Links 5/27/19

For the Midwest, Epic Flooding Is the Face of Climate Change Wired

After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines Grist

Doing Justice by Preet Bharara FT. The deck: “An eloquent lesson that the law is only as good as those who lead it.” Erm, if men were angels, no government would be necessary….

Taking Stock of Venture Capital The American Conservative

How IOS Group Supersized the Shell Company Game OCCRP

Channeling the Ivy League Helped a Maori Tribe Earn $1.3 Billion Bloomberg. Reparations in New Zealand.

It’s the Phone, Stupid: Mobiles and Murder NEBR

Mike Pence: West Point grads should expect to see combat Military Times

Memorial Day

Yes, My Fellow Soldiers Died in Vain The American Conservative

We didn’t want to invite John Walker Lindh to our Memorial Day party, but his potato salad is so damn delicious Duffel Blog


Tory bosses DEMAND contenders face public grilling if they want Theresa May’s job Express. May’s problem wasn’t that she was “wooden,” but that she faced real and irreconcilable contradictions (or, more precisely, contradictions no other individual, faction, or party in Britian’s political class has come close to being able to reconcile). Maggie Thatcher was no Miss Congeniality, after all.

European Election 2019: UK results in maps and charts BBC

Brexit: much effort for little result EU Referendum

Pro-EU parties hold ground across the continent FT

EU election: Surge for Greens and euroskeptics, losses for centrist blocs Deutsche Welle

European election’s winners and losers Politico


How Hinduism Became a Political Weapon in India The Atlantic

The Modi Mystery Foreign Policy

North Korea

Trump breaks with Abe, says not bothered by NK missile tests AP


China’s industrial profits fall in first 4 months XInhua

Trade war inspires black humour on Chinese social media FT. China’s techies seem confident.

Gone tomorrow Reuters. “Baoshang Bank, linked to missing billionaire Xiao Jianhua, has been brought under state control. Despite threats, Beijing remains wary of allowing even disgraced local lenders to fail.” That seems like a spectacular banking story, even by American standards.

In inland Chinese province, property bubble haunts dreams of prosperity Reuters

This map shows a trillion-dollar reason why China is oppressing more than a million Muslims Business Insider

The Standoff At Sandy Cay In The South China Sea – Analysis Eurasia Review

China’s Aging Migrant Workers Are Facing a Return to Poverty Sixth Tone

Generation Amnesia: why China’s youth don’t talk about Tiananmen South China Morning Post

Trump Transition

Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor Japan Times

1 big thing: Trump’s tweets lose potency Axios. Interesting, however, to see how disciplined Trump is on his messaging. He’s like Sanders in that regard, although of course their respective styles are very different.

Bipartisan disaster relief package held up by lone GOP House member over border security USA Today

FBI Sued Over Files on Dead Hacker Who Turned In Chelsea Manning Gizmodo

As federal AI spending nears $1B, 2nd wave of agencies consider use cases Federal News Radio.


The Case to Impeach Trump for Bigotry The New Yorker

It’s Hard to Take Impeachment Seriously Now Bloomberg

Impeach Trump? Most 2020 Democrats tiptoe past the question AP

What Rod Rosenstein Knew When He Helped Trump Fire Comey Murray Waas, NYRB

Our Famously Free Press

“The Times Has Become a Book-Deal Factory”: With a Flood of Star Reporters Thinking of Book Leave, Management Delivers a “Wrist Slap” Vanity Fair (Furzy Mouse).

Imperial Collapse Watch

What’s Great Power Competition? No One Really Knows Defense One. Know your enemy and know yourself?

Venezuela: Representatives of Maduro and Guaido to meet in Norway Deutsche Welle. Not sure what the solution space could be, here, given that Guaido has already tried one failed coup,

Guillotine Watch

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich Bloomberg

Measles erases the immune system’s memory ScienceNews

Class Warfare

Federal Reserve Board issues Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

U.S. Is a Rich Country With Symptoms of a Developing Nation Noah Smith, Bloomberg. From February, still germane. I think Smith means “syndromes,” though, not “symptoms.”

As More Millennials Rent, More Startups Want to Lend to Them Mansion Global (WSJ repost).

Elon Musk Says ‘Hyperloop’ Tunnel Is Now Just a Normal Car Tunnel Because ‘This Is Simple and Just Works’ Jalopnik and It’s A Car In A Tiny Tunnel And It Takes An Elevator To Get There Eschaton. What if — just hear me out — there were a way to power cars through tunnels, and the cars could carry fifty or maybe even one or two hundred people at the same time?

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites spark fights between astronomy, spaceflight fans Teslarati (of all places). “As more levelheaded spaceflight fans and astronomers thankfully point out, we need to wait weeks – if not months or even years – to actually understand the potential impact [Low Earth Orbit (LEO)] megaconstellations might have on science and society.” Translation: As usual, the crooks in Silicon Valley dump their product in a public space — the entire night sky, in this case — cash in, and expect others to bear the costs of coping with the “externalities” (see Uber, AirBnB, and of course the criminal enterprise that is Facebook). The tell here is that that Musk didn’t consult with astronomers when developing the business concept or the technology, any more than he consulted with experts on the ground in the Thai cave rescue before publicizing his half-baked mini-submarine concept. Ka-ching. And then of course there’s the radio spectrum:

Antidote du jour (via):

Reintroducing the wildcat to England as part of re-wilding.

Bonus Antidote:

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. Samuel Conner

    Re: the daily Musk item, if it isn’t already a “term of art” (a hasty and incomplete Google search suggests that the term currently has other uses but, in my limited search, not this one), perhaps in future, “musk up” will also mean something like “destroy a promising business through lack of focus on core mission”.

    Perhaps there will be a new acronym, “SNAMU” to describe American business: “situation normal: all musked up”.

