something you are also the best person doing something
        If your point is that others need to get off their asses we agree…

        Reply
        1. Shonde

          Frankly, if I had been in Omar’s position at that hearing with Abrams with the intent to question him as she did, I would have worn extra absorbancy Depends.

          So the least we can do to support her courage is to contact Pelosi’s office and tell her to lay off Omar.and instead applaud Omar for her courage.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            Alas, that assumes that Pelosi actually listens to the opinions of her constituents with annual incomes of less than $10 million a year. That was a little too broad. It should read, “…constituents who contribute the maximum amount allowed by law to her campaign fund, or more.” That’ll weed out those without the “proper” outlook on ‘things.’

            Reply
        2. pjay

          “If your point is that others need to get off their asses we agree…”

          Yes! Unfortunately, when I think of her colleagues, I’m afraid “knowledge of how to get things done in Congress” is inversely correlated with the courage to confront evil power directly in public.

          Reply
    3. ShamanicFallout

      I’ve worked with two Somalian women who have been in the US for about 20 years. It’s the Seattle area and there is a decent sized Somalian community here. I asked one of my Somalian colleagues about Omar, thinking I would get the ‘she’s courageous, great, really out there telling the truth, etc.’ It was the exact opposite. She said most her community cannot stand her, wish she would “shut up and know her place” and “remember who she is” as my friend said. I was shocked because I was certain I would hear what most of the NC commentariat is thinking about Omar. I didn’t push it and ask more, but I think I will approach her again to talk about it more. Are they afraid of backlash? Drawing unwanted attention? A cultural thing?

      Reply
      1. mraymondtorres

        Help me. What shocked you? That Somalis have differing political views? That Somalis near you have different political views from yours? That Somalis aren’t universally progressive?

        Reply
          1. ShamanicFallout

            Perhaps I should have included in my original comment that we’ve had numerous conversations about politics and economics and they’ve always come across as very progressive. That’s why I thought maybe there was some other subtext

            Reply
      2. YankeeFrank

        I actually thought her questioning was pretty awful. She conceded positions to Abrams she should never have: for example he claimed to be working to bring democracy to Venezuela and she actually said she did not contest that fact. On top of that, she didn’t seem to be in command of the facts — she was noticeably reading from a script that she hadn’t read before — and her demeanor was far too smug and self-righteous for such horrifying subject matter. She asserted things without giving him a chance to respond which made her look like a bully and overall gave a poor performance. For those who agree with her that Abrams is a monster (which he assuredly is) she did fine but I don’t think she won over anyone who didn’t know about Abrams history or might have been on the fence about him and about Venezuela.

        To me she seemed like she was grandstanding and made it more about herself than the actual subject at hand. And mind you, I know quite a bit of Abrams history and the murderous, fascist death squads he organized and trained that raped and murdered thousands of men, women and children including Catholic nuns and priests during the Reagan administration in order to impose brutal oligarchic US corporate rule over much of Central America. We need people willing to stand up to dirt like Abrams, but she really needs to up her game and stop being so self-important if she’s going to really be of help.

        Reply
        1. pjay

          “We need people willing to stand up to dirt like Abrams, *but*…”

          Yes. An uppity young non-white immigrant woman who is insufficiently deferential to a long-time “public servant” is going to piss some people off. So lets wait for some of the seasoned lawyers in Congress who have let this sh*t go for decades weigh in with their brilliant cross examinations. I’ve been waiting most of my life, so I’m inclined to appreciate those who make an effort, however imperfect.

          Reply
          1. richard

            I think her background made her the perfect person to interrogate Abrams
            and his offended pearl clutching showed it
            he was genuinely freaked, which was damn good to see
            J. Dore or Kulinski, I forget which, showed a charlie rose show
            where some unidentified besuited white man told him he should tried at a
            Nuremberg style trial, and then probably hanged
            and Abrams laughed at that
            he wasn’t f*&^ing laughing when omar questioned him, so I see value

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Yes, even though one can argue that Omar let Abrams get away with his lie about democracy in El Salvador, his yelling at a petite black woman was a really really bad look, particularly since she kept her cool and pressed on. Made it clear he’s a bully who is incapable of defending his record, precisely because it is indefensible.

              Reply
    4. Ptb

      Re: Elliott Abrams, tho entirely in character for Trump Admin, to bring him in specifically for “democracy promotion” in a leftist Latin American country… wtf… not even a trace of any ####s given.

      Reply
  5. diptherio

    You have to admit, that’s a pretty darned interesting clump of leaves. I can hardly blame Paka for going out of her way to investigate.

    Reply
  6. The Rev Kev

    “Alphabet unit seeks share of property taxes for Toronto smart city”

    This whole deal is starting to sound more like a real estate operation rather than an attempt to build a smart city. So they are ‘proposing it get a share of property taxes, development fees, and the rising value of Toronto city land’ as part of the deal to build it? Trying to do an Amazon? That boat may have sailed. As far as I can see, they are getting to use prime real estate if this is a quayside development. It’s not like Alphabet is short of a quid and they are not going to make a profit off of it.
    How about Toronto says, well maybe, but we are going to have to charge you for all the road infrastructure that service your development; all transport such as any buses, streetcars, boats, etc that service your area; maintenance of the water & electrical grid that makes the smart city possible; lost development cost as Toronto did not build there themselves; infrastructure for all the people that will be living in this smart city as of course they will be using the rest of the city and its resources; and also for emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance departments and the like. Call us back when you are ready to get real.
    I could think of no worse environment than living in a smart city. You know that you would always be watched. That could be the motto of this development – “We are watching you”. Back in the 80s I visited West Berlin and you could feel the fact that you were surrounded by a hostile state. Living here would have the same subtle pressures and send some people round the bend. What is the bet that it will be more like a gated community over time but if you are the sort of person that is comfortable having an Alexa in your bedroom then I say go for it and go live there. I give you my blessing. Tell us down the track how it all worked out.

    Reply
    1. jsn

      Yeah, and per the IEEE link, the NSA can now even measure when they’re scaring the s_it out of you on the john.

