Links 6/24/19

Ground Zero Photographs (September-October 2001) Flickr (DG). Original (in Italian). DG: “It certainly looks as though they come from someone with complete access to the site. But no one seems to know who that person is.”

How to Invest and Profit in the Next Recession Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg. Speaking of reflexivity…

America’s Finest Economists Have Been Needlessly Undermining Growth, Study Confirms New York Magazine

Household Debt Service Levels Are at Historically Low Levels Dean Baker, CEPR

Air quality committee rejects ban on toxic acid used in South Bay refineries Los Angeles Times

The Dangerous Methane Mystery Counterpunch


Molecules of Freedom and A Low Carbon Enlightenment Tehran Times. Today’s must-reads (in conjunction with this cross-post).

Iran: what are the options for Washington? FT

The Hard Part: Getting Iran and the U.S. to Talk to Each Other Bloomberg. Given that Trump tore up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, where to begin?

Trump Has A $259 Million Reason To Bomb Iran LobeLog. Only if Trump has never reneged on a deal.

Iranian bootleg DVD seller stocks up for huge influx of buyers Duffel Blog

Istanbul loss marks tectonic shift for Turkey FT

Ethiopia army chief shot dead by own bodyguard in failed coup Sky News


Plot to make Johnson PM for just one day The Australian (reprinting the Times).

The Grotesque Horror Show of the Tory Leadership Race Jacobin

Class war anarchists descend on Boris and Carrie’s flat as it emerges she’s ‘too afraid to return’ after anti-Brexit neighbours called police on them and handed row recording to newspaper Daily Mail

Network Rail bosses told to fly to meetings because trains too expensive, internal policy reveals iNews. Milton, Maggie: Take a bow!

Our Famously Free Press

“First-generation fact-checking” is no longer good enough. Here’s what comes next Neiman Labs (Furzy Mouse).

Why we should be wary of expanding powers of the Australian Signals Directorate The Conversation. More Five Eyes oddness.

Outrageous raids on journalists in Australia and elsewhere threaten press freedom Expose Facts. Ditto.


Thousands of Protesters Swarm Hong Kong Police Headquarters The American Conservative

Hong Kong citizens in rush to leave, migration agents report FT

Hong Kong protests: How tensions have spread to US BBC

In Hong Kong, the Freedom to Publish Is Under Attack Foreign Policy

* * *
President Donald Trump considers move to require 5G equipment for US sale to be made outside China, report claims South China Morning Post

The Key Quotes of Putin’s Annual Question and Answer Session Moscow Times

Putin’s ‘Direct Line’ Underscored Yawning Gulf between Kremlin and the Population, Analysts Say Window on Eurasia

Trump Transition

Presidential Wars Are Illegal Wars The America Conservative

Why a Government Lawyer Argued Against Giving Immigrant Kids Toothbrushes The Atlantic. “Before Sarah Fabian defended concrete floors and bright lights for President Donald Trump, she defended putting kids in solitary confinement for President Barack Obama.” Lambert here: It’s not that I’m for mistreating children. It’s that between the thuggishness of conservative Republicans and the hysterical bad faith of liberal Democrats I have yet to see a fully worked-out policy outcome from the left that’s supportable (and that includes “open borders,” because I don’t see a good reason to collapse the wages of the United States working class to global levels, which — follow me closely, here — would also hurt children. It’s also perfectly possible to wish to abolish ICE, on the ground that we don’t want the skillset of ICE agents propagating more than it already has, without also advocating “open borders”). Meanwhile, American life expectancy continues to drop, meaning tens of thousands of excess deaths. For the American working class, that is. But that’s a total non-story. What a mess. Sorry.

Facebook Libra

Who’s going to use the big bad Libra? Tech Crunch

Guardians of Money Bristle at Zuckerberg’s New Financial Order Bloomberg

Silicon Valley foundation’s crypto assets plunged, but donations rose in 2018 San Francisco Chronicle

Boeing 737 Max

The inside story of MCAS: How Boeing’s 737 MAX system gained power and lost safeguards Seattle Times

Boeing sued by more than 400 pilots in class action over 737 MAX’s ‘unprecedented cover-up’ ABC Australia

Boeing’s boss wins a reprieve, not redemption The Economist


Republicans move to revolutionize fundraising for 2020 Politico. WinRed, the answer to ActBlue.

Health Care

‘Medicare for All’ vs. ‘Public Option’: The 2020 Field Is Split, Our Survey Shows NYT

National Health Spending Estimates Under Medicare for All RAND Corporation

Neoliberal Epidemics

‘Urgent needs from head to toe’: This clinic had two days to fix a lifetime of needs WaPo. Why don’t they just move?

‘It’s totally unfair’: Chicago, where the rich live 30 years longer than the poor Guardian. Everything’s going according to plan!

List: How to Chair an Academic Committee McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Pay attention, Occupy veterans!

Class Warfare

Who Gets to Own the West? A new group of billionaires is shaking up the landscape. NYT. Note the URL: “wilks-brothers-fracking-business.”

Introducing Amazon Prime Nomad Current Affairs

Photographing the Ruins of Rural America The American Conservative. Not Arnade. Nice view camera.

Indoctrinated by Econ 101 Inside Higher Ed

Antidote du jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

Crow “anting.”

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. campbeln

    Re: Ground Zero Photographs (September-October 2001)… Anything of interest/new in here? IT seems to be someone with a blue color as there’s a lot of photos of equipment and detail work. I’m sure someone with an engineering-educated eye could glean some insights?

    1. The Rev Kev

      I have sometime thought over the years since 9/11 that a great opportunity was lost in not having a section of the Twin Towers salvaged as a memorial. Right now you have just the sunken pools as a memorial with a museum that you have to pay to get into but there was one segment that survived which struck my eye at the time. You can see it in that collection of images here-

      Can you imagine it cleaned up and put in place to represent the building that it used to be part of? It would almost be a living memorial instead of some pools that have little to say of that day and which would not be cosmetically so clean as what is there now.

      1. Quentin

        Oh, but the pools are so heating and spiritual in kind of antiseptically gentrifying way.

    2. Anon

      There are lots of interesting insights to be gleaned from the photos. (Which appear to be taken over a two-week period: 10-6-2001 > 10-18-2001. Seeing the damage in still photos allows for greater inspection. Did you notice the large cast-iron elevator motor in the bucket of the excavator? Unscathed by the heat and the drop from the top, while the exterior building metal is highly distorted from heat and compression. (I’m sure everyone knows, by now, that the Towers were extremely vulnerable to heat and structural distortion from lateral force/eccentric loading.)

      The photos mostly document the site clearing effort: machinery used, the workers (many w/o masks), and the schemes used to facilitate access of big machinery over an extensive debris pile. Lots of challenges in need of solutions. Debris removal of this scale is no easy task. (They were also looking for remains.)

  2. Darius

    Would now be a good time for Tehran to suck up to Donald Trump, tell him how great he is and offer him a hotel deal?

    1. J7915

      Yuuge tower, hotel, office space, condos etc. With magnificient gilded rotating T on top!

      Multipurpose, airways designator for Theran/Trump.

    2. ambrit

      Try to run an air war against Iran and end up with a brand new “Tehran Hilton,” complete with flight suited ‘guests.’

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Ding, ding, ding, ding. The naked aggression against a country that had recently disarmed will more or less destroy arms reduction packs for a generation at least.

      2. Plenue

        The thing is they still don’t have a nuclear weapons program (they never did, aside from some feasibility speculation by individual scientists when they thought Iraq might have one). Their nuke really is just for power. They’ve more then met their obligations under the ludicrous deal they signed with us.

        They don’t need nukes anyway. Their ballistic missiles are more than sufficient to close the strait and set Saudi Arabia on fire.