  2. Ignacio

    RE: European election’s winners and losers Politico

    In short: some change to stay the same. Turnout (51%) higher than in previous elections but yet too low for the left to have any influence in UE politics. As in the US the TINA crowd feeds on the lack of interest of The Forgotten.

  3. Henry Moon Pie

    Interesting headline pairs today:

    Pro-EU parties hold ground across the continent FT

    EU election: Surge for Greens and euroskeptics, losses for centrist blocs Deutsche Welle

    Must be a lot of fog over the Channel today that’s obscuring the view.

    The Case to Impeach Trump for Bigotry The New Yorker

    It’s Hard to Take Impeachment Seriously Now Bloomberg


    As for Musk and his tunnels, Lambert is right that the breakthrough technology of electric-powered trains running in tunnels might be a fast way around, i.e. under traffic, it would be necessary for Musk and his fellow VIPs to rub shoulders with–that’s right–us. They find that icky. Maybe if we built subway trains like stadiums and arenas and provided our betters with luxury suites and separate entrances.

    As for Musk and his SpaceX screwing over astronomy:

    Quit f—ing with s–t.

    1. tegnost

      The starlink thing is classic silicon valley. I’m sure there were some people who knew about it, but for most of us it’s the same old “we’re doing it, actually we already did it. Don’t like it? Too bad get used to it”

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Or, in the vulgate, breaking the law.*

          I wish some astronomers would get together and sue Musk’s ***. There’s got to be some theory of the case. Do we have any astronomers in the readership? Surely we do.

          NOTE * Or, as Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt wrote: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”

    2. ChristopherJ

      So where have been the China and Russian protests? Musk seems to think he is beyond any laws, any niceties, protocols – something resembling moral or ethical behaviour. Dumbass should be locked up

      If Russia had put the sats in orbit – I think we’d be a defcon 3

    3. shtove

      Maybe if we built subway trains like stadiums and arenas and provided our betters with luxury suites and separate entrances.

      You’ve never travelled first-class on UK railways – everyone gets to arrive late. But at least we all get to listen to the cheeky-chappy, eccentric conductor on the tannoy!

    4. Oregoncharles

      The first two headlines aren’t actually contradictory. The traditional centrist bloc, and ruling parties generally, lost ground, but mainly to parties that also support the EU, like the European Greens.

      One big exception is Britain, although the Greens and Lib-Dems gained there, too.

      We shall see, but it’s easy to overinterpret this election: Europeans often use the EU Parliament election as a protest vote.

    5. ChrisPacific

      Watching Musk painstakingly reinvent the subway system (via a progress of progressive optimization from his initial futuristic vision) is pretty funny.

      I wonder if it will become a Flint style public hazard once his company collapses: unpredictable sinkholes due to previously unknown (and unfinished or improperly completed) hyperloop tunnels. I note that Musk had to build it in a poor neighborhood, because when he tried to do it in a rich one he got sued.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Maybe if we built subway trains like stadiums and arenas and provided our betters with luxury suites and separate entrances

      That’s exactly it. All public transport should have a Business Class section. Probably needs more than to be simply curtained off; there needs to be some sort of airlock, or even a separate entrance. No contact with the proles, especially not olfactory contact!

  4. jackiebass

    A future problem I see with commercializing space is overcrowding. Unless regulated , we will do the same thing with space that we did with the environment. In the case of space the pollution will be all of the space junk left by commercial ventures. The universe in big beyond imagination. We occupy a small piece of it.When the part of space we occupy becomes too crowded it will make space travel impossible. This will be a problem when the time comes for life to leave earth to survive. This means we will become prisoners on earth. I believe humans will destroy earth before this happens so what I predict won’t matter..

    1. lyman alpha blob

      If Musk can put his satellites up there without bothering to ask anyone if they mind, what’s to stop someone else from sending up a satellite capable of shooting Musk’s down?

      I starting typing the comment as a joke, where some company could, for a price, offer anyone the chance to remotely shoot down Musk’s toys. But the more I think about it, the more it seems inevitable. Once more than one company gets going in orbit, they’re going to start taking potshots at each other. As soon as they can, they will.

      1. The Rev Kev

        You know, you might be onto something. Maybe a cannon. Not just an ordinary cannon but one that can fire lasers – no, no. An Ion Cannon. And of course it will have to be in Low Orbit. It would be great for a Denial-of-Satellite attack.

        1. rowlf

          A small spacecraft that can chase and attach itself to the satellite, then lower the satellites orbit. With proper timing you could aim any possible debris to land in Musk’s neighborhood.

          You learn math so you can learn physics, because physics can be really fun. Someday we will be able to throw rocks from the moon.

          1. The Rev Kev

            ‘Someday we will be able to throw rocks from the moon.’

            Maybe not such a good idea that. The scifi author wrote a story called “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” where the citizens of the Moon bombard the Earth with rocks wrapped in iron containers which were in turn fired from an electromagnetic launch system.


            1. rowlf

              … and why were the people on the moon throwing rocks?

              It is interesting that the old kids book started with an Australian like colony of criminals instead of a bunch of exiled religious nutters and a few rich bastards like the US.

                1. ambrit

                  Yes. Back then, being a “religious nutter” was a crime.
                  I’ve read that “Transportation” to Australia didn’t become a going concern until after the American Colonies broke away and removed from availability that large dumping ground for criminals. America was much closer to Europe than Australia. The costs of transportation must be taken into account. Now, the costs of transport to the Moon? Oh boy. That’s why it’s called fiction.

                  1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                    America was THE dumping ground for UK criminals and undesirables until the Revolution. The first stop when the Brits were seeking an alternate prison colony was New Zealand, but the first 10 men ashore were eaten by the locals. If you’ve ever seen a haka you’d understand why they moved on to Australia instead:

                  2. eg

                    There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when the Empire was deciding upon a likely destination for “transportation” they considered Canada, but rejected it as constituting “cruel and unusual punishment” …

      2. PlutoniumKun

        I think a more likely scenario is competitors putting their new satellites into positions that ‘accidentally’ block signals to their competitors units. I would imagine there would be a recourse to law if both countries were from the same country, but it would certainly be an interesting scenario of it was, say, Huawai satellites getting in the way of Tesla ones.