      With every digital device the coercive reach of those with access to the data, not us rubes, grows.

      The only chips I want in my house are corn, preferably blue with salt.

      Reply
        1. wilroncanada

          If the seat detects heart trouble, it could install the stent at the same time, through the same orifice, no $”it.

          Reply
  7. Eureka Springs

    The Amazon truck. In my opinion it’s not a truck if you can’t load an entire rick of wood, a kayak or a couch in the bed. That thing looks like they are cost cutting the price of a hood over a trunk and calling it a truck.
    My kingdom for a Toyota truck like The Saudis bought for ISIS. Why oh why can’t we mere non-violent consumers buy them,Toyota? Photo at the top of this article. https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-support-isis/245868/

    Reply
    1. Yikes

      Don’t blame Toyota, those truck bodies can’t meet USA standards that Tadeka, Bosh, others lobbied to get into law, monopoly in other words.

      Reply
    2. rowlf

      Check out the Nissan, Toyota and Land Rover websites in Africa. They get real 4x4s that are meant to get dirty. Turbo-diesels, locking axles and transfer cases, snorkels. No carpeting and leather seats like foo-foo SUVs and pickup trucks in the US.

      I also have a soft-spot for Kamaz trucks, as who can resist a company slogan like “No road, no problem.”

      Reply
        1. Cal2

          Jeeps are junk. But they are proudly made USA junk.

          Feb 25, 2016 … “Jeep once again is getting brickbats hurled at it over quality, ranking 29th out of 33 brands on J.D. Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study.”

          https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkiley5/2016/02/25/jeep-much-maligned-much-loved-much-valued/

          Aug 30, 2017 …
          “The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of 10 FCA models ranked worst in reliability”

          https://www.cheatsheet.com/automobiles/fiat-chrysler-vehicles-that-rank-worst-in-reliability.html/

          Reply
          1. Inode_buddha

            Funny thing, I don’t think anything they have built since 1986 is a real jeep.. real jeeps have leaf springs and metal floors. Mine has almost 300,000 miles and counting…. and yes its a real truck, zero creature comforts, directly from its military heritage. It really really sucks on long drives but it *will* get you there regardless of anything.

            Reply
  8. jsn

    Dean Baker on taxing the rich

    In this age of surveillance and digital money transfers when US Govt. can sanction whatever individual they choose world wide, I find it far fetched to believe a dedicated effort couldn’t track wealth and income.

    Add to that an inversion of the Neoliberal maxim that “the rich can only be incentivized with promises of more money, while the poor can only be incentivized with harsher physical conditions” to something like “when the rich legitimately fear for their physical conditions they become less covetous of their money, while the poor, when rewarded for their efforts will do whatever society rewards,” and you have a whole different, prosocial ballgame.

    Reply
    1. bruce wilder

      Indeed.

      Should no one observe that low (marginal) rates of tax on very, very powerful people — people managing giant business corporations or hedge funds — encourages looting, disinvestment and predatory business practices?

      Reply
      1. John

        I read a study long ago which I can no longer find which came to the conclusion that marginal tax rates of about 55% produced the most stability in an economy.

        Reply
  9. pjay

    Re ‘Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies’

    This is a *very* good piece. It is a long, detailed, and eloquent overview by a former insider (Matthew Hoh). More than just the usual call to reason with which NC readers are very familiar. If you don’t have time to read it now, please bookmark it for later. Thorough, informative — and heartbreaking.

    Reply
    1. ChristopherJ

      Thank you pjay, a bit over it all, eh? But I have read and is a disheartening piece.

      eg more lost to suicide than died in action….

      Lot of money has been made, and that’s probably all there is to say, and why it continues.

      And some wonder where the hatred for the USA comes from. Lovely people, evil country

      Reply
  10. Seas

    With regard to JP coin, I’d be interested in knowing the settlement mechanics. Jamie Dimon and his ilk aren’t in the business of providing solutions that don’t ultimately benefit JP. If an institutional JP client settles their transactions with JP coin, rather than a money wire, does JP retain the cash/deposit on their ledgers as an asset and issue the JP coin as a liability. Does this then create a free liquidity benefit for JP. Similarly, wouldn’t JP coin be a credit risk for the receiving bank, as they would be accepting it in lieu of cash? I don’t know any of the specifics, but suspect there is a free ride for Dimon and co. somewhere in that blockchain.

    Reply
      1. Seas

        One thing my time has taught me is that everything is a tax scam. No one on Wall Street, the City, Martin Place or Bay Street is smarter than the other. They all just fit into the eco system of scamming.

        Reply
  11. DJG

    That highly effective parrot:

    Comment above:

    At first I wasn’t so impressed because a couple of times the parrot looked like he was first trying the wrong hole, but then I realized he had also had to work out that each shape had to be oriented properly to drop in and he’d mastered that.

    What struck me is how the parrot was a bit slower with the first shape, meaning the bird started with some kind of experimentation, just as a child would. Then, a process of elimination was going on in the parrot’s consciousness. Notice how quickly the parrot dispatches the last two shapes: In short, the bird has learned the “game” in these shape sorters for kids. Each hole accommodates only one shape.

    Maybe I’m going out on a limb here (along with that handsome bird), but I suspect that this parrot is more intelligent than Steny Hoyer. Can the bird become assistant majority leader in the House?

    Reply
  12. KLG

    Re the American Conservative piece, Tucker Carlson will soon be as visible as Thomas Frank, without the wherewithal to withdraw from the field and write an actual book. Still, a nice takedown of Max Boot and Bill Kristol. In the past 24 hours I have agreed with Ann Coulter (our only national emergency is that we have a moron as president, or something like that) and Tucker Carlson. I need a drink.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      …a double jigger of Victory Gin laced with ironic?

      If you start feeling the Hannity love, we’ll have to go beyond beverages.

