Links 6/16/2020

Happy Blooms Day! PlutoniumKun sends this story: What Leopold Bloom’s food diary tells us about Bloomsday RTE

Spectacular bird’s-eye view? Hummingbirds see diverse colors humans can only imagine PsyOrg (David L)

Beware of lateral thinking Aeon


The radical uncertainties of coronavirus American Prospect

The Idea of a Nation The Point Magazine (Anthony L)

Cut and run: the underground hairdressers of lockdown Guardian

Only three out of 53 countries say US has handled coronavirus better than China Guardian (resilc). Quelle surprise!


The Pandemic Claims New Victims: Prestigious Medical Journals New York Times

From Ignacio:

WHO is considering human challenging with SARS CoV2 for vaccine development. Challenging humans to test the efficacy of vaccines against SARS CoV 2 is being seriously discussed. It is discussed if it would be ethical to do so with volunteers around 18-30 years old for which mortality rates habe been reported to be about 0,03% according to the second link given. The WHO core protocol doesn’t specify the size of treatment groups to receive control/placebo vs. vaccine candidates.

This is the subject in focus in WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Report–147 (Link: and the ethical considerations in Key criteria for the ethical acceptability of COVID-19 human challenge studies (

To grasp who’s dying of Covid-19, look to social factors like race STAT (Dr. Kevin)

Israel Set to Invest in High-priced, Unapproved Coronavirus Vaccine Haaretz

New Zealand

New Zealand ends Covid-free run with two cases from UK Guardian (resilc)


Surging coronavirus cases raise fears of new lockdowns The Hill

Tyson Foods Worker Urges Company To Slow Down So They Can Social Distance New York Times (resilc)

Shoppers Brawl Over One-Way Arrows At Store Smoking Gun (resilc)


College Towns Fear Covid Will Leave Them as Ghost Towns Bloomberg

Coronavirus latest: ECB considers buying debt of ‘fallen angel’ companies Financial Times

Donald Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow says $600-a-week unemployment benefits will STOP in July because they are a ‘disincentive’ for people to return to their jobs and will be replaced by a ‘back-to-work’ bonus Daily Mail. Um, there is this little matter of Congress…


North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office near border with South Agence France-Presse


China’s drive for hegemony meets resistance Asia Times

Three Indian soldiers killed in ‘violent’ border face-off with China, Delhi says DPA

The cause of tension between China and India The Saker (Kevin W)


Syria’s Economy Collapses Even as Civil War Winds to a Close New York Times. Funny, what I heard from a Lebanese buddy when I was in NYC (and he comes from a politically connected family) was pretty different. Readers?

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Tech Firms Are Spying on You. In a Pandemic, Governments Say That’s OK. Wall Street Journal

More than 7 in 10 Americans won’t use contact-tracing apps, data shows ars technica. J-LS points out that her piece showed that HK has seen its success w/out resorting to an app.

Some Believe the US Has Been Hit By Large-Scale DDoS Attack — Others Are Skeptical Forbes

They know us better than we know ourselves’: how Amazon tracked my last two years of reading Guardian (David L)

Apple faces fresh EU antitrust complaint Financial Times. I’d have linked to non-paywalled Bloomberg, but they don’t have the story up.

Facebook Censored an Account Copying Trump’s Words for Inciting Violence Vice (resilc)

Imperial Collapse Watch

To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism) Ben Norton. “Obama certainly isn’t alone when it comes to being an unrepentant war criminal; every modern US president is. Barry just managed to pull it off with style.” He managed to miss failing to stop 9 million mainly preventable foreclosures and not prosecuting any bankers.

Disorders Now and To Come James Howard Kunstler (Kevin W)

Trump Transition

Trump CONFIRMS pullout of US troops from Germany, until Berlin pays ‘delinquent’ NATO bills RT (Kevin W)

Trump’s ‘Baby Lives Matter’ Onesie Is More Pro-Life Coopting New York Magazine (resilc)

U.S. National Pride Falls to Record Low Gallup (resilc)

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Supreme Court Will Not Reexamine Qualified Immunity For Police NPR (David L)

Language is a telling clue to unacknowledged racial attitudes Economist (Dr. Kevin)

Pentagon Surplus Handouts Stoke The Militarization Of US Police Barron’s (furzy). Reported back in the day but good to have a recap.

Will the Death of George Floyd Mark the Rebirth of America? CounterPunch (Chuck L)

Interview Most Foul Off Guardian (Chuck L)

The End Of The OPEC Deal Could Be The Start Of A New Oil Price War OilPrice (Kevin W)

The stranded asset write downs begin Richard Murphy

The Economy Is Reeling. The Tech Giants Spy Opportunity. New York Times (furzy)

Ford Plans to Unveil New Bronco on OJ Simpson’s Birthday Daily Beast (resilc)

Deadliest Corporate Crime in U.S. Will End With 84 Guilty Pleas Bloomberg (David L). PG&E

Why Expanding Highways Makes Traffic Worse Gizmodo

Guillotine Watch

eBay executives charged with cyberstalking Financial Times (David L). This is wild.

Class Warfare

Walmart looks to remove all cashiers from stores FOX 5 New York. Resilc: Big big employment for people on the low end.”

Amazon Says Jeff Bezos Is Willing To Testify Before Congress Politico. On anti-trust

Harvard University Won’t Require SAT, ACT for Admissions Next Year Wall Street Journal (J-LS)

Antidote du jour. Tracie H: “Sphynxie wants to know if I plan to put her blanket on her new desk.”

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. russell1200

    “Facebook Censored an Account Copying Trump’s Words for Inciting Violence”

    It would at least be likely of violence to the language :)

    1. Billy

      And, “Language is a telling clue to unacknowledged racial attitudes’

      We are perilously close to the invocation of Orwell’s Thought Crime statutes.

      “First they came for the statues, then they erected the statutes.”

  2. jackiebass

    I only rarely shop at Walmart. Only if I need something now and have no other option. If they go to all self check out, I won’t shop there ever. Some of our local grocery stores have self check out. I refuse to use them even though at times it would be quicker. In one store I was waiting to be checked out when a clerk suggested I could save time by self checking out. I said no thanks because I don’t use self check out because it costs jobs. She said she would do the self check out for me so I agreed. If I was given a discount for checking out I might consider it. I also won’t pack my bags like some people do. As a retired worker, I won’t help a company get rid of its work force.

    1. Off The Street

      So many innovations, like self-checkout, have darker sides. One triumph ongoing effort of the managerial, marketing or whatever team has been to disguise those using dark patterns.

      1. The Rev Kev

        A coupla days ago I went into a McDonalds to get an ice-cream for my wife and I. Yeah, a guilty pleasure. When I went in I realized that it was self-checkout in that you had to tap a screen to order from and use a keypad below to pay for it. And that the counter no longer had cash registers so that you could buy direct anymore. So a screen that might be contaminated with feces or viruses and a keypad they would take my details and possibly level charges due to the low order cost. I decided that we did not need ice-creams that much. A very dark pattern indeed.

        1. Carolinian

          Everybody will need a touch stylus?

          We’ve had this debate here before and up to now I believe stores have installed self checkout more for customer convenience (personally I hate waiting in line) than labor savings. But clearly Walmart has decided to go self check and my nearest store, which had no self check before, now has multiple lanes. We also have Walmart grocery/pharmacies and last time I was in that store there were no human cashiers operating at all. Clearly Covid has given them the excuse to accelerate this trend.

          Meanwhile the former cashiers are roaming the aisles with blue carts pulling products for online pickup orders. So this too may be about customer convenience–the Walmart strategy for competing wiith and surviving ecommerce.

          1. a different chris

            >personally I hate waiting in line

            ??? The line is created by people wanting to pay for things, “self-checkout” makes no difference.

