Links 8/20/2020

Mummified pup unearthed in Russia had feasted on a woolly rhinoceros as its last meal before falling to its death in a landslide 14,000 years ago Daily Mail (Kevin W)

Time’s Arrow Flies through 500 Years of Classical Music, Physicists Say Scientific American (David L)

Quantum reality is either weirdly different or it collapses ars technica (David L)

US Wildfire Activity Web Map ArcGIS (tegnost)

California Reveals That the Transition to Renewable Energy Isn’t So Simple Slate (Kevin W)

Even a Few Hours of Paid Work a Week Can Greatly Improve Mental Health Brink

Honey better treatment for coughs and colds than antibiotics, study claims Guardian (resilc). Also reported here yesterday. Antibiotics aren’t effective, so this is a low bar. But still!

Why Civilizations Collapse The Side View (Chuck L)


The Black Death Was The Worst Pandemic In Human History, So How Did It Finally End? All That Is Interesting (Micael T)

Chainsaws, Conspiracies, and Cops: Inside an Anti-Mask Dance Party Vice. Resilc: “Funny, last summer we stayed at an airBnB in Montreal. The guy was a socialist. He said much of Canada is loaded with Trump cultist types….”

With the Most Deaths In 150 Years, Sweden Reveals New COVID-19 Test-and-Trace Strategy Guardian


Into the unknown: virus hunters and their quest to stop the next pandemic South China Morning Post (J-LS)


Las Vegas casinos a likely hotspot for COVID-19 spread, according to ProPublica investigation USA Today (resilc)

Political Response

U.S. official sees ‘real desire’ for smaller coronavirus relief bill Reuters. Um, big but late is functionally equivalent to small.


China cautious on hitting back at US companies after Huawei sanctions Financial Times

Kudlow says Trump wants to ‘deny China’ some of the proceeds of a TikTok sale CNBC

Tim Wu: A TikTok Ban Is Overdue New York Times

HK maids suffer twice as Covid-19 turns the screws Asia Times (J-LS)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ‘poisoned’ BBC


When incompetence is the lesser evil (Colonel Smithers)


Trump Says He Expects Saudis to Join Mideast Peace Deal with UAE Bloomberg

Iran sanctions: Trump threatens to unilaterally reimpose UN measures Guardian (Kevin W)

Report: Trump Administration Advances F-35 Sale to UAE Despite Israeli Opposition Haaretz

Lebanese President discusses timetable of disarming Hezbollah AMN (Kevin W)

Trump: I Made Israel Embassy Move for Evangelicals Antiwar (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Secret Service Bought Phone Location Data from Apps, Contract Confirms Vice (resilc)

235 Million Instagram, TikTok and YouTube User Profiles Exposed In Massive Data Leak Forbes

The man who built a spyware empire says it’s time to come out of the shadows MIT Technology Review

Trump Transition

The swamp wasn’t drained — it expanded The Hill. Resilc: “It’s long been a growth sector in USA USA.”

Donald Trump news: Senate intel report exposes US president’s letters to Vladimir Putin |Express (furzy)

Trump gives nod to Oracle buyout of TikTok in US BBC. Resilc: “Trump crips….’Oracle’s chairman Larry Ellison is a supporter of Mr Trump and held a fundraising event for him in February.'”

Anderson Cooper to MyPillow CEO: ‘You really are like a snake oil salesman’ The Hill

Michigan to Pay $600 Million in Flint Water Crisis Settlement Wall Street Journal. They got off easy. 80% to go to kids then under 18. Pool is 7,500 to 20,000. That means settlement per person = $24,000 to $64,000.


Joe Biden is already planning a failed presidency The Week (UserFriendly)

Kamala Harris; Class Struggle and the Illusion of Identity in Capitalism Black Agenda Report (Carla R)

Billy Porter and Stephen Stills made a weird video of that Buffalo Springfield song to close out DNC Night 1 BoingBoing. OMG 20 seconds was all I could take.

Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s DNC speech CNN (Kevin W)

Republicans quietly push mail-in voting despite Trump claims Politico (J-LS)

Could Trump Actually Win This Thing? American Conservative (resilc)

California Burning

Videos: California Wildfires Rage Across State, Tens of Thousands Forced to Evacuate Sputnik (Kevin W)

What’s driving Northern California’s freak ‘fire siege’? Mercury News (David L)

Brazen Thief Drove Car Into Home Depot The Smoking Gun. Trussville, Al. About a half hour drive from here.

The farmer-influencer and the economics of streaming Tyler Cowen. Wellie, as a farmer, not much risk of being deplatformed.

Germany Begins Universal Basic Income Trial With People Getting $1,400 a Month For 3 Years Business Insider

UK Will Take a Crack At Regulating Future Self-Driving Car Systems CNET

Uber CEO On the Flight In California: ‘We Can’t Go Out and Hire 50,000 People Overnight’ The Verge. An admission that Uber did not prepare for losing the lawsuit.

Legislation to support CalPERS direct lending is withdrawn Bizjournals. We mentioned this in passing. Happened last week after the Meng blow up. Note CalPERS tried to pretend it pulled the bill, but the article makes clear it was the bill’s author, Assemblyman Jim Cooper. CalPERS’ new fallback is to sniff that it didn’t need the bill to proceed with its direct lending scheme.

Class Warfare

CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 to $21.3 million: CEOs now earn 320 times as much as a typical worker Economic Policy Institute

Barack Obama is finally ready to jail rich people for their crimes The Week. How convenient that he has come around now.

Antidote du jour. How I feel. Tracie H:

My husband and I recently bought a little desert getaway house three hours away from where we actually live. Each weekend we’ve been driving there, loving the isolation and stark beauty of the desert. On the way back, we spotted this fellow on the side of a lonesome road (with a 65 mph speed limit), aimed toward what looked like was going to be an attempt to cross it. We turned around and went back to him. He seemed pleased to pose for a few pictures before I picked him up and moved him quite some distance back into the desert scrubs, admonishing him all the while about the dangers of the road.

And a bonus from Micael T: “Sport is apparently not unique for humans.”

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here

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  1. Carla

    “Barack Obama is finally ready to jail rich people for their crimes”

    This is just an alert that he’s just getting measured for his Supreme Court robes.

    And it means exactly as much as “Hope and Change” did.

    1. edmondo

      I couldn’t watch. For some reason, every time Obama shows up on TV, my foot goes through the screen. My distaste for Obama is mitigated only by my hate for Bernie Sanders. There ought to be a special place in hell for people who trade in false hopes.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Oh man, you missed the best part then. No, not the speech. That was rubbish. He filmed this in Philadelphia because that was where the Constitution was signed and off to the side when he was talking was an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence and a smaller section called Writing the Constitution. After his speech he was waiting for the people to unplug his mike so he wandered over to this display. His ‘inner professor’ came back out while he was reading it so he whipped out his pen and started to correct that text by crossing out a lot of the text, correcting mistakes and underlining false statements. There has not been a performance like this since Trump took a sharpie to a weather map. Good thing that they did not have displayed the Constitution itself or he would have really shredded the Bill of Rights.

      2. John Beech

        Why hate Bernie? Hospitals are already built and staffed, right? And it won’t cost a nickle more to use them for everybody because I suspect the math works out such that administration costs and CEO-compensation exceed the cost of added users resulting in the whole operation costing less. Can’t speak for you – but – I hold it would be a similarly useful benefit as, for example, our not worrying about Russian paratroopers holding siege of our cities due to the universal funding of our military. Basically, it means we don’t go broke because of cancer. Cancer doesn’t respect political divides. Nor do heart attacks, strokes, COVID-19, or birth defects. Senator Sanders just puts it in words.

        John, a once reliably Republican-voter, who switched parties to vote for Bernie! And yes, still deplorable because I’m voting for Trump again. This, because I feel the Democrats rigged things against him once again.

        1. hunkerdown

          Good start. The next step, I suggest, is to understand that both parties collaborate in creating the conditions we live under, that most of the conflict between the parties is either official role-play or just some sociopathic PMC kitchen rat doing what kitchen rats do, and that it is official D policy to keep a neoliberal R party alive so that the bipartisan machine can run smoothly.

          Admittedly, this understanding might prove to be wholly or partially incorrect after this week’s merger of state and corporate power at the DNC.

          1. Billy

            The money I saved to send to Bernie’s, or Tulsi’s presidential campaign, go ahead and laugh—is in play. No way in hell I’m perpetuating the Democrap machine with “Harris on the ballout”.

            Instead, to spice things up, I’m going to send that cash to this interesting black woman Republican in Baltimore. Her getting elected would do more to shake up machine politics than anything.


            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              Would be great to be a politician these days, simply telling the obvious truth is very powerful

              So far from the convention I’ve heard that:

              Bill Clinton is the party’s moral authority
              Cuomo is the Covid hero for how he handled it in NY
              Kamala in her announcement said that Trump killed 160,000 people
              Meantime Michele said that like G Floyd there were “untold numbers of people just like him dying every day from police” (actually so far this year in a nation of 330 million there have been 12 unarmed black men killed by cops)

              Meantime Trump uses The Biden’s own words to good effect. Q: how will he squirm away from the globalist/China lover label?


        2. tegnost

          There is no reason to hate bernie. One person was never, ever going to fix/change this mess. i guess (re: Why Civilisations Collapse) I’m not a proponent of the Great Man theory. As far as I am concerned Steve Jobs ruined telephones…

          1. Pelham

            I’m undecided on Bernie. There’s no denying his many years of yeoman service. But he did raise hopes and, it appears, willfully refused to follow through with a more aggressive campaign.

            If Biden is elected (shudder) in a few months we’ll all have a better idea of whether Sanders’ strategy of pushing the administration to the left is panning out. If that doesn’t happen, it will reveal a certain naivety on Sanders’ part, inexcusable given his years of experience.

          2. km

            I am not asking Bernie to change anything singlehandedly. Hell, Bernie could be anointed president today and I have no illusions that much would really change.

            I am asking that Bernie quit smiling and pretending that it’s raining when Team D urinates on him and his supporters. I am asking that he quit asking us to join him in the Great Team D Golden Shower as if it were the best thing available.

            1. juno mas

              I’m a little disappointed in Bernie, too. But I also understand the political process in which he had to work. He highlighted important economic, health, and educational issues and got tons of supporters to show up at rallies. But when it came time to vote the rally supporters appear smaller than the Biden supporters. Our political system and MSM were always an impediment to Sanders success. “Not me. Us!” will take time to germinate.

          3. Aumua

            Hey some people just hate Sanders, it’s fine. I myself have had more than one well placed -FAMILY BLOG- YOU, BERNIE! to hurl at my monitor these past few months. I still don’t hate the guy though.

        3. rd

          Bernie’s problem is that he tried to execute it all at once at the national level. Canada’s single payer healthcare system was started in Saskatchewan n 1962 (Saskatchewan in 1962 would be like North Dakota today for percentage of population, rural nature etc.)

          So he was going big, when most of the successes have started small. The ACA was structured largely around RomneyCare in Massachusetts as the initial model.

          Enlist a state or two (maybe have a ocmpact of three-four rural states) and make single-payer work there. After 5 years or so, it can be cascaded out to other states.

      3. The Historian

        Oh, you need to watch him – and carefully! He is the prime example of how a person can become a Pied Piper and lead people astray. There will be other politicians who will come along and will again use his playbook. If you study Obama, you will see the techniques they are using and you won’t fall for it again.

        Think of Obama as a necessary history lesson!

      4. drumlin woodchuckles

        I still feel that Sanders was not dealing in false hope. He believed and believes in the hope he was advancing and assisting people in organizing around and for.

        His problem is psycho-spiritual and mental-emotional. He doesn’t have the needed amount of hatred needed to get crucial things done at those crucial moments when those things become possible. For example, he had a golden moment to swing the Tire Iron of Truth and Justice into the baying mouth of Hillary Clinton over ” those damn emails” . . . . and into the grinning teeth of Joe Biden over many many things when they appeared on the same media venue. But he just isn’t the kind of person to pick up the Tire Iron of Truth and Justice and swing it into somebody’s teeth.

        Even though they are exactly some ” teeth in need of a tire iron” as the German expression has it.

        1. Kfish

          “The Chair Leg of Truth is mighty and terrible! Do not lie to the Chair Leg of Truth!” Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders is no Spider Jerusalem. We need someone more vicious.

      5. GettingTheBannedBack

        Obama is a misery vampire. He feeds on others’ misery by peddling the snake oil called “hope”, deluding people while vastly enriching himself.

        Twist the old saying and you get his life motto – “when life gives them lemons, I make lemonade”.

        Contrast that to people like Ralph Nader who is not a misery vampire afaik.

  2. zagonostra

    >Billy Porter and Stephen Stills

    I don’t know who Porter is but damn how can Stephen lend his status/song to the Dems? I would think that celebrities have more time to delve into the corrupt nature and the machinations of the the power structure than I do. Why sully your reputation?

    Maybe in view of Kamala he should have played “Black Queen”

    Black queen, where’s your bankroll?
    Black queen, where did it go?
    Black queen, the truth is hard
    Black queen, you’re playin’ foolish cards, black queen

    1. Watt4Bob

      Over the years, I’ve often pointed out that Steven Stills declared “We won!” when Nixon resigned, as an example of how simplistic ‘our’ collective understanding of power was at the time.

      It appears Steven Stills hasn’t learned much since, and that’s pretty disappointing.

      1. Billy

        Part of the Deep State:

        Steven Stills, “the product of yet another career military family. Raised partly in Texas, young Stephen spent large swaths of his childhood in El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal Zone, and various other parts of Central America – alongside his father, who was, we can be fairly certain, helping to spread ‘democracy’ to the unwashed masses in that endearingly American way
        Stills was educated primarily at schools on military bases and at elite military academies.
        Stephen will later tell anyone who will sit and listen that he had served time for Uncle Sam in the jungles of Vietnam. what will be ignored is the undeniable fact that the U.S. had thousands of ‘advisers’ – which is to say, CIA/Special Forces operatives – operating in the country for a good many years before the arrival of the first official ground troops”

    2. carl

      I heard the latest Neil Young on Spotify a couple of weeks ago and threw up in my mouth a little. He wants Barack back. Ugh.

      1. Off The Street

        Hard to leave that stage and the warm glow of the footlights, or lighters, or something, even when the crowd isn’t discernable.

      2. Pat

        Neil hasn’t been a struggling artist in decades. He and probably everyone he spends any time with “recovered” their investments. And those trade deals that Obama and crew were pushing protect and expand America’s overly long copyright protections.

      3. ObjectiveFunction

        Had the very same sensation after hearing Neil warble ‘yer already great’ in an utterly pathetic attempt at a jingle for Hillary. Swayed about as many Southern Man votes as Putin’s Facebook ads, I expect.

        1. pjay

          I always appreciated Lynyrd Skynyrd’s response to Neil Young’s song (Southern Man — not the Hillary jingle) as an early defense of “deplorables” against virtue-signaling by a privileged “lefty.” I was a fan of them both, but the limits of celebrity advocacy are not new.

