Links 12/31/19

Dear readers, enjoy your New Year’s Eve! –lambert

Rare black rhino born at Michigan zoo on Christmas Eve CBS

US yield curve signals optimism for 2020 FT

Undaunted Grist

Even 50-year-old climate models correctly predicted global warming Science

It’s Not Just You—Wild Swings in Extreme Weather Are Rising Wired (Re Silc).

Good guides gone bad: How Google’s ‘Local Guides’ program fails businesses and consumers Search Engine Land

Uber, Postmates sue to challenge California’s new labor law AP

Brexit

Brexit: the end of the beginning EU Referendum

Strike action, from 5 to 31 December in Paris Paris Official website of the Convention and Visitors Bureau

French unions behind strikes get public funds AP

Board game exposing French wealth gap is an unexpected Christmas hit RFI (Furzy Mouse).

Syraqistan

Iran to conduct naval drills with China and Russia Navy Times

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Prepare to Pull Back Officers From Africa NYT. “The Trump administration, hoping to prevent the United States from becoming entangled in more long wars, wants the military and intelligence forces to scale down their ambitions” (!). Or they’re needed in Latin America?

The Overthrow of Bolivia’s Evo Morales Takes Us Back to Latin America’s ‘Dirty Wars’ Daily Beast

Bolivia declares Mexican, Spanish diplomats persona non grata Xinhua

AP Exclusive: Trump ally may have broken Venezuela sanctions AP

India

India’s Biggest Developer Calls For Unconventional Policies to Fight Growth Woes Bloomberg

Pulling out threads for 500 minutes every day People’s Archive of Rural India

Carlos Ghosn flees Japanese justice system to Lebanon FT

China?

Hong Kong protests fracture families on generational lines Nikkei Asian Review

China’s new economy loses sparkle, as hi-tech and modern industries fail to deliver South China Morning Post

Tsinghua and Leiden researchers find that China is crucial for realising a circular economy University of Leiden

Why Asia weaponized rare earths, soybeans and palm oil in 2019 Nikkei Asian Review

New Cold War

Russia says its hypersonic missile is now in active service Engadget

Putin Weighs Future Options as He Marks 20 Years in Power AP

Trump Transition

Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion NYT

Obama, Trump Tie as Most Admired Man in 2019 Gallup (Re Silc).

Census data projects shift in states’ congressional power Axios

2020

Biden Rebounds, Warren Slows, Sanders Rolls: The Latest on the 2020 Money Race NYT

Joe Biden Says He Would Comply With a Senate Subpoena, Reversing Course MSN (Furzy Mouse).

Hunter Biden fires back after PI claims secret bank records ‘verify’ $156M counterfeiting scheme FOX. A private investigation team attempting to intervene in his child custody case. From Arkansas….

Michael Bloomberg’s massive ad spending greatly affecting TV markets NY Post

Exclusive: Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Exposed Online Despite Official Denials Vice. It’s not the Russians we need to worry about. It’s our own political class.

A low, dishonest decade

A Decade of Market Wins for Hindsight Capital LLC Bloomberg

Trump, Obama and frightening US trends: The decade’s health care winners and losers USA Today

Remembering Y2K call-outs and the joy of the hourly contractor rate The Register

The biggest events of 2019 — in pictures FT

The 12 Most Important and Stunning Quantum Experiments of 2019 Live Science

From opioid deaths to student debt: A view of the 2010s economy in charts Reuters

Health Care

The Problem of Pain MedPage Today

Abandoned By Coal, Swallowed By Opioids? NBER. “We find a positive relationship between the share of coal miners among total local labor force and county-level opioid mortality rates…. The decline in coal mining in the United States may have a positive spillover in the form of reduced mortality from opioid use.” Not if they go to work in an Amazon warehouse.

The Brain Senses Touch beyond the Body Scientific American

A health care system worse than our own?

Our Famously Free Press

Bret Stephens and the Perils of the Tapped-Out Column Politico. Tapped out columnists, and fired copy editors.

UNM Journalism Department rebuked by professional organizations Daily Lobo

Class Warfare

USPS Could Privatize As Early As Next Year Fortune

Behind a U.A.W. Crisis: Lavish Meals and Luxury Villas NYT

Seasons greetings:

William Greider – in memoriam – (1936 – 2019) Tony Wikrent, Real Economics

Antidote du Jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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

292 comments

  1. xkeyscored

    Michael Bloomberg’s massive ad spending greatly affecting TV markets – NY Post
    This sounds important. The entire US electoral thing seems to me, an outsider, like a giant advertising campaign. And if Bloomberg is dominating the advertising market, to the extent of pricing other candidates out, what does that bode for the remains of US democracy?

    Bloomberg is spending so much money on television spots across the country that it’s causing ad rates to soar, a new analysis shows.
    “The typical [TV] market increased their rates by 22 percent as the political spending poured in,” an Advertising Analytics analysis found.
    “Houston was among the markets that responded most actively to the new advertiser,” it added. “This is partially attributable to Bloomberg’s $1 [million] buy increasing the political spending in the market tenfold. This shock spending increase was matched by a 45% increase in rates, which is among the highest of any market.”
    That means the massive spending is driving up advertising costs for Bloomberg’s competitors and other advertisers, an Advertising Analytics’ analysis of the billionaire’s first week of ad spending found.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I would guess his motivation for spending so much money on commercials is less to influence people through his ads (there is plenty of evidence that they don’t work very well), but to influence TV and radio stations to give him softer and more favourable coverage, as he’s a ‘good customer’. They now have a commercial interest in keeping him in the race for as long as possible.

      Reply
      1. Musicismath

        Then again, Bloomberg just promised via Twitter that he’ll turn the East Room of the White House into a giant open plan office, so perhaps he’s not competing for actual votes. Seriously, the illustrative graphic accompanying the tweet has to be seen to be believed.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          I assume Bloomberg is not interested in votes, he’s interested in influence, especially if there is a brokered convention (plus of course he can potentially act as a third party spoiler if Sanders wins).

          Reply
          1. voteforno6

            Third party spoiler, for who?

            I think that Sanders would probably enjoy running against a pretend billionaire and a real one.

            Reply
            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I think people wildly overestimate the level of political discourse among elite circles.

              The Morning Joe discourse Isn’t the by product of elaborate plots but what these people actually discuss. I mean Mark Zuckerberg thought he should be president because he believes he is very good at civ v, not even a Paradox 4x game.

              Reply
              1. WheresOurTeddy

                Paradox games are to Civ V what chess is to checkers.
                CK2 is a triumph, and HOI4 has a strong youtube community 5+ years after release.
                Simulated worlds are quite appealing to the disaffected; for many it is the only place where rules apply to everyone equally and success is actually possible.

                Reply
          2. Biph

            If Bloomberg want’s to be a 3rd party spoiler he needs to be working on getting his name on the ballots of as many States as he can, not running a quixotic campaign for the Dem nomination. That’s why I’m glad to see him wasting his time and money on the Dem nomination, if Bernie gets the nod it will be much more difficult if not impossible for Bloomberg to act as a spoiler handing Trump a 2nd term.

            Reply
            1. Oregoncharles

              Wouldn’t Bloomberg “spoil” Trump more than Bernie? After all, he’s really an “acceptable” Republican.

              Reply
        2. larry

          You are right about the East Room. I wish it were unbelievable. I won’t continue as it would be unprintable, except to say that PK may be right about spoilage.

          Reply
        3. Jen

          The dunking on that tweet is just superb. So hard to choose a favorite reply but this would be close –

          “Do you ever just look at one of your bank accounts and think, “Man. Someone could have really done something useful with all that money.”

          Reply
      2. Bill Smith

        Ads don’t work? But, but the Russians in 2016!

        The ads do increase name recognition. Though while traveling in the midwest this month, given that people told me they are almost nonstop; at some point the name recognition ‘increase’ may become negative.

        Reply
        1. Karla

          Put Bloomberg right down there with
          Rachel from Cardholder’s Service
          ,
          Dave The Ductcleaner
          ,
          The Microsoft Lady
          ,
          MizzzzThankYouForChoosingVisa Robot
          and all the others.

          Reply
    2. voteforno6

      Television advertising is only going to be effective if people are actually watching the ads. And, if there are so many of them, eventually people will tune them out. So, these ad buys have gotten him some attention, but it’s not enough.

      Reply
      1. xkeyscored

        It’s not just TV ads.
        Since announcing his candidacy a month ago, billionaire Bloomberg has booked $119 million in TV ads in markets throughout the country through Dec. 31 and another $15.2 million in digital ads, according to Advertising Analytics.
        And while people might well tune them out as you suggest, if they’re tuning out “Bloomberg Bloomberg Bloomberg”, where will that leave other candidates in those people’s minds?

        Reply
        1. Krystyn Walentka

          I would say the digital ad buy of $15 million is equal to $500 million in TV ad buys in terms of reach and effectiveness.

          Reply
          1. RMO

            Imagine the results he would get if he spent that kind of money on those diabolically clever Russians that made Trump the President! I bet they could manage to make Bloomberg Supreme Omnipotent Overlord of the Universe! /s

            Reply
    3. Ignim Brites

      When Jay Rockefeller was trying to buy the governership of West Virginia, the supporters of his opponent, Arch Moore, urged Arch to “make him spend it all.”

      Reply
      1. wilroncanada

        Yes, Ignim, but if an arrogant sociopath shows that he is wiling to spend it all, he can effectively bankrupt all of his opponents before he runs out of money. And the media are helping him do it faster by raising their rates astronomically for the other candidates.

        It is the same policy the Trump administration is using to take over the “developing countries” without sending soldiers. The US is “Exceptional” in that it is the only country in the world which is virtually self-sufficient in agriculture and most raw materials. It can bankrupt and starve out any country which it wants to. It has already succeeded in much of Latin America.

        As for Bloomberg, his plan, if that is what it is, can work on all other candidates except Sanders. Sanders is the only candidate who does not depend on media attention. Now if only Bloomberg had a few hundred thousand personable robots who could organize rallies, staff local committees, and knock on doors, he might have a chance.

        Reply
    4. cgregory

      Time for vendor-based campaign finance regulation, where the TV station provides to all qualified candidates the same quality air time they provide Bloomberg. He would be very motivated to cut back on his TV ads.

      Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    A health care system worse than our own?

    It quite possibly is. There is a youtube channel I follow occasionally called ADVChina, and that has reported that attacks on medical staff are now considered a commonplace in Chinese hospitals. I don’t really know what is specifically behind it, whether it is distressed families taking out stress on staff or something more insidious, but its certainly a feature of life there in hospitals.

    China’s health system is indeed arguably worse than the US one, in everything but cost. There is a reasonably good basic free system of clinics, although ‘basic’ is the operative word. But the system is riddled with poorly educated staff (you don’t get many Chinese doctors or nurses employed abroad, for a very good reason) and fake drugs/treatments. Its hard to prove, but I’d suspect that there is a lot of manipulation of data to make Chinese health outcomes look better than they are.

    Most Chinese with any money go to Bangkok or Mumbai or Seoul if they need serious hospital treatment (it would still end up being quite cheap compared to getting treated in the US).

    This is one of the lesser stated reasons why so many HKers and Taiwanese are more than a little reluctant to get too close to China. Both have good healthcare systems – the Taiwanese one is a model of high quality and low cost.

    Reply
    1. Karla

      ADV China, That’s a great channel!
      I learned more about China from that than decades of MSM media coverage.
      Their video on Social Credit Scores is enough to make every American outraged and ready to pick up a club at any attempt to implement even a tiny fragment of that in the U.S. Also, the section on contamination, counterfeiting and bad vaccines. One would be crazy to knowingly take drugs made in China, or food grown there.

      Reply
      1. Craig H.

        There is an interview which is mostly a monologue that Alex Jones did with Russell Means where near the end he says whatever your government has done to the Indians it is eventually going to do to all of you.

        Which is good for a warning even if nobody can predict the future. If the Bilderberg planners get their way whatever the Chinese government does to its eventually will be done to all of us. I know a couple of people who have mallets of ammo and this is why they have it although that is hardly what I would call good planning either. (Alex Jones is only crazy 95% of the time; he is at least as functional as Kamala Harris.)

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          Occasionally i’d watch Alex Jones in the hope that he’d spontaneously combust on air, and then I gave up, figuring somebody would catch it and I could see it on youtube, when it eventually happened.

          Reply
  3. timbers

    Uber, Postmates sue to challenge California’s new labor law AP

    I have a problem with this the Democrat’s response and/or the reporting of the response:

    The lawsuit contends that the law exempts some industries but includes ride-share and delivery companies without a rational basis for distinguishing between them. It alleges that the law also infringes on workers’ rights to choose how they make a living and could void their existing contracts.

    Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego countered that she wrote the law to extend employee rights to more than a million California workers who lack benefits, including a minimum wage, mileage reimbursements, paid sick leave, medical coverage and disability pay for on-the-job injuries.

    This response does not address Uber’s contention that the law is unequal application of the law becomes it exempts others from it’s application. It seems to me this is a serious threat to the law. Yet this point is being ignored.

    I think Uber should have to do what the law tries to make it do. But the article doesn’t address what it says is the main complaint of Uber.

    Reply
    1. Briny

      This is obviously going to the Supreme Court here in CA. Apparently there is exists a sound challenge under the state constitution for unequal treatment and that’s before we get to the federal level. I can understand the reasoning for the law, whether it survives our corporatist judiciary is another question.

      Reply
    2. Yves Smith

      This is just silly. There are carveouts from laws all the time. Start with pervasive exemptions for small businesses, including from the IRS. Including of labor laws. If have fewer than 3 employees for some rules, and 50 for others, there are all sorts of things you don’t have to do.