        What is needed is a version of Maritime Law for space. But guess who’d oppose anything like this.

        1. rowlf

          To refine my earlier idea, what if my satellite is programmed to find your satellite and give it a nudge downward so my satellite can take that orbit?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What is needed is a version of Maritime Law for space. But guess who’d oppose anything like this.

          Maybe when the aliens finally land we can ask them what to do.

      3. Procopius

        One of the problems I see here is that destroying Musk’s sattelites won’t “bring them down.” Yes, it’ll stop them from interfering with radio frequency noise, but it will break them up into smaller pieces, making it harder to even find them before a fatal collision, and they will continue in orbit for decades or centuries.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I can recall concerns about space overcrowding as far back as the 1970’s, when it was realised that everyone was sending their telecommunications satellites to the same mid-ocean geosynchronous orbit. And its been made worse by space junk.

      Its probably less damaging with low-earth orbit satellites as most will eventually return to earth, and they are not as specific in their orbital requirements, but there must be a lot of potential for issues with interference between signals.

    3. Mark Alexander

      In the case of space the pollution will be all of the space junk left by commercial ventures.

      Reading this, I can’t help but think of the Devo song from over 40 years ago (!) about this very problem: Space Junk.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        What seems like the obvious solution is to put international platforms in orbits with the highest demand and lease “rack space” on them so that instead of thousands of objects in those high-demand orbits, to have one large platform and install and remove hardware from it as required.

        1. ambrit

          It would be a matter of power availability and orbital stability. Geosynchronus orbit anyone?

    4. Plenue

      It’ll be fun to watch the ‘gee-whiz, SCIENCE!’ crowd try and navigate this one. From what I’ve seen many of them are completely naive when it comes to anything remotely political, or to taking any holistic approach to assessing the impacts of human actions. They generally worship Musk. Now they have to deal with the fact that he’s done something directly counter to good science in the name of profit.

      1. ambrit

        Science is without agency. We deal here with good scientists and bad scientists. And even that might be a bit too simplistic.
        Capitalize the ‘p’ in the word “profit,” as you use it and the supposedly Ethical question becomes a Theological one.

        1. Plenue

          Oh good, we could use bad grammar to twist philosophy into theology. I’m sure that would really help.

          1. ambrit

            Politicians twist grammar, philosophy, and theology as a part of their work skills set.
            Or haven’t you watched any episodes of “Yes, Minister” before?
            In olden days, Theology was referred to as the “Queen of the Sciences.” Rationality is but a thin veneer over human nature. I’ll assert that we, as a species, and a society, have not progressed very far from the European High Middle Ages.
            After all, we are still disputing the merits of “Force Majeure” versus “Law.”

            1. Plenue

              Yeah, they also used to burn witches and throw their crap out into the street. ‘It’s good/better because that’s how we used to do it’ is not a sound argument. I’ll take a thin veneer over no veneer at all.

              1. ambrit

                So, blowing up foreign countries using Religious Fundamentalists of whatever stripe is how advanced over “burning witches?”
                I’ll assert that that “thin veneer” is applied and removed on a national level as policy dictates.
                I make no appeal to Tradition here. That’s the province of people like Evola and similar. And do notice that science, as presently practiced, is explicitly put at the service of policy. The processes may be rational, but the decision making ethos’ that guide the applications of the fruits of that rationality are decidedly non-rational.
                The real tragedy here is that we are not in control of whether or not rationality is applied to our own lives. Reconciling Fatalism with Progressivism is a truly Sisyphean task.

                1. Plenue

                  It isn’t more advanced. But religion and theology deserve to be flushed down the crapper. The next step is making sure we don’t replace them with some other form of ideology.

                  1. eg

                    I think you will find that your project will never come to fruition. The very architecture of our brains and bodies appears to require “religion” (or secular variants thereof) in groups.

                    At least that’s what the evidence of the archaelogical record tells us.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > we could use bad grammar to twist philosophy into theology

            “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” –Wittgenstein

  5. Jesper


    After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines

    Compare that to Europe where it can take 5-10 years to get necessary approvals to build power-lines which will improve the efficiency of energy use. The electricity is produced but can’t be sent to where it can be used and building the power-lines would reduce the waste. The privatisations of power-grids (in the name of efficiency) does not make the investment more likely, rather the opposite due to short-term thinking of the private sector. But I suppose the argument that privatisation is necessary to help the ones with private pension schemes to get higher value of their private pension scheme is what counts…
    Transferring assets from generating value for the public pension etc to the beneficiaries of private pension schemes is an excellent example of neo-liberal selfishness.

    1. RhineStone

      Compare that to Europe where it can take 5-10 years to get necessary approvals

      Source please.

      1. Jesper

        Fair enough, here you go:
        It only says:

        Lots of interconnector projects get stuck in the permitting process, which takes a minimum of 3.5 years to gain consent.

        so I suppose the precise number is 3.5 years to whatever number the longest time there is.
        I’d suspect, without knowing or having any sources for it, that the minimum time to get consent does not happen often. Even one objection or one appeal delays the process.

    2. Charger01

      It can easily take 10 years + to have transmission line approved and built in the United States as well. If you have the misfortune to route the line through California or federal lands subject to NEPA.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Monkey-wrenching the permitting process might in the end be more effective than protests. We would certainly end up with a more educated populace. That’s why I keep saying carbon extraction projects should be opposed where found.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      This is one of the issues privatised firms find themselves with – they lose some of the exemptions that State bodies have. In most EU countries, State infrastructure is subject to exemptions from all except EIAR (environmental assessment) and AA (Habitats Directive) requirements, while private operators have to go through the various national permit requirements. I recall from working in the UK in the 1990’s that the National Grid had given themselves a virtual exemption from any strict regulatory requirements, they simply had to go through the relevant Minister – this was in contrast to the private railway construction project I was employed with.