            1. ShamanicFallout

              Not to mention the song has so many memorable and legendary guitar riffs. Every rock and county guitar player I know learned at least the beginning, the little bridge part and the first solo. And one of the most famous diss tracks ever. And I too, like Young. As an aside- The song (I’ve heard) is more a response to ‘Alabama’ from the Harvest record, than to Southern Man, but both of course fit

              1. Andrew Thomas

                There was a reply to Sweet Home Alabama by Warren Zevon that is worth a listen. Play it All Night Long.

            2. Dan

              I like them both too. “Old Man” and “Simple Man” are like guidebooks to life. Not that I’ve always followed the advice so well…

        1. ambrit

          I learned that lesson with the election of Ronald Reagan.
          The only two “solid” entertainers I can think of off the top of my head would be Woody Guthrie and the fellow who wrote the “Marseillaise.”

          1. Dr. John Carpenter

            At least the Reagan/Thatcher years inspired a lot of amazing punk and underground music. Maybe not the place I’d look for political leadership, but as protest songs, aces. I keep wondering where’s the equivalent now? I know the Bush years brought out some, so perhaps I’m just not as in tune anymore (very likely.)

            1. ambrit

              I remember the protest scene back then. Yes, people did “get it together.”
              Now, jaded as I am, I see a lot of nihilism in the popular media.
              How many ‘young’ns’ sing along with the songs on the streaming today? I remember singing along with the jukebox at the campus bar, me one of a group involved thus. Any more group sings today?

    3. a different chris

      Never, ever try to conflate a song with the songwriter. It will just lead to a burning disappointment.

      Half the time, and I’m being generous, said writer does not even understand and will never understand the context in which pretty much everybody else hears the song. They do like to go on about the song “they
      really loved” which was on the flip side, and didn’t even make the album cut.

      Talent is a weird thing.

      1. Alex Cox

        Strummer and Jones knew exactly what they were writing. So did Lennon and McCartney.

        Not all composers are as brain dead as a certain Canadian rocker.

    4. Michael Fiorillo

      Stephen Stills is a great and under-appreciated rock guitarist, but has long been known to be an idiotic jerk.

          1. Dan

            Zappa was a full-of-himself control freak who smoked tobacco like a fiend yet had no tolerance for anyone partaking in anything else. He was also a musical genius, and bears sole responsibility for Montana becoming overrun with dental floss tycoons.

          2. JCC

            He (Frank Zappa) had some great quotes attributed to him, and he stood behind them all.

            A few follow:

            Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts.

            Politics is the Entertainment Division of the Military Industrial Complex.

            The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.

  3. zagonostra

    >Joe Biden is already planning a failed presidency – The Week

    I think the author shows his cards when he conflates Biden with the “democratic left” and in not recognizing that the Dem platform is anything but pure tokenism.

    The status quo elites, who benefit from the rigged economy, are strong enough to throttle any reform effort from the democratic left…

    It’s true that Joe Biden is being nominated for president on the most left-wing major party platform in many years. But his campaign is already distancing itself from that platform.

    What I do think is true is that the groundwork is being laid for subverting even the tokenism that is being uttered during the convention. And, of course NPR is readily at hand for laying that groundwork in the article like the one below with the heading, “A New Biden Administration Would Face Old Problems With Congress”

    But Cuellar cautioned that leaning too far left could cost Democrats, noting that the House majority was built by winning in swing districts that elected more centrist lawmakers like himself. “As long as we don’t let any fringes take over, I think we can work out compromises,” he said, and the burden to find that compromise will fall to Biden.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Jimmy Dore highlighted the Biden interview on single payer, they asked whether he would veto a single payer bill.

        He telegraphs the answer right at the start: “First of all, a bill like that will never arrive on my desk”.

        Translated: a Democratic Congress will *never* put forward single payer legislation of any kind for a Democratic president to sign.

        So: the policy supported by 90% of Dems, whose champion rallied untold millions of people and got 40% of primary delegates, a policy supported by a majority of R’s and one that is desperately needed in a pandemic, will be proposed by the Dems *on the first of never*.

        Jill Biden: suck it up and vote for my hubby anyway. Why, again?

        Kill it with fire.

      1. Milton

        You know, I’m fully aware that a Biden presidency would include measures resulting in cuts to what’s left of people’s earned benefits but what I can’t understand is how he can be such an awful candidate. Isn’t the Biden campaign smart enough to at least lie, and say they have no intention of cutting SS and Medicare benefits, and in fact, they will protect them from the big bad repugs!?

        1. ambrit

          In end stage Imperial politics, the elites lose any fear of the plebes that self-preservation instincts would otherwise enjoin.
          The Oligarchs have drunk the Kool Aid.

          1. lordkoos

            Our rulers seem to be confident that they have the surveillance capabilities and security forces sufficient to deal with any social unrest. The way the country is now divided, with many far right types well-armed, they may be correct.

    1. drb48

      4 more years of Trump or 12 more years of the Clinton/Obama neoliberal project? The election is now about which kind of hell the country is to be consigned to.

    2. Grant

      Well, thank god Cuellar (who Pelosi helped to fend off a lefty challenger) cares about winning elections instead of analyzing how effective rotten people like him at putting in place policies that improve the lives of people and help us avoid environmental collapse. Why should anyone care who wins if the Democrats are a pile of nothing and offer, at most, to make things worse at a slower rate? God forbid these people not also think about why so many people don’t bother voting. This political system deserves to be swept into the dustbin of history. Worthless.

    1. Susan the other

      I think Sci Am didn’t edit that one. It reads like they got their reversible time and irreversible time mixed up. Just wondering about the end of the world – when entropy reaches equilibrium – does time still exist at the very point when it starts going into reverse?

      1. Bruno

        This article shows that physicists understand about as much about music as they do about the universe. They sneer at a major composer: “Iannis Xenakis posed that “much like a god, a composer may … invert Eddington’s ‘arrow of time.’” Xenakis was a twelve-tone composer. The one-way “times arrow” applies only to tonal music, which is based on the one-way movement of harmony and melody (distributed harmony) (but not meter) from what the human ear perceives as “dissonance” to perceived “resolution.” If they had used, instead of an arbitrary “8,000” pieces, the greatest works of a very great composer like Anton von Webern–say the Piano Variations, the Symphony, the Concerto for Nine Instruments, et. al.–their “statistical” musicology would have imposed exactly the opposite conclusion.

        1. juno mas

          Yes. I contemplated a similar response. Thanks for saving me the effort.

          It seems the people not involved in the study had the more acute observations: a statistical study of a melody without the two other key elements of music (rhythm and harmony) isn’t likely to infer much of anything.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I heard a different version of that.

      Time flies like the wind.
      Fruit flies like bananas.

  4. zagonostra

    >The Rich Got Richer During the Pandemic, Bailed Out by the Fed. How it Happened and Why That’s Bad for the Economy – Wolf Street

    It’s nice to see this laid out so calmly and clearly. But what interest me more, since I’ve already read similar stories here at NC and elsewhere, is who is doing the “depicting” and why do “Americans know nothing about the Fed?” At what point does the bubble of deceptions and lies get punctured and the curtain pulled back to reveal the master manipulators for all the masses to see? – pardon the mixing of metaphors.

    The Fed is depicted as savior and hero. And most Americans know nearly nothing about the Fed, other than that it exists in some mysterious form.

    This system has become socialism for the rich, socializing the losses to the rest of the people, and concentrating the gains – huge gains even during the pandemic – with a relatively small number of people. This is not the way to have a thriving economy. This is a way to run an economy into the ground…

    If the Fed had allowed asset prices to find their natural bottom, wherever that may have been, and they were already on their way in March, and say, across the board, these American billionaires would have lost half of their wealth, then wealth inequality would have been cut in half.

    But what happened instead is this: the guy with a low-paying job, who lost the job, got the stimulus money and unemployment benefits, and then he handed this money over to the rich. This money didn’t stay with him. It flowed to the asset holders, to capital.

    1. zagonostra

      >What’s Behind the Fed’s Manufactured Coin Shortage?

      How little I know about the macro world of money…I think I discovered this site (BestEvidence) here at NC, the gentleman who runs the site breaks it down in clear and easy to understand language for the layman.

      1. Ed Miller

        I also discovered John Titus from a comment at NC. Having watched all his videos at utube/bestevidence I have recognized that he is a conservative, but not like most conservatives of the Republican type today. If one takes all the information in his videos, reads “JFK and the Unthinkable”, and connects to this the words of Bill Black about how fighting financial fraud has disappeared, there is an interesting story that emerges. There is much, much more involved but lots of key elements are right there. The story is in line with a blog post by Caitlin Johnstone, “We Are Watching The Story of America Crash Headlong Into The Reality of America”. Essentially the world’s major power players behind the British Empire coalesced around the US and have since been capturing the nation. The takeover is now virtually complete. We have let this happen.

        To quote Pogo (for those who remember): We have met the enemy, and it is us.

    2. Geo

      “most Americans know nearly nothing about the Fed, other than that it exists in some mysterious form.”

      South Park had a brilliant episode soon after the housing crash that summed this up nicely. Here’s a short clip from it if you want a fun laugh:

      From the same episode that spawned the line “And it’s gone!” that gets quoted so often.

      Seriously, this episode is one of the smartest critiques of our financial system ever broadcast. Dives deep into the “mythologies” and “faith” of the markets, how helpless regular people are in a rigged system, and how complexity is used to separate people from their money by crooks in tailored suits.

    3. Amfortas the hippie

      I’ve discovered two paths commonly used into the masses not understanding how the fed works, or what it is:
      1. some people tell themselves that it’s too hard. I first became aware of this in my brother. he’s hardly dumb, but has convinced himself that he is, and that he couldn’t possibly get through any challenging read(i consider the works of Julius Caesar or Herodotus to be rudimentary.)
      I catch wife and youngest doing this, too…and see indicators further out in the world. similar to self-censorship, they so underestimate their own minds, that they don’t even try.
      2. other people go only so far in their search for “what the hell is happening?”…reach some critical juncture where knowing more becomes uncomfortable, somehow, and retreat back into wilful ignorance.
      These folks correlate with those who get mad about you perhaps being a “Debbie Downer” by dissing Biden based on his record, and the like.
      I think…especially after that thread lambert hoisted the other day, which provided much food for thought on denial, writ large…that both of these are for the most part necessary psychological defenses.
      The mountain of shit is so derned enormous and complicated that ordinary, busy folks shrink from it.

      1. Susan the other

        I tell myself it’s too convoluted because they are always adjusting their last attempt to adjust the balances. Which is true. There comes a point when we all give up on patching the old tire. Money is a bigger waste of time than anything man ever invented. Maybe when we finally get digital electronic money (which I believe is very sensible) we will have the equivalent of a “money field” that flows naturally through every nook and cranny of civilization. That’s how it should work. Funding all our human and environmental needs – no quibbles about how we can’t afford it because we are running a deficit. What a bunch of crap. A deficit serves us about as well as a clogged toilet.

      2. jr

        Very much agree. I and the GF were out to dinner about a week ago with conservative Democrat friends. HRC came up and I snorted in derision, noting her blood lust vis a vis Libya. Everyone laughed at me but the GF, who snarled instead. The guy said “Whoa, little Fox News there!” to which I responded that this was simply historical fact, you can watch her doing and saying all of this on Youtube.

        To which the answer was a smiling silence. Everyone knew I was right but no one felt allowed to say it or even consider it. It was verboten, almost rude, to bring it up.

        It’s something I’ve noticed before in PMC’s. It’s not illogic or a flaw in one’s narrative that weirds people out. In fact, in some circles it’s considered rude to tell someone they are wrong at all. The kind of reasoning that tells you not to tell someone they have food in their teeth for fear of embarrassing them.

        It’s the discourtesy of blurting out uncomfortable truths that really skips the needle. In some ways, this is scarier than being condemned for one’s flaws of reasoning because it is a perceived moral failing. You’re rude, unpolished, uncouth. Easier to isolate.

        I smell Critical Theory here behind the dull staleness of Political Correctness. Maybe we can say PC is applied CT. You can have your own truth unless it’s contrary to the firmly established yet utterly arbitrary truth of PC. (CT) Arguments based upon logic or evidence are not only ignored, they are dismissed as coarse or silly. (racist/sexist) The contrarian is immediately labeled as an undesirable. (deplorable)

        I don’t think these things ran through my friends heads, they are really nice people and they bought me a wonderful meal. It’s how they are taught and allowed to think. I don’t have to worry about that because I work gig but they have to live in that world.

        1. Alex Cox

          You cannot say anything to contradict Biden or Clinton fans. They are fragile and don’t need to read or remember anything because…

          Orange Man Bad!

          Let’s see if theirs is a winning strategy come November.

          1. JBird4049

            It’s easy to mock the ditto-heads for their inane words, but it is not funny anymore, if it ever truly was. We are all going into uncharted waters where there might be very real monsters.

            If you read about life in Wilsonian and McCarthyite America, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or Maoist China, actually in all totalitarian and many authoritarian societies, censorship is usually self-imposed. People figure out what not to say, or even think, because it can mean anything from being fired, or going to a university, to being Canceled, disappearing into the Nacht und Nebel (The Night and Fog), or simply being shot dead to do so.

            Worse is having such sanctions done on your family, friends, even acquaintances. What do you do when what you do has extremely serious consequences for people that you care about? When they, the people with the power, demand that you agree with them and finger someone, anyone, as guilty of whatever heinous thoughtcrimes that must be crushed. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the American Communist Party?” Subpoenaed to another HUAC and told to name names or be destroyed.

            The cost of “failure” today, unlike 60 years ago, likely means poverty. It certainly means a greatly diminished life for you and your family. Failure is increasingly becoming not saying the right words means not going to the right school, which you need for the right connections to get the right job. Or losing it. A kind of job that is disappearing. It seems to me that about the only “good” jobs left are in the PMC, so you better not f***-up with doubleplus ungood words. Keep thinking that goodthought. Be rigorous in your crimestop else you fall to thoughtcrimes, say ungood words and be disappeared from the nomenklatura or the apparatchiks.

            Oh, and those (Now few) people in retail and restaurants have had to keep their mouths shut for forever. And I don’t doubt that between Trump Country and everywhere else there is much difference. Just the list of bad words have changed.

            And I have to say that talking in college seems more restrictive now. No, no Thought Police with a list of Bad Words. All my teachers and fellow students have been good people, and very willing to debate and politely disagree, but there seems to be a deeper, darker, stronger undertow or perhaps a greater canalizations of what is and is not proper.

            What I country I live in now.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              but now we’ve all spent the last, what?…20 years?…putting all our thoughts and thoughtcrimes online, and defacto into our permanent record.
              I remember at the onset of faceborg, people saying it was the perfect cia/nsa/whatever op. why spy when folks will post their whole lives online for free?
              justa little squirt of dopamine to keep the clicks going.
              i’ve assumed since i first got a computer(99) that everything i said online was filed away…no privacy on this machine….and i’ve therefore studiously avoided things like looking up bomb-making instructions or advocating for violence of any kind(besides eating the rich, of course)
              and the aliases i’ve used are no defense from that scrutiny.
              “What I country I live in now.”?
              rather, “what a world we’ve stumbled right into”.