      Uber is just trying to delay the inevitable. It fought an analogous legal determination in London and appealed even though everyone who was dimly qualified said they had very low odds of prevailing. And they lost.

      Reply
    1. pjay

      Yes. And Wikrent’s tribute is excellent, with many great links to his work. A *true* populist in the best sense of the word. How we need journalists like Greider today!

      Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      the references to Office Space in the comments are great.

      my brother works in a place like that….some giant tech company(i’ve never set foot in an office space)…and the soul shrinking function of such places are evident in his moral and cognitive decline over the years.
      he’s always been rather nervous…but damn….to be literally looking over one’s shoulder and literally Vibrating(!) while under the big oak in the wilderness, with not a human generated sound for miles and miles…
      i have to hide his phone for the weed to have any positive effect.
      the Open Plan, coupled with working with Shark People, is bad for you.

      Reply
    2. kiwi

      Thanks for this information.

      I think the dems (and I’m sure, repubs) and people like Yovanovitch and the non-whistle whistlblower are knee deep in Ukraine corruption. What else explains the extreme obsession with Trump and the extreme desperation to get rid of him?

      Reply
  4. PlutoniumKun

    Brexit: the end of the beginning EU Referendum

    North, unfortunately, doesn’t understand how politicians like Phil Hogan operate.

    This is a man who is not on top of his brief, a status he more or less goes on to affirm when he tells us that, “As things stand the UK wants to leave the single market and customs union. This move still baffles me because the full consequences of that decision are still not understood in the UK. Why trade a Rolls Royce for a second-hand saloon?”

    If this is a serious comment then we are in for a torrid time in the months and years to come, as we will have the two parties taking past each other without ever engaging. This is more so when Hogan states that “preserving the integrity of the single market remained the top priority for the EU”. This, he says, is not just the view of the European Commission but of the 27 remaining member states.

    Hogan is a very smart and experienced politician – he made his reputation in Ireland as a ruthless backroom dealer who flattened more ambitious pols but less experienced who made the mistake of going against him. He is not misunderstanding the situation. He is saying that negotiations like this are a grind, and the UK is going to get ground down by a juggernaut. Johnsons only chance of avoiding this is to avoid any kind of agreement, and he will have to accept the economic consequences of that choice.

    Hogan is making it clear that the EU is in charge and will not take the blame if Johnson thinks he has a short cut out by not cutting a deal.

    Reply
    1. makedonamend

      Yeah, it still befuddles some opionion writers/makers these days that a politician like Hogan currently operates in 2020. I’d liken Hogan to federal US politicians that existed in 1960s & 70s in the USA. He has a thoroughly “ruthless” streak which is directed towards achieving a goal. Plus he has the ability to bang heads together to achieve compromises* in order to get that goal enacted into legislation. He operates in ways Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Tip O’Neill would have understood.

      If North’s outlook is reflected by the current UK government then I don’t expect much in the way of progress any time soon. That outlook was pursued by May’s government and her inept negotiatiors to no achievable end.

      However, the UK has a new government with a mandate that might allow them to employ more seasoned negotiators who understand the relative positional strenghts of the negotiating parties. In this scenario, we then enter into a long term strategm situation that will play out over years and decades. (Keeping your enemies closer, etc., etc., etc.)

      Of course it should be pointed out also that Commissioner Hogan is not involved in front line negotiations as commissioner for Trade. The seasoned Barnier and his team have that portfolio. Rather, Comm. Hogan (along with many other varied personalities) will influence the outcome and the strategic objectives as they emerge. This is a long term project from the EU stand point.

      *(Compromises not derived by a linear “either-or” dichotomy but ones that Emerge to satisfy different parties sufficiently to deliver to their respective constitutencies. They are compromised results that wouldn’t have been satisfactory given previous stated positions. Solutions that, sort of, lie off the linear – not sufficient nor insufficient but often seemed improbable beforehand.)

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Its possible the Tories have learned their lesson and will put seasoned negotiators in charge, but the media suggestions are that Johnson is taking personal charge. Well, that should work out well. I also suspect that they might struggle to find high grade people willing to take on the task. The Civil Service has been gutted of good people and others might be unwilling to put themselves in the position of Michael Collins with Johnson around to do a Dev.

        Reply
        1. makedonamend

          Yeah PK, (without spilling too much ink) it is to be hoped that the UK reverts to their older and established methods of negotiation, but then again current libereltarian ideology seems to mitigate against employing national resources for the common, long-term good these days – and that certainly doesn’t just apply to the UK. There are many sectorial intestests of various of wealthy cohorts that influence governments across the globe for their own short term interests, making negotiations more difficult imo. Will this mean that a government for the rich and by the rich in the UK will pursue such an agenda? No idea. (Plus there will be intersections between some business sector and general population/voter issues. There always are.)

          Of course, Comm. Hogan is not involved in these negotiations. Negotiations with the UK is the job of Barnier and his established team. Hogan is trade commissioner which ensures that the interests of the EU (and not any individual country) are protected, and hopefully also ensures advantageous trading relationships are established with third countries outside of the EU.

          While North tries to make much of Comm. Hogan’s musings, that is all they are – musings on a typically poor news week (bar the horrific fires in Australia).

          North does make one very pertinent point in that he states that the UK was never leaving a relationship with the EU, but rather establishing a new one. Such a viewpoint would suggest that negotiations will occur and not just on trade isssues, but also on issues of services, issues of security, and many other non-tangible issues.

          The EU has been preparing for these negotiations seriously for the last couple of years just in case we came to this juncture, as we have. Comm. Hogan, while being new to this particular portfolio, I’m sure is up to date with the various issues of national governments within the EU, but also about issues that affect the entire common market-trading area. He was successful in the Agricultural portfolio but I think this portfolio is right up his street and plays to his strengths.

          Reply
      2. Clive

        The UK is set upon a high-divergence Brexit. There is simply nothing to negotiate.

        The costs are easily calculable — there are 10,000+ row spreadsheets downloadable from the WTO (along with pivot table tools) and complete data sets available from the UK Government and Eurostat. It’s merely a case of having enough time and a small team to run the numbers.

        Many already have e.g http://www.civitas.org.uk/reports_articles/potential-post-brexit-tariff-costs-for-eu-uk-trade/

        It’s all there in black and white. Costs, sectors and key vulnerabilities.

        I read the other day on one of the many Twitter spats a repetition of the language inflation which spoils pretty much any reasoned debate of this topic, that no FTA would “crash the UK economy”. With such nonsense as the starting point, it’s impossible to have a sensible discussion. A £6bn total cost to exporters will “crash the UK economy”? Give me a break. This is the same amount which was due to be gifted out to business in the previously proposed bit of additional corporate welfare which was due by way of the cut in corporation tax — which Johnson, wisely, canned. There wasn’t strangely enough, any such talk that the additional costs to business in having to continue to pay the current rate of corporation tax would “crash the UK economy”. Nor should there have been. It’s baloney.

        Now, there will most definitely be some winners and some very bad sectoral losers. I’ll illustrate by way of an example I know all the details of for various reasons.

        In the medium sized town where I used to live up until about 10 years ago, there was a processed meat production facility, operated by a well-known UK food group. It produced an assortment of food (well, food-like products) — sausages, pork pies, pasties, that sort of thing. The town was in the “M4 corridor” for those who know of such localities and had what was tantamount to full employment. The production facility was virtually dilapidated — it has been hollowed out by profit extraction over decades and needed new investment to improve productivity and operating efficiency. Instead, the plant owner tried to squeeze labour. It, thusly, found it hard to keep up with labour turnover.

        It solved the labour shortage problem by assisting hundreds of migrant workers from eastern Europe (the town for a while became colloquially known by the townspeople as “little Poland”).

        This kept everything in balance for a little while.

        But then the management started a project which, as is the way of such things, got a life of its own. It investigated the feasibility of shuttering the UK plant and relocating to Poland. Why, went the logic, spend all that effort bringing the labour to the UK, when it can simply move production to eastern Europe? It even got some sweetheart deal with the country it moved to, to assist with setting up the new facility there. What was there not to like?

        The little gremlin was that, for this range of foodstuffs, while purchasers are fully aware they’re hardly eating the most nutritious and healthy fare they can put in their mouths, they kind-of convince themselves that, if on the packaging it says “Made with British Pork”, that’s not quite so bad. I won’t, here, get embroiled in the consumer psychology of all this, I will merely relay it as a fact of that particular market. I can’t help but quip that it reminds me of the old joke’s punchline “It may be rubbish, but it’s British rubbish!” — I think the same philosophy operates in the minds of your average pork pie consumer. East European meat has a very poor reputation in the EU anyway, so even if the UK buyer could be reeducated over time, the producer was playing constant Russian Roulette with its brand equity if it tried to make a switch from UK meat to locally-sourced meat. One more adulteration scandal and that would be curtains for it.

        In order to keep the UK market supplied with what it insisted on, the manufacturer had to, then, export the pork meat to the factory in eastern Europe. It then manufactured the food products and send them back — able to, legally, bear the label “Made with British Pork”.

        The business case for the factory relocation was okay-ish, but not that great. Still, what was done was done. With the continuance of the UK being a Member State in the EU, it all worked, anyhow, so it simply became the new normal for this particular player in the UK food industry.

        Return, dear reader, your gazes back to that article I linked to above and look at the tariff rates on agriculture and food products.

        This unfortunate food producer is now staring death in the face. It will have no realistic possibility of upholding its value chain on January 1st 2021 in the event of no FTA. There are several remaining UK -based suppliers who will simply absorb the demand (UK processed foods is very competitive and there is no shortage of capacity — Tulip foods, for example, retains a mixed model for manufacturing, concentrating on some modern UK sites and supplies a lot of supermarket “own brands”). Even if it tries to re-shore, the manufacturer in this little tale will need to write off a lot of the investment in eastern Europe because it is fairly new. Most likely, it will simply disappear and sell the rights to its brand to a competitor.

        This is just one example. There’s be thousands of others, some, like this one, with an unhappy ending for the company concerned, some will benefit EU-located businesses and some will be merely zero sum gains.

        The Members States can undertake the same sensitivity analysis on a large scale that I’ve just done here (the principles, as I’ve illustrated, are simple enough, you merely need a spreadsheet with your exporters and importers listed, order it by value and work out the, say, top 100 companies to find the material impacts). A fair few of them are seeming doing this now. They appear, from my early reading of the runes, to have figured out that the UK isn’t about to suddenly convert to a close-alignment FTA and are starting to clear their throats to murmur where they’d like to see zero tariffs and least possible agro imposed by way of non-tariff barriers.

        It would be very unfair on Hogan to say he’s not read the memo (or memos) from the Member States, because they’ve not really started writing them yet. But he does, inexplicably, seem completely oblivious to the possibility that he might start to get such memos.

        Reply
        1. Ignacio

          Food commerce and processing is quite complicated. Some consumptiom patterns will change I guess, driven by tariffs. The UK is one of the main poultry producers in the EU but yet, because chicken breasts are preferentially consumed in the UK there is a lot of exchange with other EU producers. Breasts imported into the UK and other poultry parts exported to the EU. Poultry processors, for better or for worse, will certainly have to adapt to a WTO environment. How will this manifest in supermarkets and groceries is well above my pay grade but it will, for better or for worse.

          One interesting thing IMO is that we will see if the dismantling/replacement of a few (or many) value chains has a big, or not that big, impact.

          Reply
        2. eg

          Thanks for the detailed explanation of that particular example, Clive — very useful.

          I hope that the old factory’s former employees were able to find other work. As for the management, it sounds like their failure couldn’t happen to nicer people, really. I hope they have to wear it.

          Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      The optimism depends on a faith not only in these yield curves as predictors, but also in the inherent value and desirability of growth.

      Reply
  5. Keith in Modesto

    I read the piece in Fortune “USPS Could Privatize As Early As Next Year” a few days ago and have been wondering how serious the push to privatize is right now? As in, is it really imminent? A sizeable contingent of the Establishment has been trying to privatize the Postal Service for decades. I’m hoping they continue to fail, but they never give up.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      If that can be done so swiftly, tell me again why a national health service is “too big to happen” change?

      Of course, most ratchets only turn in one direction.

      Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      When looking over everything my Congressman Kevin McCarthy has accomplished in terms of legislation he introduced and was passed into law in his dozen years in office, I found that he has renamed 3 post offices in Bakersfield, and frankly that’s about it.

      I’d like to claim that it was just him, but everybody in Congress does the same thing, this renaming of post offices.

      If you privatized the USPS, that might take away the one thing both sides of the political spectrum can agree on, as each quite willingly crosses wide swaths of yin & yang to get ‘r done.

      Here is the latest renaming that McCarthy co-sponsored along with 51 other Congressmen, on behalf of Rep Linda Sanchez, who is about 180 degrees away from anything McCarthy stands for.

      https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3144?s=1&r=7

      Reply
    3. Darius

      This one really hurts. I don’t know the legal state of play, but Trump is taking advantage of all kinds of situations Obama so helpfully teed up for him to deepen corruption. At the USPS, Trump is building on the work begun by Obama’s corporate appointees to the postal board. With the foxes guarding the henhouse, it’s amazing this didn’t happen years ago. Just another Obama failure, like privatizing Social Security, that Trump is exploiting.

      Reply
      1. jsn

        With all MSM eyes on the impeachment, The Insane Clown President appears to be going all Crazy Eddie Going Out Of Business Sale on us.

        In the run up to impeachment they overthrew Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia while sniping at Venezuela and running the PermaWar in Asia/ME. During impeachment itself they’ll bring the game home: expect to see the Post Office and Social Security privatized along with giving everything else away to billionaires.

