Links 5/4/19

How vanishing lizards in Madagascar led to a troubling discovery about deforestation and climate change Yale Climate Connection

How a Lone Norwegian Trader Shook the World’s Financial System NYT. Interesting article systemic issues with “central counterparties” (see Auerback today), despite the finger-pointing clickbait headline. Also a “carbon emissions permits” debacle.

If This Is a Tech Bubble in Stocks, It’s the Expansionary Phase Bloomberg

Why Tesla is taking a different approach to self-driving cars FT

The smart diaper is coming. Who actually wants it? Vox

Could a popular food ingredient raise the risk for diabetes and obesity? Harvard School of Public Health


Brexit tears through UK’s political landscape Politico

UK government’s Brexit talks with Labour to resume after weekend – May’s spokeswoman Reuters

Corbyn under pressure to change Brexit stance after disappointing Labour result Spectator

Devolution at 20 Institute for Government


Trump urges caution as Bolton and Pompeo tease a military intervention in Venezuela CNN

U.S. Mulls Military Options in Venezuela Foreign Policy

Venezuela’s opposition put together a serious plan. For now, it appears to have failed. WaPo. Haw. Bolton got deked by the Venezuelans. That’s serious, but not in the way WaPo thinks.

Why Juan Guaidó’s “Coup” Failed: A Chat with Naunihal Singh Gzero Media

Venezuela – Forensics Of A Clownish Coup Moon of Alabama’

Venezuela and Binary Choice Craig Murry. With handy map of crude oil reserves.

Venezuela’s missing future Le Monde Diplomatique


Chinese banks quietly lower daily limit on foreign-currency cash withdrawals South China Morning Post

Chinese Fund Backed by Hunter Biden Invested in Technology Used to Surveil Muslims The Intercept. The headline implies that Hunter Biden is using his own money, but in fact Biden’s fund has “pooled money” from “state-owned venture capital” including the Bank of China. It’s not clear what Biden brings to the table, value add-wise [snicker].

Pig ‘Ebola’ Virus Sends Shock Waves Through Global Food Chain Bloomberg

In Hong Kong, a single mom faces a bitter backlash against mainland Chinese LA Times

North Korea

North Korea fires short-range missiles for first time since 2017 Korea Times

Abe no longer sets preconditions for talks with N. Korean leader The Mainichi

Did the CIA Orchestrate an Attack on the North Korean Embassy in Spain? The Nation


F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet With Trump Aide in 2016 New York Times and Just Like That, Trump Loves The New York Times Again Vanity Fair. Not to be foily, but nobody seems to be asking whether the intelligence community uses informants when interacting with political campaigns routinely. And whether they’re doing it now. And if so with whom.


Inside Sanders’ Soviet ‘honeymoon’ Greenwich Time (Re Silc; off the wire from WaPo). Plenty of fodder for Maddow et al., when the time comes.

Bernie Sanders will roll out new policy to combat the ‘major, major crisis’ facing rural communities in Iowa Des Moines Register

Joe Biden and the Party of Davos NYT (DL). “As a pillar of the ancien régime, Biden is ill-placed to overturn Trump’s revolution.”

57% of Americans who’ve already paid off their student loans support Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel 42 million Americans’ college debt Business Insider

Why Universal Health Care, Higher Wages, and Free Public Education Are Crucial Issues for Black Women Vogue

Health Care

Most American workers would have more money with socialized health care Quartz

LA Times Survey Of Adults With Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Kaiser Family Foundation. “Between 2008 and 2018, premiums for employer-sponsored insurance plans increased 55 percent, twice as fast as workers’ earnings (26 percent). In addition, workers are finding themselves on the hook for bigger deductibles before their insurance will kick in. Over the same time period (2008-2018), the average health insurance deductible for covered workers increased by 212 percent.” Thanks, Obama!

Insurers’ message on ‘Medicare for All’: We’re part of the answer Healthcare Dive

Medi-Cal recipient, 101, evicted from Santa Rosa assisted living facility for being unable to pay Argus Courier. We are ruled by the Harkonnens.

Boeing 737 MAX

Dubai Slams Boeing Over Its Handling of 737 Max Grounding Bloomberg

Boeing suppliers expose impact of the Max crisis FT

‘It’s because we were union members’: Boeing fires workers who organized Guardian

Flight from Guantanamo Bay with 136+ on board crashes in Florida river; everyone safe USA Today. A ***cough*** civilian charter ***cough***.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

None of Your Business The Nation

‘Everything Was Done To Make Julian Assange’s Life Miserable’ (interview) Der Spiegel (GlennF).

The Racist—and High Tech—Origins of America’s Modern Census Yasha Levine, OneZero. A must-read.

Class Warfare

Chicago’s Historic Charter School Strike Wave Keeps On Winning In These Times

Background Facts on Contingent Faculty Positions AAUP

Make Debt Service You Jacob Bacharach, Hmm Daily

Hiring surge pushes US jobless rate to 49-year low FT

With a Simple Twist, a ‘Magic’ Material Is Now the Big Thing in Physics Quanta. A new type of superconductivity.

Between Worlds Orion Magazine

Antidote du Jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Livius Drusus

    Re: Hiring surge pushes US jobless rate to 49-year low.

    I am still not convinced that this economy is all that great. I am not sure what NC readers think of Paul Craig Roberts but he has some good points about the current economy. Roberts points out that most of the new jobs being created are not very good. Most of the new jobs being created are in the low-paying service sector. Plus, you still have many discouraged workers who have dropped out of the workforce entirely.

    Furthermore, I don’t know how people can say that we are living in good times when so many social indicators are negative. Increasing rates of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, suicide and skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Lowered life expectancy. Young people who cannot afford their own place and cannot afford to get married or even date. Rising homelessness especially among older Americans. Things don’t look so great to me.

    This is not merely a swipe at Trump since these trends existed before he took office, although it is funny how Republicans believe all of the great employment numbers coming out but those same numbers were all bunk under Obama. Partisanship is powerful.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Two Americas. There are consequences.

      I’m reminded of a joke about a trust fund baby in the mid 1950’s going home for break from his family’s Ivy League to find his mother in an almost catatonic state, muttering about the “poor dears.” The student asks his father what is wrong, and the father says the mother had read a reference to the Great Depression and asked the staff what it meant.

    2. dearieme

      many discouraged workers who have dropped out of the workforce entirely

      In which case “jobless rate” is clearly a misnomer.

      It’s my impression that macroeconomics depends on shabby definitions, shoddy measurements, and mere tautologies. If as clever a fellow as Maynard Keynes couldn’t sort it out, what hopes for the lesser men writing footnotes to his work?

    3. Pete

      I honestly think the economy is better, I think the problem is that there are people like myself who have been unable to get a career. So now there are really entry level jobs available that could turn into something but how can anyone recover especially in an aggregate sense when you are finally getting your first real job in your mid 30s to 40?
      Some people bought houses or found other ways to make it work for them but many of us are simply boxed out and are too old to try keep trying nonsense that cant pay off.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        So basically you are getting inured to a terrible economy…this isn’t better. Being on year 3 of life expectancy declines is at best a dead cat bounce.

        1. Harry

          Gibson said something like “The future is here just not uniformly distributed”. Those declining life expectancies have been concentrated in non-college educated whites according to Case- Deaton so far. I imagine over time that will slowly manifest among the college educated but indebted. Also for a bunch of reasons, isnt the ratio of employed to working age cohort a better statistic. By that measure we have just reached the bottom of the previous worst levels of employment .

          I think its obvious that GDP measures are not giving us a very granular picture of their prosperity or economic activity. Which means everything is working just fine!