        2. JCC

          @jr This is too true, part of the American Psyche as Alexis De Tocqueville pointed out as far back as 1835 in “Democracy In America.

          Per De Tocqueville when he talked about the prevalence of social censorship in the U.S.:

          The master no longer says: You will think like me or die; he says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your goods, everything remains with you; but from this day on you are a stranger among us. You will keep your privileges as a citizen, but they will become useless to you. If you aspire to be the choice of your fellow citizens, they will not choose you, and if you ask only for their esteem, they will still pretend to refuse it to you. You will remain among men, but you will lose your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellows, they will flee from you like an impure being. And those who believe in your innocence, even they will abandon you, for people would flee from them in turn. Go in peace; I spare your life, but I leave you a life worse than death.

          I went through something very similar during the leadup to the Iraq War while eating dinner at a restaurant with 8 or 9 other friends of 30 or more years. The subject of Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Al Queda came up and I strongly suggested that Iraq had nothing to do with any of that. It was all about the control of oil flow in the ME.

          For what it’s worth, I was the only person at the table with a degree in History/PolySci and the only one that had voluntarily served in the US Armed Forces.

          Besides being called unpatriotic, you would think that by the majority of the responses at that dinner table, I had just advocated killing babies for food. Political Correctness as defined by Washington, D.C. and Corporate MSM was the word of the evening.

      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        consider the works of Julius Caesar or Herodotus to be rudimentary

        Caesar was a man of the people. I’ve only read Herodotus in English.

        “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

        Scrooge’s sin wasn’t greed but willful ignorance. Marley’s was greed, but Scrooge was living in his ignorance was bliss world and not even living. The beauty is its easy to be ignorant.

      4. polecat

        Yes. Given the opportunity to don those Holman Lenses – to see clearly for once, how one is constantly betrayed by the power elite, and by extension their cling-ons .. what happens?? Most mopes either crush the shades under their boot heal in disbelief …. or sellout immediately!
        *John C. tried to warn us all 30+ years ago …. right before the inception/insertion of the neoliberal ‘new democrat’ party ghouls into everyday life!
        With very little exception, their ALL ugly, in my book.

        *supposedly, he even stated that the film was actually a documentary .. to be studied thusly.

    4. rd

      I have been baffled why everybody castigates the Fed because they help the big banks, corporations, and wealthy people.

      That is their toolbox when it comes to stimulus. They can only deal with the big banks etc. They can’t cut checks and mail them to Main Street. That is Congress and the President that do that.

      I do think the Fed has fallen down on the job numerous times since Glass-Steagal was repealed on regulating the financial sector during the good times. They don’t take the punch bowl away through addressing bad behavior which was a significant factor that helped create the global financial crisis. But that is different from stepping up to the place when Congress is absent to help stimulate the economy.

  5. a different chris

    > So we might ask an electron if its spin is vertically upward or downward.

    I assume this is physicists talking again, using words differently from the rest of us?

    If there is a ball spinning in space between us, with the axis perpendicular to us, then if I see it as spinning “up” you will see it as spinning “down”.

    Thus I need an explanation of what they mean by an electron’s spin, and life is probably too short for that.

    1. BillS

      Electrons, protons and neutrons possess an intrinsic spin angular momentum of plus or minus 1/2. If they were just floating around in free space, the direction of all those spins would be randomly distributed – no up or down. You need to measure the spin states with respect to other spin 1/2 particles (like other electrons, protons or neutrons, etc.) providing a reference direction using e.g. a magnetic field. Placing the system in an inhomogeneous magnetic field causes the spins to align with the field and the spin “up” (aligned with magnetic field) particles to deviate one way and the spin “down” (aligned against magnetic field) particles to deviate another way. Google the Stern-Gerlach Experiment for details.

    2. epynonymous

      Spin is a ‘metaphor’ meant to describe polarization. Astute readers realize that mainly kicks the can down the road. Quarks have the same linguistic problem, (quarks arent observed, but inferred. the standard particle theory, which was glimpsed in the 1920s and polished til the 60sish, is languishing because it doesnt include gravity.)

      Steven Hawking had some good cosmological work in the 80’s but now progress in the field is a joke. Dark matter and dark energy hand waving. I’m partial to theories of a non-standard gravitational constant over time or space. Professionals seem aloof or to be drinking the same Kool-Aid.

      Anywho, spin is polarization. The good physics books are from the mid 90’s and start with the ‘young turks’ of the 20’s and ‘the black body problem’ of the time Re: emission of light that defined chemical excitement and the unique and discrete measure of the photon. All quantum wierdness goes to the electron/ photon and that being the smallest unit, which leaves us at statistics.

      If your still interested, quarks were largely deduced because splitting a neutron leaves a proton and electron.

      1. a different chris

        And thank you too!!!

        …god though I may not thank either of you if this leads me to getting seriously interested in this stuff…

        >because it doesn’t involve gravity

        (spits coffee all over screen)

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        the lack of gravity is the funnest part for me.
        Seems a rather glaring oversight.
        Ligo and Lisa.
        I obtained Ligo’s trash data(thunderstorms and such) to attempt to find a mechanism for why i feel weather(it ain’t pressure)…but i couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

      3. Susan the other

        Wigner’ friend sounds like more Schroedinger’s cat – layers of superpositions stretching from the quantum to the macro? The theory I read most recently is that the wave function does indeed collapse more at the macro level thereby keeping things in a continuous location. But clearly, quantum states exist throughout it all. The Germans (Schroedinger himself) used the term “entschrankung” instead of our “entangled” – implying somehow that the distance between two instantaneously switching spins is irrelevant. They are somehow contained together so the speed of light is not a factor. (I assume.) But we still puzzle over the speed of light limitation. Because gravity. Right?

        1. Dirk77

          The question does not involve Covid or politics, so I’ll blather on. First, if I understand correctly, the article was implying that a reciprocity principle operates in experiments. If you do an experiment and collapse some wave function, then your “observer” wave function also collapses. If this didn’t happen, and since the observed particle has no way to differentiate between your photons doing the observing and anyone else’s, then you could be both Wigner and his friend as far as the observed particle is concerned. The rest of the article is then about entanglement effects, which are above my pay grade, but I’ll go with them. So sure, if you somehow can work out entanglement effects between an observer and the observed, then two observers may give different results. However, there are also entanglement effects between the two observers. I am not sure that if we incorporate those also, things will also change. Maybe that will resolve issues, I don’t know.

    3. zagonostra

      If you’re interested a quirky view, forgive the pun, below is a gent on Y-Tube that provides an alternative view of physics that states, drawing on Tesla and Steinmeitz, that the “electron” does not exist…this guy is very entertaining and I’m not sure what to make of him.

      At the very least, he makes you think and for me I’m thankful he introduced me to Dollard and Steinmetz.

      1. Aumua

        You seem to be on a kick today of posting random wingnuts from YouTube. I guess if I had infinite time I would watch them all and chase down their assertions and little quirks of thinking. But I don’t unfortunately.

  6. Olga

    “Lebanese President discusses timetable of disarming Hezbollah AMN (Kevin W)”
    One just has to read the first para to realize that this is a clickbait headline masquerading as serious news:
    “Lebanese President Michel Aoun discussed during an interview with an Italian newspaper, the timetable for disarming Hezbollah, stressing that the idea of ​​disarming the party will take place after Israel stops its attacks on Lebanon.”
    As soon as the moon turns into the sun, we can retire the sun.
    OTOH, maybe this is the only way such reporting can get published.

    1. jo6pac

      I laughed when I saw the headline knowing President Aoun is close friends with the leader of Hezbollah

    2. David

      Yes, absolutely, or at a minimum a sub-editor who doesn’t understand the context. Aoun (who as the story acknowledges) has been a political ally of Hezbollah for a long time, was answering a hypothetical question with a hypothetical answer. AMN should be ashamed of themselves (I don’t find their reporting particularly helpful as a rule.)

    3. The Rev Kev

      Had a good laugh when I read this article and I suspect that President Michel Aoun was doing some high-level trolling here.

  7. timbers

    800 dead baby chicks at Post Office. President cutting Postal Service.

    There’s a potentially powerful vote getting commercial in there somewhere if only we would stop “losing faith in our vote being meaningful…”

    Or if voters had a choice to vote for someone who would actually change their government.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      “Maine has no chick hatcheries of its own. So farms rely on the mail.”

      efficiency in action, but with a single metric—profit.
      ignoring any other metrics…like local jobs, resiliency, distributed means of production, etc.
      “get big, or get out”

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        and the other farming related link, from Tyler Cowan:
        I can’t count the number of times that people…from my brother to my doctor to random people on the street…have told me to get a youtube channel and make some bucks.
        all my stories and strange ways and building things with trash…
        but i was terrified of the very idea….with just a simple look at youtube comments,lol.
        all the times i’ve been stalked…rednecks and cops, back when…and the Prowler Neighbor way out here in the middle of nowhere, where i thought i was safe.
        This is to say nothing of the unsustainability of the “business model”…and the broader implications of hyperindividualist “I am an Enterprise, in combat with all other Enterprises!”—and this making a spectacle of ourselves for a buck(“Look at Me!”)…when those eggs, meat or veggies should be seen for the valuable things they are, in and of themselves. The Act of Farming is seen as near the bottom of the social hierarchy, and paid as such(except for the Industrial Farmers(sic), of course—conflated with the former as cover for their actual actions)…when grown men running with balls, and the most ruthlessly amoral and greedy humans ever produced run off with all the pie.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            still…signing up to be the truman show because our civilisation has so devalued the activities that feed everybody is a bridge too far.
            (and yes…i’m biased by a profound distrust of all this gee whiz i used every day)

            1. BillS

              Hi Amfortas. It is always a pleasure to read the farming tips and philosophy you post here at NC. Your recounting of feedstore conversations is always a source of great pleasure to me as well. No Youtube channel is necessary – and the pittance Google would toss your way would not pay for the time-suck any such endeavor would become.

              My 2c

              1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                Hear hear, just the idea that there’s a Commie redneck hippie howling naked at the moon in the Texas hill country brings me a smile

                Peace brother Am

  8. jr

    I spoke with my construction crew supervisor buddy this morning at coffee. He said work is grueling. I ask him if the condos were still emptying out as he had mentioned a few months back.

    He said no, they have almost sold out the building. Some guy just bought his daughter a 7M$ place to be near her boyfriend/model who likes to answer the door in a loincloth. His place was 9M$. I said those figures were disgusting to hear with people sleeping in the train tunnels. He agreed, noting he had seen something about someone tossing out pallets of food. He said while people are starving.

  9. The Rev Kev

    “California’s primary firefighter hand-crews on wildfires, are too sick with Covid to go.”

    Actually it gets worse than this. Up until the beginning of this year you would have firefighters from countries like Australia & New Zealand go to North America to help fight forest fighters during our winter months and you would have American & Canadian firefighters go to Australia during your winter months. But as the seasons for fires are getting longer and longer, this is far more difficult to do. And now with the pandemic, how is this suppose to happen? How would quarantine work out? What if firefighters get infected while overseas? Is the entire firefighting team locked down in an overseas country for two weeks before being able to come home? How safe will those very long plane trips be? I can’t see this happening for quite a while.

    If Tom Stone comes online, how are you traveling right now? Is your home still safe? Keep safe either way.

    1. Clive

      Did you spot who these “primary firefighter hand-crews” are — they actually use convicts as (prison labour) firefighters. That, I never knew. I suppose they get parole credits for the volunteerism. Which is fair enough. Plus a wage (but I don’t think it’s the state’s Minimum Wage).

      But I guess “Convict Labour Firefighters Untreated for their COVID-19 by Gavin Newsome’s Prison Regime Too Sick to Fight Fires” wouldn’t suit the loyalist SacBee’s agenda…

      1. The Rev Kev

        They have been doing this for a long time but they do not get much of a wage. Stories about them appear from time to time here. But they are paid a pittance. In fact-

        ‘The prisoners earn between $2.90 and $5.12 per day, plus an additional $1 per hour during active emergency for their potentially life-threatening efforts. The firefighters they work alongside earn an average of $91,000 each year before overtime pay and bonuses.’

        1. Savedbyirony

          Plus, due to their prison/criminal records they are often not eligible to seek employment as firefighters when they have served their prison sentences. The huge numbers of incarcerated Americans, it’s not about rehabilitation; it is not about prevention; it is not even primarily about punishment. It is about exploitation.

            1. savebyirony

              I read that there were a token few local fire departments that allowed for ex-prisoners to pursue the needed further accreditation after release, but I do not live in California and do not know if any ever do or even could succeed in being hired. Even if there is a suggested possible path for them, it probably is some sort of bait and switch.

      2. IMOR

        Parole credits? It’ll vary state by state, and I haven’t had the stomach to read the felony reform initiative passed 4-8 yrs ago in CA, but from the early 90s til at least that initiative, CA offered zero credits apart from a reduced, nearly meaningless quantity of good time. Exploitation and fact free pandering is what the incarceration industry here has been all about for nearly 35 years.

    2. Tom Stone

      Rev, my home still stands and I am staying with friends in Sonoma County.
      I spent a couple of hours deadheading thei rose hedge this morning, gardening has been a solace for 60 years and it seldom fails me.
      The fire near my home still has 0% containment, whether I’ll have more than ashes to return to depends on wind and weather over the next 3-4 days.

    1. MichaelSF

      There weren’t very many of them so it is hard to tell if they were gregarious enough to be relatives of Greggery Peccary.

  10. johnherbiehancock

    > Stoller’s tweet re Obama blaming voters for losing faith in the voting process

    What was the first “crack in the facade” for you?

    For me, “coming of age” in the 00’s, it was when the revelations that the Bush administration had been spying on Americans landed with a *thud* and there were absolutely no repercussions… no media outrage, no push to investigate and impeach, etc. Having lived through the Clinton Impeachment saga, I initially thought, “Wow, they went after Clinton for basically nothing, and now we have an administration that committed actual crimes. There’s going to be hell to pay.

    Then when nothing happened, that was the first sign for me that someone or something else was running the show.

    I was living Chicago in ’08, and remember the euphoria and celebration downtown when Obama was elected; I had friends who worked on his campaign and were totally smitten. I had gottent to meet him a few times, and thought he was very personable & likable, but was a bit skeptical, having read Glenn Greenwald’s reporting on his vote to immunize the telecoms from the legal fallout for the aforesaid domestic spying.

    I think around 2012 was when I gave up the hope that there would be any change… I didn’t bother voting in that election. Pretty much from that point on, I realized electoral politics were a dead end. At least on the federal level, and higher levels of state government.

    I’ve supported Sanders in both primaries since then, but wasn’t exactly surprised when the DNC’s monkeybusiness against him was publicly revealed in the 2016 campaign & similarly ended with a *thud* and no material consequences for those who perpetrated them, but I supposed that was the final nail in the coffin for me, re: voting.

    Most of my friends are 30- or 40- something members of the “PMC” in big cities, and don’t know how to process this, when they ask my opinion. I get essay-length text messages echoing liberal democrat talking points about Russia, Trump as a threat to democracy, Trump getting to nominate the judges, etc.

