Links 8/30/19

Monkey Shatters Zoo Glass With Sharpened Stone in Impressive Prison Break Attempt Gizmodo

Facebook quietly ditched the ‘It’s free and always will be’ slogan from its homepage Business Insider Australia (KW).

‘Worst of wildfires still to come’ despite Brazil claiming crisis is under control Guardian

Amazon’s indigenous warriors take on invading loggers and ranchers Guardian (Furzy Mouse). “At the end of the 40km expedition, the warriors felt empowered. In a war ritual, they marched back to their homes in Rapkô village. As their families gathered round, they showed mobile phone clips of the raid they had conducted on the intruders’ huts.” The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.


Tory minister filmed admitting Boris Johnson’s move to suspend parliament motivated by Brexit Independent. He transgressed the unwritten law!

Ireland says Britain ‘totally unreasonable’ in Brexit backstop dispute Reuters

Boris Johnson seeks to avert defeat by accelerating Brexit talks FT

Shutting Down Parliament Is Worse Than a Coup. It’s a Mistake. Foreign Policy

Britain’s Reichstag Fire moment Richard Evans, Prospect. (Evans is the author of the magisterial Third Reich trilogy. The headline is, er, inflammatory. But this parallel with Weimar is interesting:

The real constitutional problem lay in the powers of the president, directly elected for a seven-year term, a fact that gave him a legitimacy independent from that of the national parliament. Weimar’s president could invoke Article 48 of the constitution and rule by emergency decree. Weimar’s first president, the social democrat Friedrich Ebert, used Article 48 on no fewer than 136 occasions in the Republic’s unstable early years… As for rule by emergency decree, few people thought Hitler was doing anything different from Ebert or Brüning when he used Hindenburg’s powers to suspend civil liberties after the Reichstag Fire… The lesson seems to be that to prevent the collapse of representative democracy, the legislature must jealously guard its powers. Can we rely on that happening today?

I will do everything I can to stop a no-deal bankers’ Brexit Jeremy Corbyn, Independent

Let Them Howl, Boris! Patrick Buchanan, RealClearPolitics

The Twilight of the British State Tom Nairn, NLR. From 2017 1977, still germane.

Ambition and Betrayal Sink Italy’s Puppet Master Bloomberg


Satellite photos show burning Iran space center launch pad WaPo

Yemen’s Houthis attack Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport: spokesman Reuters


India and Pakistan tug-of-war in South Asia grows over Kashmir Nikkei Asian Review

‘Don’t beat us, just shoot us’: Kashmiris allege violent army crackdown BBC

Lessons for capitalism from the East India Company FT

The Koreas

N. Korea solidifies Kim Jong Un’s ‘monolithic’ power Agence France Presse

Challenges Pile up on US-South Korea Alliance Agenda Defense One

Korea Baby Bust Pushes World’s Lowest Birth Rate Even Lower Bloomberg

Thucydides’ Trap: Caveat Emptor – Analysis Eurasia Review (Furzy Mouse).


Exclusive: Amid crisis, China rejected Hong Kong plan to appease protesters – sources Reuters

Hong Kong Police Warn of More Arrests After Sweep of Activists Bloomberg. “Most read on Bloomberg terminal.” Speculating freely: If the HK protests are all that leaderless, perhaps a large event will happen anyhow, despite the cancellation of Saturday’s protest by organizers. (Of course, if a protest does not happen, that doesn’t necessarily prove that movement decapitation took place, since the decision could have been a collective one.)

Hong Kong is irreplaceable for China. That’s why the PLA hasn’t rolled in yet South China Morning Post. The PLA is already there, however. They have a 28-floor building right downtown.

China is using Kublai Khan’s methods to quell protests in Hong Kong The Economist

* * *

Renminbi set for biggest monthly fall in more than 25 years FT

New Huawei handset to launch without Google apps Agence France Presse

There’s an app for that:

Trump Transition

Trump declares new Space Command key to American defense AP.

Trump’s Personal Assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, Steps Down NYT

E.P.A. to Roll Back Regulations on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas NYT

Pentagon caught off guard by new citizenship policy, but promises to help impacted troops McClatchy

CREW Obtains New Docs on Mar-a-Lago Member’s VA Influence CREW

What That Comey Email Report Really Says Benjamin Witte, Lawfare

Think Trump is Hitler? Go to Dachau The American Conservative

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Halt the use of facial-recognition technology until it is regulated Nature

Neoliberal Epidemics

Big Pharma paying a small price for opioid crisis Houston Chronicle

‘Gay gene’ search reveals not one but many – and no way to predict sexuality Project Syndicate

Class Warfare

Reviving the American Working Class Editorial Board, NYT. Shorter: Times brass decides the neoliberal policies they’ve sedulously promoted for forty years are bad, actually.

The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? The New Yorker. “As the world economy opened up in the nineteen-eighties, newly mobile capital tended to flow to places that offered the highest return.” Note lack of agency.

Billionaires are a Sign of Economic Failure Counterpunch

Wisconsin workers embedded with microchips USA Today. “The company would like to see payments go cashless, as iPhone users do with Apple Pay. Except in this case, consumers use their hand instead of a smartphone to pay.”

The Automation Charade Logic

Google researchers reveal data-stealing, web-based iPhone exploit that was active for years The Next Web

How software made me loathe my luxury car Mikkel Høgh. Siri and podcasts talk over each other. But robot car software is just around the corner.

Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students’ Essays VICE. And I’m sure the algos aren’t biased in any way.

First people in the Americas came by sea, ancient tools unearthed by Idaho river suggest Science

Antidote du Jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Redlife2017

    Just to prove that we in the UK are now living in horrible (i.e. not funny) version of In the Thick of It, we now have this: Government’s £100m ‘Get Ready’ advertising blitz for no deal
    Ladies & Gentlemen this blitz will include t-shirts and mugs. My partner said to me “I want one or many [t-shirts] as a souvenir of how optimistic those pricks are.”

    What does one say when we get to this point? T-shirts???? Oh MY GODS! I really have no reference for this. The world marches on and at the same time the political world has just imploded in on itself.

    Does the good Doctor have anything to say about this? Why thankfully yes.

    “In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile — and the rest of us are f**ked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely… The Swine are gearing down for a serious workout this time around…” Hunter S. Thompson, Comments on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), p. 109

    “Liberalism itself has failed, and for a pretty good reason. It has been too often compromised by the people who represented it.” Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

    1. vlade

      Are the T-shirts going to be “I wanted my Brexit Cake, but all I got was this lousy T-shirt” – let’s start a best mug-or-T-shirt competition, and then we can send the results to them :D

          1. ambrit

            Sorry mate. It looks like this Tory government likes to “ride bareback.” They are also obviously into the “Rough Trade.”

    2. Monty

      On the bright side, a no deal exit is exactly what ‘they’ have been braying for. So, as awful as it may be, I think it is the only medicine that could ever put this episode to rest, so a recovery can begin. Anything else will just yield an eternity of screeching about the betrayal by cowardly remainers. There’s also the one in a million chance that it’s not that bad after all…

      1. Ignacio

        I notice you are so fed up with brexit as -I guess- millions of britons. I can easily understand it but isn’t this exactly what they want?

    3. ambrit

      As an artifact of neo-liberalism, the T-shirts are a dead giveaway.
      When I worked for the salvage goods chain “managed” by KKR, (since sold of, I have heard, to a Mexican consortium,) the ’employees’ were ‘encouraged’ to wear company branded T-shirts while working on the shop floor. Branding of another sort. So far, so good. Then I learned, to my disbelieving chagrin, that we workers were expected to buy our own company branded duds. The essence of a neo-liberal “buy in.”
      This behaviour was replicated at other emporia I worked in or investigated.
      The ‘tell’ here is that the ‘workers,’ here read ‘citizens,’ are expected to underwrite their own exploitation.
      Years ago, some of the construction companies that I worked for would expect the workers to wear identifying T-shirts on jobsites. Back then, the T-shirts were given to the workers for free and written off as ‘business expenses’ by the companies. Today, the T-shirts are not even written off as ‘exploitation expenses.’
      We have reached the stage of Capitalism where the peasants are expected to thank the lord or his minions for the ‘corrective’ lashings.
      “Kiss the whip jocko!”

      1. MattC

        T-shirts and other branded tchotchkes are always an interesting tell.

        I was once given a T-shirt just before a major accounting scandal broke at my company after months of rumors. And I have a friend with a Countrywide Home Loan wristband issued weeks before its takeover by BoA.

        I also remember the rally of Arthur Anderson employees in the wake of Enron (sporting their new t-shirts) just before its collapse.

        If they are handing out t-shirts, it is time to go short

        1. Paul Jurczak

          “If they are handing out t-shirts, it is time to go short”

          Exactly! It means they’ve run out of real solutions to their problems.

      2. barefoot charley

        In the early days of the French Revolution, citizens in livery couldn’t vote. They wore the uniforms of their oppression/oppressors and were presumed unable to think for themselves.