          1. Pat

            I think it is already spreading. Apparently suicide is very much a reality at a nearby top college, enough so that the windows in student housing cannot open much if at all. It is the second largest reason for the death of college age students. and of those younger and just out of college. In fact it is two for the three age ranges from 10 to 34, it drops to fourth for the next age range and lower for those older as heart disease and cancer takes over.

            Obviously suicide is not the only reason for Case Deaton’s findings but it is a factor. Despair and instability is not conducive for a long life for most humans.

    4. Goyo Marquez

      Ran into one of my senior in high school’s classmates, very polite Mexican/American kid, goes out of his way to shake my hand and say hello whenever he sees me, in the style that was common in Mexico when I was a child.

      I asked about his future plans. He said he’s been working after school at the local In n Out, 35 hours a week, and is being paid $16.50 an hour.

      Not too bad at least in these parts.

    5. marku52

      Well one problem is that if you lose 100,000 full time jobs, and gain 300,000 part time jobs, you have gained 200,000 jobs!


      Life expectancy doesn’t fall in a “good” economy and society.

      1. Harry

        You have to adjust for Monsanto. Maybe the environment is just less able to support life.

    6. Procopius

      It’s true that much of the data is contradictory. I try to follow Lambert’s reporting of economic data, and I’ve been struck how for the last several years it wobbles around, one month good, next month not so good, but not clearly bad. The signal to noise ratio is very poor, that has a lot to do with it. To me the big puzzle is the fact that wages are still barely growing. There has to be some mechanism allowing employers to coordinate, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly listing of median wages. Either that, or it’s really true that entrepreneurs don’t see any opportunities to increase profits by poaching employees from their competitors. I hope somebody figures out what is going on, but few or no economists seem to be interested by the puzzle.

    7. eg

      The labor share of income matters — and there remains a very long way to go before it is restored to health.

      Don’t accept anything less.

  2. timbers

    Could a popular food ingredient raise the risk for diabetes and obesity? Harvard School of Public Health

    So, the ingredient is calcium propionate and reading this I immediately checked the listed ingredients in my bread and cheese. None listed it but am wondering if propionate goes by another name. Did find cheese often contains natamycin which sounds suspiciously like an antibiotic and read up on that too…

    When you run out of problems you need to find more because the only time you have no problems is when you’re dead, right? That’s what I keep telling myself.

      1. Cal2

        Rule of thumb:

        The longer the artificial shelf life of preservative laden food you eat, the shorter your life.

        Don’t forget to avoid the pesticides residues.

        Go fresh organic, you’ll live longer, feel and look better. Nutrient dense organic food grown in mineral rich soil tastes better, so you eat less of it and fewer calories.
        Money saved on future medical bills means it costs less than junk factory food.

        1. Carla

          Another version of this advice: A doctor once told me: “Don’t eat or drink anything that won’t spoil.” Then he gave some examples: choose butter over margerine; wine or beer over hard liquor; fresh meats and fish over cured or smoked versions; and of course, fresh produce.

          Another rule of thumb I heard a long time ago: don’t eat any packaged food that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label. If you’re going to eat packaged food at all, this rule is harder to follow than the one above.

          1. Yves Smith

            Smoked fish actually does spoil, but general point taken. I love smoked fish but never ate it at all in my childhood and only sparingly now.

  3. Expat2uruguay

    Lambert – The “with whom” link under the “Russia gate” subtitle appears to contain the wrong link. It re-links to the first article mentioned in the paragraph.

  4. Henry Moon Pie

    “Make Debt Service You”–

    Vacation, or loan principal? It is a false choice. Leisure is an essential human activity—and in any case, forcing a dour austerity on your own children because mom and dad are still paying off the new roof, the orthodontist, and grandma’s funeral isn’t exactly morally exemplary. I take no issue with the idea that a family should prioritize its spending and consider its future needs, but casting these choices as a matter of deserving is cruel and silly.

    I agree with the author’s point that being in debt is not a moral failing in our “keep on shopping” society. I disagree that expensive vacations are required to satisfy our “leisure” needs.

    It is more accurate to say that indebtedness for workers (i.e. any wage slave) reduces that worker’s freedom. As debt increases, freedom decreases. If your monthly debt service eats much if not all of your paycheck, you are a debt slave who cannot quit a emotionally and/or character damaging job. If a partner and you need two paychecks to service your combined debt, neither will have the option to leave jobs that are harming you or others, nor will you have the option to quit if the care of a child or parent requires it.

    Debt has further implications. Can you afford to risk a job because of political activism if you’re a paycheck away from your debt going into default?

    An essential step toward freedom of choice in life and the power to take action to better the world is to avoid or remove the encumbrance of personal debt. For most people not earning 6-figures+, that means avoiding the kind of money-eating activities like eating out frequently, taking expensive vacations, buying new cars every couple of years, buying too-big houses in expensive neighborhoods.

    Don’t be blind to the trade-off between living above your means and losing your freedom.

    1. newcatty

      Henry, though I find a lot of agreement with your argument : “Don’t be blind to the trade-off between living above your means and losing your freedom”. Examples of how to prioritize activities is old advice for many. But, until social/economic inequality is solved with people being able to live lives with basic needs fulfilled, then the indebtedness of Americans is a fact. There are many people who already live the lifestyle you promote as a way to be free: Don’t hardly ever eat out, never take any kind of vacation, drive old cars and do not own any kind of house. The fact is, if a kid needs health or dental care and only way to pay for that is a credit card, now what? That old car, to keep it running, needs repair. Now what? For a lot of people, especially with families, public transportation in this country is not an option. Children’s clothing can not all be bought at thrift stores. Until we have MFA, liveable wages for all, affordable and energy efficiencies in housing, clean water and foods, excellent education for all ( beginning in elementary level) and the end of corruption and greed in the elite, not to mention the end of the MIC, then people will choose debt rather then not provide basic needs for their family. Not all people can play the system, either, like gig and under the table work…snap, food banks and medicaid work for them. Children’s Defense Fund just came out with announcement that 13 million children live below the national poverty line. This, is what I would bet, is just what is counted by whatever methodology they use. The number is more than likely much higher.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        You’re absolutely right. It’s not those folks to whom my argument is addressed. It’s directed to those who currently count themselves successful in this economy, but act as if they can count on their good fortune indefinitely. And it’s aimed at young people who want to do good in the world and still have most of their choices ahead of them.

        1. Spring Texan

          The book of Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, All Your Worth, is a great book to give your kids on keeping spending on basics low enough (insofar as it’s possible) to afford some leisure activities and as you say maximize freedom. Even if we live in a crap society, definitely navigating it as best possible can make a huge difference to most people, and their advice is excellent. (Of course, she doesn’t consider that a substitute for improving society, either.)

    2. Wukchumni

      Rarely does a vacation we take, offer any chance to spend money other than for gas & food and perhaps a motel room. The back of beyond doesn’t take American Express or any other credit cards, or cash. The only outlay is $15 for a wilderness permit.

      1. newcatty

        That hits the spot in the beyond. True, almost anyone can spend money on gas, food and a motel room. Oh, wait… that is not, we are informed, a “vacation”. Guess it’s get-away or a short trip in the wilderness. It is lovely. But, I think a pointy point is that one person’s frugal outlay for gas, food, a motel room and permits is not in the realm of possibility for many in the country. Hmm… let’s take a short trip to paradise. What? No money, forget an American Express card to pay for the tripping. Well, I guess we can skip getting the kid’s dental cleaning…um, no dental insurance. Could skip buying good food for the home refrigerator and cupboard. Oh, my gas tank needs filling, but it will soon be eaten up with daily use. The story for so many people.

  5. Antifa

    The original inspiration for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census was to switch from counting residents of each state to counting citizens. This violates the census law completely.

    Add to this the creation of a national registry of who is and is not a citizen, and you raise the possibility of denoting various grades of citizenship, similar to China’s social credit scoring. It also raises the possibility of rescinding citizenship of people who commit felonies, don’t pay off their student loans, marry a non-citizen –whatever excuse you like. This registry violates the census law completely.