      Reply
      1. KLG

        If that happens my grown children will have me euthanized. We managed to raise two in this era, and both of them are naked capitalists! They aren’t quite as Left as their dad, who has been steadily moving in that direction since he was 13, but my work is done ;-)

        Reply
    2. allan

      A word of warning for those currently enthralled by Tucker Carlson.
      He might be skilled in knowing how to tack to the breeze to get clicks, but is as odious as ever:

      Conservatives can’t stop obsessing over Ocasio-Cortez. Their latest target: her boyfriend. [WaPo]

      First, it was her clothing. Then her dancing. Not to mention her credit score, her apartment, her hometown. Maybe it was only a matter of time before conservatives went after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s love life.

      On Friday — the day after Valentine’s Day, as some commenters dutifully noted — an accusation that the New York Democrat was employing her boyfriend as a member of her staff made its way around the Twitter pages of various conservative media …

      … from Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign: “Her jobs for everyone starts with her boyfriend. Pure socialism, government chooses the winners and losers.”

      Fox News picked up on this chatter and published a story that asserted Ocasio-Cortez “faces questions” about her boyfriend. Similar stories in Breitbart and the Daily Caller [edited by Tucker Carlson] followed. …

      You will be shocked to learn that the accusation was garbage.

      Reply
      1. RUKidding

        Snort!
        Figures. And this coming from the Trump Adnin where he’s “hired” just about everyone in his family to hold high level positions for which they’re totally unqualified.

        Reply
      2. bob

        You are only allowed to hire family if you have a giant multi-national, state sponsored charity funded by gulf monarchies.

        Reply
    3. integer

      Tucker Carlson will soon be as visible as Thomas Frank, without the wherewithal to withdraw from the field and write an actual book.

      Carlson wrote a #1 New York Times Bestseller titled “Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.”

      Reply
      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        And somehow…. he only ever manages to really nail one half of that ruling class when he’s in the bully pulpit. He never slams the old oil and land elite as hard as as he hits the well-graduated, Clintonesque ‘liberals’.

        When it comes to maintaining the cruel status quo, the latter are more readily shamed into change. They’re annoying as hell, duplicitous, and slippery, but less committed to feudalism on average. Yet he hates them more. It almost seems as though there might be an element of self-interest involved…….

        Reply
        1. integer

          The liberal elite may be less committed to feudalism, but they are more committed to tech monopolies, and the continued growth of such will, I expect, ultimately lead to the same destination. Anyway, Carlson is a conservative with ties to the Koch brothers, so it’s hardly surprising he avoids criticizing the groups you mention. I agree with his positions on some issues, especially his disdain for neocons, and disagree with others, however considering the pre-existing political views of the vast majority of his audience, I think his willingness to challenge conservative orthodoxy on some issues makes him a net positive in the media landscape.

          Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        We’ve been skiing @ Mammoth with an over-the-hill-and-down-the-slope gang of sexagenarians for a number of years now, 4 days every month, and were fortunate to get a couple of decent days in between storms. In theory I skied a 3rd day, that is if you consider the 1 lift I took from Eagle and very nearly turned into popsicle with a couple of sticks coming out of the bottom-en route up, and then braved my way back down in gale force winds to the bar below, where I did bottle to mouth resuscitation with a pale ale.

        Mammoth is almost an outlet store complex of other ski resorts, it covers so much terrain.

        Reply
        1. wilroncanada

          Wukchumni
          Only 164 mph? That’s a fresh breeze in the Wreckhouse in S W Newfoundland../s. Truly, the Wreckhouse winds used to knock rail cars over sideways and off the tracks. There were, and still are, warning signs at both ends of that section of highway, the Port Aux Basques side and the St. John’s side warning tractor trailers in particular to not travel through during storms.

          Reply
  13. Stephen Haust

    Re:”Don’t Call JP Morgan Chase’s New ‘JPM Coin’ a Cryptocurrency”

    OK, then. It isn’t. Fine by me. BUT!

    But what would stop a bunch of countries who are being sanctioned, thrown off of SWIFT
    or some other such nonsense from banding together and using a “permissioned” blockchain
    technology to create their own “new interbank settlement network” minus the dead hand
    of the US. Such a thing could be very flexible, could become widespread and might even
    be impenetrable to international spooks.

    Hmmm. Could also be that JPM already knows this.

    Motherboard:
    “Still, JP Morgan Chase is a financial juggernaut and counts many of the world’s most profitable companies as clients. A new, faster settlement system may very well pay off. But right now, at least, it’s not stepping on Bitcoin’s turf.

    The fact that there is a bank making a new interbank settlement network really says nothing about Bitcoin, or impinge on Bitcoin’s ability to develop,” Brito said. “

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No one would do that. The only reason banks are willing to run large intraday balances with each other is they have a central bank (in each major currency) standing behind the end of day settlement.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        “But what would stop a bunch of countries who are being sanctioned,”
        IOW, that many central banks. Might well be limited to trade among themselves, but better than nothing. China and Russia already did this, and Europe is working on one. Granted, those are large central banks with substantial reserves.

        However, I don’t see what the “coin” or blockchain has to do with it, aside from soaking up bandwidth and electricity.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You need a single central bank willing to act as lender of last resort in that “currency” to any bank that gets in trouble. Absolutely no one is willing to do that in the absence of the banks being regulated by a competent regulator with an at least pretty good regulatory regime. And it becomes controversial. The US extended dollar swap lines to the ECB to get dollars to Eurobanks that needed them. In theory the US had virtually no risk because the ECB and not the individual banks were on the hook for repayment of the currency swaps. There was still a lot of consternation in Congress about it. You are talking about far more risk here.

          Reply
          1. Ape

            So a capital trading zone requires in practice a hegemon with a central bank and the military power to enforce debts from other states? That would also predict that these zones breakdown very quickly when the hegemon fails.

            Reply
    2. bob

      “Such a thing could be very flexible, could become widespread and might even
      be impenetrable to international spooks.”

      I could be innovating. It also *MIGHT* be a sparkle pony. Send $ here and we”ll sort out all of those details after I use the interbank market to clear your payment,

      If you ever see anyone ever talking like this – substitute “tulip bulbs” for “cryptocurrency”. They’re one in the same except the tulip might turn into something you can see one day.

      Reply
  14. Wukchumni

    I auditioned for a sit-down comedian role going to Mars, but the problem with telling a joke there, is it takes about 15 minutes for it to get back to Earth and by the time you get Earthlings approval vis a vis laughter, you’ve wasted half an hour.