        1. Kilgore Trout

          The worst scenario to unfold would be this: if the US suffers losses like those seen in the Millennium Challenge war games, 20,000 dead, a carrier and its associated ships sunk, along with a number of downed planes, our fearless (mis)leaders would resort to tactical and even strategic nukes to even the score. The spillover, radioactive and otherwise, would be impossible to contain.

      3. Procopius

        Maybe I don’t understand your question. Are you asking why they don’t forego nuclear power generation? I suppose it’s because they know that pretty soon oil will not produce enough electricity for their needs. The way you phrased it sounds (to me, anyway) like, “Why don’t they forego nuclear weapons.” The answer to that, of course, is that they already have. They stopped their weapons program in 2003, and Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa that nuclear weapons were forbidden by shariah. After his death, Ayatollah Khamenei has issued his own fatwa affirming the same opinion. The JCPOA solidified the matter by opening all Iranian nuclear facilities to foreign inspection. All of them. I believe Trump knows perfectly well that despite Bolton and Pompeo and Netanyahu lying to him the Iranians are not attempting to build a nuclear weapon capability .

    3. ilpalazzo

      This may be somewhat related or paralell to the general Iran matters. There is an excellent Iranian film from the seventies (stage play on film really) “The Death of Yazdgerd” about the last Persian king that succumbed to Arab conquest. The film’s themes are very much political in nature and I think many here would enjoy it greatly. The feel of the film is very much classic greek tragedy mixed with Kurosawa. Can be found on youtube in the whole if in rather poor quality but I was awestruck enough after fifteen minutes to forget about it.

      Among interesting properties of the film is the fact that the author of the script tried to recreate ancient language before arab influences and that costumes and other aspects of character design are based on ancient persian bas-relief.

      Highly recommended, it opened my eyes on many things Persian and human in general.

  3. Ignacio

    RE: How to Invest and Profit in the Next Recession Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg.

    nº 6. Invest in home refurbishing, energy saving and/or renewables. Apart from the higher value of your home, and better preparedness for future shocks, ROI may be between 2-10 years depending on each particular investment. Get assistance, but in many cases I don’t see any financial instrument that matches the returns.

    1. zer0

      Huh? If anything, energy costs are going to go down during a recession, and considering it takes an average of $30,000 to install solar, Id actually advise to keep your money in cash, and buy at the low when the recession hits. Or gold. Gold fairly undervalued right now, testing 1395.

      If you buy low, unless a catastrophe hits the US (which is extremely unlikely), youre pretty much garaunteed decent returns in the following 2-3 years.

      The problem with your home is, its only an investment as long as your willing to sell. Selling requires you to, usually, find and buy another place. And during a recession, property values tend to go down. So youd end up getting a raw deal in selling.

      Id much much rather be cash rich and house poor than the opposite. In the least, for my mental health.

      1. Lepton1

        We are putting in almost 6kW of SUNPOWER solar (best quality) for about $16,000. We might add a 10kWh battery and electronics for another $15,000 or so. You can get companies to put solar in at no charge then sell you the resulting power for less than the power company would charge.

  4. Donn

    Not sure whether to suggest this as falling under Brexit (as it relates to alternative arrangements) or Antidote du Jour (as it relates to that most beautiful of all animals, the unicorn):

    “Common all-island regimes that exist now should be continued and where possible
    built upon. Special arrangements such as special economic zones, and common
    regimes for SPS which potentially span not only the Island of Ireland, but the
    Island of Ireland and the Island of Britain should also be considered. We float the
    idea of a common zone for the Island of Ireland and the Island of Britain with a
    common rule book (like the Australia-NZ Food Safety Area) which would allow IE
    to break the common area if the UK diverged beyond the level of EU tolerance,
    and also allowed the people of NI to adopt a common SPS area within the Island of
    Ireland, if they chose to do so. In this case the decision to put checks into the
    harbours and ports of the Irish Sea would be a decision of the NI assembly, but
    would only follow a decision by IE to break the Common British and Irish Isles
    rule-book, and continue with a harmonised EU system.”

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think it falls under unicorn.

      The whole proposal depends on the island of Ireland having some sort of ‘special’ status which would almost certainly be unacceptable to the EU. The risk to the Republics trade of getting hauled into some sort of food or other scandal in the UK would be too great. I don’t think its politically viable in the Republic either, it smacks of being pulled into the UK’s orbit at a time when its turning into a black hole (sorry to mix metaphors here). It would also threaten FDI into Ireland because of the ambiguity it would create about its EU membership. Plus I think it would be so mindbogglingly complicated to put into practice that it would end up being more trouble than its worth.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “‘It’s totally unfair’: Chicago, where the rich live 30 years longer than the poor”

    There is absolutely no possible justification for such a state of affairs in a city like Chicago but it needs to be understood first. Fortunately, I happen to know that the University in that city has a really great Department of Economics which should be able to analyze the situation and come up with an explanation.

    1. Carla

      Gunz, poverty, gunz. Housing discrimination, poverty, gunz. Season with entrenched local government corruption locking the population into cynicism. Wash, rinse, repeat for several generations. As Lambert noted, it’s all according to plan.

      1. Quentin

        Don’t fret: Mr and Ms Hopey Changey are coming to the rescue by destroying a public park and filling it with Their Resplendence. Mr and Ms O. are a power couple, a duo, inseparable from the hip or ….? Excuse me, they put me in a very bad mood. The cover Ms. O’s book makes Las Vegas look chic.

  6. Wukchumni

    Who’s going to use the big bad Libra? Tech Crunch
    I’m pleased to announce the launch of Capricorn One, the value of which will vary based on OJ finding the perps (day 9,183 in the ongoing quest) in the grisly double murder in Brentwood. The hope is that the valuation will go to the moon, Alice!, or perhaps Mars.

    1. Summer

      And the article ends with this:

      “Do you think a decentralized, permissionless, censorship-resistance version would be better? I agree! Call me when one is anywhere near as usable as Libra is likely to be.”

      Facebook is censorship-resistant and permissionless? And apparently it must already be broken up because it’s “decentralized” too.

      1. ewmayer

        And don’t forget one other ‘advantage’ FaceBuxx will share with other popular cryptos – transactions are irreversible. So unlike a loser with a fiat-based dinosaurish “bank account”, once you’re defrauded, you stay defrauded. So awesome!

        Oh, “decentralized” doesn’t refer to the underlying tech – as we’ve seen with other cryptos, even ones not started by a corrupt tech behemoth, transactions tend to quickly centralize at a small number of major exchanges. No, “decentralized” means that once such an exchange gets hacked or proves to be run by crooks, there’s no 800-number defrauded users can call for help. Because to the crypto-libertarian crooks pushing such tech, it’s dogma – or at least a highly effective marketing spiel – that “centralization” is inherently more evil than out-and-out fraud.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Meanwhile back here on Earth the Financial Action Task Force (FATF, global AML body) released their long-awaited INR.16, that includes the following:

          Countries should ensure that originating VASPs obtain and hold required and accurate originator information and required beneficiary information on virtual asset transfers, submit the above information to beneficiary VASPs and counterparts (if any), and make it available on request to appropriate authorities

          So Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) must not only get KYC info for their clients, they must also now know the identity of all recipients (beneficiaries) of transactions.

  7. DJG

    “What a mess. Sorry.”

    Lambert Strether: Thanks for the rant. I’ll also throw in William Vollmann’s report from the border in the July issue of Harper’s Magazine for those with access to a newstand to buy the paper issue. (Harper’s locks up the current issue at its web site.)

    Liberals didn’t discuss deportations under Obama because they were elegant, thoughtful deportations. Likewise, under Bush II and Obama, only ACLU diehards realized / agitated with regard to Guantanamo, which is filled with people trying to take away our freedom fries. Yet studiously ignoring the depredations of empire at Guantanamo and living fantasies of open borders (our nanny teaches the kids Spanish!) mean that the U.S. has been maintaining a system of concentration camps for a minimum of fifteen years.