        Not sure if t-shirts have that power. Neckties probably do.

  2. dearieme

    to prevent the collapse of representative democracy

    But parliamentarians had already decided that they had no intention of being representative of their constituents’ views as expressed in a referendum, even though all Labour and Conservative MPs were elected on a manifesto promise in 2017 to bring about Brexit. So Evans’ argument is – how to avoid charges of libel? – shaky. He’s alluding to Burke on the subject, but the Remainer MPs are not trying to form independent judgements on a new matter, they are simply reneging on their promises.

    The People’s Plebiscite was clear. Personally I was mildly surprised that Leave won, given that against it were deployed the forces of inertia, the power and influence of the Establishment, and Project Fear. But win it did and that’s that.

    To use the 80:20 rigmarole that has been fashionable, we have to decide whether long term we want power distributed at about 20% Parliament, 80% anti-democratic EU institutions, or at 80% Parliament, 20% referendums. I’d much prefer the latter but I realise that it’s mostly the Quislings who have had political influence, and that their feelings, and acute awareness of the gravy train, lead them to prefer the former. If their incompetence, and disagreement amongst their various factions, leads to our leaving I shall enjoy a great belly laugh.

    It’s not worth much, I dare say, but the only people I know who tell me they have changed their opinions on the issue since the referendum are two Remain voters, one because he’s disgusted by the behaviour of the EU, the other because she’s dismayed at the antics of the Remainers in Parliament. I may know more people who have changed their opinions but it’s not a topic I tend to raise with people. Many Remainers seem to take the view that The People have no right to reject the view of People Like Us and are quite furious at their sheer bloody effrontery.

  3. Freddo

    At the heart of the UKs problems is the total antidemocratic insanity of first past the post. Bozo thinks he only needs to scrounge up 35 % of the vote and is probably right. Until that is fixed the UK cannot call itself a democracy and has no future

      1. vlade

        No. It was AV, which is really just a generalisation of FPTP, presuposing a single-seat elections and nowhere close to PR.

        Also, you might want to go and read what “quisling really means”. And, for your information, the vote was 68% no. So a difference of more than twice as many people. I.e. passing what normally constitutonal referenda need – 60% (or 66%) threshold, not just a majority.

        But I guess the whatever-you-are-if-you’re-not-Quisiling-assuming-you-have-a-clue-what-it-actually-means (I guess not, since if there’s an occupiing force in the UK, it’s the US one, not the EU one as you seem to imply ) conveniently forget that when the EU referendum law had an amendment asking for this, some people (like ERG if I remember correctly) were loudly shouting “it’s just advisory, non binding, so why treat it like it was a it was a constitutionally binding?” only to be replaced by “Traitors, will of people!” shouts a bit later, when anyone tried to even say “so what the hell did you actually mean by ‘leaving’?”

        1. dearieme

          Amazingly you seem to have missed the point that the referendum on AV was necessarily a referendum on FPTP because a result for AV would have meant the abolition of FPTP. So you rant on about FPTP and when it’s pointed out that we recently had a referendum to replace it you resort to irrational obfuscation.

        2. Monty

          Do a search on Twitter for “Quislings”. Quite a coincidence, it’s word of the day among a certain type of poster. See if you can see what many of them seem to have in common. Perhaps they all spent their youth together on Millwall’s North Stand?

  4. dearieme

    And another thing.

    The lesson seems to be that to prevent the collapse of representative democracy, the legislature must jealously guard its powers

    He’s referring to a legislature that has given away huge tranches of its powers to unelected, anti-democratic EU institutions since the early 70s, yet he chatters inanely about its jealously guarding its powers.

    Old joke: why do people call him a guru? Answer: because it’s easier to spell than charlatan.

    1. vlade

      Ah, the old canard of “unelected, anti-democratic” screams from people who provide little background.

      EP is elected.
      European Councils is ELECTED (it is made of elected heads of states).
      Comission is not elected – but it is nominated by the elected heads of states. That is no different than appointing ministers, as in many countries ministers do NOT have to be MPs (and in a number of them they actually cannot be MPs, you know, all this executive and legislative separation of powers). I’m not sure whether being MEP prevents one being a Comissioner.
      ECJ is of course not elected, but again, nominated by elected heads of states. Same as national court appointments in all EU countries.

      So, out of the four institutions, two are elected, and two are nominated in a way that is not out-of-the-way how the institutions work in a number of countries generally considered democratic.

      Please eludicate how these institutions are anti-democratic? Because they don’t do what YOU want them to do? That’s not a democracy, that’s called dictatorship.

      There is a lot of problems in the EU, amongst them that it’s hard to fight France/Germany duopoly. But it was possible, especially when the UK was still in. The smaller countries could band together and get things done.

      The EU has many failings. But say the fact that Germany and France screwed Greece via the Comission is no different from Thatcher and Tories screwing (say) Wales. Nasty, counterproductive and unncessary, but entirely “democratic”, as in “by elected representatives”.

      Of course, there’s an arguement that that nothign we have now is “democracy” as the Greeks (specifically Athenians) would recognise, as they would call what we have a prime examples of oligarchy. But there you go, it’s not just the EU but no nation on Earth uses sortition for important roles, so there’s no democracy anywhere.

      1. David

        Most of what you say accords with my experience, but I think it’s fair to say that the link between the Council of Ministers and the electorates of EU countries is a bit tenuous. Decisions taken by national governments can be fought out in Parliament and subject to domestic political pressures. This isn’t the case with the EC, because much is decided by horse-trading between nations in the margins, and the public and parliament only learn about it later. This isn’t necessarily undemocratic, for some definitions of democracy, but it is part of the tendency for decisions to be taken further and further away from the citizen, which naturally causes a lot of unhappiness.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The essential problem of course is that the alternative – some sort of directly elected executive – would both undermine the sovereignty of individual countries (i.e. by having an elected body ‘over’ them), and could well result in even more centralisation, as voting would most likely heavily favour the most populous countries – i.e. Germany. You could only avoid the latter problem by having some sort of madly complex list system and you’d end up with a Lebanese style government.

          I’ve often asked people who criticise the lack of democracy in the EU as to what alternative structures they’d use. I’ve yet to hear one suggested that wouldn’t undermine the leverage of the smaller countries significantly.

          Not of course that the EU is remotely perfect – subsidiarity needs to be taken seriously as a concept and more rules are needed to reduce the amount of horse trading involved in appointing people to the most powerful positions. The Parliament could also be given a stronger role. And of course it needs to be far more transparent. But the fundamental structure is in my opinion as good as you can reasonably aspire to for a transnational organisation.

          1. Zamfir

            A vote here for PlutoniumKun. It is easy to imagine a more democratic EU. It is much harder to imagine that without giving up a lot of sovereignity for the member states

            These complaints about the democratic deficit are, in a way, a backhanded compliment. We expect that EU countries are democratically accountable to citizens of other countries, and complain that this does not happen enough.

            That’s a really high bar, even to fail! The regular standard in international relations is law-of-the-jungle, with so much opaque dealmaking that you can’t even tell if your own government is acting in your interest.

        2. Ignacio

          That is true, partly because the “fourth power” uses to stay away and focus on politics at state level. If the work of the comission is under-reported and the approvals/dissaprovals in the EP are not reported the democratic control via public opinion wanes. To be fair I have noticed an uptick in EU affairs reporting in the last years, most notably because state governments are increasingly perceived as… not functioning in some cases, rogue in other cases, and in the worst examples as utterly negative.

      2. dearieme

        EP is elected And powerless – a mere talking shop

        European Councils is ELECTED (it is made of elected heads of states). That means that it is not elected, and anyway it doesn’t consist of Heads of State.

        Comission is not elected golly, you got something right
        – but it is nominated by the elected heads of states. No it isn’t.

        Now all you have to do is tell me how the EU voters can change any of the policies of this great, corrupt mountain of power. Whenever they’ve voted against what the EU wants, their referendums have been ignored. If their governments want to oppose EU dictats, they get changed PDQ – see Greece or Italy.

        The system stinks. When it does something I oppose it stinks and when it does something I like it stinks just as much.

      3. Olga

        I think there is some confusion about “elections” and “democracy.” Democracy – in theory – is much more than just elections – and conversely, just because we have elections, does not mean that we have democracy. There were elections in socialist countries – but I bet many would argue there was no democracy. (As for myself, I don’t think they were significantly less democratic than what we see today in the west (i.e., managed democracy). The socialists only lagged in that ‘managed” part.)

      4. Larry Taylor

        > European Councils is ELECTED (it is made of elected heads of states).

        Amazing as it may seem here in the 21st century, no fewer than six of the EU27 are still hereditary monarchies, where the head of state is most assuredly not elected.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Indeed – and the Citizens Assembly has been almost universally hailed as a success. I was very cynical about it in the beginning, but I was proven wrong. I do think sortition could be used far more widely than just selecting criminal juries in democracies. I think there is certainly an argument that many technocratic positions within democracies could best be filled by sortition from selected panels.