    Reply
    1. bassmule

      Where do astronauts leave their spaceships?
      At parking meteors.

      Thanks, I’m here all week. Try the dehydrated cottage cheese.

      Reply
        1. newcatty

          Geez, Wuk, please let us know if you are chuckling in your ski mask or just think it’s cool to offer juvenile and overt biased “jokes and puns” to show us how cleaver you see yourself to be? If they were funny, that would be one thing . Yes, of course, just imo. Think it would be a good career move for you to volunteer for the Mars mission. Can think of a few MSM “comedians” to be in company.

          Reply
          1. Wukchumni

            It’s too late, i’ve volunteered for Uranus and don’t think I can get out of it. The good news being they’ve made me ambassador of Titania, and I expect a warm embrace there.

            Reply
  15. Jason Boxman

    On military housing, that was Defense Secretary William Perry under Clinton. In Perry’s book, he’s quite proud of the public-private housing partnership he introduced. At the time, the military housing was substandard already, so it seems the only difference here is a big payday for government contractors in what was a new sandbox to rob.

    Reply
    1. philnc

      Having a convenient “outside partner” to deflect blame onto is a bullet point in every business case for outsourcing. In this case, like the criminal enterprises that are taxpayer funded private prisons, the appropriate response should be criminal prosecutions (and courts martial for the active service “executives” involved) for fraud, bribery, embezzlement and reckless endangerment, not weasel-word apologies and vague promises.

      Reply
    2. Pookah Harvey

      From the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment website (undated):

      About 43 percent of DoD base housing, 58,000 units, are old and in need of extensive repair. Tight budgets have exacerbated this problem in recent years. Traditionally, DoD addresses the need for housing improvements through its military construction, or MILCON, program, but using MILCON practices and funding, DoD would need 20 years and $16 billion dollars to complete the required renovations and improvements.

      As a result, the President and the Secretary of Defense set a goal of revitalizing, replacing, or demolishing all inadequate housing by 2007 using MILCON and privatization. MHPI, enacted into law in 1996, provides the tools to help achieve this goal. It offers quality, affordable housing (primarily for junior enlisted Service members and their families) using private-sector expertise and capital. The MHPI, which Congress provided permanent authorities to in FY 2005, helps DoD eliminate traditional costs by revising the way it funds and builds housing:

      Offering incentives to the private sector for assistance:
      —Leveraging private-sector financing
      — Giving the authority for government direct loans and guarantees of private-sector loans
      —Using conveyance or lease of property and housing, investments in joint ventures, and differential lease payments.

      That worked out well…..for the private sector.

      Reply
      1. GF

        “Traditionally, DoD addresses the need for housing improvements through its military construction, or MILCON, program, but using MILCON practices and funding…”

        Isn’t that the place from where Trump will be siphoning his wall money?

        Let them live in tents like real soldiers.

        Reply
        1. newcatty

          Does anybody know how much junior enlisted service members pay for the military provided housing? It is awful that the private sector got to profit off of providing MILCON crapified housing. But, when you look at the crapified and, in many cases, outrageously expensive housing in non military housing for residents in more and more cities, then it’s hard to have complete sympathy for the military service members. It’s not pc, but the service members are voluntary members. The fact that many join up in due to intrinsic poverty in a lot of cases, for example, is for another discussion. I have heard from the horse’s mouth that though the so called duplex she and family live in, on base, is truly crappy…She and her spouse, who could afford off base housing (her words), choose to live in crappy place to “save money” . This is a couple who have two children living in a place filled with mold, etc. She also informed us that the base has free rec facilities and the company store, etc. Go figure.

          Reply
          1. oh

            The only service these slaves perform is to kill people around the world for the huge corporations. Salute the Troops? Why?

            Reply
      2. Pookah Harvey

        This was the latest report from the DOD I could find on military housing. It seems to come from around 2004. They state that the housing problem should have been solved by 2007. So apparently nothing was done in the last years of Bush, throughout the entire Obama administration and the first 2 years of Trump. This is appalling. Here is the written testimony from the current Trump administrator for military housing:

        From the Advance Policy Questions for Robert McMahon Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment

        Family Housing and Privatization

        In recent years, the Department of Defense and Congress have taken significant steps to improve family housing. The housing privatization program was created as an alternative approach to speed the improvement of military family housing and relieve base commanders of the burden of managing family housing.

        If confirmed, you will have a key role in decisions regarding military family housing. What are your impressions of the overall quality and sufficiency of family housing both in the United States and abroad?

        I believe DoD’s housing inventory quality, both government-owned and privatized, is in much better condition than before the privatization authorities were passed by Congress. I am also aware that the housing privatization partners have been sustaining high levels of occupancy and satisfaction rates indicating the program is achieving the expectations DoD anticipated when pursuing privatization.

        What are your views regarding the privatization of family housing?

        From my previous experience as an Air Force officer, DoD took a bold step to outsource a function that many thought was inherently governmental and proved that the private sector could provide and maintain better quality housing. If confirmed, I will work with the Services and private developers to ensure that long-term viability of this effort is maintained.

        What is your view of the structure and general goals of the Department of Defense’s current housing privatization program?

        For the housing program, I believe the Department made the right choice to partner with the private sector to shift ownership and management. I am aware of congressional concerns regarding the long-term financial viability of the program, and, if confirmed, I will actively work with the Services, private partners, and Congress to thoroughly review the financial health of each project to ensure they are solvent and structured to deliver quality housing over the life of the agreements.

        Do you believe the housing program should be modified in any way? If so, how?

        I cannot recommend any changes to the housing program at this time.

        In your view, can and should the privatization program be expanded to include military barracks?

        Each Service should look at opportunities to privatize unaccompanied housing. If confirmed, I will work with the Services to identify opportunities for expanding unaccompanied housing privatization on military installations where it is fiscally viable.

        Reply
  16. Norb

    -MMT and taxing the rich-

    Taxing debates cannot be separated from the proper level of private ownership in society.

