Links 9/27/2020

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How to drive investment into sustainable infrastructure World Economic Forum

‘Investment in Fossil Fuels Yields Much Less Returns Than the Green Sector’ FAIR

Why we need water futures MarketWatch (dk). Paging Michael Burry.

EY, WeWork, and another connection Francine McKenna, The Dig

Ex-eBay workers to plead guilty to sending spiders to Massachusetts bloggers CBS

When coffee makers are demanding a ransom, you know IoT is screwed Ars Technica

Amazon’s Bizarre Home Drone Flies Around Inside Your House Wired. No.

Google parent agrees to $310M misconduct lawsuit settlement Seattle Times. Sexual miscount by executives. No drinking of blood, apparently, except metaphorically.


Covid-19: Do many people have pre-existing immunity? British Medical Journal. “A stream of studies that have documented SARS-CoV-2 reactive T cells in people without exposure to the virus are raising questions about just how new the pandemic virus really is, with many implications. At least six studies have reported T cell reactivity against SARS-CoV-2 in 20% to 50% of people with no known exposure to the virus…. Though these studies are small and do not yet provide precise estimates of pre-existing immunological responses to SARS-CoV-2, they are hard to dismiss, with several being published in Cell and Nature.”

Susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Children and Adolescents Compared With Adults JAMA. “Findings: In this systematic review and meta-analysis including 32 studies, children and adolescents younger than 20 years had 44% lower odds of secondary infection with SARS-CoV-2 compared with adults 20 years and older; this finding was most marked in those younger than 10 to 14 years. Data were insufficient to conclude whether transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by children is lower than by adults.”

Cloth Masks to reduce COVID19 transmission christina j williamson. Well worth a read, whether you make your own masks or not. The bottom line:

A good mask needs to work well in three ways:

  1. filtration – double layered tight weave, high thread count fabrics are best, and additional filter materials sandwiched between fabric can make it even better
  2. fit – it needs to properly cover both nose and mouth, and to fully seal around the face)
  3. breathability – if you can’t breathe through it at the rate you need to for your level of activity, it is more likely to leak and you are more likely to take it off or create a by-pass

Also — obvious when you think about it — if your glasses fog up, you don’t have a mask problem; you have a fit problem.

* * *

I moved to Canada right before the pandemic began. When COVID struck, I found a community Globe and Mail

The Virus Sent Droves to a Small Town. Suddenly, It’s Not So Small. NYT (Re Silc). “As for [Anna] White, she has found herself wondering how all these remote workers — many in tech or finance — will change the social fabric. The other night, at the Red Fox Inn, a bar in Winhall, she approached a couple she had seen around town, asking them, simply, ‘Covid refugees?” The answer was yes.'”


Indo-Pacific strategy gains support as China’s assertiveness fuels fears South China Morning Post

US tightens trade restrictions on Chinese chipmaker SMIC The Verge

Tesla’s Nemesis in China Is a Tiny $5,000 Electric Car From GM Bloomberg

Freezing bodies for ‘reanimation’ in China and why the country’s cryonics tech has the potential to leapfrog the West South China Morning Post

Malaysia will not follow US sanctions against 24 Chinese companies, says ambassador Straits Times

Vietnam’s Struggles in the S. China Sea: Challenges and Opportunities The Maritime Executive


India’s Biggest Slum Successfully Contained COVID-19. But Can Its Residents Survive the Economic Collapse? Time

Nationwide Protests Against Bills a Marker of Success, Farm Leaders Say The Wire

Why Modi’s government is not up to the task Monthly Review


Mossad and the movies — how Israeli spies took over our screens FT

Leaks show Chelsea owner Abramovich funded Israeli settler group Guardian


UK scraps Brexit alternative to EU’s Galileo satellite system Politico

The day Brexit hit boiling point BBC. 25 September 2019. And here we are!


Users report issues as Covid-19 app launches in England and Wales Guardian (J-LS).

New Cold War

U.S. Air Force B-52s Just Flew A Mock Bombing Run On Russia’s Baltic Fortress Forbes


Justice Dept. disclosures cast fresh doubt on Trump-Russia investigation WaPo. The lead:

The Justice Department has released a pair of documents casting fresh doubt on the judgment of senior law enforcement officials who investigated possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, showing that one of the FBI case agents thought prosecutors were out to “get Trump” and that a key source of allegations against the president had been previously investigated as a possible Russian asset.


New Documents Further Unveil Obama’s Anti-Trump Campaign Moon of Alabama


Outlook for the Country and the Economy is Less Negative AP-NORC

Trump pledges to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, designate KKK a terrorist group in pitch to Black voters The Hill. Useful for the debate no doubt.

US oil groups grow less fearful of a Biden presidency FT

Error discovered on Georgia touchscreens in US Senate race Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This is a programming error in already horrid user interface, and separate from the following database issue–

Group files court document alleging setback in Georgia’s election preparation WXIA

Supreme Court Battle

President Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court seat ABC

Democrats debate whether to engage — or withdraw — in Supreme Court fight WaPo. The lead: “As Democratic senators begin mapping out how they will wield their limited procedural weapons in the fight over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, they are grappling with a central question: How much legitimacy do they give his candidate?”

Outside Schumer’s Home, Activists Demand Dems Block Trump SCOTUS Appointment Common Dreams

‘She’s been groomed for this moment’: Amy Barrett’s Supreme Court preparation began early. Politico (DG). I didn’t know Antonin Scalia clerked for General Franco. Good to know.

The Truth About People of Praise Peggy Noonan

There Should Be No Doubt Why Trump Nominated Amy Coney Barrett Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker. The Federalist Society’s long march through the institutions claims victory. Resistance was slight:

RBG’s Big Mistake London Review of Books

Democrats in Disarray

Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote The Hill

Democrats have no plan: Trump is bulldozing democracy — and nobody’s ready to stop him Salon


Then again

Progressives Wrestle With How To Address Allegations of Mistreatment in San Francisco Race The Intercept

California NAACP president aids corporate prop campaigns — collects $1.2 million and counting Cal Matters. I wonder if she’ll get as much press as Rachel Dolezal

Our Famously Free Press

Four years ago, Trump survived ‘Access Hollywood’ — and a media myth of indestructibility was born Margaret Sullivan, WaPo

FOX is free; NYT and WaPo are paywalled:

Protests and Riots

How a Pledge to Dismantle the Minneapolis Police Collapsed NYT

Class Warfare

Covid-19 Is Causing a Global Jobs Crisis Tribune

The looming legal minefield of working from home FT

Meet The Secretive Billionaire Who Makes McDonald’s McNuggets, Burger King’s Impossible Whoppers And More Forbes

Universalism and means-testing Interfluidity

Less than 1% of calls to state unemployment call centers were answered, audit shows Journal-Sentinel

Find Yourself a Tailor. It’s Not Fancy, It’s Freeing NYT

Agricultural Time During a Pandemic Sierra (DG).

Urban design explained: the signs, the symbols, the mysterious objects, and why LED panels have replaced the glow of neon South China Morning Post

Antidote du Jour (via):

Bonus antidote:

See yesterday Link and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. PlutoniumKun

    Tesla’s Nemesis in China Is a Tiny $5,000 Electric Car From GM Bloomberg

    Amid all the talk about disrupters, its often forgotten that the big established companies have an enormous amount of engineering and market know how. There is a very good chance that they’ll eventually win out over the Teslas in the long run.

    I’ve always thought that most of the car companies were coming at EV’s from the wrong direction (ironically, BMW seemed to have the right idea with the i3, but they then stupidly threw away their lead). The advantage of EV’s are for cities, short distances, and engineering simplicity. They give an opportunity to rethink the car into something much simpler and cheaper – a tool for getting from A to B, not a status symbol. The figures vary from country to country, but the overwhelming majority of car journeys are short, local, and purely functional. Commutes, school drop-offs, weekly shops. Almost all cars on the market are vastly over engineered for those simple functions.

    I think the penny has dropped with GM now that they have a car like this. And Citroen have something very similar for the European market, the lovely Ami. I think vehicles like this will be the foundation of EV’s undermining the existing market, and as they are far smaller they will need fewer batteries and those all important rare metals.

    The one set of companies which has realised that this is a market is the bike and scooter industry. Sales of large, practical electric bikes are booming all over Europe and much of Asia (not Japan, where strict regulations seem to have stymied their growth). With economies of scale, the prices of these should drop significantly. In lots of cities, people will quickly realise that you don’t need an expensive car for most journeys, even if you aren’t fit.

      1. Stephen Gardner

        Who wants to be Elon Musk? He’s the Donald Trump of the SillyCon Valley. And it is a tight race between them for who tweets the most horse sit.

    1. Carla

      Americans have completely forgotten what legs are for: short trips. We walked to school, rain, shine, sleet or snow. Mom walked to the corner grocery, the pharmacy, the bank. Dad had the car at work so there was no alternative. Americans were slimmer then.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        When I was a kid my schools, the supermarket, Mike’s Hobby store, and a small but well stocked Penny’s where my mom got our school clothes were all within a mile of the house where I grew up. Even when I was a kid time was already pressing on everyone. It takes time to walk. Now I live in a small town where the schools are near enough to walk or bicycle to. But the supermarket is more than a mile and a half away and the sidewalks end with half a mile to go. I can walk to the library and the Post Office, but there are few little stores and shops on Main Street. Americans have forgotten a lot more than what their legs are for.

        1. Wukchumni

          Americans have forgotten a lot more than what their legs are for.

          Our ability to remember has been under attack for some time now, as computers do it for us.

          This will have far ranging consequences in the future when this contraption becomes obsolete and our brains have so atrophied as to be useless vessels.

          1. jr


            As has our ability to do basic arithmetic in our heads. One of my culinary classes required scales. People would pull out their phones rather than add a string of numbers like 400, 100, 50, 50, 50 in their heads.

            Also, imagination. They have polluted our imaginations. I thought Thor:Ragnarok was a pretty fun movie, I laughed a few times. It’s also insidious mind poison.

            1. Wukchumni

              Ask a young adult to write out longhand a sentence you tell them with a few longer words in it, and my guess is they’ll butcher a few of them sans spellcheck.

              1. Jeremy Grimm

                I only write using computer — not only for spellings but for meanings also. I like to double letters when the standard says not and I too often use words in ways they don’t really mean. [I have some trouble — many words now have a very different meaning than they have in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) which first feeds the GoldenDict program I use. I am also surprised by how many ‘old’ words have completely new meanings compared to that in this old dictionary. And of course there are many many new words that this old dictionary does not know.]

            2. Procopius

              “Insidious mind poison.” I like that. I haven’t seen the movie, but now I’ll try to find it. When I was a kid, the pulp magazines (mostly 25¢), which specialized in western, detective, romance, or science fiction stories, were called “mind-rotting trash.” That was thirty years before Rock and Roll.

              1. jr

                I hear what your saying, it’s an familiar complaint. I found the movie good for some laughs and memorable scenes (the fight where Thor battles to “Immigrant Song” was awesome.) but it reinforces notions of aristocracy and the right of might, a natural “super people” leading or butchering common folk….which I think all the mainstream superhero movies and comics do. Not all comics of course…

                *genuflects to life size statue of Alan Moore next to bed

              2. JBird4049

                Brain rot? Socrates did not like the use of the then relatively newfangled practice of Greeks writing because IIRC it replaced deep understanding using verbal conversation and weakened one’s memory. Rotting the mind. Since he died in 399 BCE, that’s an old complaint.

      2. jsn

        So true!

        I have an excellent 6 mile commute to work, mostly on the bike path in the Hudson River park (with a shower at the work end also).

        I ride to work rain or shine as long as the temperature is above 26. I’m 59, this is what I did as a kid (except for the shower) and the younger people I work with think I’m crazy.

        If travel or whatever breaks this routine, I can’t wait to get back to it because all the stressful BS in life and work starts seeming important if I miss the workout.

      3. chris

        That’s a comment which can’t apply to a number of people now. If your grocer was replaced by a big box store somewhere far away, if your local druggist has been replaced by a CVS off some highway, if redistricting efforts have sent your kids too far away to walk or the rules have changed due to risk such that kids can’t walk to school, if tellers have been replaced by drive up machines…what exactly can Americans walk to? The kind of place you’re imagining is completely foreign to most people who live in suburbia and anyone living in an urban “desert.” The whole “drive ’til you qualify” thing killed the small town life that was left after the great recession. Monopolies and big box stores did the rest. And with covid, whatever few things clung to life after all that are likely to die.

        So yeah, Americans should walk more. But to where?

        1. GF

          I walk daily around the neighborhood doing > 3 mile routes that vary from day to day. I have found it a good way to stay in shape and have some quiet time.

          1. chris

            Oh, we walk everywhere around here. But there’s no store within walking distance. Closest thing to it is 1.5 miles to the closest gas station. Bikes expand that range but still.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          I strongly agree with your comment. I am retired and can afford the considerable time walking requires — and I like to walk. But how many places can you walk to if you try — if distance were no object. I cannot drive to many places without using freeways. Surface streets are catch-as-catch-can. Walking? … what sidewalks … what side-paths are there? I have walked to and from getting my car repaired. The sidewalks end 2 miles before my mechanic’s shop and the side of the road slants into a trench … often filled with mud or stagnant water. Cars move at 50 mph. +++ as a I walk beside the road and carrying the water I need — which I drink copiously as I walk — gets heavy over the distances.

        3. rhodium

          Listen to music and walk to the park. Walk out to nature. Even better go running. You only work 8 hours a day right? You should have plenty of time just to move for moving’s sake.

      4. neo-realist

        There was also no HFCS and before the fast food chains metastasized offering super sized soft drinks (with plenty of HFCS), burgers with 3-4 patties, and chicken strips along with the thighs and the drumsticks.

        Summer Camps where you were very physically active as opposed to coding camps.

      5. John Beech

        No offense but grow a pair of eyes, please. Your neighborhood in no wise reflects mine where it’s 10 miles to a Walmart, 5 miles to a corner store. Would you walk 5 or ten miles? Moreover, how about the family that live 30 to 50 miles from a grocery store? Think this is farfetched, or unusual? It’s not. You just need to get out more instead of making assumptions about the rest of your fellow citizens.

        1. a different chris

          Actually 5 miles each way to work (7 days a week!) used to be not a big deal at all. All the stupid internet searches either bring up the 19th century sport of distance walking (500 miles and up, so it does give an indication of what you had to do to be considered special at it) so I can’t document this right now but will keep searching.

          But it’s pretty obvious if you actually go look at those company towns vs say the factory or the mine entrance.

          And then there were all the farmers walking behind mules.

          1. Wukchumni

            …and on the other end

            A few years ago I was getting out of my car @ Wal*Mart and watched an obese couple nearly fighting over who got to use the mobility scooter that happened to be left near their car, and in the end he won out. We’re talking about 200 feet to the store in distance here.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          You need to tone down your comments — this one at any rate. I share your frustration with the simple formula that Americans need to remember they have legs, but I agree with Carla that Americans need to remember they have legs. I know the places you refer to in your comment and contemplate living in those places … although the lack of adequate medical care motivates my concerns more than a Walmart 10 miles away … which also concerns me very much.

          I believe we both might agree that life is not what it once was. I believe the deconstruction of Main Street and the geographic spreading of the “replacements” for Main Street, like distant Walmarts too well characterize the deterioration of life in America — both in small towns and large.

        3. HotFlash

          My dear Mr. Beech, have been appreciating your comments for many months. Being that living in a place that requires a car to get food, is what some ‘libs’ and many conservatives (although generally in different circumstances) would call a ‘poor life choice’, gotta say, doesn’t always work that way. I am pretty sure that this is a habitat degradement, since what? Probably 50 years, We will need to rebuild the small infrastructure so that there are little markets within walking distance for everyone. Gotta work fast, though, or 7-11(tm) will own us all.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Of course for other problems … like lack of food … American excess body weight might prove a bonus, though not a pleasant way to survive food shortages.

      6. Adam Eran

        Carla this is a result of actual “planning”… Cities require every single trip to be in an auto. This is called “sprawl,” and has been the default of how we design and build new buildings for roughly six decades. It originated with white flight (racism! The gift that keeps on giving), and was enshrined in public policy decisions like zoning and redlining.

        It means people are less healthy (only ten minutes of walking a day makes for significantly fewer late-life health problems), and less wealthy. Having to own a car is one of the worst regressive “taxes” there is. It also denigrates the public realm–you know, the thing available to everyone, like the air, sidewalks, parks, etc. I live in a neighborhood where I can’t even walk abreast of someone walking their dog without walking in the street (narrow sidewalks, not set back, no vertical curbs).

        It’s amazingly bad design, and people like James Kunstler and Andres Duany have been pointing it out for some time now. Here’s what Jane Jacobs says: Modern [city] planning is positively neurotic in its willingness to embrace what doesn’t work and ignore what does. It’s a form of advanced superstition, [like 19th century medicine] when doctors believed bleeding patients would cure them.