    Meanwhile, where is the supine U.S. judiciary? This is indeed a cautionary tale about relying on the judiciary to protect one’s rights (a cautionary tale for reproductive rights and Roe v Wade, also). This is also a cautionary tale about how the U.S. citizenry treats people unfortunate enough not to be “popular.” The 9/11[tm] attacks speeded up the grinding down of the Bill of Rights, and to quote Talking Heads:

    And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Meanwhile, where is the supine U.S. judiciary?

      -How many divisions does the judiciary have?
      -Court packing matters. Those seats Obama didn’t have time to auto-sign appointments are being filled with people who might be more sympathetic to Pat Henry and UCLA (University Close to Lynchburg Airport; that’s what the kids called it) divinity…law graduates because Obama didn’t foresee losing both Houses of Congress (after all he’s not Bill Clinton) or a Clinton losing an election to anyone other than the great orator. The judiciary is jam packed with bad people. Besides a woman could have control over their own body somewhere. Where do you think Pat Robertson’s acolytes are going to be?
      -Back log.
      -Money. Pro Bono work is nice or , but when you consider the time and resources needed in a case, its not practical. Its not glamorous, but the leg work isn’t glamorous but its needed. Paralegals, researchers, experts, and even attorneys can’t work for free.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > indeed a cautionary tale about relying on the judiciary to protect one’s rights (a cautionary tale for reproductive rights and Roe v Wade, also)

      I don’t understand this at all. After all, judges are highly credentialed professionals.

    3. dcblogger

      “I don’t see a good reason to collapse the wages of the United States working class to global levels, which ”
      wages are low because of union busting oligarchs. pass a job guarantee and card check and wages go back up.
      in any case there is no nice reason to separate children from parents and when the full truth comes out it will be worse than anyone can imagine. If the parents are to be deported, the children should be sent with them.
      We don’t have to detain anyone, it used to be that immigrants remained at large until their case was heard. The custom of detaining them is recent and the bright idea of the for profit prison industry.
      We could accept many more immigrants, there is work to be done.

      1. newcatty

        Indeed. The truth of how these imprisoned children are treated is slowly percolating out to the “public”. I just cringed with disgust when I watched a brief news segments that showed a government attorney explain that, it was acceptable that not giving children a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap was due to the fact that the children were only supposed to be in confinement for something like 72 hours. Also, the same so called rationale for having children sleep on bare concrete floors with an aluminum”blanket” for a cover. First of all, no amount of time is humane or acceptable in these circumstances. Not one second of time. Also, heard that the “food” provided, when from frozen source, was not even defrosted at time given to children. For profit prison industry is an abomination in this country for the huge amount of incarcerated citizens. Now we are obscenely and cruelty incarcerating innocent, vulnerable children . BTW, the status of many of our country’s children in many of our youth correction facilities, group homes for children without family caregivers, in some foster care situations are also being neglected or abused. This is not to denigrate the good caretakers in any situation, but it is another example of the disregard we have for our children. And to mention again, huge percentage of children are daily hungry in this country.

  8. John A

    Re Network rail bosses fly to meetings to save money… Maggie take a bow
    It was actually Thatcher’s successor, John Major, who privatised rail services. In fact, both Major and ‘new’ Labour Blair and Brown probably privatised more than Thatcher, she merely got the ball rolling. With hindsight, it has all been blamed on the EU, another nail in the Brexit coffin.

    1. dearieme

      Network Rail is the government-owned bit: it has proved marvellously incompetent.

      In my experience the railways today are infinitely better than they were when I depended on them in the late seventies. London commuters whinge, of course, but London commuters always whinge. If you gave them free champagne and cocaine they’d still whinge.

      1. Clive

        The £5,500+ I pay annually for my season ticket entitles me to whinge. You’d whinge, too.

        That said, peak-time travel is still, by some measurements, subsidised (providing peak capacity is expensive and incurs higher fixed costs, which aren’t covered by off-peak asset utilisation — the accounting is very complicated…). So I probably should only whinge in moderation.

        1. rtah100

          Clive, if you live in the Network area, you are still coddled by the subsidies. Commuter fares are tightly controlled. The uncontrolled long distance fares are not. When my commute moved from Bognor Regis to Devon, the journey time stayed much the same but the season ticket went from £5k to £15k and the walk-on fare from £27 to £133! Ironically, it is the commuter fares which could, if increased, pay for the additional mainline capacity around London that is needed to improve service for all. At the moment increases just go as profits to franchise owner holding companies in Potemkin market we have erected.

      2. shtove

        I’m not in London, but I have figured out that the delays on my twice-hourly service are of sufficient length and frequency that I might as well turn up at random.

        As I understand it, electrification plans were abandoned 40 years ago, and the entire network suffers from being first to the party, ie. Victorian, and needs a humongous overhaul.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I blame Dr. Beeching.

          That said, the British loading gauge, in a neat example of hysteresis, is dreadfully small, and very likely the Victorian dimensions are too expensive to change.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          The earliest lines were actually the very best. Because the first generation of locomotives couldn’t handle even the gentlest incline and were not exactly great at corners, the earliest lines, such as London to Bristol, or Dublin to Belfast, are very easy to operate at modern standards. These lines, however, pretty much bankrupted all the earliest investors due to their enormous cost.

          The rot set in later (after around 1850), as locomotives became more variable and powerful, and this allowed developers to build lines along easier routes – but in turn these routes are very hard to convert to high speed. But they were much more profitable in their day. These later lines included all those minor branches and narrow gauge lines which were nearly all shut down later – but they are excellent for conversion to leisure routes of course.

        3. Oregoncharles

          Twice hourly? As compared to maybe twice a day? And you’re complaining?

          Just adding a little American perspective, here.

      3. John A

        In the 1970s as I well remember, the Manchester – London service was faster than it is today, and far, far cheaper and more frequent. Connecting services worked and things were much smoother. Of course, one problem was that British Rail was deliberately starved of funding, as per neolib playbook, to claim the service was bad and should be privatised.
        The Tory minister for transport in the 1960s also happened to be part of a family business that built motorways and he helped Beeching destroy loads of branch lines in the rail network in favour of building motorways. As Clive quite rightly points out, the privatised companies are still massively subsidised, where the subsidies go to foreign shareholders as dividends or to the likes of Branson’s tax haven in the Caribbean.
        Back in the 70s, the railway system was a public service, the people who used it were passengers, now the system is run by rentiers who transport ‘customers’. Anyone who claims today’s system is better, is a sheer head in the ground ideologue.

  9. Dave

    I won’t pretend to have understood those two highly concentrated Cook pieces except in bits and pieces.
    But one thing I’m curious about: why is “finite physical storage” of gas an “immovable object”? Can’t the excess gas just be surreptitiously dumped or vented or flared or whatever?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think he means simply that there is very limited capacity to store gas (compared to oil). Most gas is stored in underground voids – either constructed by pumping out underground salt intrusions, or using depleted gas or oil wells where the voids are still intact. There are a limited number of possible such stores. Storing LNG is very expensive and complex.

  10. dearieme

    Once Trump was in office, Republicans stopped caring about the debt and showered the economy in deficit-financed tax cuts and defense spending. Meanwhile, after much browbeating from the president, the Fed eventually backed off its rate hikes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these moves have not sparked inflation. Instead, they ostensibly helped bring more Americans into the workforce and have sustained wage growth for those already in it.

    Hurray, Trump was right. But since I am obliged to sneer at him I shall:

    A stronger, longer recovery is possible — if … the White House’s very stable genius, get[s] out of its way.

    Question: is America’s finest economists intended to be as sarcastic as best and brightest was?