    Baker seems to indirectly make a good case for nationalizing certain key industries in order to remove profiteering and rent gouging. Why should the citizenry support low taxation on the rich and more private/public partnerships, if neither party can be trusted to act virtuously? National decline is the result.

    The argument always centers around the impossibility of making villains act virtuously. One must first constrain the villains before any progress can be made. Taxing and regulation are two tools to bring about this social balance, so the villains oppose their proper implementation. The word criminal comes to mind.

    Government for the people taxes one way, Government for corporations taxes another.

    How a person defines virtue reveals which policies they will choose to release upon society.

    It is amazing how villains pretending to be bastions of virtue have lasted this long. Raising taxes on the rich will remove the benevolent mask and force them to choose between outright social theft and social responsibility.

    It worked in the past, but then again, the caliber of citizens was different. The country was on the rise. Now it is in decline and the motivations of people are completely different. Also, Bakers point about the rich filling many lower public offices bodes ill for the country is well placed. This conditioning that the rich are well suited for public office needs to be broken.

    Villainy and virtue- those are two concepts that need to be properly separated once again- and refreshing when public figures find the courage to call out the impropriety of the current state of affairs.

    Reply
    1. Unna

      Vastly simplify the tax code – all income treated the same. Huge sales and excise taxes on ultra luxury purchases, yachts, cars, third homes, expensive jewellery and art, etc. Very high inheritance taxes above a certain level and confiscatory taxes above another level. 70% sales tax on political contributions. (I wonder if the Congress would be willing to make a legislative finding that political contributions above a certain level are purchases of a service subject to a sales tax and not free speech protected by the First Amendment?) Very high prison sentences for tax cheats above a certain level. High corporate taxes on income left in the corporation above a certain level and not used within a certain time for capital purchases/business expenses. Family foundations gone at least under the current rules such as the Clinton or Gates foundations.

      Can’t find the money? Why not? Just treat the billionaire class like they’re drug dealers trying to hide their wealth and use the same methods of financial investigation. And be willing to criminally prosecute tax lawyers and accountants who knowing enable tax fraud or the hiding/obfuscation of ownership of assets. And so on.

      Then enact MfA, free quality public college, pro unionization laws, land reform for too large ag holdings, enforce anti trust laws, etc and so on.

      The primary objective is to tax away wealth beyond what can be used for a reasonable luxury lifestyle based on personal work and economic contribution. A central purpose of these kinds of taxes is to tax away wealth above the level that can be used to distort the political process. Target the level of wealth that can be used as a political weapon. That level of wealth should be publicly ascertained and publicly declared as a matter of public policy and as a legislative finding.

      Of course, none of this will ever happen.

      Reply
      1. richard

        Thanks for your comments Unna and Norb. You’ve prompted me to reflect a little about MMT and taxation. My understanding is that we do not really need the billionaire’s tax money, that it’s not as if they have an outsized share of finite pool (their share is extremely outsized, but fortunately the pool isn’t finite). But although this may be true, extreme wealth is a historically undeniable existential threat to democracy itself, and it should be regulated in the public interest.
        Listen billionaire: we don’t need your stupid “money”. We have everything we need. so take your ayn rand/ john galt “job creator” fantasy and shove it straight up your a#@.
        But we’ve decided you don’t get that much anyway, because it distorts democratic debate and the conflict of ideas.
        So we’ll be setting fire to it publically.
        Please contact this office between 10 and 4, Monday through Friday, and 12 to 5 on Saturday (new hours!) with any concerns or questions.
        :) (my dream job)

        Reply
      2. Cal2

        Detail: If “corporations are people” then they should be subject to the personal income tax.

        Conversely, if don’t change on that fictitious score, then meat and potatoes flesh and blood Americans should also get to use the all the same corporate deductions as people are corporations. e.g. If I post a personal ad, it’s “advertising” and can be deducted from my income.

        Reply
  17. Unna

    Onion Article: “Elliott Abrams defended Wednesday the war crimes he committed in Latin America by pointing out that it was just something everyone was doing back in the ’80s.”

    For a moment I actually thought the headline was real and not The Onion….

    Reply
    1. wilroncanada

      Unna
      …real and not the Onion. It’s both.
      In Abrams world, ‘everyone’ means everyone in his world, meaning the US and its allies, or vassals.

      Reply
      1. Unna

        *Both real, and not, the Onion.*

        Both “truth” and a fictional take on the truth reflecting off of one another as the same thing. Trudeau being both the actual PM and only a ceremonial representation of a PM at the same time. The “Simulacrum” of a PM. The PM of the created public imagination. Canada’s version of the West Wing only with the real Parliament Hill as stage set for the fake Parliament Hill as shown on TV. The Real and the not Real as the Same.

        Thanks, wilroncanada. Now I need a drink.

        Reply
  18. Brooklin Bridge

    New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood

    Sounds terrific, but, assuming human testing goes well, how much will they charge for it?

    Reply
    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I should amend that to say how much will it cost in the US? We can’t have cheap drugs now, can we; that might pollute the market.

      Reply
  19. forbidden topics

    meanwhile, on the home front, from Jonathan Cook:

    “You might imagine that a report by a multinational observer force documenting a 20-year reign of terror by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers against Palestinians, in a city under occupation, would provoke condemnation from European and US politicians.

    But you would be wrong. The leaking in December of the report on conditions in the city of Hebron, home to 200,000 Palestinians, barely caused a ripple”

    https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2019-02-13/tiph-hebron-settlers-end/

    Reply
  20. Gregorio

    The DIY spot welder video was cool, but it looks like a lot of work and effort to build something that one can buy for $189.99 off Amazon.

    Reply
    1. crittermom

      I admit to somewhat drooling over all the tools he had at hand. Welder, hole threader, metal cutter…
      One could make a lot of fun stuff with all that.
      Was hoping for something constructed more exciting than a spot welder in the end, but it was still kinda cool.