  5. dearieme

    I will do everything I can to stop a no-deal bankers’ Brexit

    Priceless: the other Quislings argue that bankers all hate Brexit because it puts their cushy, lucrative careers at risk. So Mr Banana Fungus comes out with a sort of Trotskyist knee-jerk instead. Or maybe it’s not a knee-jerk; maybe his handlers think it might stir up a Trotskyist mob to set up the barricades. Quick, burn a few buildings. Oooooh, red revolution!!

    1. Redlife2017

      Ah, I see dearieme, you are on a roll today.

      As a banker I see nothing wrong with what Corbyn wrote. It is legitimate to note that there are funders of Mr. Johnson (who, by the way are often bankers) who will profit from it. I speak with many people around the City and there are many who will find ways to profit from it. He calls it a bankers no-deal Brexit. Seems mighty fair to me.

      And also to note – knowing as much as I do about the man, I can help you rest easy in knowing that he is not a Trotskyist. It’s an interesting slam from the right that gets whipped up (including that he will start concentration camps like Stalin). I would like to know who you think his handlers are, by the way.

      But also, note to self – don’t feed the trolls…

      1. Musicismath

        When I lived in London last, my exceedingly annoying, classic-car-driving, Formula 1-obsessed upstairs neighbour was a huge Brexiteer. He was a bond trader. This used to rather upset my neighbour across the landing, who was an economics correspondent for Reuters. Words were sometimes spoken on the stairwell. Good times.

        1. Redlife2017

          I have never met a bond trader that I like. Equity traders are fabulously fun, OTC traders have an underlying dickishness, but at least you can speak to them. But bond traders…they are a**holes.

          1. Blowncue

            Now I’m curious as to whether the particular Market shapes the trader’s personality or particular Market tends to attract the personality.

          2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Equity: breathing ethereal fumes about what one company or another might do maybe someday. Fun.

            Bonds: forced to face the daily grim reality of actual market forces unleashed by entities much too large to contemplate and what they can and will do daily to distract and then crush you

            OTC: must be dicks to keep from being dicked themselves. Great idea to Client A, Client A executes trade with another dealer

      2. Mike

        Many thanks, Redlife- it seems that Corbyn’s flirtation for a short while with a party that was “Trotskyist” in name only gives some capitalism–no-matter-what types the shivers. He, like many older leaders of both unions and political groups in the UK, are Stalinist in background – not by affiliation, mind you, as many were on the periphery, but rather by behavior and methods. In this they share with the Labour Party in it post WW1 history – indeed, this behavior is shared by many liberals throughout the Western world. It is tempting to follow the autocrats when capitalism demands autocratic measures.

        At least the epithet was “Trotskyist’, not the usual put-down “Trotskyite”, as that would put dearieme firmly in the Stalinist camp.

      3. boz

        Thank you, redlife

        I would add that I thought Corbyn’s piece was very well constructed (not a Labour member btw).

        I would also emphasise the difference (as Corbyn touches on) between speculators and commercial bankers. Both have their differing faults, but the latter are leashed to a certain extent to the fate of the economy. If businesses tank, so will the banks (eventually).

        The commercial banks just want certainty so that they and their customers can execute on their contingency plans. Crashing the pound is not exactly in their interest.

        Watch out for major impairments in the banks’ quarterly reports following the more punitive and proactive requirements of IFRS 9 (concerning provision for bad debt).

        I don’t exactly relish what is coming down the road.

  6. toshiro_mifune

    How software made me loathe my luxury car

    Heh. Long story short, Automakers are now in the software business and aren’t very good at it.
    You can see the same issues in cameras, especially DSLRs, where the various Japanese manufacturers still don’t really get that a digital camera is a computer and the software and interface matter. I wont even mention stuff like open standards for file formats, autofocus, dumping 8.3 style file names, etc.

    1. The Rev Kev

      What was weird about that article was how he was going to choose his next car by what software is on offer. Would that mean he would buy an upgraded Edsel if the software package was right? The problem is that software tends to be so crappy these days that if given a choice, you would go for a car without the gimmicky software. I sometimes think that whether you are talking about a car or a washing machine or a cash register, a device should be designed so that if the software falls over, a fail-safe would kick in allowing for manual use without the software layer. But then again, I have an ancestor that was a machine-breaker so perhaps those genes are showing through here.

    2. Carolinian

      My brother gave me a Canon dslr last Christmas and while, yes, the software interface could be better that seems a trivial complaint compared to how good the pictures are (and those, very much, involve software).

      As for the luxury car article, the author’s complaints are a bit pettish given that he could simply buy a separate GPS navigator for peanuts compared to the price of a BMW and separable electronics make a lot more sense for all cars as the technology is changing so quickly. It’s really not surprising that car companies are not experts at computers and the reverse is true as we are seeing with some of the more bizarre self-drive experiments from Silicon Valley not to mention Tesla’s manufacturing problems.

      It was said that General Motors started to go downhill when the executives stopped being engineers and were instead bean counters and biz school graduates. In short this is the story of almost all of our major institutions these days.

      1. toshiro_mifune

        the software interface could be better that seems a trivial complaint compared to how good the pictures are
        I suppose this is going to depend on what sort of photographer you are. More casual ones probably wont bump into the ‘menu hell’ issues and be perfectly happy with the UI Nikon/Canon/whoever has.
        Thom Hogan has written a lot about the issue at if you want to poke around and see what the complaints are. He’s Nikon-centric but these aren’t issues isolated to Nikon.

        1. Carolinian

          My photographic philosophy has always been that the photographer’s job is to put something interesting in front of the lens and the less technical intervention needed the better. To the long ago era of darkrooms and chemicals–that people like Ansel Adams spent a lifetime perfecting–I say good riddance. Craft can overwhelm art (not that that’s true of Adams). Worth noting that many great photographers of the past left all the technical details to their assistants.

          So in that sense modern, advanced cameras are a kind of miracle of human ingenuity. I for one am not complaining about the shortcomings.

          Computers have been a big boon for auto engine controls as well. Unfortunately marketing gimmicks rather than engineering seem to be paramount with the current execs and car buyers.

    3. JohnnySacks

      Too funny, his car has good for nothing software interface and implementation and he’s stuck trying to connect an iPhone to it on top of that. I (try to) keep my cars alive and ticking for almost 2 decades and software and connectivity turns to obsolete garbage quicker than I wear out a pair of shoes. The many ways to connect video over a decade extrapolated to a transportation appliance interface: USB, USB-C, D-Sub, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, USB-C
      A person of average mechanical skill is still able to keep a 1968 Chevy running and driving well in 2019. What kind of tech geek will be required to keep a 2015 BMW 320i alive in 2066? Like just about everything, it’s all 100% disposable, un-serviceable junk. Be it a $12,000 Honda Fit or a $120,000 BMW 750i, both are garbage at the same point in time, no value other than how much money you’ve got to throw into a bonfire initially to purchase it.

      1. inode_buddha

        “A person of average mechanical skill is still able to keep a 1968 Chevy running and driving well in 2019. What kind of tech geek will be required to keep a 2015 BMW 320i alive in 2066? Like just about everything, it’s all 100% disposable, un-serviceable junk. Be it a $12,000 Honda Fit or a $120,000 BMW 750i, both are garbage at the same point in time, no value other than how much money you’ve got to throw into a bonfire initially to purchase it.”

        This is in so many words, the very reason I kept my 30 year old pre-Chrysler Jeep instead of trading it. If it breaks down anywhere, chances are about 100% that I can still get you home with only a few simple hand tools (which I always carry) and no parts store or dealer required. And no $400/month bills either.

      2. Old Jake

        BMW fans of their cars from the ’80s and ’90s can keep them running indefinitely also. The motors are managed by Bosch Motronic engine management systems, but the control the fuel injectors with feedback from the mass air flow sensor on the intake, and an oxygen sensor in the exhaust. Better control than the open-loop Chebby V-8. Anti-lock brakes are a pain because they require equipment to deal with the pump that is in the brake system that controls the brakes, but that’s not impossible. There are hacks.

        Where there is a little technical knowledge, there is a way. Mechanical stuff wears out and new stuff has to be manufactured. Electrical stuff has no mechanical wear. Lasts a looooong time. Which is why those tube-type AM radios in the Chevy still work. Or my 1965 Ampeg B-15 amplifier.

    4. Eric

      I was of the same opinion with respect to car software up until I got a Tesla. It’s not perfect, and they have bugs, but it’s still a massive step function better in functionality and usability compared to any other car. And you get over the air updates that fix issues and add features, for free, basically forever.

      I really hope other car companies catch up, otherwise I’ll never be able to buy another non-Tesla.