    They can fool some of the people all the time…” – in America, “some” comes out to around 80%… enough to keep the charade going indefinitely.

    1. pjay

      I think I’m a few decades older than you, so for me the “cracks” began to appear much earlier. Still, after all these years, I continue to be surprised as a more and more of the facade crumbles and even the few elements of our political system I believed in prove to be false.

      I was already pretty cynical by 2008, and I knew about Obama’s elite sponsorship. Yet the Bush/Cheyney gang of neocons was so Evil that I allowed myself some hope. I remember a Champagne toast with a gathering of family and friends, with me saying something ridiculous like “at last our long national nightmare is over.” But more bitterly, with today’s Black Agenda Report article in mind, I remember the reactions of some of my students. One in particular, an African American grad student who I knew pretty well, was so overcome with emotion that she would burst into tears periodically. I knew the moment meant something much more profound for her. In that I felt genuine happiness.

      Today, I can only react to statements about the “historic” choice of Kamala Harris with brutal sarcasm. I’m no longer capable of empathizing with expressions of false consciousness, even if they are sincere. Pretty sad, actually.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter


        We must be about the same age pjay. I entered 2008 willing to put aside my cynicism because, like you, I felt the Bush regime was that bad and I was affected by the impact Obama election had on so many people. I really hoped (ha) things would work out like so many expected they would. Unfortunately, that nagging feeling I had about who he was and what he stood for proved to be correct.

        But to answer the original question, for me it was during the Clinton years, no doubt. I was in college when he was elected and to say he had been sold hard to my age group was an understatement. I knew a lot of people very emotionally involved in his presidency because we were led to believe he understood us and was speaking to us. Pre-internet, it was a little harder to put the pieces together, but somehow I did. I can’t even connect it to one specific event, but many smaller things that just didn’t add up. I heard a clip of Governor Clinton speaking on labor the other day and it was so easy to see how we all got bamboozled.

        1. juno mas

          I’m much older than you both. After living through Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush (either one), I recognized Obama as a “confidence man” and not sincere.

          He spoke at my local community college campus (after meeting with Oprah Winfrey). His team placed his stage so that photos would show the SB Harbor in the background. The boats in the harbor are mostly for the elite. That is the way he governed; as a front man for the 1%.

    2. Donald

      Russiagate was in large part a way to dismiss the revelation that the DNC rigged the 2016 primaries against Sanders. The outrage is no longer what was revealed–the outrage is that the Russians (allegedly) stole the emails and interfered with “our democracy”. It becomes about evil foreigners.

      It’s fascinating to me how this worked. Mainstream Democrats were already busy dismissing the importance of what the wikileaks emails revealed. Then it becomes about “Russia” and how they are turning us against each other. As always, the Democratic Party is the morally perfect victim of evil leftists, Russians, Trump supporters–literally everyone except itself.

      While I am ranting, I might add that one of the things that really shocked me about the the liberal web many years ago was the discovery that there really are such things as partisan Democrats and worse, some of them claim to be leftists. I understand and practice lesser evil voting, but the idea that you would get so wedded to the Democratic Party that you feel the need to defend these grifters against any and all accusations just stunned me. I honestly didn’t think that such people existed. Moderate Democrats–sure, they like what they have. But people who claim to be on the left? It’s weird.

      1. Pat

        For me it was the self proclaimed tech expert from MIT who tried to tell me I didn’t understand how Facebook worked after I pointed out that Clinton had over a thousand times the ads and that they were liked and shared more than the dastardly supposedly Russian ones. When I asked why she wasn’t more bothered by the Cambridge Analytica revelations, She had no clue what I was talking about.
        After she left, the person I had been talking to when she interrupted said, “ if she only left Facebook this year, she spent too much for that fancy degree.”

        How can you have a tech background and buy the Facebook crap? It made no sense. The bullshit hacking story held together better. You had to actively deny your own reality, not to mention being clueless about Facebook’s tracking and inherent security issues.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I’m a large believer that our “identity” is sacred to us, and Team Blue types’ have an identity which revolves around what West Wing character or Harry Potter house they are. The idea they could be duped is the equivalent of a Christian finding the corpse of Jesus. They simply wouldn’t believe it.

          They need an explanation no matter how crazy to explain how they weren’t conned. Eventually it turns into blaming everyone else. Hillary was a predictably weak candidate, and her record wasn’t going to bring non-voters into the fold. Sometimes they just ignore egregious actions. Republicans wouldn’t even put their names next to the Simpson-Bowles efforts. Obama did, and cut social security.

        2. Dr. John Carpenter

          I’ve worked in IT a long time and let’s just say knowing how the sausage is made doesn’t get in the way of confirmation basis thinking. I’ve had cohorts fiercely swear all kind of beliefs that make no sense knowing what I assume we all know about how our field works.

      2. km

        Russiagate started as a distraction from the leak the DNC emails on WikiLeaks. The subtext was that if you pay attention to the content of those emails, then you are in league with the eeeevil foreigners that are subverting muh freedum!

        1. tegnost

          I see russiagate as a bunch of lawyers pounding the table and yelling until the other sides time runs out

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            That’s a pity. Because I believe you should see RussiaGate as an administration using the awesome power of the intelligence agencies to control which president the people are allowed to have, and when they selected incorrectly to attempt to overthrow the person they chose. Lesson #2 for me is the role of the media in this: they screeched the most serious of charges from every rooftop for 3 years and when every last one of them turned out to be lies fabricated from whole cloth none of them would even notice that in passing, let alone retract them all and apologize. And lastly, the social channels allow this entire tapestry of lies to remain online, in Tweets, YT videos, and search results, despite their “scrupulous” “non-partisan” efforts to quickly remove any “misinformation”.

            1. juliania

              Russiagate is the men in Brooks Brothers suits with their sleeves rolled up shutting down the little old ladies doing the recount in Florida for the 2000 election, writ large.

            2. tegnost

              see RussiaGate as an administration using the awesome power of the intelligence agencies to control which president the people are allowed to have

              well there is that…

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama specifically. His 2004 DNC speech was significant. I get the appeal which is mostly that are problems can be solved through prayer and aren’t that big of a deal while pretending the media driven red state blue state divide was the real problem. At some point between the primary season and the speech, I read a Harper’s Magazine from 1996 by Adolph Reed which has disappeared from the internets which described a new class of performatively black politicians who used style and sold their presence to the traditional powers that be to diffuse leftist energy. The piece included reference to a newly christened state senator from illinois.

      In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices: one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable credentials and vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program – the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle class reform in favoring form over substances. -Adolph Reed 1996, I know its a big country, but its about Obama.

      I would guess whenever Ken Silverstein’s “Obama Inc” came out was the recognition of what Obama was. I was still deluded about the state of Team Blue and even Obama’s perception of legacy. He could easily have made a fortune and built a good legacy, but nothing in his life really ever demonstrated he would be different.

      I tend to believe in a vacuum Hillary is and was preferable to Obama, but she was bringing with her the Clinton Clown Car.

      1. Pat

        I knew Obama offered little to me, but I had already developed an antipathy to Clinton and her husband due to their clear, successful and ongoing campaign to turn the Democratic Party into a service for Oligarchs. I hoped that along with the historic aspect of his election, he would offer a slight mitigation to that serve the rich agenda.

        My bad.

        The guy who cheated on his sick and dying wife is still the best choice from 2008. Probably why we got that story so quickly.

        1. neo-realist

          The guy who cheated on his wife in 2008 would have brought you a much more severe version of neo-liberalism than the Obama administration – more austerity in social programs, a lot more spending on the military, many more right wing federalist society judges to the District and Supreme courts, and a possible war with Iran instead of the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated. This is not to say that the Obama administration was a great administration, but McCain offered no evidence that he would have been better for Main Street America.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            It was an on the nose reference to Edwards. Obama’s whole DNC speech put a spin on the Two Americas imagery and claimed it was all in our heads and ignored material concerns.

            Despite Obama’s “wonderful” speeches, he is rarely quoted or discussed. Part of it is his speeches were described by Adolph Reed in 1996.

        1. Foy

          “Who benefits when one side gives up without a struggle? The Have’s or the Have nots? Frederick Douglass reminds us: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did. It never will.” ”

          “I have to stop now and put Karnak’s envelope to my forehead. What we see is that the Chicago core of the Obama coalition is made up of blacks who’ve moved up by moving poor blacks out of the community. And very wealthy whites who’ve advanced their community development agenda by hiring blacks.”

          Hadn’t seen that article, right on the money, very prescient, bookmarked here as well. Sounds like Kamala Harris is version 2.0 given her previous prosecutorial efforts to “move blacks out of the community” and put and keep them in prison. Thanks!

      2. lordkoos

        I’ve always been something of an outsider but other than protesting against the Vietnam war I didn’t pay a lot of attention to politics for much of my adult life. For me it was seeing that the Democratic party did nothing when they held a super-majority in 2009 for 6 months. They had plenty of time to address things like the USPS debt, climate change, voting, health care, money in politics etc. After voting Democrat for nearly 50 years as the lesser evil, I realized that the party was never going to do the right thing. I also realized that Clinton was just as bad as Reagan after selling us out with NAFTA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. At the same time I began reading about the federal reserve and how money is created, began to “follow the money” more closely, and discovered this site. I went through stages of grief, was stuck in anger for several years, now I’m in the stage of acceptance, although still pretty angry, especially with so many of my liberal friends who are still drinking the kool-aid.

        What scares me most now is that the American people don’t know what or who to believe, and are splintered into groups that seem to have little common ground with each other. Truth is hard to find and I think it is what will really sink the USA.

    4. timbers

      My first crack in my facade: Did college at University of Chicago and was sold on The Chicago School of Economics. Trilled Reagan won. Decades passed and lost interest until drums pounded to invade Iraq which sound total bonkers to me. Sought to get up to speed on current events and landed on DailyKos and his brutal takedowns of WMD in Iraq. Voted Obama with no knowledge of Dem neoliberalism. That’s when the facade cracked. A year into his term it grew increasingly obvious he was a fake, a bait and switch. Nothing got done, no meaningful policy changes. Here and there a few spectacular right wing policy victories not always directly linked to Obama but added to my suspicions about what Obama was really about. Now I only vote Bernie, Green, or similar.

      1. hunkerdown

        The Chicago School is a sect of neoliberalism, isn’t it? When/how did you escape that particular set of mind manacles? That part of the transformation, being contemporary with the public dispensation of neoliberal thought, is especially interesting to me, in informing millions of falsely-conscious tradies out there too busy to think things through.

        1. timbers

          While getting hooked on DailyKos anti Iraq War articles, I also read it’s other posts on economics, etc, and started to question my political views.

          When I arrived at the opinion that single payer healthcare was essential to get affordable universal healthcare, I noticed the lack of interest in single payer in comments at DailyKos and at times, and even actual contempt and ridicule of those who supported it and knocked the ACA as inadaquate, and the much too much praise of the ACA was getting and making excuses why every Dem or DailyKos reader should support it because it was so awesome, which I didn’t think it was.

          That’s when I started to seek out other sources and realized Kos had it’s own issues and agendas of tribal support for Team Blue even when Team Blue was doing Team Red policy.

          Pretty much a 180 degree turn. Expect many people do this in their lifetime.

      2. Foy

        Yep, WMD in Iraq, “yellowcake in Africa”, and Colin Powell at the UN, Judith Miller at New York Times. Learnt my lesson there. I remember seeing Colin Powell’s presentation with the diagrams and pictures of mobile WMD units and cylinders for enrichment and asking one of my smarter friends who I respected if they thought it was real, it all sounded a bit weird to me. He said it’s definitely all true, so I went along with it. 12 months later no WMD and I was thinking WTF, this is last time I get sucked into believing any government pronouncements/geopolitical stuff like that, the world aint what I thought it was.

        Seeing a BBC reporter saying that WTC 7 had fallen when it was still standing in the picture behind him, and it falling down straight down 20 minutes later also made me go WTF.

    5. Amfortas the hippie

      I don’t think the facade was ever not cracked for me….but i was a precocious outsider as a kid, and developed a knack for observation(the jane goodall thing).
      I distinctly remember when i was in second grade, at a lutheran school, because my mostly non-religious folks wanted a better education…and at one of the de facto mandatory church services, the preacher(who always rubbed me the wrong way) had a long, tearful mea culpa instead of a sermon, wherein he admitted to diverting church funds to himself…in the form of a boat and a second, personal pipe organ for his mansion(!).
      dad squirmed and side-eyed mom, who was even then prone to uncontrollable outbursts of rage.
      went to public school the next fall.
      lesson: people in power can’t be trusted….and my folks are glossing over the ugly parts.
      about a million anecdotes between then and now have only firmed this conviction.

    6. Dita

      I’m quite a bit older, but i remember a sinking feeling as reagan touted the benefits of 401k’s to replace pensions. Feeling the dread thru the clintons, obama trump. 20 years of war, desolation, trillions spent, the surveillance state, for me, the worst by far was and remains Dubya

      1. a different chris

        I’m in the middle somewhere, but I do remember sortof going “uh, hmmm, what?” at the 401K crap but shaking it off as I was a good Young Republican in those days.

        Maybe it was the very first crack in that armor?

      2. John k

        Sure, Iraq. But Vietnam was lbj, a five times the number in the field when we were a smaller country.
        Also, every pres moves the country further right towards fascism, doesn’t that make Obama, with his various wars and drones, worse than bush?
        Not that trump isn’t pushing us further, but first pres since reagan not starting a war in his first term. Meanwhile team Biden showcasing their warmongers, cheered on by the leftists as coalition of the willing against the ultimate evil.
        IMO a Biden win brings us to Caracas in 2021.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Make no mistake, more war and lots of it is absolutely on the cards in a Harris Administration, that’s what you’ll get if you put in the team of lovely ladies who coined the phrase “humanitarian bombing” (Make Orwell Fiction Again). They even trotted out the man probably singularly most responsible for legitimizing the Iraq slaughter, maybe Powell viewed it as his penance. The man moved from leading the My Lai coverup to much bigger things indeed, but he’s brown so oooh he’s such a hero.

          So interesting that the endless laundry list from the convention, from trans rights to police defunding to open borders to free health care for illegals…and the subject of FWFFAP (Foreign Wars For Fun And Profit) does not even merit a single mention? I take my clues where I find them. The two sets “Antiwar” and “Joe Biden” do not overlap in any way.

          1. JBird4049

            Humanitarian bombing? WTF does that even means? It sounds like the Vietnam era “we had to destroy the village to save the village” doublethink. Yes, they’re all dead so the Vietcong, ISIS, Fill-In-The-Blank can’t hurt’em?