        …oh yes, and sprawl makes it impossible to have working transit (keeps the riff raff out!). America! What a country!

        Some encouraging news: California now mandates “Complete Streets” (streets for pedestrians *and* cars) for any new development…and evaluates plans based on Vehicle Miles Traveled rather than lack of impediment to cars. Painfully slow progress, but at least it’s for real.

      7. nippersdad

        In my youth that is what we did as well. Then, when the inner cities and older suburbs became unaffordable right about the time I got married, we all moved out into the country where there are no sidewalks.

        When we moved here we had about three cars a day going down the road in front of our house (exaggeration, but not much), now they are constant, and they fly by. Yesterday a trailer blew apart our mailbox, so there is now the annual ten mile trip to Home Depot to buy a new post and mailbox to look forward to.

        So, given you want to wade through the tall grass, dead deer/armadillo/rabbit/dog/cat/coyote carcasses, garner about twenty ticks and get bitten by a copperhead it should be a breeze to walk the mile to the nearest gas station; one might even be able to scare up a covey of buzzards on the way! Exciting!

        Biking would only add you to the death tally above described. From what I see of the suburbs there may be fewer corpses and bitey things by the side of the road, but the the trek itself isn’t significantly different.

        Just walking out your door and living the normal life that you describe has become a luxury item in and of itself. All it takes is money.

    2. Eduardo

      The one set of companies which has realised that this is a market is the bike and scooter industry.

      Indeed. From a small town in Mexico:

      Imagine a vehicle that is simple and fun… that zips you across San Miguel quicker than a car and uses less energy on a 150-mile ride than a 5-minute hot shower. Imagine big fat tires that go over the cobblestones and topes with ease and stability. You are imagining the San Miguel ElecTrike! The addition of a small electric motor on this tricycle gives you options to pedal and/or cruise. Looking to get your heart pumping? Kick your Trike into regenerative mode and use your pedal power. Do not want to sweat? Turn up the power and pedal on. You can peddle with or without the battery.

      San Miguel ElecTrikes. Pedal to Win.

      1. Olga

        OMG, I need one of those! Always wanted a three-wheel bike (trouble with balance). The future looks brighter already.

        1. Phacops

          Be careful with trikes. Those with two wheels in back, based on upright bikes, are sometimes unstable around turns. That is the “delta” configuration and only a longer wheelbase and recumbent position cures that.

          I peddle a recumbent “tadpole” trike with two wheels in front. Very stable, loads of fun, comfortable. And I find the modern style, with a 26″ rear, adds to the comfort and ease of peddling.

      1. Adam Eran

        E-bikes are pretty good for trips up to 15 miles long (regular bikes are good for about 5 miles). This might be even more convenient for biking up San Francisco hills, but 15 miles, maybe 20, is about the limit except for the most dedicated cyclists.

        1. drexciya

          E-bikes are very popular in The Netherlands as well. Especially the elderly use it often to get around on far longer trips. My mother, who’s in her seventies, has used it often for trips of 80+ km in a day.

          Of course, The Netherlands is really flat, so that will make a difference, when it comes to range, also we have a very good cycling infrastructure. That’s really what it’s all about; you need a cycling infrastructure.

    3. Ignacio

      A quick search on EV and quotes in Spain gave me a list of 36 models, which I know is not complete, of EVs including American (3 Tesla, 1 Ford), European, Korean and Japanese cars starting at the 8.000€ of the tiny Renault Twizy to the 1.800.000€ of the Hispano-Suiza Carmen, by far the most expensive electric vehicle in the market. Hispano-Suiza was an old maker of luxury cars and the brand is now being refloated with an exclusive hand-made electric sport car of which 19 units annually are expected if they succeed.

      In Spain the best valued EV Model is a SUV: The Skoda Enyaq. But so far EVs are for the wealthy.

      1. Zamfir

        It’s still for the wealthy because there is not much of a used car market yet – but that will grow naturally once they are good chunk of new sales. Within the new car market, EVs are not outrageously expensive anymore, especially if you factor in lower running costs. Some more years at the current trend, and EVs might well become the better buy at most price-points.

        1. RMO

          Right now you can find plenty of new Chevrolet Bolts which have a 250 mile range for well under $30,000 out the door. That’s about $8,000 less than the average US new car price. There are also a lot of Nissan Leafs on the used market for far, far less than that.

          By the time my current car needs replacement I’m certain that the next vehicle will be an electric car. There are already several on the market which have enough range for the longest trips I regularly take and which just make it into the upper limits of my budget even before the Provincial and Federal government incentives are taken into account. As I live in a suburban house, charging isn’t a problem either. No way on Earth it’s going to be a Tesla though.

          I think the charging issue is one thing that has held back EV sales. The areas where the shorter ranged EVs which were available first (and are less expensive) would make the most sense always had the problem of where to charge them. Apartments, condos, street parking make it much harder to plug it in at night and charge it on your own electricity supply whereas this is relatively easy out in the suburbs – but out in the suburbs people generally required more range if the EV was to be their only vehicle. 200-300 mile and over range has only just become available in EV’s that come in around the average new car purchase price.

    4. Zamfir

      You might be right, but I am skeptical… I live in bicycle heaven, and a lot of those short term trips are already done by bike here. Electric bikes have exploded in the last decade, and they have added to that. This is all great, and it makes towns and cities more pleasant places

      Yet there are about as many cars as anywhere else, and similar amounts of kilometers driven. Car ownership is not driven by those short term trips. Once people have a car, they tend to use it for many trips, including trips for which they have a good alternative. That trend can be counteracted, somewhat, and that is good.

      But the core of car ownership are not those trips. It’s the trips for which it is far superior to the alternatives. The other trips are by-catch, so to speak.

      1. chris

        Hard to evacuate if your main vehicle is a bike and your credit card isn’t recognized or you can’t get the app to work to rent a car to leave the on coming storm/fire/riot/blizzard…

      2. JWP

        Time to press our politicians to move from car to bike infrastructure in cities. During the lockdown times, the designation of streets for walking and biking only, and using them for dining areas was amazing. Starting to covert entire streets into bike only and adding bike lanes everywhere can really put some pressure on people to drive. If it takes 20 min to bike and 25 to drive to work, the bike is the easy choice financially, no debt, no gas, no insurance.

        1. Zamfir

          Sure, you can increase bike usage a lot. Where I live, every road with more than occasional car traffic has dedicated bike lanes, often separated from the car lanes.

          It works. By the numbers, people cycle about 20 times more than Americans.

          That is still only 12% of car kilometers. A nice effect, but only a minor dent in car usage, and people still want regular cars for the trips where cars are better. And that is with probably the most developed cycling infrastructure in the world, on a scale bicycle advocates elsewhere only dream of.

          PK notes that many car trips are short, and do not need to the full capabilities of a car. That’s true, if you count by the number of trips. But if you count by kilometers, it’s a very difference balance.

      3. jr

        They do not make a city more pleasant for a small dog owner. They are fast as hell, heavy, and nearly silent. But people treat them as if they are riding a 3 speed beach bike down the sidewalk. I’ve seen people almost get run down on numerous occasions. If one of those things hits my baby, someone is going to prison.

    5. Carolinian

      Agree totally. Allegedly almost half the cost of a gasoline car goes for the complicated engine so replacing this with a simple electric motor should make electric cars cheaper rather than more expensive despite the high cost of the batteries (and these are getting cheaper). The real problem is likely that American car makers don’t want to make cheap, low profit cars and so go the exact opposite way by pushing monster pickup trucks and SUVS.

    6. Wukchumni

      I’m afraid for me the damage is done, in that the imaginary short order I placed on Tesla way back when resulted in the loss of the beachfront home in Malibu I never owned.

    7. Jeremy Grimm

      The GM management showed their stuff when they gave the small car market in the US to the Japanese. They could not grasp the difference between large profit margins and total profits, let alone strategic thinking about protecting their market. In China GM management might make some wise decisions with Chinese managers or U.S. managers who ‘go native’. I suspect such managers might find things different and difficult in the U.S.

    8. jef

      FOr Americans their car is their fortruss, their tank, their personnel carrier protecting them and their loved ones from all of whats coming at them in this scary world.

      That and virtually no one I know doesn’t have a trailer, a toy hauler, a camper, at least one boat, and many have all the above.

      We can project all we want but this reality will only change when people understand, I mean really understand the Climate Crisis and we can’t let that happen for fear of collapsing the economy.

      1. JWP

        Global Warming will crash the economy more than any wall street speculation can over time. I doubt people will wake up until there’s a huge depression and realize we cannot build back to “normal.” At that point its just a hope the right people are in power.
        You’re right about the cars an people, we will ride them though to a Mad Max future even if it kills everyone and everything we hold dear.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        For many the car is also a fashion statement and an identity-identifier/validator. The car is a three-thousand-piece suit.

    9. Reaville

      Respectfully, the big companies do NOT have a deep engineering base on electric vehicle fundamentals like batteries, electric motors, software, and subsystems. Tesla has a large lead and that lead is expanding: casting process, software, batteries. Also, Tesla does not have the drag of a vast physical and human infrastructure devoted to ICE cars/trucks that has to be operated while being wound down.

      The idea of small urban vehicles is a winner, and Arcimoto is positioned in the US to give it a try. For carbon footprint reasons, smaller cars are probably required to fend off climate change worst impacts.

      1. Glen

        I’m not sure how well the large car manufacturer’s design electric cars compared to Tesla, but they are getting rid of the ICE engineers. One of that last big GM layoffs was to dump those engineers, and to reassign ICE engineer teams to EV drive trains.

        Thousands of GM engineers reassigned to work on EVs

        What GM’s Layoffs Tell Us About Disruption in the Automotive Sector

        But I tend to agree with your assessment that the big three will have a harder time transitioning to EVs, but this was not a given, it was a decision on their part mostly driven by keeping Wall St happy. It seems like the US big three have decided to chase big profits per vehicle in the SUV and truck market and dumped the small vehicle market – ICE and EV.

        It would be nice to have a small affordable EV in the US.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Please define your acronym on first use. I have no idea what ICE stands for and lack the curiosity to puzzle it out even though I believe your comment might be of great interest to me.

          [Even the DoD had a standard for using acronyms!!!!!]

    10. a different chris

      >the big established companies have an enormous amount of engineering and market know how. There is a very good chance that they’ll eventually win out over

      If I was a betting man (and I am! just it’s limited to 99 cents or something from the vending machine if we’re at work!) I would take the other side of that bet.

      Said companies arguably also have the engineering equivalent of hardening of the arteries, which is what I suspect. They don’t have the people leading that can really grok what’s happening. Bob Lutz is 88 years old and still a member of the automotive cognoscenti. He’s great if you want 900 gas horsepower…. and want to spend your time in the rear-view mirror of a 1000+ HP Tesla.

      Marketing people are mobile. They will leave in droves.

      I always point out that the actual people who made the buggy whips didn’t go away at all, it was just buggy whip companies that went away. Heck a family member bought a used Ford Tiempo (!! does anybody even remember that thing??) once with a leather interior. Probably used more leather and more man-hours than your average stagecoach, including the stuff on the horses.

      My prediction is a future Big Three, as history rhymes at least if not repeats, with Tesla being GM. Ford and Chrysler will be replaced by as yet-unknown companies, who will buy factory floors and workers by the gross from the current automakers bankruptcy sales.

      Hmm, actually don’t count out Toyota from making the transition, too. A weird company that somehow can be both stodgy and innovative at the same time.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I worked at a GM division years and years ago. Your comment matches my impressions after working there half a decade in the 1970s. But I don’t think the engineering was the problem [bias admission — I worked as an engineer in a non-automotive department]. I remember the stories I heard from a friend who worked in computer programming on the Cadillac computer. He was upset by the decision NOT to add a capacitor to the protection circuit on the Cadillac Car computer costing 5 mills. I strongly disagree about declines in GM engineering capability! I believe the declines reflect declines in GM management capability.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Too bad we could not have shared present GM management with Hitler’s Nazi’s instead of Alfred P. Sloan.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The lovely henhouse on wheels. In my first job in England a colleague (a German lady) owned one, and she was relentlessly teased about it by her Vauxhall driving colleagues, something I deeply regret to have joined in with. In hindsight, it was an excellent choice.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Antidote du Jour

    I’ve eaten more than my share of calamari and tako over the years, but I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that in the future people will see eating those fascinating and highly intelligent animals the way we now see hunting and eating chimpanzee or dolphins as irredeemably wrong.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I recall reading or hearing that the future oceans would be an environment best suited to jelly fish. I don’t care for chewy jelly fish the way Chinese like it but ground up and spiced — jelly fish might not be bad.

    2. ddt

      Grilled octopus with ouzo next to the water on a Greek isle was always a favorite. I’ve stopped eating octopus for years now. I think you’re right PK.

      1. a different chris

        I hated, absolutely hated Ouzo. And still don’t offer me any… unless we are in Greece!

        I lifted it to my lips just to make a new Greek friend (and man you make new friends fast in Greece! – wonderful place and people) and was shocked. It tasted nothing like the flavored rubbing alcohol I expected.

        If I ever travel far again, man there are so many places I haven’t seen yet but I think I would be happiest just returning to Scotland and Greece.

    3. jr

      I’ve basically stopped eating fish or cephalopods, the fish are going extinct and the cepalapods are like eating a dog. And probably going extinct. Also, they don’t get a clean, quick death.

      1. Wukchumni

        I no longer consume triffids and am allergic to seafood, so I substitute onion rings for more rubbery calamari.

        1. ambrit

          Come on now. The Triffids are supposed to eat us! (It’s the Gods’ way of restoring balance.)
          Round here, the big fish on the menu is catfish. Commercially raised in big ponds. When we lived “out in the sticks,” we used to frequent a country catfish restaurant that was way out in the boonies and sourced their fish from some big, as in three to five acres each, ponds next door. It was in a dry (at the time) county, so you had to ‘Bring Your Own Bottle.’ The local law never asked what one was mixing in with one’s lemonade. (It was very good lemonade too. Fresh squeezed! Add the spirit of your choice. Enjoy.)
          I’ll eat Bambi if available. Octopus, no. Anything that makes patterned designs around the opening of it’s habitat qualifies as sapient in my book.

  3. Wukchumni

    I moved to Canada right before the pandemic began. When COVID struck, I found a community Globe and Mail

    The Virus Sent Droves to a Small Town. Suddenly, It’s Not So Small. NYT
    About a month ago I was talking to a couple of Angelenos in Mineral King who were interested in investing in our little town in the foothills, nice fellows-but babes in the woods that thought water comes from a tap, and never gave it any more emphasis-why bother?

    As we were talking, I mentioned that I knew everybody in our community by name and face-about 150 people in around 40 cabins. They were frankly amazed, because our big cities are a breeding ground for anonymity, not always-but more often than not.

    It wasn’t always like that, when I was a kid our neighborhood in LA was pretty tight knit, I remember my parents having over a dozen neighbors to watch Laugh-In as they slowly got bombed on Daiquiris (the drink of the 60’s as far as I could tell) and everybody would laugh and carry on, not a bad thing to aspire to when I grew up was my thinking @ a tender age.

    But then over time I watched how people would lift the drawbrdige with a click of the button in their cars, and exit their sometimes caves, and if perchance a neighbor spied them driving away, a furtive hand wave might be necessary to offer up, but never ever would they get out of their cars and converse for 10 minutes about this that & whatever, i.e. shoot the breeze.

    The process was duplicated when they came home from work, and disappeared into their domiciles-and not knowing anything about those living just a few doors away, it can become a breeding ground for contempt if you let it, especially if the neighbors are of a different political caste, easier to stereotype and classify that way.

    Small is indeed beautiful, and new blood in such a setting coagulates as anonymity fades away and the promise of being part of a community bears fruit.

    1. The Rev Kev

      My parents told me how in the times before I was born, that after dinner people in our young middle-class neighbourhood would all go out for a walk and have chats with the neighbours. By the time I came along that hardly ever happened anymore.

      Wuk, you said that you knew about 150 people by name and face. Funnily enough that sounds like one of Dunbar’s Numbers-

      1. Wukchumni

        Being able to remember names & faces is perhaps the most important attribute for a politician or leader, and a really good one will remember thousands if not tens of thousands, as everybody generally likes the recognition that comes with somebody in authority saying their name, as simple as that.

        Here in the little smoke, I know 200 out of 2,000 in a similar fashion, about 10% of the population.

        I knew a similar number in LA, but it amounted to .00001% of the people there.