  11. The Rev Kev

    “The Hard Part: Getting Iran and the U.S. to Talk to Each Other”

    Trump says that he wants the deal revised so that Iran will never have nukes which on the surface sounds reasonable. But there are other demands as well. Iran depends on its missiles for defense at the expense of upgrading its regular forces. One of those demands is that Iran gets rid of most of these missiles i.e. disarm and make itself vulnerable to attack. Another demand is that Iran withdraw any of its people from the rest of the middle east. These presumably would be the ones that also helped defeat ISIS and thus wrecked the plans that the US had for Iraq &Syria.
    In any case, what would be the point of making an agreement with Trump? Suppose that some sort of agreement is made between now and November 2020. Assuming that Trump gets back in, he is likely as not going to say that he has reconsidered the deal and wants more concessions made. Under Obama, Washington had made a reputation for itself as being agreement-incapable but under Trump agreements are now open for revision at any time for spurious grounds such as ‘national security’ at any time. Agreements with Trump are worth nothing unless circumstances force him to keep them and for him there are only win-lose deals and no others.

    1. Antifa

      What Tehran and Washington have to talk about is not nukes — there aren’t any — but Iran’s superb and growing number of ballistic missiles, and the people around the Middle East who may now or in future have access to them. Those missiles block Israel and Saudi Arabia from dominating the Middle East in the ways they feel is their right.

      Washington wants Iran to dial all that waaay back. Iran would be insane to do so. Hence the current impasse.

      Israel and the Kingdom of Saud are slowly but surely being shaded by Iran. They are the push behind Washington’s push for Iran to surrender its sovereignty.

      1. Carolinian

        Indeed. Trump represents not just himself but also the Israeli lobby and while he may claim to be a moderator between the hawks and the doves, nobody believes that he is willing to be equally evenhanded when it comes to Israeli desires. As long as that continues to be true it’s hard to see any meaningful peace with Iran. Earlier Obama had chances to make such a peace long before the JCPOA but didn’t take up the cause–probably for the same reason.

        Trump sang a different tune back when he was running and said he would be evenhanded on the Middle East and that he would self finance and therefore be beholden to nobody. It seems he eventually realized how much money it would cost to embark on this vanity adventure and decided to be beholden.

      1. wilroncanada

        That’s a point of view, flora,I guess, but it seems to me he (Trump plus his mad foreign policy advisers) are cluttering up the Straits with warships and and filling it with mad friends like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. There is nothing right about that; well, maybe extreme right wing.

  12. Frank Little

    RE: Why a Government Lawyer Argued Against Giving Immigrant Kids Toothbrushes

    I think a good place to start is to recognize that many of the children in ICE detention have family willing and waiting to take them in the US but aren’t being allowed to do so. Trump and other right wingers have derided this policy as “catch and release” (textbook dehumanizing language), but there is no need to hold them in any kind of prison, government run or otherwise. Much of this infrastructure was set up by Obama and his predecessors so I agree this didn’t start post-2016, but ultimately this is another symptom of this country’s instinctual reliance on incarceration when it is not necessary (see pre-trial detention, crimeless revocation of parole based on procedural violations, elderly and infirm prisoners, etc.).

  13. notabanktoadie

    The Libra token would contribute to a fairer world, where those now excluded from the banking system would have ready access to cheap and easy payments and financial services, according to a company white paper. from [bold added]

    Except for loans, those services should already be provided to ALL citizens by their respective central banks FOR FREE up to reasonable limits on account size and transactions per month.

    Why? Because fiat is for the use of ALL citizens and not just depository institutions, aka “the banks.”

    1. The Rev Kev

      Here is another thought. Suppose Facebook’s Libra becomes widely used, especially for remittances between counties. But Facebook is based in the US so at any time the US government could have Libra turned off for countries like Russia, China, Venezuela and any other country that happens to be in Washington’s bad books that week. There is no way in hell that Washington could resist such a tempting tool, even if Libra was based in another country. We have seen this before with the SWIFT network – twice!

      1. milesc

        FB is making the right noises in this regard; it seemingly wants to avoid the situation you describe. Hence Libra* will be controlled by an independent, not-for-profit based in Geneva, Switzerland, with a governing board comprising 100 independent corporations (not all American), with no one corporation (FB included*) able to hold more than 1% of voting rights.

        *Obviously Libra does not exist yet, so who knows what it will be, or if it will be; my response is based on publicly available information.
        **Facebook may try to wield its power in other ways, after all it will have brought an enormous number of users to the table. Nevertheless, if the other 99 members decline to turn off Libra for country X, there doesn’t seem to be much FB can do.

        1. The Rev Kev

          SWIFT is based in Belgium but it nonetheless had to buckle under US threats. If any transaction around the world touches the US or dollars, Washington claims jurisdiction. Libra will be no different.

    2. flora

      Libra seems to me an extension of the libertarian techo-utopian idea that govts aren’t necessary, that e-commerce will transcend without fault or failure the ‘antique’ idea of national governments (with their “inefficient” regulations and democratic accountability in democracies). A “bank” for sea steaders. What a deal! Sign me up! -not.

      1. notabanktoadie

        Banks would require far less regulation if they had genuine liabilities wrt the non-bank private sector, and not the largely sham liabilities that currently exist due to government privilege such as exclusive access to inherently risk-free accounts at the Central Bank with the rest of us forced to use bank deposits or else be limited to mere physical fiat, grubby coins and bills.

          1. notabanktoadie

            Except for activities that, if government were to be involved in, would possibly violate equal protection under the law, such as lending, the giving of financial advice, the management of private sector financial assets, etc., there should be no reason why a citizen should ever need to use a private bank, Libra, Mastercard, Visa, etc.

  14. Off The Street

    Here is an article about France that may be of interest to many readers. Perhaps it could generate some on-the-ground commentary, David? others?, to help us at a far remove after the Gilets Jaunes discussions. Not familiar with the source Gatestone Institute as I just stumbled across it.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      I had a hard time finding a logical thread in the commentary. A lot of quotes, a few from polemicists (they call themselves philosophers) on the French right, one reference to the Gilets Jaunes, and some stuff about the urban/suburban/rural class divide. My opinion is that France is fractured alright but it’s mostly because of poor management directly from Paris elites and the stupid design of the Euro (see, e.g. poor management from Paris) rather than anything else.

      The French countryside is nearly as devastated as the rust belt in the US and for similar reasons – globalists making the rules for their line managers in national governments and business having no legal constraints on shifting production to low labor cost countries.

      The French suburbs are a mess because immigrants were needed in the 50s and 60s and then hated for expecting that they had a right to stay here. Racism and resentment.

      This is all just my armchair (fauteuil) analysis, mind you.

      1. flora

        Thanks for this comment. Two things:

        A lot of quotes, a few from polemicists (they call themselves philosophers) …

        That made me laugh out loud. thanks.

        The French countryside is nearly as devastated as the rust belt in the US and for similar reasons – globalists making the rules for their line managers in national governments and business having no legal constraints on shifting production to low labor cost countries.

        I think globalists are monopolists with a multi-nation footprint.

      1. Oh

        he article struck me as mere blabber but I noticed an appeal to help free an ex DEA(yuck!) and FBI agent who was freelancing on catching cigarette smugglers (sure, sure!)captured in Iran and my reaction was he walked into the situation and he richly deserves it. Anything to blame Iran will work on this kind of a site.