    7. Janie

      First crack in the facade? How LBJ got his start in politics and his holding the license for the only tv station in Austin (he’s a mix, good on civil rights). Viet Nam war, Sy Hersch and Walter Cronkite reports, My Lai and Kent State, evacuation from Saigon embassy in 1975. Watergate. I could go on…

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Not sure I ever had a facade in the first place, my first exposure to politics was when I watched Jack Ruby kill Oswald on live TV with my Mom, she raged and cried for days when they shot Jack (she was from Mass.), saying “the bastards got him!”. She had worked as Admiral Byrd’s secretary and got fired when she refused to wear a “Better Dead Than Red” button. Her rage continued through Vietnam and WaterGate (“I’ll move my boys to Canada before I’ll let them fight in Vietnam!”), with the help of the New York Times and heaps of scorn she watched Tricky Dick go down. She even got to physically serve Roy Cohn with a subpoena at a very high end NYC cocktail party. Towards the end of her life she watched Obama and was never fooled in the slightest. RIP Mom you were the greatest

    8. dcblogger

      it was lots of little things, but for me the final blow came in 2007 when it was clear there would be no investigation and it was clear the Democratic majority had no problem with torture or war crimes.

    9. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      The 2009/10 Obamacare fight with filibuster proof majorities in both houses…

      When he met with Billy Tauzin of Big Pharma…old Becnel truly lost faith

    10. Acacia

      First crack for me was probably back in the early 90s. In response to the first Gulf War, the US mass media gloated and gushed over how “beautiful” the bombing was. Having grown up with Vietnam on the TV, I found this response to war was simply sickening. Shortly thereafter, I saw Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, which showed some of the true devastation of that war. The following year, with the Berlin Wall in rubble and Cold War supposedly over, the chest thumping really began in earnest. During this time, I traveled abroad and saw that while Europe and Asia were in the process of modernizing their infrastructure, the US seemed to be going backwards. 9/11 really opened a chasm between my understanding of US foreign policy and that of those around me (mostly “good liberals” who told me that we were victims of Islamic aggression, or that we should drop nukes on Iraq). I found Chalmers Johnson’s work in the early 2000s, which sharpened my sense of what was happening, and largely gave up on the tiresome pro-war screed of rags like the NYT and WaPo. By the time Obama appeared on the national scene, I had no more illusions. He was very clearly owned by Wall Street and would dutifully carry water for the Empire. It wasn’t surprising when he let Bush and Cheney off the hook for torture, lies, crimes, or when he gave free money to the banksters post-Lehman, launched new military interventions and starting calling in drone strikes from the ninth hole. I never believed anything good would come of his presidency, and thus lost a few more friends who had become starry-eyed O-bots. Looking back over these past three decades, I can’t help but feel it’s been the downhill slide of an Empire in its death throes.

  11. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Further to the Mauritius link, what is odd is the reference to Rivière Noire, the west coast of Mauritius, and a water taxi from there.

    Why would a water taxi from the other side of the island go a ship on the eastern side? By road, the trip is over thirty miles cross country. By sea, it’s a semi-circuit of the egg-shaped island, which is about the size of Greater London, and much longer and in often treacherous waters off the south coast.

    I have used the water taxis. They are small pleasure craft and seat up to a dozen people for shuttles that last no more than 15 minutes.

    My parents and I live and farm on the west coast. Some relatives live and farm on hills overlooking where the ship ran on to the reef.

    1. Winston Smith

      Nice to see you here again Colonel. Is the Express article a good source? I don’t think I looked at this magazine since Jean-Francois Revel was its editor

      1. caucus99percenter

        This is L’Express in Mauritius, belonging to a completely different Mauritius-based media company called La Sentinelle, with no apparent connection to the magazine L’Express in France.

      2. rtah100

        I remember Yann de l’Ecotais. A stalwart fallback for S-level French essays. Does that make me older or younger than you, Winston?

    2. PlutoniumKun

      The story gets more and more interesting (and murky). Your reports are very valuable, thanks for these, Col.

    3. HotFlash

      Ça fait plaisir de vous revoir!

      Most interesting, that water taxi. If the, um, exfiltrated cargo was say, a parcel, any type of fast small boat would do and be less conspicuous. So, people?

    4. Janie

      It’s good to have you back. I appreciate your reporting on the shipwreck disaster. Quite disturbing information.

  12. Eclair

    RE: Vildsvin som spelar fotbol.
    Get some wizard to help out here! These boars are obviously soccer players who have been ensorcelled into pig form.

  13. Krystyn Podgajski

    RE “The Black Death Was The Worst Pandemic In Human History, So How Did It Finally End?”

    The genetics behind this is fascinating. A change in a gene called CCR5 (CCR5 delta-32) makes this inflammatory receptor totally non functional and results in immunity to the Plague. CCR5 is the co-receptor for the bacteria (like ACE2 is for COVID19) so there is nothing for the Plague to latch on to. It also confers immunity to smallpox, which is why the Indigenous Americans were wiped out since none of them carried this gene change.

    Also, since CCR5 is a chemokine receptor so this change gives carriers a strong initial immune response but leads to a poor secondary response. Hence the link to autoimmune diseases in people with these changes.

    While the Delta-32 polyorphism gets all the news, there are several other more common changes that lead to a similar but lesser effect. I do not have the Delta-32 changes but I have three of the four that would provide me with some greater immunity.

    I feel the more quickly they figure out what role the genetic lottery plays in COVID outcomes the more quickly they will have treatments. There have been people with HIV treated with CCR5 inhibitors so…

    1. HotFlash

      My dear Krystyn, thank you. I am so grateful for your knowledge and for your sharing it so generously and clearly. While I am still floundering, I no longer drowning. Bardzo dziękujemy.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        I love NC.
        from gene theory to polish to a guy actually on the island where the oil spill(or whatever) is to an immunology guy to someone who once roomed with a mover or a shaker and on and on.
        a random physicist wanders through….
        all these disparate datapoints, filling out the frames left empty by an historia officionale.

    2. Janie

      Krystyn, thank you for your informed comments, most of which are over my head (lousy scientific education). Like HotFlash, though, I’m improving!

    3. John k

      Enjoy your contributions, thanks for the time.
      Did seem a good guess the Black Death killed off enough of the vulnerable that the survivors had enough (genetic) herd immunity that it never spread far thereafter. So 50% did it… but with Covid, even after 50% have it, and even if they are then immune, the remainder might still be susceptible bc everybody has ace2?

    1. Anonymous

      “This wouldn’t expand services for the unbanked, wouldn’t change the terms that put big bank financial services out of reach for poorer people. It’s designed just to stop postal banking.”
      —David Dayen,
      The American Prospect

      Adding that the road to an ethical money system is narrow indeed.

      I used to scoff at those who worshiped money but the problem is that they eventually force everyone else to worship money too unless the system is scrupulously ethical.

    2. lordkoos

      Yesterday I was reading how Jamie Dimon from Morgan-Chase was expressing interest his company setting up and running a post office bank.

      The greedy bastards never stop, whatever they have, it’s never enough.

  14. Krystyn Podgajski

    So I went to get my COVID test yesterday. Man that q-tip up the nose made my eye tear up. Yowzaa. She started counting and I thought she would stop at 5 but she kept twisting that thing till 15.

    The whole process was well organized and quick, it all took about 15-20 minutes. And in less than 24 hours I already have my results back! NO COVID!

    I was lucky(?) that they were refusing to test the UNC students, it probably kept the line much shorter. They just found two new clusters near campus.

    1. suburbancontrarian

      OT, but I’m baffled by the choices of Carolina leadership, unless I look for a cynical explanation. Did they really think once campuses opened back up this Fall, even with extensive precautions, that there wouldn’t be positive case clusters? It’s to be expected. They had their rules in place for quarantine, etc. At a certain point you have to live with risk. Couldn’t they have made classes online and allowed whoever wanted to stay to stay?

      My “cynical/compassionate” analysis is that Carolina, like every other major university, relies heavily on the full tuition it gets from international students. International students were also facing various immigration challenges if they weren’t “on campus.” It may be that Carolina fully intended to send in-state students home (except athletes, those with “special circumstances,” and international students), because they assumed that Covid clusters would be found. However, by going through the process of opening back up and having everyone (including international students) move back in, they allowed international students to enroll and move in–and not have to move out–while taking their courses online. Had Carolina been online only from the get go, many international students couldn’t have enrolled. I get how they were trying to help them, but I find it really problematic for all of those other students, esp. freshmen, who went through the whole process of moving into campus, only to have to move back two weeks later.

      At a certain point, allowing healthy young people, esp those who live on campus explicitly AWAY from older parents and grandparents, to get the virus, will help with herd immunity. I don’t see how sending these people back to live with their relatives while they still try to be social active is a better choice than just letting them stay. But what do I know…

      1. a different chris

        >Had Carolina been online only from the get go, many international students couldn’t have enrolled.

        That is an absolutely correct statement that would make no sense at all to a Martian.

      2. Krystyn Podgajski

        The universities are really strapped for cash. Most people think they have so much money because they charge so much but all that money goes to building amenities to attract students.

        They were in a trap that they could not exit with COVID, so the only choice for them was to open up and at least get some money.

          1. rd

            The universiites don’t seem to have many more students than when I went in the 1970s, but when I was looking at them with my kids, it was clear that there were more buildings that were much nicer, especially dorms. They also seemed to have much bigger administration people with many more people going in and out.

            I still think that university students should be going to school in buildings that can be firehosed out in the summer to clean them, not architectural masterpieces with high maintenance costs. Average student debt would probably be $5k-$10k less per student upon graduation.

        1. RMO

          Congratulations on the test coming back negative! Great feeling isn’t it? The probe-up-the-nose wasn’t comfortable but it wasn’t as bad as I expected when I got mine.

    2. shinola

      Apologies for being Danny Downer, but you were COVID free yesterday. What about tomorrow – or next week? How many times per week do you plan to get tested? And for how long?

      1. Krystyn Podgajski

        I am fully aware of that. But can’t I be happy for just one day? :)

        My anxiety gives me “COVID” about 15 times a day so…

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          “My anxiety gives me “COVID” about 15 times a day so…”

          lol. you and me both, and i hardly go anywhere.
          a beer run…and 2 days later the allergies are particularly bad(all the dust, i assume), and i’m cutting garlic just to sniff it.

          meanwhile, school started this week…parents had a choice of online only(socially frowned upon) and full bore, as if nothing was different. week prior and there was a rash of new cases, and anecdotal evidence from the jungle drums of many, many more going uncounted and/or untested.
          when i do go to town, i’m still most often the only one, wherever i go, with a mask.

          1. JBird4049

            >>>parents had a choice of online only(socially frowned upon) and full bore, as if nothing was different.

            I know that we’ve talked about about this stuff in the comments, but do they hate the kids, don’t believe in the pandemic or what?

            Nobody in my family likes being the odd duck particularly, but if it had been a choice between going online or a prolonged death, there would have been no discussion especially if it had been a case of someone going to grade school or high school.

            Just what do they think will happen without a quarantine? Nothing?

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              for various reasons, i think:
              1. because they’re told to.
              2. because they think it’s a hoax.
              3. because it’s “just the flu”
              4. because they are the sort of people (“Blessings!”) who believe real hard, “put on the Armor of God”, etc.

              what i’ve noticed in my petri dish county, is that the more flag waving and belligerently patriotic, the more likely they are to refuse mask-wearing and/or fall into one of the above 4 categories…which overlap considerably.(irony is an unknown country:”freedom”=”do what yer told”, etc)

              and a note on Category 4.—the most pious and holy, with that zealot gleam in their eyes, are not always rabid repubs, nor trumpers.
              a lot of these folks(mostly women with kids) are essentially apolitical, leaving that part of life to their husbands.
              Pre-mask controversy, i was more or less friendly with these folks(1-4), given the local unconscious position of avoiding controversy/public display. Now that masks are a symbol, they are the most likely to side-eye…or even gawk.

        2. Janie

          Congratulations. Don’t worry; be happy (there’s that song!). Sounds as if you’ve landed in a good spot in North Carolina. Best wishes.

    3. Cuibono

      well to be accurate, the test was negative. I just dont want readers to assume a negative test means you dont have covid for sure.The sensitivity might be as low as 60-80%

  15. Clive

    Re: With the Most Deaths In 150 Years, Sweden Reveals [track and trace strategy]

    The good old Grauniad really does have a bad case of Sweden Derangement Syndrome it seems. Maybe it’s a comorbidity with Trump Derangement Syndrome, UK Derangement Syndrome and Munchausen‘s Identity Politics Syndrome By Proxy. Possibly that’s another thing its mask didn’t prevent getting through.

    Sweden’s excess mortality rate is lower than Spain, Britain, France, Italy and Portugal. But “Most Deaths in 150 Years” ! Context, Guardian headline writers, context…

    I really don’t know what Sweden has done to annoy the neoliberal GoodThinkers. Sweden is after all a fully paid-up member of the neoliberal playbook.

    1. Quentin

      Yes, but the Grauniad may now bear a grudge against Sweden because their authorities failed to stitch up the Anglo-American Julian Assange hoax to their bosses’ liking.

    2. pjay

      For better or worse, Sweden is associated with a no-lockdown “herd immunity” response. Which is associated with Trump. So yeah, TDS is a factor. No room for subtlety in today’s politicized media discourse. It’s black vs. white all the way.

    3. Carolinian

      As you point out, with Covid we do at least have the option of getting our data via statistics sites like Worldometer rather than depending on the news filter provided by shaky sources like the Guardian. The days it seems like newspapers are not so much the first draft of history as the first spin of history.

      To wit: current Swedish deaths per 1m–580. For the US it’s 534. Meanwhile Germany is having a resurgence and as you say most of Western Europe has done worse than Sweden by this measure. If those of us who are mere commenters can fact check The Guardian you wonder what their editors are doing. Clearly they are not so much in the news business as in the information management business.

    4. td

      Sweden is being used extensively as an example of a country that did very little to contain Covid-19 and didn’t suffer too much. Thus, lockdowns everywhere else were a waste of time and so on.

      The truth is much more nuanced:

      – Sweden banned gatherings of more than 50.
      – They closed high schools and universities.
      – Restrictions on foreign travel were made.
      – According to cellphone data, the population voluntarily restricted their own movements and exposure.

      Despite claiming that they were going to protect the vulnerable, there were outbreaks in long-term care that were as bad as many other places. A good comparison is the province of Quebec in Canada which has a slightly smaller population. It suffered a similar problem in care homes, resulting in La Belle Province having more than half of the deaths that occurred in Canada.

      The net benefit was that Sweden had a marginally smaller drop in GDP than the rest of Scandinavia. That being said, they are in no way comparable to the US in how things were handled overall and how the population responded.

    5. rusti

      I’m wondering where the second half of the headline, “Reveals Track and Trace” came from. It’s not in the Guardian headline or article URL, not in the body of the article and I haven’t seen anything in the national news about it here. I believe that individual regions here are responsible for implementing their own tracing.

    6. Cuibono

      Really Clive? Me thinks thou dost protest too much. On a population basis Sweden had 10 X the number of deaths of Finland. and a worse economy. What part of failure do you not understand?

  16. allan

    From yesterday’s WSJ:

    … Former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden confidant who succeeded him in the Senate, predicted during a Wall Street Journal Newsmakers Live interview Tuesday that a large increase in federal spending would be difficult to achieve in 2021.