        I recall one of the tales in Barry Broadfoot’s oral history of Canadians in WW2: Six War Years where the soldier told of meeting Mountbatten just before the disastrous Dieppe raid, and he was taken prisoner and was in a POW camp for years, and after was in the UK and happened to come across him again by chance, and Mountbatten remembered meeting him 3 years prior, including his name.

        1. a different chris

          I’m near photographic memory when it comes to faces and complete shiite when it comes to names.

          That makes life so difficult I cannot tell you.

        1. RMO

          Dog walking (and the casual or quicker walks for exercise) lead to an amazing amount of interaction between my neighbors. On clear nights when my wife and I have had the telescope out in the front driveway we’ve had quite a few passers by come up to take a look – light pollution is pretty bad so Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, the Orion Nebula and other big and relatively bright objects are what we’re usually focused on and they’re great for people new to observing.

          When we took on the job of delivering the local paper (two days a week) though was when I really got to know the people in the neighborhood.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I feel as if my generation has lived through a sea-change in Society. I’m not sure what happened. I spend many years as a young adult traveling from job-to-job around the country — anonymous and ignored by the locals other than my co-workers. By the time I settled down and had a couple of kids and moved to the suburbs it was like moving to an entirely different world from the world I grew up in.

    3. KFritz

      Tangential commentary. I stopped playing the trombone full time 52 years ago, and completely 35 years ago, so my identification is subject to scrutiny–but the “tuba” in the story looks suspiciously like my memory of a baritone horn. Can anyone confirm or nix this?

      1. posaunist

        It’s a small tuba, probably an f or e-flat instrument. Somewhere between the full-size CC and BB-flat tuba and the b-flat euphonium (tenor tuba).

  4. Henry Moon Pie

    Durham and Obama–

    Why Russia? I’m sure the NatGas guys are pushing right along with the elements of the MIC who’d like to build some good, old-fashioned tanks. But what has made Russia such an obsession with the CIA types? Have they forgotten that it’s not 1987?

    It seems to me that the usual explanations are pertinent but not sufficient. Is it Putin’s and Russia’s reluctance to join the global IdPol fest that really makes the case among the people at Langley? Are the Russkies seen as standing in the way of the Woke Millennium? That brings a whole new aspect to “culture war.”

    The Critical Theory Crusade.

    1. anon y'mouse

      after they figured out what was going to continue to happen to them, the Russkies threw out the West’s financial looters of the 90s.

      they’ve been on the hit list ever since.

    2. Gc54

      Simple, Russia/Siberia is incredibly resource rich, the USA is literally scraping the bottom of the resource barrel with fracked oil, these functionaries want to bring Russian resources to market in USD of course = skim as much for cronies as possible. Putin is a competent Russian patriot who inhibits those schemes so must be replaced with someone disfunctional.

      Perhaps they have also absorbed where the isotherms will be in a few decades, Siberia looking attractive compared to the US south.

      1. LawnDart

        Putin did yank away the punch bowl and put the Atlanticists, the neolibs to the curb shortly after coming to power and made sure that remaining oligarchs danced to a nationalistic tune.

        And for sure, Russian resources under Russian control.

    3. Paradan

      3 out 4 banks in Russia are public banks, and roughly 60% of the GDP is state owned. That right there is grounds for war.

  5. Howard Beale IV

    Beware of covid-19 vaccine trials designed to succeed from the start: Washington Post

    William Haseltine, the author notes the following:

    In both the Moderna and Pfizer trials, for example, the primary objective is to prevent any occurrence of covid-19, not necessarily a severe case. Preventing serious illness is a secondary objective. Yet it is the severe cases of covid-19 that have killed nearly 1 million people worldwide and left many millions more with long-term damage.

    Equally troubling is the size of the group in which efficacy for each vaccine would be proved. Both Pfizer and Moderna have touted the large number of participants in their trials, at upwards of 30,000 participants slated for each. But while the full trial sizes might be large, the protocols suggest that efficacy can be proved in an initial test group of just 106 for the Moderna vaccine and in a group of 64 for Pfizer. But keep in mind only half of each group receives the vaccine; the other half receives a placebo.

    The protocols suggest that successful initial interim trials for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines would show efficacy among 74 percent and 76.9 percent of participants, respectively. This means if 39 of those who receive the vaccine do not get sick, Moderna will consider the vaccine a success. For Pfizer, the number is 25.

    Hell, why even bother having a Phase III at all- they could have gone to the FDA with the Phase II and Trump would have strongarmed the FDA to grant emergency authorization.

    1. TroyIA

      I am beginning to see more stories criticizing the FDA and the COVID-19 vaccines trials that only give a portion of the full story. The International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Agencies met to outline the design of Phase III trials so there would be consistent data from trials around the world. So all of the members have the same trial design in the U.S., Europe, Asia etc.

      From the ICMRA

      Endpoints should be standardized across Phase 3 trials to allow an apples-to-apples comparison of safety and effectiveness of vaccine candidates, agreed workshop participants. For all trials, the primary endpoint should be laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 disease “of any severity,” says the report. Hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, and death should be tracked to record disease severity. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 should be monitored and confirmed by virologic methods; alternatively, investigators could use serologic methods that measure antigens not contained in the vaccine.

      Now if there is criticism of the FDA then realize that the same criticism will apply to Europe, Japan, China and basically all regulatory agencies.

      1. Howard Beale IV

        The “Of any severity” is what Haseltine is stating is unacceptable. You are making the assumption that the ICRMA will be followed by all participants, which may not be the case.

    2. Kaleberg

      The trials are set up to run until a particular number of cases occurs. Then, they’ll unblind and see if the vaccine actually did anything useful. Since these aren’t challenge trials, you need big numbers to get that number of cases in a reasonable time. The reason to count all cases, not just serious ones is that anyone with COVID can spread it, and the goal of vaccines is to stop spread in the population, not protect individuals. Trump could try to strong arm the FDA and eliminate Phase III, but then it would be an even harder sell to get anyone to take the vaccine. The people who trust Trump don’t believe in COVID, so any effective vaccine would have to be taken by people who do not trust Trump.

  6. Krystyn Podgajski

    “New Documents Further Unveil Obama’s Anti-Trump Campaign”

    Barrack Obama is the Elizabeth Holmes of Politics.

    1. Wukchumni

      Barrack Obama is the Jackie Robinson of Politics, that is if Jackie after 8 years had a .213 batting average, attempted to steal 28 bases and got caught 21 times, hit 49 dingers (primarily solo shots in games where his team was hopelessly behind or powerfully ahead) and you hoped the opposing team didn’t hit the ball his way, as he was just a middling fielder @ best.

      His best attribute was being a left handed hitter, which probably kept him in the league for as long as it did, as a counter against mostly right handed pitchers.

      1. orlbucfan

        Ex-PBO is nothing more than a mixed race lifetime YUPPIE who admires Ronald Reagan. GOP-lite. Very lucky guy cos his so-called ‘intellect’ is highly overrated, and he still managed to make millions$$.

        1. Wukchumni

          Obama strikes me as a classic ‘book smart’ guy with no practical experience to have drawn from in the real world.

          In just about any field of endeavor, you’d love to have somebody like that as your competitor, as they were about useless.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            And Obama’s consiglieri Eric Holder, currently tasked with extra-electoral ways to gain power (Transition Integrity Project), previously wildly successful at throwing African Americans out of their homes by the millions, was first appointed to the bench by….Ronald Reagan.

            You don’t have to dig very far before some things make perfect sense.

        2. flora

          His mom’s history shows connections to important US foundations and agencies that most people don’t have, will never have.

          From wiki:
          Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dunham studied at the East–West Center and at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, where she attained a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology (1967),[3] and later received master of arts (1974) and PhD (1992) degrees, also in anthropology.[4] She also attended the University of Washington in Seattle from 1961 to 1962. Interested in craftsmanship, weaving, and the role of women in cottage industries, Dunham’s research focused on women’s work on the island of Java and blacksmithing in Indonesia. To address the problem of poverty in rural villages, she created microcredit programs while working as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development. Dunham was also employed by the Ford Foundation in Jakarta and she consulted with the Asian Development Bank in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Towards the latter part of her life, she worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia, where she helped apply her research to the largest microfinance program in the world.[4]

          I always have the impression that O was floated to the top on connections from the beginning. My 2 cents.

          1. mpalomar

            Now that you bring it up, a lot of that cv contains institutional avenues well traveled by intelligence community participants.

            1. CitizenSissy

              Funny you should mention that. I always thought Ms. Dunham had the perfect cover as an intelligence officer. Just waiting until that file’s declassified.

            2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

              Both his parents are pretty clearly spooks. Every indicator is there. His moma also just manages to pop up in all the trouble spots of the era.
              Plus US AID. Everyone knew that was a spy front back in the Kennedy era.

        3. Harry

          You are probably right, and I share that assessment. But I cant help but think, if Im so clever, what does that skinny mixed race grifter have the Nantucket beach house?

          1. Wukchumni

            There once was a man with a place in Nantucket
            Who must’ve had $9 million in a bucket
            Despite only earning only $400 grand
            Or $3.2 million for 8 years of running the land.

          2. JBird4049

            “…if Im so clever, what does that skinny mixed race grifter have the Nantucket beach house?“

            It’s not what he has, but what is often missing in a grifter, a conscience

    2. flora

      Added to all the intrigue about neocons, LNG pipelines, the great game in 2020, I wonder after reading Taibbi’s article about FinCEN if international banking and money laundering – a large chunk of the traffic seems to come from the former Soviet sphere – is part of what’s got O in a dither… after all he and Biden did to protect the rackets major banks. O and Biden worked hard. /s

      here’s Taibbi’s article again:

        1. John Anthony La Pietra

          So there’s not enough staff to investigate the SARs properly, eh? Maybe we need a qui tam clause over here! (But who can we hire to write it, sponsor it, pass it, and sign it? . . .)

        2. pjay

          That was an informative article. Thanks for posting it. As usual, Taibbi does a nice job untangling and reporting on big-time financial malfeasance. But for me, there was an element missing:

          “The next years would follow up with a flurry of similar settlements extracting sizable-sounding fees from other transnational banks for laundering money on behalf of terrorists, sanctioned businesses, mobsters, drug dealers, and other malefactors.”

          Hmm. Is there any other “malefactor” that is rather infamous for global money-laundering and intimate transactions with “terrorists, sanctioned businesses, mobsters, [and] drug dealers”? A “malefactor” that might be powerful enough to shape the wink-and-a-nod sanctions that have resulted from the literally *trillions* of dollars that have passed through these pipelines? Especially given the major banks involved? I know Matt must know this history. But maybe pushing against the Russiagate narrative is enough risk for now.

  7. The Rev Kev

    ‘If you advocate for ending slavery the conservatives will call you a socialist or communist. I have a plan to expand slave rights over the next 10 years’

    If you had modern liberals only 200 years ago, you would still have slavery in the year 2020. The only difference is that you would have had black slave owners. I wonder who some of them might have been. Hmmmm.

    1. Yik Wong

      Hillary and Obama brought back chattel slavery to Libya. In the USA bonded slavery is very much in force as you predicted. Most local urban governments and many state governments now take a large part of their income from it, California, queen of the liberal states, being the biggest proponent.

    2. PeterfromGeorgia

      We’ve certainly had plenty of minority slave owners over the years, i.e. see Anthony Johnson and Ellison in the Carolinas (and don’t forget that about 10% of the “Cherokee” on the trail of tears were their slaves).

      Never mind the fact that all of the black slaves brought from Africa were captured by black slave traders and then sold to South America, the Caribbean, or, God forbid, Arabia [which had the wonderful procedure of castrating them].

      What makes my mind boggle is that this is really an issue of “framing.” Yes, slavery is a horrendous institution, but EVERY society has practiced it (many until the 20th century and later, let alone now in parts of West Africa – and cocoa drinkers, I’m looking at you). All of us have slaves and slave traders, rapists, kidnappers, murderers, and incestuous ancestors in our DIRECT lineage if you go back far enough in our respective histories. To me it just comes across as a political issue, formed in to a cudgel, and used to beat on various folks. (And I am aware of the messy concept of that pernicious institutions’ lingering effects, but it seems to me just about every minority in America, whether Asian, Irish, German, or Black, has had to deal with it to some effect or another in our current system). To me, the out-of-wedlock birth rate, with its attendant inability to save capital due to one income and less available parenting time, is as much, if not a greater problem on our society, than the fact that there were slaves 160 years ago in America.

      1. marym

        How bad something is in itself or in its repercussions isn’t diluted by the length of a list of other bad things.

        1. Clem

          But a bad thing today and tomorrow, Libya,
          especially when its authors are circling power and have not been stripped of their wealth, prestige and power, is worth prosecuting more so than slavery that happened over 150 years ago.

          Are you still claiming redress for Ceasar’s taxes?

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Wait, what? Can it be that a brown president, with the help of several possessors of two XX chromosomes named Hilary, Susan, and Samantha, re-instituted modern-day slavery while smashing the African continent’s most successful economy, including smashing the world’s largest desert irrigation project there that fed millions of people?

            You must be some kind of redneck fascist Trump lover for pointing that out. It’s almost like smashing all those statues of slave owners, was, you know, a fraud?

      2. The Rev Kev

        Probably another factor is that large scale black slavery has only been really true of the past few centuries as Africa was opened up and exploited. Yes, there were black slaves in Roman times but not on such a large scale. Most Roman slaves were what we would call white – whatever that means. All nations practiced slavery going back to year dot. It was just what everybody did though Michael Hudson recognized that it tended to undermine the State left to itself, which is why from time to time slaves were freed in ancient Mesopotamia to reset the clock.

        In other times past, for example, an unknown number of Irish were kidnapped into slavery by Barbary pirates and ended up in the Mediterranean. Certainly the Victorians were aware of this past and you see a thread of paintings about white (female) slavery that seems to have fascinated them. What you can say is that when conditions allow it, you will have slavery. It may be independent of race, religion, beliefs or whatever but if conditions allow for the exploitation of human beings, then slavery by another name may not be far behind.

        Yes, owning slaves is always wrong if you consider yourself human but you wonder if the fact that free people outperform slaves in the long run is what led to slavery being mostly outlawed. Having said that, I note that the last country to officially outlaw slavery was Mauritania – in 1981.

        1. Wukchumni

          Why not seek reparations from the Portuguese, as they were the ones that started the modern slave trade in Africa way back when?

          1. vlade

            As I mention below, Portugese were by far the largest slave traders in the West Africa – >40% of all the west Africa slaves were sold in Brasil.

        2. David

          Well, Africans had been enslaving each other for a very long time. Often, the slaves were captives in war, and used both for domestic service and agriculture. The Ashanti Empire in present-day Ghana was built like that, and even today there is some sensitivity between the Ashanti and other ethnic groups that they once preyed upon. (You find something similar in Sudan). There was also a very large and lucrative slave trade towards the East after the Arab conquests of part of Africa. (Europeans were also enslaved in large numbers, mainly sent to Muslim countries, but also to the Byzantine Empire).
          The best economic explanation for slavery that I’ve seen is a mix of low population density, making it hard to find a workforce, and a non-monetary economy, meaning you can’t pay people. Slavery then becomes the only way of getting your hands on enough people to produce crops, work on construction projects, and staff the households of the rich and powerful. Only by generating an agricultural surplus can you support states, armies, administration and royalty, and slaves were a good way of doing that. In any event, intensive agriculture from the earliest times was extremely unhealthy, and workers soon died and needed to be replaced.

          1. hunkerdown

            Pradhan et al. seemed to have a much better, more coherent, more explanatory and predictive theory of how slavery happens, by exploring how elites form and come to dominate a mass of slaves, and the conditions under which revolt succeeds. The simple mathematical model they created explains a lot of observed features of human class systems as well. When it comes down to it, the obvious explanation for human slavery is that exploitation is profitable and capture makes those profits secure.

            > meaning you can’t pay people

            Because they really wanted to, they just couldn’t think of some way of compensating people!

            Now, reconsider this infantilizing, ahistorical, mind-numbing, facially ridiculous, explicitly neoliberal children’s story, in light of actual historical concepts such as the difference between the episodic demands of corvée labor and permanent, sometimes inherited bondage which the framer of that narrative appears to intentionally seek to obscure. Obviously, the economic explanation is nonsense, in the usual sense.

            Human rule has always been about stealing from the productive and making them pay to get it back.

            Always. Every time. Find three that aren’t. You won’t.

            1. David

              “Production” is a very recent concept, and for most of human history would not have been recognised. Likewise “profit” is quite a recent development, and, for the vast majority of our ancestors didn’t impinge on their lives.
              Simply put, slaves in most societies were free labour, and absolutely fundamental to the survival of the state that bought them. The Ottoman Empire, for example, bought some 8-10 million slaves from African slave traders, and probably imported as many from Europe. It was the foundation of the state and society, and a huge and expensive undertaking, but was not related to commerce or profit in any simple sense.
              I’m surprised you think that, for example, the Ashanti Empire “wanted” to pay slaves. I would’ve thought the opposite: money essentially did not exist then, in a subsistence society, and so the concept of paid labour did not exist either. If you wanted a workforce, you basically had to steal it, which was what slavery in West Africa was all about.