            And it’s actually the worst for waiting as far as I have discovered. Every third person it seems doesn’t get thru, and you have to wait for somebody to come over and figure it out. And *they* will then need to call somebody else… at least with a cashier you get the “somebody else” call immediately.

            Finally even excepting all of that, the checkout person is 10x as fast at scanning things thru as somebody that does this once a week.

            1. Carolinian

              Yes as stores like Walmart go to self checkout then we will have to wait even to use that–which I admit is quite annoying. It really depends on how much self checkout they choose to provide.

              But I don’t think they are indifferent to customer attitudes. They still have plenty of competitors. Perhaps the thinking is that in our smartphone world the public is ready for this.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          I ran into that at the airport a few years ago. I’m more concerned about the labor aspect of it all myself. So now instead of a company having to pay to train one person to use a checkout machine for the customers, all of the customers now must learn to use the machine and train themselves for free. Took me way longer to place my order than if the actual human behind the counter had just taken it for me.

          First and last time I’ll be using that “convenience”.

        3. wilroncanada

          Wow, Rev K! Getting an ice cream for your wife. You don’t make trades like that everyday.
          As for self-checkout. One supermarket in my little town has self checkout: Superstore, part of the Loblaws chain. I will not use it and have, like the previous poster, have expressed my displeasure to the manager, in the (faint) hope that they will not replace the rest of the cashiers eventually. The chain also owns a drugstore chain, and I direct my business only to the cashier. I buy as little as I can from both.
          I never shop at Walmart.
          I do the same at the bank, use the teller for most things, not the ATM.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Always pays to have a little something in the bank for all those times that you screw up.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      here in rural texas, i notice a lot of that…people refusing to use the self checkout/robots…and instead standing in long lines for the 1 or 2 human checkers.
      informal polling of these line-standers reveals that they are aware of what they’re doing: punishing walmart(or whatever), and resisting the switch to robots. they’re even aware that the limited number of human checkers is a nefarious ploy by the corp to “encourage” the use of the robot lanes.
      “punishing” the corp by making their investment in robot checkers a waste of $$$….
      all this, from rednecks and white trash, right leaning but mostly apolitical(as in they don’t vote or think about “Politics(tm)”.
      there’s yer untapped “intersectionality” and largely unconscious class consciousness,lol.

      mom goes to wallywhirled…and since i drive her(pre-pandemic), i go too….if it was up to me, I’d never darken their door.

      1. L

        I have seen the same phoenomenon here as well.

        Interestingly yven before COVID the employers were telegraphing this. Over the past year I’ve noticed when I’ve gone into big box stores they have fewer and fewer people working the registers so that out of 12 register stations only 2 are staffed and then they have one person who keeps walking over to me from the automated like saying “you can check out over here”

        By and large the only people who take them up on the offer are the ones getting 5 items or less. And on the few times I have it invariably requires them to help.

      2. S.D.

        Sadly there are lots of people(older, in rural or suburban areas especially) for whom the minimal social interactions at a checkout counter are literally their only routine occasion for in person human contact.

        1. John Beech

          I’m not fond of self-checkout either. I’m now using Amazon more and more often as then self-checkout is from the comfort of my home.

      3. Skip Intro

        If you do use an automated checkout, just make sure to have some trouble scanning items, so the ‘attendant’ has to come over and do stuff, and the line behind you grows. Now I’m not suggesting intentionally bogging down the robots and requiring extensive human interactions… or am I?

    3. HotFlash

      “But I wasn’t a cashier, so I didn’t speak out…”

      I do not use self-checkout ever and I refuse to use ATM’s unless bank is closed (my branch closed due to Clovid, probably won’t re-open, but that’s another story). Was in a Walmart once, nearly 30 years agos. When I check out I tell the cashier or the teller, “I didn’t use the machine b/c I think we humans should stick together as long as we can.” As a human, I won’t help a company get rid of its work force.

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        Same interactions here. Never ever use self-checkout, wont go to any place that forces it by removing checkers. Every time someone hopefully asks me if I want to use that line, I politely nope out – while telling them I like humans, and like seeing them employed.

        They invariably smile, nod, and quietly acknowledge they really appreciate what I am doing. I also try and use not too sotto of a voce so other humans around me will get the message and maybe do the same.

        Dunno, given the evolution of big box stores that way….will it open back up opportunities for mom’n’pop hardware stores, groceries, etc? Would be nice.

        1. David B Harrison

          I’m sorry but not using the self checkout does not influence big box retailers.Before the introduction of self checkouts the big box retailers had already slashed the number of cashiers.You could go into any Walmart(yes I shop there because like a lot of people I literally can’t afford to pay higher prices) and they would have 50 checkouts with 4 or 5 cashiers.P.S.I did 12.5 years of cashiering.

    4. Noone from Nowheresville

      And there also is the dark side of potentially being accused of theft.

      I vote for keeping workers. The theft possibility just makes my refusal to use self-checkout easier to stick to when the lines are really long and I start getting annoyed because the company didn’t staff properly.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        That’s a very real possibility. There is live software analysis of overhead camera images that can distinguish product shapes, color and size. It compares it with inventory and price to make sure that you have scanned the correct article or aren’t holding another UPC under the product you’re scanning. Combined with facial recognition (which is not illegal for businesses to use…), it’s a very powerful tool for marketing and security evil.

      2. Mel

        I agree. Like I said before somewhere, the interaction between me and the cashier creates the meeting of minds that’s necessary for a valid contract. We’ve both seen the merchandise I want to take, we’ve both seen the payment I’m giving, and we’ve made a deal between the store and me. I have solid legal backing for taking the stuff out of the store to my car.
        My horror fiction with no cashiers goes: management starts to notice leakage. Leakage is a security problem, so management hires security people. Security people do security things, and any misunderstanding gets me tased in the parking lot. I’ll go with cashiers instead.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        It’s much easier to shoplift using the self checkout – so many ways!

        Now I see people who used to be cashiers standing around the self checkouts instead, ostensibly there to assist, but really watching for shoplifters, and thereby treating every customer as a potential criminal.

        Isn’t “progress’ great?

      4. Janie

        I’ve had to use self check a few times. I feign inability to use it, helpless oh dear me which button. The employee then scans the few items and oversees payment. I’ve taken quite a bit of employee’s time and i wasnt the one who rang up the order. Two birds, one stone!

      5. GettingTheBannedBack

        When our local supermarket brought in self-checkout, I refused to use it because I want people to keep their jobs. Until Covid-19 came along, I noticed a number of people of my vintage (fine years!) doing likewise.

        But it was interesting to see how the checkout staff tried hard to get me to use the self checkout lane. I politely resisted with my reasons until they gave up. Perhaps they were being paid a bonus for switching people over, but I don’t really know.

      6. Yves Smith Post author

        Another reason I refuse to use self checkout (as in I too am all on board with the “preserving jobs” bit) is pretty much all stores with self checkout have cameras out the wazoo over them.

    5. Arizona Slim

      I’m here to tell you that there is no self checkout at the Home Depot I patronized on Sunday morning. What killed it? Coronavirus.

    6. marieann

      I also do not use self checkouts, in the beginning as a protest but now I don’t think I could figure it out and even if someone showed me and then I would forget all the instructions the next time I shopped.
      Our local drug store started with self checkouts and I only shop there on seniors day and there is usually a long line of seniors waiting for the one open checkout. Once in a while another staff will come over and ring up the customers at the self checkout…I let her do all the work.

      I don’t pump my own gas either.