        The only voice who’ll oppose any of this is Sanders and he’s already blacked out! I think they worked out the bugs on this kind of thing when Yeltsin shelled the White House, this time they’ll pawn off the whole empire in plain view without firing a shot.

        Reply
        1. Pym of Nantucket

          There is a learning moment here that most people will miss. The antics of impeachment etc. seem too convenient a distraction to be a coincidence. Glen Ford nailed it in Black Agenda Report on his Dec 12. Not unlike RATM’s endorsement of Nader in 2000. Telling yourself one party is less of a corporate tool in the false dichotomy is simply a barrier to seeing the nature of the problem.

          Reply
    4. Carla

      My daughter lives in a very small town in the middle of cornfields and orchards where the USPS has been trying to close their post office for years. It’s a tiny one-room affair that’s only open a few hours a day, but it’s the center of the community — the only community gathering place they have, and somehow the little hamlet has managed to stave off the closure. Two days ago, the building burned to the ground, and my daughter told me with sorrow, “Well, that’s it. We’ll have to put a mailbox in front of the house now.” We agreed that the tiny town will have to find another way to gather…very sad.

      Reply
      1. Jokerstein

        Two days ago, the building burned to the ground, and my daughter told me with sorrow,

        In the UK they call that “going on fire”.

        Reply
      2. HotFlash

        Not just a gathering place. Here in Canada (sorry about that) the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has endorsed LEAP, which is our version of Green New Deal, and suggested ways they could help. Note”: this is coming from the employees union, most emphatically *not* the govt or upper management.

        The scope is breath-taking at first, but on reflection, so sensible as to be inevitable. Fun fact: there are more Cdn Post Offices in Canada than there are Tim Hortons.

        I am re-reading the article I linked to above, and re-viewing the video, and they enhearten me enough to where I can say with conviction, “Happy New Year to all!”

        Reply
    5. Darius

      The big thing to remember is that Congress during the Bush years required The USPS to predund retiree healthcare for 50 years, a ridiculous fatal burden no one else faces. Not surprisingly, the Democrats didn’t fix this when they had a chance. They’re in on the theft too. It’s a tribute to the USPS that it has lasted this long.

      Reply
      1. katiebird

        This was one of the several things that did not get fixed in Obama’s first two years that forced me to decide that I am not really a Democrat anymore. Of course, I am not a Republican either. But I just didn’t feel like a real part of the Democrat’s team any longer.

        Reply
          1. chuckster

            He’s one of the “most admired men” in America – which says a hell of a lot more about Americans than we need to know.

            Reply
      2. Grant

        The post office could be helped with some moderate fixes, like not requiring it to pay for retiree healthcare decades into the future. But, it we could also see a return to postal banking in the US, which was successful and which was shut down in the 60’s because of lobbying by right wing banking interests. A good chunk of the population lacks access to basic banking services, and as a result, that population spends a lot of their money on just accessing money that they earned, and sometimes needing a small advancement when times are tough (which they often are in modern America for working people). The post office returning to basic banking could help it, communities and the workers in the postal service. But, then again, at this point in time what does capitalism really offer society?

        The postal service delivers to parts of the country (at a loss) that private interests would likely not deliver to. Privatizing it would not only fragment the service, and it would not only likely result in lots of layoffs, but would it also not likely result in rural areas being particularly harmed? I would think that many Republicans would be opposed to the privatization for that reason, among others. But, who knows. Has the EU not forced postal privatization on the countries in the EU? From what I have read, it has generally not made postal delivery better and cheaper.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          “The postal service delivers to parts of the country (at a loss) that private interests would likely not deliver to”

          …and then fedex, et alia can jack up their rates for way out here, and there’ll be no public alternative to counter them(or “discipline” them, in neolib terms,lol)

          long time ago, on LATOC(a peak oil board of some repute where i cut my intertube teeth), a fella prophesied that the Coming Collapse would be glacially slow, and would end up with the vast majority of people in the cities(“fedzones” in his terminology), connected by rail, etc corridors, with just enough food and medicine, etc…and the rest of us would be abandoned to the winds…unless they needed slaves,or timber or something.
          I’ve got it printed out somewhere in my Library…pretty detailed and chilling…and right on the money, so far.
          first time i saw the phrase “sacrifice zone” applied to where i live.
          i think about that series of posts a lot these days.
          the only new civilisation-ish stuff i’ve noticed out my way is the fiber optic broadband slowly creeping towards us(after rushing past us to somewhere else for years,lol)…and the big windfarms, that also power somewhere else.

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            How fragile is the link between the wind farm and Somewhere Else? Pipelines, transmission lines, fiber optic, even microwave links are not “defensible positions.” “Who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.”

            Reply
        2. HotFlash

          Sorry, I can’t provide a source, but I have read that Amazon and the private co’s are looking to buy the *profitable* routes. As was the pattern when railroads were nationalized and then re-privatized. The unsold money-losing bits would still be USPS and of course they (which is to say,we) would get to pick up the slack at a loss, or else the non-profitable areas would have no mail delivery. Maybe you could pick it up at Walmart? You know, like insurance co’s taking only the young-and-healthy pool and leaving govt healthcare to take us old guys, prexistings, and other ‘losers’.

          And about layoffs. Well, maybe a few folks ™ would be laid off — but hey, those folks ™ would be able to empower themselves by delivering mail and packages as self-employed contractors, just like Uber! They could even do Lyft, Post, Uber, and Foodora *all at the same time*! Talk about raising productivity! They could be *THOUSANDAIRES*!!!

          Reply
          1. Oregoncharles

            What a good idea! Unfortunately, I gather junk mail is supporting the whole structure, so probably they dare not mess with the golden goose.

            Reply
          2. cnchal

            Rates are getting jacked, for the tiniest pinpricks of capitalism selectively chosen for their vulnerability.

            Dim weight, the great shipping scam where a large package that doesn’t weigh much is rated by volume (the formula is – (length X width X height in inches) / 166 = number of pounds) that FedEx and UPS are using, was easily avoided by shipping with USPS.

            USPS has fully joined the scam, and rates have increased by a factor of three to four. For example, a product I make that cost just below $20 to ship to California, for example, will be charged at $75 come Jan 26th 2020 a 380% rate increase. It is extortion, pure and simple. The reality is they will get zero, I will get zero and my potential customer will get zero, as the operative theme is no deal, at that price.

            Here are examples of government intent mixed with cruelty, curtesy of the biggest brains in government.

            These excerpts are from United States Postal Service:
            A Sustainable Path Forward
            . This report is the result of Executive Order 13829 issued by President Trump, and established the “Task Force on the United States Postal System . . . and is signed by the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven T Mnuchin.

            See where this is going? On to some choice excerpts.

            Page 10

            Retiree Health Benefits

            Congress requires the USPS to fund the retiree health benefits of its employees as part of a mandate for postal self-sustainability. The Task Force does not believe that this general policy should change or that the liability for USPS retiree health benefits should be shifted to the taxpayers. The Task Force believes that this obligation, including the $43 billion in prefunding payments that the USPS failed to pay into the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund and the unfunded actuarial liability for retiree health benefits, must be restructured with the payments re-amortized with a new actuarial calculation based on the population of employees at or near retirement age.

            New Revenue Streams

            The USPS should explore new business opportunities that will allow it to extract value from its existing assets and business lines. For example, the USPS should explore licensing access to the mailbox and providing additional government services, such as licenses for hunting and fishing. The USPS could also capture additional value from its existing retail offices by converting post offices into contract post offices or by co-locating with or renting space to complementary retail establishments. However, given the USPS’s narrow expertise and capital limitations, USPS should not pursue expanding into new sectors, such as postal banking, where the USPS does not have a demonstrated competency or comparative advantage, or where balance sheet risk would be added.

            There you have it. Elite thinking on display with the prime objective being extract value, spelled out in black and white. USPS is an entity to loot by and for the .001 %

            Page 53

            Customer Expectations

            Customers increasingly expect faster and more frequent e-commerce delivery. In the early 2000s, a customer’s expectations for free delivery from a retailer typically meant receiving a package in 7-10 days. Today, many major retailers offer free two-day delivery for a range of purchases. Warehouses and fulfillment centers have been decentralized and located closer to local markets, and companies are increasingly expanding weekend delivery services, package tracking, and route optimization in order to better fulfill customer demand.

            However, there are limits to how much consumers are willing to pay for delivery. In general, e-commerce consumers remain highly sensitive to delivery costs. Roughly 70 percent of consumers choose their delivery option and location (e.g., to a package locker) based on price, or choose the cheapest option for home delivery, as opposed to choosing based on speed of service. This often means 2-5-day delivery. Consumers also prefer home delivery over delivery to parcel lockers or other central locations.

            Page 59

            The Task Force recommends that the USPS be required to provide full price transparency for all package services in order to reduce market distortion. The Task Force further recommends that the USPS and the PRC develop a new cost allocation model with fully distributed costs to all products, services, and activities.

            The USPS should retain the package business but establish a separate balance sheet for packages to help prevent cross-subsidization between the mail and package business units.

            Separating and spinning off a package business from the USPS may be difficult to accomplish, given the USPS’s unified labor and physical resources. Property and equipment account for 54 percent of the USPS’s assets, which are often shared between mail and package functions.166 Given the current structure and capacity constraints of the package market, the Task Force recommends continuing a government-supported package delivery service (at least in the short-term) to ensure that small and medium e-commerce vendors can exist alongside large e-commerce vendors.

            Alrighty then. A 300 to 400% rate increase for me and zero for thee (thee being scAmazon) should set things right.

            The playing field is flat and vertical, with Amazon’s gaping jaw at the bottom swallowing or destroying everyone that can’t hang on to the top edge by their fingernails, while UPS and FedEx rub their hands with glee at the USPS refugees flooding into their systems, with USPS prices well above what UPS and FedEx charge, which will lead to rapid price increases by UPS and FedEx to close that price gap, which they will stay below by a few pennies to “earn” the business. Rigged all the way.

            Dim weight is a scam because there is no correlation between the volume of a package, and where the expenses occur within the shipping system. The correlation is mass. I could “add value” to my package by including a 25 pound bag of cat litter, and the cat litter would ship at no additional expense.

            Heavier pieces cause more wear and tear on the employees, trucks, automated conveyors, and the roads these trucks travel on. Now that they all do it, it is collusion and price fixing, which is a criminal activity. However, just like the banksters, when the biggs do it, whether in shipping, health mis-care, pharma or big law and big accounting, it isn’t.

            For peasants that steal $9, it can be decades in prison.

            For bigs that steal trillions it is lifesyles of the super rich, floating on a sea of looted money, admired for their cunning extraction of value.

            Looting, errr privatization is happening, rural customers will not be able to buy products and have them delivered at reasonable cost fairly soon after the looting and postal employees will be told to join those already in hell.

            Happy new year to all the peasants.

            Reply
        3. makedonamend

          No the EU didn’t “force” EU member states to privitize their individual Postal Services. EU directives only relate to issues that provide a level playing field for all European wide services. To give an example in another industry – mobile phone services – a directive was negotiated between all member states and enacted in their Local legislative assemblies that harmonised roaming charges between most countries. This lowered the costs of using your mobile for all Europeans when visiting other EU countries, and is now taken for granted by EU citizens.

          I do know that the UK partially privitised their own Postal Service. The UK did this unilaterally and without giving any notice to any EU institution, as was their sovereign right.

          The idea of anti-competitive directives and measures or, if you like, the desire to create a harmonised trading area in the EU has often been erroneously used by anti-EU people to try and suggest that the EU has more power than it does, or is nvolved in some nefarious agenda. The growth of Big corporations (some with near monopoly power) coupled with local legislation eroding regulation and encouraging rent seeking is a far more efficient means of ensnaring local populations in a market based economy skewed against individual liberty. That such things happen in EU countries does not elide into the EU as an entity itself.

          Reply
          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, exactly – its not uncommon for politicians to say they have to privatise postal services because of EU directives, but this isn’t the case. What the Directives have done is increased ‘competition’, which has allowed private operators to compete on the most lucrative parts of their services, with generally poor results for the customer. I don’t know the details, but so far as I’m aware the privatisation of the Dutch postal service was widely acknowledged to be a disaster, resulting in such bad service that it actually damaged the economy.

            The question people never seem to ask with these services, is how come they became public services in the first place in almost every advanced nation? The correct answer is because they are vital to the economy and private companies proved incapable of providing a good service. This applies as much to waste collection as postal services.

            Reply
      1. Eureka Springs

        Probably not the best place to picket. Wherever the rich who decide these things are is where picketing could have a chance of making a difference, imo.
        I can’t remember how many years it’s been since I walked into a post office. Certainly less than five times in this century. That said I remember a recent news story on fed ex experiencing slow business, so I wonder if this is a reason for yet another privatization push now?

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          When I go to the counter of my post office, the very first thing the clerk asks if whether i’d like to buy some stamps*, and occasionally i’ll accede and ask whats up for offer, and it might be a famous Mexican-American i’ve never heard of, or military working dogs or what have you.

          USPS realizes it’s pretty much similar to gift certificates, as in money coming in, for something that might be redeemed down the road a piece.

          * virtually every U.S. stamp issued since the early 1930’s in brand new mint condition is worth just the face value, to collectors, and can still be used as postage, although it’s a bit awkward to place 19x 3 Cent stamps on a letter, ha!

          Reply
        2. Oregoncharles

          I was there just today, mailing a check that had to be postmarked this year. On the way to my car, encountered a shopkeeper with a fistfull of envelopes, obviously doing the very same thing – as she confirmed when I guessed out loud.

