Links 11/8/19

‘Ice eggs’ cover Finland beach in rare weather event BBC

Why biodegradables won’t solve the plastic crisis BBC (David L)

Australia bushfires: Record number of emergencies in New South Wales BBC. It’s not even full on summer!

The world is getting wetter, yet water may become less available for North America and Eurasia ScienceDaily

Today’s Electric Car Batteries Will Be Tomorrow’s E-Waste Crisis, Scientists Warn Vice

Corruption Is Contagious Scientific American (Robert M)

Western Individualism Arose from Incest Taboo Scientific American (Robert M)

The Strange, Sad Story of the Ken Doll’s Crotch Jezebel

China?

Why investors should temper optimism over a China trade rally Financial Times (non-paywalled reposting)

US and China racing to weaponize AI Asia Times (resilc)

Brexit

New Speaker to disallow unusual parliamentary procedures BBC. No more Parliament usurping the Government control of Parliament’s time:

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he would not allow the procedures used by MPs to seize control of the agenda.

Boris Johnson accidentally made an incredibly compelling argument against his own Brexit deal Business Insider

‘Remain Alliance’ claims it can win at least 44 seats and stop both a Boris Johnson election win and Brexit Independent

‘ROTTEN REMAINER ALLIANCE’ Lib Dems blasted by Tories and Labour as ‘undemocratic’ for forming Remain pact with other parties The Sun

Europe has to face ‘brain death of NATO,’ Macron says Politico v Merkel rejects Macron warning over Nato ‘brain death’ Financial Times

Rightwing columnist smacks journalist Glenn Greenwald on Brazil radio show Guardian. Reader RabidGandhi explains:

Just a note that while the story getting all the headlines today is about Greenwald getting attacked yesterday on live stream (which I can give background on too), that story may bury the big news of yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment that will most likely lead to Lula’s release. In short, the Brazilian constitution does not allow for imprisonment until all appeals are exhausted, but in 2016 the SC handed down a radical reinterpretation that allowed for imprisonment after 1st appeal. In the context of Lava Jato, this opened the door for prosecutors to use the threat of imminent imprisonment to get defendants to incriminate others (“delação premiada”). Since the Vaza Jato leaks came out showing how corrupt the LJ prosecutors are, and how they had abused this power, the public opinion tide has turned against Moro and Lava Jato. Hence, yesterday’s judgment restores the status quo ante. Lula’s lawyers have said they will file for his immediate release today, but he still needs to have the cocakamamie judgment against him vacated to be eligible for office in the next election.

The articles I found in English miss this background and skip straight to the pearl clutching about delinquents rampant on the streets:

Top Brazil court ends early prison rule in decision that could free Lula (Reuters)

Brazil supreme court ruling could free Lula (DW)

Syraqistan

Iran has ‘military advantage over US and allies in Middle East‘Guardian. Resilc: “Who doesnt? Our military is for Raytheon and Lockheed, not for fighting, but for looting and show.”

Donald Trump’s Boneheaded Plan to Steal Syrian Oil American Conservative

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Assange lawyers’ links to US govt & Bill Browder raises questions Off Guardian (Chuck L)

Are Minnetonka Public Schools secretly monitoring students’ social media posts? MinnPost (Chuck L)

Imperial Collapse Watch

A Military Camera Said ‘Made in U.S.A.’ The Screen Was in Chinese. New York Times (resilc)

Trump Transition

Nothing says Christmas like $30 Trump Pence wrapping paper and $60 ‘Keep America Great’ ornaments MarketWatch

Trump ordered to pay $2 million to charities over misuse of foundation, court documents say Washington Post

Exclusive: Trump administration moves closer to easing gun exports Reuters (resilc)

Harry Dunn parents say they rejected Trump offer of cheque Guardian. Resilc: “Gee, worked with my hookers before…..”

Impeachment

Witch hunt or necessity? Maine’s rugged independent voters torn over impeaching Trump Reuters

2020

Michael Bloomberg, billionaire and former mayor, prepares for a presidential bid NBC. Bloomberg was not a bad mayor but one of his telling early moves was to snow plow the Upper East Side (where he lived) before any other part of the city. Even though he got to be more democratic about that, Queens kept being neglected. Bloomberg boasted he built the NYC police force into the 7th biggest army in the world. Used Israel as a model, had lots of official visits.

He also hated cabs and cab drivers. Was very hostile to Occupy, natch, not just the occupation but the idea of criticizing Wall Street and the rich.

He had reportedly concluded when he thought about a 2016 presidential bid that a short Jewish billionaire could not win the race. Since there’s no reason to think that has changed, why is he running? IMHO he’s in the race to undermine the wealth tax, as if that had any chance of passing anyhow.

Another “Kill me now” entry. Lambert: “Awesome. Patrick is Bain Capital. Barnes is CAP and a Booz Allen Hamilton director. Read the room, Liz.”

Hillary Clinton Is Not a Fan of Bernie’s or Warren’s Wealth Taxes Vanity Fair (resilc). This should not be considered news.

Sanders’ heart attack could have ended his presidential campaign. Instead, it boosted it Boston Globe (Bob K)

Single-Payer Advocates Are Being Drawn Into the Wrong Debate New Republic

AP Exclusive: Steyer aide offered money for endorsements Associated Press (chuck419)

Former AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race The Hill. Now official.

Information disorder: ‘The techniques we saw in 2016 have evolved’ First Draft (resilc). My God, the hyperventilating!

Ram 1500 | Built to Serve Edition Honors U.S. Military Popular Mechanics. Resilc: “Overpriced junk, just like our military.”

Far From the Spotlight, a Boeing Partner Feels the Heat New York Times. Paul R: “Collins Aerospace takes heat over buggy 737 flight deck software, after crapifying its own processes per Boeing’s demands for cost reductions.”

The End of Neoliberalism and the Rebirth of History by Joseph E. Stiglitz Project Syndicate. UserFriendly: “I’d be more excited about this if he didn’t write the same essay every few years and he had a dozen more that had that as their thesis if not their headline.

Bitcoin, 11-years in Moneyness (resilc)

Class Warfare

The Lousy Job Economy: Young People Bear the Brunt of a Long-Term Decline in American Job Quality ProMarket

There are now 2,101 billionaires globally – up almost 40% from five years ago CNBC

Is Philanthropy Undemocratic? Worth

‘Cop Spit’ Is the Disgusting New Trend In Jails Vice (resilc)

Antidote du jour. CV: “A species in decline, but what species isn’t, except for humans and English sparrows? This one is used to being near people, especially when I bring it a treat. It comes running.”

And a bonus (Richard Smith):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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163 comments

    1. The Rev Kev

      I saw that on the news tonight and had a good laugh. Looks like an acknowledgement that Biden has peaked and is on his way out. But when you get down to it-

      ‘Only Thing That Stops A Bad Guy New York Billionaire Is A Good Guy New York Billionaire.’

      Reply
        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, all.

          As KE asked, “Seriously?”

          At the beginning of this decade and as “the heir to Blair” continued his idol’s obsession with all things American, well including importing a Canadian for Threadneedle Street, Davey Cameron of Lochiel contemplated appointing Bloomberg as mayor of London. Seriously!

          Bloomberg was often in town. It soon became wise for senior public servants to make policy announcements at the old HQ in Finsbury Square. Later, Cameron made the fateful speech / announcement on EU membership at the new HQ, across the road from the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.

          Bloomberg was not pleased with the referendum result. As Londonistan withers with its Brexitannia hinterland, his multibillion pound building will not be able to attract power broker speeches and have power brokers pay homage to him.