      1. ambrit

        “Re: I don’t pump my own gas…”
        Around here, in the half-horse region, there literally are no “manned” petrol stations, none, even in the high income festungs.
        My experience over the last few years is that, even in “convenience stores” where there are people working inside in the “store” part of the equation, the inside workers refuse to go outside to help in any way. I have seen this exact scenario more than once.
        One quite memorable occurrence from several years ago:
        A ‘little old lady’ pulls up to the pump and scootches over to the passenger side and calls inside, over the intercom mounted on the pump. (I was standing in line to pre-pay for my petrol.) There were two cashiers at the front, and a third nearby, stocking a shelf.
        “Could someone come out and help me?”
        “What’s the matter?”
        “I can’t walk well and need help with the gas.”
        “Sorry. We don’t do that.”
        “What? You don’t help the old and lame?”
        “What should I do then?”
        “Go home and get a family member to come with you and do the gas for you.”
        “You mean you wont?”
        “OK! This is what I think of you and your company!” The little old lady proceeds to entertain us all, since the cashier had all this live and out loud on the register communicator, with a truly inventive tirade filled with not purely gratuitous profanity. The crowd at the register was laughing out loud after the first thirty seconds or so.
        By the time any of us had the presence of mind to go out and help the old woman, she had peeled rubber on out of the gas station.
        Some days, I wish that I had the fearlessness of that little old lady.

        1. marieann

          Yea! she sounds like a lady I would like to know.
          We have one station that will pump gas….I notice it is always busy.

    7. lyman alpha blob

      Good for you for refusing the machines! I had some words with the managers at my local grocery store when the self checkouts were installed. The managers claim people won’t lose jobs, but that’s a bunch of baloney. Ask the cashiers in those stores and they’ll have a different story to tell.

      But like the Fed shoveling a few trillion at banks a couple months ago or Major League Baseball trying to cut minor league teams and major league salaries, Walmart is simply using COVID as excuse to do something they wanted to do anyway. These ‘self checkouts’ were always meant to replace workers.

      Bill Burr has some very funny thoughts on self checkout – he hadn’t realized he was employed at the grocery store.

    8. Gregorio

      I also refuse. When they try and direct me to the self check out, I just say, “No thanks, I don’t work here.”

    9. Harold

      In Europe no one packs your bags for you. (I missed it, but you can get used to anything, and really it’s not that bad.) But at least you know what to expect. What’s bad is when you don’t know if you are expected to or not. Also, I suppose European checkout people have better salaries and working conditions, including paid leave and six-week summer holidays.

  3. Off The Street

    Obama Day, if one must, is best celebrated in the smallest room in the house, with appropriate hand motions.

    1. Darius

      The worst thing Obama did was embrace austerity. It was the opposite of what was needed and sent the world into a tailspin.

      1. jef

        The worst thing Obama did was kill hope for the african continent, making way for public lynchings, human slave trade with open auctions. Yes Obama was at the helm with the destruction of Libya. It would be ironic if it wasn’t so tragic.

    2. Oh

      Obama is a zero. After the cynical stunt he pulled at Flint, O wonder why any black person would vote for that guy

    3. Maritimer

      “bailing out Wall Street with trillions of dollars of tax dollars, not sending a single corporate executive to prison for blowing up the global economy, while overseeing one of the largest transfers of wealth from poor workers to rich capitalists”

      Looting in the streets will never match the looting in the suites. Amazing how all these crime experts totally ignore the Real Crime that is easily measured in the trillions. Hey, you, drop that TV……..

    4. eddy

      And don’t forget his other nugget of hypocrisy. He’s now supporting the protests against Police violence. Yay!! He must have forgotten that under his administration, he broke up the mostly peaceful Occupy Wall Street protest in DC. But oh well…

      And don’t forget his contribution to race relations – the infamous “Beer Summit” of July 16, 2009. I’d be surprised if the “Woke” Left won’t be celebrating it as a milestone in addressing systemic racism in policing.

  4. zagonostra

    >Murder Most Foul

    Thanks for linking to this Off-Guardian piece.

    Brinkley was doing what all the mainstream corporate media do: Making sure the truth was hidden behind a stream of pop cultural references and questions that would appeal to The New York Times’ aging readers who are nostalgic for their youth as they contemplate old age and death…

    It is a trance-inducing interview meant to do what the Times has been doing for nearly six decades: obfuscating the truth about the murder of President Kennedy by the national security state led by the CIA. The same CIA that has always found a most receptive mouthpiece in the Times.

    …Brinkley asks other questions to take your head to places where you won’t see a thing. It’s quite a magic trick.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Why Expanding Highways Makes Traffic Worse Gizmodo

    I suppose this report was produced to reinforce the message rather than provide new information. Its been demonstrated in numerous studies since at least the 1970’s that building roads simply increases traffic proportionately. It never works as a means to reduce congestion, except in the shortest term.

    But the notion that you need to build roads to ‘satisfy demand’ shows that zombie ideas don’t just belong to economics. No matter how often its repeated, the notion that you can provide road space supply ahead of a fixed rise in demand is an idea that simply can’t be shaken out of the heads of politicians, economic planners, and most especially, transport engineers.

    1. David

      I’m surprised Gizmodo thought this was news. My impression is that it has been settled wisdom for at least a generation. In the UK we went through the same experience in the 1980s with the M25, which was supposed to relieve pressure on London, but which notoriously turned immediately into the world’s largest car-park. What the planners hadn’t realised was that many inhabitants of the southern suburbs, where traffic is notoriously slow, would use the motorway for short journeys rather than going through endless suburban high-streets.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        A friend of mine, back around 1994, was at the public inquiry into what was then known as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road (essentially, the proposed bypass for the bypass for the Spaghetti Junction part of the M6 and the M5 junctions). The senior engineer for the project was presenting road projections, which, it was claimed, meant that even allowing for additional traffic generation, it would speed up traffic along existing sections of road. A community activist then pointed out to the inspector that the departments own projections had overlapping statistical margins of error – in other words, even using their own projections, there was no statistical basis for saying that it would improve traffic flow anywhere in the system. The project engineer had little option but concede that this was indeed the case. This never made the local news, because as my friend said sadly, as the local journalists present didn’t actually understand the math.

        The Inspector apparently never referred to this in his final report and the project was built (its now called the M6 toll), and I think any West Midlands residents here can confirm that indeed, it had not a whit of a difference on traffic levels.

        As for your example of the M25, you are indeed right – its a consistent error made that ‘bypass’ or ‘ring roads’ are usually built with far too many local links, which do nothing more than encourage additional local traffic movements, defeating the supposed whole point of a bypass. Someone more cynical than I might suggest that this is a very good way to ensure jobs for life for road engineers.

    2. Bugs Bunny

      That’s really interesting because looking at Chicago, for example, they’ve expanded to so many lanes on the major interstates in the west of the city that at some points there are 6 lanes per side, but traffic is always the same.

      How does one make traffic run more smoothly without adding new space or reducing bottlenecks? I’ve always thought that traffic lights could be better synchronized. Finally a use for AI!

      1. Pelham

        AI for traffic lights is one solution.

        Or just forget big cities. I grew up in a house at the edge of a town of just under 10,000, and remember my dad commuting to work in the center of town in about 5 minutes. He could even come home for lunch! Traffic jams were unknown. The air was clean. School was a short hike away. And kids had the run of the town on their bikes in summer.

        1. ambrit

          Those halcyon days of yore, (which I too remember,) will return after the Jackpot settles out, with a much reduced human population.

      2. SerenityNow

        Congestion pricing is the only solution that really makes sense. And don’t let people start complaining about the inequity of charging poor people to use roads–it ignores the massive inequity of the existing system that forces everyone to have a car to participate in society. So, congestion pricing can be made better for those who can’t afford it by simply letting them use the system for free, or at low cost, or through subsidies; or by designing our cities better so that a car isn’t necessary at all.

    3. John Anthony La Pietra

      In transportation research, it’s known as the “Fundamental Law of Road [or Highway] Congestion” — first observed in 1962. I was a transportation planner in the 1980s, though on the public transit side so I hadn’t studied this phenomenon. So when I observed it independently, I called it the “Field of Dreams” effect — “If you build it, they will drive. . . .”