    Who benefits from such tight control of American citizens?

    1. edmondo

      Why would you assume that anyone would answer this question any way but “Yes, I am a citizen?” It would be suicidal to respond any other way.

      1. none

        I answered “information not available” to every question except the number of people living in the house, and they didn’t hassle me any more after that.

    2. davidgmillsatty

      Please cite the exact part of the census law you say is violated. Being a lawyer, I would like to read it for myself.

      1. Antifa

        In its various forms since 1790, the census has never called for a national registry of citizens. The effort has always been to assure anonymity to everyone counted, and to collect only statistics.

        Given the highly surveilled of our current society, the starkest violation the 2020 citizenship question raises is of Title 13, which forbids any use of census data to identify individuals. No names, phone numbers, addresses, GPS, none of that. Five years and/or a $250,000 fine for doing so.

        Steve Bannon figured the census bureau could count everyone, anonymously as usual, but then a separate agency or corporation or political party could match that data to the wealth of individual data now extant in both government and private hands. Voila — now we know where all the immigrants are hiding.

        Thus doing an end run around the letter of the Title 13 law, and completely ignoring the spirit and letter of the national census laws and regs.

        1. philnc

          Because Bannon is a moron. What he thought (or was pitched) isn’t just technically infeasible, but impossible. Just more techno-snakeoil from people who themselves live in Jobsian reality distortion zones. But as we say down at one of the world’s last remaining on-prem data centers, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets an eye put out.” In this case the citizenship question will wreck the relative trust that most have in the US Census, both on the data gathering and results sides.

          It’s clearly going to raise doubts about the anonymity of the survey, which will reduce participation by not only non-citizens, but also citizens concerned about their personal privacy, particularly if data gets shared in any kind of public-private partnership. A significant drop in participation will also lead to doubts about the completeness of the data gathered, and the results of any analyses based on it.

          All that for the opportunity to pander to Trump’s xenophobic base while steering some potentially profitable business to the old boy’s club. Maybe not as dangerous to the continuation of civilization as out of control weapons and fossil fuel production, but still a serious loss of a valuable national resource.

        2. The Rev Kev

          You say that the effort has always been to assure anonymity to everyone counted in the US Census counts. However, I have had to delve into those records for distant American relations in genealogical research and in them all, you find data to identify people exactly. Here is a quote from one article on what is there-

          From 1850 to 1940, details are provided for all individuals in each household, such as:
          names of family members
          their ages at a certain point in time
          their state or country of birth
          their parent’s birthplaces
          year of immigration
          street address
          marriage status and years of marriage
          value of their home and personal belongings
          the crops that they grew (in agricultural schedules), etc.

          1. Wukchumni

            We were in a hut on the Abel Tasman track when the NZ census was happening in 2006, and the hut warden passed out forms for everybody to fill out, for if you’re a foreigner on that day, you too get counted in the census.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, this is the part that concerned me:

      Based on a close reading of internal Department of Commerce documents tied to the census citizen question proposal, it appears the Trump administration wants to use the census to construct a first-of-its-kind citizenship registry for the entire U.S. population — a decision that arguably exceeds the legal authority of the census.

      “It was deep in the documentation that was released,” Robert Groves, a former Census Bureau director who headed the National Academies committee convened to investigate the 2020 census, told me by telephone. “No one picked up on it much. But the term ‘registry’ in our world means not a collection of data for statistical purposes but rather to know the identity of particular people in order to use that knowledge to affect their lives.”

  6. The Rev Kev

    “How a Lone Norwegian Trader Shook the World’s Financial System”

    Isn’t it marvelous. The smartest men on the planet come up with a financial system where some jackAas sitting in the middle of a Norwegian fishing village has the potential to crash the entire planet’s economy.

    1. chuck roast

      Yes, this is an interesting post and I particularly liked the link to the Systemic Risk Council’s (SRC) letter to the Financial Stability Board Bank for International Settlements on Central Counterparty (CCP) Resolution.

      Beginning with today’s Marshall Auerbach post on the Untamed Financial Industry: we see two discussions on what appear to be entirely separate planetary systems of financial regulation. Auerbach relates the ongoing debate and struggle revolving around the regulation of the TBTF financial institutions. There is no mention of who insures these monsters.

      The Systemic Risk Council Membership contains many of the usual suspects including Brooksley Born and Simon Johnson. The letter expresses the concern that these Central Counterparties, who are the financial systems private insurers of last resort, “... do not flip from being risk absorbers to being systemic-risk transmitters and amplifiers.” It also recommends “policy action” to make the private system more robust. Of course there are “no tailored statutory regimes” in this planetary system for CCPs.

      CCPs appear to be “hedge-funds of the hedge-funds.” Astonishingly, the SRC recommends that these largely unregulated, profit making institutions which guarantee counterparty risk “... should be required to purchase third-party insurance against such losses.” Jesus wept! Who do these financial system insurance companies of last resort purchase insurance from? There are other recommendations: read at your own risk.

      One would think that Johnson and Born could at least produce a minority report that would question whether this Copernican nonsense should even be allowed to exist. Thanks to the NYT for a look down this black hole.

    2. Wukchumni

      The financial situation strikes me as similar to WW1, in that fiat alliances which are all interlocked to one another won’t allow any of the players to escape their fate, whatever it might be. Bind faith.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Yes; one objection to globalization is that there are no firewalls or refuges; a crash is automatically global.

        Not that long ago, the “Asian tigers”, mostly SE Asia, crashed – without bringing down the world economy, as happened in 2008. Would that even be possible now?

    1. chuck roast

      Andrew Sullivan strikes me as the kind of guy who goes out to eat and actually orders jello for dessert. He is at the next table from me. I see him eating the jello. His companions are eating Key Lime Pie and chocolate cake. I’m thinking, “what sort of person would order jello for dessert?” I don’t really want to know the guy, or have a conversation with him. But I am curious how a person can seemingly get to be a civilized adult and develop such a vacuous taste.

      1. IdahoSpud

        Apparently it’s quite difficult to locate and retain skilled propagandists who can read the script with a straight face. I’m assuming this is why Brian Williams 2.0 is once again allowed the opportunity to read America the “news” from the teleprompter.

  7. richard

    re “US mulls military options”
    you make your way through this fp establishment word maze
    calmly weighing murder
    and then you get to the real treat
    some kutz, senior advisor to the executive warlord,
    reminds us to “remember Iraq”
    and to ponder that if we full out invade Venezuela
    then we will be responsible for rebuilding
    it is to laugh, kutz
    we’ve never, ever been responsible, to anyone in iraq
    for what we’ve done to iraq
    and for gods sake you moron no one needs to rebuild anything in venezuela
    just stop the sanctions and go the f&*% away

    1. John Wright

      Consider a responsible USA military operation in which liability for harmful actions was required.

      For example, if the USA bombs and destroys foreign property, then it must rebuild and replace.

      If the USA kills foreign citizens, their relatives must be compensated at USA citizens’ equivalent amounts.

      Here is some information on the 911 victims fund and the “value” of an American life.


      “At the end of the process $7 billion was awarded to 97% of the families; the average payout was $1.8 million.”

      Imagine the USA military operation being followed by an army of USA personal injury lawyers advocating for their new foreign clients.

      This might put a real damper on USA “bring them democracy” actions.

      1. Cal2

        “Pentagon plans for Maduro’s downfall: US military prepares to evacuate Americans and rebuild Venezuelan infrastructure if socialist leader is toppled in coming days “Daily Mail

        That’s from yesterdays links. Undoubtedly, the roads to the oil fields and oil ex-ports.