      Reply
  21. Brick

    I did not really agree with the link about JPM,s blockchain and I think there are serious discussions to be had about new innovations in blockchain. If you think about a blockchain currency then perhaps we should think about it as wealth based on CPU power, data storage, electricity and network bandwidth. Each transaction or contract incurs a crytocurrency charge for processing and storage. JPM is cutting out middlemen and applying a tax on transactions ,whilst providing a mechanism to convert crytocurrency to real currency. There solution is limited at the moment but they are setting themselves up ready for a change in how we understand wealth.It is also important that the base solution is etherium,because it has interesting additions.

    Etherium has the concept of smart contracts, which changes the concept from trustless to transparent approved and trusted contracts. It is difficult to explain all the ramifications but it encourages collaboration between companies on data (one version for manufacturer,wholesaler and retailer).Smart contracts can be thought of interaction rules or laws and can cover employment contracts, trade deals or governance rules.

    Etherium has a secured voting system which can be used to approve contracts or expenditure.The province of Gyeonggi-do in South Korea is using blockchain voting to vote on community aid projects. Local residents can propose ideas for aid which can be voted on before being implemented.Estonia has an I voting system based on blockchain where politicians can act based on voting results.

    Etherium is also developing DAO,s(Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) with a typical example being the board room solution. blockchain based code is used for typical corporate functions like the constitution, voting, shareholding, financial records, payroll and project management. This is being actively investigated by many large multinational firms due to shareholder pressure (Return on investment decisions are thought to improve if shareholders and employees have more of a input).

    To see how far this can go see the following two links( Firms may no longer need directors and managers and politicians may be a thing of the past. What we should be talking about is whether big tech firms and banks should be driving the technology( It is a bit Skynet).

    Reply
    1. Yikes

      “…providing a mechanism to convert crytocurrency to real currency. ”

      That just about says it all. Converting fraud to real currency is always the goal.

      As to “smart” contracts, I giggle. Yes, the law and lawyers are an ugly necessity, but self managing contracts… That’s more preposterous than self-driving cars. Or as my spell checker just proposed, self-deceiving cars.

      Reply
  22. ewmayer

    Re. migrants:

    Fleeing Honduras, family stakes its future on asylum in the U.S. | Reuters

    This MSM-favored literary genre needs a suitable name – ‘cuddly-migrant tales of woe’, perhaps? Anyhow, at the risk of seeming uncharitable, perhaps this family should appeal to Hillary Clinton, I’m told she has a lot of experience in re. Honduran migrants, she’s helped create rather a lot of them, after all. You’d think this would be the sort of “creating a better life for people in their own home countries” issue the giga-dollar – or is it still merely hectomegadollar? – Clinton Foundation and Global Initiative would be leading the way on, but no – odd, that. Maybe the super-busy Clintons simply need someone to bring it to their attention!

    Reply
  23. Chauncey Gardiner

    Regarding the linked articles on Amazon: As Matt Stoller says in an article in the Guardian today, Amazon should be investigated for abuse of monopoly powers; and the decision by the company to withdraw from development of a second headquarters in NYC should also provide a catalyst for federal and state government to revive enforcement of antitrust laws. Amazon should be required to separate its online platform from selling its own products in direct competition with the products of other companies, and to change its predatory pricing practices. It is clear that government also needs to revise the tax codes that enabled Amazon to pay $0 in federal taxes on $11.2 billion profits in 2018 and instead claim a $129 million tax credit that reduced its federal corporate tax rate to negative -1%, and to reduce its state and local taxes, including a municipal tax in the City of Seattle that had targeted the homelessness issue in that city caused in part by gentrification.

    This sorry episode has also again made clear that enormous government subsidies of large transnational corporations needs to end, with the $4 billion in state and local subsidies granted Foxconn in Wisconsin for manufacturing facilities that now will reportedly not be built perhaps the most prominent poster child for these deeply flawed policies.

    Reply
  24. Oregoncharles

    “New Drug Rapidly Repairs Age-Related Memory Loss, Improves Mood ”
    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but aren’t diazepines like Xanax and Valium highly addictive? So why is an addiction researcher engineering one?

    Would be wonderful, of course, if true.

    Reply
  25. Oregoncharles

    “Recall May refused to face Parliament after the vote. She looks like she’s about to cry:”

    Why hasn’t Parliament removed her? This seems like a fundamental breakdown of parliamentary government. Yes, I’ve seen the explanations of the politics, but it still means a rip in the fabric. The real reason might be that no one wants the job right now.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Because Corbyn. A vote of no confidence (unless reversed in 14 days) leads to a general election, and the Tories do not want to risk Corbyn. Tory and Labour mutual antipathy much greater than Dems v. Rs here.

      Also because a GE now would assure a crash out.

      Reply
  26. whoamolly

    Re: This person does not exist

    We have apparently reached the world envisioned by William Gibson in his novel idoru, in which mega-rock-star Rez wants to marry an AI generated synthetic person.

    “Rez has claimed to want to marry a synthetic personality named Rei Toei, the Idoru (Japanese Idol) of the title, which is apparently impossible and therefore questioned by his loyal staff…”

    ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idoru

    Reply
  27. Oregoncharles

    “Labour and Tory MPs in talks over setting up new centrist party”
    Isn’t that called the Liberal Democrats? It’s now so small that if they all went over, they would probably control it.

    Britain uses plurality voting, like the US, and districted seats, so an effective 3rd party would throw a spanner in the works – they would have trouble forming a government at all. They already do, one reason for the present dysfunction.

    On the bright side, it would create an opportunity for existing “3rd” parties.

    Reply
  28. Summer

    Re: “Fare cutting puts the brakes on Uber’s revenue growth” Financial Times. See Hubert Horan’s post today.

    Just as an aside:
    Either way, I wonder how many businesses, some very good, would still be around if they had been allowed to sacrifice quarterly profit like this and at these numbers for future growth.
    Again, there is more to the story about what makes these types of companies so special and it has more to do with culture than financial formulas, science, or technology.

    Reply
  29. Thomas F Hilton, PhD

    This person does not exist dot com – yet.