      1. John Anthony La Pietra

        The recent research I’ve seen has suggested:

        * there is a brief respite before “congestion equilibrium” (my term) restores itself

        * transit doesn’t help with congestion, but does make conditions better otherwise

        * congestion pricing can be of some help

        1. SerenityNow

          Congestion pricing is the only thing that really works. You’re totally right to point out that adding more transit doesn’t resolve the problem though, many people (including planners) seem to repeat this over and over without realizing that adding more transit doesn’t make driving less convenient. At the end of the day it’s just about access to destinations. We’ve built our system so a car provides the best access to maybe 10,000 points in a city (and our parking rules usually ensure that everyone will have a free vehicle storage space at the beginning and end of every trip). Even the better mass transit systems in the US can only provide access to a fraction of those destinations. But that’s how we designed it.

        1. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

          Loosening the belt:

          Only loosening? I am moving onto new longer belts.

          A term I came up with for cars in my intensive cycling days is:

          “Lard Luggers.”


      2. HotFlash

        What I see here in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is that traffic congestion on our major in/out highways (the 401, 400, QEW) becomes intolerable, ie, commutes over two hours, additional lanes are added, esp ‘express and collector’ . We now have up to six lanes in each direction. Developers then buy up cornfields in the small towns 20, 30, 40, 50 km out and build tract homes — Milton, Newmarket, Brampton, Oshawa. The traffic increases to serve these new bedroom communities, the commutes go back to 2 hours and more, the the small towns are ruined. I have almost welcomed the move to city condominiums on public transit lines on an ecological basis, but they are breaking my small-town-within-a-city. Cue Marvin Gaye.

    4. Ignacio

      Wow, this is something that I have discussed so many times with colleagues of which some work in urban development and it is true that they cannot grasp the reality. When the former major of Madrid set traffic restrictions for the largest part of Madrid city center many, too many felt pissed off but it was crystal clear that this was a great achievement with excellents results and al the predicted doom about business in the city center didn’t realise. The recently elected new major first tried to revoke this but he found a spontaneous clamor in favour of that measure and he is now thinking twice.

    5. chuck roast

      Traffic engineers have a black box that says “increased capacity” and “new turn lanes” reduce congestion and make traffic flow more efficient. Developers are required to demonstrate that their development plans will not negatively impact the existing roadways or intersections adjacent to the development. They then hire a transportation planner with a black box (otherwise known as a “travel model”) to produce a before and after automotive travel plan that displays peak period “levels of service” (LOS) on the adjacent roadways. If an intersection LOS is shown to deteriorate with the added land use density, the developer is typically all to happy to add a turn lane or upgrade a signal to improve the ante-LOS. What, after an epiphany of sorts, I began to call “the way-smart model.”

      Similarly, your regional transportation authority has its own “way-smart model” which contains a model of the entire roadway system with its current and future expected LOS based upon plan improvements. Somehow, the future traffic conditions never quite meets the modeled expectations, and the LOS of multiple roadways fail when the future becomes the present. The planned improvements are always…always inadequate.

      If you were to tell a traffic planner that you think “induced demand” might be the problem i.e. more capacity and improved LOS leads to more frequent trips, that traffic planner would explain to you that your Ptolemaic world-view is completely fallacious. After all, if “induced demand” were a real thing, his “way-smart model” would have to cover the region in highways. The poor box would go into a mechanical version of cardiac arrest. Oh, the horror!

      1. SerenityNow

        Transportation planners (and many regular planners as well) also tend to operate within the faulty paradigm of “trip generation”–that is, they believe that every land use has the unique capacity to “generate” a certain number of motor vehicle trips at different times of day. This, of course, completely confuses the agency of travel, as land uses don’t generate trips, but rather people are attracted to land uses/destinations and then choose to drive based on the infrastructure available.

        But the “trip generation” paradigm treats every land use as a generator in itself, and so it requires car infrastructure to be built up front, before new land uses are even developed. This ensures that the infrastructural context is designed from the start to encourage people to drive, which means they drive to the land uses, which means transportation engineers observe this and the positive feedback loop continues…

        1. chuck roast

          The perfect trip generation pathology…suburban movie theaters are required to provide enough parking for their busiest day of the year, Christmas day. As for the rest of the year? Meh.

    6. IMOR

      Unlimited development of the same ok same ok sprawled housing and shopping (opposite to the spirit and purpose of interstates) ‘requiring’ a new on and off-ramp(s) every time. Each and every onramp is a flow-of-traffic chokepoint.

    7. Eloined

      An example of the Jevons paradox in action. Make a resource more efficient to use and demand for that resource goes up. As true for road space as it is with energy sources.

      Agreed that the paradox is a highly underappreciated policy factor, though I suspect most resource producers and heavy users understand it well — hence broad-based support for efficiency measures over conservation.

    8. periol

      I strongly disagree with the collective wisdom, the numerous studies, etc.

      All of this is an institutional excuse not to provide the necessary infrastructure for a population in the United States that has been growing, and growing, and growing. This car culture was not “chosen” by the American people, it was forced upon the country by large corporations and government manipulation/investment. Since car culture was forced on this country, the population has grown quite significantly.

      Traffic jams exist because demand outstrips supply. In Riverside County, in the LA metro area, traffic exists because the lack of housing (let along affordable housing) has been pushing people who work in the metro area to live farther and farther away from their jobs. The 91 freeway is basically the only way in and out of the city for a large number of these people. Similarly in the Antelope Valley north of LA, there is a similar crush of people commuting 40+ miles on the 14 freeway.

      You have a few choices here to alleviate the congestion problems your social policies have created:
      1) widen the freeway,
      2) build another one(or three),
      3) seriously implement an actual mass transit system that works for these people, or
      4) enact social policies that make it possible for people to live closer to their jobs again.

      All these government agencies and academics with their studies showing that widening the roads doesn’t work are missing the point. Probably because they come from the wrong class to be impacted by these stupid social policies. It’s always the poor who get squeezed. All of the hand-wringing over adding more lanes or building more freeways ignores the fact the people sitting in traffic right now don’t have a choice. All the hand-wringing over the future traffic that’s coming after construction finishes ignores the reality that maybe they just didn’t add enough supply for the demand.

      The simple truth is that America has ham-strung itself with dependence on the car to make society work. It is probably impossible to build out the infrastructure required to maintain the car’s primacy in American life – just look at New Jersey, already a glorified parking lot in some areas. I firmly believe articles like this Gizmodo one, the studies and government agencies etc. are trying very hard to put lipstick on a pig. They will never build out the infrastructure required for a car culture that works for everyone, so they have to come up with excuses for why they won’t even try.

  6. zagonostra

    > The Magnificent Diversion.

    It was already clear even then that the Democrats, with invaluable help from intelligence leaks and other prepping to the media, had made good use of those six weeks between Assange’s announcement that he had emails “related to Hillary Clinton” and the opening of the convention.

    The media was primed to castigate the Russians for “hacking,” while taking a prime role in the deflection. It was a liminal event of historic significance, as we now know. The “Magnificent Diversion” worked like a charm — and then it grew like Topsy.

  7. timbers

    The cause of tension between China and India The Saker (Kevin W)

    “It is worth mentioning that, under a defense agreement, between the US and India, both countries can have access to each other’s military bases and have the right to use in case of any war-like situations. It was a direct threat to China if American uses Ladakh Airbase against China. That was the immediate concern of the Chinese side and left with no option to stop construction works in the disputed territory.”

    Funny how it usually comes to something like that. Afghanistan isn’t close enough?

    Maybe it’s also some of this – “Trump & the Borg don’t want China making a better 5G and interfering with regime change in HK and are also disturbed how China is shifting it’s trade towards it’s neighbors and moving away for U.S. trade.”