    “When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” said Mr. Kaufman, who is leading Mr. Biden’s transition team. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit…forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” …

    Sounds like a hard no on MMT. But this is a brilliant way to disarm campaign attacks
    that Biden/Harris would be the second coming of Pol Pot … oh, wait, …

    …On Monday at a campaign event in Oshkosh, Wis., Mr. Trump asked his supporters: “Do you want to be ruled by the radical left mob or do you want to stand tall as free men and women in the greatest country on earth and keep it that way?” …

    Time to tack further to the right – this time it’s sure to work!

      1. jo6pac

        DB is trying to save us on Main Street and biden doesn’t care at all us. The still dead uncle Milton friedman program will be laid out by biden to save Amerika from the Russians or Chinese depending on whos day it is to be the bad guy.

    1. a different chris

      >all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts

      So re-tax the crap out of the rich? What is so hard?

      Just Do It.

    2. tegnost

      It would be irresponsible to overturn trumps tax cuts, better cut welfare instead…What? We already cut welfare?

    3. urblintz

      David Sirota covers this today:

      “What all of this says to me is that party officials have successfully distracted everyone, or the left coalition in Washington is committed to repeating 2009: keeping quiet and deferring to a new Democratic president no matter what he does. Indeed, it seems so many political leaders, operatives, pundits and party tryhards are so busy cheering and angling for their next job, that deference is now the overarching ideology. Nero fiddled while Rome burns, Trump golfs while a pandemic rages — and Democratic politicos in Washington prioritize their quest for their next White House gigs as the devastating ideology of austerity comes back to life.”

      and from the comments to Sirota’s article:

      ” Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour appeared at the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly side event to the Democratic National Convention. The Biden campaign attacked her for her support of the BDS movement…

      “Last night the DNC aired a video – ““America Rising: Women’s Suffrage to Women’s March”. Linda was co-chair of the Women’s March! Linda tweeted in response: “When the DNC uses footage of my labor at the Women’s March to make themselves seem relevant while throwing my communities under the bus. You can’t make this up.”

      Ady Barkan, the American-Israeli lawyer with terminal ALS who was a featured speaker at the DNS on Tuesday night tweeted: “Linda is a fierce advocate for justice and freedom, and a leading antiracist and organizer against antisemitism. The Biden campaign must retract and apologize.”

      Campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told CNN, “Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, given that Harris, if elected Shadow President, is devoted to preserving the Harris-TrumpMnuchin tax cuts and also devoted to preserving the ObamaBush tax cuts from the BushCoBama time, I would expect a Shadow President Harris to strip the shelves out of the cupboards and sell them for a penny on the Benjamin to rich people.

      Hey! Its what a President Joe would have done if Joe didn’t have certain mental-cerebrofunctionality challenges.

  17. allan

    Meanwhile, “So, we’re going to be limited” is something you never hear coming out of a GOP mouth:

    The Trump Administration Is Giving Political Appointees Power Over Apportioning Federal Funds [Intercept]

    In the final months of its first term, the Trump administration is cutting career government employees out of the process of apportioning federal funds, according to a memo reviewed by The Intercept, sent to staff on August 12 by Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought. …

    … For decades, OMB’s career staff have been responsible for signing off on the legality of the apportionment of funds to agencies and for projects. Political appointees, meanwhile, worked within the bounds the career staff set.

    Under the new regime, however, program associate directors — political appointees known as PADs — will sign off on disbursements themselves. …

    Vought is a longtime conservative operative and was a senior aide to the Republican Study Committee, a coalition of right-wing House Republicans that is a mirror of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He is also a veteran of Heritage Action, the explicitly political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. …

    “is a mirror of” is doing a lot of work there.

    1. edmondo

      Yeah, the Republicans are effective in in implementing the evil they come up with. The “mirror image” of that is the Democratic Party’s Congressional Progressive Caucus. (Did you know that they only way to be denied entry into the CPC is to not pony up the annual dues? That explains why the membership is riddled with faux-progressives and headed by a drunk. Glad to see the Dems “fighting for me” again and again.

      1. allan

        My comment was intended to say that the GOP version is usually far more effective than the CPC.
        But in fact, your `faux-progressive drunk’ CPC is actually doing something useful,
        holding a hearing today on the situation at the Post Office:

        Top Postal Service Official Details Mnuchin Extortion Effort

        David C. Williams, former vice chair of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus today that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin played a direct and heavy-handed role in recent changes to postal policy that have led to a critical slowdown in mail service before the election. …

        Mnuchin used [ the CARES Act], Williams said, to pressure the Board of Governors to make operational changes, including measures that the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has instituted. Mnuchin was “keenly interested“ in labor agreements, postal pricing, and contractural agreements made with private shipping partners like Amazon, FedEx, and UPS. …

        Who could be against sunlight as a disinfectant?

  18. Winston Smith

    “Chainsaws, Conspiracies, and Cops: Inside an Anti-Mask Dance Party” anit-masking and Trump cultists in Canada.

    There is no question that there is “COVID fatigue building up in Canada with anti-maskers taking some headlines as this Toronto-based report suggests. It is also happening to some extent in Montreal.

    However, the very wide majority of Canadians look south and see the US as a dumpster with a raging fire free-falling into a bottomless abyss of darkness. That alone makes people keener to adhere to mask wearing.

  19. PlutoniumKun

    California Reveals That the Transition to Renewable Energy Isn’t So Simple Slate

    This reads like a title in search of a different article. The article itself says that a major issue for California is that several gas powered plants went offline unexpectedly.

    Extreme weather will always make reliable energy supply very difficult. It messes up transition lines, it interferes with careful plans for dealing with daily/weekly/annual patterns of use and generation, and it severely disrupts generation. Any thermal plant for example will suffer in very hot weather as it will interfere with the supply of cooling water, and may contaminate the water. (a particular problem for inland plants). Wild fires are very bad news for gas distribution networks. Systems based on renewables are arguably more resilient as they are generally more distributed, both the power generation and (usually) the distribution networks. Climate change means huge problems for power networks, no matter how you generate or distribute the power.

    We just had one of the worst August storms on record in Ireland yesterday – it sent wind power generation rates so high they had to take half the capacity offline last night, even with maximum export to the UK.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      And the article mourned the closure of nuclear power plants…… that need massive amounts of cooling water. The heat is such they may have needed to curtail as well. They certainly couldn’t have swiftly ramped up in the face of the heat wave.

      The key issue was that a number of gas plants were offline. The article glided over that fact in order to push an anti-renewables narrative. Some of the fires may also have taken small hydro offline as well (like on the Yuba). There is a fair amount of decades-old, distributed hydropower on the many small rivers that drain west out of the Sierra Nevada. It peaks in the late spring, so it generally doesn’t contribute much in August. However, you will never hear about that in the popular press. It would require actual research, knowledgeable writers, and time.

      Slate’s lust for appearing “reasonable” and conservatively Democratic is up against actual technical issues on this matter. Of course, they just ignore the technical and operational realities in favor of glib spin. The vast majority of their readers will never realize they’ve been fed drivel.

      The smoke is really bad in Washoe Valley. Eye-watering, throat-burning bad. Can’t see across the ~5 mile wide valley at all.

  20. Olga

    May be watched at home, while also supporting local theatres:
    “COUP 53 is holding a special transatlantic virtual premiere in partnership with venues across the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland, followed on August 20 by an exclusive live Q&A with the editor Walter Murch director Taghi Amirani and a surprise special guest! To help support independent cinemas in these difficult Corona times, please buy your ticket from your nearest venue listed here. 50% of the sales will go directly to them.”
    Amanpour recently did an interview with Amirani… she seemed a bit taken aback by his bluntness, but still amazing she’d have him on. I think they pretty much uncovered the smoking gun (still smouldering after all these years, apparently).
    The 1953 coup d’etat became a blueprint for all subsequent ones.

  21. chuck roast

    Clearly these time’s arrow physicists never listened to Albert Ayler who regularly demonstrated that time’s arrow is reversible…and maybe Motorhead.

  22. The Rev Kev

    “Brazen Thief Drove Car Into Home Depot”

    Saw this on the news the other night and it was brazen. They were going to throw her in prison but instead gave her a $5,000 gift voucher as Home Depots will now start to have drive-through ordering in all their banches. :)

  23. Geo

    “Las Vegas casinos a likely hotspot for COVID-19 spread, according to ProPublica investigation”

    Anecdotal but filmed four days in a Vegas casino for my last film. The lead actress contracted a nasty sinus infection (not sure if it was at the casino) and each day of filming there was miserable for her. Between the AC set to freezer levels and the costant haze of smoke – it’s a terrible environment for anyone with respiratory ailments.

    Plus gives a whole new meaning to a slot machine being “hot”. Seems hopping from one machine to the next in search of a winner is asking for a virus of some kind. Never once saw the machines being cleaned and we were filming around them 10 hours a day. Pre-Covid, but still…

  24. The Rev Kev

    “Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ‘poisoned’”

    I do believe that one of the most dangerous jobs in the world is an opposition leader favoured by the west. Remember when Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yushchenk was poisoned but they never got to the bottom of who it was that did it? Greedo in Venezuela got nervous at one stage when he realized that he was more valuable as a dead martyr to democracy than a live serial pest. And then there was the murder of Boris Nemtsov on that bridge in Moscow. The foto of his dead body on the bridge with the Kremlin in the background just felt so staged. And now this serial pest has been poisoned. The guy only ever gets single digits percentages at voting time and is corrupt as but the west want to see him as Putin’s successor. This is what I mean. If you are in opposition to a government that the west opposes, you would never be sure if it was the government trying to off you – unlikely due to the bad publicity – or more likely the western intelligence agencies may do you in for short term political advantages.

    1. John A

      The Belarus opposition leader who fled to Lithuania and claims she won the election, has now posted photos of her with French neoliberal fraud Bernard-Levy. Not a good look.

    2. Geo

      “I do believe that one of the most dangerous jobs in the world is an opposition leader favoured by the west.” A bunch of dead or exiled former leaders of Latin American and Middle East nations might suggest being disfavored by the West is more dangerous. But, for western backed politicians in Russia you definitely have a point. Life expectancy for challengers (and journalists) there seems pretty short.

      Always wondered if Bernie had managed to pull off an electoral miracle how long into his term as president he’d have made it before such a fate befell him. Assumed he’d never see the inauguration. All that “he’s old!” hysteria being a convenient narrative.

      Did you ever watch the TV show Mr. Robot? It’s the only serious drama on TV I’ve actually liked. It’s about a ragtag team of activists trying to take down entrenched powers who actually succeed. The “twist” (spoilers for those who haven’t seen it) is that the PTB “allowed” them to succeed because the fallout from the meltdown allowed them to consolidate more power. They basically said: “The only challenges to power that succeed are ones we allow to succeed.” (Or something like that).

      It’s a bleak show but a smart exploration of power dynamics in the financial/political world and how nearly impossible positive change can be – how movements for change are co-opted or annihilated with brutal force.

      1. lordkoos

        I enjoyed that show as well although the second season got pretty wacky. The premise of hackers erasing all debt was a good one.

    3. Olga

      Which makes me think about connections… Tichanovskaia escaped to a Baltic hideout – some reported – once she realised that she may become a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ So now, Navalny becomes the lamb. Or, it is a way to gain attention… and yet again, to blacken Russia?
      Additionally, what is it with these pesky Russians poisoning people? Does VVP sit in the Kremlin and watch endless reruns of Lucretia Borgia? Do Russians not know that there are other ways to dispose of unwanted creatures?
      You gotta laugh…

      1. The Rev Kev

        On the other hand, we know that Obama was personally picking people to kill and said that he found that he was good at it. He had cards of people to kill like kids have baseball cards.

    4. pjay

      I’m sure there are many groups or individuals in Russia who have both the motive and the means to poison Navalny. But since this was a BBC story, my first reaction was: did this even happen? For me, on anything “Russian” the BBC has less credibility than Infowars these days. So I’ll wait for further information to trickle out.

    5. Maxwell Johnston

      The Yushchenko ‘poisoning’ has always puzzled me. Because he came to power and for many years controlled Ukraine’s internal security services, so he could have done whatever he wanted. But nothing was ever proven about his ‘poisoning’, indeed the whole story faded away. Weird. As for today’s Navalny episode, I await further info. My instinct was to assume that the FSB poisoned him (paranoid about ongoing events in Khabarovsk and Belarus, gotta make sure these local elections go smoothly…), but my Russian colleagues know their chickens and are pretty skeptical. It reads like an Agatha Christie thriller (how she loved those poisons), but that was fiction. Reality is harder.

      1. a different chris

        What is funny is when you do find out the truth, the majority of the time it’s just some lover’s spouse that did it and nothing to do with politics at all, besides the power aphrodisiac that started it.

        Spy thrillers are fun but real life is often just stupid.

  25. The Historian

    Re: “Why Civilizations Collapse”

    Alexander Demandt, a German historian, once said (tongue in cheek) that historians had 210 theories about why Rome fell. I guess you could add Samo Burja’s theory to that list.

    I can only talk about Rome. I would love to read what Chinese historians have to say about Chinese dynasties, but unfortunately the books I would like to read haven’t been translated yet and are unavailable to me.

    But what I’ve found is that all historians who try to analyze why Rome fell, do it in terms of their own culture – presentism, if you will. Like Gibbon, they define Rome in terms important to what has gone in in their worlds, and Gibbon wasn’t the only one. Great historians of the Late Antiquity, even though they have tried not to, have all done it: Peter Brown did it, Roger Collins did it, Rostovtzeff did it, Hugh Elton did it, Brian Ward Perkins did it, and so on. I think it would be too much to expect that Samo Burja could be free from that bias.

    And like all those other historians, Burja is not all wrong – but he is not all right, either. Even Gibbon, who is now roundly disparaged, was not all wrong. The fall of civilizations is just too complex to find THE smoking gun, rather I see it as a combination of actions that weaken a society’s cohesion so much that it fragments into parts. Income inequality, wars, the rise of ideologies that polarize people (like Christianity did in the Roman Empire), the breakdown of trade, the loss of input from common citizens, etc. all contribute.

    Burka’s blind spot is that he think the elites, the ones most responsible for the breakdown of society because of their power grabs, are the ones to save it. And he relies on the “Great Man” theory as proof. But the Great Man is only that person who wants power so bad that he will do whatever it takes to get that power- and that power only lasts for their lifetime – it does not do anything to ensure societal cohesion or even that the society will exist after he is gone.

    Jobs didn’t invent the smartphone, but he was the person who sold it to us and he was willing to do whatever was necessary to make sure we bought his phones, and not someone else’s. Bezos didn’t invent e-marketing, but he was the one who was willing to do whatever it takes to win. In that respect, they are no different from the many emperors that ruled Rome – the good and the bad. But even the good emperors could not save a corrupt system that lost the support of society. You need the cooperation of those people who make up your society, and if you don’t have it and have to depend on force or coercion to control that society, you are already doomed. It isn’t the elite who save a society – it is the common man and woman who are willing to work together that perpetuate societies. This was true in ancient times and it is true today. Yet, the elites are so blinded by the trappings of their rank that they cannot see this, and I doubt they ever will. Burja certainly cannot see this.