    It is only a matter of time before Hollywood will be screaming for universal basic income as Tom Cruise, Merril Streep, and thousands of movie stars apply for unemployment. Soon they will be replaced by ageless digital robots and their very fat paychecks will be unnecessary. Remember the endless debates when we switched from LPs to CDs? Expect debates about real vs digital actors with the same historical outcome. “Mom, what’s a record player?”

    Once software gets the hang of AI personality, Hollywood will be more like the 1950s Disney Studios – faceless people sitting at PCs generating the next blockbuster movie. Most people are unaware of how much realistic automation already substitutes for stunts and special effects like car crashes, exploding government buildings, and the faces of bad guys being blown to gory smithereens. The trickle-down effect will be brutal on the entertainment business. Who will Jimmy Kimmel, Steven Colbert, Seth Meyers, etc. interview? Robots? Cartoons? The Emmys and Oscars will be pointless because there will no longer be a person to accept the award and promote their libtarded political views. The movement will breath new life into characters like Roger Rabbit.

    What about the film crews? What about the kickback to cities for filming on their streets? The hotels where the actors and crews reside? They will all be replaced by a self-driving car with a Google camera on the roof sending street shots back to the studio. Actors like Di Nero and Bale will no longer need to pork up for roles – there will be some code for that. No more make-up artists. A few keystrokes and you have a scarred face, toothless smile, blue vs brown eyes, a beard, bald, etc.

    It’s enough to make Leonardo da Vinci role over in his graves.

    Reply
    1. newcatty

      Yes, and the funny thing, imo, is that I think the likes of Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep (since you mentioned them) are among the least talented of actors. Though I do agree they are”movie stars”. Leonardo da Vinci was, and is, way too enlightened to bother a role over for our illusions. He might cry for us, though.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        It could work you know. They would be just as popular as regular actors, be able to do all sorts of stunts in films (digitally), and the latest upgraded computer sims would have only very little egos.

        Reply
    2. Whoamolly

      AI can genrrate digital actors, a-b testing as they go, to find a compelling charismatic (actor?).

      AI could a-b test millions of images and physiques to develop a digital composites of attractive, charismatic, utterly trustworthy digital super-stars.

      Perhaps this is how AI will communicate with humans.

      Reply
      1. Whoamolly

        After all, I am already watching and engaging with digital actors.

        I have never met Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan or Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn—or Donald Trump for that matter—except in their digital versions.

        Reply
  30. Summer

    Re: “Did Colin Kaepernick bring the NFL to its knees?” Deadspin (Chuck L)
    Or maybe the only way the NFL would be able to win the lawsuit would be in ways that would have created the next collusion lawsuit or worse.

    Reply
    1. wilroncanada

      It’s only money. The principle of collusion to deny employment has been saved from a trial which may have at least dented it. Any money paid out will likely be a small cost of doing business for the multi-billion dollar league. It can do the same thing again and again safe in the knowledge that the threat of starving the plaintiff to give in and take the (bribe) money instead of going to trial for fair employment will work, which I very much suspect has occurred in this case.

      Reply
  31. Summer

    What If There Were 42 Million at the Border? Gallup (Li)

    Well, of course we’d wait for the Republicans and Democrats to negotiate how many beds would be provided.

    Reply
  32. bruce wilder

    I’ve been playing “what’s wrong with this picture?” with Krugman’s N.Y. Times piece, What’s Wrong With Functional Finance?

    I am not going to pose as a defender of MMT doctrine, and so, will leave to others the obvious point — that Lerner(1943) is not coincident with 21st century MMT and making a strawman out of Lerner’s functional finance is too clever by half.

    Rhetorically, Krugman is threading a political needle in his essay, attacking right and attacking left at the same time without exposing much in the way of his own intellectual skin in this game. His scorn for conventional deficit scolds from the right is displayed conspicuously, but repeatedly qualified by his own endorsement of a more moderate and reasoned version of their concerns — his own moderate and judicious take, naturally, speaking as the self-appointed voice of academic authority regarding what is right and wrong.

    In the end, Krugman maintains, “Deficits and debt can matter, and not just because of the effects of deficit spending on aggregate demand.” So, no overthrowing the dogmas of the discredited past, you philistines! And, along the way, he does what he can to salvage the mythos of mainstream economics regarding the “trade-off” between monetary and fiscal policy: “what actually happens . . . is . . . political tradeoffs determine taxes and spending, and monetary policy adjusts the interest rate to achieve full employment without inflation.” So, it is not normally about clubbing to death any potential growth in wages, with a well-timed recession? Hmmm. Krugman again: “Under those conditions budget deficits do crowd out private spending, because tax cuts or spending increases will lead to higher interest rates.” Did you just skip past the effect on wage growth, Paul? I think you did. And, is what you say, actually true, as in true in practice? In practice, isn’t there a central bank administering “the interest rate”? How come the monetary policy authority — the central bank (dancing with the fiscal authority, the Treasury in the U.S.) — disappeared so fast from your narrative, Paul? Do budget deficits “crowd out” private spending, or do both together accelerate in a party atmosphere of high economic activity until the central bank takes away the proverbial punch bowl, by inverting the yield curve (look ma! not “the” interest rate, after all) and causing a recession?

    After scorning the deficit scolds early in the piece, Krugman tries to salvage the legitimacy of anxiety over public debt levels with some of the new-fangled r greater-than g magic. Apparently, the debt snowball is something to fear, after all. Krugman goes on a real limb with “debt can’t go to infinity – it can’t exceed total wealth“. Surprisingly counter-intuitive Paul, I would never have guessed that. Cannot go to infinity, good to know. /sarcasm (Economic growth on a finite planet cannot continue forever? Maybe come back to that.) More Krugman: ” . . . and in fact as debt gets ever higher people will demand ever-increasing returns to hold it. So at some point the government would be forced to run large enough primary (non-interest) surpluses to limit debt growth.” Or, the central bank and treasury/Congress — strangely absent from the narrative once again — would have to act.

    Krugman’s argument for the legitimacy of fear of debt snowballs fails to make explicit what exactly he thinks we should fear.

    On the surface, his argument resembles an argument to the effect that we should build no buildings over ten stories in height for fear that people would willy nilly climb to a great height and jump off. So, we should not build tall buildings.