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The Saker can be a useful source of information, but that article is just nonsense upon nonsense. First off, Ladakh is not ‘disputed territory’. Ladakh is and always has been part of India and is not and never has been claimed by China. The disputed territory is in the Aksai Chin which is far to the north of Ladakh, plus a number of remote valleys along the existing border. The notion that India provoked the border conflict is also contrary to every report I’ve read, including sources ore sympathetic to China than India.

      The notion that the US could use Ladakh airbase is also a nonsense. High altitude airbases are of limited utility because taking off at 3-4000 metres above sea level significantly reduces the loads any type of aircraft can hold. Plus, its too close to potential Chinese attacks. And even more important, the road links are very poor, so logistically it cannot be supported. So in a hypothetical conflict along the border which included the US on the Indian side, all air attacks would be from air bases further south, it would make zero tactical or strategic sense for the US to use that airbase (this is why the Indians don’t make much use of it either).

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I just noticed that the author is from Islamabad – that doesn’t of course mean he is necessarily wrong, but I’d hardly consider a Pakistani source to be a reliable commentator on India/Chinese affairs, given Pakistans own interests in the region. There is at least one school of thought that there is significant co-operation between Pakistan and China in trying to squeeze the Indians out of strategically important areas of the north-western Himalaya region.

          1. David

            Oh yes. My own experience in the region is that co-operation between the two countries is remarkably close, especially in the security area. As one Pakistani officer said to me “the Chinese are our only completely reliable allies.” This wouldn’t surprise me at all.

        1. furies

          After wandering the cold wasteland of the internet it’s always good to come back here for a little sanity.

          Yes indeed. Thank you. I am eternally grateful knowing I’m not the only one…

          If my income ever breaks the $1,000/month barrier, I’d be happy to contribute, but until then…I ‘ll try to be unobtrusive.

      1. jef

        “…it would make zero tactical or strategic sense for the US to use that airbase …”

        Hardly zero. As with Russia, US goal is to completely encircle the Country with anti-aircraft/anti-missile systems which could theoretically allow the US to do first strike and survive.

        China, just as Russia can not let this go on unchallenged.

        1. David

          I don’t follow the logic. A first-strike capability is the capability to knock out all of an enemy’s strategic nuclear systems before they can be used. Since the Chinese have mobile ICBMs and also SLBMs, there is no possibility of the US acquiring this capability. Even if they were to attempt the exercise, they would irradiate Japan and South Korea in the process. Bases near the frontier don’t make any difference: anti-air defences have no role, and anti-missile defences there would be in the wrong place. Hitting a missile in boost phase is impossible with current technology (as opposed to hitting it in mid-course, which is just incredibly difficult ).

          1. jef

            There is no logic.

            “U.S. Trying to Surround Russia, Lavrov Says”

            “Surrounded: How the U.S. Is Encircling China with Military Bases”

            “Special Report: U.S. rearms to nullify China’s missile supremacy”

      2. ook

        “Ladakh is not ‘disputed territory’. Ladakh is and always has been part of India and is not and never has been claimed by China. ”

        Actually, Aksai Chin is administered by China as part of its Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions and claimed by India as part of the union territory of Ladakh. China and India fought a war over this in 1962. India lost.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The article clearly stated that Ladakh was ‘disputed territory’, implying that the entire administrative region was in contention between India and China. I pointed out that this is not the case. Ladakh – as currently constituted, is Indian territory and is not claimed (at least officially) by China. The disputed territories are Aksai Chin and another area to the north-east which is claimed by India, but occupied by China. The declaration of Ladakh as a ‘Union Territory’ occurred last year, and was interpreted (probably incorrectly) by China as an aggressive restatement of Indian claims on the Aksai Chin as the Indians included the disputed area as part of the declaration – so far as the Indians are concerned this was solely an internal administrative matter and the longer term claims on parts of the plateau are unchanged (in reality, Ladakh province was always self administered and separate from Jammu and Kashmir). But the administrative area internationally recognised as Ladakh is not officially disputed or contested, except for disputes as to the line of the border – the subject of the current conflict.

  8. The Rev Kev

    “New Zealand ends Covid-free run with two cases from UK”

    This may have served as a good warning, not only for New Zealand, but for other countries as well in how they open up. Right now we are having what amounts to border wars in Oz. South Australia is opening itself up to some other States but Western Australia is saying nope. New South Wales is demanding that all the other States open up to them while other States are saying not so fast. One Liberal Senator told the Queensland Premier that – I kid you not – “She is the knee on the throat of the businesses of Queensland, stopping them from breathing.” Yes, she actually said that and then played innocent.

    But don’t worry. Scotty from Marketing has a plan. Shorter quarantine periods for international students and business travelers (with an emphasis on the later) because apparently two weeks is a hassle and business people get bored. He also wants airlines flying all over the country and all the tourist venues to open up as well as all the borders because what can possibly go wrong? Anyway, “What’s the point of having this superb (medical gear) you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

    1. rfdawn

      Plenty of similar biz-friendly advocacy in NZ too with the lure of September elections. Foolish promises will be made and perhaps be kept. Can we serve as both good and bad example on the same issue in the same year? It’s exciting!

    2. ChrisPacific

      I think it may turn out to be a good thing in the long run for New Zealand, since it’s shining a spotlight on the reasons why quarantine procedures can be circumvented or avoided for what seem like good reasons (the border closures and restrictions are challenging and have real human consequences in some cases, as a steady stream of personal interest stories are demonstrating). It’s also testing whether our procedures live up to expectations (spoiler: no, at least not yet). We should come out of it stronger and I think the risk of a further outbreak in consequence is relatively low.

      New Zealand can also not afford to remain closed indefinitely, to Australia in particular, and that will mean accepting occasional reintroduction of Covid. That means our procedures like contact tracing are critical if we are to succeed, and the more they are tested and refined in relatively low stakes cases like this the better.

  9. Off The Street

    Aeon on de Bono, et al could opine on moving the brain down the field.

    Lateral thinking, if you must, but don’t fumble.

    1. Oh

      I really tried to read the article but more than halfway through it I still didn’t understand what lateral thinking is. I have up but I’m hoping someone in NC can provide a definition.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Haha, you hit on the real problem! Sad that the article talked around it.

        In the Bono example, why does he deem the woman pretending to lose the black marker not to be logical and instead to be lateral? This is arbitrary. This is analogous to Solomon demanding that the disputed baby be divided, as in a device to expose dishonesty.

    2. Rod

      Thanks NC.
      Aeon on de Bono—what a treat to read this morning.
      big fan of off the wall wondering
      imo-imagining without borders is where it all begins
      and before reading LINKS, made reference to the below when commenting on Coronavirus Recovery: Why Local Markets are Key to Reviving Our Locked Down Town Centres – 06/15/2020 – Jerri-Lynn Scofield

      ‘There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.’
      (smiles feeling affinity with the universe)

    3. ewmayer

      Re. the 2-pebbles example, cute, but what about the “before she picks, let’s see the pebbles you put in the bag”? Not ‘lateral’ enough? To bring in a sports analogy from a sport involving occasional laterals, would “let’s see ’em” be too direct, too “throw downfield” for de Bono?

      Anyway, deliberate fumbling has its own risks — what if the pebble she drops lands somewhere which does not obscure it, say among a cluster of white pebbles or next to the path? The better way to do things was illustrated in Korean Historic Drama I once watched, involving a similar rigged 2-choices set-up: the lady whose fate depended on her ‘choice’ quickly swallowed the marker she drew from the bag, then said “the one that remains will tell you which one I chose”.