          Reply
      1. Morgan Everett

        There is no part of Bloomberg’s plan that makes any sense. He has absolutely no chance of winning due to a combination of how late he has waited, and how few people have any desire at all for him to be president. Which means his best case scenario is that he manages to mildly undercut Biden, even though he’s theoretically entering to stop Sanders and Warren. One starts to suspect that he just pulls this “will he won’t he” act every four years because he’s a giant egomaniac….

        Reply
          1. polecat

            Is that why he was such a good mayor (Cough, Gag, Sputter !) ?? …. because, according to most of the attributes cited in the above linky, I certainly don’t see how he gets a pass at being nothing more that a rich & harmful elitist !

            Reply
    2. ptb

      I was trying to figure out what states would he break 15% in? What demographic does he bring to the table for the centrist-Dem / pro big biz group that aren’t already on board with Biden Buttigieg etc?

      I guess it would be NY. Maybe. And (big) (closet Republican) Donors. I suppose he gets free media too.

      The Mayor Mike vs Mayor Pete showdown should be entertaining.

      Reply
      1. DaveOTN

        I don’t see Bloomberg finding any space in the current Democratic field, but presumably he has some data suggesting otherwise. In the unlikely event that he wins the nomination, though, it will completely finish the political restructuring in process. The Dems will become the party of big finance, with a side serving of diversity, and the Republicans will become THE populist party, split between a libertarian low-tax wing and a worker-protectionist wing.

        Reply
        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Local committee Democrats are basically the worst people in the world. In their minds, Bloomberg will appeal to “moderate Republicans” (who are their social circle; no one black mind you) and those damn kids if they don’t like he’ll put them in their place.

          Its Biden all over. We laughed at the whole Palin was a mayor thing, but it really broke down into two separate groups: one laughing at the notion of experience and the Presidency of the United States being something that can easily be put on a resume in our modern society (look at the early Presidents’ resumes and compare them to HRC) and a group that laughed because Wasilla was small. If you thought those people liked that doofus Buttigieg, they’ll love Bloomberg. With Bloomberg being a billionaire, their Republican friends who are worried about taxes will really like this ilk of Democrat now.

          Reply
      2. jsn

        If I was going to guess, I’d guess Mayor Mike is betting on his Israeli connections for an IT based psyops campaign in a Spy vs Spy duel with the Trump Clown Show: you figuer out which is black and which is white, damned if I can tell.

        Reply
    3. Jen

      Starting his run by collecting petitions in Alabama. Is he going in alphabetical order? Is there a secret cult of Bloomberg supporters in Alabama? No disrespect to Alabama – in fact, I think condolences are in order – but does anyone look at Bloomberg and think “you know where his campaign will really take off? Alabama.”

      No mayor of NYC has ever gone on to higher office, and I’m quite confident that trend will continue with Mikey.

      Reply
    4. Winston Smith

      Indeed. The twittersphere came up with this gem:

      “A perfunctory run for President is on the Old White Guy Keep Busy List after marrying a 20-year-old zoomba instructor but before having all your blood replaced by that of a teen Olympian”

      Reply
  1. Bandit

    Europe has to face ‘brain death of NATO,’ Macron says
    “If we don’t wake up … there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply,” he said.

    OMG, this is just brilliant! NATO has been “brain dead” for generations, so what is new? And Macron was brain dead upon delivery. As far as losing control of their “destiny”, that was long forsaken when NATO and the European Union were founded. The fact is that the US has been in control of NATO and Europe’s destiny from the beginning, and there is very little the members can do about it. It is sad, but most, if not all European Union members are mere puppets of the US. It is not by chance that Germany hosts the largest contingent of US military bases (23) and a total of 40 in Europe at large. And where the US decides to go to war, so follow the puppets.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      Macron made similar comments to his diplomats at the annual off site in Paris last August.

      Macron also highlighted US foreign policy mistakes, not just those of Trump, and the need for the EU to recognise and, no longer in tandem with and subservient to the US, address the rise of and competition from China, India and Russia.

      Reply
      1. ptb

        As much as I want to be hopeful, France was up there as a top party (right after the US), when it came to pushing for regime change in Libya, Syria, the wars and migrant wave, and the resulting political disaster on the continent.

        What makes Macron different from his predecessors, that he should be believed?

        It’s a good line though. Probably not at all how he meant it.

        Reply
        1. vidimi

          macron’s concern seems to be that nato, and the EU, are not being aggressive enough. I’m all for a more federated EU, but not macron’s version of it.

          Reply
          1. The Rev Kev

            I think that Macron’s concern is that he tried to wedge himself back into Syria which used to be a former possession of France but Trump’s redeployment meant that the French Special Forces had to skoot out of the country.

            Reply
        2. Winston Smith

          True enough. I was in Senegal this summer and my wife’s Malian friends had some passionate choice words for the involvement of France in Mali and Africa in General.

          Reply
    2. Jos Oskam

      I would like to contradict you but I really can’t. The simple fact that NATO still exists, all these years after the crumbling of the USSR, more than adequately confirms that you’re right.

      I have been hoping for years that the EU would grow a pair and start striving to become masters of their own destiny instead of obedient sock puppets to the USA. Now some people like Macron finally start spluttering, but I won’t be holding my breath.

      Reply
      1. Nancy Boyd

        Well, as counterbalance, there is still Germany’s dependence on Russia for natural gas.

        I’m sure there are Germans still alive who remember the cold winter of the OPEC embargo, and the freezing out of the Netherlands of any oil supply at all. As much as Americans complain about long lines for gas during that time, that was nothing compared to what the people of the Netherlands (and Japan) endured, singled out to be examples of what OPEC could do. My recollection of that time has both France and Germany really tightening citizen use of oil in order to send what they could to Holland.

        There may also be Berliners still alive who remember the British and Americans having to airlift coal into the city in the winter of 1948.

        As I watch the continued US bellicosity toward Russia and the idiocy of placing our forces in proximity to Russian forces, I keep hoping that Germany will act as some kind of brake, out of its own need for warmth during the winters.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          That should be a lesson in the value of autarky: you need to be able to meet your vital needs within your borders. That applies to US de-industrialization as well as European dependence on foreign energy sources.

          Reply
    3. Craig H.

      I like this part in the politico article:

      “Let’s face it. You have partners in the same geographical area and you don’t have any coordination on strategic decision-making from the United States with NATO partners,” he added, apparently referring to the U.S. pullout from Syria and Turkey’s recent invasion of the same country.

      It’s like a tell that they the expect the reader to be as brain dead as NATO.

      NATO was built when there were 60 armored divisions all gassed up to blitzkrieg through the Fulga Gap. That became obsolete 30 freaking years ago. And yet the swamp thing goes on.

      In the Second Oldest Profession the writer says the people in the defense establishment live in mortal terror that “peace could break out.” Despite the goof title it’s a great book.

      The Second Oldest Profession: Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century by Philip Knightley

      Reply
  2. Wukchumni

    Ram 1500 | Built to Serve Edition Honors U.S. Military Popular Mechanics.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    There’s been quite the push as of late on tv commercials to pitch phone plans to the 1%’ers, along with every other conceivable variant with other commercials in endless fawning over our ‘teams’ that haven’t won anything in so long (am I talking about the Bills?) or even made the war playoffs. Part of this is marketing, most of it is squarely aimed @ we 99%’ers that didn’t enlist, a shaming exercise that stresses patriotic bromides.

    Aside from a series of camo old glory patches festooned throughout the cockpit of the Built To Serve Man vehicle, it seems like your basic Ram truck that will be worth 33% less than sticker price once you drive it off the lot. But then again we’re used to our military losing, so a good fit.