          Reply
      2. Eclair

        Let’s change the framing on what’s happening here. ‘Privatization’ gives a certain cachet to the process: ‘profit making,’ ‘rent extraction,’ or ‘profiteering’ tells us what is really going on.

        Reply
        1. Off The Street

          Imagine the fun, new names to enter the pantheon after Blackwater. One should riff on -rock themes to memorialize the role of Her Steininess, DiFiChiSpy, in the paleo USPS disruptions.

          Maybe a mascot, too. The steinbuck?

          Reply
      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        If millions of people who currently pay their bills by some kind of direct electronic transfer system were to go back to paying all bills by check sent by mail, that would send more money to and through the USPS.

        Reply
    6. Jeff W

      Matt Bruenig summarizes what happened in Finland last month in response to the prospect of 700 postal workers receiving a 30% pay cut:

      As we learned a couple of weeks ago, unionized Finns are not mere paper members either. In November, as a response to 700 postal workers receiving a pay cut, as many as 60,000 workers (in a nation of 2.2 million workers) went out on strike in solidarity, shutting down ports, railroads, buses, and airlines. The pay cuts were cancelled and the prime minister resigned after misleading the public about the matter.

      [links in original]

      In Defence of Marxism detailed the sympathy strike action:

      Several other trade unions swiftly took sympathy strike action in favour of the postal workers. On 25 November, the Flight Industry Workers’ Union (IAU) performed a 24-hour sympathy strike that forced the carrier Finnair to cancel 300 flights. Strike action by the Transport Workers’ Union (AKT) brought two thirds of the regional bus traffic in Helsinki to a halt. The Food Workers’ Union (SEL) declared a treatment ban of goods transported by Posti’s own cars or those by its subcontractors. The Electricians’ Union took sympathy strike action at seven postal-and-logistics centres. Passenger ferries traveling under the Finnish flag or with their home harbour in Finland stayed in port until the conflict was resolved due to several strike actions by the Seafarers’ Union. A total of 10 departures by Baltic sea passenger ferry company Viking Line were cancelled, and also the traffic of the ship Silja Symphony on the Stockholm-Helsinki route was affected. What developed was nothing less than a general strike movement.

      Reply
    7. Karla

      Imagine what would happen if USPS workers, or just those in the sorting centers, went on strike?

      It’s not like the government can ban that as they are a “semi-private company”, theoretically.

      Credit card payments, bills and their payments, legal documents, replacement parts would not move. Wonder what the effect on the economy would be from that?

      Also, their workers’ pensions are funded 75 years out into the future, that’s part of how corporate American weakens the USPS to “rightsize” it. Who controls that money? Would Wall Street grab it upon privatization?

      Reply
    8. anon in so cal

      Somewhat relatedly, there was also Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum’s, involvement in the USPS:

      “CBRE, a giant real estate company partially owned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, is costing the U.S. Postal Service millions of dollars a year in lease overpayments, and its exclusive contract should be immediately canceled, the service’s inspector general has found.”

      https://theintercept.com/2015/05/05/watchdog-slams-company-part-owned-feinsteins-husband-abusing-huge-post-office-contract/

      Reply
    9. Dickeylee

      After the 10-12 largest metropolitan areas are sold off, the rest of the country will be left with 3 days per week delivery and $3 postage stamps. Might need to mail your Christmas cards by October to get to grandmas house!

      Reply
  6. PlutoniumKun

    Good guides gone bad: How Google’s ‘Local Guides’ program fails businesses and consumers

    Search Engine Land

    Although he understands why gamification was used in this program, SearchLab’s Greg Gifford believes that it has resulted in the exact opposite of the intended effect:

    “The idea is awesome, but the implementation has completely destroyed the value of the program. I get why they gamified things; it keeps people interested and active. But it ended up ruining the integrity of the contributions.

    A family member has an online research support start-up that depends on its success on completely eliminating bots and other attempts to game the results (it provides research information for universities and businesses). As he’s an ex hacker, and a very good one, he was well placed to put in place algos to weed out anyone attempting this, and so far he’s been very successful at it.

    The fact that Google (and other ranking website companies like TripAdvisor) is supposedly incapable of doing this shows clearly they are not serious about getting accurate results. Just one more reason not to trust anything they say or do.

    Reply
  7. zagonostra

    >Radium Girls

    Fascinating story I stumbled on that took place about 100 years ago and puts in perspective what unregulated capitalism can potentially, if not invariably, led to.

    An estimated 4,000 workers were hired by corporations in the U.S. and Canada to paint watch faces with radium. At USRC, each of the painters mixed her own paint in a small crucible, and then used camel hair brushes to apply the glowing paint onto dials. The then-current rate of pay, for painting 250 dials a day, was about a penny and a half per dial (equivalent to $0.293 in 2018). The brushes would lose shape after a few strokes, so the U.S. Radium supervisors encouraged their workers to point the brushes with their lips (“lip, dip, paint”), or use their tongues to keep them sharp. Because the true nature of the radium had been kept from them, the Radium Girls painted their nails, teeth, and faces for fun with the deadly paint produced at the factory. Many of the workers became sick; it is unknown how many died from exposure to radiation

    …the owners and the scientists familiar with the effects of radium carefully avoided any exposure to it themselves; chemists at the plant used lead screens, masks and tongs. U.S. Radium had distributed literature to the medical community describing the “injurious effects” of radium. In spite of this knowledge, a number of similar deaths had occurred by 1925, including the company’s chief chemist, Dr. Edwin E. Leman, and several female workers. The similar circumstances of their deaths prompted investigations to be undertaken by Dr. Harrison Martland, County Physician of Newark.[5].

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium_Girls

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I can vividly remember watching a documentary on the radium girls when I was quite young – it was horrifying. I had been given a watch as a Christmas present previously – it was a ‘glow in the dark’ type. I remember looking at it with great suspicion after that, if I recall correctly I refused to wear it.

      Reply
      1. JEHR

        When I was small there were “radium” emitting children’s books, toys and pictures, clocks, watches, etc. that I would take under the bedclothes to read. Wow! There were also shoe store fluoroscopes which I remember looking through to see if my shoes fit properly. Not to mention those portable x-ray machines that went around looking for TB in lungs. Wow, again!

        Dear people, we consumers have been experimented on since the beginning of the so-called consumer age and nothing can prevent me from thinking it still goes on apace (see plastic).

        Reply
      2. Karla

        Does anyone knowingly wear a radium dial watch today, or expose their children to the toys? I had a owl toy with green glowing eyes. How about taking radium based “medicine”? More widespread, and cumulatively more deadly today, are pesticides impregnated into your underwear, your socks, your credit card, cooking utensils and your dishtowels.

        “Triclosan and triclocarban are associated with hormone disruption and reproductive and developmental impacts in animal and in-vitro studies. Human epidemiological studies have linked exposure to certain antimicrobials including triclosan and quats to skin irritation, asthma, and allergies. There is also evidence that antimicrobials may harm beneficial gut bacteria. Antimicrobial chemicals have been found in urine, blood, and breast milk.”

        https://greensciencepolicy.org/antimicrobials/

        Hot water and soap work better.

        Boycott anything lableled “Anti-Bacterial”, “new technology”, “odor resisting.”
        That mean multiple pesticides have been impregnated into the consumer products you wash with your clothing, you wear and you absorb, you eat it, drink it and you too will be affected by the biocides. If you got toxin laden items as a Christmas present, return it for money or credit for innocuous products.

        Reply
      3. The Rev Kev

        Those radium girls were buried in lead coffins in the end and I think that at least one had a viewing window. Radium was a fad once and it was put in stuff like makeup, lipstick, condoms and suppositories. You can’t make this stuff up.

        Reply
  8. Toshiro_Mifune

    Remembering Y2K call-outs and the joy of the hourly contractor rate
    Y2K was when I started in IT.
    It was a glorious time, and IT were all over the place. It was before .COM and before Crazy Linus decided to take on MSFT and start a war. It was when I met the world. And it was when I first met Jimmy Conway…

    Ok, NOT when I first met Jimmy Conway, but for a while (basically all of pre-9/11) IT was a contractor’s dream; little oversight regarding billing, no questions asked, as much cash as you wanted to milk out of C, or JPM, or GS. They were basically writing blank checks. As long as you weren’t an idiot you could just bang out OT billing. I knew people who effectively doubled their salaries by just scheduling all their change work for after hours and billing it as overtime. Then came 9-11, and a flood of Risk Managers into IT. Slowly but surely it all went away.
    Good times.

    Reply
      1. katiebird

        I wish I had the confidence to get a new computer and load it up with Linux. It just seems like all new territory. Scary and expensive if it doesn’t work.

        Reply
        1. Toshiro_Mifune

          If you really want to play around with Linux and do it cheaply you can get a Raspberry Pi with Debian. A model 3 with a case will run you around $50, you would just need to supply a microSD card. If you dont have a microSD you can get kits with one that has Debian pre-installed for a few dollars more. If all you’re looking to do is web browsing and maybe some email you should be fine from there.
          If you want to do more; maybe RetroPie for old school arcade and console games, set up a Pi-Hole network wide ad blocker, or anything else there are tons of step by step tutorials around where you can copy/paste what to do.

          Reply
        2. woozel

          Get an old computer and load it up with Linux. That’s one of the great advantages of Linux. It can run just fine on quite old machines.

          Reply
          1. Krystyn Walentka

            Agreed. I am using a 2014 Lenovo Thinkpad with an SSD and 8GB of RAM. $180 all together. People are surprised how fast it is even compared to a newer MacBook. And I can buy a replacement battery and still accesses the RAM and Hard Drive!

            Reply
            1. BobW

              I use a T440S ThinkPad with an SSD also. Boots quickly and loads LibreOffice fast, too. My main machine. $130 from FreeGeek Arkansas a couple of years ago.

              Reply
          2. Carey

            I haven’t done it quite yet, by my plan is to get a
            used 10″ netbook, preloaded w/ Lubuntu or the like. Under $100 seems quite do-able.

            Looking forward to it, and eventually minimizing
            the e-railroading we all face..

            Reply
        3. oliverks

          You can boot linux from an memory stick without disturbing your underlying OS if you feel like it. Or you can use the Raspberry PI 4 (as Toshiro_Mifune suggested), which is a decent amount of compute power at low cost.

          You probably already own a few Linux devices. Android is built on Linux, iPhones are built on the cultural forerunner (BSD).

          All kind of devices are likely to use Linux without you knowing, such as your router, your printer, your set top box, even some car infotainment systems. Hell, I have a voltmeter running Linux by now.

          If you are making a high volume product, I can get Linux into it for under $5 a unit. I can’t even do that for the Windows license fees let alone the hardware cost. So it is too expensive for toasters, but it is cost effective in a large range of products. Even in low volume we can get into a product for well under $50.

          Reply
          1. coboarts

            We were developing third-party software as a premier Apple developer during the entire BSD development, all the big cats. Our company picked up support for NetWare when Novell dropped the Mac. Our very talented IT guy ultimately migrated the company network to Linux, while with development and testing in house we were running MSFT, Netware and AppleTalk. Back then I was all into all the tech stuff, like folks who are today. However I’m tired of all the tech talk now, and I don’t want to have to get all enthusiast just to get some stupid machine to perform basic stuff without stealing the silverware.

            Reply
        4. shtove

          Just preparing for that now, given Windows 7 Professional loses support soon and Windows 10 seems painful on other systems I’ve tried.

          Reply
            1. Procopius

              Dunno. I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t really care. I’ll keep running Windows 7 until it stops working. There are a couple of games I won’t give up willingly, and I can’t run them on Wine. I can’t even make them work in a VM box, which turned out to be surprisingly easy to set up. Windows 10 won’t run them either, so Linux is my future. Heck, the Navy is still running XP on some of their ships.

              Reply
        5. diptherio

          You can run all Linux OSs that I know of from a bootable usb drive, so you don’t have to make any permanent changes to your system to give it a try. Instructions for making one are easy to come by.

          Reply
        6. lordkoos

          The current build of Linux Mint is great. I switched to Linux from Windows 10 this past summer, and haven’t looked back, there hasn’t been one moment where I regretted it. Such a relief not to have to worry about viruses, defragmentation etc, and the system is fast.

          While there was a bit of a learning curve, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. It’s also easy to set up a dual boot with Windows. I recommend giving it a try, and you certainly don’t have to get a new computer to use it – Linux isn’t a resource hog like Windoze.

          Reply
        7. HotFlash

          I am running Linux on my elderly laptop, in a dual-boot situation. Like you, I wasn’t sure, so when I installed I opted for the dual-boot. In the what, 8 or more years since I installed I have *never* invoked the windows boot option. All my data files are accessible from either operating system. For me the clincher is that I can run my dear old legacy Windows programs under WINE (something-something Not a Windows Emulator) — programs that I had paid for but that Bill stole from me with his scurrilous ‘upgrades’. And Linux World gave me a work-around that keeps my old HP laserjet chugging along years after MS Bill and HP Carly had their little tiff.

          Check out dual-booting (lots of info on line), you have nothing to loose and very much to gain.

          Reply
      2. ChrisPacific

        The Microsoft cloud platform, Azure, now runs more Linux servers than Windows. One source I found suggested that the Windows ones are mostly being used to host Microsoft proprietary core services like AD that don’t run (or run well) on Linux.

        Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Our since departed evangelical militia church that hightailed it to the potato state 3 or 4 years ago (Idaho’s gain is our gain) were all out on North Fork road in front of their house of worship with guns at the ready from just before sundown on December 31st until around noon on New Years Day 20 years ago, in case Y2K reared it’s ugly head.

      If you can stand it, here’s a sermon from the Church At Kaweah in 2013, with a board showing ‘enemy soldiers’, all part of their ‘gunocracy’.