  10. Louis Fyne

    —-To grasp who’s dying of Covid-19, look to social factors like race STAT (Dr. Kevin)—

    the last couple of paragraphs in that article is disturbing as the author implies that the entire medical system may be systemically racist. C’mon give me a break (though not impossible).

    what about factors not named in the study (in no order):

    Genetics? population density (contributing to greater viral exposure)? Stress (which weakens general immunity and reasonably can be caused by racism, poverty, interpersonal conflicts)? Medicaid hospitals being badly run (due to low payment rates)? etc

    1. Chris

      Not so much racist, Louis, as classist. Healthcare systems, including personal electronic health records, are designed by and for ‘people like us’ (PLUs) – reasonably well off, text literate, health literate, and technically literate.

      PLUs are much better placed to navigate complex systems of service delivery (although I’m sure I’d struggle with the US’s health insurance minefield).

      People in the lowest socioeconomic group have their chronic conditions show up 10 years earlier, and they have worse outcomes from the care they receive.

  11. Mr. House

    Here is an interesting tidbit of information. Bumble an online dating app will not let you log in unless you accept their stance on BLM, which i imagine adds it to your profile, i’d noticed many people had that in their profile lately. A quick google search shows that bumble is majority owned by none other then…… Blackstone! Or the same people administering trumps bailouts. When the big corps our singing your praise i’d say its a 99.9% chance your movement has been co opted.

    1. Mr. House

      Correction: Blackstone is not running the bailouts and is just private equity, but my point stands.

  12. bob

    The ebay execs have titles normally reserved for the natsec state. They also behave as children.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its pretty unbelievable really. I can only guess at what those planning meetings were like. The brainstorming session that came up with ‘frozen pigs foetus’ must have been pretty interesting.

  13. Baby Gerald

    Re: Shoppers Brawl Over One-Way Arrows At Store

    Thankfully the grocery near me hasn’t implemented these silly one-way arrows on the floors, just spacing markers at the checkout. Now that I’m working from home, I try to go at oddball times when it will not be very crowded and seldom have to wait in a checkout line behind more than one other customer. I’m an efficient shopper as it is- an Evernote checklist on my phone arranged by aisle lets me breeze through without much dillydallying.

    On a lighter note, here’s a fun music video relating to this topic and our ‘new normal’:

    Hartnoll & Young – I’m Going Shopping

    1. Keith

      These arrows are horrible. Walmart uses them. All they do is limited people to the slowest moving person, who is often either playing on their phone or babbling to a friend. That being said, the arrows are on the floor, so it is easy to miss them, which I often have (old habits are hard to break). I had one Karen complain to me about social distancing when I went between her and her cart (she was blocking the entire aisle because she was in conversation with no intent to move). Thankfully, no violence.

    2. flora

      My first thought on reading that story was, “Oh just great… A Karen in a Good Will store.” /s

    3. semiconscious

      wow! thanks a billion for the hartnoll & young link. covid-19 finally gets the anthem it deserves!…

    1. trhys

      From EVMS Medical Group:

      There is a 2 page summary of their treatment recommendations on their website. Make of it what you will. Who knows?

      As I have some respiratory issues, I recently tried to engage my physician in a discussion on possible treatment protocols. He told me that there is no current treatment and “It’s in God’s hands. If you have symptoms and become short of breath, go to the hospital”.

      Good luck to one and all.

  14. Wukchumni

    Saw a Marmot Cong in the Disney Parking Lot @ the trailhead to White Chief Canyon, Eagle Lake & Mosquito Lakes sitting on it’s haunches flashing a gang symbol via it’s large foreleg claws to a confederate-extended out in a fashion, where it clearly represented an ‘M’ and then utilizing a single enlarged claw, formed a ‘C’ and repeated the gesture when acknowledgement was slow in coming, so I know it wasn’t just a human assuming things.

    When you’re the heavy of the squirrel set, you don’t need a moose accoutrement like so many lesser yellow bellied Rocky J types, you rule by a little ‘bit’ of terror, and project fear by the sheer randomness of radiator hoses that get the treatment, oh the humanity.

  15. PlutoniumKun

    China’s drive for hegemony meets resistance Asia Times

    The article is interesting, but it doesn’t address the reasons why China has been so uncharacteristically clumsy the last couple of years, and the past number of months in particular. The weakness of the US should have given China a major opportunity to enhance its soft power appeal, but in an arc from India to South Korea, China seems to have gone out of its way to antagonise its neighbours and smaller countries in the region, not to mention larger players like Japan. And its not just with foreign policy – the overt attempts to blame virus outbreaks on foreign communities, especially Africans and Indian/Bangladeshi’s, has been noted in many countries, especially in Africa.

    It could be simply arrogance – with plenty of justification, China thinks it is seeing the beginning of the terminal decline of the US. It may be that within Beijing they think that its worth reminding everyone that they have sticks as well as carrots. Or it may be that internal issues and Covid has meant that the key people in Beijing have kept their eyes off the ball, and foreign policy decisions have fallen more to militarist hardliners (and there are plenty of them). Perhaps when things settle down, Xi will enhance the ‘soft’ side of China. Or perhaps we are indeed seeing a much harder side of Chinese power, one that doesn’t see the need to even pretend to be friendly to Pacific neighbours. Time will tell I suppose.

    1. jef

      “China seems to have gone out of its way to antagonise its neighbours and smaller countries in the region, not to mention larger players like Japan.”

      US has provoked this response to encourage comments like yours until they can rationalise war. US has increased relations, military agreements, defence pacts, arms sales, public proclamations of such with all of these “neighbours. All of it is unprovoked US arrogance.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Asian countries do have agency you know, not everything they do is because of the US.

        And it’s actually untrue to say that the US has increased relations with ‘those’ countries, if anything its been withdrawing significantly since Trump came to power and India/Japan and South Korea have become more assertive of their own national interests. US influence is weakening by the day – what we are witnessing is a re-ordering of power relations as the smaller countries reconsider their strategic positions, especially relative to China. India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea have all increased spending on domestic and/or Russian made weaponry as they reassert their own interests.

        1. jsn

          I wonder if it isn’t a just right wing nationalism 101: Xi took a black eye with early handling of COVID, now it’s rally around the flag, bad guys over there time!

          This dovetails nicely with the last half of your comment, and Xi is temperamentally a “strong man” even if nominally communist.

    2. Ranger Rick

      The theory I’ve heard passed around is that Xi’s struggling with internal unrest, and is provoking external conflicts in order to redirect the antagonism outward. It’s plausible and feeds into people’s general ideas with respect to the current state of China, which means I’m extra skeptical. I’m fond of Hanlon’s Razor: maybe they just are that bad at international diplomacy.

      1. Massinissa

        “Maybe they are just that bad at international diplomacy”

        Welcome to the club. I think its a dying art at at this point.

  16. Winston Smith

    Has there ever been a US president who might not be deemed a “war criminal”?

    1. The Rev Kev

      How about President William Henry Harrison? He was President for only thirty-one days before dying in office so never had a chance to do anything.

          1. John

            Benjamin Harrison? James Garfield? Is there no end to this if you are not pure as the driven snow from birth by my standards, then you are damned for all eternity?

            1. MK

              One of my high school history teachers told the story of his granddaddy had met William Jennings Bryan. Until the day he died, gramps would always say “Shake the hand that shook the hand of William Jennings Bryan” the first time he met someone.

              1. Offtrail

                When Bryant stopped at my grandmother’s house while campaigning, she and her sister chanted

                Billy Billy Bryant
                Sitting on a fence
                Trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents

                thereby embarrassing my Democratic great-grandfather.

    2. Keith

      Calvin Coolidge? From my (admittedly poor) recollection, he did not start any wars and seemed to try and ended the Banana style occupation in Latin America.

      1. b

        I always appreciated Roosevelt’s sudden official “Good Neighbor” policy toward Latin America (as opposed to the usual policy) when he had his hands full with the Depression.

        1. Harold

          FDR also wasn’t bothered when Latin American companies nationalized industries, the way current admins. have been since WW2.