    Reply
    1. cnchal

      > . . . worth 33% less than sticker price once you drive it off the lot.

      Actually it’s worth 33% less than the paid for price before you drive it off the lot. It happens within a nano second after signing the ownership papers.

      Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      The past coupla months there has been an annoying ad on Oz TV for the Ram 1500 where it shows some guy with inadequacy issues dreaming that he is driving one-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSqMjuMiOIU

      But a truck for each branch of the services? I can see it now. The Navy one would work fine so long as you can get the Russian and Chinese spare parts while the Air Force version usually fails to boot up and needs a full team of contractors in your garage to service it. The Marine Corps version can only go forward & never in reverse while the Army version can’t make up its mind what colours it should be painted. Meanwhile the Coast Guard version has rust issues.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        The F-35 variant of the truck would be decked out in the stealthiest color scheme imaginable, but sans muffler. Said chariot of ire could only go over 85 mph in short stints of less than a couple minutes tops, on account of stability issues with the aforementioned hues.

        Reply
        1. Monty

          …and a proprietary “Tactical” rail system where you can only buy the accessories from Rayathon (after their 100,000% margin was added on).

          Reply
  3. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    @ Rabid Gandhi in particular, but other readers, too: Is regime change in Bolivia “on”. A fortnight ago, the Financial Times prefaced an interview with Evo Morales with comments about his increasing authoritarianism and the “resistance”. The BBC World Service echoed that this morning. It made me wonder if we are being prepped. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. RabidGandhi

      Not impossible but highly unlikely. Morales is still enormously popular and his base is used to fending off these temper tantrums from the right. When I was in Santa Cruz (epicentre of the coup-mongering opposition) most of the people I spoke with were still largely supportive of Evo’s MAS party. And while that is just anecdata, bear in mind he out-tallied his opponent 47%-36%: not exactly a photo finish.

      This speaks to the fact that the country is by all measures much better off since 2006. Bolivian socialism has been materially beneficial for both poor and rich alike. In fact, if you compare Bolivia to Venezuela, where intense regime change efforts have thus far failed because of a lack of local support, Bolivia does not have the economic crisis, the brutal media campaign, the institutional deligitimisation, etc. to form fertile ground for the seeds of a coup.

      Nevertheless, the right wing and their media mouthpieces will certainly continue to try to stir things up, so you can expect more BBC silliness, but I can’t really see it going anywhere.

      Reply
      1. JohnnyGL

        Good to see you back in the comments section. It’s been awhile.

        I think you’ve got this right. Also, I wonder how Ecuador will unfold in the next few years. At the moment Correa seemed to triumph, he was undercut by his own successor. Protests seem to have stopped him cold for now.

        Reply
        1. RabidGandhi

          Thanks, Johnny. I would not do a victory dance yet over the Ecuador protests. President Moreno immediately said he would be “reformulating” the IMF-mandated price increases, and the leaders of the indigenous association CONAIE have said that Moreno is violating the deal they made to stop the mobilisation. We’ll have to see how the government polishes the IMF turd, and if the opposition can successfully organise against it again.

          Reply
          1. Oregoncharles

            So they’ll have to actually remove Moreno, perhaps by violence. I thought as much. They’ve proven they can control the capital; they then need a deal with Guayaquil – presumably much less native. Despite some rhetoric, the army appeared to stand aside, probably because the ranks are now predominantly natives, not willing to attack their kin. As in Bolivia, I think.

            It’s a long-running Indian uprising with the balance of power.

            Reply
      2. Judith

        Can you recommend some good sources of news for all that is going on in South America. I do check out telesur…

        Thanks.

        Reply
        1. RabidGandhi

          I wish I could, but I haven’t found much in English that covers South America as a whole. Telesur is a good start, but it’s been very hobbled by having Argentina and Brazil quit the project. Below, Ed posted a link from WSWS, which often has some good stories that don’t get picked up elsewhere. But other than that I tragically have nothing much to add beyond the usual suspects: Bloomberg, Guardian, Al Jazeera…

          Sorry I can’t be more of a help and I hope those more in tune with English could chime in.

          Reply
        2. JohnnyGL

          Youtube seems to have buried Telesur.

          Does anyone know what happened to Tariq Ali on Telesur? He had a nice show going for a few years.

          Reply
        3. Stormcrow

          Try NACLA
          https://nacla.org

          What is NACLA?

          The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1966 that works toward a world in which the nations and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean are free from oppression and injustice, and enjoy a relationship with the United States based on mutual respect, free from economic and political subordination. To that end, our mission is to provide information and analysis on the region, and on its complex and changing relationship with the United States, as tools for education and advocacy – to foster knowledge beyond borders.

          Reply
      3. Carolinian

        Thanks RG.

        In Citizen Kane Kane has two headlines set in type the night of the election. One says “Kane Wins!” and the other says “Fraud at the Polls!” That seems to be the approach of our Western media to any SA election involving a disfavored leftie. But maybe the recent reactionary tide is receding?

        Reply
    1. pjay

      Here are some “interesting” observations accounted for by this research that are noted in the article:

      “The policy has since changed, but for years [UN] diplomats who parked illegally were not required to pay the tickets the police wrote. In their analysis of those tickets, the researchers found that over the course of one year, diplomats from countries with higher levels of “kinship intensity”—the prevalence of clans and very tight families in a society—had many more unpaid parking tickets than those from countries without such history. Diplomats from Sweden and Canada, for example, had no outstanding tickets in the period studied, while unpaid parking tickets per diplomat were about 249 for Kuwait, 141 for Egypt and 126 for Chad. Henrich attributes this phenomenon to the insular mind-set that is characteristic of intense kinship.”

      “The Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies of Western Europe and what the authors call “their cultural descendants in North America and Australia” have long been recognized as outliers among the world’s populations for their independence of thought and other traits, such as a willingness to trust strangers.”

      “Interestingly,” the first author, Jonathan Schultz, is neither historian nor evolutionary biologist but “an assistant professor of economics at George Mason University.”

      I’m relieved to know that the science of Western Superiority is alive and well. I know this research is Scientific, because it was published in Scientific American.

      Reply
      1. russell1200

        Superiority? Or different. Obviously most people prefer their own culture, so I guess there is a point to the statement.

        Kenneth M.Pollack “Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness” makes the same point, more narrowly discussing Arab culture, and with a lot more data. He goes out of his way to make the point that being different isn’t being inferior, but read from a Westerner’s point of view, it’s pretty much hard to not take it as criticism.

        But then you get into that whole “dialog” verses “reality”. You have this story in your head that you want there to be no good or bad cultures. But then the Arabs fight all these wars, and usually loose them very badly, and it can be shown that culture plays a huge part in it. And the author, by way of reinforcing his military theme, shows that arabic business and science cultures also suffer.

        It’s a bit of a mess.

        Reply
        1. pjay

          Yes. “Arabs fight all these wars.” They just won’t follow the rational models for peace we in the West keep giving them. It’s their culture!

          I won’t go into the long history of Arab science — or business for that matter. “Arab wars” is enough to make my point.

          Reply
          1. pjay

            Well, maybe one more point. Pollack’s name sounded familiar. Sure enough, here is his Wikipedia intro:

            “Kenneth Michael Pollack (born 1966) is a former CIA intelligence analyst and expert on Middle East politics and military affairs. He has served on the National Security Council staff and has written several articles and books on international relations. Currently, he is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, “where he works on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, focusing in particular on Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries.[1] Before that he was Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution[2] and a Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group, a global business strategy firm.”