            2. vlade

              Predictive? If you fit your model it will predict anything in the past.

              As David says, why pay if you don’t have to? Here’s actually a counter-factual. In Rome, Brazil and other societies it was not unknown to free a slave when they became old.

              On the surface, it could look like a nice gesture. In practice, it was a purely economical decision, because too old a slave rarely could pay his cost of living (unless he was a skilled artisan, and even then past some age it didn’t work anymore). Brazilian streets were often full of old slaves begging at times (this was actually slightly different in Rome/Greece, because there slave could make money (s)he could keep – but again, since it was often to buy himself out, it was in the economic interest of the owner).

              Not that keeping the old was a nice either, as that provided an incentive to work the productive slaves so that by the time they were becoming less productive they died.

          2. vlade

            Yes, it’s a pretty sad thing that many people talk a lot about slavery w/o being bothered to actually buff up on it.

            Sub-saharan Africa provided slaves to Med since Greek times (slave caravans were a great way of transporting the goods – slaves had carry capacity). As an aside, as you say up to about 14th century African empires and kingdoms were comparable in terms of various developments to the Europeans, but that’s really being ignored (it’s hard to overcome a tradition of the last 200 years or so).

            Ottoman empire was by far the largest single slave market. The largest cross-atlantic market for slaves wasn’t actually the US, but Brasil – almost half (well, >40%) of all African slaves were transported there.

            Ironically (and related to the African states mentioned above), until 19th century the Europe had at most some trading posts in Africa. The colonisation of Africa was excused in many ways by “bringing civilisation”, which included removal of slavery (not that it always happened, but was often said) which was widespread in Africa.

            I’m not excusing slavery, but the fact remains that even if the US never had any slaves, the ancestors of most of the current US african population would have been enslaved and sold somewhere else (most likely Brasil, as I mentioned).

            And, on the other hand, that even non-colonial, slave-free states in Europe benefited indirectly (and sometimes substantially) from the slavery and colonialism.

          3. vlade

            And while we’re on it. Apart from Brasil, Argentina also had a very substantial slave (black) population. It’s estimated that at one time, Buenos Aires had about third of its population black.

            Argentinians solved this problem in a fairly inventive ways – put the slave into the army with a promise of freedom, and send them forward. Even afterwards, the black made a disproportionately large part of Argentinian army, and even more diproportionate part of its casualties (see Way of Paraguay).

      3. tegnost

        To me, it’s the disconnect between productivity growth and wages that created the…
        with its attendant inability to save capital due to one income and less available parenting time,

        The problem is that the people with power win either way, slaves, indentured servants, desperate people, undocumented immigrants… people who have to adjust their income expectations by the advent of any of the above
        Those newly working from home may be in for some rough surprises, isn’t faceback reducing the pay of people who leave the bay area, and what will they take from them while they are at it? Increased cost to worker in the form of being your own it department, heating, no one to play ping pong with, (that’s right folks, that tiny bit of social life you used to have? Gone. But stock market to the moon right

      4. Frobisher

        I guess we need reminding that slavery’s impacts continue today. Even ending formal and legal discrimation has not ended white supremacy, which ruins lives and kills people. Denial is still strong.

        Also, it’s not true that ALL enslaved Africans we’re captured by Black slave traders. In 1564, John Spark, who kept a journal in the second slaving expedition of John Hawkins (with QE-1 donating a 700-ton boat, which entitled her to a sixth of the profits), records a multi-day rampage through villages, “to take the inhabitants with burning, and spoiling their towns”. I’m a direct defendant of Hawkins, newly retired and having some fun doing some digging. People in denial might call 16th century slaving part of the social norm but there’s plenty of documentation of people who are witnesses to the atrocities who are horrified and repulsed by their inhumanity. Sadly, we will always have to deal with it It’s who minimize the horror.

        1. bassmule

          From David Blight’s Yale lectures on the Civil War and Reconstruction:

          What do we mean when we use that phrase ‘slave society’? Essentially, it means any society where slave labor — where the definition of labor, where the definition of the relationship between ownership and labor — is defined by slavery. By a cradle to grave — and some would’ve even said a cradle to grave and beyond — human bondage. Where slavery affected everything about society. Where whites and blacks, in this case — in America in a racialized slavery system — grew up, were socialized by, married, reared children, worked, invested in, and conceived of the idea of property, and honed their most basic habits and values under the influence of a system that said it was just to own people as property.

          The other slave societies in human history — and you can get up a real debate over this, especially among Africanists, Brazilianists, Asianists and others, and it’s why slavery is such a hot field in international history — but the other great slave societies in history where the whole social structure of those societies was rooted in slavery, were Ancient Greece and Rome; certainly Brazil by the eighteenth and nineteenth century; the whole of Caribbean — the Great West Indies sugar-producing empires of the French, the British, the Dutch, the Spanish, and a few others — and the American South.

          There were certain localized slave societies in the vast Arab world, in the Muslim world, well before there was even an Atlantic slave trade to the Americas. But the five great slave societies were those five. All were highly profitable in their primes. All tended to hinder technological innovation in those societies. All tended to have a high slave-to-free ratio of population. All of those slave societies had a population of slaves that was from one-quarter to one-half, and sometimes more, of the total population. In those slave societies, slaves — as an interest, as an interest — were both a political and a great economic institution that defined ways of life.

          1. skk

            Thanks ! At last somebody uses an academic source for stating the background. I’ve listened to his lectures many a time and also the lectures by Gary Gallagher

          2. The Rev Kev

            My takeaway from that segment is that slavery is that concept where some people become property. Once you have that concept in a society, then you will have slavery. People as property can be purchased, sold, traded, be compensated for, etc. In fact, if we had slavery right now there would be the additional concept where they could be monetized. Collateralized Slavery Bonds anyone?

          3. Jessica

            I would dispute the exclusion of Southeast Asia. In the 1800s, so much of the Thai population was either slaves or serfs that in order to build the capital Krungthep (Bangkok), they needed to import Chinese laborers.
            The Art of Being Not Governed by James Scott is more about the non-slaves up in the hills, but the slave nature of the lowland societies is clear.

          4. ObjectiveFunction

            Hmm, why do I think this lecturer is cherry picking to feed a white guilt agenda?

            First, he left out ancient Egypt and the Middle Eastern empires (Assyria, Persia, etc.). In fact, pretty much all the nations conquered by Rome themselves practiced slavery, including my Celtic and Germanic ancestors.

            The caste system of India (and its pre-Buddhist Hindu offshoots) institutionalized the hereditary bondage of specific castes. So, effectively slavery, with no ‘choice’ to emigrate, quit or take up a different trade.

            I don’t personally know the extent of slavery in Imperial China (I know it was practiced in Yunnan), but the Mongols (Yuans) certainly practiced it as they became settled in their conquests. I believe that as with Russian and medieval serfs (from the Latin servus, slave), the Chinese peasantry was hereditarily bound to the land and while not technically ‘enslaved’ wouldn’t see much distinction in terms of its relationship to the landlords. And of course you had concubinage of women, which was effectively enslavement.

            Imperial Japan universally employed slave labor (rapidly worked to death), and even slave soldiery in the case of Koreans.

            Finally, slavery is more or less endemic across Islam since its founding (via conquest of other slave societies), with the sole injunction that Muslims may not enslave one another. Muslims never miss a chance to encourage conversion. It only fell out of use in wide areas of the Darul Islam in the 19th century, owing to the intervention of white colonialists (who were getting better results on their plantations from imported coolies, who were nominally paid).

            Human, all too human, folks.

            1. fjallstrom

              You seem to miss the among historians common distinction between “slave society” and “society with slaves”. David Blight defines, describes and lists the former.

              Historians do argue about which societies fit in which bucket, but there does not appear to be much argument about it being a qualitative difference between societies built on slavery and societies were some are slaves.

      5. Darius

        American chattel slavery was the basis for a large part of the US economy. It lives on as wage-free mass prison labor and the carceral state. The US economy has always depended on depressed wages, or no wages at all. Slavery and other forms of racism create a permanent underclass that helps keep everyone’s wages low. We’re all about our financial overlords.

      6. Harry

        The out of wedlock birth rate is also a direct consequence of the paucity of accumulated capital among ex-slaves.

    3. JacobiteInTraining

      In such a counterfactual historical timeline, I like to think that the American abolitionists would be in much the same state as current Berniecrats – passionate on various specific issues but blocked at every turn by the major US political parties. Thus, either through the creation of their own party and/or through agitation up to and including John Brown-like ‘insurrection’, various States or soon-to-have-been States would have peeled off of the country through the tacit support….and eventual direct intervention…by the British Empire.

      Secession in that case would have looked more like the dissection of India into British India as various factions, fights, civil wars, and political machinations allowed a fairly anti-slavery Britain to work its way into the continental US militarily and regain a not-insignificant portion of ‘The Colonies’ using the ‘We are the Good People, the Adults In The Room – and this current unpleasantness WILL be rectified!’

      The Pig War in the San Juans would have resulted in a punitive expedition to seize control of the current states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho…portions of California might well have gone in that direction too (or been left in a still-powerful Mexican Empire) while Russian Alaska would have been sold to the UK in its entirety after negotiations by Disraeli.

      Thus, my Cascadian Dream would have been attained, but in a State more closely resembling Canada.

      But, come to think of it, I would have still been left railing against the illegitimate Royal Line in the British Empire….nursing animosity until the rightful Stuart heir was restored. :)

      1. Objectivefunction

        Ha ha, I love alternative history too!

        I wouldn’t underestimate the popularity of the Republic though, among both native-born and immigrant Americans living in ‘free’ states in the first half of the 19th century. They still remembered what it was like to live under venal monarchies and stratified class systems, and post-Napoleonic Europe was an utter mess. So even in the event of a Southern victory in c1862, Britain would have had a very hard road to turn the North into another ‘Dominion’.

        Sparsely settled Canada remained loyal mainly owing to heavy Crown subsidies to its (heavily Anglo-Scots) establishment, especially military protection from, variously: the natives, its ambivalent Quebecois and of course, the damn Yankees. America’s ruling groups (think Andrew Jackson!) were a far harder bunch to please.

    4. John Merryman

      Has slavery really gone away, or just that instead of rounding up people from technologically backward areas of the world to do our dirty work, now we just ship the work over there, keeping the mess and fuss at a distance.
      Necessarily requiring maintaining despots to keep the natives in line.
      What gets ignored is that slavery is primarily an economic function, not a social one. Yet the focus on the social aspects conveniently obscures the economic foundations.

      1. Yik Wong

        California Firefighters? Plenty of slaves in USA, just bonded, not chattel. Of the two bonded is the greater evil, as chattel slavery meant loss of the slave was loss of property, where as bonded slavery means loss of the slave means you just pick another from family who co-signed the bond, and the particularly pernisous form of State Organized bonded slavery means there is no chance to create any empathy in the least between slave and owner.

  8. timbers

    Regarding: Indo-Pacific strategy gains support as China’s assertiveness fuels fears South China Morning Post

    Disappointing if true, because China succeeding can act as a counterweight to overreaching US imperialism is a good thing IMO. Acting like the US does not help matters, and US success may lead to more wars of aggression and yet bigger military spending.

    Suggestion to China: consider farming out in some way, your diplomacy to Russia, or just seek her advice on such matters. She’s had some recognition of success and skill at balancing and listening to the competing concerns of regional players. And she doesn’t act like an arrogant pr**ck when doing it…like China and the US do.

    1. PeterfromGeorgia

      As one who lived in China for years during the Go-Go years of 2001-2006, I can tell you that China intends to treat just about every area it comes in to contact with as it does the native Tibetans and Uighurs within its own sphere of influence. For a real eye-opener, look at how they’ve essentially colonized most of east Africa- they[ve effectively built garrisons of their own citizens in many. Just google Zimbabwe and Chinese miners and shootings for a view of that world…

      In my personal experience, the great mass of Chinese I’had conversations with during that time viewed Africans as little more than apes. The following link is from a documentary where a Chinese engineer lays in to (politely) an African translator for wasting all the infrastructure the British left.

      1. flora

        Thanks for the link. I don’t think T is wrong to challenge China on economic and political grounds. China is much more authoritarian than the US or the West. See, for example, China’s Uighur concentration camps that are expanding. (Oh, I hate saying, “T isn’t wrong about something.” But there it is. )

        1. Olga

          Sorry, Flora, but – based on observations of the last 40 years in the west – statements such as “China is much more authoritarian than the US or the West” should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Both are authoritarian (if that is the word of choice), just in a different way. In the US, there is no democracy left (does anyone in power still listen to “the people”?) and the people are consistently spied on. And has it occurred to you that the western narrative on Uighurs is just a part of the ‘china bad’ talking points?
          A bit of clarity on Uighurs, back before the narrative solidified:

          (scroll down to the part on terrorist acts)

          1. flora

            Olga, thanks for the link. From the link subheader:
            “The Xinjiang autonomous region in China’s far west has had a long history of discord between the authorities and the indigenous ethnic Uighur population. ”

            But, you know, I think that makes my point.

            Though I agree with your other point about Western nations spying on their own citizenry, I still say that China has a much worse, a much heavier authoriarianism, bordering on a much greater fascism in practice than whatever evils our current Western govts practice. (Can one have a communist fascism? /heh) To say Western govts are behaving badly compared to 40 years ago is not to say they are behaving as equally badly as the CCP toward their citizens. And the thing is, I am not worried that saying this will result in a knock on my door in the middle of the night. Or a questioning of my nearest and dearest. That’s something.
            My 2 cents.

            1. ambrit

              The best examples of the Chinese ‘superiority’ in the practice of authoritarianism are “The Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution.”
              The closest analogues to those Eastern debacles in the West that I can think of on short order would be “Disruptive Innovation” and “Neo-liberalism.” Both are doing similar levels of damage to the population here as the former two did to the Chinese population.

              1. flora

                The great leap forward. Ideology vs physical reality. I appreciate the comparison. And, I will note, the ‘the great leap forward’ coincided with the greatest famine in recorded modern human history.

                Wiki is of course a Western website and might be charged with Western bias. Research on other sites or in research libraries will confirm the famine disaster, made worse by political ideology.

      2. Yik Wong

        I guess it’s all relative, at least the Engineer didn’t say: “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” back when the African Engineer was getting his training in China nor did the Chinese Engineer indicate they were planning to do a coup-d’etat ala Patrice Lumumba, or install slave markets ala Libya to improve employment opportunities. He should have followed the British tradition, shouted at the man in English and slapped him about with his riding crop. That or the American water-blanket torture perfected on civilians in the Philipines and exported via the great “School of the Americas” in Georgia.
        has a long list of African nations who must have kindest feelings to the USA, and Wikipedia is run by a mouth piece of the NED. I didn’t spend a lot of time at it, but I can’t seem to find anything quite like it for China in Africa on Wikipedia.

  9. Wukchumni

    Loved the look of the ‘Wailing Wall’ photo, it was as if they were in Jerusalem.

    The word ‘supreme’ essentially only has 2 usages in our country, one being the name for a pizza with 9 toppings, and the other for an increasingly cheesy clique that leans hard right.

    1. edmondo

      Nothing says political and emotional maturity like laying down on the ground and stomping your feet with a teddy bear by your side because someone you never met died.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Or leaning like an Israelite on the doors to our secular Temple, supposedly reciting prayers to who knows what god to preserve the sanctity of the Aaronites up there on the shittim wood altar… Looking at Noonan’s piece on the 1,700-member “People of Praise,” and as evident in the policy preferences of Trump’s nominee, their doctrine seems to partake, like so much “Christian” mumbling, of the not very Christ-like-at-all contents of the Old Testament.

        And of course that woman lying on the marble floor is not stamping her feet, and there’s not a teddy bear in sight. Just a bouquet of flowers.

        Far as I am concerned, the Supreme Court could dry up and blow away — all those Nine power-accretions people and their shifty clerks do is legitimize the abuses heaped on ordinary people by the ruling class. And of course if the executive does not like the announced outcome of any particular case, it can say “Buzz off” and go do whatever it wants to do anyway. “How many divisions does the Supreme Court command?”

        There is one argument I do buy for increasing the number of justices. That’s a functional one, in that the number of cases presented to the Court far outstrips its ability to grind through its analog, old-school procedures, so very few cases get heard and a lot of law is made by simple refusal to review or entertain cases and controversies. But of course the Federalists have driven the populists out of the field, so all an increase in justices to address work load would do is just add weight to the massive body of jurisprudence (sic) crushing the little mopes.