      But certainly long distance DC lines are very unpopular and the Germans have having great difficulty building the lines they need – similarly for the French who are anxious for more connections over the Pyrenees and Alps. The obvious answer is underground lines, but these are very expensive and potentially less reliable due to heat build up and the difficulty of fixing faults. Ideally, they should run along motorways and high speed railways, but there is always a reluctance by engineers to have too many critical lines of infrastructure along existing routes.

      A key difference between Europe and the US is that in Europe the regulatory requirements are generally quite firmly laid out, while in the US they are subject to constant legal review, which can greatly extend the time requirements, without obviously improving design quality. In northern European countries in particular there is a firm legal principle that the courts should rarely interfere with other competent authorities for regulation, so long as there are no very serious breaches of fundamental legal rights. But there has been a recent tendency in Europe for it to become more legalistic, mostly thanks to ambiguities surrounding the Habitats Directive, which has become something of a nightmare for infrastructure providers, especially within the context of the Aarhus Convention.

      1. Ignacio

        Next big electric connection between France and Spain will be submarine. And I believe there is also a submarine connection with Ireland (in project or already done I can’t say).

  6. Clive

    Re: today’s antidote.

    He/she looks like my mother in law’s cat, but slightly more friendly and with marginally less likelihood of pretending to be enjoying a game of catch the little ball-ee (or the small pom pom on a string, depending on what’s in favour today) then, for no apparent reason, delivering a coup de grâce of an inch-long scratch on my wrist. Which is still stinging. But at least it’s not actually drawn blood. This time.

    But seriously, they are wonderful creatures, I once saw one in the wild (the far north of Northumberland, or maybe the borders, I think) when I was very little (maybe aged five or six). It was magical and I still recall it vividly — it’s one of my earliest memories. I hope the reintroduction goes well.

  7. dearieme

    He died in Witchita, Kansas, in March 2018, of causes unknown

    That’s a refreshing change from people being suicided by person or persons unknown.

    1. Procopius

      Errrmmm… I think “causes unknown” does not excluded “being suicided by person or persons unknown.”

    2. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Oh what a tangled web we weave…

      Dead bodies are like air pollution.

  8. Wukchumni

    Channeling the Ivy League Helped a Maori Tribe Earn $1.3 Billion Bloomberg.

    What if the Native Americans had not only been fierce warriors, but also unbeatable in their natural surroundings and couldn’t be subjugated by the US Army in a series of wars lasting decades, which led us to accept them as equals to the point where you would see Indians marrying white settlers and instead of it being the cause of great shame for the latter in the 19th century, was no big deal?

    And those fierce warriors went on to distinguish themselves in WW1 & WW2…

    The Māori Battalion’s service against the Germans in North Africa earned them a distinguished reputation. Such was the respect that Allied commanders had for the Māori Battalion that they were frequently used as a spearhead unit. Bernard Freyberg, the General Officer Commanding of the 2NZEF, commented, “No infantry had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties, as the Maori Battalion.” The battalion’s reputation was also acknowledged by their opponents. Some sources state that the Afrika Korps commander, Erwin Rommel remarked,”Give me the Maori Battalion and I will conquer the world”

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      They sent firefighters from NZ and Samoa to NorCal last year to fight the wildfires and may need to do so again this year. Pacific Islanders are some of the best people on this planet.

      1. Polar Donkey

        I did Peace Corps in Tonga. We were told if you play rugby never play with any Tongans over 14. They will try to kill you, not out of meanness, but to show how good Tongans are.

  9. Wukchumni

    I think everybody has gotten the wrong idea in regards to Elon’s 1-lane tunnel in the City of Angles. What he’s gonna do next is flood said cave and use mini-submarines as mass transit, while utilizing a laser periscope to get around.

    1. Jen

      Dunno about that, but I’m thinking it would be pretty easy for some troublemaker(s) to seal off a one lane tunnel. Not that I’m trying to give anyone ideas…

  10. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Channeling the Ivy League

    What, you mean the kiwis didn’t just have some Vegas grifters plop down a casino, funnel the profits back to themselves, and call it good?

  11. Wukchumni

    Re:Pence means saying you’re sorry you ever brought up the idea of impeachment.

    “Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”

  12. The Rev Kev

    “We didn’t want to invite John Walker Lindh to our Memorial Day party, but his potato salad is so damn delicious”

    Well that potato salad would have been delicious but unfortunately, “‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh tasted freedom for approximately 47 seconds before a Hellfire missile fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle ensured he would never taste anything ever again, sources confirmed today”-

    1. a different chris

      It would be funnier if they had added some DefenseDept speak were they are not 100% sure who they actually hit but don’t really want to say that. Then it would tie in nicely with the potato salad story, which could have ended with “the DoD however reported Lindh dead approximately 6 hours ago, waiting for confirmation…”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Stellar Duffel Blog post. This is good too:

      “We released him at the local soccer field to minimize collateral . . . observers,” a government official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

  13. Wukchumni

    Tijuana-adjacent is much more draconian than Silicon Valley when it comes to homeless-not vehicleless…

    A recently adopted prohibition against vehicle habitation in San Diego does not seem to have cleared the streets of people living in cars and RVs in beach communities yet, but word of the new law did spread quickly.