  17. fresno dan

    I don’t know what has happened to me.
    When I opened NC the ads were all these sultry young babes from Russia, Vietnam, and Columbia telling me how desperate they were to marry a rich old geezer American just like me. Something about how appealing maturity was…
    Gone are those days…Now Wayne LaPierre is glaring at me, telling me they want to take my guns unless I join the NRA. Hmmm, I gave up my toy six shooter about ?60? years ago???
    If only I had clicked on the hot young babes ads…
    how do I get them back

    1. Howard Beale IV

      Ha! I get nothing but golfing apparel ads from comedian/actor Bill Murray, stylized as “William Murray”.

      And I’m not a golfer in any way, shape or form.

    2. HotFlash

      I believe it has to do with your recent viewing/clicking history. Me, I am plagued with ads for washers and dryers, as I recently viewed a video on dryer repair, incl ones that seem to open themselves. I expect that this comment of yours might be enough to get the babes to return, Word to the wise: do not *ever* search “toenail fungus”.

    3. Wyoming

      Wow. I want those Russian girls ads too (though I always preferred the Romanian girls to be honest). All i get are ads for geezer products. And I even own some guns….I must be doing something wrong…..I’ll experiment.

      Being in internment is driving us all nuts I think…I caught myself playing video games….

    4. Lee

      For quite some time, I get a lot of ads for stylish young women’s clothing at this site. As an old non-cross dressing male, I find this a bit baffling and certainly amusing. Perhaps the algorithm imagines its capitalism as a woman and prefers it clothed?

    5. TXMama

      I don’t know, guys, you must be enjoying all those ads or you’d have an ad blocker. I don’t get any ads here other than the one or two placed within the links section.

      1. Massinissa

        I don’t think they’re talking about popups, I don’t get any popups on this site. Theres some ads on the top right for me though.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        So you like ripping people off? That is what coming to our site and rejecting our ads amounts to. We leave a lot of money on the table by not running lucrative video ads and popups, but you think writers should not be paid. Do you also think it’s reasonable to steal from your local coffee shop or stiff a restaurant? That is what you are effectively doing.

    6. Massinissa

      Toys and Collectibles ads for me. I don’t buy any of those much but I like browsing them online sometimes. Pretty harmless as far as ads go.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Indeed. Use one and toss Yves and Lambert a few bucks at fundraiser time instead.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          While I appreciate the support, that is not the best approach. We not only lose ad revenue, we are also deemed undesirable as a venue when readers run ad blockers. And we leave a lot of money on the table by not running lucrative but obnoxious ads. Please white list us.

          1. tegnost

            Personally, I just ignore them except to marvel at what items they’ve chosen to show me. I appreciate that you have a limit to what you’ll allow, thanks for everything:)

  18. PlutoniumKun

    Syria’s Economy Collapses Even as Civil War Winds to a Close New York Times. Funny, what I heard from a Lebanese buddy when I was in NYC (and he comes from a politically connected family) was pretty different. Readers?

    If I recall correctly, Elijah J. Magnier has been disputing this, writing that the Syrian economy has been doing as well as can be expected, certainly no worse than over the past few years. Although I assume that low oil prices aren’t helping. And the Covid downturn can’t have helped the flow of remittances into the country.

    But historically, when countries recover from war, there always seems to be a couple of years of economic hardship, between the wind down of spending on guns, and money being released for reconstruction. Lots of countries of course spring back remarkably rapidly from war devastation, due to all the rebuilding and the opportunity to upgrade infrastructure. But there is always that slump in the middle, unless there is a sugar daddy willing to pump in lots of cash, and I don’t see Syria having one of those so far.

    1. jef

      “High stakes on Syria as US Caesar Act comes into effect”

      “As of Wednesday, the Caesar Act will target the Assad regime with sanctions, particularly in four economic areas: Oil, construction, engineering, and military aircraft. It also threatens to punish Syria’s allies, such as Iran, Hezbollah (meaning it will impact Lebanon) and Russia.”

    2. David

      This may be the story by Magnier you were thinking of.
      I must say, I pretty much gave up when I read, at the beginning of the article:
      “For nine years, Mr. al-Assad has relied on brute force to beat back the rebels who sought to end his family’s decades-old grip on power. But now, with the war’s biggest battles behind him, he faces new threats that he cannot bomb his way out of or count on his few allies to help him surmount.”

  19. Amfortas the hippie

    This:” Unrelated to any current measure of intelligence, divergent thinking had, Guilford suggested, four principal characteristics: the ability to produce a great number of ideas or problem solutions in a short period of time; to simultaneously propose a variety of approaches to a specific problem; to produce original ideas; and to organise the details of an idea in one’s head and carry it out.”
    …is how i roll, generally.
    there’s something to intuition, inductive thinking and allowing ideas and approaches to bubble up out of the ether within…but this doesn’t negate all the plodding deduction, measurement,experiment and logical methods of tackling a problem.
    but it’s the former that allows me to “walk by and get it done”, using whatever is to hand, in novel or even counterintuitive ways.
    trash into functional artifact.
    what’s at issue, here, is how the mind works….and since we can’t say with anything approaching certainty just what the mind Is, i reckon there’s ample room for different approaches.
    of course, i would advise against such ramshackle ad-hoc methods for the operators of nuclear power plants or whatever…but breaking out of well worn paths is still an important part of being human.
    and you can’t really get beyond the current orthodoxy if you confine yourself to that orthodoxy.
    when people come out here to visit, and end up riding around in the Falcon with me…usually with beer and weed…Perspective is one of the object lessons….we’ll go sit under a particular oak tree and look at things, and as soon as they’re comfortable…I’ll say lets get a different perspective…and go way over there to sit under that mesquite tree.
    this lesson applies to the broader world, of course…I try to get into the heads of republicans, free marketers, charismatic xtians, etc. etc etc…by trying on their lenses.
    I’m rambling and distracted…but i think it’s a useful skill to learn.

  20. The Rev Kev

    “To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism)”

    That incident about Obama twice pretending to drink Flint water has bothered me for a long time now. Especially when you learn that that water came from Air Force One. Obama was smooth enough to get away with telling people that it was filtered water that he was drinking but if it was Trump, he would botch it and say that it was the most beautiful water in the history of America or something equally stupid. The media bought it but I bet that people didn’t.

    Point is, it was like he was mocking those people as he knew that he did not have to run for re-election and so do not need those people any more to vote for him. He could not care less about those people and felt at ease mocking them in their misery. So the mask came down and he showed people what he was really all about. And something that I learned from NC is that when people show you what they are really like, then believe them.

    1. Oh

      The Obomber is not done. There will be more hits a coming. JB will make sure of that.
      I remember the selfie Obomber and the British PM took with the Danish PM with Michelle glaring at her husband in the same frame. What a scumbag. Makes me wonder if he married her to gild his credentials after dumping his ex girlfriend (Japanese-American) because it would hurt his chances.

      1. judy2shoes

        IIRC, the Obamas were attending Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, and I think Michelle was glaring at him because taking a selfie wasn’t appropriate behavior in that scenario. Appearances, you know.

    1. John A

      Wow, thanks for that recommendation, never heard of the book or the author but will now order it. I read there was going to be a Zoom’s Day Bloom’s Day this year as Ireland is in strict lockdown.

      1. Jessica

        I add my thanks for the recommendation. It is so cool that he actually wrote in Irish.
        And thanks to everyone who makes this site and its commentariat possible.

    2. David

      Some people have actually suggested that Flann O’Brien is a greater novelist than Joyce. You should certainly check out The Third Policeman and At Swim-two- birds, which are best described as magical realist stories. They are also shorter and less intimidating than Ulysses. (Personally I always thought Joyce was taking the piss with Finnegans Wake.

  21. Pat

    Congratulations to Sphynxie’s staff. Not only does her new desk showcase her beauty, it is obviously a hit since she is demanding requesting her blanket be put on it and not in the box it came in.