    1. Olga

      I believe you are correct… and this is the main point:
      “You need the cooperation of those people who make up your society, and if you don’t have it and have to depend on force or coercion to control that society, you are already doomed.”
      It may work for a while, but the eventual ‘doom’ is built in.
      So in that sense, we do know what undid Rome.
      The new element now, though, is propaganda… as a way to control people. It may fall in the category of coercion, but combine it with low educational levels, a lack of memory, and societal fragmentation, and it can become super effective. Which is where we are today.

    2. Michael Berger

      I know he has long since fallen out of favour, but Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History may be a useful read for you. The longer I live, the more I find his civilizational argument can equally apply to failures on a nation-state level.

      1. The Historian

        Thanks! I’m actually rereading that now, along with a couple of other books! I read Toynbee a long time ago but only superficially, because a part of it was required by one of my college courses. Now I am reading for understanding!

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        yes. His taxonomy/morphology/ life cycle analysis of civilisations as organism is something i’ve found pretty useful in thinking about this sort of thing. out of all the old guard of historians, he’s prolly my fave.

        and, per Olga….not just the propaganda, but the purposeful muddying of the waters of reality…Ontological Crises, where every third person sees the sky as some other color than blue.
        biden’s a communist, trump’s a hero of the republic, masks actually cause disease, and so on.
        we’re not so far from various medieval craziness, where coating the sick with pigshit was thought to surely be a cure.

        and, per Historian…I’m most familiar with Roman history, too…interested enough that i taught myself to read latin(more or less) in order to get closer to the horse’s mouth.
        all of history is filtered through human beings…often unknown ones.
        so bias and hidden agendas(often hidden even from the historians) are a plenty.
        so i try to read everything,lol.
        boil it all down, and the rubbery deglasse at the bottom of the pot is near enough to “The Truth” for looking at the world today.
        the part of the Roman story that has resonated the most for me about our current messes…for a long while now…is Rome’s abandonment of Britannia. From my chair under the Big Oak, way out here on the fringe, that rhymes a lot more than the actual “Fall”, itself.
        I doubt we’ll be fortunate enough to get a Rescript from our own Honorius.
        everybody will just sort of notice one day.

        1. The Historian

          I agree. If you really want to see what happens when an economy collapses suddenly, what happened to Britannia after the Romans pulled out is highly instructive!!

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            too bad the Bards and Ovates didn’t write very much down, and instead relied on memory and passing down the oral history.
            That, and so little that remains has been translated.(i tried to learn a bit of gaelic in the same way i learned latin and (a little) greek…but failed utterly,lol.)
            It would be cool to get a grass roots contemporary view from the “other side” that wasn’t out of the elite bubble(warlords and court scribes and monks).
            potsherds only go so far.
            of course, i haven’t kept up with all that in many years.

          2. Synoia

            Not much to see, or read, which is why it is called “The Dark Ages”

            One of the few historians was “The Venerable Bede” who could not cover much area in the Country, and was writing a couple of centuries after 410 ad.

            Some modern examples of a collapsed economy are Liberia or Zimbabwe.

            Zimbabwe after 1990 s particularly instructive.

    3. Phacops

      What I got out of the article was the loss of knowledge and expertise. Having worked in manufacturing I have had a sense of this for decades, seeing the MBA neoliberal obsession with worker fungibility and arbitrage through offshoring. Regaining that base of manufacturing expertise and interrelated production support (look at the US shortage of screws and fasteners) will require an industrial policy, committed work, a long process, and making productive labor desirable.

      But, funny that our nuke fabricators forgot how to manufacture FOGBANK. Seeing a picture of Kim with N. Korea’s “peanut” it looks like they solved the issue. If memory serves, I think the UK also forgot how to make it.

      1. David

        It’s worth adding that complexity of organisations and institutions is something that grows organically over a long period of time, and is seldom planned, and sometimes not even intended. Behind the formal structures (which is all that MBAs are trained to recognise) there are the informal processes, structures and understandings that enable anything from a small company to a mighty empire to actually function. Rebuilding the “software” of organisations once you have lost it is essentially impossible.

        Moreover, the vandalism which has been practised on organisations of all types and sizes in recent decades has resulted in organisations that now function, if they function at all, according to allegedly rational principles imposed from outside, which ignore precisely the “software” that makes organisations work in the first place.

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        The loss of knowledge Burga bemoans — FOGBANK or Cobol maintenance programmers for old software misses a much greater loss of Knowledge we might suffer in our Collapse. The knowledge of FOGBANK was lost in the fog of secrecy — a problem of bureaucracy. The knowledge required for Cobol maintenance programming was lost through deliberate costs savings on paying for documentation and retaining maintenance staff. These are trivial losses compared with the loss of engineering knowledge required to manipulate and shape large stones known to the ancients — what I suspect was a trade secret.

        These examples of Knowledge loss and the difficulties of reverse engineering or rediscovery miss a greater problem our survivors could face. How much of our Science and Technology could only have been discovered through the application of a relative abundance of concentrated energy? Glass played a crucial role in Science. But the making of glass requires a large amount of energy, as does the making of steel or silicon wafers for our computers, which run on large amounts of energy.

        How much of our Science and Technology could only have been discovered and developed by the coordinated efforts of large numbers of Scientists and Engineers working together? Are there scale effects for the discovery and development of Science and Technology? It takes a large human population to produce a large number of Scientists and Engineers. The ability to produce a large amount of food for a large population provide that food through the labors of a relatively small population of farmers depends on our agriculture friendly climate and a large amount of energy to run our mechanized farms. If Humankind’s capacity to replace fossil fuels relies upon the use of fossil fuels to discover and build that replacement – our bridge to the future – then we near completely burning that bridge.

    4. Henry Moon Pie

      My complaint is that Burja put his eggs in the “transmission of knowledge” basket without recognizing how our lovely little bureaucracies have more or less intentionally blocked and discouraged the transmission of many kinds of essential knowledge like how to grow some food, cook a meal or even trim your own nails. Now he’s worried about whether all the intricate details of how to grow a tomato in Chile, harvest it, pack it, ship it and display it in the supermarket will be passed on so that absurd process can be continued. This kind of “knowledge,” concocted to maximize churn and minimize accountability, wouldn’t be much of a loss except that we’ve been so de-skilled by Burja’s bureaucracies that we’ve forgotten how to take care of ourselves.

    5. Jeremy Grimm

      I think Burja’s theory for how civilizations fail is retro and strange. In what sense is Steve Jobs great and what does that kind of ‘greatness’ have to do with the building or collapse of Civilizations? His analysis of the collapse of our present Civilization as though it might be explained using past history as a guide for analysis of the causes and progress of our decline ignores the scale and larger contexts for our Collapse.

      I believe the Collapse of our Civilization will be very different than any previous Collapse, far more complete, further reaching, and perhaps more final than any collapse that occurred in the past. The Collapse of our Civilization is the end of an Empire encompassing a world filled to the brim with close to Eight Billion human souls. It is also the end of the Age of Fossil Fuels, and the beginning of a human caused climate transition that promises to bring Humankind a new far less hospitable climate. Our Collapse comes at a time when we have the capacity and sufficient madness to end all life on this planet. The scale of our Civilization dwarfs all past Civilizations, just as the scale and impacts of its Collapse will dwarf all past Collapse. The colossal scales of our Civilization have birthed Organizations different in kind from past human Organizations. No ‘Great Man’ controls these unhuman entities — they Control Humankind. “If there is such a thing as a technē of civilization—” it’s presence or absence offers little insight into the destructive mechanisms of Neoliberalism or the unhuman destructive drives of our International Corporations and Cartels, and Government Organizations like our Military Industrial Complex, Security Industrial Complex, Medical Industrial Complex, Educational Industrial Complex, ….

      1. furies

        Well, if *that* isn’t the cherry on top!

        No…I’ve been thinking similar things all day…

      2. Wukchumni

        Indeed, and as an added bonus the entire world will be included in the fun. Heretofore it was a culture here, a dynasty there.

        We’re like so many reindeer on St.Matthew Island.

      3. norm de plume

        Jeremy, your surname is apt, but it is difficult to disagree with any of that, unlike Burja’s piece, which while thought-provoking, falls prey to some of the dangers inherent in the field that he himself alludes to. The section where he warns against theory-driven analyses, saying that ‘there are simply too many causal variables to control for’ then admits his preference for the ‘great founder theory’ is either cognitive dissonance or chutzpah. The title itself – Why Civilisations Collapse – seems implicitly to assume that that there can be a single Why.

        Such dissonances abound: apparently only ‘thinkers’ in the Zhou Dynasty were self-aware enough to diagnose the decline they were living through, as if his own ruminations, and those of countless blog commentariats like this one don’t provide ample evidence to the contrary. If he had said ‘most of us act as if we are already living in a scientifically-planned society, immune to collapse’ it would have been reasonable, but he used ‘We’.

        ‘large bureaucratic systems do not emerge organically; they require design and implementation’ sounds alright at first glance, but I can’t agree that if Hoover or Jobs or Bezos hadn’t existed that some analogue of the FBI or of Apple or Amazon would not have emerged ‘organically’. The palatial economies of the first post-tribal agricultural empires of the Near East surely were not birthed by their ‘great founders’ but by the emergent conditions created by centuries of progress toward that outcome.

        While Burja can say, of the downward spiral, that ‘Civilizational collapse, then, looks like this dynamic at the scale of an entire civilization: a low-grade but constant loss of capabilities and knowledge throughout the most critical parts of our institutions, that eventually degrades our ability to perpetuate society’ there is an odd absence of recognition that it was a low-grade but constant accretion of ‘capabilities and knowledge’ that led to the peak in the first place.

        Allied to this is a reductionist ‘great man’ tendency which ascribes too much weight to the ‘succession problem’ – elites being unable to keep or pass on their constitutive ‘secrets’, which seems a tad Leo-Straussian to me. Might not the very existence of such key but impermissible knowledge play a major part in the growing illegitimacy of power structures? Burja says ‘How can a successful founder ensure a successor who leads as competently as they did?’ without canvassing the possibility that another single human being may not be the optimal strategy for the ongoing success of an enterprise.

        Who is that contemporary corporate giant who has recognised the ‘size problem’ and compartmentalisation of bureaucracy and rather than increasing the size of his factory has built new ones alongside, with their own modest hierarchies instead of adding to one great behemoth of control? Might not the loss of FOGBANK and COBOL expertise be down more to the very existence of centralised elite control of large organisations than the failure of those elite priesthoods to pass on their secrets to new initiates? Would not the fostering of ‘tinkering networks’ rather than the building of corporate ‘commercial in confidence’ or ‘national security’ walls have engineered better outcomes?

        ‘In our macro-study of history and civilizations, we too must rely on in-depth exploration of historical examples’ is as you say inadequate for a useful analysis of our own situation, and in passing, not the sort of limited focus you would think made the Zhou successful in their reversal of ill fortune. I am reminded of how the great military and strategic minds of Europe all thought the Great War would be done by Xmas, and failed to foresee the unprecedented carnage – precisely because it WAS unprecedented in wars between great powers. They imagined that the tried and true method of bayonet and cavalry charges would do the trick as they had always done, ignoring the more contemporary evidence from sources such as Ivan Bloch that a years long stalemate costing millions of lives was inevitable. Echoes of this in our ostrich elites re climate.

        Nowhere is this dissonance illustrated more clearly than – ‘Looking at history, we see that new organizations and social forms often arise within a single generation, showing jumps in social complexity far too rapid to be explained away by collective action or evolution’ So, collapse of civilisations can be explained away by the cliched, but accurate old dictum “gradually, then suddenly”, but their rise apparently cannot. It is as if the idea of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ did not exist in evolution. That the evidence of Lascaux and Altamira does not argue for minds capable of the complexities of ritualised religions and agricultural societies long before they arose, for incremental intellectual fermentation, and yes, for the succession of key ideas though countless generations of peoples who managed without elites.

        It may be that the arrival of elites permitted and hastened rapid jumps in social complexity, but this must be placed in its proper context, ie; that those elites were themselves products of the evolutionary process of history and if it hadn’t been them it would have been some subsequent set of emergent leaders. Also that on a globe where population density has grown form sparse to crowded in time with ‘progress’ that such phenomena are a predictable outcome.

        The last thing we need is a new priesthood of social technologists, armed with some sort of cryptic ‘techne’ of civilisation – sounds a bit crypto to me. I note that the source site is aligned with the Long Now, which is aligned with the Edge Foundation, which features a roster of professional optimists, neoliberal vanguardists like Steven Pinker, the ‘Everything’s Fine, we have the science to prove it’ brigade, who host Billionaire Dinners which the likes of Jeffrey Epstein used to attend.

        Ironically, the sort of techne we need to be handing down is not social but material, and it must be handed down from commoners to commoners, rather than imposed by a social priesthood. The sort of thing (small scale agriculture and metallurgy, basic mechanics etc) given rather short shrift in this piece. The lack of which Dmitry Orlov has convincingly argued will make American collapse much deeper and more painful than the Russian analogue, given the proximity of the post-Communist, post-Yeltsin citizens of the latter to these skills, necessitated by their comparative poverty over decades.

        I recall Stewart Brand, a leader of the tech-led recovery evangelists dismissively dealing with a question about James Kunstler’s diagnosis of a long emergency and his localised, back to basics approach to dealing with it, but I think Kunstler (whose dyspeptic take on many issues I disagree with) is likely to be closer to the mark. Just as post pandemic nations are reconsidering globalism and embracing autarky, so communities and the family units and individuals which comprise them, no longer supported or even protected by large bureaucracies, will need to get creative about localised approaches to providing the basics of life.

        It may take time, and may not work, but if it does, and ‘a small number of people’ at the end of this process are the faces of a successful transition, there will no doubt be scholars in the future who will hail them, at the expense of those who shoulders they stand on.

    6. Bruno

      This article shows that physicists understand about as much about music as they do about the universe. They sneer at a major composer: “Iannis Xenakis posed that “much like a god, a composer may … invert Eddington’s ‘arrow of time.’” Xenakis was a twelve-tone composer. The one-way “times arrow” applies only to tonal music, which is based on the one-way movement of harmony and melody (distributed harmony) (but not meter) from what the human ear perceives as “dissonance” to perceived “resolution.” If they had used, instead of an arbitrary “8,000” pieces, the greatest works of a very great composer like Anton von Webern–say the Piano Variations, the Symphony, the Concerto for Nine Instruments, et. al.–their “statistical” musicology would have imposed exactly the opposite conclusion.

    7. Bruno

      Rome as a city “fell” because of plague (at the point where Gibbon began the “decline”) and earthquake destruction of aqueducts. Rome as an empire fell because the Ottomans (more than a millenium later) became the greatest power. Rome as a “civilization” never fell. To the (minor) extent that “Western” civilization remains in existence it consists of Greco-Roman heritage.

      1. The Historian

        Well, that is one of the 210 theories, but it is kind of simplistic, don’t you think?. You need to read other historians – they have equally as much evidence to support their different theories also.