  7. Jim A.

    Re: Algorithms grading the GRE
    Of course this is just another opportunity for test coaching firms to teach to the algo. “It prefers this particular sentence structure, use these keywords, etc…”

    1. Polar Donkey

      If you are a principal at a school with a lot of poor kids, wouldn’t you run a test with your English class’ tests and have x number of kids try to scam the system. Pick some of the lowest performing kids, tutor them for a few weeks before exam, and see how it turns out. It seems as if I were a principal, I would be doing a lot of research into this.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I’m pretty certain there was a “King of the Hill” were this kind of thing happened, but I believe the principal assigned kids to the “special needs” class.

        I do remember a statistic about the number of kids who received special waivers for the SATs out of Newton, Mass. My guess is there is more cheating where the political power is connected to the kids. Poorer areas might cheat, but I suspect they get caught.

        1. JBird4049

          I thought, silly fool that I am, that the purpose of tests, especially written tests was to grade just how well one communicated, and how accurate their answers were, and not how one follows protocol. This is just silly as even written American English is just a bit varied and graded a paper on just how closely one writes to the white upper middle class early twenty-first century American English of the roughly 10% of Americans is either arrogance, stupidity, but probably deliberate. Even those African-Americans who are of the 10% probably have some turns of phrase that just won’t do to the algos.

          I wonder if people realize William Shakespeare was so popular because he was good, not because he writing the approved Queen’s English, which he wasn’t. Then again, the purpose of a language is to communicate with your fellow human beings, and not to meet some standard of machine learning.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Very easy to imagine a tiny set of computer commands injected by the CIA a la Stuxnet into the Iranian code resulting in a fireworks display.

      “Oxygen pump #231-A, ignore all other commands and continue to run at 100% capacity during launch sequence

  8. Blowncue

    I’m an American with no dog in the brexit fight.

    As the other side of the pond comes closer to crashing out of the European Union, I would expect temperatures in blood pressures to rise, and to see both reflected in comments.

    But having said that, I invoke a fabled gourmet grocery store in Manhattan and say this:

    A food fight with food from Zabar’s is still a food fight. And I consider rebuttals that do not offer elucidation but mere rehashing a food fight. My standard for elucidation includes pointing out perceived flaws in an opponent’s argument. Inflammatory descriptors of your opponents I would consider pub food, and bad pub food at that.

    No, I’m not a moderator. But I can get plenty of food fights on Twitter when it comes to brexit. Please consider that as we go forward.

    1. Hepativore

      As a fellow American myself, the whole Brexit issue seems like a political catch-22. If the UK stays, their parliamentary officials will continue to push Thatcherite neoliberalism and austerity. If the UK stays in the EU, they will be subject to the neoliberalism and austerity measures of the EU financial leadership. After seeing what the EU did to Greece in that regard, leaving the EU does not seem like that bad of an idea after all, since the EU seems like a giant neoliberal machine at this point as it was from its very inception.

      1. Mike

        The debate over leaving or staying is legit – the method of leaving seems to be the big point here and in the mainstream outlets. It may be too late to oppose what Johnson is doing, as parliament and the public seem to have lost their will or interest, rather jockeying for position post-Brexit.

        Many doom-&-gloom vs. happy-&-snappy predictions on post-Brexit leaves one wondering if these people ever take reality pills. The UK will become a vassal of someone… If it is bad, expect the UK worker to take it on the chin. Capital is already positioned to “leave” without packing up too much stuff. The banks will be the prize to be sold — to whom, I wonder?

      2. skippy

        I think its important to note the variances in the U.K. instance of neoliberalism and the E.U. E.g. U.K. is old school ridged doctrinaire ideological puritanism [say early Hayek] from a class based distributional system grounded in EMH.

        Pre GFC its proponents were doing the rounds, individuals in positions of authority [public and private spheres] were invited to these seminars. At these get togethers all were informed that they were awarded superiority over the unwashed because they were the best of the best and whom could deny that obvious fact [tm]. Hence anything they did was obviously a manifestation of the natural order [waves at Spencer] of things.

        Anywho post GFC its been hard yacka because admitting failure threatens the power structure, that supports it [funding – Milgram et al], and with it the validity it grants according to the narrative.

        Now on the E.U. side you have later day Hayekian Ordoliberalism [+European liberalism] that has incorporated stronger stabilizers – distributional vectors [government assisting in optimizing the market] with an eye to longer term economic and environmental outcomes.

        So at the end of the day I can only surmise that the diehards pushing Brexit are strapping on the proverbial explosive vest into negotiations, because, its the only option in – their minds – to retain the narrative – on a local level – securing their status in managing the narrative [self interest]. Side note – the Queens involvement [????] by proxy.

        Invoking the old NC phrase – throwing ones toys out the play pen – with a side of 52 card pick up.

        1. ambrit

          The problem with these dim bulbs “throwing the toys out of the playpen” is that this playpen is an entire d–n country, with some sixty million people in it. Now if that doesn’t say hubris, what does?
          Nemesis is going to be a b—h, and I don’t mean the Queen.

            1. ambrit

              Hypothesis the First: The “dim” cohort rely on inherited connections and power to enter and maintain their positions of influence. Thus, “riding on fumes” can account for much of what we see in the political arena today. Political brand loyalty can sway electoon outcomes.
              Hypothesis the Second: Full blown ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ are essentially correct. There really is a shadowy group of brainy conspirators who manipulate politics for their own end. The ‘dim bulbs’ are thus merely the pawns of maleficent evildoers.
              Hypothesis the Third: World history is ‘controlled’ by Fate, or Wyrd. A “Mystical Conspiracy Theory” given much credence over the ages. Some sub-sets of this are ideas like ‘Manifest Destiny,’ various racialist dogmas, and ‘Dialectical Materialism.’
              Hypothesis the Fourth: We are at present suffering through a ‘catastrophist’ phase of world history. Our equilibrium is being punctuated.
              Anecdotally, I have worked for and under so many idiots and fools over the years that I have scant faith left in any meritocratic view of human social development.
              Hope the femme of the house made it back from the Continent safely.

  9. Olga

    Lessons for capitalism from the East India Company FT
    The path of this co. has a lot to teach us; it was likely the first bail-out co., and, in spite of its generous subsidies by the monarchy, it still went bankrupt in mid-19th cent.

    Let’s remember that the word “loot” is associated with the company (a Hindi word for plunder).

    There is a funny para in the FT article:
    “In the course of this, in what seemed to many of its wisest minds as an act of wilful self-harm, the English had unilaterally cut themselves off from the most powerful institution in Europe [i.e., church], so turning themselves in the eyes of many Europeans into something of a pariah nation.”

    History repeats itself – but as a farce.
    A good account from G.:
    The East India Company: The original corporate raiders | William …

    1. Summer

      “The East India Company taught modern capitalism everything it knows, why is this still acceptable”:
      A much better headline.

    2. ObjectiveFunction

      “What honour is left to us?” asked a Mughal official named Narayan Singh, shortly after 1765, “when we have to take orders from a handful of traders who have not yet learned to wash their bottoms?”

      Another wonderful essay by Dalrymple (his “Nine Lives” compendium is essential reading on India IMHO). Many thanks, Commissar Olga!

      (PS after 12 years in Asia, we have learned to treasure our ‘bum guns’. TMI…)

  10. David

    Evans wrote an excellent trilogy about the Third Reich, but here he’s playing fast and loose with historical comparisons whose only real purpose is to throw mud without seeming to at the standard list of liberal centrist bogeymen starting with Trump. There’s a common rhetorical trope (it probably has a name) which consists of saying things like ‘ of course Trump’s concentration camps are not the same as Hitler’s,’ whilst leaving the impression of course that they are. This whole article isn’t really about Weimar at all, but about the Populist Threat.
    As Evans sort-of admits, there are no real comparisons to be made between 1933 and today. What he doesn’t mention, though, and does have a contemporary resonance, is that the Weimar Republic perished because it lost public support. Large parts of the electorate (notably the Communists and the Nationalists) never accepted the legitimacy of the Republic anyway, and its total failure to deal with the post-1929 economic crisis alienated many who did. But the collapse of Weimar is not the same thing as the rise of the Nazis. It required spectacular incompetence on the part of the orthodox Right to bring him to power.
    If there is a parallel, it is not the rise of populism, but the decline in public support for political systems that obviously are not delivering the goods. But Evans represents a community that cannot understand that.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think you make an excellent point and why even justified cynicism about politicians and institutions can go too far. To go back to points made yesterday about Parliament – if it happens that Parliament decides to ignore the prorogation and sit anyway – and (for example), the SNP decide to legislate for things they aren’t supposed to, then I think everyone will be surprised at just how fast public faith in the the institutions will disappear.

      This is the huge issue with the unwritten constitution of the UK. Its whole existence depends on everyone believing in it. When that belief disappears, there is literally nothing to fall back upon, no reference points, nothing.