    The new law prohibits people who live in a car or RV to park their vehicle at any time within 500 feet of a home or school. People are not allowed to sleep in a vehicle parked on a public street between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. if there are spots available at legal safe-parking lots, while a separate law prohibits RVs and other over-sized vehicles from parking on any city street or public parking lot between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “This map shows a trillion-dollar reason why China is oppressing more than a million Muslims”

    I’m pretty sure that the Chinese remember the Russian experience in the First Chechen war. The Russian army was at a low point and had a helluva job containing Jihadist extremists. The Russians found out and proved that the CIA was training and arming these extremists and when they confronted Washington about this, was more or less told ‘So what”. And of course oil was a major reason behind this support for the Jihadists-

    The Chinese have probably vowed that they will not let Chinese Muslims be used in the same way. They know that Chinese Uyghurs have gone to the Syrian war for training and experience to fight the Chinese back home which explains the Chinese crackdown. Want to know how bad this thinking can get with Washington? The guy that runs the blog Global Guerrillas came up with a post about what to do to “Delaying Chinese Dominance” and here it is-

    If the US tried to do this, then this is nothing less than a declaration of war and it is surprising how some intelligent people miss this little factoid.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The Uighurs are a very tough, independent minded people. The will take a lot of cracking by the Chinese – but the Chinese see that region as utterly vital strategically, so they will do what is needed to crush and destroy the local culture as they have done all along their western and northern frontiers. This has been going on for years – 10 years or so ago a friend of mine lived and worked in Urumqi for a few years, he was no shrinking violet or (to put it mildly) friend of islam, but he said he found the things he saw on a daily basis very upsetting. I’ve witnessed myself the constant harassment Tibetans receive from Chinese soldiers, they will openly humiliate them without any consequences.

      As for that second link – it does seem that some people are slow learners when it comes to blow-back. However, it is certainly true that there is a solid reason why the Silk Road railways will never fully replace sea transport, and vulnerability to attack is pretty much number 1.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > it is certainly true that there is a solid reason why the Silk Road railways will never fully replace sea transport

        Volume and cost. Then again, if China is moving up the value chain in manufacturing, perhaps those will end up not mattering quite so much.

    2. Susan the other`

      The recent report I heard was that China was reprogramming the Uyghurs to be good citizens via educational techniques – I can imagine something like our efforts in the late 1800s to re-educate the Indian Tribes, taking their children away from them and putting them in Indian Schools, under strict supervision. It is encouraging to witness just how resilient the American Indian culture was. It has re-emerged and is becoming one model for remaking our own society. Their reverence for the Earth, etc. The whole idea of reprogramming a tribe of people who are bred-in-the-bone tough and independent sounds like a long endeavor. One thing the Chinese might consider is that it is a good thing the Uyghurs are so tough and well adapted to western China which is basically an unforgiving desert environment. The Uyghurs might be no more susceptible to Western manipulation than they are to Chinese.

    3. Olga

      The Chinese also remember how the US used Afghani mujahedin to trap the USSR (1978-79), stoking extremism in the entire region. The US does not have to use its military to maintain hegemony; clever heads in Langley/Pent long ago figured out that using proxies to create chaos is enough. This may work out well for the hegemonists (at least in the short run), not so much for the rest of us. (I know that delegations of Uighurs had open passage to Afg. and Pak. in the 1980s/90s.)
      I disagree with PK that Chinese are striving to destroy the local culture (thus creating more resentment). It would be enough to co-opt them via a rising standard of living – the way Russians did with Chechens. Who wants to fight, when there is lots of money to be made? They just have to wait it out until the Silk Rd. is in full bloom.

      1. ambrit

        I had a first generation Chinese Texican room mate for a year and a half when I went to the Poison Ivy League college a’ways back. He taught me a lot about cultural attitudes in general. One big thing he explicitly taught me was the extreme degree of cultural chauvinism the Chinese enjoy. The old “spelling” of the word for the nation of China means, literally translated, “the place halfway between Heaven and Earth.” The euphemistically ‘officially translated’ “Middle Kingdom.”
        Before I go off on some hypocritical tangent, let me state that this attitude is common world wide and nothing more or less than the “Imperial Mindset,” also sometimes known as the “Mandate of Heaven.” Britain did it with it’s promotion of “The White Man’s Burden.” America is now doing it under the rubric of the “Pax Americana.”
        Ave, human nature!

        1. Oregoncharles

          China was an empire 2000 years before the US even existed. It is the last surviving empire from classical times; it was linked with Imperial Rome and the Middle East via the Silk Road – which the plans on that map echo.

          We’re pikers in comparison.

          1. ObjectiveFunction

            Sorry, yet more all-knowing-Chinese-thousand-year-plan woo-woo here. Egyptian, Greek, Indian and Iranian civilizations are at least as old as China. 2000 years of ossifying tradition proved at least as much hindrance as help to all these civilizations.

            One might argue that the closest heirs to Confucian imperial China are in Taiwan, HK or Singapore. On the mainland, the Communists effectively burned all their prior institutions to the ground in the 1950s and 1960s.

            Also, hasn’t grand strategy by drawing lines on maps a la the 1840s Great Game been thoroughly ridiculed on these pages already? Roads and pipelines are made of money, and replaceable/reroutable at need. No nation in history has been brought to its knees by having a pipeline or a road shut off.

            1. Wukchumni

              Another key difference that as the cultures you mention had no connection to speak of with one another either in proximity or era, everything stood on its own merit, the Mayans had no idea what the Romans were up to, The Greeks had no reason to ever do trade deals with the Chinese, in Chaco Canyon, nobody wondered how the Crusades were faring, etc.

              It’s all interconnected now (even the 3rd world), with a long debt cord only in need of a spark~

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I disagree with PK that Chinese are striving to destroy the local culture

        I do keep seeing stories like this; schooling, mosques destroyed, etc. Accompanied by plenty of pearl-clutching, so who knows whether it’s tendentious or not.

        That said, there’s enough smoke for both for the Uyghurs and in Tibet to make me believe there’s fire. That, and the response by Hong Kong locals to mainlanders.