    2. David

      As Bugs Bunny, says, the article is a curious mix, and it would actually have been easy to write a better and more coherent piece using the same material. I’m not too impressed with the site itself – seems very anti-Tehran and pro-Tel Aviv. Anyway, short version.
      Some of what the author says is uncontentious enough. The geographer Christophe Guilluy, mentioned several times, is a heavyweight figure who came up with the concept of “peripheral France” some years ago. Originally treated as a neo-fascist pariah by the establishment, he’s now everywhere since his analysis turned out exactly to pre-figure the Gilets jaunes. From being heresy, his idea that France is increasingly divided into rich cities with poor suburbs, the rest of the country being left to rot, has become something close to an orthodoxy. There are a number of articles and interviews in English, I think. Jérome Fourquet, also with several mentions, has produced a book which (I haven’t read it myself) has generally been well received, and positively reviewed, even by publications like Le Monde that you might expect to be very critical. It is true that fundamentalist Islam is making big inroads into the Maghrebian communities in some French cities, but this is not necessarily because those communities want it. The fundamentalists are well funded by states (like Saudi Arabia and especially Qatar) which France cannot afford to insult, and are often the only organised and disciplined political force in some of the suburbs. This forces the elected mayors to negotiate with them to get anything done. Not all of the authors cited are so respectable, though. Zemmour may be a “social commentator” but he’s hardly “distinguished” except by his ability to cause trouble and insult people. He’s very well known, and associated with the reactionary Catholic tendency which has had a new lease of life since the gay marriage controversy. This, really, is where the article goes all wrong, buying into the clash of civilisations rhetoric, and suggesting (as presented ironically in Michel Houellebecq’s recent novel Submission that France might turn from a Catholic into a Muslim country in fairly short order. There are genuine reasons to think that Islamic fundamentalism is a big problem, and that the powers that be don’t care enough about it: indeed, they seem to see it as a useful way of disciplining illiterate immigrants who might otherwise cause trouble. But it’s a different and much more complex and sensitive, question than the “peripheral France” which produced the Gilet jaunes.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        Thanks David, excellent comment. I disagree that Islamic Fundamentalism is any threat to France, though I think it’s an excellent straw-man to maintain a sense of menace among the “white” population. The countryside is something to be seen in person. The laid back style of Normandy, for example, no longer exists. Only the urban centers of Caen, Rouen and Cherbourg have any decent commercial activities or diversions for the average pleb. The villages in the Centre, for ex. the area around Limoges, has been emptied of cafés and decent restaurants. I can only deduce that this is the same across the provinces.

        1. David

          I don’t think it’s a threat as a doctrine that many will willingly embrace. To that extent Zemmour and co are quite wrong. But if you have well organized and well funded groups that believe you should disobey the law if it conflicts with their interpretation of the Koran, and they are capable of enforcing this view on whole communities then you have a problem. I don’t think it’s being used as a straw man by the authorities : rather the reverse, since they have effectively denied the existence of the problem. It’s an effective part of Macron’s anti Le Pen agenda.

      2. flora

        Originally treated as a neo-fascist pariah by the establishment, he’s now everywhere since his analysis turned out exactly to pre-figure the Gilets jaunes. From being heresy, his idea that France is increasingly divided into rich cities with poor suburbs, the rest of the country being left to rot, has become something close to an orthodoxy.

        Is this presented as a natural outcome or unavoidable outcome of globalization – “tut-tut , too bad , but we must embrace the future, it is inevitable ” – or is it presented as an inquiry into the current popular economic thinking in France that privileges the economics that lead to this condition? (hope the question isn’t too convoluted.)

        1. David

          Both I think, depending on who you read, and I haven’t the time or the patience to read everyone. I suspect we are at the stage where pundits and politicians mumble about ´real, if exaggerated grievances ´ and there will be several further iterations before, maybe, people start suggesting that something should be done. The official discourse is starting to move slightly in that direction.

  15. Eureka Springs

    Love for sale.

    Thought you couldn’t get a ticket to the first presidential debate in Miami?

    If you’ve got about $1,750 to burn, you’re in luck.

    According to a private invite obtained by the Miami Herald from a Democratic politician, the Florida Democratic Party is offering exclusive access to the highly sought-after event in the form of sponsorship packages.

      1. Eureka Springs

        The extreme highest price should be 27.00. No millionaires allowed. Including presstitutes, I mean moderators.

      1. newcatty

        Or think they are selling old has been rock stars love for sale. “Icon legend ( in his own time)”,Sir Paul McCartney, is coming to town! Not mine, but at a city near me. Yes, and it’s really called the “Freshen Up” tour…seriously. Paul has a fresh new album to grace to the masses. Oh, on one of the ticket seller’s sites they let us remember that he was once a Beetle, too! Tickets range from $1494 to $2668. Oh, and parking cost from $18.00 to $47.00. No, we are not going to contribute to Sir Paul’s estate.

  16. David

    The Jacobin story on Brexit continues a recent and rather disturbing meme, asserting casually that the next Tory leader will be chosen by a “bizarrely small” number of people. Since the electorate amounts to the entire membership of the party whose leader is being chosen this is, well, a bizarre argument. Either that, or the author doesn’t realise that the leader of the incumbent party is also the Prime Minister by tradition. I’ve also seen suggestions that the next Tory leader and presumptive PM won’t really be “legitimate” because the electorate is mostly male, mostly white etc.
    This seems part of a recent trend to attempt to de-legitimise democratic choices where you don’t like the answer. We’ve had Trump, of course, but also Brexit (because Russia!) and Corbyn (Because blah blah), where the votes are somehow invalid, because, essentially, the voters got it wrong. Here, I think there is a discourse in preparation suggesting that whatever decisions the next Tory PM makes about Brexit are invalid in some way, and can be disregarded. I’m not a fan of the Tory Party, and would happily see it commit mass suicide. But this is stupid.

    1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      Similar to how the election of HAMAS was held to be illegitimate because the Americans and Israelis and their Fatah subordinates didn’t like the result. The local people in Gaza were just too stupid to vote the right way and so must be bombed into sense.

      1. Sharkleberry Fin

        Hamas has not held an election since 2006. At the time, Hamas received 3% more votes than Fatah. After which, Hamas scotched democratic elections. The people of Gaza cannot vote at all. So the legitimacy of the government is, at best, unknown.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, I’ve seen the ‘mostly male, white… etc’., thing repeatedly, despite the absence of evidence (the Tories don’t make their membership lists public). Its almost certainly elderly and white, but I’ve always been under the impression that local Conservative activists tend to be elderly white… women (the general membership might, of course, be different).

      But as you say, it seems a pointless and deceptive sort of argument, that’s simply how parliamentary systems work. Even Andrew Rawsley in the Observer repeated it, and of all people he should know better. Nobody seemed to complain when May came to power that way. Or Varadkar in Ireland, for that matter, he was never ‘elected’ PM, he simply took over following a party vote.

      And as you suggest, its a dangerous slippery slope when you start delegitimizing elected leaders because you don’t like that they came to power using the system as is. Oppose bad leaders for what they are, not for flaws in the electoral system.

      1. ChrisPacific

        Or if you’re going to highlight flaws in the electoral system, do it in good faith and not just when it benefits you/your party. This is why the Clinton supporters’ protests about the Electoral College rang false, because it was only an issue for them after she lost.

        1. flora

          thankyou. Should we call a constitutional convention because our of-the-moment candidate lost (when the libertarian right is ready with carefully constructed constitutional changes/ platforms and hoping for a constitutional convention in which to enact them?). I sometimes wonder just how smart the Dem estab really is.

    3. a different chris

      I agree with your post — but you should mention that the “entire membership” is like 125K people. Labor is almost 4x that… but put them both together and you don’t have a decent sized town in a country of 66 million people.

      What explains the discrepancy between this and say the US, where there are 44 million registered Democrats?

      1. False Solace

        The Democratic party isn’t an actual party with members or a joiner’s fee. The Republican party is the same. They’re private organizations run by private individuals who make the rules without any input from the ostensible membership. The US duopoly parties aren’t really the same thing as parties in the UK.