        1. Procopius

          What does MMT have to do with policy? I don’t remember which of the gombeen men said it, but, “The American Army is no longer in the business of nation building.” I don’t care whether they are Democrat or Republican, every president is going to say the same thing. That reference to rebuild Venezuelan infrastructure is the equivalent of, “But wait, there’s more! It’s not only a dessert topping, it’s also a floor wax.”

  8. Stephen V.

    Incredible Der Spiegel piece on Assange. Aside from the “you embarrassed u.s. and now you have to die” aspect of his treatment –I wonder what the effect would be if he was tortured into saying he got all those hrc emails from the Russians –as many continue to believe.
    This despite forensic research by V.eteran I.ntelligence P.rofessionals…
    Craig Murray’s many public statements (a clandestine meetup in the woods)…
    And Kim Dotcom also has repeatedly stated he has evidence of a LEAK not a hack.
    And none of these people have been called to testify.
    If this is not a cover up, please enlighten me.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      At least Julian didn’t have music blaring at him 24/7 like some pineapply Panamanian holed up in a gummint building /s

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        The FBI had no trouble snatching him up on his ranch in the “sovereign” nation of New Zealand

  9. Carolinian

    Re Yasha Levine and the citizenship question–this doesn’t strike me as quite the black and white moral debate he tries to make it by bringing in the Nazis, the familiar Hollerith card story etc. Clearly when the Constitution was established the founders themselves were making a distinction between citizens and non citizens by including that 3/5 provision for slaves–giving the southern planters the added representation of 3/5ths of their bodies without giving the slaves the power to vote to free themselves. Unless one is an open borders advocate–and Sanders for example is not–then one could analogize that to the current situation where some states get outsized representation from the presence of a large population that also lacks the right to vote. Therefore to the extent the census is about the distribution of political power–and that seems to have been its purpose–it is a relevant question even if the current proposal is to simply ask, not use the result for apportionment.

    Of course Trump and the Repubs are only doing this to create another wedge issue and the Supreme Court, not AOC, will decide whether it is legal. But one could argue that the Dems are also being hypocritical on the issue. They want the (they hope) demographic benefit of open borders without having to openly advocate–AOC excepted–for that position and take the political hit. IMO the immigration debate needs a lot more clarity, a lot less posturing.

    1. Cal2

      The citizenship question was used on the 1950 census, so it’s not something out of the blue.

      If non-citizens cannot vote, or be drafted, were that reinstated, then why do they need to be counted for purposes of political representation? Economic illegal immigrants ,are here temporarily, or, are awaiting naturalization if seriously sticking around, and thus can be counted once they get citizenship.

      What about visitors? Say your in-laws are visiting for a month, could and should they be counted on the census?

      1. Procopius

        I believe I remember from people I met in the Army in Vietnam that non-citizens were, indeed, subject to the draft, but on the bright side, if they survived they were given preferential and faster treatment for naturalization. I may be wrong and if I am I hope somebody tells me.

  10. SoCal Rhino

    Sullivan was in early on Obama. And was a consistent promoter of the 11-dimensional chess meme.

  11. The Rev Kev


    Developing a theory to what is happening. The coup, which the MSM is now pretending never happened, was a fizzle. So was the one attempted in Turkey back in July of 2016. Both attempts were only small scale and were very amateurish affairs which were quickly bottled up and neutralized. Now the CIA may be a lot of things but I would not call them rank amateurs or incompetent to this degree. So what gives? What if these operations were not being run directly by the Pentagon and CIA professionals? What if they were being done by those that you might label the neocons? People like Bolton and Pompeo and Abrams and with Trump’s blessing.
    There is precedence for this. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the neocons stove-piped their own”intelligence” straight up to the White House so that professionals could not get a chance to examine it and declare it total bs. So perhaps these neocons after twenty odd years are now feeling their oats and want to organize their own operations. Show the Pentagon and the CIA how to do things. Not such a stretch that. You only need a bunch of people with oversize egos and lots of testosterone running as has been mentioned by military officers who have been having run-ins with them.
    The Pentagon would not be happy with all this. They have just spent the past twenty years in a guerrilla war in the hills and mountains of Afghanistan which they are still trying to get clear off. The thought of spending the next twenty years fighting a guerrilla war in the cities and jungles of Venezuela must be driving them to distraction. And a brigade of 5,000 men isn’t going to do it. You are going to need something in the order of the number of soldiers that went into Iraq. And I seriously doubt that there will be a Coalition of the Willing this time around. This is one tar baby that few want to grab hold off. Certainly not NATO countries and the South American countries know the possible blow-back that might happen in their own countries if they took part in any occupation.
    I believe that this whole thing is what the US military call a clusterf*** and the neocons have too much at stake to let it go easily. But Trump will not want this thing bedeviling him as the clock runs down to the election season so may offer one of his wonderful deals with Venezuela. It ain’t over yet.

    1. anon in so cal


      Unsurprisingly (given her support for Hillary Clinton, leading regime change instigator (with Brennan)), Rachel Maddow supports Bolton and Pompeo and urges a coup:

      Aaron Mate on Twitter:

      “How do you come to work anymore if you’re not only a failed conspiracy theorist, but also an unhinged Russophobic militarist urging a more aggressive Venezuela coup attempt from John Bolton?”

      “Support for coup regimes, militarization and privatization, trade deals that wreak economic havoc—they reveal the failure of Clintonism.”

      1. djrichard

        From the Maddow water carrier perspective, “we weren’t trying to defend the jackals (Bolton, Pompeo). We’re just remarking how Trump had to burn political capital to take Putin/Russia out of the VZ regime-change narrative. Given Trump had to burn that political capital, that tells us Putin must be his buddy.”

        Of course, what they’re not saying, “And Maddow and the rest of the media as well as the jackals will continue to give life to any narrative that has Putin/Russia within it. Therefore, forcing Trump to burn his political capital to say otherwise. And if this drags us into a confrontation with Putin/Russia, that’s a risk we’re willing to take. Don’t blame us, we do this for the good of the country.”

    2. lyman alpha blob

      You are probably on to something. I believe there was a piece posted here recently – Seymour Hersh maybe? – that described Poppy Bush as VP in the 80s using his own spooks during Iran-Contra fiasco and bypassing the regular channels. Neocon Elliot Abrams who is currently bungling things in Venezuela was part of that crowd too.

      1. pretzelattack

        abrams was point man on excusing central american massacres and death squads.

    3. djrichard

      [delete if this is a repeat. First attempt to post sent me to no-man’s land:

      Trump knows one of the things that got him voted into office was his statements about not getting the US into any new wars. But regime change by other means? Sure, go for it. But he leaves that to the psychos in his administration – let them use their “creativity” to play politics by other means and see if they can pull something out of their hats.

      At first blush, I would imagine the CIA would be all in on this too. Wouldn’t they love to see a socialist regime fall? The conspiracy-theorist in me says that the CIA probably helped various private parties in VZ with how to propagate high inflation there via excessive private borrowing. This well before Trump came into office.

      But I suspect for the CIA to do anything big, they need to have Trump on board so that in case it all goes bad (a la bay of pigs) then it’s not just them that’s hung out to dry, but Trump as well. [Even more so for the military.] And Trump is smart enough not to want to risk that, so instead they’re given free rein (like his other psychos) as long as they understand that they’re on their own.

      Bottom line, the whole campaign for regime change in VZ is being played at the margins. When it becomes a full-throated campaign for regime change, we’ll know: the media will be banging the drums of war. Maybe after the 2020 election, who knows. But not before the 2020 election, otherwise Trump will pay dearly with his voters.

      1. Wukchumni

        Hyperinflation in Venezuela started on Black Friday, February 18, 1983, and here we are 36 years later.

        The fixed exchange rate between the Bolivar and the U.S. Dollar had been @ 3.914 to the $ for about 50 years, rock solid.