            Reply
          2. Plenue

            Sorry, but the ‘long history or Arab science’ is just that: history. They burned bright and soared high for centuries, before plummeting and never recovering. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad started the decline, but it was Islamic fundamentalist reactionaries that finished it off.

            Reply
            1. Jack Parsons

              Well, there is a strong correlation between a multi-century cold snap and the flowering & withering of Islam as a dynamic society. The Middle East became a lot more habitable for awhile.

              Reply
        1. flora

          Pretty much:

          At no other college is the influence of Koch money more pervasive than at George Mason University. In 2014, two Koch foundations contributed $23.4 million to U.S. Colleges and Universities. The network gave to 216 universities that year, and George Mason University got $16.8 million of the total.

          https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2018/10/the-koch-networks-integrated-strategy-for-social-transformation/

          Like any good businessmen, they expect to get what they pay for.

          Reply
      2. dearieme

        There’s an easy test of the theory. The only non-Western high trust society that springs to mind is the Japanese. Did they also have incest taboos?

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Marrying cousins was the thing among European royal houses,, was it not?

          Tsar Nicholas II was related to the Kaiser and the King of England. They all seemed to be independent enough.

          Reply
      3. Oregoncharles

        ” the science of Western Superiority”
        While that might be a factor in the particular article (I haven’t finished it), it’s a fundamental misunderstanding. The reality, and one of the chief findings of anthropology, is that Western society, and increasingly other societies modeled on it, is radically different from the human norm. That could be framed as “superior,” or as “dangerous”.

        The difference is that Western social organization, political and economic both, is not kin-based, as essentially all human societies previous were. That’s what anthropologists studied. Combined with some big technical discoveries, that proved a very powerful innovation – enough to overrun and remodel the world. By the same token, it’s dangerous because it’s so unnatural as well as powerful. The constant reversion to nepotism (perfectly normal and expected in all previous systems) is one form of vulnerability. The sheer extent of very similar systems – globalization – is another. If something goes wrong, as it always does, we all go down together, no refuges.

        Plus, there are no built-in limits to scale, so it creates social Frankenstein’s monsters like global corporations, that completely outweigh the people in them. As they say around here, what could go wrong?

        Reply
        1. Plenue

          I have a lot of problems with American hyperindividualism, but I’m not a fan of the other kin based approach either. Those systems revolve around this entity called ‘the family’, whose preservation and glorification takes precedence over all else.

          This type of thinking seems to be most codified in the ideas of Confucius, but most cultures have some form of it. These are systems where it’s rational to excomunicate members of the literal, genetic family if they’ve besmirched the ‘honor’ of the notional family. And that’s the least of it. At the most extreme end you have men throwing acid in their daughters faces because the girl somehow harmed the face and reputation of the family.

          Reply
    2. DJG

      New Wafer Army: Sorry, but the hypothesis of the Scientific American article doesn’t even stand up to some quick web searches that I did. First, the Orthodox churches also prohibit cousin marriage, so it is highly unlikely that the question of incest and the definition of first cousins in particular as off limits were limited to the Roman Catholic Church.

      Second, the prohibition of cousin marriages goes all the way back to Roman law, hundreds of years earlier. The article doesn’t even mention the idea of endogamous versus exogamous. In many groups, one always marries outside the clan.

      Evidently, for hundreds of years, the Chinese have limited which cousins one may marry. It appears that cousins on one’s mother’s side were eligible. On the father’s side, less so. This may have to do with Chinese rules of inheritance–because marriage is also a contract for conveyance of property.

      There are several assertions in the article that the Roman Catholic Church was pushing for nuclear families. This is rather dubious: The modern nuclear family was unsustainable till the twentieth century. Throughout Europe, whether the Catholic or Orthodox areas, the extended family and the village were crucial, particularly because of high rates of death among women who had given birth. There are plenty of stories–even in my family–of children being given to relatives to raise after deaths in the immediate family.

      So this analysis is typical of U.S. academic analysis. This WEIRD hypothesis is out there, and we have to quote people from Chicago Booth (Saint Milton Friedman and Saint Gary Becker, pray for us) in its support.

      I am reminded of all of the assertions that the Japanese are not individualistic till, oooppps, one starts reading about all of the amazing popular movements in the Meiji era that helped to shape modern Japan.

      Some academics truly have to get out and do more reading and observing.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        In the years i’ve been on this fair orb, it seemed as if every last taboo was shattered, do whatever it is you want, except for incest.

        Usually on the designs of European coins from around the 1600’s to say WW1 and the end of the age of royalty, it was pretty commonplace to photoshop the countenance of a count, or the kisser on some duchy. Its the one way your citizenry is really going to know you in every transaction, and it is better to look marvelous than be marvelous!

        The ruler of the Habsburg clan @ one point was Leopold I, more commonly know as Leopold the Hogmouth, on account of too much inbreeding going on @ the Holy Roman Empire, giving him quite the chin. They couldn’t photoshop it out, ha.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_I,_Holy_Roman_Emperor#/media/File:Hungary-thaler-leopold-1692.png

        Reply
      2. diptherio

        This. That parking ticket example was a real eye-roller. 1) Assume UN diplomats are representative of the people in their country/culture, 2) Assume that not having unpaid parking tickets is a sign of individualism, 3) Make bold, far-reaching claims about what the number of parking tickets a UN ambassador has says about the culture of the country s/he is representing. And wouldn’t you know it, the lead author is an economist….ofc

        The taboo against cousin marriage might have helped the church grow, adds Jonathan Schulz, an assistant professor of economics at George Mason University and first author of the paper.

        Reply
      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Traditionally, the taboo (if we can call it that…more like something to avoid) was not to marry another person with the same last name, I believe.

        So, for example, Li being very common, it could have been a problem for people with that name…even though they might not have been even remotely related (all humans are related). One reason is that emperors loved to bestow names to those whom they favored. And the Tang imperal family name was Li, and so, some people, including Central Asians were given that ‘proud’ name.

        Reply
  4. Amfortas the hippie

    regarding the made in usa but really made in china:
    20 or so years ago, mom bought a plastic lawn chair at wally whirled, and i ran off with it.
    sitting in the yard with a beer, i’m idly scratching the little made in usa sticker, and it peels off to reveal a made in mexico sticker. Intrigued, i carefully scratch and peel off that one, and underneath is a made in malaysia sticker…and at the very bottom, under them all, is a made in china sticker.
    this serendipitous exercise has informed my politics ever since.
    …………..
    and! a week+ old, but still gets my goat that the best and the brightest…our “betters”…just can’t figure out what’s wrong with all us rural people:
    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/10/23/democrats-regional-inequality-plan-229869

    making sure us bumpkins have broadband ain’t gonna fix it…netflix is an opiate…just a little less lethal.
    the problem, of course, is that we don’t make anything that we use….from food to furniture to….well, anything.
    this is the result of policy….not the Market God.
    and it can’t be remedied without upsetting very large ricebowls(like ADM and Cargill)

    Reply
    1. mega mike

      Looking around me I don’t see any evidence that our culture is building with any consideration of permanence or legacy.
      If we are remembered at all, I fear it will be as object lessons of the folly of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

      Reply
    2. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      My old now long gone industry to outsourcing mainly to China, something that precipitated significantly after 2008 in Ireland at least, doesn’t have that problem as due to friends in high or low places ( depending on your POV ) the products are allowed to proudly display ” Made in Ireland “.