    We can acknowledge, in the case of bridges and tall buildings, that great heights might fascinate the mentally ill and some prudence ought to be exercised in their design, without thinking that such an argument against all tall buildings is sensible.

    We control thru policy “the”(sic, wrong but sic because that’s what Krugman wrote) interest rate and also, to a more diffuse extent, the growth rate. In a sane world, Krugman’s argument could be distilled to, do not do r > g for any sustained length of time, but he does not distill it down like that, and we should probably ask, why?

    The only sense I can make of Krugman’s argument for fear of debt snowballs is that he thinks that there are real risks of perversity in politics, where some coalition could lock on to r > g and drive over a cliff. I would not say that there are not real risks of perverse outcomes in politics, in which otherwise sensible people lose their minds and no majority for sense can be found. (cf Brexit). Krugman does not touch on servicing cost explosions per se, but that’s another sort of snowball scenario that might be made plausible by perversity in politics running up against previous commitments to large debts of short duration.

    Krugman, at base, is a political liberal (as he never ceases to remind us), but a very conservative economist, which he sometimes hides. I thinking he’s hiding his conservatism as an economist in his essay recalling Functional Finance. Lerner’s Functional Finance embraced the idea that the macro-economy was not a system of self-regulating “markets” sure to return to full-employment equilibrium by means of price adjustments. If the economy as a whole was to be stabilized and prolonged periods of high unemployment avoided, it would have to be deliberately managed. Just as Nietzsche declared, “God is dead”, so Lerner, as prophet of Keynes, declared “the Market god is dead”.

    The insurmountable problem with the optimism with which Lerner presented his doctrine is uncertainty: we simply cannot “know” what policy should be and so people will not agree on “the right interest rate” and so on, and politics will ensue, with the inevitable struggle over the distribution of income (see Kalecki from the same era). But, that’s a problem with optimism not with the foundations of the doctrine. The economy is not run perfectly by an unseen market god calling a silent tatonnement, such that politicians should give the rich a tax cut and get lost and all will work out for the best, in this best of all possible worlds. Actual policy will be difficult, not just because people will disagree and they will, but because a real policy is not launched in certain knowledge, but in the expectation of discovery. And, all policy is concrete in its details, not wonderfully and cleanly abstract; if the government spends, it must spend on something in particular, not on vague abstractions with desirable analytic properties. And, all policy — even policy that starts out very right — will go wrong eventually, as policy success sows the seeds of its own destruction. blah, blah, blah But, Krugman does not go there.

    Krugman, the very conservative economist, is committed to the Idea of the self-righting “market” economy that “normally” is seeking an equilibrium of full-employment all on its own and the key to that general equilibrium is “the” interest rate. There’s “a tradeoff” you see, that most beloved concept for economists. In his heart of hearts, I suspect that Krugman wanted to tout a loanable funds model, but knew he could not win an argument on such terms.

    Maybe this is the facade of mainstream nonsense crumbling. We can hope.

    Reply
  33. The Rev Kev

    “Pro-EU panelist strips on Sky News to call attention to Brexit”

    That story may appear shocking but apparently she was wearing a boob tube which you could not see from the blur. In any case, she strikes me as the sane one in her family. British TV makes this a non-story when you consider that they have a dating game show called “Naked Attraction” featuring full frontal nudity. Just in passing, there are now only 40 more days till Brexit.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      The skin trait is offensive to us in general, I tellya. Nudity is best shared with a shower, alone in your birthday suit.

      Reply
  34. Wukchumni

    I’ll admit to not looking too hard for evidence that there’s been any construction, laying of rails, or any semblance of anything getting done on the bullet train in California, but thusly have seen precisely bupkis.

    CaliBERS

    Reply
  35. freedomny

    JPM coin. Yet another reason to loathe Jamie Dimon, who is the biggest Grifter Opportunist BS’er of them all….

    On another note: Fellow NYC’ers – don’t forget to vote on 2/26 for Public Advocate! And if you’ve been following this race, Nomiki Konst has been really impressive :) especially re real estate developers and their impact.

    Reply
  36. dcblogger

    atrios is mad
    What kind of health plan should pass that makes voters happy and doesn’t make them upset because it doesn’t raise their taxes or upset the status quo or isn’t “moderate” or whatever the fuck? One which mails them a card on day one that they can use to go to the damn doctor without paying any money. …
    … Make getting sick slightly less of a hassle than Comcast Customer Support and voters will love you. It’s that simple. The details matter, but the wonks should be working out that shit between themselves, not by writing memos on op-ed pages because none of us should have to care about them.
    https://www.eschatonblog.com/2019/02/i-dont-give-shit-how-you-bend-cost-curve.html

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      “Make getting sick slightly less of a hassle than Comcast Customer Support”
      …sometimes the answer is really simple, although maybe dealing with customer support is easier when you’re sick…

      Reply
  37. integer

    I’ve recently been noticing that periods and commas are often placed inside quotation marks, which seemed counter-intuitive to me, so I decided to get to the bottom of this little mystery and found this fun fact:

    Compositors―people who layout printed material with type―made the original rule that placed periods and commas inside quotation marks to protect the small metal pieces of type from breaking off the end of the sentence. The quotation marks protected the commas and periods. In the early 1900s, it appears that the Fowler brothers (who wrote a famous British style guide called The King’s English) began lobbying to make the rules more about logic and less about the mechanics of typesetting. They won the British battle, but Americans didn’t adopt the change. That’s why we have different styles.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      In the US, commas are always inside quotation marks, which can seem illogical when it’s one or a few words (British usage is more sensible). The treatment of the period relative to quotation marks seems to have less settled rules when you are not dealing with a full sentence.

      Reply
  38. The Rev Kev

    Looks like Trump is going to get back at Europe for not toeing the line this week over issues like Iran, Russia and not obeying US laws. “Trump tells Europe to ‘take back’ 800 ISIS fighters or US ‘will be forced to release them’ ” at-

    https://www.rt.com/news/451652-trump-threat-europe-isis/

    There is no way that this issue could ever backfire or cause more trouble between Trump and Europe down the track.

    Reply

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