    4. vlade

      I can see the point – the parties are now run by personalities more than manifestos, so the voters get someone they didn’t vote for. In the days of yore where manifesto was more important, this would have be less of a problem, although I believe that change of party-of-government leader usually led to elections (ex Brown inheriting from Blair).

      That said, I find it funny that Tories defend this as furiously as they claim the EU process of officers selection undemocratic (when all of those are selected by the Council, i.e. elected officials of the member states, and then confirmed by the EP).

    5. mpalomar

      I tend to see the Jacobin article as not making a casual assertion but noting the circumstances surrounding the cramped rabbit hole the Conservative party has led the UK down when a short eternity ago Cameron disingenuously embarked on the ill conceived project and how the UK’s version of parliamentary democracy has distilled down to a handful of highly doubtfuls actuating a complex brexit with myriad moving parts whose original framing was criminally simplistic and unencumbered by reality, all related by the clown chorus in the media circus.

      As a casual observer I still find Rory Stewart as incomprehensible in this Conservative party as he was walking through pashtunastan with his dog. His admission of smoking opium at an Iranian wedding is classic old empire behaviour. Also Boris Johnson’s 275k quid annual pay for a weekly Telegraph column somewhat surprising.

      Ah well, there will always be an England just not a UK.

    6. Oregoncharles

      You’re complaining about outsiders not understanding the local customs. Just imagine how interesting it gets with 50 different electoral systems. I don’t know how, eg, Indiana elections work, and I grew up there.

      However: the British system is even more antique and haphazard than the American. Essentially, they’re holding a primary with only a couple hundred thousand voters, who have to pay for the privilege. No one is going to think that’s democratic (it isn’t on the Labour side, either.) Yes, it works that way because the Tories won a national election, with a little help from the NI nutcases; but that was a while ago, now. There’s been some water over the dam since then. Actually, there’s an excellent a priori case for holding new elections, if only the timetable weren’t so screwy. Might be interesting, considering how the EU elections went. Heck, the EU would probably wait patiently, in the hope of getting someone rational. Or at least getting it over with. Of course, that might happen anyway, with Boris in charge. If he can get past that fight with his roommate.

      Returning from digression: legacy systems are often creaky and irrational, and Britain’s is the most legacy of all, with the US right behind.

      1. David

        The British system is certainly antiquated but that’s not really the issue here. All Westminster systems (and that means a large part of the world) work on the basis that the leader of the largest party or coalition becomes PM, and if there’s a new leader there’s a change of PM as well. Even in countries with directly elected presidents a modified version of this principle applies with the selection of PMs. Given that, its odd, to say no more, that a well understood feature of many political systems is suddenly decided to be problematic.

        1. flora

          I believe Notre Dame de Paris is antiquated. Antiquity of course isn’t the point. (You understand this point). :)

  17. The Rev Kev

    “Why we should be wary of expanding powers of the Australian Signals Directorate”

    That handsome, young fellow in the image at the top of the article is Peter Dutton. When the Prime Minister was toppled a few months before the election, this was the guy that tried to muscle into the top job. I don’t know how to equate him with which US politician. Maybe Mark Rubio but much older and balder – and without a chin. Like a lot of countries, there is a ratchet effect going on with more restrictions and less freedom in ordinary life. The ratchet turns and goes up a notch but never goes back again.
    The present Coalition government is all for more power to the security mobs and more expenditure on the military and at the same time they are trying to intimidate the local press with illegal raids. Maybe fishing trips would be a more accurate description. And just today they have announced that they are going to go after unions because that will of course boost the Australian economy that. The present government has been in power several years and for several years no wages in Australia have flat-lined. Like your Republicans, they are there for the top end of town.

    1. Susan Mulloy

      I enjoyed today’s personal finance article in the NY Times. It is good to stop shaming people for enjoying their small pleasures. And to remind them of the more effective strategies available for making life better overall.

      1. jrs

        with the state of the world what it is, maybe even some of us who wait to eat the marshmallow (tongue somewhat in cheek with that reference), should just work to deliberately lower our time preferences instead and make them much more immediate.

        Getting out of philosophy though, and assuming there was a future instead, the advice still seems tailored to the privileged. See what benefits your job has? who has a job with benefits these days?

    1. urblintz

      Thanks for the USAToday link!

      Surprises in unexpected places.

      Here’s one of my fave’s:

      I sent that link to editors of all the major MSM asking if they were embarrassed to be outdone by Teen Vogue… no responses

      something that stuck out about the USAToday piece: an article about the Dems where the 2016 election is highlighted and absolutely NO mention of “Russia.” I kept waiting for the obligatory nod to the Putin Derangement Syndromers but it never came.

      Let’s hope for more of the same.

      1. Plenue

        There’s something tragic in this apparent golden age of radical Teen Vogue coinciding with it ditching physical editions. I would find it amusing to have a girls magazine on a shelf beside Current Affairs and Lapham’s Quarterly.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      i don’t know anything about their ownership or editorial stance, or anything…but i’ve been reading them when we stay in the holiday inn for chemo or hospital or whatever.
      generally bland, shallow highlights….made me remember fondly the 20# sunday houston chronicle of my youth.
      but yes, cool unexpected things sometimes slip through.
      That this sort of thinking is “in the wild” like this, in such a bastion of boring, might say a lot.

      as far as “econolodge” being a demographic category of any use…idk. i’ve encountered all kinds of people at the one we go to: from a bunch of cancer patients, VA patients(hospitals have deals with the hotel) to minor league baseball teams to a gay rugby team(!?)

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          From Wikipedia, it seems Asia Times (which is linked here from time to time) is owned by a Thai media mogul (in their 1%, 0.1% or 0.01%?) who is a leader in the ‘right wing’ People’s Alliance for Democracy’ party.

          Can anyone add to that?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Yeah, Mayor Pete is so bizarre. He’s a small town mayor with no particular agenda that is relevant. He had 27% in his statewide race. I suppose he’s the candidate for people who believe “The West Wing” isn’t a garbage show.

      The guy is clearly not ready, and it didn’t take much to see it. I know Trump, but Democrats like to pretend their candidates aren’t eff ups.

  18. flora

    Very good Matt Stoller article on monopoly and the return of anti-monopoly think.

    “This week I’m going to explain why I think the anti-monopoly movement is coming back. This story is going to extend over several newsletters, so consider this part one of a series.

    This is a complex political story, and it is happening all over the world, not just in the U.S. Moreover, anti-monopolism is not a left-wing or right-wing type of politics, it is business reformism. It is how we think about our commercial selves, and thus our political selves.”

    1. Carolinian

      Here’s a very good Stoller–from a few weeks back–on Biden. He says Biden has always been talented but lazy and a nightmare for campaign handlers due to his lack of discipline.

      Plus if Biden gets the nom Trump would actually be the young guy in the race–running rings around sleepy Joe. One would probably never call Trump–the manic attention seeker–lazy in the physical sense. The cameras always await.

  19. Olga

    In Hong Kong, the Freedom to Publish Is Under Attack Foreign Policy
    One has to give it to the US establishment – its members have a truly macabre sense of humour! How else could someone start off with a paragraph like this at a time, when Assange is being destroyed:
    “For most of the world’s publishers, it would be very unusual for editors to take into account a country’s extradition laws before greenlighting a book. And yet, publishers and booksellers based in Hong Kong may well have to do so, due to a proposed new extradition policy that would have painful and chilling effects on the climate for free expression, press freedom, and the freedom to publish in the city.”
    Do mirrors not exist in DC?

    1. ambrit

      “Do mirrors not exist in DC?”
      The Un-dead cast no reflections in them. Mirrors not needed, except as a safety measure. “Oh, Congresswoman. That lobbyist has no reflection in the mirror. Don’t agree to anything he suggests. His idea of a Green New Deal has to include lots of gangrene.”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Is this a case of letting ‘the perfect be the enemy of not-so-much-perfect?’