      I was once sitting in a bar in Killarney when a coach load of disgruntled looking US boomers arrived. An old guy sat down opposite to me & looking me straight in the eye & said ” Are you Irish ? ” to which I had to reply that I was a member of ” The Old Enemy “. His response to that was ” Isn’t there any Goddammed Irish in this country ? ” before going on to tell me that they were sick to their teeth of being driven to tourist traps in which all of the staff were Eastern European, including the crummy hotels as he put it & as it happened, the bar we were sitting in.

      After he calmed down a bit & lightened up he told me that their next stop was Blarney Castle & after that Waterford Crystal where they could see the stuff being made. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the next stop would be more of the same & that the very fancy Waterford crystal set up was total charade using a couple of the once thousands of craftsmen to give the impression that any possible rumours that is was all imported from Slovakia was a heinous lie.

      Still someone made a killing when they stripped Tyrone Crystal & all of the others, but in Belfast you do at least still get native staff & according to a cab driver Uber failed in that city because people still possess loyalty.

      Reply
      1. dearieme

        Be careful! There are Irish terrorists who would like to kneecap you for applying the term “native” in an indiscriminate way to the people of Belfast.

        Reply
        1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

          It was meant to suit the majority who could care less, as for terrorists I know my way around & that term would in my experience be more likely to cause offence.

          One thing I have discovered or has been reinforced while living here is that there are many sides to one story & to understand that one needs to put oneself into a variety of different shoes. That is unless the MSM’s simplistic version is the preferred one, which is as black & white a view as the positions of the worst elements of all of those involved in the so called ” Troubles “, including those who share my place of birth.

          Reply
      2. EGrise

        @Eustache de Saint Pierre:

        Pardon me for asking, but in this case when you say ”The Old Enemy“ do you mean to say you are English or French? In other words, ”The Old Enemy“ to whom?

        Reply
      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Tourists travel to see sights.

        It seems more educational for tourists to travel to see fellow humans.

        Also, sights don’t often reflect/connect with the recent diverse ethnic populations. A typical package or even individual travel destinations seen on, say, Rick Steves TV programs, might include cathedrals, for example. That reflects a particular fraction of a country in Europe. An average tourist/travel just doesn’t soak up the whole picture.

        Reply
  5. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves, for the link about billionaires.

    The NC community will be delighted to hear that in dear old Blighty billionaires have their defenders, often on the taxpayer payroll as per https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1198199/Labour-Party-news-Emma-Barnett-Lloyd-Russell-Moyle-communism-billionaire.

    As this is the Labour Party we are talking about and they don’t appear to understand the concept of fighting fire with fire and getting one’s retaliation in first, Craig Murray, amongst others, has to do it for them, as per https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/05/emma-barnett-a-classic-philip-cross-wikipedia-operation/.

    One wonders what historians will make of Corbyn.

    Reply
    1. Monty

      Thanks for the links.

      It makes one wonder if someone, who was captured for posterity on one of her father’s “tapes”, has been acting as a mentor to guide her meteoric rise.

      Reply
  6. Dan

    Re: Single-Payer Advocates Are Being Drawn Into the Wrong Debate

    Single payer goes right after the non-providers (insurance companies), as a consequence
    being able to influence prices.

    Why not just go after regulating prices, as a consequence being able to reduce the influence
    (profitability) of non-providers?

    Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      That would require a legislature that is not bought and paid for. Also, because SOCIALISM… I get so sick and tired of people who should know better, hauling out that old chestnut when we don’t just let them do whatever the hell they want without consequences

      Reply
  7. zagonostra

    >Paul Jay/ Sharmini Peries – Defenestration

    Thanks for posting article, I not only learned the meaning of the word defenestration, I also was enlightened as to why the reporting over at Real News Network seemed to be getting milquetoast-like.

    Years ago I used to faithfully watch/listen to DemocracyNow! with Amy Goodman and then something happened over there that made me stop watching. It was as if all the stories where narrowly confined to the environment, human rights, civil rights, and topics that paralleled what was being broadcast on MSM, important though they are the stories never threaten those in power to alter their depredations. They never broke a story that challenged the underlying structure of power – although to be fair, they occasionally had on Chris Hedges, Cornell West, or Michael Hudson.

    It seems that “Real” news sources are under attack all across the globe along with “algorithms” constraining spectrum of views available on Y-Tube.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      Hopefully, Vlade who lives near where the original and legendary incident happened will pipe up :-).

      Reply
      1. vlade

        A history interlude:

        Defenestrations in Prague marked the start (1419) and the end [sort of] (1483) of the Hussite revolutions (rougly a predecessor of Protestant movement, even if Luther hated the comparison), by throwing out the old out of the window. Literally. As in throwing the old city councilors out of the window, preferably with some sharp instruments (spears/halbers etc.) waiting raised below the said window.

        The third defenestration, 1618, lacked the sharp-instrument part, according to some unverified sources replacing it with less practical, if more funny, dung heap (well, the unsucessfull defenestrators had to somehow explain how the councilors survived 21m (70′) fall. The catholic city councilors claimed angels saved them. Take your pick.)

        It seems that the sucess, or lack of, the initial defenestration, was a good indicator of the sucess of the revolution, as ultimately the Protestant revolution in Habsburg ruled Bohemia failed, leading to 30 Year War. The irony of it is that the war led to recognition of the Protestant realms in Europe, even if Bohemia suffered for it with both Catholic and Protestant armies plundering it right, left and center, and the relative freedom of religion before 1618 was replaced by very nasty recatolisation (think Ireland in reverse).

        Another aside:
        On the good side, it increased the cultural awareness of future Swedish generations, as a number of art items in Stockholm museums come directly from Prague, where they were collected by Rudolf II, who was famous for buying just about anything that looked vaguely interesting. That said, the loot made its way to the Orleans Collection, various European museums and also a few English castles IIRC, so it may be unfair to single the Swedes as the main benecifiaries.

        The last (relatively important) defenestration in Prague was in 1948, when Jan Masaryk, the son of TG Masaryk, founder of Czechoslovakia, and the Foreign Minister at the time (a non-partisan in the communist goverment that just took over in a sort-of-a-coup), was most likely murdered on orders of the Communist Party by being thrown out of his window.

        In line with the history, the communist “revolution” of 1948 suceed, and the regime lasted 40 years.

        TLDR; if you want to start a sucessfull revolution in Prague, start with chucking someone ouf ot the window and make sure it’s done properly.

        Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    “Donald Trump’s Boneheaded Plan to Steal Syrian Oil”

    I never thought about it before but if Trump wants a permanent stationing of US forces in Iraq, this may have killed it. The Iraqis would always be wondering that if something bad happened to it again like the ISIS invasion, whether after it was all over Trump or someone like him would occupy Iraq’s oilfields as ‘payment’.

    Reply
    1. Plenue

      That plan was already dead. When we hastily withdrew from Syria into Iraq, the Iraqi government informed us we had no permission to be on Iraqi territory, and our troops had to speed across to Kurdistan.

      Reply
  9. Summer

    Re:”Why investors should temper optimism over a China trade rally” Financial Times

    “What is more, the central bank’s monetary easing policies do not seem to be passing through into the real economy.”

    China, USA, same all over the world, at the same time, over and over again – like a coordinated attack more than “bad” or “mistaken” or “faulty” economic decisions

    Reply
    1. notabanker

      It’s almost like 68% of USD assets are being held by foreign interests. I guess the other 32% just isn’t enough. So hey, let’s print more!

      Reply
  10. David J.

    Only 2,100 billionaires worldwide? Compared to [fill in the blank] number of people suffering from inequities of various kinds throughout the world?

    The math is pretty easy.

    Tax ’em into oblivion and offer them honest jobs in a grocery store or on a production line.