        With a couple of currency revaluations in the meantime, the exchange rate is probably closer to 3.914 million Bolivars to the Dollar now.

          1. Wukchumni

            Nope, channeling a couple generations of unchecked economic misery, the longest playing hyperinflation episode ever, that i’m aware of.

            1. The Rev Kev

              I have no doubt that your facts are correct. But isn’t it interesting that in spite of this, the Chavez government was able to use social engineering to make things a lot better for the poorer parts of his society in spite of the attacks that he was under. He even managed to help the poorer parts of society too in the US through the heating oil program.

          2. Massinissa

            I don’t really mind people bringing up hyperinflation… As long as they don’t do it multiple times a week over the span of several years.

            Sort of relieved he is gone, to be honest.

          1. Wukchumni

            My brother in law’s sister taught in Caracas starting in the late 70’s and it was a good gig, she made 50% more than being a teacher in the USA doing the same thing, and then came Black Friday and she was back in the states teaching here within a few months, it made no sense to continue to teach in Venezuela for 1/2 of what she could make here.

            …and that was merely the opening gambit of sudden debt over time

      2. ObjectiveFunction

        That’s my sense too: as Scott Adams has pointed out ad nauseam, Trump’s brain is laser focused on a few Big Goals, of which the first is his own reelection. He has shown himself quite adept at crude cost-benefit calcs that filter his decisions.

        1. Dead hankie-heads in s***hole countries don’t vote, so drone ’em all you like boys.

        2. More American body bags are a big vote loser in Deploristan. So no GI boots on the ground, other than a few dip-dunk spook operators who are pros and accept the risks.

        3. Covert action like Venz and Iran keeps the beast fed and distracted. And if it goes sideways, blame sticks to MIC. T sacks some people and claims – plausibly! that Deep State hates him and hid the truth.

        4. Also, if the Homeland is struck again at a 9/11 level (which remains a risk), T can’t be accused of being idle or soft on “terror.”

        Not endorsing the logic here, and morality left the building long ago, but it does make a certain kind of brutal sense.

    4. Carolinian

      Now the CIA may be a lot of things but I would not call them rank amateurs or incompetent to this degree

      You give them far too much credit. The operational side of the CIA was a rogue outfit from day one with ideological obsessions not notably different from Bolton or Pompeo.

      Clearly at this point the only question is whether Trump wants to send American troops to die for Bolton’s ego. I think even Trump is not willing to do that for his own ego (while being more than willing to shoot some missiles, drop some bombs).

      The real disgrace here is the willingness of the press–all of them it seems–to go along.

      1. pretzelattack

        for instance,operation mongoose with its exploding cigar plot to kill castro.

    5. John

      Factions within the CIA. They don’t call it the puzzle palace for nothing. You think torture lady Gina Haspel is in charge and controls everything? Ha. Same in the Pentagon. Warring factions.

      1. Massinissa

        Yes, it was.

        Wikipedia isn’t the greatest source but its good enough for now, here’s the beginning of the wikipedia page for Bay of Pigs Invasion:

        “The Bay of Pigs Invasion (Spanish: Invasión de Playa Girón or Invasión de Bahía de Cochinos or Batalla de Girón) was a failed military invasion of Cuba undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-sponsored rebel group Brigade 2506 on 17 April 1961. A counter-revolutionary military group (made up of mostly Cuban exiles who had traveled to the United States after Castro’s takeover, but also some US military personnel[6]), trained and funded by the CIA, Brigade 2506 fronted the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (DRF) and intended to overthrow the increasingly communist government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala and Nicaragua, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, under the direct command of Castro.”

    6. JohnnyGL

      I think you’re on the right track, generally. This looks like the kind of operation that Iraq would have looked like in 2002-3 if the military option were off the table. However, I also think you’re overestimating CIA competence and power. Plus, after decades of the same tricks, lots of people know the playbook.

      A lot of the most successful operations relied heavily on well-connected, powerful local partners, usually in the military like Pinochet in Chile and Suharto in Indonesia. In many cases they’ve often leaned on former colonial rulers like the Belgians with Mobutu in Congo. Usually, those were lefty regimes that had barely gotten control of the state apparatus, in contested elections, and maybe hadn’t yet learned how to manage government while facing an array of powerful opposition forces internally.

      A lot of times, USA would provide, money, communications, organization and a veneer of legitimacy to a group of internal actors that were already highly motivated by their own class interests or ideological leanings. Remember how much legitimacy the US was seen as having in the Cold War days?

      With regard to Venezuela specifically, there have been machinations in Venezuela on/off since the last failed coup in 2002-3. Chavez/Maduro have had almost two decades to gain control of the various bureaucratic levers of the state. Plus, Chavez himself was in the military and knew enough to organize a loyal block of citizen support, — something PT never did in Brazil and the Kirchners never did in Argentina. And look how easily the latter two were dispensed with once the political/economic winds turned against them.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Great comment here, reelpolitik!

        Both Spookdom and its critics tend to underestimate the agency of local actors in these events. It is seldom that they are pliant puppets, more often it’s the other way around. Graham Greene, to the white courtesy phone please. I have your ‘Third Force.’

    7. JohnnyGL

      “You are going to need something in the order of the number of soldiers that went into Iraq.”

      They did Iraq with around 150K troops. It was pretty clear early on that it was too few to maintain order. Plus, the bone-headed moves that Paul Bremer made like de-Baathification made it even harder to maintain control and should have meant MORE troops, not less. If you’re going to dismember the state, root-and-branch, you’re going to need a lot of bodies.

      If you’re going to Venezuela, you’ll need to purge the entire state apparatus and all the community organizations. They have demonstrated they can get hundreds of thousands into the streets for demonstrations in short notice. There’s drug-gangs in some of the rougher neighborhoods, the military top brass will have to be purged and rebuilt. All this kind of stuff means more time, more troops.

      Plus, keep in mind when the US military occupies a place, a couple of shots by one sniper means airstrikes get called in and an entire city block gets leveled. That rapidly turns locals against the occupation. You’d see the violence ramp up over time.

      There’s ZERO appetite for 500K US troops on the ground for like 2-3 years, which is what it would take to do a project like this and make it look like a victory.

      Since the above isn’t going to happen, the most the US could really do is turn the place into Syria with violent mercenaries, but they’re expensive and unmotivated, which is why jihadis got used in Syria. So, even that looks tough to pull off.

      I suppose we could do a scenario like Iraq with too few troops with less time and just do enough to knock off the government and then just say we won and get the F out. But, if we did that, then you might see Guaido get knocked off in a coup 6-12 months later by Chavista loyalists in the military. That’s how you’d get civil-war type scenarios becoming possible.

      It looks nearly impossible for Trump to get anything that looks like a “win” out of this. He knows that, at some level, or is quickly figuring it out. When he does, he’ll run his mouth louder than usual, as we’ve seen with N. Korea and then drop the whole thing and move on.

      How long until he runs out of patience with Abrams/Bolton on this?

    8. Lambert Strether Post author

      > What if these operations were not being run directly by the Pentagon and CIA professionals?

      You might add that weird North Korean embassy episode to that Turkey and Venezuela.

      It’s an attractively paranoid thesis, for sure; in the chaos of the Trump administration, rogue factions cut loose. (Or Erik Prince undertakes a few small projects in the hopes of something larger.)

      Speaking against that, I don’t see a common playbook, which is what I would expect. And I’m not sure the conditions are similar. For example, the Gulenists (sp?) had been a problem for Turkey for a long time, and there was also an enormous purge in Turkey of all aspects of the civil service, including teachers. Not the case in Venezuela.

    9. Procopius

      They have just spent the past twenty years in a guerrilla war in the hills and mountains of Afghanistan which they are still trying to get clear off.[sic]

      I think this depends on facts not in evidence. After watching Petraeus, McMaster, Mattis, and wossisname the former WH chief of staff, I don’t think they have any wish to leave the ongoing active combat theaters, which produce medals and promotions. Are these guys representative of their peers?