        1. flora

          No, the SC should not ‘dry up and blow away’. Neither should the Congress use it as an excuse to shirk their own responsibilities. No, there isn’t a teddy bear by the woman on the floor. Neither does the Dem estab promote effective, vigorous challenge to the Chamber of Commerce’s judicial appointments, instead encouraging emotion and wailing and gnashing of teeth from Dem voters, as if that’s an effective substitute. But what else can the Dem estab do? The Dem estab certainly doesn’t believe in workers’ rights, in unionization, in decent wages, or in labor power. They cannot argue against an appointment on those grounds because they don’t believe that argument. So they argue on social issues like religion, which is bs as a challenge to what Wall St. wants. And they know it. So they only offer their voters ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ as emotional therapy for their betrayal. They “feel our pain.” How nice of them. (Too cynical?)

          1. flora

            adding: when even the GOP is pushing the ‘religious’ angle (see Nooners, Hawley, et al) it’s because even the GOP elite know their base is fed up to the eyebrows with neoliberal economics, so they too have to change the subject to some hot-button social issue, directing attention away from the real economic issues the nominee supports.

      2. lambert strether

        I first read that object as a teddy bear too, but on closer examination I believe it’s a bunch of roses wrapped in paper

    2. David

      I was irresistibly reminded of a character in Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories. To quote Wikipedia, she was:
      “Violet Elizabeth Bott, lisping spoiled daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire (whose companionship William reluctantly endures, to prevent her carrying out her threat “I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick”),”

  10. apleb

    Since when is Fox News free? It’s a cable channel right?
    Just like MSNBC and CNN?

    Which means two “liberal” sort-of-free-in-twitterverse channels vs. 1 “non-liberal” sort-of-free-in-twitterverse channel.

    Twitter is just great for any sort of social or political commentary. Nowhere better to get any insights at all.

    1. Pat

      You can easily access Fox and its allies on the internet. I have never met even a cursory block for the NY Post when attempting to access a linked article. I cannot say the same for either The NY Times or the Washington Post.

      Murdoch also kept Fox News on basic cable, the business version not so much.

    2. pjay

      Right. Plus all the “regular” network newscasts, which are just about as biased these days.

      The NY Times and the Washington Post are not propaganda for the masses. They provide confirming propaganda for the worldview of the liberal PMC – which can afford a subscription and sees it as a sign of enlightenment.

    3. hunkerdown

      In the US, channels are bundled in tiers by most cable operators. Fox News usually comes in the basic tier. MSNBC and CNN are typically positioned upmarket, in the next tier up.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        Not to mention all the public spaces you go where Fox News is blathering at you, like it or not. There was an article I read pre-Obama years about how there was a right wing group behind a lot of those TVs that just showed up in waiting rooms and whatnot tuned to Fox.

        1. Wukchumni

          A friend who is a law enforcement officer in Sequoia NP, told me that when he went to FLETC (federal law enforcement training center) in Brunswick, Ga., all of the tv sets in the chow hall always had Fox news on, no exceptions.

        2. hunkerdown

          Ooh, good point Dr. “Conservatives” and those who love them really do believe in their liberty to impose and have someone else clean up after them later, don’t they. I’d be chuffed if you happen to have a more specific reference to that magazine.

          I was going to spend the evening cleaning house, but now maybe I need to see about cobbling together that TV-B-Gone key fob I’ve always wanted to make.

        3. anon in so cal

          CNN (a DNC mouthpiece) was on 24/7 in every U.S. airline terminal (pre-pandemic, at least). I once asked an AA gate agent about this and she said the airlines had no control over terminal programming.

      2. wilroncanada

        Ah!! Cable television. The highway of tiers. On the cable system we have on Vancouver Island, CNN and MSNBC are on the tier lower than Fox.

  11. Terry Flynn

    Re NHS Covid-19 app. I’ve downloaded it (android recent phone) and tried in on a 5 Km walk into Nottm city centre, walk back via a supermarket I’d bet has cases (Asda – yes feel free to call me a a snob but mask use there is terrible).

    I’ve NO idea if the lack of alerts means “genuinely no cases detected” (which could well reflect low take-up) or that it doesn’t work properly when you don’t “check-in” to a public place via the QR code (which it makes a big deal of doing, yet I saw NO sign of a QR code to scan at the entrance to facilitate it knowing I’m in Asda).

    I don’t believe there are many cases around here anyway so it’d be hard to tell how well the app is functioning. I don’t tend to care about google tracking me (yes I know I should, but knowing my walking schedule is helpful for my mental health amongst other things). Curious about experiences in Birmingham, Manchester and London……

    1. Count Zero

      I tried to sign up to the NHS app on my Samsung phone but Google insists I give them all my bank details first. I am not inclined to do that.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Most google apps (IIRC) require a credit/debit card number (to help prove you are not under-age if anything). I don’t have a problem with that per se but I can see why others do – I’d NEVER give debit card details to them but credit card OK due to consumer protection laws. If you do, then can you get one of those pre-paid credit cards sold in many countries, in order to register on google play?

        1. CountZero

          Thanks, helpful Terry. I have never had a credit card and don’t plan to. I have only ever had a debit card, which I use as little as possible. Cash was a useful invention. I suppose a pre-paid credit card might be useful, under the circumstances.

      2. Maritimer

        They start out slow and then ramp it up. This will become another “social grace” like masks. If you don’t fork over your info, you are not kind, should be ashamed and vilified, etc. What is wrong with you—be one of the Herd today.

  12. Yik Wong

    “Donald Trump is a fascist & so are his supporters” twitter title is telling others how to get out propaganda that might persuade voters suspended between insane fascist and a doddering fascist?

    1. Eureka Springs

      “Narcissism of tiny differences”. Either way fascism prevails. Old Illingsworth (make no apology) is much better.

    2. The Historian

      To paraphrase a great comment made recently here by a commentor: “Trump and Biden are the stench, not the rot”. They aren’t the fascists – the fascists are the 1% who decide what we will hear, what we can say, what we can buy, who we vote for, how our government is run, how our justice system behaves, etc. Two cases in point: the government’s response in 2008 and in 2020.

      Perhaps the Preamble of the Constitution needs to be rewritten: “We the Corporations…..”

      1. Yik Wong

        Half right.

        Of the two, Biden’s history is clearly a dog whistling racist fascist in belief and principles, a fascist of the NSDAP type, not the Italian school. He prefers to replace camps with government organized, corporate run bonded slavery, using prison and gas chambers/electric chairs to keep the more recalcitrant in line. Most of the people he’s picked for his admin though are of the softer Italian Fascist style, more concerned with patrician blood lines across races than race itself.

        Trump is a racists, but he doesn’t have enough principles to be a Fascist. He is just an unprincipled opportunist, A lazy distracted opportunist who wound up being the titular puppet of the Koch Brothers administration that he doesn’t even know is controlling him. Here is where NSDAP types are found in force.

        1. JWP

          “A lazy distracted opportunist who wound up being the titular puppet of the Koch Brothers administration that he doesn’t even know is controlling him.”

          Spot on and with every announcement or policy it is more clear he is speeding up the Koch/Norquist anti gov scheme. However, he is also speeding up fascism among the people with the far right embrace. Right wing militias pose a far bigger threat than protestors in terms of public safety because of their view as “enforcers” who are working with the law. Who knows what will happen after the election, but regardless I imagine Trump will grow in fascism because of his ego and being on his way out either way. Whether it be directing these militias or effectively dismantling the right to protest, his social policies are fascist moreso than even Obama with Occupy.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Lots of tossing around the “fascist” label.

            But from an economic POV, under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controls all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture.

            I think the closest official manifestation we have of that in the U.S. is the new CARES Act. The state controls the emission of credit to private enterprise (leveraged up to the tune of $4.5 trillion), managed by the leading philanthropists at Blackrock.

            So those seeking a definitive answer might ask: who voted for CARES?

            Answer: we don’t know exactly because it was adopted by “voice vote”.

            After the Senate voted 96-0 to approve the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., formally rejected voting by proxy voting or any move toward electronic voting in the run-up to the vote. On the day that the House took up the CARES Act, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., stated that he had called enough lawmakers back to form a quorum and implemented a special rule for unanimous consent.

            Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was the only lawmaker to formally object, demanding evidence that a quorum was present and calling for a recorded vote. The protest lasted less than one minute and 30 seconds. Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., the presiding officer in the House on March 27, rejected Massie and, within moments, the bill cleared the House. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the few critics of the bill, is the only known House Democrat to oppose it.

            So there it is. Fascism? Sure. Put in place by the Repubs, and by every Dem except one. Apparently.

            1. Yik Wong

              You don’t know much about how Big Ag, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, MIC, and even Detroit have used government tools to seize control for their cartels. Plenty on that at NC. One can nitpick over the degree, but the effect has been in place for various sectors from the 1950’s when Ike found he could not push certain levers anymore. Further Fascism calls for the incorporation of unions/labour into the cartel. See my comment on Leo Gehard / USW in “Why Trump’s Promise to Save Manufacturing Was One He Never Intended to Keep”.

            2. Eric Patton

              “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the few critics of the bill, is the only known House Democrat to oppose it.”

              She did not oppose it.

          2. anon in so cal

            Never mind that Obama and Biden empowered some actual fascists in the form of Banderite Nazis, in Ukraine, and Biden wants to ship them even more lethal weapons.

      2. JTMcPhee

        No rewrite needed. Since the Supremes have established that corporations are people, and usage has established that their rights and powers trump any rights of mere mortal persons.

        “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

      3. tegnost

        Thats what the ISDS clause in the TPP was for. And damn they are pissed about the stooges who shut it (temporarily) down

      4. Annus Horribilis

        What are corporations but antecedents of “a more perfect union”? The colonial chartered companies are the earliest example of laws in the Anglo-Americas. The first incorporation in America that am aware of is the 1675 “New York Company ‘for Settling Fishery in these Parts’” [serious]. Post-revolution business replaced this type of company with banking corporations. What has allowed the US republic to avoid a political reformation, thus far, is that the Constitution allows for incorporation for purposes beyond commercial, to incorporate for socio-political causes without having to cut in the crown, the commissar, or the capital-monopolist. No doubt NC is incorporated. Labor unions are incorporated.

        Something to think about for the demonstrating protester, incorporating, selling shares, adapting. If the police injure someone with a rubber bullet, the city will have to deal with the BLM Corporation’s lawyers. A portion of the settlement goes back into the coffers, shares passing to the victim’s beneficiaries, media buys…I want my BLM-TV!

      5. VietnamVet

        The Italians were called the Republican Fascist Party and the Germans were the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In no way were these governments that exalted the nation above the individual secondary to corporations.

        Corrupt Neoliberal governments (what remains) are subservient to corporations in 2020. Uniformly unable to deal with the coronavirus pandemic since to fight the virus requires a functional government and a public health system.

        In today’s topsy-turvy world, purposefully, no generally accepted word has been coined to describe the oligarchy that changes Administrations by purchased elections. But it is not a democracy.

    3. Gc54

      Biden & Co email not Twitter today: “Trump has chosen Amy Barrett … {a few meandering sentences of blather} … send me $10”.

      That will convince me along with all the “Personal” plea$ from Nancy and Kamala.

  13. a different chris

    So I’m reading stupid testimonials by people who in our society are somehow considered “bright” about what a wonderful person the ridiculously 3-named “Amy Coney Barrett” is…

    And realized they are probably right – in a limited sense. I wonder if there is a real genetic component to conservatism, in that the one thing in common I have finally flashed on is that they all have a very, very strong monkeysphere.

    I have a lot of friends and drift between them. Barrett-type conservatives (as opposed to billionaires who are just individually weird and generally lonesome) seem to have a really fixed group of a smaller size. I actually happen to be in one conservative monkeysphere, I like him very much and we would give each other the clothes off our backs.

    Said conservative group is probably close to that famous 150 count, and generally from their church.

    So she has no problem donating a kidney or two (joke) to somebody in said monkeysphere, but somebody from another tribe shows up in her courtroom and they are simply family-blogged.

    I bet if you look at her (few – 100 trials? that’s experience? …a different rant) decisions in that light you will see it.

    Finally, in the Idiocracy which came even faster than GW, of course people with supposedly hallowed degrees would jump at the chance to get their name in print writing testimonials to somebody they know… not realizing that the rest of us look at this as a job interview and shake our heads at “how nice she was at Christmas” BS. If I have to chose between two plumbers, I don’t care how relatively nice they are.

    You would think they would get that.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>…but somebody from another tribe shows up in her courtroom and they are simply family-blogged.

        So, it’s loyalty to the tribe, and not to the nation, the law, justice, or any other quaint nonsense like that, that matter? Got it.

    1. JTMcPhee

      I wonder if Black slave owners were much kinder to their slaves than white owners? Or how they treated the indentured servants who likely also were owned by them?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I would imagine it would depend like everything in regard to time and place.

        The public treatment of house slaves and field slaves probably looked the same on the surface. Treating a slave harshly (harsh for a slave because its still slavery) might be more difficult if the victim looks like the victimizer, but if the non white owner is trying to fit in with peers, what is he going to do?

        How many owners would have slaves in the number of less than 10? The treatment could vary wildly. There are all kinds of writing from Southerners who are completely bewildered their slaves seemed to be so happy when they Union army came through.

        One thing is what is the process for freeing a slave. Given the nature of the South, a known free black’s property might be in a better situation than a wife. Prior to 1782, the laws in Virginia required the Governor and legislature to agree.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Users report issues as Covid-19 app launches in England and Wales”

    Some stories you start to read and you find yourself groaning. It is September. Late September in fact. The pandemic has been raging in the UK for over six months now. They are just now launching this app. And it turns out that the damn thing does not even work properly. From what Terry Flynn says above, they have not even set up things for it. And yet we know from stories from over half a year ago that other countries in Asia had working apps that could have been licensed but apparently were not.

    We had an app launched here in Oz a coupla months ago but it turns out that simple contract tracing is what is doing the job here – not our app. Nobody even talks about it anymore. Thing is, I think that with an app that governments are tempted to say that when everybody with a mobile – virtually everybody – has such an app installed, then stuff like contract tracing is not such a big deal anymore. And you can then open up the borders again because of use of this app which means the economy goes ‘back to normal.’

    1. Terry Flynn

      We had an app launched here in Oz a coupla months ago but it turns out that simple contract tracing is what is doing the job here – not our app

      Somehow I’m not in the least surprised. Been 5 years since I lived in Oz so I’ll have to quiz my friends there some more. In terms of the UK I’m FAR more confident in my barber (who logs every customer’s name and phone number and time of entry, as well as temperature taken with one of those hand-held gun-looking things) than the app on my phone.

      My (Bulgarian) barber also uses mask + face protector and is very careful around my mask. He moans a LOT about it all being a waste of time but thankfully he also adopts the attitude that “you may not like the rules but you follow them”. He’s good at spotting a lot of guff told by the MSM but unfortunately also swallows the “less informed” stuff from the Ickes of this world. I find him both a joy and a frustration to chat to!

    2. Terry Flynn

      Skynet is holding a reply but yes I agree entirely that simple contact tracing is best. My barber does it. Will check in with ozzie friends how things are going… Been 5 years since I lived there.

    3. Terry Flynn

      PS – on Google Play a lot of 1-star reviews date from when the app was advertised as “national” but in fact wasn’t. If people look at “latest reviews” they get better idea of its effectiveness. Lots of people giving it good ratings because it doesn’t obviously mess up…… But I don’t see many people saying it’s good because it is identifying cases when they know there are cases.

    4. Terry Flynn

      Somehow I’m not in the least surprised about your app. Been 5 years since I lived in Oz so I’ll have to quiz my friends there some more. In terms of the UK I’m FAR more confident in my barber (who logs every customer’s name and phone number and time of entry, as well as temperature taken with one of those hand-held phaser-looking things) than the app on my phone.

      My (Bulgarian) barber also uses mask + face protector and is very careful around my mask. He moans a LOT about it all being a waste of time but thankfully he also adopts the attitude that “you may not like the rules but you follow them”. He’s good at spotting a lot of guff told by the MSM but unfortunately also swallows the “less informed” stuff from the Ickes of this world. I find him both a joy and a frustration to chat to!

    5. Terry Flynn

      Sorry sorry sorry. Thought skyney killed my original comment for using certain words.

      Feel free to delete shorter comment

  15. Alex

    Elections Director Chris Harvey sent a memo to county election officials Friday asking them to stop logic and accuracy testing until the secretary of state’s office provides a new database in the coming days.

    I’m not sure that it makes sense from a development cycle point of view. Surely they could continue testing other, non-related features and then re-test the using the new database.

    Georgia is rolling out a new statewide voting system this year that combines touchscreens with paper ballots. In-person voters will make their choices on touchscreens, which then print ballots that will be inserted into optical scanners.