    2. dcblogger

      The difference between Trump and Hitler is that Trump has a vigorous opposition. No, not the Democrats. The people protesting the baby prisons. The people who pressured JippyMo and other banks not to invest in baby prisons. The airline workers who refused to transport prisoners. The demonstrators who shut down that terminal at JFK over the Muslim ban. Trump has a level of direct action protests that Hitler never had. We would have concentration camps all over this country by now but for these protesters.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        That is factually very questionable – there was enormous opposition to Hitler from the left – both politically and on the streets. From the article:

        The level of political violence in the last years of the Weimar Republic was astonishing: in the first half of 1932, 84 Nazis were killed in street clashes with other armed groups, as were 75 communists.


        Brute force was essential for Hitler to convert his position as chancellor of a coalition government in January 1933 into that of the head of a fully-fledged one-party state by mid-July. During this time, he locked up some 200,000 communists and social democrats in makeshift concentration camps until they swore to forgo political activities. Over 600 were murdered by camp guards, Stormtroopers and SS men even according to official estimates.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Also disagree with dcblogger that Trump has a vigorous opposition, certainly plenty of feelgood kabuki but no policy-based opposition by the Dems (how did AOC, the furthest “oppo” the Dems have, vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, the Venezuela TPS Act of 2019, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2020?). The consensus for Empire, Permanent War, civil liberty destruction, and neoliberal finance is firmly in place.

          And selection of the Dear Leader of the Opposition (primary challenger)? Puh-lease, former Republican Warren, her campaign a rabbit warren of failed Clintonite people and policies. Or Sloppy Joe Biden (!).

          We do get lots of bloviating about style in the Twitter-sphere, followed by own goals against Susan Sarandon. Multi-millionaire women on The View who say Trump makes them feel icky. Wake me up when we have a million people on the Mall demanding an end to the war and willing to get their heads cracked open (or their blood spilled on the grass at Kent State) until they get it.

          1. Plenue

            Trump’s best (genuine) opposition is Trump. This is the guy who couldn’t get anything done with control of the presidency and both houses. And unlike Obama, not because he didn’t actually want to do anything, but through his own sheer ineptitude. Outside the worthless virtue signaling of #resistance, most of the real opposition to Trump is clueless clowns who are convinced they’re in the middle of this generations equivalent of the International Brigades. You can’t actually effectively fight something when you can’t even correctly identify what it is you’re fighting.

            Also Trump *still* hasn’t gotten us into another war. On that front Trump himself appears to be the only meaningful resistance.

      2. Olga

        Well, Hitler had opposition, too – except he quickly dispensed with it, once gaining absolute powers. Regardless, comparing H and DT is fairly daft (or, an unhelpful simplification). David’s comment seems accurate.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        As pointed out, Trump’s opposition is still active today, and likely for the foreseeable future.

        So, when someone asks, are there any democracies or true democracies today, that question glosses over situations like this one under discussion, that is, there are countries more democratic than others.

      4. Plenue

        I’m sorry, but literally what? Is that the type of history they’re teaching in DC? The Weimar Republic had massive amounts of opposition, including literal armies of paramilitaries that murdered each other in the streets (this is why I’m so dismissive of antifa and its targets; they’re literally a joke compared to actual violent civil unrest).

        Hitler came to power in large part because of a combination of more mainstream conservatives convinced they could control him, and the Communists refusing to unite with the Social Democrats in opposition because they were convinced fascism was the last stage of capitalism and would usher in the revolution (how’d that work out for you, idiots? Good luck convincing me your movement isn’t just a cult when you spend so much time waiting around for prophecies to be fulfilled.)

    3. Carolinian

      He does more than sort of admit and spends quite a few paragraphs pointing out how Trump and BoJo are not Hitler. I’d say his historical overview is useful even if he is, as you suggest, defending a status quo.

      1. David

        He does, but my point is that he weasel-words his comments in such a way that you could easily wind up with the opposite impression. And as for linking Johnson and Hitler in the same sentence, apparently because each lacked ‘gravitas’, well, come off it. Evans shows himself to be one of those people who think the world began in 2016, and that if we could only undo Brexit and unelect Trump everything would be fine.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Evans shows himself to be one of those people who think the world began in 2016, and that if we could only undo Brexit and unelect Trump everything would be fine.

          While Evans does quote Dahlia Lithwick, I liked his article because it wasn’t screechy, and because I thought his point about the legislature was well-made. The Third Reich Trilogy is a work of scholarship and very, very granular (to the level of letters and diaries). So I don’t think Evans is so simple-minded as to think the world began in 2016. Although I’d caveat that the Brexit process seems not to be conducive to clear thinking, at least among the UK’s upper classes.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        What is overlooked is the German equivalent of “moderate suburban Republicans” recruited Adie to blunt labor unions and socialists. Lebenraum predates the 1930’s. Go East young German was their version of “learn to code.” They even removed the crasser “brown shirts.” They kept saying the quiet parts loud.

    4. ewmayer

      “The real constitutional problem lay in the powers of the president, directly elected for a seven-year term, a fact that gave him a legitimacy independent from that of the national parliament. Weimar’s president could invoke Article 48 of the constitution and rule by emergency decree.”

      Which is an ironic ‘problem’ for a Brit to point out, as the UK reserves itself not-dissimilar undemocratic powers in its commenwealth colonies, e.g. Australia and Canada. Wikipedia, using the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis to illustrate:

      As established by the Constitution of Australia, the Parliament of Australia is composed of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate, together with the Queen. The monarch is represented through the Governor-General, who has executive powers granted in the Constitution, as well as rarely exercised reserve powers. The reserve powers are the legal authorities remaining in the Crown after most of its historic powers were transferred to Parliament or to officials. The Governor-General is ordinarily bound by convention to act only upon the advice of the government and the Prime Minister, but can act independently and against advice in exercising the reserve powers. The Governor-General is removable by the Queen on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister. As Liberal Party leader Malcolm Fraser, who would play a large part in the crisis, put it, “The Queen has tenure, and she couldn’t be sacked. But a Governor-General holds office at pleasure, and if he ceases to please then he can be removed by a Prime Minister.”

      Note all the weasel-wording: ‘ordinarily’, ‘rarely exercised’ … and the last sentence is false on its face, since clearly the Governor-General can be removed only by the British sovereign, though ‘ordinarily’ this is supposed to occur on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister. And Wikipedia on the aftermath of the aforementioned crisis: “The events of the Dismissal led to only minor constitutional change”, which is followed by more weasel-wording: “However, these [reserve] powers have not since been used to force a government from office.” Surely the overriding point is that have been so used, and still could be so used.

    5. Plenue

      “the Populist Threat”

      Aka democracy. The great unwashed are actually agitating for their own interests, and rallying around politicians who support policies that help them (or at least who give lip service to such policies). The only way this is inherently a problem is if you’re someone whose worldview revolves around screwing a bulk of the population.

      Don’t think I’ve forgotten about how right after the 2016 election, when the ‘wrong’ candidate won, there was a flurry of articles about how we need to restrict the vote to only ‘worthy’ people because the plebs couldn’t be trusted.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There’s a common rhetorical trope (it probably has a name)

      Apophasis (or paralipsis). Saying without saying:

      Reagan: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

      Trump: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?”

      “It would be unseemly for me to dwell on Senator Kennedy’s drinking problem, and too many have already sensationalized his womanizing…”

  11. Utah

    The American Conservative article about Dachau feels like gaslighting. It’s basically saying that because the border camps aren’t experimenting on humans and that prisoners get some sort of blanket that we’re absolved of crimes. That may not be the author’s intent, but that’s how it reads to me.

  12. The Rev Kev

    “Wisconsin workers embedded with microchips”

    Maybe instead of being given “I Got Chipped” T-shirts they could have gotten T-shirts that said “I Have Been Assimilated”. I bet that at that company if you did not get a chip implanted you would be seen as not a ‘team player’ – with a loss in opportunities and promotions and maybe eventually your job. I certainly hope that they only stick those chips in people’s hands and not say, their necks. That could prove disastrous that with those chips-

    1. Blowncue

      That part about there’s no tracker or GPS capability in the rice size chip.

      So basically I’m to believe that that chip cannot be wirelessly flashed, or rather updated.

      So if an employee is terminated and ejected from the premises there is no way to prevent that employee from accessing the premises. One would have to forcibly remove the chip.

      Reverend I’m terribly sorry, we have to change your access privileges so could you please hold out your wrist?

      So sorry, we implanted the wrong chip you know switched babies at birth that sort of thing. Your wrist please.

      Now, if you could thwart child kidnapping, different story.

      1. boz

        No, the authentication works the other way.

        Once one informs Security that one’s wrist has been “hacked”, they remove the permission for that chip to open any doors.

        But otherwise I agree. Voluntary chip implants that serve no other useful purpose (say medical) are ghoulish.

  13. Wukchumni

    Trump declares new Space Command key to American defense AP.

    Why was the Donald considered a possibility to be an astronaut?