    1. Conrad

      Wow that’s horrifying and farcical at the same time. I wonder what circle of hell Dante would assign Kevin Curry to.

  12. Craig H.

    > Medi-Cal recipient, 101, evicted from Santa Rosa assisted living facility for being unable to pay

    This is sad. I looked at the Brookdale home page because I was searching for the spokesman’s thumbnail-glossy for purposes of giving it the evil eye but thankfully it was not there. It is an extremely slick web page and they are apparently pretty high-line as far as these institutions go. 7K a month. I punched the numbers in my calculator and if you have a million and no insurance you get 12 years before it’s used up. It is a blessing and then sometimes it is a curse we don’t know how long we have got. Does anybody know the professional term for extracting all available wealth from the terminally ill? I would rather be a mafia loan collector than one of these vultures. If the story is as reported they got 400K from the patient.

    Dave Ramsey says if you have made it to sixty you have to have an assisted living insurance policy. I googled and Geico does not sell it. I didn’t recognize the name of any of the companies that were on the first page.

    1. Wukchumni

      My mom’s assisted living place is $6400 a month and it’s not high end or low end, more of a cruise ship that never leaves port.

      They’ve gotten about $300k of the proceeds from the sale of her home, and should she live to be 100, she would run out of those particular assets, not unlike the 101 year old mentioned.

      These sort of assisted living places mostly exist because the clientele caught a fat hog in price appreciation of their domiciles bought eons ago.

      That said, our family and most importantly-mom, has been very happy that she’s there.

      1. Craig H.

        Have you bought an assisted living insurance policy? I wonder what the statistics are on how many of us are self-insured on that.

        1. Wukchumni

          Have you bought an assisted living insurance policy?

          She has enough assets to not worry about the eventuality of being tossed out on the street, and possibly making a NC links thread.

          Dave Ramsey is for people that haven’t a clue, and get marginal advice that’s better than nothing, but barely.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            137M US persons afflicted by medical financial hardship. Just wondering what that number would have to rise to before there is a revolution

      2. Leftcoastindie

        A lot of insurance companies got out of the game as their long term care products were money losers. Based on your premium they would pay a percentage of the monthly bill. As the costs sky rocketed the insurers lost big time. There are products out there though, that provide a fixed benefit ie. $3,000/mo, $5,000/mo or whatever, but you are on the hook for the rest and good luck collecting on the policy as you pretty much have to be on deaths door to do so.

        1. Craig H.

          The person in the Petaluma newspaper story has Alzheimer’s. This is a unique disease in which the patient is completely disabled and can then possibly live for twenty years. It seems like it would be a very rational insurance market in theory.

    2. Robert McGregor

      Dave Ramsey cracks me up! I acknowledge his advice is mostly positive, and accurate . . . “have to have an assisted insurance policy.” Ok, that’s reasonable. But tell that to someone who’s checking account is currently negative, or whose power is turned out. I have two friends like that right now. Little secret: you want to avoid assisted living, or have your loved ones avoid assisted living if you can help it.

    3. katiebird

      My father (age 97) passed away last May 7 (very nearly a year ago) he left my mother (age 93) a VERY comfortable pension and her share of his social security.

      But when we visited senior living places for her after he died (she couldn’t live alone and my house is not wheelchair friendly at all), we were shocked at the prices. Thousands over her monthly income.

      Well, we lucked out. We found an Independent Living place that charged $2,000/mo (I know crazy but wonderful compared to what we had seen) AND they have 24/day nurses/aids (from a separate company) in the building at all times. Residents can call on them or not with no commitment required. Or they can contract for regular services (and over the months we really needed those) Eventually paying just under $4,000/mo for rent and nursing services. Which was at least $2,000/mo less than any comparable Senior Living place.

      If such a place would even have let mom continue in Independent Living. This place, Overland Park Place in Overland Park, KS, told us she could live in her apartment for the rest of her life.

      Which she did. She died early this morning, in her own bed after a fairly swift decline.

      I share the specifics of this place because I think that separating housing charges from the care giving services is a very good idea. And it made things more affordable than any other place we looked. Also in this case, both sets of staff were all kind, helpful and generous in spirit.

        1. katiebird

          Thank you. She kept telling us that it was Não faz mal. But of course it is….

      1. Wukchumni

        Sorry for your loss, my mom turns 94 this month and she’s got the mind of a 26 year old and an age appropriate chassis.

        Most of the assisted living places of a similar caliber to hers in SoCal require you to buy an apartment for around $300-$400k, which we thought was ridiculous.

  13. lyman alpha blob

    RE: RussiaGate

    The Blob are really twisting themselves into knots trying to spin this. From the Vanity Fair piece:

    What the [NYT] report actually does is underscore the scope of the bureau’s “alarm” at Russia’s meddling efforts, and its attempts to determine the extent of that interference.

    So they are trying to say that the intelligence community knew the Russians were meddling and they had to sic the spooks on the Trump campaign to find out the details, but it wasn’t really spying anyway, just an investigation and nothing personal against Trump, they would have “invesitigated” anybody.

    Riiiiiiiight. I’m sorry but the narrative was always that Trump was a Manchurian candidate conspiring with Russia – there was no Russian meddling narrative at all until it became clear that Trump was going to be the Republican nominee and Clinton could not move the polls in her favor like she had planned. This scheme was revealed in the wikileaks documents – the Clinton campaign contacted their friends in the corporate media to get them to pump Trump’s campaign, thinking he’d be much easier for Clinton to beat. The Russia narrative began when that plan spectacularly backfired.

    Clinton whining “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?” was about the same time the whole Russian collusion nonsense started. The media would like to think the rubes are too dumb to remember what happened in the ancient times of 2-3 years ago and are furiously trying to construct a new narrative. But they seem oblivious to the fact the the public has never cared about the phony Russian nonsense nearly as much as the beltway denizens sitting around in DC smelling their own flatulence do.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      But how can the “rubes” remember what never happened 2-3 years ago? Everybody knows Hilary had the election stolen by Russians and that Barack was a saint whose good works were blocked by evil Repubs. CNN/Rachel/MSNBC told them so

    1. chuck roast

      all you need to know…
      Editor’s note: The comment thread on this story has been closed because too many recent comments were violating our Terms of Service.

      1. crittermom

        I stupidly thought that when they said the comments thread was closed, it meant you could no longer post a comment.

        I feared I didn’t have the stomach for it but read it thinking the comments would be a good antacid.

        Aarghhhh! Can’t even read the comments already posted. (Meant to check that first)
        Now I can’t get that regurgitated taste out of my mouth…

  14. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Venezuela – Forensics Of A Clownish Coup

    From a link in that article:

    On Thursday, a Caracas court issued a warrant for Lopez, revoking his house arrest and ordering him to spend the remaining eight years of his 13-year sentence in Ramo Verde military prison; he was convicted of charges including arson and instigating violence after spearheading anti-government protests. The Spanish foreign ministry said on its website that Lopez would “under no circumstances” be handed over to Venezuelan authorities.

    So Lopez is holed up in the embassy and Spain will not turn him over. But what if they found out Lopez smeared poo on the walls – would that change things? Perhaps someone should spread that rumor around….

  15. Louis Fyne

    Tesla self-driving is a scam made possible by a lax SEC, sycophantic financial press and a bull market. Versus a legit operation like Waymo. Wish the FT article wasn’t behind a paywall, but i can imagine its talking points.

    As always your mileage may vary. just make a mental timestamp of all these pro-elon articles, return in 6 to 24 months.

    1. The Rev Kev

      To read that article, Google the title and when you see it in results, click it to read the article.