    I wonder how they justified creating such a hellishly complicated system with at least two points where things can go wrong (touchscreen and scanner) in so many ways.

    1. edmondo

      you are forgetting “the database” which seems to be under construction as we speak. The collation of the ballots, the transmission of results and finally the tabulation. The odds of all these working correctly are infinitesimal. Fortunately, there is no difference between the candidates other than the color of their ties, so it really doesn’t matter.

    2. Rod

      SC has adopted(Purchased this year for about $20M) the same system–blank ballot card taken to the BMD(Ballot Marking Device)–choose–hit Print–carry marked Ballot to Scanner–Scan Ballot–Pray–get sticker and atta boy/girl–leave it all to Trust.
      And we will be using brand new–as in not arrived yet or trained on–EVRLs(Electronic Voter Registration List) with paper Roles as back up.
      After 6 hrs of Poll Worker Training I have decided it is all more complicated than I thought and am sure i might now be qualified to hand out the “I Voted” stickers.
      The rules covering Absentee and Mail-In, along with issues around proving Identity, and associated Contingences require referencing written Protocal to ensure legitamacy.

      Every effort is made to ensure a vote can be caste–and maybe counted, legitimately. Internet Connectivity and Electricity required to enable everything.

  16. Ignacio

    RE: Covid-19: Do many people have pre-existing immunity? British Medical Journal. “A stream of studies that have documented SARS-CoV-2 reactive T cells in people without exposure to the virus are raising questions about just how new the pandemic virus really is, with many implications. At least six studies have reported T cell reactivity against SARS-CoV-2 in 20% to 50% of people with no known exposure to the virus…. Though these studies are small and do not yet provide precise estimates of pre-existing immunological responses to SARS-CoV-2, they are hard to dismiss, with several being published in Cell and Nature.”

    Let’s take that phrase in bold with a hold. Indeed the pandemic is totally new, do not get confused on that. Immunologists know from months ago there can be some cross-protection from common-cold betacoronavirus that are endemic in humans, but the degree and extent of protection is not known. I think the best population-level study of Ab cross reaction was done in CA. Then there is the special case of Southern Asia. It is quite possible that there might have been local sporadic exposure to SARS-CoV-2-like viruses of zoonotic origin there and it would be indeed very interesting to do extensive sero-typing in rural and non-rural populations. But there is no doubt that this pandemic is new, notwithstanding the making of SARS CoV 2 might have taken years but only the opportunity and casualness occurred somewhere there -not necessarily in the Wuhan market initially- in the second half of 2019.
    The article goes on with some speculations (nonsensical IMO) on whether in some places the pandemic got apparently controlled because cross-immunity. I don’t believe any of that.

      1. Ignacio

        IMO these are nonsensical because there is also cross-protection apparently not working the same in many other places where new cases are rising. Very much as with the BCG vaccine, some are putting too much weight in a factor they don’t control. Too speculative at this poin even to mention IMO.

      2. Clive

        We know a lot about how variable immune system responses are. Even for the same exposures. For my immune-related disease (keratoconus) there has been considerable research done on how, despite there being “generic markers” (susceptibility genes) every effort to map this into specific susceptibilities has failed. You’re left with, at best, a weak evidential link and, at worse, nothing better than correlation.

        Without a firmly established and repeatable mechanism demonstrating the precise nature of the immunology at work (or supposed to be at work) and if, as here, there’s no evidence to produce how such evidence is to be generated you’re left with a riddle inside an enigma — science-y click-bait, really.

        Nothing wrong with pushing the envelope and describing hoped-for avenues of research which may, with better research and better techniques, produce better understandings. But for me, when I read such things (and we can’t escape them but there’s a risk that so much noise and so little signal is counterproductive), I have to say “please, no more ‘raising questions’ unless there’s a reasonable possibility of actually answering those questions”.

  17. Fireship

    > Conservative women, who support Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, pray while touching the doors of the Court as Jacquelyn Booth cries on the ground, mourning the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    LoL. What a picture, what wackadoodles. I know the word “hysterical” is now considered sexist, but these women are really not doing the cause any favors. This should be used in history books that examine why America collapsed.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Conservative women? I thought that they were persistent Jehovah’s Witnesses. Either that or a bunch of loons that had not worked out yet that those doors open out. I still find it hard to believe that some of those Supreme Court Judges have their own fan clubs. That is not a healthy attitude to have in a democracy.

      1. Wukchumni

        The tyranny of distance being too much of a toil to walk among the spread out residences here, I haven’t seen a ‘Witness since LA, and if I had ample time before the knock on the door in spotting them, i’d cue up Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower on the stereo, amped up to 11 and set on repeat mode.

        When they attempted to persuade me that their religion had all the answers, i’d claim to be a Zoroastrian and inform them very nicely that my cult was a lot older than theirs, and would they be interested in joining me on the beach, sunbathing?

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          When I answer the door and see a nice pair of clean cut young men with white shirts and narrow black ties I usually say something like this:

          Me: If someone came to your door and asked you to change your religion, would you do it?

          Them: Um, err, uh, no probably not.

          Me: Now you know how I feel. Good day!

      2. Clem

        “Younger Conservative Catholic Justice = Terrible”

        “Old Jewishprudence Jacobin = Superb”

        In other words, religious bigotry enshrined as progress.

          1. Wukchumni

            We really need a pantheist who is in touch with the things that matter on this good earth-not an imaginary all powerful deity who answers to nobody and has no answers to the dilemma we find ourselves in.

            1. fresno dan

              September 27, 2020 at 1:22 pm

              Satanist? How about a little diversity?
              of course he/she may recuse him/her self as not being able to as satanically rule as the current bunch….

              1. hunkerdown

                They’re no less than 9 steps ahead of you, fresno dan. The creed of the Satanic Church is right out of Friedman.

            2. The Rev Kev

              I was going to say how about a follower of Cthulhu on the Supreme Court. But then I realized that as they believe in doing evil, that their judgements on the Supreme Court may be indistinguishable with most of the rest of the Justices.

        1. CitizenSissy

          Au contraire. By the time RBG hit the Supremes, she had a long track record striking down gender-related barriers for both men and women. Judge Barrett may very well have the cure for cancer, but anyone passing muster with the Federalist Society draws my immediate suspicion.

          As a regular churchgoer, I’m offended that what passes as “religious liberty” these days is actually license to jam one’s faith down the throats of the unwilling. For a lifetime appointment, a nominee should be able to handle questions of what motivates him/her whether Opus Dei, Church of Satan, Pastafarian, or whatever.

          1. hunkerdown

            But that’s what liberty has always meant: the right to trespass without due compensation or recourse. The casual everyday conflation with freedom, its near-opposite, is deliberate.

        2. Darius

          People should research her rulings. Matt Stoller has. Her record includes supporting and strengthening the corporate grip over society, against the interests of the working class.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Maybe the Dems who wanted to oppose this should have suggested RBG retire while Obama was in office…or, I dunno, maybe put up a candidate in 2016 who could beat a reality TV carnival barker with no prior experience in politics?

      3. hunkerdown

        Bourgeois democracy means democracy for the gentry only.

        Only direct democracy is a truly legitimate form of government.

    2. DJG

      Fireship: Epidemics are great levelers. I have a feeling that the current Feminism = Career, the stance of the upper middle class, and the Feminism = I Want the Benefits but Not to Say the Devilish Word, the stance of the lazy religious (and most Americans are lazily religious), cannot survive the pandemic. As Lambert Strether often writes here: Clarifying.

      Not to criticize, but instead of hysteria, I keep referring to panics. We are seeing panics and stampedes. It is what herds do.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        “Epidemics are great levelers”

        Very true. And threshers, as the stress they cause separates cultural wheat from chaff. And there’s a lot of cultural chaff in this society.

  18. Wukchumni

    Agricultural Time During a Pandemic Sierra
    Been an interesting summer in the orchard. We have a bear that has bent 9 foot poles quite demonstrably in the triangles with 6 feet of chicken wire that surround each tree on 5 or 6 of them, making off with all the unripe fruit as boo-boo couldn’t wait it out, for he was hungry, or the Arctic Star nectarine tree with 40 near ripe morsels one day, and not a one the next day. Part of me wants to erect a 9 foot high substantial fence around them ringed with concertina wire on top to thwart them, but it seems like a lot of work. Bruins gotta take their tithe.

    1. HotFlash

      Here in the city we have the little bears, raccoons. I figure they were here first, but had a lousy immigration policy. I give them what they really prefer (cheap dog food) and they leave my tomatoes alone. Haven’t tried melons in years, and haven’t figured out how to raccoon-proof a chicken coop, but doing OK with the produce. They let me have most (well, enough) of the mulberries, apples, and currants; the slugs get all the strawberries and the robins get all the chokecherries. Everybody gotta eat, and they don’t let those guys into Freshco. I also get all of the currants, zucchini, and kale. We are all in this together.

  19. David

    The crisis in Lebanon (the political one, not the financial one or the reconstruction one) has gone off the radar of the anglophone media recently. But, as of yesterday, the crisis that most people assumed couldn’t get any worse, just did.

    After the explosion in the port on 4 August, public fury brought about the fall of the then government. After a lot of international pressure, and as a concession to the disgust felt by the people for its corrupt ruling class, the task of forming a new government was given to Mustapha Adib, an outsider, an academic by profession and former Ambassador to Berlin, who had been the Directeur du Cabinet for Najib Mikati when he was Prime Minister earlier in the decade.
    On 1 September, during a visit by President Macron, the various political parties (he saw all the main ones) agreed to form an independent government of presumably capable people. For the last few weeks, Adib has been trying to do this. Yesterday, he gave up, and told President Aoun, that he was handing back his mandate.

    There are general and specific reasons for this catastrophe, since that is what it is. The general reason is the confessional-based political system, which in turn reflects the confessional-based social system which has endured for centuries. Political parties often resemble Mafia families, even to the extent of retaining their own militias. Every few years, the leaders, who can actually have quite good business relationships with each other, come together in different combinations to form a new government to steal from the people. Such a system thinks in terms of extracting the maximum short-term advantage (usually financial) from any given political situation, and is headed by wealthy individuals with second passports and most of their assets overseas. (Hezbollah is a complicated exception). Political reforms of the kind that the international community wants (and many Lebanese demand) are simply incompatible with this system, which is why the current generation of leaders, for all their fine words, won’t accept them. So the reaction of all the parties to the breakdown of the attempt to form a government has been to blame each other.

    On this occasion, though, there is a special factor. Under the Lebanese system, laws and decrees have to be agreed by the President (a Maronite) the Prime Minister (a Sunni) and the Finance Minister. In principle, that Ministry, like all the others, is supposed to rotate among different groups. The Shia parties (Amal and Hezbollah) have controlled the Ministry since 2014, and should normally hand it over now. But Naib Berry, Speaker of Parliament and the country’s most powerful Shia politician, whose Amal party had the portfolio, refused to give it up. There are a number of reasons for this, including the obvious power it gives them, and the ability to block investigations into alleged Iranian funding. Adib offered to let the Shia keep the portfolio if the parties let him name an independent figure, but they insisted on it being someone nominated by them. Stalemate. It is being suggested that the Shia parties are playing it long, hoping to profit either from a change of government in Washington or total confusion after the election, or both, which will reduce the pressure on them.

    But it’s not clear that the country has that long. The economy is in free fall, and the Lebanese Pound, historically pegged at about 1500 to the dollar, was reported this morning to be trading unofficially at 8000. In a country where almost everything is imported, this is a disaster. (Ironically, one of the reasons for the 2019 protests was the high cost of living).

    Lebanese politicians are used to doing what foreigners say. They have been subject to enormous pressure from the international community, and especially the French. Macron, for once, has done something worthwhile, and even the professional anti-neocolonialists have been pretty quiet. He’s due to make a statement tonight. The problem is that there are not really many worthwhile levers to use against the Shia leaders. With the radically reduced influence of Syria, the Shia look to Iran, and the Iranians probably don’t feel like doing anyone any favours. Moreover they don’t owe the French anything because the latter have been almost as hostile as the US. If something doesn’t give soon, the country will start to come apart, with disastrous consequences for the region. I’m not sure this is what the Iranians want (frankly, I think very few people do know) but it may be that they don’t see why they should put themselves out to stop it. The Axis of Resistance is a big part of their regional policy, but they might be satisfied with a de facto partition of the country, with a Shia para-state beholden to them. In which case, a hundred years after the attempt to divide up the Ottoman Empire, first into mandates and then western-style states, we’ll be back where we started.

    1. Olga

      It is hard to understand the current situation in Lebanon, without considering developments since 1916, including the Sykes-Picot agreement. Under the Ottomans, there was no Lebanon, but there was a region referred to as Greater Syria. It included the area that we now call Lebanon.
      Once the Ottomans fell, the region was divided up – mostly according to UK’s wishes, with a few bones thrown the way of France. Liban was one such bone. Never mind that – as in may other regions that the west divided – religious, ethnic, tribal, and most other ties were simply ignored (or, possibly worse, overlooked on purpose).
      What we see today in Lebanon is simply chickens coming home to roost. An unsustainable geographic and political entity is imploding because the contradictions cannot be papered over anymore. With the economy stripped to bare bones, there is nowhere for the majority (who are ‘unwealthy’) to turn. Not much of a surprise.
      Add to it geo-political games and posturing, and we have a calamity with no solution on our hands. The west is not blameless here, though some would claim otherwise. (As is stated here:, “[h]he U.S. has been using the same tired strategy against Lebanon: Washington didn’t create corruption and sectarianism, but it has sponsored and supported the bulk of the sectarian and corrupt ruling class in Lebanon. And when those corrupt politicians have faced public demands for prosecution, the U.S. has shielded them.”)
      I don’t quite understand the statement “The problem is that there are not really many worthwhile levers to use against the Shia leaders.” What does this mean? Why would one want to use ‘levers’ against Shia leaders? Which Shia leaders? Do you mean the Party of God? Is that an implication that Shia are the problem?
      The Shia have been and are a part of the region – so how can a section of the indigenous population be called “a problem?” Or is the problem that the Shia (including the Amal movement) will not accept western machinations for the region?
      Also not sure that their influence in Syria has been reduced. What is the assertion based on? It seems, on the contrary, without the PoG, which directed major battles in Syria, the influence would be stronger, not weaker.
      And this is not even touching the Belt and Road Initiative and the under-the-radar ‘battle of ports.’ (Apparently, the recent “peace” agreements dislodged BRI from the Port of Haifa. And with the destruction of the Beirut port, choices for BRI are narrowing (but may add more significance for a Syrian port.))
      In other words, a very complicated situation that defies simplistic explanations, but must be seen in the historical context and also the current geopolitics.

      1. David

        Levers are required against the Shia leaders, as I explained because they (this seems to be largely Berry) are obstructing the route to the settlement agreed by all parties on 1 September, and thus the potential formation of an independent government of experts, which may not be ideal, but is being demanded by much of the Lebanese people. All countries are victims of their history to some extent, but nothing forces the Lebanese ruling class to behave as they do. Refreshingly, this time, reports suggest that the leaders are actually starting to realise the scale of the problem, and that blaming everything, yet again, on external influence isn’t going to work any more.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Thanks for that David. I saw mention of that on the news last night and wondered what would come next. I can’t help but think that Macron wants to put people in that are friendly to France and the local oligarchs are united in their opposition to that. It sounds like Lebanon may be going into the third stage of Orlov’s Five Stages of Collapse which if it went no further would be at least tolerable. Russia was there in the 90s but they came back from it-

      1. David

        The local oligarchs are only united in search of power and money, and by competition for support from abroad. They are sometimes seen as effectively local agents for foreign interests. This was especially blatant during the Syrian occupation, but it’s endemic. You may recall the previous PM Saad Hariri being summoned to Riyadh a couple of years ago and told he was resigning- he even made a resignation speech on Saudi TV. He unresigned later, and nobody seems to have thought the worse of him: it’s what you do. I’m actually very pessimistic about Lebanon: the political and social system makes rivalry much more attractive than compromise. The situation is far gone already, and arguably worse than in 1975 before the war, although thankfully there is little sign of conflict at the moment.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for this excellent overview, David. Given its geographical gifts, Lebanon could be a wonderful country, but it seems doomed to be forever a plaything of domestic and international oligarchs. You allude to it, but I think a key problem for Lebanon is that so many Lebanese with any power and influence has a foot in another land, nearly everyone seems to be a dual passport holder. They don’t, in other words, have skin in the game as a famous Lebanese would put it.

      The only hope I think is that the traditional power families realise that they need to step back a little if it isn’t to completely fall apart, pulling everyone with it. Sometimes, like an addict, a country needs to hit rock bottom before it gets its act together. But for that to happen, for once Lebanon will have to have a good dose of luck.