      Ever heard of a church with a target shooting range?, they had one!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKnIAkpGkb4

      Reply
  9. The Rev Kev

    “Obama, Trump Tie as Most Admired Man in 2019”

    Looking at the names on those lists, it seems to indicate that that poll was taken of people in Manhattan, New York and central Washington DC. I doubt if that poll was taken in flyover States that the same names and order would be repeated.

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      Trump may well have polled as Most Loathed Man of 2019 had they asked outside America, by which it appears they mean the USA.
      SURVEY METHODS
      Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 2-15, 2019, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
      Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

      Reply
        1. Tomonthebeach

          Who admires such people? What does that say about us as a country?

          Aside from the fact that this approach to polling is junk science, that enough Americans admire either of these two to edge out competitors is a stunning rebuke of American morality. Trump is a bonafide liar who has attacked children with twitter rants, told off-color jokes to boy scouts, and continues to tear down alliances while sustaining foreverwars. Obama, also a foreverwar fan, not only killed more people 007-style with drones (not justice), he also bankrupted the middle class and foreclosed on a record number of minority homeowners while endearing himself to Wall Street. What is there to admire, ruthless greed?

          Reply
          1. Pym of Nantucket

            Note: you mentioned Trump’s lack of manners and decorum and Obama’s killing. This is how Trump’s lightning rod rudeness works. The genius of his strategy is terrifying.

            Reply
          2. Kate

            Maybe what it says, in part, is that it’s far too complex to function as an enlightened citizen in modern America, what with the twisted media, the lack of resources for communal deliberation, etc. Humans have not evolved to negotiate our way through this kind of societal mire; and I wonder if many people simply opt out of the confusion, choosing their “most admired” almost as a child would.

            Reply
          3. Procopius

            Unfortunately, I have seen occasional reports that Trump has already killed more people with drones than Obama did. We just aren’t hearing about it for some reason (“… for some reason,” LOL). I guess the DNC/DCCC/DSCC don’t want to make the comparison.

            Reply
      1. cm

        I wonder about people who answer unknown cell phone calls — are they likely voters? Doesn’t really matter what non-voters think in an election…

        Reply
      2. HotFlash

        Oh dear, must be time to go to bed. I read Trump may well have polled as Turnip may well have polled..

        And a happy New Year to all!

        Reply
  10. PlutoniumKun

    The Problem of Pain MedPage Today

    I’m not a medical professional (disclaimer) but I know a few on this side of the pond who are, and who do research on pain medication, and I think their jaws would drop reading things like this:

    About 21%-29% of individuals who are prescribed opioids misuse them, and 8%-12% of them develop an addiction, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although only a small percentage of patients are likely to develop an addiction, there is still a chance of dependence, which is characterized by a physical reliance on the medication that, if unaddressed, can lead to addiction.

    8-12% are addicted and this is considered a ‘small percentage’? Opioid addition from medication is very rare outside the US for a very good reason – they are only proscribed for a very limited number of patients, for a very limited range of problems. Apart from those with terminal illness, you simply don’t get them after the initial intense pain after an accident or surgery has passed – (I know this full well, I was on opioids for 3 days following a serious accident – there was zero chance of getting more, despite being in pain and discomfort for several weeks after).

    The sort of advice contained there is precisely the sort of soothing advice promoted by the opioid industry. Working with patients and consulting them does not work with addicts, or people who just want the drugs. They will lie or manipulate doctors/nurses to get what they want. This is the one thing addicts are very good at.

    Its not ideal – NSAIDS have their own issues as do other forms of pain relief (my own doctor suggested turmeric for mild osteoarthrosis). And you can go too far the other way, as in India, where people die in unnecessary agony because of over-strict control of opioids. But there is only one way to safely use opioids, and that’s by strictly limiting their use, with no exceptions.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      I may not be typical since opioids disagree with me but I found that high dose NSAIDs (basically twice as frequent) gave me as much pain relief as opioids and synthetic opioids, which frankly did little for me for severe pain and made me feel generally terrible on top of that. Obviously you do not do this with acetaminophen. And obviously what I got was not that high a dose, since morphine will knock you out. Problem with high does NSAIDs is they start bothering your stomach, so eating them with food and mixing them up helps.

      Reply
      1. Jen

        Worked for me as well. Had to take them exactly every 4 hours, but they worked just fine. After reading all the warning labels on the pain killers that the oral surgeon gave me when I had my wisdom teeth out, I opted not to take them. Good thing this was in the good old days of $5 co-pays.

        Reply
      2. Tomonthebeach

        I have never understood how people using or abusing opioids tolerate the constipation. To me, the constipation side effects usually eclipse the post-op pain of my healing sutures in under 48 hours. It is curious that MSM articles on the subject almost never touch on this stinky and well-documented side effect of opioids.

        Reply
      3. xkeyscored

        Acetaminophen/Tylenol/paracetamol will do more than bother your stomach in too high doses. It’s potentially very damaging to the liver.
        From https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/acetaminophen-avoiding-liver-injury

        Question: Are there risks from taking too much acetaminophen?
        Answers: Yes, acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage if you take too much. It is very important to follow your doctor’s directions and the directions on the medicine label.
        You may not notice the signs and symptoms of liver damage right away because they take time to appear. Or, you may mistake early symptoms of liver damage (for example, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting) for something else, like the flu. Liver damage can develop into liver failure or death over several days.
        Acetaminophen is generally safe when taken as directed. To lower your risk of liver damage make sure you do the following:
        Follow dosing directions and never take more than directed; even a small amount more than directed can cause liver damage.
        Don’t take acetaminophen for more days than directed.
        Don’t take more than one medicine that contains acetaminophen at a time. For example, your risk of liver damage goes up if you take a medicine that contains acetaminophen to treat a headache, and while that medicine is still working in your body, you take another medicine that contains acetaminophen to treat a cold.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          I did say “obviously not acetaminophen” BEFORE I discussed digestion issues with OTHER NSAIDs (and frankly aspirin too, it’s a perfectly good painkiller in really high doses, just be sure to buy buffered and still eat some food too).

          Please read more carefully and do NOT straw man what I said.

          I don’t understand why anyone takes acetaminophen. I don’t have it in the house. The damned stuff is dangerous.

          Reply
          1. xkeyscored

            I’m sorry, it didn’t seem too clear if “you do not do this with acetaminophen” referred to upping the dosage or making you feel generally terrible, and I thought it worth pointing out the dangers in case anyone thought the latter.

            Reply
      4. PlutoniumKun

        Ibuprofen always has worked well with me – although I pretty much stopped using it several years ago as I had overused it while suffering a back injury many years ago. Heat and yoga now is enough for me with normal pain issues (I have mild osteoarthritis in two joints) and I don’t take anything for colds and flus now. If I have a mild injury (I’m pretty clumsy) I just use cold compresses and maybe one days ibuprofen to keep swelling down. I understand there is evidence that ibuprofen interferes with natural stomach bacteria so could have long term health implications. But a family member who is an eminent specialist in general medicine (and has done specific research on opioids) says he tells his students that its the simplest and least problematic pain killer for most non-specific pain issues. As I said above, my own doctor, who is very highly regarded by his colleagues, just told me to take lots of turmeric in my diet for my osteoarthritis and specifically warned me against overusing NSAIDs.

        I also know a ER consultant who gives acetaminophen for almost all mild pain issues with his patients. Its the only thing he uses himself.

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          I alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen, because ibuprofen has risk of heart attack. I usually take no more than one dose a day, and most days don’t take it. As you say, heat and stretching are usually sufficient. I have tried to get into yoga, but can’t seem to maintain it. On the other hand I try to recognize that my pains from spandolytis are pretty minor compared to things like slipped or ruptured disks.

          Reply
        2. HotFlash

          (I’m pretty clumsy)

          I know this is advice not asked for, but you might want to investigate Feldenkrais movement therapy. When I first took it some 30+ years ago on the recommendation of my martial arts sensei I enjoyed great improvement to my movement => eg drove 16 hours straight with no fatigue, *much* improvement in my martial art, chronic back and neck pain (15 yrs at that point) now a thing of the past, wear on the heels of my shoes, a problem my whole life up to then, stopped and — perhaps trivial but very measurable — my handwriting improved greatly. Note of caution: not all Feldenkrais teachers are equal. I was fortunate to have some very, very good ones (based on perceived results) but l have run into some others who are, um, not so much.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            It’s definitely worth exploring. As someone who has poor coordination, some further thoughts:

            1. One cause may be poor reflex speed. I doubt PK has this since I think he types at least moderately quickly, but that will limit the benefits he could get from movement training. That does NOT mean he should not try, but he night find himself hitting a plateau and not seeing further gains beyond a certain point.

            2. A second culprit may be not being so hot at rhythm/movement memory. A clue is if he can follow movements well (imitate an instructor in a dance-y class but have a difficult time learning dance combinations). That would suggest his coordination may not be bad but he’s asking himself to do other things which he thinks reflect on coordination but are actually different skills

            3. A third is foot/ankle stability. If you have poor stability in your feet, any sort of complex movement that requires you to do a lot of weight transfer and stabilizing in one leg is going to be difficult AND risk injury if not careful. This becomes a vicious cycle since poor stability > ankle sprains > worse stability. And there is not a ton you can do about ankles and feet since there are too few muscles to compromise for damage to tendons and ligaments.

            Having said that, there are still “proprioception” exercises that will help with feet and ankles….but I see a lot of people having been given general balance exercise that allow them to stabilize by using other joints, very much limiting the benefits to feet and ankles. If this is an issue, e-mail me off line and I can describe a basic exercise that is very beneficial.

            Reply
            1. PlutoniumKun

              Thanks to you and Hotflash for that advice.

              I find yoga excellent for balance, although as you suggest, I seem to have ankle issues – but they’ve strengthened over time doing one-legged poses. I’ve always had a weird combination of better-than-average hand/eye co-ordination, but terrible balance – possibly a mild inner ear problem I’ve always thought. At school I got in trouble because I was very good at things like scoring from distance in basketball or kicking in rugby, but hilariously bad at actually playing the games when it meant changing direction while running with the ball (a coach actually accused me of deliberately playing badly to get out of sports). And I’m impossible to teach dance or martial arts (I’ve tried both), I just can’t do that sort of co-ordinated movement.

              Reply
              1. DJG

                PlutoniumKun: When you mentioned yoga farther up the thread, I understood it as dealing with the “clumsy issues.” Besides the tree pose, which you imply here, and which I do better on one side than the other (which may be a source of clumsiness–the revenge of handedness), one of my instructors recommends tiger pose for balance / inner ear matters. And tiger pose also works.

                Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Alleve is made in China now? Does it contain lead paint? Does it contain asbestos? Does it contain melamine?

            Does it contain other pollutants?

            Reply
    2. xkeyscored

      It’s well worth checking out the source and purity of your turmeric (easier said than done) if you’re thinking of taking it regularly.
      “Seven out of nine turmeric-growing districts produced turmeric adulterated with a toxic bright yellow lead-containing compound called lead chromate. The addition is typically done during the polishing of turmeric, and is carried out on the instructions of turmeric merchants who want to sell inferior-quality turmeric at a higher price. The study also traces the issue to consumer demand for bright yellow turmeric. …
      Bangladesh, a South Asian country bordering India’s northeastern coast, is among the leading producers of turmeric. Following a flood in the eighties, most of the turmeric crop was left soggy which dulls the color. To restore the color, lead chromate, which is used to color furniture and toys, was added during the processing of the spice. However, once the practice began, it continued to be in vogue as a way to make a quick buck out of even inferior-quality turmeric. This insight came from interviews with farmers and spice processing units in many districts of Bangalore.”
      https://www.news-medical.net/news/20190925/Turmeric-adulteration-eating-your-brain.aspx

      Reply
      1. shtove

        Yes, I think NC carried an article to that effect on turmeric a few months ago. Just nip down your local Asian shop and buy the stuff fresh for grating. And enrage your sister-in-law by letting her kids play with some peeled root when they come to visit. You can placate her by pointing out it’s better than coating them in fake tan.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          Better than Sharpies – a neighbor came and asked me how to remove that from her children.. (Best bet: vegetable oil. Alcohol might work. Citra Solv, but that’s expensive now.)

          Or, you could just live with it, but I suspect it’s toxic.

          Reply
      2. Synoia

        a toxic bright yellow lead-containing compound called lead chromate

        A twofer of heavy metal poisoning! Lead and Chromium.

        Reply
          1. Susan the other

            I’d think you could catch a whiff of lead in turmeric. Maybe I just have a weird nose for metal. I checked mine – it’s Schilling and it smells like the real stuff and is not a yellow but a cinnamon color. So I did a color test, swiping a finger tip of turmeric on a damp paper towel and I did not see that tell-tale green hue from this picture of lead chromate – it looked almost spring green to me. But if the lead is in the soil, etc. all turmeric probably has too much.

            Reply
      3. anon in so cal

        My husband take Qunol tumeric:

        “Qunol Turmeric root is sourced from India and the finished product is manufactured in the U.S. Every batch of finished product is tested for heavy metals.”

        Reply
      4. Yves Smith

        I have taken curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) and never found it did bupkis for pain or inflammation. Tried lots of variants, all claiming special magic to improve bioavailability, which is the big problem with turmeric and curcumin.

        I still take it because it is a potent anti-carcinogen, even if it seems useless to me otherwise.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          I must admit I can’t feel any specific benefit either, but i don’t suffer from regular pains, I just rely on the general advice to maximise consumption of anti-inflammatories, and turmeric (with peppers for bioavailability) seems to be the best. There is lots of evidence out there as you say that turmeric has multiple health benefits – as its pretty cheap to buy it seems a very sensible regular supplement to take. As to the comments above about lead chromate – yes, I think with anything like this, its wise to make sure you buy from a good source.