  16. John

    There is no way to address student debt without tackling the skyrocketing costs first. It seems like anything that can be financed with low interest rates will become weaponized against borrowers. I forewent a college education because of costs. Even in the mid 90’s I felt like a cow being milked by the system and had to work extra hard to succeed without it. I was realistic about what I would be signing up for. College kids are being exploited, but they also signed up for it and reaped the benefits. Some debt forgiveness is necessary, but it also doesn’t fix the system.

    1. John

      Maybe They should cap the total payback at 1.5-1.75x original loan curtailing usery and debt enslavement

  17. Another.Muppet

    Respected commenters, has anyone read Cory Morningstar articles ? I landed here here
    after getting excited about Extinction Rebellion protests in London

    Was wondering at the same time how come the Met police was so nice and comfortable most of the time.

      1. RWood

        “Up to 1 million species are at risk of annihilation, many within decades, according to a leaked draft of the global assessment report, which has been compiled over three years by the U.N.’s leading research body on nature.
        “The 1,800-page study will show people living today, as well as wildlife and future generations, are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water, and a stable climate.”

        “Barrett [Mike Barrett, WWF’s executive director of conservation, and science] said this posed an environmental emergency for humanity, which is threatened by a triple challenge of climate, nature, and food production. “There is no time to despair,” he said. “We should be hopeful that we have a window of opportunity to do something about it over these two years.”
        “The report [a leaked draft of the global assessment report, which has been compiled over three years by the U.N.’s leading research body on nature, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)] will sketch out possible future scenarios that will vary depending on the decisions taken by governments, businesses, and individuals. The next year and a half is likely to be crucial because world leaders will agree [to] rescue plans for nature and the climate at two big conferences at the end of 2020.”

    1. Steve H.

      I’ve posted on her work showing Warren and Bill undercutting pipelines so they could rail-ship tar sands products, and how that relates to McKibben focusing on pipelines. Quality work.

    2. pjay

      Her work on NGOs is informative and detailed, showing how the “non-profit industrial complex” is often co-opted by both corporate interests and the intelligence community. She focuses on the environmental movement, but she has done good work on other NGOs as well. There are progressives who think she is too hard on some well-meaning do-gooders. But then there are progressives who think the White Helmets are a heroic Syrian rescue organization.

    3. CoryP

      I also recently came across these articles and her wider work on NGOs. Relatively new to this site so I’m not sure if there was a big NGO industrial complex discussion in the past.
      But I thought the series and the questions it provokes would be really good for the readers here to discuss.

    1. The Rev Kev

      And by a coincidence, today is the 49th anniversary to the day of the Kent State shootings-

      I wonder how many students of a certain type screaming about ‘safe spaces’ would have dealt with this back then? Have people forgotten this event?

      1. Wukchumni

        4 days after Kent State:

        May 8. Jim Cairns, a member of the Australian parliament, led over 100,000 people in a demonstration in Melbourne. Smaller protests were also held on the same day in every state capital of Australia.

        We would have a hard time getting 1,000 people to protest our myriad of ongoing wars, at present.

      2. shewhoholdstensions

        Despite the fact that I’m working on my 40th year, I knew nothing about Kent State until last week, when someone mentioned it here on NC and I went looking.

        My husband also knew nothing about it, and he’s a few years older than me.


        1. Lambert Strether Post author


          I keep mulling a series called “Recent History for the Youth” or some such (please feel free to suggest alternative titles) that would cover events like this, or Iran-Contra, or NAFTA, or Bush v Gore, or Iraq WMDs. Bush v Gore was in 2000, after all, so there are college freshmen who probably haven’t heard about it…

  18. barrisj

    Re: Venezuela and US “military option”…many here will recall that leading principals in the Cheney-Bush regime, following the initial US occupation of Iraq, claimed that “ Iraqi oil” would help “pay for” all the costs incurred by the invasion and destruction of Iraq’s state structures and the subsequent rebuilding of the country. Cheney, Wolfovitz, Rumsfeld, et al at one time or another voiced such proposals, but they went nowhere, for a multiplicity of reasons.
    Trump, in the last few years, had also called for “taking over” Iraqi oil production, as an offset to the then occupation and rebuilding costs, and, latterly, as a method of securing Iraqi oil from exploitation by ISIS. He also has recently made vague noises about potentially using proceeds from Venezuelan oil production to offset any “US-guided” rebuilding of Venezuela, mainly as a cover for seizure of oil fields…”they have all that oil”
    Bush and co. were deterred from any such plans in Iraqi…any bets that Trump, Bolton, Abrams, et al would be similarly deterred in Venezuela?

  19. martell

    Good summary of the contingent faculty situation from AAUP. I found it odd, though, that the article said nothing about the rise of academic administrators. While it is surely true that money spent on technology and facilities could have been spent on people who actually perform the principal functions of institution (teaching and research), it is also true that more and more financial resources have been devoted to administrators at the same time that many contingent faculty members have been driven into poverty.

    I’m not sure of how best to explain the rise of the administrators. I suspect it is in part a response to an ever more complex and risky legal environment. There must be positions devoted to compliance. Partly its an effort to satisfy accreditation criteria that involve assessment. There must be positions devoted to gathering and processing quantified data. Then there are the positions devoted to ensuring that students keep paying (or promising to pay). These are the “retention specialists.” And, of course, there are what might be called ideologically driven positions devoted to the achievement of something assumed good (e.g., diversity, multiculturalism, globalization, sustainability, leadership, entrepreneurship, etc.) Still, I can’t help but suspect that there’s another factor at work, namely that administrators, thinking of themselves as the very lifeblood of the institution, always believe its a good idea to hire more administrators. And so they do.

    1. Conrad

      Cecil Parkinson identified the causes of such administrative bloat nearly 60 years ago.

  20. Susan the other`

    Wow. Quanta magazine. Research on superconductivity by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero. MIT. What a spectacular piece of physics. Just a 1.1degree twist misaligning 2 sheets of atom-thin hexagonals of graphene in layers creates superconductivity by focusing the electrons; preventing their usual chaos. “Twistronics.” Capturing the wild spinning wave with the equivalent of just a shimmer of an edge. I couldn’t help thinking of Penrose and Hammeroff and their new theory of consciousness. That it is created in microtubules of the neurons in our brains which are the exact tiny size to capture a spinning electron and as its wave function collapses benefit from the spark. Sparking consciousness. So maybe microtubules could be studied for their geometry as well. Do they have a 1.1 degree displacement angle as well? Talk about sacred geometry.

    1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      Very good to know someone else finds the Penrose & Hammeroff research fascinating & I would agree with the use of the word sacred, especially in how their work touches on the why of the magic of music.

    2. newcatty

      Susan the Other, beautifully stated: “Sparking consciousness “. Sacred Geometry is omnipresent.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Penrose and Hammeroff

      Got a link on that? I more or less understand the structure (I won’t use the word “mechanism”) you describe, but I would like to know how well their theory has been received.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        It has not been well received Lambert, mainly I believe because it challenges the calculations based on neurons by the AI establishment, in terms of the processing power needed to produce consciousness within a computer. If the calculation was based on the deeper level of microtubules, the required level is vastly larger.

        They were also attacked in the form of an argument based on the idea that quantum effects could not occur in the brain, as it is a too noisy & warm environment. This has been disproved through the discovery of quantum effects in a robin’s brain & also in photosynthesis.

        Max Tegmark is a major critic whose paper attacking the theory was soundly torn apart by Penrose.

        It is connected to other work using ultrasound as a cheap way to combat depression & within the microtubules of Alzheimer’s patients it has been discovered that their structure starts to unravel. Hammeroff commented that big pharma might have them shot if they came up with an inexpensive alternative to pills.

        Hammeroff is easy to attack as unlike Penrose he goes off into such subjects as life after death, while taking part in conferences which include people who make scientists cringe.