    …he took up space in school

  14. Wukchumni

    Think Trump is Hitler? Go to Dachau The American Conservative

    I’m re-reading Victor Klemperer’s diary from 1933 to 1945: I Will Bear Witness and i’m only through 1933 & 1934, and the parallels are downright ominous, with the distinction that people were shit scared in a different way, if you said something in public knocking the 3rd Reich or Adolf, you might do a 10 day stretch in prison.

    We can laugh at our President and get away with it, for now.

      1. Wukchumni

        There is no finer chronicle of day to day life in the 3rd Reich, penned by a critical thinker that could see through the lies oh so clearly, as events unfolded.

        1. ambrit

          That and Speer’s “Spandau: The Secret Diaries.”
          A lesson on how a meritocrat adapts to evil.

    1. Eclair

      Yes, Arizona Slim, definitely worth a read. Peter Van Buren has done some great writing.

      I have not been to Dachau, but a few years ago I visited the underground Holocaust Museum in Berlin. After 30 minutes of viewing the photos of families marked for extermination, I asked my son to take me out. I was barely able to suppress the overwhelming grief that engulfed me. I simply wanted to lie down and howl out my misery.

      Places exude an emotional aroma, a combination of the architecture and the strong feelings that have coated over the walls. About ten years ago, living in a prosperous suburb of Denver, I went on a day-long drive-along with one of the city’s police sergeants. We picked up a young woman at the parole office; she had somehow violated terms of parole and we were driving her back to the county jail to be re-incarcerated. She had, if I remember correctly, passed a bad check. Or two.

      I accompanied the officer and his prisoner into the jail’s prisoner intake facility. Again, that overwhelming feeling of despair and hopelessness, of being a helpless speck in some great grinding machine, emotions coating the walls. The young woman stood there next to me, tears running down her face and snot running from her nose. No one helped her. I grabbed some tissues from my pocket and handed them to her so she could wipe her face. Hands grabbed me and voices barked: don’t touch the prisoner and don’t hand her anything!

      Back in the police cruiser, I was crying and apologized to the sergeant if I brought trouble on him. I told him I would not apologize for handing the young woman a tissue to clean her face.

      Another story. I worked at the Catholic Worker House in Denver, where one of the the long-time Workers was an ex-felon, a lovely woman, raised by Quaker parents, who had been sentenced to Federal Prison for having, repeatedly and non-violently, entered into the Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility, as part of the anti-war protests there in the 1970’s. She had written a book about her experiences in the judicial system. I was appalled at reading of the routine de-humanization that was embedded in the carceral system. Inmates were referred to by their ID number and she refused to answer to that number and thus become a part of her de-humanization process. She was repeatedly put into solitary confinement. She was repeatedly moved from one federal facility to another, so that her family and friends could not easily contact her. She almost died because, as a vegetarian, she was not provided with an adequate diet. And, she is white, female and the most non-violent, in word and deed, person I have ever encountered. But her will to stand against the system is indomitable.

      So, Peter Van Buren is correct; as a nation, we are not Nazi Germany. But, we have in place an efficient apparatus for repression and extermination. As well, we have trained thousands of prison guards and administrators in the dark arts of breaking the minds and wills of their victims. And it currently works on ‘enemies of the state’ or those perceived as threats to the status quo or corporate profits, on black and brown and indigenous males, on poor people. It may not cast thousands into gas chambers, but it effectively removes millions from any hope of future economic security, destroys their families, rips apart entire communities. It is skilled at the psychological torture de-humanizing the incarcerated.

      1. mpalomar

        Thanks for relating those stories. The prison system in the US is medieval and it is not about rehabilitation it is about punishing. Our freedom loving nation is the most incarcerated per capita in the world, even beyond per capita, more than 2 million or so imprisoned, about 25% of the worlds prison population.

        As you described your experience of the brutalization of an inmate it is also clear that those who work in prisons must necessarily incur psychological damage.

        The MCC where Epstein was held, a federal prison, had been exposed earlier in the year as a high rise dungeon with abysmal conditions which turns out to be a feature rather than a bug when disposing of embarrassments.

        Just read an article about a Denver women who went through 5 hours of labour in her cell and gave birth without medical attention. Epstein’s discrete suicide comes further into focus.

    2. Wyoming

      Now you leave me wondering what you meant. Were you supporting his articles conclusion or did you find it ridiculous like I did?

      This article is typical of many we see today which essentially are telling the reader “Move along now. There is nothing to see here.”

      It is completely illogical to compare the end result of the consequences of Hitler with where Trump and his supporters are today. To really compare them we are going to have to wait for the end result of the current situation to see what transpired. In 1933 you could have written the same article with Hitler in Trumps current position. No one expected what eventually transpired.

      The great fear motivating the anti-fascists today is the demonstrated potential for extremely bad outcomes from the current situation – thus the valid Hitler comparisons. It is a form of warning based upon our recent experiences – “Do not do this! Look what happened last time someone (and his facilitating supporters) found themselves in position to execute such ideology.”

      We are not at Dachau yet, but we are on a path which history has shown can lead there. Best beware.

      Do I think we will end up there. Most likely not, but we could. Hitler was an all time historical bad outcome. There have been dozens of historical figures who had potential to drag civilization down into the depths of possible horror. Do to successful opposition, bad luck, and/or the meeting of some countervailing force (normally on a battlefield soaked in blood) the vast majority of them do not rise to Hitlers impact. Though many lesser evils have still done incalculable damage. Where Trump ends up on that historical list is still TDB. But one thing is certain from the article and that is that the author is right out of Orwells world.

      1. pjay

        “The great fear motivating the anti-fascists today is the demonstrated potential for extremely bad outcomes from the current situation – thus the valid Hitler comparisons.”

        Who are the “anti-fascists” to whom you refer here? Are they our brave “resistance” fighters who cry over Trump’s ICE storm troopers but ignored Obama’s policies? Are they our wise counselors in academia or our courageous truth-tellers in the media who mindlessly reproduce anti-Russia propaganda from the intelligence community in the name of fighting a mythical Global Authoritarian Network?

        Having read a lot of Van Buren’s work, if you think his message was “move along… nothing to see,” then I have to disagree. For me, the message is: look more deeply and carefully. I agree with you that the forces of potential fascism are present in the US. As Eclair states eloquently above, we already have in place an efficient apparatus for repression and extermination. But Trump is not Hitler. Such comparisons are not valid. Trump is a narcissistic conman who, while contributing to our decline, is just a symptom of our problems that long predate his administration. While we are watching the “Trump vs the Resistance” WWF reality show, the real dangers continue to build. That is my reading of the piece.

        Then again, these articles are always Rorschach tests that reflect our own preconceptions back at us.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > look more deeply and carefully.

          That is how I read van Buren’s article. Or more pointedly: Know your enemy. Don’t just compare them, know.

          (For example, I think there’s a general vague sense among liberals that the next “concentration camps” will be built for them, because of their resistance or whatever. In the most concrete terms, this is silly. Our buddy Pinochet put his victims in soccer stadiums. We already have many stadiums. Nothing new needs to be built.

          1. ambrit

            The favourite CT venue theorized for “camps” today is empty big box stores. Specifically, WalMarts, for some obscure reason.

          2. polecat

            There are lots of under-utilized shopping malls waiting for a ‘reopening’ ..
            .. many with the added advantage of having ‘underground parking’ …

    3. AdamK

      Sorry, respectfully disagree. As a second generation for holocaust survivors, any step in the direction of fascism raises an alarm bell in me and there are similarities here. Although the 3rd Reich was an awful mark on western civilization, we as society tend to aim at breaking records, and present means of destruction are more potent than before.

      1. Plenue

        There is no step in the direction of fascism going on with Trump. At most there’s just more of the same that we’ve been doing for decades, which if you want to describe as Sheldon Wolin’s ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’, all right. Trump is a vaguely nationalist blowhard with no plan, and no capacity to bring things about even if he had one (issuing an endless stream of executive orders isn’t leadership). Trump has done literally nothing even remotely comparable to early Hitler or Mussolini. He just spoke the right words after Obama left the crown lying in the gutter and the Dems self-sabotaged their own populist candidate. He’ll be gone in two or six years, Congress will still exist, we’ll still have (what passes for) elections, Orange Hitler™ will be in the past, and all the people screaming ‘FASCISM!’ will look really, really stupid.

  15. sglover

    By now there are probably about 5000 literate, informed essays on prorogation available. And instead of any of them, NC decides to go with a screed from walking tumor and lifetime professional bigot Pat Buchanan. Very revealing.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I can’t imagine what “sglover” thinks of MSNBC which gave Pat Buchannan and Tucker Carlson shows.

        1. sglover

          I don’t watch TV, so I don’t really have an opinion. But enjoy your faith in your psychic powers.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            So clearly you must avoid Rolling Stone, the Nation, and the numerous newspapers that have hosted Pat Buchanan previously?