  22. The Rev Kev

    “Beware of lateral thinking”

    I have no idea why the authoress is so down on the principles of lateral thinking as a concept but it almost seems personal. For whatever faults Edward de Bono made in developing his techniques, the concept of what he was saying was pretty simple. He was saying that thinking can be developed as a skill in the same way that memory can. But for some reason we don’t and in fact trying to do so is anathema to a lot of people.

    Consider that we might tell someone that their idea is stupid but we do not also say that their method of thinking is stupid as well. This is in contrast to when we tell children that they are bad and not say instead that they did a bad thing. In any case, it is not like the field is crowded full of psychologists telling people pragmatic thinking techniques that they can use in everyday life. That has been abandoned it seems to popular psychologists.

  23. Tomonthebeach

    NYT Assertion that weak Peer Review has destroyed the credibility of top journals is pure bunk.

    Apparently the Times has no clue how science gets done. Pre-publication peer review is only the 1st step in refereeing science. The acid tests is reader reactions which often can take years of new studies to identify flaws in analysis, sampling, design, and conclusions.

    Because of the pandemic, the concerns about data integrity were raised very quickly. I have been reviewing pre-publication science for half a century. Detecting fraud is often very difficult without a pattern unless editors probe the authors. Even co-authors might not be aware of fraud in their own papers.

    1. Keith

      NYT Times is about clicks. I recall a long time ago they ran a story about how mornings are more dangerous to have surgeries due to higher mortality. I ran this be my girlfriend who is a nurse, she retorted that surgeons schedule harder operations in the mornings when they are fresh and routine ones later in the day.

      I don’t have a link as I do not have a NYT account.

  24. The Historian

    Larry Kudlow is at it again I see. He never fails to find a way to screw middle and lower class Americans, does he? So now, if you don’t get hired back because there is no demand, you not only lose that extra $600, but you don’t get the bonus! Double whammy! Could it get any better for Kudlow?

    As for his concern about how that extra $600/week makes people not want to go back to work, doesn’t he even realize what he is saying? That maybe those Americans are getting paid so little, that a measly $600/week is a really BIG thing to them? I’m betting one of his ugly ties costs more than that.

    And as for “Explore America”, well, you have to have enough money to travel first before you get that tax break, don’t you? I’m betting nobody in the White House even thought of that.

    1. Oh

      Larry Kudlow had only solution for the economy – lower interest rates. Now that he can’t preach that anymore he has to find other nails for his hammer. What a low life he is. He nas no grounding in economics or finance and therefore a perfect match for his idiot boss.

    2. curlydan

      If we could only tell Larry that when the $600 runs out, the Fed will also reduce its balance sheet to pre-March 15th levels. Watch Larry squirm.

  25. Samuel Conner

    Looking up a topic on YouTube, I got an ad from JB:

    It began (emphasis added):

    “Hello everyone, I’m coming to you today for ask a quick favor”

    Now, “for” and “to” are both prepositions and they have some semantical similarities (I believe that the Greek “eis” contains both, for example, so maybe there’s something in the deep structure of human language that promotes the possibility of the confusion of the two English prepositions), but this is not good English.

    Has the Biden campaign outsourced the editing and production of its social media adverts to somewhere in Asia? Does no-one within the boundaries of the US look at these things before they are uploaded?

    Or maybe the campaign is deliberately sabotaging the candidate? Perhaps that’s why the alimentary canal distal terminus emission was not edited out?

    Maybe it’s Baumol’s Disease — the cost of services has grown so high that even well-funded political campaigns cannot afford competent help.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Probably using a bot to personalize ads to your browser history and cookies. Bad programming. Garbage in, garbage out.

      1. Samuel Conner

        Agreed in terms of directing this content to my attention, but I hope they didn’t use a bot to generate the content. I think there must be something seriously amiss, either accidentally or intentionally, within the JB campaign, and not just at the top.

        1. Bugs Bunny

          That’s what I meant – the bot can move around the words, drafting, in effect, garbage. Big tech consulting firms sell this marketing er…stuff.

    2. Samuel Conner

      BTW, here’s the video that JB photobombed:

      I was looking for something to persuade a friend to accept some Tithonia plants:

      it is very nice starting from 0:48

      It you want just one plant to draw hummingbirds into your garden, Tithonia may be the ticket. I suggest the “Torch” variety of Tithonia rotundifolia. If you push it with soluble fertilizer, you can grow it above 7 feet high. It provides loads of nectar and plenty of concealment of the birds from predators as well as bullies of their own kind seeking to monopolize the nectar source. It’s simply too big for one bird to control. It is roomy enough that the birds can fly inside it to hide.

  26. The Rev Kev

    “Syria’s Economy Collapses Even as Civil War Winds to a Close”

    I think that the New York Times is playing it coy here. They do not mention that US troops are occupying not only the bread basket regions of Syria but also major oil fields as well, both of which are needed to help the country recover. But that is not Washington’s plan and in fact they are stealing their oil against international law. The idea seems to be that if they can crush Syria economically, then they will be able to force the Syrians to accept some of those Jihadists they have been supporting to share power with. Having Turkey try to steal part of Syria is just a bonus as a pressure point for Washington. Tough times for Syria still but Syria is thousands of years old and will see this as just another chapter in their long history in the same way that American involvement in Vietnam for the people there was a painful chapter between the French and the Chinese chapters.

  27. Billy

    PG&E’s corporate crime.

    Hint to all drug dealers, hit men and extortionists, incorporate your enterprise, so that you are protected by the corporate veil. Even if convicted of a crime, you will never go to prison and at worst, you will only have to pay a fine, which, like PG&E, you can collect from your customers.

    At what point do PG&E corporate board members have to worry about a hellfire missile targeting their Mercedes?

  28. molon labe

    Deadliest Corporate Crime in U.S. Will End With 84 Guilty Pleas Bloomberg (David L). PG&E I guess if you only count hands-on, other wise not even close–banking anyone?

  29. Susan the other

    Richard Murphy. “Stranded Asset Writedowns Begin” RM is saying I Told You So. And his last sentence warned pensioners that they would realize a devaluation in their pensions for any of their oil investments because of this. But there are spinoffs in every direction, not just pensions. Oil will have to be nationalized just to keep it flowing, imo. And the reason is that we do not have the renewable infrastructure yet. Which, to me, explains why we are having oil wars. Why are we fighting for a source of energy that is so last century? Because it will take time to do a new infra – and globally. Right? And I sense a new international cooperation. There is a change in the tone. For example: the BBC is doing a series on the ancient art of Persia. Talking favorably about the enlightened Persians as opposed to the ultra right-wing Saudis. And other things. My guess is that saving the planet has become serious business. And just thinking about what a huge effort it will be, it’s really like everything about our former economy is now a stranded asset.

  30. Jeremy Grimm

    “North Korea blows up inter-Korean liaison office near border with South Age”

    I wonder whether South Korea is contemplating the value of its relationship with the US. I can’t imagine Trump or Biden — if he wins — lifting the sanctions on North Korea. I doubt South Korea is pleased with Japan’s moves toward rearmament, thanks to the US. I suspect there is great concern about where to market South Korean export goods as they look out at the US economy and European economies.

    The link offers a few conjectures about what North Korea might expect from their dramatics but nothing that makes sense to me. Is there some power struggle ongoing within North Korea?

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’m no Korean expert, but I was reading a few comments from the twitter of the usually astute AAK of Ask a Korean (Lambert frequently embeds his tweets in Water Cooler), and he seems to think that there is no real strategy to it, just an element of stupidity. Essentially, NK are in some trouble – they banked big time on creating playgrounds for Chinese tourists in the far north, and the virus has obviously wrecked this. There seems little logic to what they are doing, it seems a tantrum designed to see if they can squeeze some concessions from Moon and Trump, but its highly unlikely to work.

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