    Yes, unrealistic, but I’m more than half-serious.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      Did not the last scion of the Chinese imperial family end up as a municipal gardener in Beijing?

      I daresay many of scions of such oligarch families may well come to benefit from appreciate such employment.

      Reply
  11. The Rev Kev

    “Harry Dunn parents say they rejected Trump offer of cheque”

    American life has a lot to admire about it. This shows one bit that is not and Trump is just doing what he thinks he is supposed to be doing. Time and again you will see that a corporation kills a bunch of people but after years of litigation, the family members get a cheque so all is right. It is like a corporation says: “Yeah, we know we built a dodgy car which led to your parents being burnt to death but here kid – we just cut you a cheque so are we cool now?” You see this too in films like that “Erin Brockovich” where PG&E poisons a whole bunch of people and near the end of the film, she delivers a cheque to one of the families poisoned. No, a cheque does not cut it. Heavy prison sentences on the part of guilty people do.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      We’re a litigious bunch but weren’t always that way, and along the route to the ‘new settlements’ lost a lot of things that were commonplace when we were young, and by themselves no big deal, why should a motel/hotel trust their guests with a diving board or a slide on the pool anymore, they could hurt themselves!

      5 of us went tandem paragliding in Queenstown NZ, and the only thing I signed was the credit card slip.

      I have no way of knowing, but i’d guess the waiver form for doing the same thing here with a similar professional operation, would be 3 or 4 pages long.

      But to your bigger point, yes, money absolves all things that ail us or others.

      Reply
      1. Plenue

        “We’re a litigious bunch”

        Actually we aren’t. This is simply a myth. Most Americans don’t sue, in large part because the access to quality legal counsel is so poor. Lawsuits are one of the only recourses to hold corporate power accountable, and it’s a recourse that should be used a lot more than it is.

        Reply
    2. dearieme

      Presumably the Kennedy family used money as well as threats to bring about the acquiescence of the family of the young woman Ted Kennedy killed?

      Reply
    3. inode_buddha

      … and that is the one thing the upper class fears most: those who cannot be bought. That is why they hate Sanders and Corbyn so much. Their money is what gives them so much power, especially in the US. If that money is suddenly worth nothing, or is otherwise unacceptable, then what happens to their power? To their ego? All of a sudden, they would have to be equal to ordinary people, and they can’t bear that. It is the monster from the Id. And that is why people should not accept payoffs, nor should they accept a lack of wrongdoing in court.

      Reply
  12. Amfortas the hippie

    thanks for the Promarket thing on lousy jobs.
    story of my life.
    “do a good job. take pride in your work. go over and above”
    etc.
    turned out to be nonsense, if you had to quit college and work for a living.
    it didn’t matter how good i was in a kitchen…including running the kitchen…25 years, and when i “retired” i was still making around the same as when i started(adjusted for inflation).
    bosses were more interested in “yassir!” than in competence and actually saving them money…and that was all mom and pop’s. corporate kitchens are much worse—cogs in a great machine, keep your head down.
    during the clinton boomtimes(tm) it was better in that i could fire my incompetent boss and walk across the street and get another shitty job at the same pay…but it was still a shitty job, with no security and no advancement(i remember one boss talking about a 25 cent raise like it was a generous boon)
    dignity of work my shiny white a$$.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        The story of my work life too.
        As I age, I more and more appreciate the subtlety of the saying; “Virtue is it’s own reward.”

        Reply
    1. human

      “This thing called employment
      Detracts from my enjoyment
      And tightens my diaphragm.”

      ~ “L’il Abner”, Johnny Mercer

      Reply
    2. inode_buddha

      Did you ever notice how those who argue the “Not all jobs are worth $15” are the same people who have no problems with CxO pay? I generally tell them there isn’t a human being on this planet that is worth a million. They really don’t like hearing that.

      Reply
    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I think there is another aspect to this lousy jobs story. The lucky young with college degrees — probably saddled with college debt as a result — must obtain the ‘right’ degrees. What’s ‘right’ can change now faster than the four or five years+ of schooling to obtain that college degree. They get the better jobs only for a while — until they get dumped and replaced by younger workers paid early career wages, or H1-B workers, or their better job moves to another shore.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        The lucky young with college degrees who aren’t slowly working through them a class or two at a time because they are working full time or more. Then it’s more like a decade from start to finish on a degree. But we prefer the fantasy that all college students CAN go to college full time, that many young adults don’t HAVE to work, because that’s what the fantasy of college looks like in the media or something ..

        Reply
  13. Michael Fiorillo

    Bloomberg was an awful mayor, and I’m surprised to see NC suggest otherwise.

    Public school and hospital closings – St Vincent’s Hospital, serving the Village since the 1840’s, turned into luxury housing – rapid expansion of charter schools, vilification of public school teachers, intensifying stop-and-frisk policies, crushing Occupy, rezoning for the express purpose of aiding developers, all sorts of unreported vendor scams…

    The man is a vicious, crooked bastard, and his entering the race says a lot about who the Democrats are. It also increases the likelihood of you-know-who’s re-election.

    Reply
      1. Trent

        But but but according to DC blogger only republicans gut the public school system. Nothing will change until a majority of us agree that both parties are a cancer.

        Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      First, my comment was not an endorsement, so I don’t see why you are up in arms.

      Second, Bloomberg backed a lot of neoliberal policies but he ran as a Republican, so there was some truth in advertising, and he won in large measure because his opponent Ruth Messenger was clearly not up to the job.

      As for the cuts, need I remind you that when Bloomberg took office when the city was in the midst of a major budget crisis. Whoever took office was going to have to trim the budget and/or jack up taxes.

      Occupy was crushed in a 17-city paramilitary operation. Bloomberg could not possibly have led that. This had to have been coordinated Federally and every city with a decent sized occupation participated. So Obama should bear a lot of blame.

      I agree on charter schools and the attacks on school teachers but also have to point out that tons of very influential locals were pushing that hard, starting with former city councilmember Eva Moskowitz. And the public schools are in trouble in NYC and as an NYC voter I did not see any productive suggestions from the left or the Dems.

      If you are familiar with the writings of Robert Fitch, he has described how the long-term plan for NYC since the 1930s has been to turn Manhattan into a community for wealthy professionals. Sadly what Bloomberg did was pretty normal.

      Reply
  14. Ed

    The only consistently good English language articles on the Brazil crisis have been on the trotskyite World Socialist website. This is the latest one:

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/07/braz-n07.html

    It seems that Bolsonaro was put in place to be a puppet for Brazil’s oligarchs, but it is now a race for both of them to coup each other first. It is too much similar to the 1932-4 dynamic in Germany for comfort.

    Reply
    1. RabidGandhi

      I think your Weimar comparison is chillingly apt. Bolsonaro never was the oligarchs’ man, but they much prefer him to the Workers Party (just as the German oligarchs did not control Hitler but preferred him to the SDP). This can be seen by the fact that Bolsonaro and Globo have been in an open feud since even before the election, but they chilled it out to ensure Haddad would not win. Now they have turned on each other again.

      The article mentions the Marielle Franco murder investigation, where there is highly circumstantial evidence linking Bolsonaro to the alleged killers. Globo published a series suggesting the killers visited Bolosonaro’s house right before the murder, but it was very sloppy reporting: hearsay without confirmed evidence. Now Bolsonaro has blatantly interefered with the investigation, so the net effect has been sadly negative (a feature or a bug?).