        Comparatively speaking, per above, “Hong Kong citizens in a rush to leave.” In this less than perfect world, the ‘rush-leavers’ grade things on a curve.

    2. Inode_buddha

      “Do mirrors not exist in DC?”

      IMHO one of the preconditions for hypocrisy is the unwillingness to look at oneself, let alone to be honest about what one sees. IMHO it is the ultimate cowardice. Strongly related to the various forms of addiction manifested as shameless greed, and political partisanship: “Its all the other guys fault”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        But ordinary Americans and Westerners do look at themselves, as evidenced by posters here.

        From the BBC link about tensions spreading to the US:

        “I felt I was being monitored,” says Hui. She says many mainland Chinese take it personally when China is criticised, unlike Hong Kong people who often criticise their own government.

        It should be more universal, where Russians criticize Russia, Chinese criticize China, Americans criticize America, Hongkongers criticize Hong Kong, North Koreans criticize North Korea. etc.

        (For citizens. Much less can be expected from the establishment of any country, like Zhongnanhai, Kremlin, etc.).

  20. Goyo Marquez

    Re: Fully worked out policy for immigration. I think one element might be the Colin Powell doctrine, “You break it you bought it.” When the United States interferes in the affairs of other countries it cannot then avert its eyes from the plight of refugees from that country.

    I think part of the confusion is conflating genuine asylum seekers with economic migrants.

    As to the economic migrants, if that’s really an issue, I’d suggest putting some chicken processing CEOs behind some walls would probably be a cheaper and more effective solution.

    On a side note. When President Trump visited us here in the Imperial Valley a few weeks ago to inspect the border wall, he was greeted by a Trump 2020 sign one of the local, millionaire farmers, people we went to high school with, had carved into an alfalfa field near the Navy base where the president landed. It caused a bit of an uproar on Facebook as people accused the farmer of hiring illegal aliens to work in his fields. The farmer’s wife denied it, saying they never hire illegal aliens. I assume she meant that they did all their labor hiring through a cutout, a farm labor contractor, who did all the hiring for them. Ha ha.

  21. Wukchumni

    Read Jared Diamond’s latest book: Upheaval, and as per the rest of his writing, an enjoyable romp for my eyeballs. Learned a few things I didn’t know about places i’ve never been, and I hadn’t realized that Jared & I have a similar history of having traipsed all over the world and then some, by the time we were in our early 20’s.


    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      And the King of News, Google, finally came out with it:

      A new undercover exposé by Project Veritas reveals that the company is programming its machine learning algorithms in order to avoid the “next Trump situation.”

      “We all got screwed over in 2016, again it wasn’t just us, it was, the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like, everybody got screwed over so we’re rapidly been like, what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again,” said longtime Google employee and head of “Responsible Innovation,” Jen Gennai.

      Who knew that totalitarian fascism would come under the rubric of “combating algorithmic unfairness”?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I have an idea, let’s have elections, just like we do now, but instead of electing a president we elect the members of Google’s Committee on Algorithmic Fairness. We decide who they are, and they decide what wars we get into, who dies from no health care, what news the plebes can see, what books they can read etc etc.

        Forward Soviet!

        1. newcatty

          Think this is already accomplished through the duopoly of political”parties” and their owners. Maybe, Bernie can break through this time.

  22. Amfortas the hippie

    on photographing rural american decline:
    this has been an ongoing process for at least my lifetime.
    from when i first started driving, 84 or so, i’ve avoided interstates and other main thoroughfares(cops, traffic)…sticking to back roads(see: william least heat moon, “blue highways”…in many ways more of a causitive factor in my “Wild Years” than even Kerouac)

    while other kids were driving their friends to the mall, i took mine on roadtrips in far orbit around the greater houston area.
    dobbin, shiro, navasota, field store, texas…
    we’d get out and walk around the old main drags…high concrete sidewalks, wood panelling, broken plate glass…this used to be a bank…this, a post office…a “hospital”….now(then) inhabited by wind and raccoons and snakes.
    the mechanisation of agriculture saved a lot of people from backbreaking work(see;james agee)…but it’s, perhaps, thoughtless maximalisation also created a lot of superfluous humans.(through financialisation…via expensive equipment and inputs, leading to “farm crises” and then further consolidation into multinational “hands”.
    for the last 25 years, i’ve lived in and around a small isolated rural town that so far has managed to survive.
    it’s the only incorporated “city” in the county.
    there are at least 16 ghost towns, half of which once had post offices, dentists doctors…but demand dried up when the people left.
    there’s simply nothing for people to do.
    but this, too, was a choice.
    there’s no good reason to grow our produce on the other side of the world…just as there’s no good reason to grow so much subsidised corn and soy…or to concentrate all the meat production into the hands of 3-4 giants.
    milk cartels should not exist.
    between artificially cheap oil and artificially cheap labor, and hiding the numerous environmental and health and social costs, the real cost of doing things this way is hidden from us.
    (see: charles Walters at acres usa:

    1. Wukchumni

      My dad arrived in the estados unidos in 1952, and he and 2 other Czech fellows went on a roadtrip from NYC heading west to find out where they wanted to live, and the story goes that he made it to the Rockies and told his compatriots “this is it for me, drop me off here”. And he lived in Denver for the next 8 years.

      He read Kerouac much later, and being a Bohemian’s Bohemian, thought his ‘On The Road” trip was more fun.

    2. Cal2

      Amfortas, These towns need high speed internet. That plus power plus cheap real estate could revitalize them.
      One good coffeehouse, an organic restaurant and they would take off.

      This is why Trust Communities of like minded and like culturally affiliated people are growing in small towns in Idaho, Wyoming etc. People want out of urban areas. Unfortunately some of the problems of urban areas, like homelessness and street crime, even housing projects, have migrated to outer ring suburbs and small cities. So, the only place left to go is the small towns you mention. Location and infrastructure are important.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        we have it…in fact, on my dead end dirt road, the only internet one can get(aside from satellite) is DSL in a bandwidth that we’ll never “use up”…ie: no menu of “pipe sizes”.
        in town, the whole place is a wifi(wimap?) hotspot. wifi is literally everywhere.
        it’s cool and all…but i know of only a few who know how to make money with it(an iphone app guy and a “skip tracer”)the people the Chamber brings in periodically talk most about—say—making goat cheese and selling it online(as an example)…but this relies on shipping and paypal and sending one’s produce to new york….when there’s thousands upon thousands of people within 100 miles buying the same produce, sourced from thousands of miles away.
        THAT is what must change…it was born of greed, and made possible by cheap subsidised oil, and makes no sense with the problems we face.
        i can’t legally sell an egg, save on-farm…but my eggs are superior to the crappy industrial kind in the local store.
        not only are the stores forbidden from buying my eggs(not state approved)…they don’t want to,lol…and their whole system is built on trucking them hundreds of miles(vendor #).
        same goes for the thousands of cattle that pass through my town every week(regional auction): not a one gets eaten here, because the rules around killing and butchering are written by and for IBP.
        same goes for tomatoes and honey and anything else i can produce.
        getting a vendor number for a grocery chain or a distributor is akin to landing a country club membership.
        to justify the PITA of obtaining a vendor#/state approval, I’d by necessity have to become a giant.
        some of this has changed a little bit in texas in recent years…but not near enough to make a difference.
        with a different policy regime, us’n’s out here in the periphery could be feeding y’all in the nearest city…instead of cooking meth and shooting ourselves.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Rural America and $15/hr min. wage.

      From a 2012 CNN article (

      The Northeast is home to many smaller commercial farms. These are the 30-cow, 200-acre operations that many consider “traditional farms.” There are about three times as many of these smaller farms nationwide as there are the large farms.