    4. Ignacio

      Thank you David. Today the press in Spain is covering the issue very much on the lines of what you have written here. I know you don’t like to put too much to US influence but I’ve read that one of the factors that made it difficult to reach an agreement is that the US imposed economic sanctions to some of the Hezbollah leaders. It seems that if there is any possibility to do anything remotely sensible there is someone in and outside the country that will do it’s best to block it.

      1. David

        Yes, I didn’t want to write a long treatise and you are right of course that US policy on Hezbollah has played a part in provoking the current crisis. US stupidity has pushed Hezbollah into a situation where it is mainly concerned with its own survival. But even so, it could, and should, have played a better hand here. How far the Iranians are behind the present hard line is something I honestly don’t know.

  20. Carolinian

    Er, Fox is not free after you pay 100 dollars a month for cable TV (I decline). Whereas you don’t have to know many internet tricks to get all the free NYT and WaPo you want (don’t want much of that either).

    Given the overwhelming importance of the internet now I doubt any of the above outlets are as dominant as they once were. Indeed it sometimes seems as though our national newspapers are trying to become blogs rather than the other way around. Their real power is that they are read and believed by the powerful.

    1. Pat

      If internet access counts your argument about Fox News collapses. You don’t need tricks to access Fox News clips on the internet. Nor for most of the more Fox News like newspapers from the former Murdoch empire.

      1. trhys

        I don’t know about anyone else, but in good old northeast Ohio it costs me $60/mo through the local cable provider to get decent stand-alone internet access.

        1. ambrit

          It’s the same here in the Deep South. Here it’s $52.95 USD per month now. Not very ‘special’ service either.
          Telecoms in America are a true racket.
          I remember after Katrina reading about the French Quarter setting up a stand alone free public wireless network to access the internet. It took about a year for the experiment, which was wildly successful to be shut down by City Hall.
          See, corruption as usual:
          Recent developments:

        2. Pat

          Not discounting that. Seriously.

          Just pointing out that supposedly easy access to the Times and Washington Post, also involves multiple subscription gate keeping and thus is not any easier than for Fox News.

          One thing that is missing for many today that once helped Fox was that for decades Fox News was the channel of choice on the television in many gathering places.

          Propaganda has been being raining down on Americans for decades from the supposedly different ideological outlets. We can argue the effectiveness of it all we want, but one thing that cannot has been how well Murdoch used the access he was given by Conservatives and NeoConservatives well everywhere. He also expanded on that opening extremely well. The cell phone controversy in Britain may have led to some restructuring, but it barely put a dent in it here. The neoliberals have been playing catch up, And still are even if media consolidation has solidified theIr effort. Different ownership with multiple profit considerations still hamper them in re propaganda.

      2. Carolinian

        You’ve got me there as I’ve never tried it. Still, like you say, you need an internet connection which these days is increasingly expensive as the cable tv folks smell the coffee and see that the world is turning toward streaming.

        I guess my only (minor) point is that news media in general have lost the power they had when the news consisted of three networks that everyone could get with a pair of rabbit ears. Those nightly news shows had far greater ratings than any of today’s cable news networks.

        Which is why I think the point cited up in Links is a bit silly. NYT’s paywall is not holding back the left or giving an opening to the right

        1. Carolinian

          More. It’s not about access. It’s about the public silo-ing themselves.

          Overwhelmingly in America, only Democratic Party information-sources are trusted by Democrats, and only Republican information-sources are trusted by Republicans. Each side distrusts the other’s information-sources. Gallup’s news-report aptly noted the important fact that “This plays into the political polarization in the U.S. national discourse.” The more prejudiced a population are, the more polarized it will be. Of course, one would expect this to be the case, but Gallup has now found striking new empirical evidence for it — that the public’s closed-mindedness is greatly increasing America’s political polarization. Each side is craving propaganda instead of truth, but each side’s voters want only the type of propaganda that is funded by the billionaires who also fund that side’s politicians and control that side’s ‘news’ media. Consequently, American politics is controlled by the conflict between liberal billionaires versus conservative billionaires — totally controlled by billionaires (instead of by the public). There is the liberal herd, and the conservative herd, but they’re both herds — not by the public in an actual democracy. And each of these two herds is controlled by its shepherd, who are its billionaires. (Here is how that’s done.) Billionaires control each Party and thereby control the Government. This is why the Government ignores the preferences of America’s public. As will be shown here, the September 11th Gallup findings help to explain how and why that results.

        2. hunkerdown

          It’s designed to segment by class. Particular classes need to take particular postures. The mass needs to be kept exploitable. Public media’s purpose for millennia has been to facilitate that condition.

          Therefore, the poors are driven to the right and made to identify with the interests of the ruling class through the continuous exudate of those ideals and talking points, and their reinforcement in small talk. Liberal thinking, in the great Roman tradition, is still not to be taught to the slaves.

      3. apleb

        Yes but so does the very stupid argument on twitter. CNN you can access from the Internet (that costs money) as well. MSNBC too I guess.
        So they are all free or non-free in the same way.
        Same for papers I don’t see a free subscription of Wallstreet journal or online access to its content either or whatever the republicans have as their main press outlet.

        1. Carolinian

          The Times and the Post have leaky paywalls on purpose. If nothing else you can go to your local library as most have subscriptions and you can use wifi to read those sites til the cows come home.

          Sites like WSJ and FT really do expect you to pay and are harder to access.

  21. IMOR

    Noonan piece: Forecast is for reversion to complete lack of identified agency with scattered opacity surrounding errors of fact.

  22. Rod

    How to drive investment into sustainable infrastructure World Economic Forum

    The Last two Paragraphs(bold mine)
    Stays very clear of anything ROI–monetary or moralistic.

    That’s why we need as much stakeholder involvement as possible. We already have fantastic involvement from major financial institutions, asset managers and governments. But the more voices we have in FAST-Infra, the more we can work together to solve sustainable infrastructure finance challenges and make this initiative a success. Treat this blog as a call to action – if you are interested in sustainable infrastructure, if you are keen to develop an emerging asset class, and if you are conscious of the desperate need to do more to fight climate change, then please consider adding your energy to FAST-Infra.

    In the long-term, this isn’t just about infrastructure. It’s about establishing a template for cooperation that can be applied to other asset classes and sustainable projects. The broad range of market participants don’t naturally work together – the lifeblood of our industry is competition, after all – but on this occasion I believe doing so will create an opportunity to generate economic growth and combat climate change.

    imo–Co Operation, NOT Competition is what gets us a future.

    imo–WEF should be saying—You will be doing the right thing and the Earth will be healthier for it, but do not expect to make Money hand over fist by doing the right thing.

  23. Rod

    Why we need water futures MarketWatch (dk). Paging Michael Burry.

    so i am presupposing this is about The Scarcity before I click, but no:

    Investors will be able to make wagers on the price of water later this year with the launch of futures contracts, which are expected to better balance supply and demand for the commodity and hedge price risks.

    “The water sector had long wished for some market structure for price discovery and the ability to hedge risk,” says Deane Dray , a managing director and multi-industry analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “If this new futures contract shows promise, it could spawn more innovation in the futures market related to water.”

    What is wrong with me that i can’t think this way first??

    1. Olga

      What is wrong with you is that you’ve simply not evolved into a homos capitalisticos – a very specific, yet deviant, strain in the development of homo sapiens. The predominant feature is that it sees everything- including life itself – as an opportunity to monetise it and earn a profit.

  24. DJG

    I am shocked, shocked, shocked that this PG-13 blog would post the private moments of our octopodi friends.

    It sure seems to me that one of the octopodi (I’ll call him O) is using his hectocotylus.

    A date? A mere date? Where are the chocolates and the cut flowers?

    Unfortunately, in many species of octopus, once the female lays and tends the eggs, but before their hatching, she will die. The females often cease feeding, which leads to malnutrition and starvation. In some species, this period of decline can be quite long. The evolutionary argument is that octopodi are cannibalistic, so the brain shuts off certain cues to avoid having mom eat the kids. [Freudian!]

    Such is love, O fellow members of the commentariat! Luckily, I am a great fan of the writer Colette, and I recommend her work to you if you want to study the melancholy side of l’amour.

    1. furies

      No need to study at this juncture.

      All the time wasted on *lerrrrrvvvvvv*, I could have been doing something useful.

      And I should have damn well eaten my young.

      Walt Disney did a number on us, man.

    2. fresno dan

      September 27, 2020 at 12:30 pm,in%20modern%20usage%2C%20it's%20wrong.

      Say it loud and say it proud: OctoPUSES.
      The plural of Octopus.
      Not to be confused with the classic – or maybe not all that classical – James Bond feature: Octopussy
      And I can’t say I ever saw the movie, so I never got the connection between the villain and Octopuses…if there was one – unless it was an eight armed cat…

      1. ambrit

        You’re being disingenuous here Fresno Dan. I, being of low status and class, have always taken the title of the book and later film to be a reverence to a plethora of toothed second orifices, as per Freud.
        Look up the life of Ian Fleming, the author of the original stories. His real lifestyle, up until his mid-life marriage, was just like his fictional security agent’s. There are rumours that he and his wife practiced an “open marriage” arrangement.

    3. Olga

      Colette’s books were helpful in my teenage years. Would be interesting to re-read her now, with a lifetime of experiences (good and bad).

  25. DJG

    The antidote to the Peggy Noonan column, which makes it sound as if People of Praise is some informal group that gets together each week to pray the rosary and contemplate the Sorrowful Mysteries (let alone the Political Mysteries).

    We are not dealing with Catholic observance, nor are we dealing with the folk and cultural Catholicism that so many of us lapsed/lapsed types still know and understand.

    Here is some information from the Jesuits.

    Yep, the Jezzies. The supposed intellectuals of the Church.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Very interesting link. I wonder what good Catholic Pete, also of South Bend, knows about the People of Praise.

    2. ChrisAtRU

      As a former Catholic high school attendee, the nitpick here is that Jezzies are considered “the soldiers of the Church” … ;-) In the house system typically used in Catholic schools (to group classes across grades, as it were), the nerds usually end up in the House of Aquinas. And in case anyone’s wondering, there isn’t an actual order named for the great theologian himself. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican … ;-)

    3. a different chris

      This cracks me up. Or makes me contemplate my wrists, maybe both:

      > She added that she would “never impose my own personal convictions upon the law.”

      What is a conviction if your don’t practice it in your freaking profession? Give. Me. A. Break.

      I dislike her “convictions” but my real low regard for her is in claiming to not even follow them.

      This is like me working for a racist boss and being racist at work because of it but not “in my personal life”.

  26. Terry Flynn

    I just wanted to encourage people to support the site….. I have made “unhelpful” comments in the past for which I’m sorry. I’ve taken time to re-evaluate and was rewarded yesterday. A random comment I expected to die sparked a long really interesting conversation thread – and my only regret was not timing it so amfortas the hippie was online to add to it! I still don’t entirely understand moderation….. But Yves herself has said it can be odd! My thoughts on one of today’s topics (UK covid app) are minor but I hope they lead to more discussion.

    Here’s hoping random links continue to spawn cool chats! Thanks all.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I believe comments tend to spawn a thread if they come early in the day. I like to believe comments without response are not unread but stand on there own. There is nothing more to add. As for the ways of Skynet in moderating comments … they are mysterious. If you believed you understood Skynet you should worry for your sanity. I don’t recall any “unhelpful” comments you’ve made in the past. But I seldom hesitate to comment back at comments I find “unhelpful”. I believe a comment from the heart, “unhelpful” or not is better than no comment. Truly felt comments not made are like questions not asked. [The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.]

    1. UserFriendly

      Yeah, but what that misses is the effect that the cops sherking has had. Mid-way through this article there is a bit about what a few blocks have done to get drug dealers to go away since the cops aren’t responding. Granted one person says when the cops did respond all they did was shoo them off and they came back 15 min later.

  27. Jeremy Grimm

    “Cloth Masks to reduce COVID19 transmission”
    This is a good review of cloth masks and issues related to their fit. Reading it made me search out a source I found several months ago at the National Academies of Science publications site [] “Reusability of Facemasks During an Influenza Pandemic: Facing the Flu (2006)”. Chapter 2 of this publication “Characteristics of Respirators and Medical Masks” covers many of the same issues of fit, materials, and effectiveness reviewed in today’s link.

    However — re-reading the Findings and Recommendations:
    p. 52
    “With adequate time and planning, stockpiling or ramping up production, or both, would ensure that there would be enough respirators or medical masks for all those who may need them, but with limited resources and time, supplies are likely to be insufficient. Thus, reality may require that disposable N95 respirators and medical masks be pushed beyond their approved uses in the hope that they can offer some level of protection beyond their intended limits of use. Moreover, individuals with no access to respirators or masks, even disposables, may feel driven to invent their own respiratory protection measures; for example, they may don woven masks not approved for medical uses in the United States, or use household items such as towels or sheets.”

    This was written in 2006. Deja vu all over again. I guess what research money the Government spends buys a lot of the best management talent available from our best Business Schools.

  28. Wukchumni

    Torah! Torah! Torah!
    Leaks show Chelsea owner Abramovich funded Israeli settler group Guardian

    1. ambrit

      I’ve seen it translated as “Tigger, Tigger, Tigger.”
      I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that it would be best for all concerned if we just [family blogged militarily] Jerusalem.

  29. Wukchumni

    Freezing bodies for ‘reanimation’ in China and why the country’s cryonics tech has the potential to leapfrog the West South China Morning Post
    I’m not really enamored with the idea of being reanimated, and just how many minutes of defrost in the microwave are we talking about here?

    1. a different chris

      How awful if great-great-grandnephew is thawing you out and then he gets a personal call or something happens in the background Sportsball game and thus loses concentration until it’s too late? Quiet Death->Frozen->Alive->Burning Horribly->Dead Again.

      The type of people that think they should be brought back would deserve it, however.

    2. LifelongLib

      IIRC people have been cryogenically frozen in the U.S. since the 60s, but I’ve never heard that reviving any of them was ever even attempted.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      Suppose the frozen dream perchance and through their dreams experience a purgatory for their sins in unfrozen life. Will the reanimated return to life to unmake the miseries they crafted in their life before the cold?

    4. The Rev Kev

      If society ever breaks down, then all those frozen people would suddenly become a valuable commodity – as a source of long pig.

      1. Wukchumni

        I’m hoping there will still be plenty of delicious 6 & 8 legged insects around if we get to that stage, and if society did come a cropper and there was an election to ‘pick’ a leader, would one of the candidates slogans be:

        ‘Yes We Cannibal!’

  30. antidlc


    Franken Grills Judicial Nominee About Payment From “Hate Group”

    Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asks Donald Trump’s judicial nominee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals about her taking money from the Alliance Defending Freedom – a group that advocates for discrimination against LGBT people for religious reasons. Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett received money from the group for giving a presentation to the Blackstone program, which she is familiar with, and says she wasn’t aware of ADF’s policies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified ADF as a hate group. Coney Barrett says she doesn’t think ADF is a hate group because it is part of a lawsuit before the US Supreme Court.

    1. antidlc

      Follow-up question:

      What does it mean to be a past faculty member of the Blackson Legal Fellowship?

      Do you become a faculty member simply by giving a presentation to the group, or is there more to it than that?

      News release from Alliance Defending Freedom:

      As Augustine cogently noted, “Moral character is not assessed by what a man knows, but by what he loves.” And while ideas have consequences, people change cultures. Accordingly, Alliance Defending Freedom extends Blackstone Legal Fellowship faculty invitations only to a select “dream team” of well-formed scholarly professors and practitioners who fit and exemplify these rigorous, though timeless, criteria. These men and women instruct not simply by their lectures, their writings, and their resumes, but by their very lives – lives joyfully and challengingly imparted during the Blackstone Legal Fellowship to the next generation of leaders in law and policy. In this way, iron truly sharpens iron.

      Past faculty members have included:

      Professor Helen M. Alvaré, George Mason University School of Law

      Professor Hadley Arkes, Amherst College

      Dr. John S. Baker, Jr., Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University

      Donald E. Cardon, Cardon Development Group & Cardon Global

      Professor Amy Coney Barrett, University of Notre Dame Law School

    2. antidlc

      DeSantis’ appointee to Florida Supreme Court belongs to Christian group using law to ‘spread the Gospel’

      Both times Grosshans applied to the state’s high court, she left out some details on her application: specifically her membership in the Alliance Defending Freedom, her work as a Blackstone Fellow, a prestigious but secretive national award that trains rising star lawyers in the conservative teachings of the Alliance Defending Freedom, and her 2011 work with Orlando attorney John Stemberger to prevent a young woman from having an abortion.

      The article also states that Alliance Defending Freedom::

      It trains lawyers and funds cases on abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues. Notably, the group represented the petitioner in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case where a Colorado baker refused to serve a gay couple, and the petitioner in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the birth control mandate in employee-funded health plans was unconstitutional.