        But I would like you to consider a couple of things:
        1. The plague that hit Rome also hit Constantinople, but Constantinople didn’t fall.
        2. There were far more severe earthquakes over that didn’t cause cities to fall. For instance, Troy was devastated by an earthquake but quickly rebuilt in a generation. And according to most archeologists, there wasn’t that much earthquake damage in Rome. Most of the architecture fell through neglect or looting.
        3. There is much archeological evidence to show that Rome did indeed fall. The population dropped from over 1 million to less than 70,000 in just a few generations. Coinage stopped, trade was drastically reduced, infrastructure fell apart, etc. That has to be explained too, and simple theories just don’t cut it!

        And as far as the Ottomans and Constantinople, exactly why did a defendable city like Constantinople fall to the Ottomans? There was a lot more going on there than just a regime change.

        1. td

          The Black Death hit Constantinople early and often, since it was on the direct route for the spread. For that and other reasons, the population of the city was reduced to about 50,000 in 1453 and there was simply no way to resist the Ottomans without enormous outside aid. That being said, about 5,000 city militia and about 6,000 soldiers from a variety of other places made the Turks have to fight for it and fight quite hard.

          Previous to that, there were two crusades in 1396 and 1444 that came to a bad end trying to stop the Turks.

    8. deplorado

      Forget the Roman Empire, I think the Soviet Union should be studied more, about rise and fall, role of ideology (on a substrate of religion and empire, do not forget), and the cooperation or the opposition of the masses, their propagandizing – and most revealingly, about the role of the elite, and even the Great Man, if you will. It is so close historically to us, yet so understudied – while historians keep digging and making PhDs on the Roman Empire. The rote analysis is, the Soviet Union failed because it lacked democracy and didn’t have market economy — while the real answer is likely to be far more complex and contains serious lessons about elites that get disconnected from the masses. I’d like to see a serious analysis of that, with comparison to the US. I get the feeliing that for some reason such obvious comparative analysis is avoided – which is weird. I wonder why. Look at the senility of figureheads like Brezhnev and Biden, and the politburo-like secrecy and insolence of DNC – and start unraveling it from there.

      1. The Historian


        But so far most of what I have read about the Soviet Union’s fall has been based on the writer’s ideology. It is hard to know right now what really happened.

      2. Maxwell Johnston

        I think the Roman Empire’s collapse is far more interesting. Lasted so long, and so many amazing emperors, even towards the end. What characters! The USSR’s collapse was money driven; TPTB in Russia proper got tired of subsidizing the other 14 republics and decided to pull the plug. Plus the personal animosity between Gorby and Yeltsin.

      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        It might not be the lack of democracy, but I think the primary reason for the collapse was they hit a point where everyone was old at all levels, not just the Politburo. The vultures didn’t face as much internal opposition because everyone was new or about to go. $0.02 on the dollar might sound like a great deal.

        To a very large extent, Stalin, maybe not Lenin, represented a new dynasty. Communism was a veneer, but the USSR was not too entirely removed from what we might expect. World War II and a few aspects of the Cold War really jump started the place, but in the end, there wasn’t a strong enough succession to keep it going. It was still very much a feudal system. The new rump states then had to navigate the modern nation-states.

        The US has problems, but outside of California, the states themselves are too small and reliant on outside resources to make a go of it. The budgets are heavily dependent on offices in DC and Boulder. The USSR broke up along administrative lines. The US has 50 state governors and smaller legislators. If there was a crisis in DC of say legitimacy, there are people who can start credibly claiming ways to make a new or reform the government.

        With Team Blue, I do see similarities. Its a decrepit outfit, and the youth of the neoliberals are no talent clowns. There is Obama, but the rest are just…Beta O’Rourke….its a clown show. Conversely, AOC was tending bar. Real talent isn’t being recruited by Team Blue, and places like the Senate have lower turnover than the Soviet Politburo. There is room for rapid collapse as age catches up many of these people.

      4. Jessica

        The problem with the Soviet Union as a source of lessons for Western collapse is that the Soviet Union had an alternative system to collapse into, neoliberal capitalism.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Right now, I see the collapse period in the 90’s as an interregnum with no Trotsky to fight off the vultures. It remains to be seen if Putin is a czar or putting Russia on a new course. I’m more towards the latter, but it remains to be seen.

      5. Acacia

        Alexei Yurchak’s notion of “hypernormalization” as described in Everything was Forever, Until it was No More. Seems to be happening now in the US.

    9. Tom Bradford

      The fall of civilizations is just too complex to find THE smoking gun,

      For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
      For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
      For want of a horse the rider was lost.
      For want of a rider the message was lost.
      For want of a message the battle was lost.
      For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
      And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

      And of course the want of that nail went unrecorded, leaving nothing for any later historian to point to and say, “THAT’S why.”

      1. Wukchumni

        Everything was so simple in the lack of nail days, but our situation is much more sinister in that everything we do is utterly complex, and hardly anybody knows nothing anything about it, including yours truly.

        What was the most complicated thing the Romans, Mayans or Chacoans developed?

  26. The Rev Kev

    “The Black Death Was The Worst Pandemic In Human History, So How Did It Finally End?”

    Considering the death toll, I am going with that it burned itself out. Most people either died, recovered or managed to avoid it. But as that bacteria had mutated to a more virulent strain that quickly killed its victims, its ability to spread was hampered by this fact. It killed its victims before they could spread it to many other people. In a way, you can say that nearly everybody reading this article are actually descended from the survivors – the ones that made it. The present pandemic is nothing by comparison.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Was the Black Plague the worst pandemic in human history? Reading of the declines in New World AmerIndian populations following their exposure to measles and small pox I wonder whether those plagues might have been worse than the Black Plague in Europe — if only we had greater knowledge of AmerIndian history.

    2. td

      The plague was back in force 10 or 20 years after the first wave, when the number of people previously unexposed built up again. It then recurred in local outbreaks large and small until the 1700’s. There is no question that the population built some immunity by natural selection but it took centuries. In the meantime, the bacterium became endemic in rodent populations which provided the base for spread. Gophers and prairie dogs carry it in western North America and there are a few cases every year.

      The spread of disease among indigenous people in the Americas is certainly comparable in the number of deaths.

    3. Jessica

      The unique problem (for humans) with the Black Death was that it was not primarily a human disease, but a disease of rats that used fleas for transmission. That meant that it was not under the normal evolutionary pressure to learn to keep its victims alive.

    1. Tom Bradford

      covid-19 deaths per million:

      New Zealand: 4.5

      Seems to me very few people are in a position to throw stones.

    1. Olga

      Just saw that… could not have happened to a nicer guy. The good thing is that maybe, just maybe that will divert attention from his dumb website, advocating war against China.

  27. Litmus Paper

    So Belarus is in for a regime change. Pictures of women having been beaten by the police or released from prison are popping up in the Swedish media, like

  28. Ohnoyoucantdothat

    Just a quick update on the trip back to crimea. Received email from British Airways informing me that the London to Moscow flight has been cancelled. This is the second time they have done this to me. Why you ask? Commercial reasons is the answer. What does that mean? Flight didn’t have enough passengers is the hidden reason. No consideration that I have other flights around this trip and that all important COVID test. I’ve rescheduled flights for the next day for now. And then hotels (which are prepaid and supposedly can’t be changed) and rental cars have to be changed. This is the last straw. I will never fly this airline again. No consideration for their passengers. I’ll let you know what the result is once I shovel thru all the c#£p this worthless company has dumped on my head.

    1. Olga

      Just book on Aeroflot – it worked like a charm.
      And I had several bad experiences w BA, including cancelling a flight to Europe at 7am (supposed to leave that day at 6pm), so also ‘never again.’

  29. Jason Boxman

    Cooper writes:

    If this proves to be how a President Biden will govern, he is already assuring us of another failed presidency.

    But as always, failure for whom? Certainly for the working class.

    The status quo elites, who benefit from the rigged economy, are strong enough to throttle any reform effort from the democratic left. But they are not strong enough to fend off an anti-democratic attack from the right…

    And the Democrat party spent the past four years engaging in anti-democratic attacks by hysterically propagating the lie that Russia stole the election and Trump is a Russian agent.

    So we have Democracy for them, but not for mere American citizens.

    Truth is, neoliberals don’t particularly care for democracy.

  30. Synoia

    Covid, High School, one case study:

    My Daughter is a High School teacher in a Mid West-ish state which has reopened . One of her pupils has tested positive for Covid, and my Daughter was informed of this yesterday.

    The other pupils in the class have not been notified, and my daughter has not been formally notified, nor scheduled for a test.

    The classroom has tables spaced at 6 ft intervals, but there are two pupils at each table. The Cafeteria is crowded and no one wears masks.

    The administration assumes that teachers stay rooted at the front of the class, and do not wander about the classroom during a lesson.

    More as this develops, under the same heading.

    1. Lee

      I have recurring nightmares of being in crowded spaces with no one wearing a mask. Last night it was a courtroom. Other times it has been auditoriums or street demonstration and the like. Being retired, I don’t to actually go out into the world much, and then alway wearing a mask in a mask and distance compliant community. But many are actually living the nightmare. Can your daughter afford to quit her job? I’m able to help my son so that he can afford to take only those remodeling jobs that allow him to avoid contact with those outside our bubble. Good luck to you and yours.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Oh man. That is unbelievable that. Has that high school not heard of liability in case people get sick? Hope your daughter is OK.

  31. ObjectiveFunction

    I’d like to commend as a must-read the MIT Review piece Unmade In America posted in the Aug 18 Links. If you encounter the paywall, simply disable Javascript (which I do by default anyway) or use

    In 2003, he began publishing a biweekly newsletter called Plant Closing News (PCN) as a service for the scrap industry, a way to help auctioneers and equipment brokers chase leads on bargain wire stranders and double-arm mixers across the country….

    Each PCN listing includes the type of facility and its expected closing date… along with a sentence or two on the number of displaced workers and the reasons behind a plant’s shuttering [usually provided by] employees likely to be losing their jobs. By the time Clark sent out the last issue in December 2019… he had chronicled the demise of 16,000 factories, plants, and mills in 17 years….

    PCN’s run overlapped with a historic decline in manufacturing employment in the United States. From 2000 to 2016, the US shed nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs, or more than a quarter of the total, and one out of every five manufacturing establishments in the country shut its doors. Clark charted this decline in his newsletter, watching as globalization tugged at one thread after another in the tapestry of American industry. In the early 2000s, a wave of sock manufacturers closed, followed by food-processing plants, plastics plants, automotive plants, and lightbulb factories.

    In 2013, Walmart rolled out a “Made in the USA” campaign, vowing to shore up domestic manufacturing by spending $50 billion over 10 years on US-made goods. But the company was forced to scale back its ambitions…. “We still have 330 million people in this country, most of whom wear socks, but Walmart couldn’t find anybody who made socks in America.”

    Let me be no nearer
    In death’s dream kingdom
    Let me also wear
    Such deliberate disguises
    Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
    In a field
    Behaving as the wind behaves
    No nearer –

    Not that final meeting
    In the twilight kingdom

  32. zagonostra

    >Germany is beginning a universal-basic-income trial with people getting $1,400 a month for 3 years

    Even though this was privately funded and well intended, it seems immoral to be experimenting with human lives…but then again, I’ll take being subjected to German assistance than the U.S.’s any day.

    As part of the study, 120 people will receive €1,200, or about $1,430, each month for three years — an amount just above Germany’s poverty line — and researchers will compare their experiences with another group of 1,380 people who will not receive the payments.

    1. edmondo

      Just a wild guess, but I bet that the people who got the money live better than the people who didn’t.

  33. VT Digger

    Re: The Farmer-Influencer

    I live up the road from Mr. Gold and I respect what he’s doing a lot but it’s a little ridiculous for the MSM to pretend this is a viable income source for anyone but hobbyist 10%-ers. The gentleman works at a very high end marketing firm and has put at least a quarter million dollars cash into that property before he even got started.

  34. jr

    Re: Quivering Physics Docs Point To Shaky Confabulations of Reality

    First, this gem from the comments:

    “Science fiction had it right. Thought is reality.
    For those of you dateless tonight this means there’s hope. Wish harder.”

    What a time to be alive! Let’s hear it for surrealism! Tucker Carlson seriously discussing aliens, existential threats aplenty, and now reality is everyone’s personal flavor of Jell-o. Lucky for you guys I’m here! If only Hunter S. had hung on a bit longer…

    Now, for something completely different, please give a listen to Dr. Bernardo Kastrup explain how monistic idealism addresses such problems:

  35. Martin Oline

    Water Cooler is delayed or shortened. I hope Lambert feels better soon. Did you start Taibbi’s game early?
    I’ll put this here so I don’t clutter up the water cooler . . .

    There’s no need to get depressed, worrying won’t make it better.
    There’s only one consolation that I can recommend, but don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself!
    Have another drink, it’ll make you feel better, Have another drink and you’ll feel alright.
    If you’re feeling down and you’re under the weather, have another drink and you’ll feel alright.

      1. John k

        Really appreciate you and others watching the anti progressive convention so I don’t have to.
        Viva mimosas, you can wash almost anything with a few of those.

  36. timbers

    While getting hooked on DailyKos anti Iraq War articles, I also read it’s other posts on economics, etc, and started to question my political views.

    When I arrived at the opinion that single payer healthcare was essential to get affordable universal healthcare, I noticed the lack of interest in single payer in comments at DailyKos and at times, and even actual contempt and ridicule of those who supported it and knocked the ACA as inadequate, and the much too much praise of the ACA was getting and making excuses why every Dem or DailyKos reader should support it because it was so awesome, which I didn’t think it was.

    That’s when I started to seek out other sources and realized Kos had it’s own issues and agendas of demanding support for Dems even when Dems did what Repubs do.

    Pretty much a 180 degree turn. Expect many people do this in their lifetime.

  37. Benno

    Effectiveness of antibiotics

    Next to the link to the article “Honey better treatment for coughs and colds than antibiotics, study claims” you mention “Antibiotics aren’t effective, so this is a low bar.” Really? The interesting article on the end of the Black Death, which eradicated at least a third of Europe’s population, mentions that the Bubonic Pest today can easily be cured with antibiotics… It is not exaggerated to say that antibiotics have saved millions of lives. In fact, they are so effective that they are too often mindlessly applied, which creates resistance and reduces their effectiveness.

  38. Ivar

    In a sign of some sanity in Florida, a GOP County Commissioner who was the swing vote on the question of passing a “mask mandate” was roundly trounced in the primary yesterday. The article suggests that Zorc’s vote against a county mask mandate was behind voters choosing his pro-mask opponent by a large 2-1 margin. Zorc was looking for a third term as a County Commissioner. So there’s at least some evidence that people SUPPORT mandatory mask-wearing, even in Florida’s deep red Trump-loving Indian River County.

  39. dcblogger

    file under banana republic:
    The Same Property Management Companies and Building Owners Pressuring Tenants to Pay Rent Are Benefitting From Pandemic Relief Funding
    As the pandemic drags on, tenants and housing advocates report hostile confrontations with property managers over unpaid rent.

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