      Reply
  15. The Rev Kev

    “Australia bushfires: Record number of emergencies in New South Wales”

    Looks like we are in for a bad fire season this year. It has been in the high nineties the past coupla days and I understand that it is far hotter than normal for this time of year by a wide margin. Here is a local news clip on the bushfires. Our firies are gunna be busy this year-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8mxes61IF8

    Not as bad as the Californian fires – yet. But it is only mid-spring here. And we are getting some bad bushfires up here in Queensland too in addition to what has been seen in New South Wales.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Until a fortnight ago, our wildfire year here in the bottom left hand corner pocket was in a word, uneventful.

      Typically we get our first rain in our May to November romance with none, around now. The 10 day forecast shows more Indian Summer weather and no precip.

      Reply
    2. ChristopherJ

      Yes, Kev, a combination of big fuel loads, a lack of rain and higher than normal temperatures.

      Add in the population boom in rural areas and, sadly, houses are going to burn.

      No, not good at this early time. Going to be a summer we will never forget, imho

      Reply
    3. Jokerstein

      Aussieland was made to burn. Those Port Jackson willows and bluegums are like candles. They grow like weeds after a fire which is why they are taking over in South Africa. The local fynbos is relatively fire resistant, but grows more slowly and loses out to Port Jacksons. So we are not only losing indigenous vegetation, its being replaced by a fire hazard. A few years ago I was living just out of the city and we had a spate of fires. Port Jacksons lay down a carpet of thin, very flammable leaves, so airborne embers create lots of new outbreaks. Just when you think you’ve got everything under control, you’ll see a new column of smoke coming out of the bush. Sometimes the fire would smoulder unseen under the top layer of leaves for hours before flaring up. I”ve raked back the leaves from the edge of a fire to find that it’s crept many metres under the surface.

      Reply
  16. The Rev Kev

    “Hillary Clinton Is Not a Fan of Bernie’s or Warren’s Wealth Taxes”

    This term ‘wealth taxes’ is just a way of shaping the conversation. In previous decades it was normal for wealthy people to have high taxes and up until Reagan got in, 70% was the norm. I think that most people would accept that as normal but if you tell that to the present generation of billionaires, it is like that you are suggesting that they be rounded up and put into Auschwitz camp.

    Reply
        1. ambrit

          Nah. Too forgiving. Mars has water. Give the ’emigres’ some digging tools and let them tunnel down to the permafrost and melt out their own water. That means more slime to give them a better ‘leg up’ on the path to existential “freedom.”
          It is good to see that you have a forgiving spirit. That gives me a greater hope for we remaining Terrans.

          Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Given the state of prisons and the associations with Epstein, a wealth tax is probably the first step to an investigation of the empires, empires that lack any kind of cohesive nation behind them. Besides the Morning Joe crew, a disgraced, former Congressman with a dead mistress and the daughter of a war criminal who spend much of their time stanning for Mark Halperin, who would weep?

      Reply
    2. dearieme

      You are surely being completely wrong-headed here. A “wealth tax” is a tax on wealth – it is quite distinct from having a high tax rate on high incomes.

      Reply
      1. Jack Parsons

        Right! High progressive income taxes discourage corporate executives from looting the companies they run. I suspect that the combination of low progressive tax rates and the rise of investment fund managers who abdicate their responsibilities has fueled the income inequality problem.

        Steve Jobs and Michael Dell both had their boards backdate stock options for them. This should have been criminal fraud, but nothing happened.

        It is the classic Principal/Agent problem: you must structure an Agent’s compensation to match the Principal’s interests, otherwise the Agent will skim. High progressive rates discouraged looting because you could not keep your loot! This was part of a legal framework that tilted power towards owners.

        Reply
    3. Pookah Harvey

      What every one seems to forget is that we already have a wealth tax. We tax the wealth you hold in property. Amazing that our one wealth tax is regressive in that it dis-proportionally falls on the middle class and poor. Our one wealth tax falls on the asset class that is the largest form of wealth for most citizens, but not the rich. Even worse, poor citizens end up paying the wealth tax for owners through rent.
      What percentage of Bill Gates wealth is tied up in his house as compared to an average middle class home owner? Why does all his other wealth go tax free?

      Why is this never questioned?

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        It is never questioned probably because the provision of public services has been tied to this tax at the local level. Back in the Neanderthal days of Dick Nixon, the idea of revenue sharing from the Federal Government, whose solvency was assured by virtue of being the ‘only game in town,’ was gaining traction. The mismatch between the sources of revenue available and the locii of uses to which those funds were dedicated, was obvious and considered a problem to be solved. That policy tide is receding and the mismatch has become acute.
        One way to increase the appeal of a “Wealth Tax” would be to broaden the definition of what ‘wealth’ is. Throw in capital gains, interest income, even when re-invested, a transactions tax on financial products, etc. etc. into the ‘taxable’ mix.
        Incrementalism with teeth is the best we can expect at present. True ‘reform’ will await a massive dislocation for a trigger.

        Reply
      2. LifelongLib

        IIRC Yves has also posted about the problems of the just-barely-wealthy who get their incomes from investments. Many of them are cash poor because of low rates of return. And I recall the struggles of school districts where I grew up who had to finance themselves with special property tax levies, which often got voted down by retirees who’d bought large homes while they were working and were still paying heavy taxes.

        Reply
        1. Pookah Harvey

          This is trickle down taxation. Big tax cuts for the rich means less revenue sharing. Local school districts make up for short falls by asking for increased property taxes. I don’t blame the schools, but when you vote to increase your own taxes to keep a good education system you should understand why.

          Reply
    4. Pat

      I have come to the conclusion that the first stop in a better more progressive tax code is to demand that All income be taxed the same. Eliminate capital gains and merely have earned and investment income with a standard deduction for both, at the same level. Which would make most investment income earned by the plebes in their savings accounts, CDs and money market funds tax free, and give the financial wizards the exact same break. Add both categories together to determine net taxable income and tax it at that rate.

      But the I also want all top Management to be required to have the same retirement options, health care benefit, and severance policy as the majority of their employees, and a requirement that all bonuses greater than one year’s salary or $500000 whichever is smaller to be held in escrow for five years to be returned to the company dependent on the company both continuing to exist and doing well.

      Think of it as an equality boost and a raider deterrent. Both of which our Masters of the universe would have problems complaining about.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        s/ Alas, our Masters of the Universe already have legions of willing minions to complain for them.
        You are calling for, *gasp*, good governance! What are you, some kind of deplorable? /s

        Reply
  17. Pat

    Totally off the wall speculation here, but I do find it interesting that Jeff was offering the audio version of Michelle Obama’s book for free to prime members the other day and then it became a late addition to Oprah’s favorite things. Can’t decide if this is to boost Audible OR to boost Michelle’s sales. I had noticed that if you take marketing into account the book probably didn’t break even.

    Either way this attempted boost is interesting with Barry attempting to assert his relevance in the coming election.

    Reply
  18. anon in so cal

    Impeachment:

    Two good articles from The Saker and Strategic Culture on Vindman:

    “Alexander Vindman – Why Diaspora Ukrainians are Driving Sedition”

    “….The Ukrainian Diaspora openly claims not just the violent legacy of Stepan Bandera but also the mantle and mandate to attack anything they see threatening their power in Ukraine and influence on the US government. LTC Vindman is part of this culture…..

    ….one issue that we as Ukrainian Americans must focus on: Ukraine… The Central and East European Coalition is a coalition of U.S.-based organizations that represent their countries of heritage, a voting group of over 20 million people…A vote for Trump is a vote against Ukraine!…The upcoming presidential election will be the most important election in which Ukrainian Americans will participate. We can make a difference with deeds not words. Anybody but Trump!- Ukrainian Weekly

    This linked series documents how the Diaspora does it and the impact they have. This article shows why Donald Trump won the 2016 election. If the Democrats are successful removing the Electoral College, the actual vote will be determined by 15 cities. Your vote, win or lose, no longer counts if you don’t live in one of them. This is the reason all the Diasporas are strategically located for political impact…..