      Most of these farmers can no longer support themselves by working the farm alone. The average farm income for this group is about $8,000 a year, according to USDA. As a result, many have at least one family member take a job outside the farm as a primary means of income.

      That $8,000/year is for the whole family (“…have at least one family member take a job outside…”)

      And the hours are likely to be more than 40 hours a week.

      For a 2-person family farm, that is about $2/hr ($2 x 2 persons x 40 hours x 50 week = $8,000).

    4. neighbor7

      My father made sure to include visits to “the other side of the tracks” on our road trips to other cities/towns, Memphis, etc., maybe because he wasn’t so far from them himself. It was an important education for me.

  23. John Wright

    I work as a flexible hour postal worker. I have worked the past two days and received Amazon package shipments for distribution through the postal service. Yesterdays delivery to the postal service was multiple hours late through Amazon’s distribution system — the USPS management had no access to the location of the shipment or its amount. It had to staff its full personnel in order to assure the delivery according to contract.

    Amazon has deeply cut the number of packages that it sends via its contract with the postal service. USPS management yesterday was actively encouraging the reduction of USPS workforce from local supervisors, those workers who receive lower pay and less stability and minimal if any benefits.

    The past two days Amazon has sent the non-machinable, irregularly sized packages that take more labor and require non-standardized handling in order to deliver. It obviously has “dumped” the higher cost delivery packages upon the USPS to use the postal service to subsidize its delivery costs through its pre-existing contracts. Meanwhile the postal service has cut workers hours, especially its “flexible” work force like myself in order to cut operational losses. Increased Amazon profits comes from hidden subsidies provided by the postal service at the expense of the most vulnerable workers in the system.

    While not as geographically focused as the subsidies incurred through Amazon’s new urban centers, this practice will provide a continual transfer of costs from Amazon to the postal service — and then be used by the postal service management to pressure workers in their contract costs .

    John Wright

    1. flora

      This needs repeating, imo.

      The past two days Amazon has sent the non-machinable, irregularly sized packages that take more labor and require non-standardized handling in order to deliver. It obviously has “dumped” the higher cost delivery packages upon the USPS to use the postal service to subsidize its delivery costs through its pre-existing contracts. Meanwhile the postal service has cut workers hours, especially its “flexible” work force like myself in order to cut operational losses. Increased Amazon profits comes from hidden subsidies provided by the postal service at the expense of the most vulnerable workers in the system.

      While not as geographically focused as the subsidies incurred through Amazon’s new urban centers, this practice will provide a continual transfer of costs from Amazon to the postal service — and then be used by the postal service management to pressure workers in their contract costs .

      Thanks for this ‘inside baseball’ account of what is really happening behind the scenes, how we are all subsidizing the private sector to the detriment of the public sector we think we’re paying for.

      1. Susan Mulloy

        I second this, Flora. Great reporting by John Wright. Security analysts should be talking to him. Also economists.

  24. ewmayer

    “Iran: what are the options for Washington? | FT” — Ooh, that’s a toughie, but after much difficult analysis and game-theory simulation work, let me propse a few:

    1. Stop trying to start a completely unnecessary and unjustified war against Iran;
    2. Stop acting as the enforcer of Israeli and Saudi foreign policy;
    3. Fire the psychopathic neocons in high positions in the administration, and give up their wet dream of regime change in Iran;
    4. Focus on the welfare and human rights of your own citizenry.

    Readers, help me out! I’m sure we can come up with a few more if we really exert ourselves. I realize these are intricate, difficult issues with all manner of eleventy-dimensional-chess diplomatic nuance. I mean, it clearly takes a foreign-policy/diplomacy genius like hammerin’ Hank Kissinger, Nobel peace Laureate, to understand difficult concepts like “the best way to avaoid a war is to not start one.” /sarc

  25. ewmayer

    “President Donald Trump considers move to require 5G equipment for US sale to be made outside China, report claims | South China Morning Post” — So, say, in a Chinese-owned factory in Vietnam?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A good rule of thumb is to assume one’s adversary is smart, even if contrary to evidence (because that could be a trap).

  26. ewmayer

    “Putin’s ‘Direct Line’ Underscored Yawning Gulf between Kremlin and the Population, Analysts Say | Window on Eurasia” — I suggest readers of this article check out the long list of previous posts linked in the right sidebar to get a better sense of the author’s priors. “Analysts say” – by cherry-picking one’s analysts one can get the analysts to say whatever one pretty damn well wants. He also provides no historical data on Putin’s domestic approval rating – Here is a handy chart from

    So he’s down from his 2015 record high, and approaching the levels of previous lows. 64 percent is still pretty high. “Yawning gulf” seems a rather tendentious take.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In both Russia and China, a supreme leader can stay on top for longer than 8 years, while no American president can, howevere trusted or approved.

      For getting international agreements, that would seem to be more attractive as far as having to deal with subsequent leaders is concerend, and can be so at times, even if the terms are not more attractive.

  27. oliverks

    Re: Household Debt Service Levels Are at Historically Low Levels

    Here is the underlying data.

    I am having really trouble understanding, or perhaps believing these numbers. I am no sure which. Do these numbers make any sense to any one here?

    It seems to say people are paying out just over 15% of their disposable income on mortgages, rent, and debt. This seems ludicrously low.

    Can anyone shed light on these numbers?


    1. Burritonomics

      I’d venture it’s because we’re including absolutely absurd wealth at the end of the distribution. Aggregates make no sense, and are of almost no use, in a land of extremes. I’d prefer to see the data for debt service split by income level, or household wealth, etc etc.

      1. oliverks

        It is possible that is what they are doing.

        My logic for why these numbers are hard to understand is as follows

        Assume about 75% of the population rents or has to pay a mortgage that is approximately the same a the rent. I think this is a conservative number, but others could challenge me. Let’s say their monthly debt + mortgage or rent is $1500. Once again I think this is conservative but it could be less for some, and certainly a lot more for many.

        They would need to be making $10,000 per month in DISPOSABLE income. So toss in a conservative 20% in federal, state, and local taxes they would need to be $12,500 a month.

        That seem completely implausible.

  28. Jeremy Grimm

    I tremendously enjoyed the farewell New York party Yves held for Yves — in her Park Avenue apartment. I can now brag to my friends about attending a party at a Park Avenue apartment [I’ll embellish a little and call it a ‘penthouse’] and it was a party I was invited to. There were many friendly knowledgeable people there who actually have opinions, can express those opinions well, and most remarkably, listen to and consider the opinions others expressed — and no small number of those people were beautiful, exceptionally charming women. Though many conversations progressed at the same time the noise never reached a point where it was an effort to hear or be heard. The exchanges were much like exchanges on the blog except more ‘personable’ — not that blog exchanges aren’t personable — but exchanges are even more personable when that person is right across from you. I believe I can speak for everyone, even those unable to attend Yves’s farewell New York party, in saying thank you Yves and your team for hosting the forums we enjoy every day and the many ‘meet-ups’. [Team sounds so ‘biz-speak’ but minions doesn’t do it either and besides Lambert is too tall, has a nose, and he isn’t bright yellow — not a minion.]

    Back home the next day, in the little town where I live, I felt a little guilty about enjoying a farewell party so much. I recalled the hero of “Neverwhere’s” thinking his friends were enjoying his farewell party a little too freely and openly. Yves is leaving New York City and after seeing where she had lived I doubt she will return to Manhattan for more than visits in the future. I don’t live in the City but do regard it and call it ‘the’ City — a city like no other. With Yves’s departure, a presence left the City and it will not seem quite same. Between the Hudson Yards projects, the empty storefronts, the unbelievably high cost to live there, and now Yves departure … New York City is changing in an unhappy direction. I can only imagine how much she will be missed by those close to her, many of whom I noticed helping with the farewell party and I assume with her move today.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        As I recall she is moving to Birmingham, Alabama to look after her aging mother.

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