        To be fair, China has never done anything like (say) Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia, so the United States has set a pretty high bar for being “ugly.” Then again, the United States is far away and goes away. Not so China.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s a good link from John Robb. From the end of the article:

      Doesn’t the US risk more from disruption than China? No. The US doesn’t have a choice. If it doesn’t act while this logistical monopoly is being built (when it is the most vulnerable to disruption), the US will cede global dominance to China so completely and the consequences to the US will be so negative, it may require a war to reverse.

      I’m not sure how much “global dominance” has done for the great mass of Americans. We’ve got nukes. We’ve got the Atlantic, the Pacific, Mexico to the South, Canada to the North. China, by contrast is hemmed in at sea, and surrounded by other powers on land. It may be that One Belt One Road is “the best of a bad lot” rather than an all-powerful hyra-headed entity. In any case, I don’t think China will be invading us any time soon. Of course, it would be handy if we hadn’t destroyed our industrial base and sent it over there, but no doubt that can be fixed. With a level of effort…

  15. Frank Little

    Re: Pence at West Point

    Pence noted that Trump has proposed a $750 billion defense budget for 2020 and said the United States “is once again embracing our role as the leader of the free world.”

    “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,” Pence said. “You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”

    I must have missed the time when the US wasn’t hard at work “freeing” the world through bombing, covert action, and economic warfare. It’s been so successful in the Middle East that I guess they’d like to expand the franchise into Venezuela.

    1. Cal2

      I can’t think of one justified war, in defense of our homeland, that this country fought in since the British invaded in 1812 and Pershing fighting Pancho Villa in New Mexico.

      Peal Harbor was territory that we stole from the Queen of Hawaii.

      Wilson was a fool to get us into The Great War, to save J.P. Morgan’s ass, which led to WWII, which since “we” won, led to The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam and inevitably, Syraniraqlibyastan.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Not sure if you forgot all the adventures in OUR hemisphere (The Monroe Doctrine is NOT imperialism because WE did it!) or there’s a text limit on the box. Smedley Butler should be required reading for American students but for obvious reasons will never be.

        I know some people who wouldn’t even defend our actions against Pancho Villa due to the entirety of US-Mexican relations up to that point.

        1. Plenue

          Hilariously, Smedley Butler is still talked about in Marine training, because he’s too big a figure for them to just ignore. They very much dance around the fact that he basically disowned his entire military career though.

      2. Big Tap

        Regarding the War of 1812 Monroe declared war on Britain first than the British invaded. Guess he thought the timing was good since Britain was involved in the Napoleonic Wars with France. After Waterloo the British had extra troops to spare and sent some to America hence the need for a ‘White’ House to cover up the scorch marks. The winner was what was to later become Canada and the loser was the American Indian as it no longer posed much of a threat to white American western expansion.

        1. eg

          Wags have made similar observations of another conflict:

          “Who lost the Seven Years War between the French and the British Empires? The Indians …”

    2. Tomonthebeach

      Mike Pence: West Point grads should expect to see combat

      Here’s an idea that might help. Pass legislation re-renaming the DOD to the WAR Department, since clearly, that is the way Trump and Pense (and Bolton, and Pompeo, and Shannahan, and…..) see it.

      1. Procopius

        Also, although I can’t remember where I read it, Heinlein I guess, “No ‘Defense’ Department has ever won a war.”

  16. The Rev Kev

    “Measles erases the immune system’s memory”

    Who knew that the body’s immune system had a factory re-set built into it. Well that sucks!

    1. PlutoniumKun

      It does indeed – a cousin of mine had her white blood cells blasted away in cancer treatment – one of the unpleasant after effects was that at 60 she had to get all her childhood immune shots all over again.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Yes – you have to get re-immunized after a bone marrow transplant. Not the biggest issue with transplants, but it mean you get the whole set of shot twice.

      1. beth

        Your cousin was fortunate. My sister died three months after she had my brothers blood infused. She wasn’t even sick in any way. That was in 2012. I wish her the best. I so hope your sister does well. Stay close and give her lots of love.

    2. Susan the other`

      In some cases the opposite is true as well. Remember Dirk and Sandy? Their book on creating an immunity to cancer by using the smallpox vaccine… whatever happened to all that?

  17. Cal2

    “Yes, My Fellow Soldiers Died in Vain”

    Honor them. Never forget them. Help their families.

    Shame the politicians that wasted their lives.

    What is the military length of service record of politicians running for president?

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Nobody veteran has won since Bush in 88. Dole and McCain lost in 96 and 08. Kerry lost in 04.

      At one point in 3 of 4 elections we had a veteran lose to a non-veteran. Had Gore been something besides a roving reporter who never roved anywhere near enemy lines it’d have been 4 for 4.

      Please do not construe this comment as pro-military regarding the office of POTUS. The only good general/President we ever had was Eisenhower, and his record on many things is not pristine.

      1. beth

        The only good general/President we ever had was Eisenhower, and his record on many things is not pristine.

        I changed my mine about Eisenhower after I learned that he was happy letting Allen Dulles do his thing, so that he didn’t have to think about war. I’m not so sure that was better than war. Americans could think we were virtuous all the while.

      2. ewmayer

        “The only good general/President we ever had was Eisenhower” — after the very first U.S. president, you mean?

        1. Procopius

          If you read the history of The Whiskey Rebellion you may not feel so enthusiastic about Washington. Let’s just say civil rights were not a thing in those days.

          1. Wukchumni

            …i’ll Grant you he didn’t hit the links all that often, but he was Ike’s equal in battle

        2. WheresOurTeddy

          Grant, Taylor, Jackson, Washington all very problematic

          George does get points for being the first person to peacefully transfer power to a non-relative and for the whole commander-in-chief during the revolutio thing

  18. ambrit

    That quote about the law only being as good “as those who lead it” rubs me the wrong way. What ever happened to the principle of “Laws and not Men?” This sounds a lot like a Messiah Complex a building.