          Reply
    1. polecat

      “fireworks” !! .. Wait, what??

      Why add to an already awful conflagration ? Was your PM holding the lighter, by chance ?

      Here’s to a better Year 20 then was experianced previously.

      Reply
  11. John A

    Re Hunter Biden Fox story: quote
    “Hunter Biden held a lucrative role on the board of Burisma while his father oversaw Ukraine policy as vice president, prompting even career State Department officials to flag a possible conflict of interest. CrowdStrike is a cybersecurity company that Trump said possessed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server that was hacked during the 2016 campaign — a claim that fact-checkers repeatedly have said was wholly invented.”
    Yet again the server was hacked claim gets a pass from the ‘factcheckers’. I guess they know which side their bread is buttered.

    Reply
    1. Off The Street

      When the subject of Hunter Biden arises, the opportunities present themselves.

      To paraphrase James Carville, drag $156,000,000 through the Hollywood Hills and you never can tell what you’ll find out.

      Reply
  12. Wukchumni

    Fresno makes for a convenient punching bag, an awful place that has been judged ‘America’s drunkest big city’ a number of times…

    Fresno CA residents are about as far away from any dispensaries as any resident in the state of California, which is to say at least an hour’s drive in San Joaquin Valley to be able to walk into an authorized and approved cannabis shop.

    Despite voters agreeing that anyone older than 21 gets to make up their own mind about consuming cannabis, many Central San Joaquin Valley leaders have decided they can’t buy it locally.

    The fifth-largest city in the state at more than a half-million people, Fresno is something of a weed desert. People who live in Fresno are about as far away from a legally approved dispensary as any California resident can be.

    Most of the 15 incorporated cities in Fresno County have put the kibosh on marijuana businesses of any kind. As far as the state will allow anyway.

    https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article238360113.html

    Reply
    1. lordkoos

      That’s crazy. Some counties and municipalities here in WA tried holding out after the state legalized it, but when they saw the amount of revenue that their neighbors were getting, they caved within a year or two. Fresno must be hard-core. I’ll bet the locals get plenty of weed from the black market.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Fresno is the heartbeat of the Central Valley Bible Belt, and it isn’t all bad, they have a nice airport-which makes for a good place to get as far away from it, as humanly possible.

        Reply
      1. ambrit

        I get no messages on my Pink Bunny Slippers communications device from him. I fear the worst. He did mention having a heart condition.

        Reply
    2. richard

      There are places in Oregon near the Idaho border that also zone it away. And all sorts of little towns across washington don’t sell it. But a place the size of Fresno, it takes real chutzpah to deny that many people their legal weed. This is the sort of petty sadism that repub legislators legislators specialize in.

      Reply
  13. Watt4Bob

    As regards Y2K.

    I began my IT career, such as it is, and was, in 1993, and so was witness, and had responsibilities surrounding the Y2K situation.

    I was, and am, a one-man IT department, responsible at the time for data and communications systems.

    The early 1990s were heady times for IT workers, demand was high, salaries were going up as competition for talent went through the roof, and employers were using every sort of enticement to lure that talent.

    In retrospect, this was the source of much consternation, as this went against the overall trend of austerity imposed from above.

    These were also the days when personal computers showed up in the business environment and started to replace what we called at the time, “Dumb-Terminals”, and “Green-Screens”, the devices, CRT displays and keyboards that allowed access to “Main-Frames”, those big central computers in the back room.

    Even in the Main-frame era, there were a lot of devices necessary to allow computers to communicate with terminals and each-other, and all those devices had imbedded software, and floppy drives to allow updates and repair. Add the new PCs that were arriving like a tidal wave of cardboard boxes and the switches and routers that connected them and suddenly there were hundreds of floppy drives associated with my job.

    Then the Y2K issue surfaced as a responsibility, the solution for the Y2K problem ended up being updating the code that ran all those devices, and so packages soon started arriving with floppy-disks containing fixes, different fixes for for every different device that needed it.

    Up until just a couple years ago, I still had a collection of probably fifty floppy disks associated with the Y2K problem, and which I had had to load on the hardware for which I was responsible.

    So, from my perspective the fact that January 1, 2000 came and went without problems was the result of a lot of people analyzing the problem, writing the code and installing it, prior to the due date.

    In short, we fixed it.

    From my perspective then, Y2K became a legendary ‘nothing-burger’ not because it was never going to be a big problem, but because it was handled properly, and effectively.

    It seems to me in retrospect, that TPTB have promulgated the myth that Y2K was an illusory problem in order to deprecate the importance of IT personnel, who at the time had the upper hand as concerns negotiating wages and working conditions.

    Since the 1990s, there has been a vast increase of workers trained in IT, and so now corporations have managed to turn the tables, and gain the upper hand as they have with every other class of worker.

    Employers have been successful at this quest by all the usual tricks, and one of those tricks is to convince us that we workers are not important to each other, in fact we are all engaged in a dog-eat-dog scrum in which envy and aggression is encouraged as the proper attitude toward our fellow workers, rather than understanding and mutual support.

    It is with this in mind that I contend that it is in the interests of corporate America that IT workers are looked at as over-paid, (money-for-nothin’) and unimportant (Y2K was a non-event).

    To tell the truth, I don’t know how big a problem Y2K could have been, but I did what thousands of other IT employees did, I fed those floppy-disks into hundreds of machines, and when midnight on 1/1/2000 passed, nothing much happened, so, as far as I know, Y2K wasn’t a nothing-burger, it was a problem that got fixed.

    Ever since 1/1/2000, the Y2K story has been twisted and sold as part of the vast web of myths that help divide the American people from each other.

    We’re constantly instructed that everything is a ‘con-job’ and none of us is important, and should any of us somehow become obviously important in the eyes of our fellow man (by successfully demanding higher than average wages for instance) we can expect the full-court-press of consensus manufacturers to begin building a counter-narrative to put us in our place.

    So I’m saying the Y2K story linked is part of that anti-labor counter-narrative, and does not provide supporting evidence of a “Low, dishonest decade”.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      we got our first computer(a gateway) in 1999, and were therefore newbies and ignorant as to how big a deal it would be.
      and the Depression looms large in the institutional memory of my family, so we were ok on that front(beans, bullets and bandaids).
      so wife and i stayed up watching the nbc broadcast out of austin(only broadcast station to be had out here) with flashlight and wind up shortwave to hand, to see if anything would happen, come midnight.
      lots of nervous people on tv,lol.
      (too, this happened to be when we didnt have electricity,yet, so my truck was pulled up to the back window….tv was one of those camping models that plugged into the cigarette lighter….cord snaking out the window, into the truck!…without that tv, how long would it have taken for us to know if Y2K was real?(computer was in mom’s barn))
      i’ve long figgered that it was thanks to you guys that nothing did happen…so, thanks, for what it’s worth!…but never considered the anti-labor aspect you laid out.
      so thanks for that, too.

      Reply
      1. aleric

        One overlooked thing is that most big central systems started hitting Y2k problems when calculating future dates. There were probably many outages and crashes due to the issue, I know of a few, they were just distributed between 1975 and 1999, and generally attributed to other causes to avoid feeding public panic. It did take a huge amount of testing and work to keep the date change from being a literal snooze (night shifts at the help desk for two weeks for me).

        Reply
      2. Watt4Bob

        Thanks for your reply Amfortas.

        The first ten years of my ‘career’ were exciting and I felt appreciated. As the years passed and the internet decayed to where we are today, I noticed the corporate blob increasingly adapting to the challenge presented by IT workers, both in terms of pay and the ease with which they could leave and find another job. They had long ago managed to control wages more or less absolutely, and with it, job mobility.

        The ensuing decades have erased the deficit in IT workers as young people flocked to what they saw a a ticket to higher than average wages, so that now, the tricks that at first weren’t working to hold down IT wages due to scarcity, now work pretty well.

        All the diligence that we put into ‘fixing Y2K’ (admitting we didn’t know how big an issue it really was?) ended up being used against us as the public was fed stories like the one linked here, the message being;

        Y2K was a nothing-burger, and IT staff isn’t worth the price we have to pay.

        Remember, one reason no one cried for manufacturing workers in general, and UAW workers in particular, whose jobs were sent to Mexico, is that the public had been fed a couple decades worth of propaganda that taught the American public that union workers had, in my Dad’s words;

        priced themselves out of their jobs.”

        We were vulnerable to this sort of manipulation even before the advent of Faux News, the organization that put the frosting on the cake of propaganda he had been consuming for decades.

        Reply
            1. RMO

              The IT field is the easiest to see this process in but you can see it in many others too. Aviation, which is both something I love and an area I attempted to make a career in for example – consider the general high regard and pay that once was connected with pilots and maintenance engineers to how they are thought of now – bus drivers with fancier uniforms and ignorant tin-bashers that can easily be replaced by cheap, contracted out people, often in other nations where pay is much lower.

              For some mysterious reason upper level execs are the only people that seem immune to this sort of thing. They just keep getting more and more brilliant and valuable over time – even when they manage to crash a company (or industry, or economy) onto the rocks and need trillions from the government to rescue them. Funny that.

              Reply
        1. Briny

          IT is a cost center, not a profit center although it is getting nigh on impossible for a business to function without IT.

          Sure IT is (pun fully intended).

          Reply
        2. Procopius

          I used to follow Robert X. Cringely’s column. I remember complaints back as far as the ’90s from his readers about the abuses of H1B visas. They’re still with us, and abused more than ever. Look, if a visa is issued because an American worker is not able to do the job, and then an American worker is forced to train his replacement who is here on an H1B visa, somebody should be punished. Does no one monitor these visas? Do they just accept the word of the lobbyists? Then there was the report a few years ago that several of the biggest tech firms in Silicon Valley had actually put into writing a non-compete agreement, where they agreed they would not offer higher wages to a competitor’s employees. That must be illegal under anti-trust law. Whatever happened to that? Crickets.

          Reply
    2. Robert Hahl

      Computers are not my field but I got the impression that almost nobody in other countries took the Y2K event seriously, and nothing much happened to them. Afterward it seemed like another U.S. hoax.

      Reply
      1. Watt4Bob

        You’re ‘impression‘ is incorrect.

        Nothing much happened’ because it was fixed by professionals before it could cause any damage.

        I can assure you that the people in other countries with responsibility to apply the fixes for the Y2K issue took it seriously, and just like us in the USA, worked very hard to make sure it wouldn’t have a negative impact.

        OTOH, you are correct in that other countries aren’t as subject to the misinformation and hype that routinely accompanies American news media’s take on anything important.

        And I don’t hold it against you that you’ve been left misunderstanding this issue, because that has been the intent of those that carefully craft the misinformation we are all marinated in.

        Reply
        1. Robert Hahl

          Okay, where are the bodies? I have never heard a single story about something bad that happened by screwing up Y2K.

          Reply
          1. Grebo

            Very few bad things happened, and no fatalities so far as I know. Some trains in Canada couldn’t run for a while I seem to recall.

            I worked for an ERP (whole business software) company in the UK in 1999. We had a project including dedicated contractors going through our somewhat antiquated product looking for Y2K bugs. It was successful.

            Nevertheless, I kept a small store of water and dry food on hand just in case.

            Reply
          2. marym

            As Watt4Bob already said, there weren’t stories about bad things happening because people did the work. Besides vendors updating software and clients installing the updates, some legacy in-house-writte systems needed to be replaced, a conversion and training effort. Other systems needed often logically simple changes to replace 2-digit year formats, but across many programs and files. Changes to applications that exchanged information needed to be coordinated, and code or files not used in every instance (e.g. dependent on billing cycles or reporting schedules) needed to be tested. Some of the work, task by task, wasn’t difficult or unusual – installing upgrades, expanding data fields or testing multiple processing cycles – but there was a lot of it, and it all had to hang together, within and among applications, all over the world.

            Reply
            1. Oregoncharles

              IOW, it really was a disaster because it was hugely expensive – and the software giants who created the problem weren’t held responsible.

              Reply
              1. inode_buddha

                IMHO you can’t even blame them. Nobody in the 60’s and 70’s expected their systems to run that long, enough for it to be a problem.

                Think about the technological limitations of the day: time was when a 16-bit system was huge, with 64k of RAM to run an entire university, or a bank.

                And what happens when your time keeping fills up its memory allotment and rolls the date back over, say to Jan 1, 1970? Then what happens to all the billing systems?

                You can’t just “expand the RAM” on a mainframe, you also have to re-write the software to make use of it — and DOS had its own well-known limitations and kludges. UNIX was limited to 32 bits back in the day. The people who had originally engineered the systems had dies or moved on, their notes were lost, etc etc.

                So, frankly I don’t blame anyone in the scenario, I really don’t. Nobody foresaw it back in 1970, and really couldn’t.

                Reply
      2. Foy

        Your impression is very wrong. Did you actually go to any other countries at the time? I’m from Australia and I lived in South Africa for a number of years at the time and worked in the Y2K field with banks, shipping and commications companies and it was taken very seriously.

        Y2K was a nothing burger because of all the years of work that went into getting the systems updated and fixed beforehand, just as Watt4Bob says.

        Reply
    3. LifelongLib

      Yup, spent the evening of December 31, 1999 in the office waiting to see if everything would keep working. It did. We actually had our fixes in the year before. If you had a system with future dates you might have started seeing problems as soon as you tried to enter a date for 2000 or later, so some people probably had to make fixes several years in advance.

      Reply
    4. Jfreon

      I knew a kid in the late 90’s just out of high school who was Microsoft certified and made $80k running his company’s backoffice.