  31. Wukchumni

    Yikes, a new conflagration named the Glass Fire has broke out in Napa and is over 1,000 acres already, with high heat and crazy winds forecast over the next few days…

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Glass fire? How did it gain the name Glass? I hope the substance Glass was not the name’s source. I remain hopelessly enamored of glass.

    2. ewmayer

      Very strange, though – the really high-heat part of the latest heat wave didn’t start until today, but the Glass fire apparently broke out at 4am, coolest part of the night. I’ll be interested to hear what sparked it.

  32. Glen

    That Iot coffee maker story is a bit of a laugh. The last thing I want to do is bring “smart” appliances into my house.

    The last time I got hit by this we had bought a bathroom scale that also could read percentage of body fat, but only via your smart phone with an app that you had to download and create a user account to run. F that $hit. So we use it as a scale.

    Actually, I should check to see if somebody hacked it already so the app is no longer necessary. Hacking stuff has definitly become more of a thing. The last CRT based TV I bought I figured out that you could get into the Maintenance menu, and turn on all the features the manufacturer had turned off in order to market it as a “lower end” model.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Every time I read about IoT I suffer flashbacks to the old Twilight Zone “A Thing About Machines” and the joke about the talking elevator.

      1. RMO

        What worries me is the possibility that in the near future there will be whole categories products which will ONLY be available with IoT garbage crammed into them. At that point I’ll need to either invest time and money into repairing older items or invest time and money in stripping the IoT parasites out of new stuff. I can see why companies want to push this stuff onto the market as it gives them considerable control over their customers, can instantly obsolete something and thus make the customers buy a new one and they can monetize all the information that gets collected. What amazes me are the people who actually find this stuff desirable. “Cool! I can control it through an app on my phone!” Yeah, that’s so much better than just pushing a button on the device like you had to in the old days.

        I have a related fear that by the time I need to replace my current car I won’t be able to buy one that doesn’t use a screen for the primary instrument display. I’ve given up hope on their being cars available with no screens at all in the near future, but I can live with one for the wretchedly-named “infotainment” area in the middle of the dash – as long as they still give me a physical volume control and physical climate controls. Having a screen right in front of me with the primary displays (eg. speedometer, tach, odometer, coolant and oil temperature, various idiot lights etc.) will drive me nuts though. I find looking at a screen enervating somehow. Even when the screen just had a simple, clean layout which emulated the mechanical analog dials I’m used to I find them tiring, probably because I always have a subconscious strain as my eyes can tell that things aren’t what they appear to be. Most of the cars I’ve rented or borrowed with screens unfortunately compound the problem in that they tend to be cluttered and garish.

  33. Wukchumni

    President Trump has reiterated his request that Biden and him do a drug test prior to their Tuesday debate, and what would be more telling in their performance were both to partake in: LSD, ecstasy, ‘shrooms, or the whole troika?

    1. CarlH

      LSD with ecstasy used to be called candy flipping, while mushrooms and ecstasy was called hippy flipping. Not sure what all three together would be called, but wow.

    2. ambrit

      Is he trying to catch Biden microdosing on LSD in order to sharpen his cognitive abilities, as is favoured by “elite” college students? That could be a real possibility.
      Them rich and famous folks, they don’t play by the rules as we know them.

      1. Wukchumni

        Joe strikes me as more of quaaludes kind of guy back in the day, hitting the disco floor in his Angel’s Flight suit.

        1. ambrit

          True that. Then repairing to the “Men’s Room” to do a popper or two to get his mojo back on track.
          The trouble with this idea is that, at that level of “influence,” one can always find an “amenable” physician to prescribe anything one, or, more significantly, one’s ‘handlers,’ desire. (Dr. Jill does not count. The wrong kind of Doctor.)

    1. AnonyMouse

      Yes, yes, I know nothing moves the dial on Trump anymore… that cake is baked.

      But I reckon a lot of people are going to be thinking to themselves: “Hang on a minute, I paid more than $750 in income tax over the last decade…”

      It maddens me that so many shrug this sort of thing off with “well, of course rich people avoid taxes.” As if there’s literally nothing that could possibly be done about it.

      1. howseth

        Trump’s $750 taxes a year …and the $0 for more than 10 years, must say something about the tax code – and rich people’s real estate accounting benefits. Is this depreciation credit? How can anyone not find this infuriating? The Grifter-in-Chief. Codified by law. The Federal stamp of approval. I’m just about to get a mite bit cynical about our lawmakers.
        However, it’s what we should have expected. It is, of course, what we expected.
        Appropriately, Today is the anniversary of the publication of Einsteins 1905 paper with it’s famous equation on taxes: Dirt poor = filthy rich².

      2. ChrisAtRU

        But I reckon a lot of people are going to be thinking to themselves …

        I still don’t think it elicits the kind of visceral reaction the NYT might be going for here. People have seen/heard that (many) corporations pay little/zero taxes a lot during the last two election cycles (#ThxBernie). Since Trump is a business man, I am sure many of his supporters would say he deserves to have his taxes offset by his losses. How does this play in Scranton?

        It maddens me that so many shrug this sort of thing off …

        My shrug is for the NY Times thinking it can move the needle with this. I’m also skeptical about the way taxing the rich is positioned because of #MMT. Telegraphing that the US can pay for things by taxing the rich is the wrong approach. As others have pointed out, it basically supports the need for society to have billionaires, so they can be taxed. I like to point out that we should tax billionaires to reduce their ability to disproportionately acquire/consume resources better used by the commons and to reduce inequality.

        I’m old enough to remember this:
        – A 2020 Democrat presidential candidate who proposed a wealth tax and higher marginal tax rates
        – A different 2020 Democrat presidential candidate who said, “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.”

        You know who won, right? And guess what else? The folks at the top are all like Trump in terms of using the tax system to their advantage – regardless of their political affiliation.

        1. AnonyMouse

          Hi Chris,

          In many ways I agree with you… it is wishful thinking to believe that anyone is going to change their votes based on this. The true believers might actually think it’s “fake news”, whereas plenty of others will be able to inculcate themselves against that by simply thinking “well, Biden’s done worse / they’re all at it / we knew this already, it just proves he’s smart” etc. But they are certainly going for the angle of personal outrage by heading up with that headline figure, which as some have pointed out is almost insultingly small. Like paying “a pathetic $102” – if it’s zero income tax, people might see it as the fairly standard behaviour that it is under our system.

          With respect to the MMT argument, yes, if you ascribe to MMT then, as I understand it, taxes serve two primary functions. The first would be to set a brake on inflation by destroying money, removing it from the economy. The second is, broadly, re-distributive in some sense or another; penalising “bad behaviour” and encouraging “good behaviour”, whatever that means. Which of course does mean that if MMT was widely understood/accepted there would be another, perhaps more difficult, argument to be made about taxes purely as a form of redistribution and redistribution as virtuous and necessary, rather than a framing where “everyone pays their fare share” towards general maintenance and upkeep of the state.

          But, that said, even under an MMT framing, billionaires and the wealthy avoiding paying taxes in this way is evidently not a good or justifiable thing. As long as it happens, taxes can’t serve purpose #2 and redistribute wealth to counteract all of the forces that tend to concentrate wealth at the top. This sort of avoidance is part of that picture. And, of course, if you view the role of taxes as helping to fight inflation, then that burden is disproportionately falling on those with lower incomes, just as neoclassical econ leaves some % of people in a state of permanent unemployment to also help fight inflation. On this I’m sure we’d agree… it just requires a bit of sleight of hand so you’re no longer talking in terms of “but he doesn’t pay to build any roads”.

          As for everyone wealthy, regardless of political affiliation, being at the same tactics… of course. That’s why people have personal accountants. But, again, the fact that this is widely acknowledged – that, to most people, the Trump tax returns are hardly shocking at all, despite the political necessity of feigning outrage – is still maddening. Maybe if people did get slightly more deranged on the subject, rather than just treating it like “the way of the world”, about which absolutely nothing can be done, those Biden remarks might just be disqualifying. I don’t know.

          1. ChrisAtRU

            Understood, and concur. There’s a tough road to hoe with getting the purpose of taxes understood in a fiat world. There’s more to it when you incorporate the mythology of the “business man” as “job creator”. There’s an untrue and unhealthy deification of “business success” in the US and everywhere capitalism permeates that flips the script on the power of the state. As I like to say, almost everyone regardless of economic station can participate in deciding who gets to run the state – caveats for voter suppression and disenchantment. Most of us do not get to decide who runs corporations. That’s what makes our current pluto-kleptocracy maddening. The people we elect to run the state allow the power to do public good to be usurped by corporate interests. People should get mad about Trump, not because his taxes are another chapter in the #OrangeManBad saga, but because it should be further proof that the system designed and upheld by both sides of the political duopoly allows tremendous concessions to the wealthy.

      1. ChrisAtRU

        You can probably Google it … where Trump uses “losses”, people like Obama would use “philanthropy”.

    2. Glen

      What rich people pay are supposed to pay TAXES? That’s SHOCKING! I thought they were treated almost as good as corporations that pay negative taxes.

      A new report reveals that some American companies didn’t just pay no taxes last year — they paid negative taxes.

      If only someone wanted to make America great again, and raise taxes back up to 90% just like they had when America was great:

      Davos laughs at AOC tax proposals

      1. anon

        Given that anyone leaking tax information is committing a felony, how does the NYT differ from Julian Assange?

        1. Glen

          Good question – I would not know, but given that Assange is not a US citizen, and not in the US, how did he break US law?

          1. Glen

            I am not a lawyer, all I can find is something like this:

            Other laws where Congress may have implicitly provided for extraterritorial jurisdiction include:
            – Conspiracy charges in which someone living abroad conspired to commit a crime in the United States
            – Attempt charges in which someone overseas attempts to commit a crime in the United States while living abroad
            – Theft of federal property overseas
            – Counterfeiting American money or forging federal documents overseas
            – Killing a foreign national abroad with the intent of facilitating a domestic criminal enterprise
            – Money laundering

            But it also goes back to something like the Pentagon papers. Taking classified documents was illegal, but publishing them was not per this Supreme Court case:


            I don’t know.

  34. darms

    I take issue w/your Russiagate links, esp the MOA one. I’ve been reading Marcy at emptywheel for quite a few years now. She & her fellows (esp. bmaz) know what they are talking about and when she says this Lindsey Graham ‘revelation’ is yet more nothing I tend to side w/her over “b” who has yet to retract or explain his denial of the Novichok attack on Alexei Navalny which seems to have been accepted as true by all other media reports I have come across.FWIW..

    1. CarlH

      You have obviously not been frequenting this site much if you site Emptywheel and Navalny (or anything involving Novichock) with a straight face. Emptywheel? Whoo boy.

        1. hunkerdown

          Intelligence agents and officials are paid to lie and subvert. The Iron Law of Institutions does not spare them office politics; they too need to make themselves look necessary and if that’s at the expense of those they’ll never meet, who cares. Their statements should never be taken at face value, let alone as fact.

          There have been numerous explications of the ridiculous plot holes in Western narratives. One of the biggest is that the stupidest, least beneficial, most vicious acts, somehow maximally calculated to pander to the conditioned Western sentiments, always seem to happen within a week or two after the evil bad baddie guy with extra bad sauce makes some decisive move in the diplomatic sphere the West doesn’t happen to like. They’re almost always preceded by stories pre-orienting the public to expect the narrative and not question the weak but ostensibly dispositive vial of washing powder or unsuitable chlorine tanks when they finally turn up, and further by movements of resources and weapons toward whatever the eventual target of the action they’re trying to sell is going to be.

          Why is this happening now? Why am I hearing about this now? These are questions that make a lot more sense when you see the mainstream media as designed, mind-numbing noise. A bit of recent Mirowski will help you get up to speed on that if you require.

          Finally, if you haven’t been around for a while, you might not be aware that this blog was nominated as Russian propaganda by PropOrNot, like many other bloggers whose only crime was failing to worship the neoliberal Democrat establishment with sufficient alacrity and repeat their narrative. If you actually believe in the “Russia bad” narrative, why would you be a reader?

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Simple question for The Man Who Would Be King: What was the purpose of the $3.5 million wire transfer to your son Hunter from the wife of the mayor of Moscow? (The wire transfer is recorded in the ledgers of the central bank of the U.S. so its existence is not in question).

            A few answers that should disqualify him from consideration for the highest office in the land:

            1. There was no wire transfer
            2. I don’t know, you’d have to ask him
            3. Nobody has ever suggested there was ever any wrongdoing (his current favorite answer, depending on the day)

            Can I just point out the delicious irony of the fact that Team D told us in the most unequivocal language that Russians buying influence was the most pernicious possible thing in the known universe? Your move, Dem’s

      1. darms

        apology accepted. I don’t come here often but I’ve been coming here since 2001 or whenever Yves started this blog. Basically there’s too many links here considering all the other sites I visit daily…

        1. ambrit

          Well, treat it as a buffet then. Take what interests you and leave the rest. I do so, in the interests of having any time left for my “real” life.

      2. ewmayer

        …but snark aside, Marcy has completely lost her reason anything Trump and Russia. And the fact that the MSM “all agree” Navalny was poisoned at Ras-Putin’s evil behest is just anither iteration of the Cold War 2.0 propaganda blitz.

        Lastly MoA’s b does not deny the *possibility* that Navalny was poisoned – his mistake was being over-confident in the headline of his first piece on the subject [8/22], “Navalny Was Not Poisoned”. Yah, really stupid choice of headline, but the article itself is more nuanced. That piece ends with:

        The ‘western’ media also try to connect the ‘poisoning’ of Navalny to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. That makes no sense at all. [The right-wing extremist] Navalny is no danger to Putin and is actually useful for him as he keeps other ‘liberals’ busy with nonsensical ideas.

        During the last years Navalny has made some enemies by uncovering corruption cases. His latest one was about the local governor of Tomsk. It was also the reason why he had flown there. Should Navaly become the victim of a crime the suspects should be sought there.

        His 8/25 follow-up piece is titled “The Back And Forth About Navalny’s ‘Poisoning'” and is based on subsequent details, but nothing changed in terms of the Putin-dunnit BS propaganda. Putin had no reason to do it, much less to do it so incompetently, then to allow Navalny to be flown to Germany from the *Russian* hospital he was in, knowing the predictable German pro-NATO propaganda that would likely follow.

        1. darms

          I dunno, I’m not there, don’t know any of the principals or investigators, guess I have to take someone’s word for it. I choose Marcy in this instance. However I don’t pretend to know the “truth”. Didja see the “FWIW” at the end?

          1. pjay

            Many of us have followed the Russiagate story closely, and have had the experience of seeing journalists or academics we once respected completely lose it. I also followed Emptywheel once upon a time and can say with confidence that Wheeler is either (1) an intelligence asset, (2) a useful idiot being used by her intelligence contacts, or (3) a useful idiot who is totally consumed by Trump Derangement Syndrome. Sorry to be harsh, but there is *no* real evidence for any of these claims, not by Wheeler, Mueller, or anyone else. When claims have been made, they are announced with great fanfare, then debunked (sometimes within days), and then fade away with little or no comment. This has happened *over and over*. On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that this whole Russiagate affair is part of a coordinated propaganda effort by powerful members of the permanent state, intelligence community, and their media assets.

            If you indicate what possible evidence you think is convincing, then I’m sure that someone here can provide you with a more specific response. But in general, in addition to many postings here, Consortium News has been good on this subject since the beginning.

            1. darms

              Once again, I dunno. I have followed Robert Parry for decades but many of his stories are almost too good to be true as I seldom see any third party follow-up for whatever reason(s). I like Marcy’s stuff as she “shows her work”. Remember Gary Webb’s reporting on the CIA & crack? Slowly that stuff is coming out, likewise Reagan’s (& Nixon’s) October Surprises? I need multiple sources if you know what I mean…

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > MSM “all agree” Navalny was poisoned at Ras-Putin’s

          I still don’t understand why, if Putin poisoned Navalny, he let him leave the country at all.

          Who’s this Ras-Putin? Some reggae band leader?

      1. darms

        agreed, but there’s enough confirmed stuff to be quite creepy. Outright vote manipulation or voter database interference on a massive scale is highly unlikely due to the disparate voting/reporting /registration systems used by each locality. Paid trolls on social media, however, are another thing altogether. A strong reason why there is so much disinfo wrt the Russians. Tried to take this test, stopped at #2 as it scared the @#$% outta me. And I’ve been around the block a bunch of times…

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > quite creepy

          Perhaps the United States, as an imperial hegemon even today, should “man up” and stop losing its mind every time a meme gets posted on Facebook. If the entire political class wasn’t so divorced from delivering any material benefits to voters, none of this featherweight social media crapola would have an influence at all.

Comments are closed.