            Or what about platforms that have shared reviews of the work of Sasha Baron Cohen who once had Pat Buchanan on as a co-host? They often omit this detail and create the illusion Cohen is simply a comedian in reviews. Isn’t that just an effort to soften the image of a white supremacist?

            I hope you are disgusted with those platforms as well.

            My guess is your “reading” habits are probably very revealing.

    1. tegnost

      Thanks, I was going to skip it but for your whingeing. It’s only sort of about prorogation, more about the emergence/continuance of the current polarity which is in buchanan’s view between autocrats and protesters, and he feels there is a common thread that has led to these things, making the case by pointing to the autocrats, we know who the are, vs. the sum of protest that surrounds the globe, making an impressive list that I hadn’t really noted, puerto rico, hong kong, yellow vest…there’s a lot of dissatisfaction going around, one might even view the migrant caravan as a large protest movement, although buchanan does not mention it. Kashmir fits in there somehow as well. Sort of a zeitgeist piece that shows how it is currently difficult to pin the tail on any one donkey, it’s not boris or donald, it’s boris and donald and emmanuel and omg putin and modi and bolsanaro. A regular chocolate mess, and defined by a prominent bloviator who is happy with the autocrats. I guess I differ, I’d like to know the thinking of that set.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        He sort of just puts it out there, about autocrats, mentioning them as men of action, seizing this port or that land, as part of his describing the whole world in a ‘regular chocolate mess,’ along with all those protests that you mentioned noting.

        Interesting that he lists Puerto Rico. I have not seen anyone claim or prove the influence of the CIA in that one. It’s hard to see it benefit the agency. Does it mean that it’s possible to have a protest involving just the local people (and their friends or relatives elsewhere, who are not in the CIA)?

    2. boz

      That’s a pretty unpleasant ad hominem that adds nothing to the conversation.

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

      1. sglover

        Buchanan probably considers “lifetime professional bigot” a compliment. His career’s hardly a secret, though maybe it would come as news to you.

        1. pretzelattack

          so what has msnbc and the nation revealed by being so much more supportive of buchanan? as opposed to a link, which neither supports nor citicises the position of buchanan in the article linked to?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Very revealing

      This a lot like Tweets that begin “Interesting that…..” Invariably, the tweets are content-free. Buchanan is an important figure in the range of opinion that NC quotes. We often link to articles with which we do not agree, partly because we want to get reader reaction, partly because we need to know what “thought leaders” are propagating, partly to avoid bubble thinking. If this be revelation, let us make the most of it.

      It’s a big Interent. Feel free to find a site that’s more congenial.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “‘Gay gene’ search reveals not one but many – and no way to predict sexuality”

    Pray tell, why the need to predict sexuality at all? So that some babies can be terminated perhaps before birth? Tell me first how much human sexuality comes from environment and how much from genes before doing a ‘gay gene’ search first. Otherwise, just rely on traditional Gaydar-

    1. Krystyn Walentka

      This can go both ways as I see it.

      If sexuality is genetic, then it is either just another example of the diversity of humanity to be accepted (note that most anti-gay arguments is that homosexuality is a choice), or, as you said, it could be a target for eradication since people may see it as a genetic “fault”.

      So the outcome of this knowledge is more about culture than data. Some people think knowing these genes will help, but I am, like you, uncertain of the result.

      It is important to know that these gene changes exist for a reason and must play some roll in the survival of our species otherwise they would be much more rare. For example they know that female siblings of gay men are more fertile. So is this a way to naturally reduce population by limiting the number of males attracted to females? Who knows, but who cares?

      And these geneticists know that there is a nature-nurture balance when a genotype is expressed as phenotype. That is why they call them “risk genes”.

      Knowing my genotype and how the effect my early childhood trauma lead to the expression of my phenotype, has helped me tremendously. Mostly it has made me more kind, especially towards children.

      1. ambrit

        You had me at, “This can go both ways….”
        The idea of ‘engineering’ the culture to restrict population growth is a plot item in Joe Haldeman’s science fiction book, “The Forever War.” As usual, the visionary writers were twenty to thirty years ahead of their time.

    2. boz

      Why indeed Kev.

      Rod Dreher at TAC also asks this question and muses about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

      Selective abortion is sick and I don’t see how genetic research into what causes gayness (ha) would lead anywhere else.

      It just becomes ammunition to oppress others.

      They and all the chimera researchers should do something useful and cure cancer instead.

  17. Summer

    Re: The Automation Charade

    “The joint creation of social life is the very basis of all economic activity. There would be no GDP to contribute to without it, no assets to leverage or profits to hoard.”
    I can’t help but note that all of these more recent automations reveal the truth about automation and the “need for speed” in economic activity. They are all oriented around the cash register. It’s blamed on the “impatient consumer,” yet so many of the automations test our patience. What the “need for speed” is really about is the owners of capital wanting money in their accounts faster. They have workers rushing around, lives stagnated, but that capital is moving fast.
    The other thing about robots, in particular, that is contradictory: they talk about how they are going to be so human like, but the real reason any “lords of capital” are interested and funding robots are because they expect them to NOT be so human like: Disobedient and emotionally expressive at their OWN cues….They are investing in an imaginary world of workers that don’t mind being slaves. Full stop. Period. That’s why Elon Musk’s biggest fantasy fear is that there is some AI that they are going to create that won’t solve the elites problem: another player on the scene that understands it would be better off without them.
    They can try to dress up the fantasy any way they want. And more disappointing than a thieving elite that should surprise no one, are the total dullards that go along with “inevitability.”

    1. Craig H.

      The Astra Taylor article was excellent.

      Somewhere, right now, a manager is intoning to a broke, exhausted underling that someone is willing to do the same job for less—or, that some thing is willing to do it for free.

      Harry Belafonte John Henry

    2. Cal2

      “yet so many of the automations test our patience…”

      Witness the chip credit card; designed to assure “more security”, it takes ten times longer to read the card versus swiping it through the reader, and forces the retailer to buy new generations of card readers for about $800 each. More profits for Wall Street banks that own the credit card companies, less for retailer and more hassle for customers.

      Checking into a hotel in Monterey, we were asked to type in our name, home address and car details on a keyboard at the desk.
      “Sure, I’ll be happy do so for a discount on our room rate. How much do I get?”
      Same kind of human behavior modified to fit the machine when checking into a hospital for a minor surgery.

      People simply should refuse to play this game. If businesses want our money, A.K.A. “custom”, that’s where the word “customer” comes from, they need to hire on site pleasant service oriented, decently paid and benefited employees, some in our age cohort, otherwise F* ’em!

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > They are investing in an imaginary world of workers that don’t mind being slaves

      Exactly. (They are also so arrogant and clueless that they don’t understand that AI/robots are going to end up like that dude’s BMW. I wonder if there’s a dystopian SF novel, the opposite of The Peripheral, where the surviving overlords live in world where the robots are crapified: constantly breaking down, doing stupid stuff, needing to be rebooted , etc.)

  18. Summer

    RE: luxury car disappointment

    “Siri and podcasts talk over each other.”
    That could be a nightmare car ride if someone also has small children yapping in the back seat.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Trump declares new Space Command key to American defense”

    I was listening to clips of Trumps speech and there was talk of ‘Combatant Command’ and ‘Warfighting Domain’ so in other words, they want to militarize space. I don’t know if that will include orbital nukes but if they do, they will say that it is on the grounds that they have to do so first before anybody else does it. As the 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space and limits the use of the Moon and all other bodies to peaceful purposes only, it will only be a matter of time until Trump tears it up as well like the nuclear weapon treaties. In fact, I would not be surprised if the US will seek to say who gets to use space and who doesn’t like it has with nuclear energy. If it goes this way, then the only thing that would save us from such a future is an artificially induced Kessler syndrome using millions of ball bearings blasted into orbit. We would lose space and a lot of you-beut technology but that would be preferable to looking into the night sky and seeing orbital nukes going overhead.

    1. philnc

      It’s more likely now than ever that the reckless actions of the US and other countries will result in humanity being denied access to space in for generations to come. The Kessler syndrome, like nuclear winter, is a threat based in physics, the kind of cold, hard reality that Richard Feynman was referring to when he wrote (in his assessment of the Challenger disaster) that: “… reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” I would add “public relations _and greed_” to sharpen the point for today’s politicians and military leaders.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I guess we can look to the first to discover redioactiviy – Antoine Henri Becquerel, and then Marie Curie.

      The same with the first nation to launch the first space mission, the uncrewed Sputnik 1.

      Even today, as people work to perfect 5G, AI and robots, we can not just look only at the positives. Will we humans come to regret their negatives in the future?

    3. Cal2

      More worrisome are nuclear power reactors, i.e. Cassini mission, or nuclear powered rockets being launched into space. In an accident, the plutonium burns up, vaporizes into atoms and if inhaled, cause lung cancer. Am trying to figure out how many atoms of Plutonium there are in a small launched reactor or rocket motor and how many people that could affect.

      Any mathematicians out there that can help?