    …The political makeup of the Russian Diaspora in Brooklyn is much the same as it was when Vindman’s family moved there. The Russian-Ukrainian population is staunchly anti-communist which translated into anti-Putin Russians for many of them. They want to change the face of the Russian Federation….”

    https://thesaker.is/alexander-vindman-why-diaspora-ukrainians-are-driving-sedition/

    https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/11/07/deep-state-on-national-security-council-colonel-vindman-expert-with-agenda/

    (apologies if these were already posted)

    Reply
    1. Lost in OR

      I’m an idiot.
      Disrupting and discrediting the entire Repub/neocon/neolib/deep state world in 2016.
      No new wars. Attempting to withdraw from some inherited.
      Shaking up, at the least, the US oligarch lovefest with China.

      Despicable, though he is, he sometimes fails up.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        “Disrupting and discrediting the entire Repub/neocon/neolib/deep state world in 2016.”

        While back here in reality we get another 50 years of it and absolutely NOTHING CHANGES. It could change in theory I guess (foreign policy is a hard one), but not via Trump that’s for sure. For one thing he’s too polarizing to ever achieve that. He’s not some investigation like the church committee afterall, he’s polarizing, vicious, corrupt etc..

        “Shaking up, at the least, the US oligarch lovefest with China.”

        Who they love now is no better. Gah I don’t necessarily mean Russia, Trump has lots of love for lots of strongmen.

        Reply
      2. notabanker

        His failures are better than Clinton’s would be successes, that is for sure. Neither of them are very good for US citizens though.

        Reply
  19. shinola

    Perhaps already mentioned but the ‘Asia Times’ article “US and China race to weaponize AI” contains a huge whopper. Get this:

    “US artificial intelligence programs will be consistent with capabilities that uphold American values of freedom and democracy and protect fundamental belief in liberty and human rights, Esper said.”

    Yeah, right…

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I couldn’t come up with a quick jibe, but this “US must respond to China AI threat” is clearly intended to pay for a lot of Ivy League college tuitions.

      Reply
  20. Danny

    “Corruption is contagious”

    If corporations can bribe politicians with millions of dollars of “campaign donations”
    to favor corporations and allow then to steal from the little guy, then it’s perfectly ok for the little guy to steal from corporations in any way that they can get away with.

    The Ten Commandments apply to people with souls. Corporations do not have souls.

    Reply
    1. JTee

      Capitalism is also contagious. I used to be an organ donor. It seemed the moral thing to do: help someone else by giving something(s) I no longer needed; make the world a better place. Now, after years of being told there is no free lunch, I began to think that the hospital was making money, the physician was making money, and the recipients too were getting something tangible. If you want my eyes, or my skin, or my organs, I demand to be compensated. It’s not a decision that makes me feel good about myself, but in this day and age, no way, no how. Sorry.

      Reply
  21. Pelham

    Re Warren’s Cabinet musings: Isn’t this a lot more telling than any of her “plans”? I should think you could be quite an enthusiastic capitalist without stooping to put a Bain Capital guy, or the others mentioned, on your team.

    I’m really interested to hear what others think about this. And the Cabinet and advisers question should be put to all the remaining candidates as well. The horribles inflicted on us in the past couple of presidencies should be enough to justify insistent inquiries on this point.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      Yes considering the odds of getting anyone plans through the Senate aren’t that high (as odds are not in favor of flipping the Senate, although I do hope it happens, a lot more Dem energy should be going into it if policy change was the goal). So cabinet members matter a lot more as the Prez can actually do that by themselves.

      Reply
    2. ambrit

      As a side note to that video; did anyone notice the blatant “Patriotism” pandering on display right behind the two on the stage?
      The more I see of Warren, the more I’m discouraged by her formulaic politics.

      Reply
  22. Winston Smith

    I like Sanders but it seems difficult to believe that his health would not become a huge issue were he to win the nomination. I can hear Trump “if you elect Bernie, he’ll croak on the job. His poor heart won’t be able to take the stress”.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      This is an obvious problem. The alternative is a Log Cabin Republican, a guy who likes to play hackey sack, a couple of other septuagenarians, a cop…you get the idea. Sanders age is not a mystery to anyone.

      Of course Trump is 73 years old, and besides generous amounts of McDonalds, this is a man who has stared into an eclipse.

      https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/595d8x/i-lived-like-trump-for-a-day-and-it-almost-killed-me

      Maybe the best bit of reporting in the last decade.

      Reply
      1. inode_buddha

        “Of course Trump is 73 years old, and besides generous amounts of McDonalds, this is a man who has stared into an eclipse.”

        I don’t suppose the eclipse found anything in there, do you?”

        Reply
      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We never know.

        Some person could look healthier all along, and then, a health problem pops up suddenly.

        Then, we have the mystery of one person with all the bad habits seeming healthier than health nuts..sorry, health conscious people. The mystery is often said to be in the genes, in this case. That may explain Trump’s patronizing McDonalds. Who knows.

        Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Having a stent in your late 70s is a not bad ticker, frankly. He didn’t have heart damage and stents are good for 20 years.

      As a reader pointed out, AMLO had a heart attack in his 50s, which means his heart is in way worse shape, yet no one seems worried about that.

      Reply
      1. Jack Parsons

        Cheney had 5 heart attacks!

        The standard kind of heart damage forms slowly, and the body routes around it. A heart attack that would kill you at 50 is an unpleasant diversion at 70, because you have already factored the damage in.

        A note: if you have a family history of major heart attacks after 50, you may have a gene which allows starch consumption to cause heart damage. A friend of mine has such a history, has the mutation that causes this, and is limited to one banana a week as a starch/carb treat. We’ll see how he does.

        Reply
  23. GF

    Former AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race The Hill. Now official.

    Yves, a reason to vote in your new adopted state.

    Reply
  24. Oregoncharles

    “Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he would not allow the procedures used by MPs to seize control of the agenda.”

    So much for parliamentary gov’t and the Mother of Parliaments.

    Why on Earth would Parliament not control its own agenda?

    Reply
  25. Roy G

    Regarding Lula and Brazil, Pepe Escobar highlighted the Borg’s despicable spin in the WSJ. Their headline:

    //

    Brazil’s Supreme Court Deals Setback to Corruption Probes

    //

    We could solve our energy problem if only we could capture the rotations of Orwell spinning in his grave.

    Reply
  26. smoker

    Re: Corruption is contagious

    Oh lord, I’m sorry, but no it is not. Historically, corruption by a person or person(s)/entity with power and money has put billions in a position where if they report it, they end up dead, homeless, etcetera and therefore very many try to be as humane as possible while being employed by the one(s) Corrupt. There are far, far, far more persons not wanting anything to-do with corruption, yet are forced to work or serve under it in order to stay alive.

    Really tired of the trope about how horrid humans are as a whole, in the last two decades, it’s not been proven whatsoever. Just for one, billions save human and other species lives – and otherwise look out for them – every single day, at risk of their own well being and lives. Are their contemptible human beings, most certainly, but they’re still not at all the majority.

    Reply
  27. Jack Parsons

    About the Ken Doll Crotch- I have always thought that the ancient Romans would have felt some kinship to modern imperial America, but… they would have been utterly horrified at the.smooth crotch thing.

    Reply

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