  19. jef

    The best transit scheme I have ever come across was one I read about over 10 years ago where cars were electric and when you climbed onto the freeway or even some highways there would be a special lane with a rail that the car straddles. The car now becomes “hands free” so you can nap or whatever and the car is picking up a charge off the rail at the same time. Just enter a destination and relax. When you reach your destination you exit onto surface roads with fully charged batts.

      1. Darius

        Not in America. The car is a vital human organ. Everything has to be conceived of in the framework of the car. Musk is locked into this paradigm as much as any American.

  20. Ignacio

    RE: This map shows a trillion-dollar reason why China is oppressing more than a million Muslims Business Insider

    The railway from Kashgar (Xingjiang, China) to Dushanbe in Kyrgyztan through the Pamirs must be a challenging project!

  21. Wukchumni

    Regarding the navy pilots that followed a UFO that seemingly had no means of propulsion…

    I was abducted by aliens the other day, who took me to their space, chips y salsa were served.

    1. Susan the other`

      The decades-long campaign to make us all believe in UFOs is getting a little annoying. Now they are coming out with new and improved nonsense on the History Channel. Lost in all the intrigue is the US military’s latest edict: UFOs do not exist – as far as they can tell. Nonetheless there are zillions of people who are beginning to talk about “Aliens” as if they do exist. I remember the genesis of all this back in the 50s first from Generals in the Air Force and soon after with Look magazine. The Luces were drafted into the whole project (was it the nefarious MKUltra?) back then; they are the ones who did the spread on Betty and Barney Hill, etc. It’s interesting to think about how relentless this has been. I’d have thought that more than a few “cranky skeptics” would have given us the complete list of alumni involved in this deception. But no doubt it still serves a purpose to hide and obfuscate various black ops and to make private corporations actually take over the enterprises so as to be safe from the FOIA. Etc.

      1. Wukchumni

        Perhaps 1 out of 10,000 people had a movie camera on their person 30 years ago, and now the number is closer to 8,846 out of 10,000, so where are all the UFO videos?

      2. Plenue

        Aliens almost certainly exist or have existed at some point in this incomprehensibly vast universe. It would be utterly narcissistic to believe otherwise.

        The idea that they’ve visited earth, just to screw with farmers and random pilots, is another matter entirely.

        1. rowlf

          Maybe aliens visiting Earth is a form of intergalactic cow-tipping. Why else would you visit Monkey Planet?

          1. ambrit

            Fieldwork for ‘alien’ graduate students in the “Xeno” sciences?
            True “aliens,” by definition, would be incomprehensible to us.
            That was a driving plot item in the story “Farewell to the Master,” which became the film(s) “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” The humanform ‘alien’ doing the communicating with the ‘primitive’ humans was just a front for the real ‘Masters.’ Sort of a “Spokescreature.”

              1. ambrit

                Thanks for that. I’d never seen it before. Minimal special effects, and using dialogue to carry the scene along. A small gem.

            1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

              Arrival is an excellent Aliens Testing Mankind movie also.
              Men in Black too.

        2. witters

          “Aliens almost certainly exist or have existed at some point in this incomprehensibly vast universe. It would be utterly narcissistic to believe otherwise.”

          – I think it “utterly narcissistic” to think that one knows either way.

        3. Darius

          Intelligent life may exist on other worlds. Judging from our experience though, a civilization’s ability to destroy itself advances faster than its ability to travel to other solar systems.

  22. diptherio

    The Fed’s SHED reports:

    ” Most borrowers were current on their payments or have successfully paid off their loans. More than one-fifth of borrowers who went to private for-profit schools were behind on their loan payments, versus 8 percent who attended public institutions and 5 percent who attended private not-for-profit institutions.”

    Ok, 20%+ in default at for-profits is bad…but those numbers for non-profits are kinda ok, right? But then, how am I to square those numbers with these:

    “Within four years after leaving school, nearly a quarter of the borrowers had defaulted. “To default is still pretty common,” Blagg said.


  23. Cal2

    From ‘U.S. Is a Rich Country With Symptoms of a Developing Nation’

    “Nor are such issues limited to bridges — the $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center was closed in late 2018 when cracks were discovered in the beams…These little examples are the kind of incidents that one might expect to see in a developing country where things are built cheaply or badly.”

    San Francisco is a notable civic sewer of social justice corruption, in a league of its own. All city and some state contracts are politically grafted with onerous special preferences.* Thus things are expensive, late and poorly built.

    State Assemblyman Willie Brown’s girlfriend–not Kamala, got a contract to work on the Transbay Transit Center, and she so f* things up that millions of dollars of planning work had to be discarded.
    In Willie’s own words:
    “News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost….If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.” Willie L. Brown July 27, 2013 in his SF Chronicle weekly column.

    “But California has ruinously high construction costs..”

    That’s because it has ruinously high public employee unions leverage to extort money from taxpayers, because workman’s compensation is ruinously high-because of ruinously high medical insurance profits and a bloated pension system.
    Solution to that? National Health Care and eliminate all special preferences in construction.


  24. dcblogger

    Who is blocking ‘Medicare for All’?
    By George Goehl
    Decades of corporate-friendly politics and policy have decimated communities throughout the country. Centrist Democrats who have chosen corporate profits over people’s needs have aided and abetted this decimation. People are hungry for big ideas to improve their lives and to change the rules that serve only to make the rich richer.

    Nowhere is this hunger more apparent than in the demand for improved “Medicare for All”. During a hearing at the House Budget Committee this week it was also apparent that the center-right and their wealthy donors won’t go down without a fight when it comes to health care.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Irresistible force meets an unmovable object = something breaks.