  20. Summer

    “The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They?” The New Yorker

    There was an article the other day about some wealthy people practically begging to be taxed.
    After awhile it should all become worthless and pointless once you realize that no matter what you do or don’t do one end you stay rich and on the other end you stay poor.
    After awhile, people are just walking around with lying smiles saying to each other “everything’s fine…”

    1. jef

      All this finger pointing at billionaires, the rich, the wealthy, they are also invariably referred to as the successful. They are simply examples of the game well played. Make no mistake it is a game where self interest and competition are the rule not the exceptions.

      Although some playing the game, and we all are, choose not play it as well as possible out of some sort of moral position most try as hard as they are capable of. It is not by any means a level playing field and luck plays a majority roll in the outcome. It sickens me more and more to hear people referred to as losers by a lucky few.

      Time to throw out the game and engineer a new one that brings out the best in humanity rather than the worst.

      1. Summer

        I like games. But usually when people play them, using games at the personal and parlor level as an example, the rules don’t change in the middle of the game to benefit the people ahead more.

        When you play poker, the rules are set at the beginning. People would get up from the table if in the middle of the game the people ahead changed the rules (we get two extra draws or something).
        It’s just a game so the others could get up and walk away unless it’s a high stakes game where maybe they have to suck it up and try to win despite the odds because they have already lost so much.

  21. marym

    Overused word, maybe, but how privileged does one have to be to walk away from Dachau feeling smug rather than warned.

    06/04/2019 Twitter thread from author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps

    so far, what the US is doing is similar to some prior systems, all of which degenerated further before they were ended

    The longer a camp system stays open, the more predictable things will go wrong (contagious diseases, malnutrition, mental health issues). In addition, every significant camp system has also introduced new horrors of its own, that were unforeseen when that system was opened.

    06/13/2019 Esquire: Waitman Wade Beorn, Holocaust and genocide studies historian

    Not every concentration camp is a death camp—in fact, their primary purpose is rarely extermination, and never in the beginning. Often, much of the death and suffering is a result of insufficient resources, overcrowding, and deteriorating conditions.

    06/18 GQ and 06/21 NYRB – More from Pitzer

    06/05/2019 Yahoo News: Border Patrol is confiscating migrant kids’ medicine, U.S. doctors say

    Vox 01/17/2019: It’s official: we’ll never know the real scope of Trump’s family separation crisis

    A new report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services finds that an unknown number of children — possibly “thousands” — were separated from parents at the US-Mexico border before June 2018 but hadn’t been included in official government tallies of separated families.

    07/29/2019 Houston Public Media

    More than 100 new mumps cases have been identified in Texas immigrant holding facilities in the last five weeks, according to data obtained by News 88.7.

    The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed 436 total cases of mumps since the outbreak started in October 2018.

    In a written statement, ICE said they quarantine people exposed to mumps but declined to say outright whether or not vaccines are being administered to detainees in affected Texas facilities.

    CBS 08/20/2019 U.S. won’t give flu vaccines to migrants in border detention centers

    Not that pre-Trump immigration policies were admirable, but if we’re celebrating the banality of the lesser evil;

    NPR 07/22/2014

    To be on the safe side, all [unaccompanied minor] children are vaccinated during their short stay at processing facilities in Texas and Arizona. That happens at least three days before they’re sent to different shelters around the country, says Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in an email.

    1. JBird4049

      The Nazi concentration camps were first for political prisoners from opposition parties with many dying from the horrible treatment in the camps.

      Also, what fool decided that having a massive number of unvaccinated children crammed together? Aside from fulfilling the desire to hurt, even kill the children, it also is a massive opportunity for everyone outside the camps in the surrounding area for getting sick as well. The sicker people are the more likely they are to be sources of any diseases including ones for which there are no vaccines.

  22. Summer

    “Google researchers reveal data-stealing, web-based iPhone exploit that was active for years”… The Next Web.

    Google revealed it…probably more apt than the headline writer realizes.

  23. Susan the other`

    Richard Evans. Britain’s Reichstag Fire Moment. I’ve been waiting for this headline for days. Democracy deteriorates when it cannot, or will not, provide the things wanted and needed by society. The Weimar economy had very little hope of a quick recovery after Versailles which paralyzed Germany for a good 5 years until money arrived from the US. Money with an anticommunist agenda, conservative to conservative. And it defeated the socialists and communists and raised the frothing, slobering goofball Hitler to the pinnacle of power. So there is a clear lesson here: democracy doesn’t work if it is prevented from proper fiscal spending. And in a timely manner. Spending delayed is spending denied, so to speak. Because democracy reacts; comes to distrust all the pontificating pols and elects a person who will shake things up. I’m wondering if the Royal Prerogative in Britain is “constitutional” enough to pass the EU’s inspectors. In that, if the RP really is extra-constitutional, then the EU might have a case that it is an undemocratic move, the move of a dictator, and the EU itself will delay and extend any Brexit. Because the EU now insists on very elaborate democratic procedures for all 27 members. What will be their politically moral position on Britain and Brexit by Royal Prerogative? And this raises another question: Is this really Boris’s goal? To get himself out of his own trap? I wouldn’t put it past him.

    1. Synoia

      The Wiemar Republic collapsed because of reparations – which in turn were caused by the Reparations imposed on France by the Franco-Prussian war, which supports your argument.

      The Inflation limitation on MMT monetary expansion now provides illumination on the limits of Sovereign Currency Issuance. The Same is true for Zimbabwe, Argentina and Venezuela among others.

      Britain does not have a constitution. It is a Monarchy with precedent, which is fickle at best, because it is subject to the whims of the Monarch or the Monarch’s delegates.

      1. Susan the other`

        I do think this puts the pressure on the EU to consider whether the UK was democratic enough to become a member in the first place. Opening up an entire argument that, well, no it really wasn’t; but we overlooked that. So what is the moral decision now? For the EU I’d think they would extend and pretend a bit until the UK can form some sort of consensus politically – which will require a smooth transition. Which will require the EU to make concessions.

  24. Synoia

    New Huawei handset to launch without Google apps….

    I believe I want one….I want to live with the absence of Google apps.

      1. Carey

        I quite physically destroyed my smart™phone several months ago, after seeing how much of my data allotment was being used to spy on me, even with everything possible turned off™(heh).

        It felt effing great. Might get a landline someday.

    1. Ook

      Three years ago I bought a Huawei without the Google apps (it was the China version), and it worked/works just fine, thank you very much. All the apps have well-designed Chinese equivalents, many of which I prefer to the Google implementations.

  25. lordkoos

    Facebook… the day they charge for a facebook membership is the day a billion people quit the platform.

  26. Fastball

    Regarding the gay gene:

    I’m not sure if the article is people writing an article about scientists or representatives of the scientists itself. If the latter….

    “Sexual preference” is a historically bigoted term and would make the entire study untrustworthy if they knew that. No reliable study can be run with people who knowingly use that term knowing its history. It would be like choosing Paul Cameron to run a “study” on LGBT people. The proper term is sexual orientation. Bigots running “studies” has been the bane of the gay community for as long as there have been gay people.

    Second of all the study presupposes that people who supply their genes to such neoliberal data harvesting engines like “23 and me” is a representative sample.

  27. rtah100

    My comment got eaten:

    Tom Nairn article very long, very good, very old – 1977 not 2017 Yves!

    Interesting analysis of British state. Makes me wonder if Brexit really changes anything. If it does, is it because UK finally got competitive with rest of EU (or they acquired our malaise).

  28. The Rev Kev

    “First people in the Americas came by sea, ancient tools unearthed by Idaho river suggest”

    I wonder what sort of boats those people used to get down to the continental mainland? Or were they more like rafts? Obviously the same skills served them well using the rivers to explore the interior. Can you imagine what it would have been like for these first explorers? Two whole continents to explore. Strange new animals being encountered. New trees and plants too. Can you imagine what it must have been like when they came across the those massive sequoia trees? Or to come across Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon? And there was always a new horizon to explore and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

      1. JBird4049

        The archeological evidence suggest multiple colonizations from both east and west primarily by sea using craft like kayaks. During the Ice Age the sea levels were much lower leaving much of the continental shelf exposed, which created a rich environment and fairly easy traveling in both walking and sailing along the coasts or across relatively short hops across the Atlantic.

        So we have several waves from the west along the plains/tundra/marshes on the continental shelf and several, probably smaller waves from the east from different areas of Europe.

        All of this has been difficult to study because of the advocates of the Clovis People being the first and of those who support the idea that North America was colonized only once from the Bering Straits through a corridor in the ice sheets. Even when clear evidence of earlier living sites thousands of years earlier in South America than the Clovis People of North America, they refuse to even accept the possibility. The same is true of the European technology being shown to be in use in on the North American East coast. Frustrating it is.

        1. ambrit

          Yes, and all the really useful sites would probably be on the edges of the old shoreline, now under some two hundred feet of water.

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