      The suits have fixed that pay (dis)advantage…

      I also spent Y2K new years in the office. Our company (fortune 100) did fine, but boy was the CFO pissed about missing February 29th leap day that year.

      Reply
    5. inode_buddha

      Maybe the proof will come in 2038 as far as the end of the epoch. But by then we’ll probably be running 128-bit systems, and time() will have been rewritten yet again. (System not so hard, its the apps that such…) And we will get to hear all over again how it was all a big nothingburger.

      Reply
      1. Watt4Bob

        Personally, I think the test is coming much sooner.

        All the saber rattling over cyber warfare, full spectrum dominance, and the space-force is pointing to the logical end-game of Catch 22.

        Reply
    6. JCC

      As a Sys Admin, I remember those days well. And as you said, for the vast majority of systems it was fixed.

      Meanwhile during the late 90’s through 2002 IBM laid off about 60,000 of their people world-wide, hired thousands of H1-B personnel that same year (a close friend got to train his replacement) and took a tax credit large enough to completely offset their tax the following year, paying $zero. The credit they received was for “job creation” – the H1-Bs I assume.

      Regarding the William Greider article linked above, within that article there is a link to this written originally in 2011:

      The power shift did not start with Obama, but his tenure confirms and completes it. The corporates began their systematic drive to dismantle liberal governance back in the 1970s, and the Democratic Party was soon trying to appease them, its retreat whipped along by Ronald Reagan’s popular appeal and top-down tax cutting. So long as Democrats were out of power, they could continue to stand up for liberal objectives and assail the destructive behavior of business and finance (though their rhetoric was more consistent than their voting record). Once back in control of government, they lowered their voices and sued for peace. Beholden to corporate America for campaign contributions, the Democrats cut deals with banks and businesses and usually gave them what they demanded, so corporate interests would not veto progressive legislation.

      Obama has been distinctively candid about this. He admires the “savvy businessmen” atop the pinnacle of corporate power. He seeks “partnership” with them. The old economic conflicts, like labor versus capital, are regarded as passé by the “new Democrats” now governing. The business of America is business. Government should act as steward and servant, not master.

      .
      https://pnhp.org/news/william-greiders-message-for-us/

      And it’s why I have not been able tolerate the Democrat Party since waking up during the Bush/Obama years

      Worth reading, Greider was one of the few public voices paying real attention.

      Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          That’s a very good link. I’ve always dated the Neoliberal Turn to the late 70s, when a lot of curves (like real wages) simultaneously flattened, but this link shows the process was well in train much earlier.

          Reply
          1. Procopius

            The famous chart showing the divergence of productivity and wages looks like the point in time was 1973, and both lines are pretty straight from that point onward. I dunno. I’ve been re-reading Jamie Galbraith’s The Predator State, and he reminds me that a significant change shortly before that was the ending of the Bretton Woods arrangement. I think that was a symptom, rather than a cause. I think I’ve never seen anyone else examining that period looking for “what changed?” An interesting beginning is The Missing Link to the Democratic Party’s Pivot to Wall Street from counterpunch March 21, 2014

            Reply
    7. Leftcoastindie

      I’ve been in IT since 1979 and the 6 position date was always used. At first I’m sure it was to save space in memory and storage but, nobody put much thought to it until the 90’s and just kept doing it. Fortunately for me the system I work on uses 8 position dates and has since the mid 80’s. Y2K was a breeze, it only took 3 weeks and most of that time was spent compiling the 4000 programs several times to pick up the few changes required.

      Reply
    8. ChrisPacific

      Y2K is interesting in that it’s a kind of Schrodinger’s problem. It was hyped as an Armageddon level problem that could crash the economy if not fixed, and many resources were devoted to it. Then when Y2K rolled around, nothing much happened. Why not? Was it because the problem was appropriately identified in time to fix it, and the whole massive effort worked? Or had it never been a problem in the first place, and the whole thing was a scam designed to justify massive IT expenditure?

      People without inside knowledge can’t really answer those questions, and need to rely on the opinions of experts who may not be objective themselves, so it’s fertile ground for conspiracy theories. As an IT person myself, I saw enough examples of genuine problems that could have been catastrophic if they weren’t fixed to believe the first explanation is the correct one. But it illustrates a problem of the industry, which is that there is more money available for fixing disasters (and avoiding repeat occurrences) than there is for preventing them in the first place.

      Reply
  14. Wukchumni

    A warning from ancient tree rings: The Americas are prone to catastrophic, simultaneous droughts

    By analyzing tree ring records, scientists have now found evidence that such tandem droughts are more than a coincidence: They are surprisingly common over the past 1200 years, and they may often share a common cause—an abnormally cool state of the eastern Pacific Ocean known as La Niña. “We did not expect there to be as much coherence as we see,” says Nathan Steiger, a paleoclimatologist at Columbia University who presented the work last month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “They just happen together.” The results suggest that, in the future, extreme aridity could strike all along the Americas’ western coast.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/12/warning-ancient-tree-rings-americas-are-prone-catastrophic-simultaneous-droughts

    There’s a crosscut section of a 2,000 year old Giant Sequoia in town here, where you can clearly see the 2 lengthy droughts which lasted 200 & 135 years or so that hit right at the same time as the drought that doomed the Mayan civilization.

    The tree rings above and below both epochs are clear and distinctive, while the 200 year drought is about a 2 inch blur and the shorter long drought is about 1 1/2 inches of nothing you can make out, another void.

    Reply
      1. newcatty

        My husband is a “lost Canadian” according to some people’s definition. His mom was born in Canada, but was ” brought over the border” to Washington state when a baby by her parents and grew up in the state. She was born in 1920, so think her parents just drove the family to the town they lived in until they died and children grew up and many left for various reasons… Husband’s mom eventually married and later with their kids left the state . We have little documentation about her Canadian birth, but know the town she was born in… maybe some Christening records. When exasperated by America life, we day dreamed about going North to the land that seemed more civil and so beautiful. When we visited we did fall in love with the BC area. But, we are “senior citizens”… told by some people that American old people refugees are not welcomed. You know, we might be a drain on their national health care system. Or, we don’t have a bank account of something like $800,000 to bring along to the party. We have income and my spouse is a retired researcher with “credentials “. He is currently working in the solar energy field.

        Maybe, if Canada opens her doors wider, a ” lost Canadian “, though of a certain age, can find home. At least be among the first in line.

        Reply
        1. HotFlash

          Canadian here. Decades back I was in a choir with a couple of US ex-pats, 65+, retired teachers from Detroit. I asked them, mostly in jest, “Why did you retire to a place with as bad or worse winters than Detroit!??” She said, “My husband needed a triple bypass.”

          Reply
  15. The Rev Kev

    “Iran to conduct naval drills with China and Russia”

    I wonder if those US strikes on those militia forces fighting ISIS fighters at the Iraq-Syrian border were a reaction to these drills as a sort of defiant message. Kind of like saying ‘Hey, we don’t care that we can no longer attack your country but we can kill anybody that we want that is even vaguely allied with you.’ If so, this has been badly misjudged as seen in the following article-

    https://www.rt.com/news/477181-iraq-protesters-break-into-us-embassy/

    Until a few days ago there were protesters carrying anti-Iran signs but they have disappeared and they are now carrying anti-US signs.

    Reply
    1. Tomonthebeach

      This is just another example of Trump’s impulsivity without knowing even whom he was killing. Most the dead are not Iranians, but annoying Iraqi’s with religious ties to Iran. Anybody with a genius IQ should anticipate that this would not be welcomed by either country. Trump is achieving one thing. He is strengthening bonds between Iraq and Iran despite policies aimed at achieving the opposite. People forget their history that post WW borders were designed to include religious minorities on both sides to ensure eternal border bickering. Nothing creates allies more than “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

      Reply
      1. xkeyscored

        Trump Trump Trump.
        It was Bush and Blair who orchestrated the Shock&Awe bombing and invasion of Iraq, presumably not with the intention of fostering closer relations between Iraq and Iran, yet that was exactly (and fairly predictably) what happened.

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I read a day or so ago that Putin thanked Trump for helping to prevent a potential tragedy inside Russia..

          Reply
      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Nothing creates allies more than “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

        Yes, Bush was insane to invade. We should never have been there, and we should have been long gone, after it was clear — like in the first month? — what a debacle it was. “Mission Accomplished!”

        Reply
  16. Nate

    “Carlos Ghosn flees Japanese justice system to Lebanon FT”

    Seems like not the sort of thing that’s supposed to be able to happen in any country that prides itself on laws and rules.

    Reply
    1. doug

      He was abused by Japan court system and correct to flee.
      He saved Nissan and got tossed in jail for his troubles, and kept there…no trial.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Japanese justice seems to have a lot of saving face kabuki going for it when it comes to foreigners…

        About 30 years ago, Japanese police decided that the coins a English coin dealer had were counterfeit, and here’s the saga.

        After two years of Government leaks and speculation, one of Japan’s most intriguing financial whodunits has entered a new chapter.

        A lawsuit filed here this morning demands resolution of the mystery: Did the Japanese police uncover the biggest and most well-financed counterfeit operation in history, or instead commit a major blunder by seizing 103,000 genuine gold coins as fake and incorrectly accusing a Briton of dealing in them?

        https://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/20/business/numismatic-mystery-a-new-turn-in-the-case-of-the-chrysanthemum-coins.html

        Reply
        1. Plenue

          Japanese ‘justice’ is pretty notoriously garbage for the Japanese as well. There’s a perception that proper Japanese just never commit crimes in the first place. How the police and the courts operate is viewed mostly as a non-issue, because no decent person would ever have cause to worry about them in the first place. The police always get their man (and if they have to keep you detained in the interrogation room for three weeks to get you to confess and prove them right, they’ll do it).

          Reply
        1. Clive

          And this is why the legend of Robin Hood got started. He was just a petty criminal, if he existed at all as a single person, with a good agent. And people love a morality play.

          Never for one single second believe the auto industry is anything but a slum. It isn’t even really an industry any longer. It’s turned itself in to a travelling circus. Just like the NASA Space Shuttle programme did, hawking bits of itself around to various congressional constituencies in return for a share of the pork-barrel, so too has the auto industry descended.

          As a business model, auto production makes no economic sense. A mish-mash of components and sub-assembles criss-crossing whole continents creating a bizarre, fragile web of a supply chain with no efficiencies of scale or logistical cohesion. That’s because economics has nothing to do with it. Rather, the industry goes schlepping around trying to find which regions it can fleece local (or even national) government out of “development grants”. See here, for example, where Nissan took Theresa May for an £80M ($100M) ride (not, it has to be said, that difficult to do).

          Oh, and there is pretty much close to zero innovation by the auto makers. Product differentiation is achieved in a competition amongst the biggest brands as to who can get access to and exclusive usage rights to the component manufacturers’ latest developments. Little, if anything, by way of product development, comes from the assembly side or the manufacturers’ brands themselves.

          Even at the end of all that, auto manufacture is mostly loss producing on the final assembled product. The money is made on finance, insurances, dealer licencing fees and parts / servicing. Thus it is really merely an offshoot of Big Finance. That tells you all you need to know, or should do.

          If Ghosn was involved in this world, which he obviously was, he was in it up to his neck. Now, I have little doubt at all that some of the very old (we’re talking families with links back to the ages of the Shogunates) and very well connected zaibatsu either fell foul of Ghosn or he fell foul of them (or a combination of both). So they had him taken care of. That’s what happens when a gaikokujin doesn’t understand the business rules in Japan — or, even more unwisely, understands them just fine but doesn’t think they should apply to them.

          Another possibility is that Ghosn was deliberately picked, like Olympus did with CEO Woodford as a useful idiot. But rather than play his part as go-along-to-get-along conveniently clueless foreigner, Ghosn turned the tables on his handlers in Nissan.

          Whichever it was, he was either greedy, stupid or both. He ain’t no saint. I hope it cost him north of $10M to get smuggled out.

          Reply
          1. jsn

            You just made my holiday week!
            Great comment!
            Particularly enjoy that he couldn’t find a better refuge than an incipient war zone! (Although I’m sure he’s already on a yacht off the coast…)

            Reply
            1. Susan Truxes

              Yes, me too. Thanks Clive. The radio this morning said he forfeited his 15 million bail bond. And it’ll cost him more to come. I suspected he was caught red-handed but I was also horrified at Japan’s “justice” system. I don’t blame him for escaping in an instrument crate. It would be nice to know the details.

              Reply
              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > I don’t blame him for escaping in an instrument crate.

                This isn’t in the FT article. Where does it come from?

                (I think the lawyer is protesting rather too much, too….)

                Reply
          2. rusti

            Oh, and there is pretty much close to zero innovation by the auto makers. Product differentiation is achieved in a competition amongst the biggest brands as to who can get access to and exclusive usage rights to the component manufacturers’ latest developments.

            Interesting comment. In the slice of the industry that I am in this seems to be true and increasingly applicable to Tier 1 suppliers too. Have to go further down the chain to find someone who actually knows the technology.

            Reply
      2. Nate

        Having a hard time believing someone wealthy and powerful enough to flee Japanese law while being monitored and then issue statements through a PR firm about it is capable of being abused by anything.

        Reply
      3. False Solace

        He (and Nissan) lied about his pay by tens of millions. His compensation was Not Acceptable by Japanese standards, where the managerial class isn’t allowed to loot so openly as in the West, and appearances are very important. If the court system was out to get him, that would be a factor.

        Reply
        1. Oh

          That’s the version that’s more believable. As far as Ghosn’s saving Nissan, it was done by turning the Japanese employment system on its head. A major portion of the workforce was laid off (fired) and the lifetime employment practice was dropped. I’m sure Nissan employed replacement temporaries (arbito or simply bito in Japanese lingo) for measly wages sans benefits. As far as I’m concerned that crook Ghosn had it coming.