        1. Susan the other`

          Thanks EdSP. I didn’t know all the current details. But was so impressed first by Hammeroff and even more when Penrose joined him I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

  21. newcatty

    University and college institutions are like almost all institutions in this country. Administrators think they are entitled to exoboriant recommendation. It is no different than any corporate executives at any company in the country, with few exceptions. The mission of higher education is no longer seen as that of a good for the individual or the society. Contingent faculty are not respected or treated fairly. They are just plebs in the racket. Education is monetized and just a way to indebt most students, who are not from wealthy families. Most research is funded by the MIC or other corporate interests. Follow the money. This is not to disparage the instructors and researchers who do give a damn about their work and the students in their classes and research labs. The hypocrisy of the parent’s and facilitators in the Varsity Blues corruption is just the scum rising to the top, so not hidden under the cream. Anecdote: personally know a young woman who is a real competitive soccer player. Also, works hard academically in high school. She will be recruited to play at college level. This is how she will afford to go to school with out crippling debt. She is working for that outcome. It is sickening that rich parents get their kids into a spot on a college team that could go to this student. Its not that she will not get a scholarship to a collge, but that it may not be the most desired spot. Maybe the outing of the blues story will help to change the story.

  22. Wukchumni

    We aren’t very good at our various coup d’gas attempts, it tends to be more of a coup d’gasp.

  23. Jeremy Grimm

    Peter Venkman: “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”
    Is today’s antidote yet another sign we are “headed for a disaster of biblical proportions”?

    1. richard

      Yesterday I was weeding with some students at our school.
      We saw a beetle grub and I joked:
      “Pupa, pupa! (clapping my hands) Your attention please!”
      They told me that was “dad humor”, and not appreciated.
      When did dads colonize puns, I’d like to know.
      Anyway, my whole point is, yours is worse, so well done.

        1. ambrit

          And Wrotten Puns are Vice Verso.
          St. Palimpset: “I lovingly lave the Left Hand Way.”
          Though, as the fellow about to be swung from the gibbet observed; “I could see a few years in the nick, but this, seems a bit of a stretch.”

          1. Wukchumni

            I’ve got nothing against domestic violins, but sometimes a tuba for alongside the head is called for.

            1. ambrit

              Aaaargh! You beat me to it, eight to the bar. Some puns are in the “shoud’a, would’a, coda,” key. (Takes a moment to compose himself.)

  24. George Phillies

    “…cancel student loan debt…”

    That debt is all money that was borrowed from someone. Did they just lose all of it? Cancelling student loan debt is somewhat like cancelling all mortgages. Jubilee? Well, until the banking system implodes.

    Some of the people proposing this may have the brains — I am an optimist — to have a plan for dealing with the now worthless assets matching the cancelled debts.

    1. Inode_buddha

      Given that wages have not been indexed to anything (such as productivity or the *real* rate of inflation), I would argue that the “assets” were worthless when acquired. Certainly my own career supports this idea.

      I am in the skilled trades, 35 years. You would be amazed at how many factory managers sneer at arts degrees because how are you supposed to make a living? And then these same managers turn around an pay as little as legally possible. Often less than artists make in tax write-offs.

  25. Wukchumni

    The Kentucky Derby is going off soon, with the playing of My Old Kentucky Home beforehand. The lyrics seem a little on the racist side, and in this era of correctness, it’s amazing that they haven’t replaced it with something by Beyonce…

    The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
    ‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
    The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
    While the birds make music all the day.
    The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
    All merry, all happy and bright;
    By ‘n’ by Hard Times comes a-knocking at the door,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

    Weep no more my lady
    Oh! weep no more today!
    We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
    For the Old Kentucky Home far away.

    They hunt no more for the possum and the coon,
    On meadow, the hill and the shore,
    They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
    On the bench by the old cabin door.
    The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
    With sorrow, where all was delight,
    The time has come when the darkies have to part,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

    The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
    Wherever the darky may go;
    A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
    In the field where the sugar-canes grow;
    A few more days for to tote the weary load,
    No matter, ’twill never be light;
    A few more days till we totter on the road,
    Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

  26. Steve H.

    Samantha Power spoke at my son’s commencement today. Started with Russia, Syria, but quickly went to learning to listen as a diplomat, collaboration, to gay marriage and Mayor Pete, to some version of lower your expectations.

    Y’know, it’s a stressful parking madhouse drizzle anyway, and now I get to think about CIA Libya Turkey alQueda arms shipments, and… Tho I note she came in to the UN the year after Benghazi and called Hillary ‘a monster’ on wax, so she’s got that going for her.

  27. The Rev Kev

    “Abe no longer sets preconditions for talks with N. Korean leader”

    Well it’s not like Abe had a lot of choice in the matter. China is talking to North Korea as is Russia. The North Koreans do not like Japan because of what they did there in the first half of the 20th century. There is no point asking for help from the South Koreans to act as an intermediary as the South Koreans do not like Japan either for the same reasons. The US under Trump is far too erratic to open up ties with North Korea either because whatever Trump did with North Korea, he would expect Japan to follow his lead. And yet North Korea could be a potentially very wealth nation due to its mineral wealth and disciplined work force. Certainly Japan does not want to be left behind at the starting gates in case the country starts opening up so it looks like Mohamed is going to have to go to the mountain.

  28. pretzelattack

    i’m trying to think what the cia is actually good at, and drawing a blank. sure, when they start off with massive advantages, they can destabilize a country, but look at their failures. they are terrible at actually spying themselves, or catching spies. they get handed a high value defector occasionally, but sometimes those are double agents. they didn’t notice aldrich ames in their midst for years, despite warming flags. hey, maybe they are good at destabilizing the u.s. government.

    1. pretzelattack

      i guess they are competent at corrupting the press,establishing astroturf organizations, getting their mercenaries legal protection for drugrunning, and skirting the laws on providing weapons to our puppets. they may well be good at domestic politics, if you’re only looking at winning office, and not policy. the competence of “our” intelligence community, like the competence of our military, is now an article of faith.

  29. bob

    Ah. No one had ever thought to make them “see”. This is why elon is such a revolutionary.

    ” Instead of techniques like these, Tesla’s autonomous driving technology relies almost entirely on teaching its cars to “see” using an array of cameras. As a back-up, its cars also use a forward-facing radar, along with a dozen ultrasonic sensors around the vehicle to help detect objects that are close by.”

    Dear Leader,

    Why couldn’t it “see” a semi? It was even the big side out. Whack! Right into the side and under – sans head.

    Oh no! Another! Whack!

    Will drivers have to wait for “see”2.0 before it can “see” the broadside of a semi trailer in order to avoid the risk of driver decapitation?

    What should the warning sticker look like?

    1. skippy

      Even with the expectation of the human taking over there’s still that little problem of lag time, bad enough with some humans under normal conditions – considering distractions.

      Now lets multiply human lag by indecision to whether or not the machine will save the day with some mad driving skills.

      1. bob

        Networking them all solves all of the problems.

        We can’t do it on a small level, but trust us, let us drive the semi too! We’ll have those heads flying off faster than ever!

        1. skippy

          But first they have too – pay – for the pleasure, freedom [tm] does function as scalable with networking dynamics IMO.

    2. LifelongLib

      Is the issue that on a road with curves, there are often going to be fixed obstacles in your current path that the road eventually curves away from, but the software has no way of accounting for that? So just detecting an obstacle isn’t enough, but the obstacle has to be significant? Just guessing…

  30. Dr. Uncle Steve

    Only Dumb People Would Use “Smart Diapers”

    Many numbers can be cited, but these are the capstones: Over 2.5 years you’ll need about 24-36 cloth diapers. A disposable diaper family would use about 7,300 diapers for 2.5 years.

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