      So why not do what The Netherlands did: leave the medical insurers in place, but make them all offer the same basic package of services at a fixed cost. Single payer. Above that, they can offer supplementary services: private beds, shorter wait times, extended coverages. Make them compete on things like price and (perish the thought) customer service.

      Something even our mellifluous melanoderm BO might have gotten behind.

  25. Wukchumni

    For the Midwest, Epic Flooding Is the Face of Climate Change Wired

    We got about foot of snow in the Sierra yesterday as winter part deux continues, and check out this NWS blurb:

    A low pressure system is swinging eastward across the southern Nevada area after providing our area with a record cool afternoon yesterday along with some strong thunderstorms. Highs yesterday were as much as 25-30 degrees below climo while thunderstorms produced some localized flooding, significant hail,and some funnel clouds.

    1. Cal2

      But, water allocations and tax dollars are still spent on powerful donors interests as thought we were in past Governor Brown’s “Permanent state of drought”.


      Don’t be silly, just pay off your student loans with your credit cards. Joe Biden hasn’t ended bankruptcy for credit card holders, too big a donor base and not captive enough as there’s real competition, unlike Navient and the banks headquartered in his home corporate state.

      1. Wukchumni

        The historical record shows plenty of lengthy droughts and short-term tremendous flooding in California, and that was before there were 40 million human beans here.

    2. Lepton1

      Near San Francisco we’ve been having lots of rain the past few weeks. Very unusual for us. Normally the rains end in March/April and don’t start again till December.

      In our case it has something to do with changing storm patterns. Low pressure bringing rain usually stays to the north during this time of year.

      1. Wukchumni

        We’ve gotten about 3 inches of rain in the foothills the past fortnight, and Fiddleneck wildflowers are blooming again, as it’s not nice to fool mother nature, for she thinks they deserve it.

        At it’s peak in early March, there’ll be vast fields of gold, as per the photo in the link below. They all die back by April.

  26. barrisj

    Re: “Loan-to-Rent”…yet another deliciously extractive late-capitalism ploy to further impoverish young workers trying to live reasonably close to their jawbs. No doubt these “loans” also offer roll-over options, further cementing people into indentured slavery. Let’s see: Student loan payments — check; credit-card payments — check; rent-loan payments — check. And, if necessary, a sub-prime car-loan payment as well. Indebtedness far beyond the horizon, complicated by precarious employment. Small wonder that retirees with financially crippled adult children are finding themselves in an increasingly dicey position these days. Personal history speaking here.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Around the turn of the last century there was an uptick in the personal savings rate. People were saving money, not spending it: can’t have that. So Sears Roebuck got together with Proctor & Gamble and a few others and basically invented modern “merchandizing”. Instead of simply satisfying existing demand for goods, create demand by convincing people to buy sh*t they don’t really need (or didn’t know they needed). Advertizing, sales mind tricks, appeals to status etc all originated there. It’s probably why Americans are so damned good at it: we invented it.

      Employers also knew that indentured serfs make more reliable employees than people with enough “F You” money saved in their bank accounts.

  27. rjs

    re: For the Midwest, Epic Flooding Is the Face of Climate Change Wired

    trouble with that theory is that the temperatures have generally been below normal where flooding has been a problem…

    check out the weekly temperature archives at the natural gas dashboard:

    just cause you got a hammer, everything isn’t a nail

  28. The Rev Kev

    “It’s A Car In A Tiny Tunnel And It Takes An Elevator To Get There”

    What if one of those Teslas spontaneously catches fire while going through the tunnel? They do occasionally do that. Would they be able to get rid of the smoke out of the tunnel before the drivers died? Can they evacuate people from that tunnel in case of an emergency?

  29. ObjectiveFunction

    Many thanks for the AmCon piece on VC. Great contextual counterpart to Chamath Palihapatiya’s scathing letter on VC quoted by Wolf Richter last Nov.

    Cliff notes, for those who missed:

    The history of venture capital is a chronicle of American economic dynamism, from whaling and textiles in New England, to steel in the Rust Belt, to autos in Detroit, to computer manufacturing and later software and Internet services in Silicon Valley…. Venture funding of entrepreneurs and innovation was pursued frequently for non-economic reasons, and often underperformed the rest of the economy…. The substantial long-tail risks are seldom motivated by narrowly rational portfolio optimization concerns, but rather by the existential fear of being leapfrogged by a rival and totally bankrupted, whether as a firm or as a nation.

    In the mid 20th century, America funded a lot of “big science” research but lacked the small business ecosystem to commercialize it. Today, the opposite is arguably the case…. Business dynamism is in decline, while incumbent markups are higher. The current venture model is basically suited to fund only scaleable capital-light, intellectual property businesses and transformational innovation seems foreclosed everywhere else [or else it has been offshored. ED]

    Higher returns have attracted a massive influx of institutional capital whose goals are remunerative, not creative. This has spawned capital-chasing copycats: food delivery companies, photo-sharing apps, coupon services, and taxi businesses whose distinguishing feature is labor and regulatory arbitrage, with too much capital chasing too few ideas.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The history of venture capital is a chronicle of American economic dynamism, from whaling and textiles in New England

      No doubt there is an interpretation there for Moby Dick (which I have never read).

  30. Plenue

    >Generation Amnesia: why China’s youth don’t talk about Tiananmen South China Morning Post

    To this day I’m not even clear what happened in Tiananmen Square. I’ve heard, and seen some supposed evidence, that there were two protests that day: the peaceful students, and then a violent protest that involved hanging policemen. And then I’ve heard claims of everything from zero casualties to the idea of poorly trained and lead Chinese troops ineptly engaging in firefights with themselves and 10,000 dead.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      See Tank Man (linked here 4/24) for a vivid description of Beijing at that time from the journalist who took the iconic photograph. I’m not sure anybody knows “what happened,” but whatever it was, was seismic, 1848- (though not 1789)-scale. Certainly not zero casualties, and I find inept troops very plausible.

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