          Reply
      4. Yves Smith

        The Japanese court system “abuses” everyone. >98% conviction rate.

        The apparent abuse was that Ghosn as a big swinging corporate dick couldn’t buy better treatment than your average presumed criminal.

        The rest of the world is aghast at a justice system that lacks the decency to give CEOs who fail to commit seppuku or resign kid gloves treatment.

        Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      I’d love to hear Yves take on this – it does seem like he fell foul of Japanese insider plotting, although it can’t be ruled out either I think that he had his fingers in the till.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        My experience is the Japanese are brutal once you’ve crossed the line too many times. They tolerate that sort of thing longer from stupid gaijin who don’t understand their rules, but they become ruthless once they’ve decided they’ve had enough.

        Reply
        1. PlutoniumKun

          Yes, I’ve heard that from long term Japan expats. One friend who worked in banking in Tokyo for seven years said that he even used to practice ‘bad’ Japanese as he found that once he reached a certain level of fluency, he stopped getting the ‘stupid gaijin’ pass and so got the full brunt of the negative side of Japanese culture and behaviour.

          Reply
  17. Wukchumni

    Re: antidote:

    Only ever saw a mountain lion once, in Topanga state park down in LA. It was a juvenile with a silver-ish coat. A friend and I were about 10 feet away from it for 10 seconds, kind of a Mexican stand-off sans guns.

    The youngins’ in the photo seem to be sporting what looks like white bowties, how cool is that?

    A few years back, a friend who is a fellow Giant Sequoia aficionado, had a great sighting of a mountain lion just hanging out on the trail, 100 feet in front of him. He watched it for about a minute…

    http://sequoiaquest.com/animals.html

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      I hope some day you do and without expecting it. You will feel some fear and fascination at the same time. I think that mummy cougar is, while cleaning her kitties, carefully watching the photographer.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        The encounter i’d like to see would be similar to the one a local had about 6 years ago, when she was working as a flag-lady on a construction project on the Generals Highway in Sequoia NP.

        She came around a corner in her car about 6 in the morning and about 100 feet in front of her was a mountain lion and a 4 point buck both on their hind legs locked in mortal battle-which lasted about 30 seconds, and then the stag went limp and kitty dragged dinner down an embankment and was gone.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          Cougars are pretty common here, but I’ve never caught more than a momentary glimpse. This story is about 3rd-hand, but I find it irresistible:

          Some years ago, the OSU forestry department wanted to know how the trees would do sans deer, so threw up a deer fence around a few acres. But they didn’t get it quite right: there was a place on a slope where deer could jump in, but not out. After a while, they started finding skeletons inside the fence. One day, a worker happened to look back as he was passing a low-hanging tree. There was a very contented cougar, watching him go by. It, of course, had no trouble with the fence, and greatly appreciated the deer trap they’d made.

          Reply
    2. jsn

      About 40 years ago we found 3-4″ cat tracks at the water tank in Center Point, Texas. Very fresh and crisp, never saw the kitty though.

      Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      As Jimmy Dore said a few months ago ‘Hilary Clinton sends her condolences for Jeffrey Epsteins tragic suicide next Thursday’.

      And he said it just 2 weeks before the event.

      I’d certainly advise her to stay well away from any yachts.

      Reply
    2. JohnnyGL

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-people-jeffrey-epstein-investigation/exclusive-fbi-investigating-british-socialite-and-others-who-facilitated-epstein-sources-idUSKBN1YV0VB

      As we’ve seen from the ‘crossfire hurricane’ investigation, the FBI is squeaky clean and never screws up or meddles in anything.

      The question regarding the potential length of Ms. Maxwell’s lifespan hinges on 1) whether powerful people are more afraid of her while she’s alive as compared to if she’s dead and 2) how much influence/control can be exerted over the FBI.

      I figure she’s more likely to get a sweetheart plea deal than wind up dead. Then, again, that may change if more women come forward and point the finger in her direction.

      Reply
      1. lordkoos

        If she’s smart she has a fail-safe plan, something along the lines of, if I turn up dead certain data will automatically be released…

        Reply
    3. richard

      I like how the “family friend” who is the source for all this info, Laura Goldman, virtuously cut off the relationship in 2008 after epstein’s first arrest, but somehow stays close enough to maxwell to benefit from this inside information.
      “Yeah, we’re close friends! We’ve become even closer since I cut her off 10 years ago…”

      Reply
  18. Wukchumni

    Benghazi, but on the other foot dept:

    Was watching a video of irate Iraqis using a weapon you’d probably see in siege warfare hundreds or thousands of years ago-a battering ram, against the ‘bulletproof’ glass of the US embassy in Baghdad, and it wasn’t as if any of the Marines in theory guarding the place were visible.

    In the past week, we were accorded 10 days of cease fire by the Taliban in the ‘stanbox, and now we’re defenseless against the lowest of low tech technology in a warfare sense.

    Guess they’ll have to ramp up the patriotism attacks on us via tv a bit more, to compensate.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Trebuchets next or some of those cool siege towers. MOA suggests that the US is in for more high tech retaliation due to Trump’s foolish recent bombing of the militia

      Perhaps 2020 will be a year of peace after the Dems come to their senses and nominate Tulsi to defeat Trump. Happy New Year to fellow NC peaceniks.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Mr Cynic observes that the Democrat Party has not shown the ability to “come to their senses” since at least the days of the Democratic Leadership Council.
        It will probably take a solid defeat somewhere overseas for America to “get real” about dealing with the ‘Decline of Empire’ phase we are presently in.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          US yield curve signals optimism for 2020 FT

          (couldn’t get past great paywall, but I think they were describing our military yield curve)

          Reply
        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > It will probably take a solid defeat somewhere overseas for America to “get real” about dealing with the ‘Decline of Empire’ phase we are presently in.

          Losing a carrier would do it. Or suppose one of those Seventh Fleet destroyers takes out a ferry with hundreds of people on it, as opposed to a freighter or tanker.

          Reply
  19. Summer

    RE:”Michael Bloomberg’s massive ad spending greatly affecting TV markets” NY Post

    Which means: other candidates better have their ground game together.

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      TV advertising is largely wasted, unless you’re a relative unknown trying to break in. Feet on the street are much more effective.

      Reply
  20. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Uber, Postmates sue to challenge California’s new labor law

    The latest challenge includes two independent workers who wrote about their concerns with the new law.

    “This has thrown my life and the lives of more than a hundred=thousand drivers into uncertainty,” ride-share driver Lydia Olson’s wrote in a Facebook post cited by Uber.

    Because gig work for less than minimum wage with no benefits was such a sure thing? Where do they find these people? And are they even really people? You’d think an at least once prestigious news outlet like the AP could maybe find an actual person who holds this opinion to interview rather than simply quote a post cited by the very company it benefits, and could have been posted by an Uber employee. It definitely would not be the first time such as thing has happened.

    Reply
  21. Summer

    RE: “Bret Stephens and the Perils of the Tapped-Out Column” Politico. Tapped out columnists, and fired copy editors.

    Tapped out of ideas? Or probing the subconscious for ideas? Ha! There’s a bigger problem than “copy editing” with the entire incident.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Aside from the dubious sourcing, the idea that Jews are pretty smart isn’t all that surprising, they made up around 30-40% of the coin business, and it was fun matching minds & wits against them, worthy competitors all sharp as a tack and fine fellows (99% of professional numismatists are male), in the pursuit of aged metal discs.

      Reply
  22. Wukchumni

    We’re experiencing what is termed ‘Tule Fog’ in the Central Valley, and luckily we’re above the fray as blue skies prevail, but if you’re in the thick of it, low-lying fog and clouds can get near freezing and it’s no fun. One of the reasons you can buy a home for $200k in the CVBB, combined with the 100 days of 100 degrees in the summer, not a nice place to live.

    Today’s new word: ‘pogonip’

    Definition: a dense winter fog containing frozen particles that is formed in deep mountain valleys of the western U.S.

    Reply
    1. Susan Truxes

      On one of the Novas they speculated that humans probably survived the last ice age living in mountain caves above the valleys because they got a good dose of sun and well as a view of what was for dinner.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        If push>meets<shove, you might find me hanging out in one of the 250 or so caves hereabouts, and most all have water coursing through them. The caver for Sequoia NP told me years ago that China paid for him to explore their cave systems, to exploit just that.

        Reply
      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Those mountain caves must have been much sought after, by many animals as well, not just humans, I imagine.

        Reply
    2. Off The Street

      Some drivers get a little crazy in the Tule Fog. Imagine a convoy of semis speeding along at 80mph after dark, trying to keep taillights in view to know that the progress continues. You could take your chances with the group, hoping that their CB radios keep them somewhat aware of some issues. Or you could pull off at a random exit in the middle of nowhere and then get further off the road so that you don’t get hit by another vehicle. White knuckle driving, and parking, both of which could go on for hours!

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        I was in my early 20’s driving from Lake Tahoe to LA and hit torturous Tule Fog in Placerville, and it never let up till past Bakersfield, and I was young & dumb and plodded on, and at one point the car I was following in the fast lane passed a CHP car on the right, and nothing happened, it wasn’t as if the cop was going to stop him, as it was thick as thieves and to pull him over could’ve been disastrous, leading to a pile up. I on the other hand decided that it’d be better to follow the cop car, ha.

        Reply
  23. Susan Truxes

    Live Science on 12 quantum experiments of 2019. The one about superpositions of larger-than-quantum objects and rime reversal – as in the reversal of cause and effect – is kinda interesting. In one of his hard to follow lectures Lee Smolin claims he is coming to the opinion that the only fundamental is time itself. And he has a theory about how weird things like entanglement and effect-before-cause happen or could happen. Twas not easy to follow his thinking but it went something like this: spacetime unfolds; it evolves physically. Some spark of energy moves forward from the existing fabric of space time out to its frontier and creates a new bit of space-time. Ad infinitum. So that as it unfolds, certain tangled points can exist together and appear to a researcher to be simultaneous entanglement when observed. I like the idea of spacetime unfolding, bringing infinity and eternity together.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      spacetime unfolds;

      One wonders in how many dimensions? To unfold it probably exists in more than 3 or 4 (Including time) we experience.

      I recall some discussion on I believe Super Symmetry of 10 or 11 dimensions.

      Reply
  24. DJG

    The writer Charles Baxter, whose forte is the short story, once noted that poets are prickly because they are prophets. Auden approaches his prophesies humbly, but his poem, written many years ago, remains valid today:

    I sit in one of the dives
    On Fifty-second Street
    Uncertain and afraid
    As the clever hopes expire
    Of a low dishonest decade:
    Waves of anger and fear
    Circulate over the bright
    And darkened lands of the earth,
    Obsessing our private lives;
    The unmentionable odour of death
    Offends the September night.

    Thanks for the link (above): It is a reminder of what we are up against in the new year.

    Happy New Year to All.

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      We are caught up in the fear and loathing of the beginnings of WWII yet again but the only difference is that it will go on much longer and there may be no respite. The poets always know it! Auden is well worth the reading.

      Reply
    2. RWood

      Hopefully sane post-transit; at present,

      Overall, all empires in history are more or less the same. They are like waves crashing on a beach: some are large, some small, some do damage, some just leave traces on the sand. The Western Empire did more damage than others because it was larger, but it was not different. We have to accept that the universe works in a certain way: never smoothly, always going up and down and, often, going through abrupt collapses, as the ancient Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca had noted long ago. Being the current empire so large, the transition to whatever will come after us needs to be more abrupt and more dramatic than anything seen in history before. But, just like it was the case for ancient Rome, the future may well be a gentler and saner age than the current one. And the universe will go on as it has always done.
      https://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-collapse-of-modern-western-empire.html

      So,
      Happiness runs in a circular motion
      Thought is like a little boat upon the sea.
      Everybody is a part of everything anyway,
      You can have everything if you let yourself be.

      Reply
      1. VietnamVet

        Great Article. To paraphrase, the Western Empire, although in its death throes, is not dead yet. It still has its wondrous propaganda machine working. The remarkable feat is that the Empire’s best trick consists in letting you believe it doesn’t exist.

        The Saudi’s oil fields are vulnerable to attack. Shiite mobs are storming the American Embassy in the Green Zone in retaliation for US bombing of the Iraqi military. Yes, the Modern Western Empire is collapsing. Impeachment is the Empire’s last desperate attempt to remove the Trump Administration and crown an Emperor.

        Reply
  25. Arizona Slim

    In the interest of full disclosure, this legislator is a longtime friend and mentor. Link:

    https://www.pinalcentral.com/religion/bill-seeks-full-disclosure-from-medical-professionals/article_51f3e5a7-0b68-5736-83fb-0162c3bdabbb.html

    Headline: Bill seeks full disclosure from medical professionals

    Lede: A two-term state lawmaker wants to force health care providers to disclose — up front — whether they won’t provide certain medical services or products based on their religious beliefs.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      whether they won’t provide certain medical services or products based on their religious beliefs….

      Including the religion of Pecuniary Advantage? /s

      Reply
        1. ChrisPacific

          I’d pick a Pastafarian medical professional over a follower of most of the major religions. They aren’t big on disapproval or proscription in general.

          Reply
  26. Oregoncharles

    “Census data projects shift in states’ congressional power”

    Somebody picked up the East Coast and shook gently, so the people rolled West. Why so many are moving to a place that will soon be underwater (Florida) escapes me altogether, though this might reflect the aging of the population.

    Oregon gets one more seat, probably a safe Dem seat if the 2-Party remains. The next redistricting should be interesting.

    Reply

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