Links 12/28/2020

Why The Empire Strikes Back is overrated BBC

A Madagascar forest long protected by its remoteness is now threatened by it Mongabay (UserFriendly)

The art of fire: reviving the Indigenous craft of cultural burning The Narwhal

Reginald Foster, Vatican Latinist Who Tweeted in the Language, Dies at 81 NYT

Souvenir of the Lost World of the New York Jazz Club New York Review of Books

Willie Nelson Understands New Yorker

How Boz got his fizz Times Literary Supplement

10 geological discoveries that absolutely rocked 2020 Live Science (The Rev Kev)

Covid-19 wasn’t the only medical story this year. Here’s what you missed in 2020. NBC News (furzy mouse)

Boy Scouts of America accuse Girl Scouts of starting ‘war’ BBC (re/silC)

Is Society Collapsing? Counterpunch (chuck l)

The enduring lessons of a New Deal writers project Columbia Journalism Review

Private capital’s rush into the business of sport FT


California now has the worst COVID-19 spread in US SFGate

Why Should We Ever Return to Living and Working So Close Together? NYT

Coronavirus: Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble unlikely for now, but commerce minister urges patience, says vaccines offer sliver of hope SCMP

New variant of Covid-19 hits Japan, South Korea Asia Times

Covid-19 pandemic has stranded 400,000 seafarers and triggered a humanitarian crisis Scroll

States Say They’re Decarcerating, Yet 1 in 5 Prisoners Has Had COVID TruthOut

Ted Cruz helped Texas fracking billionaires reap millions in COVID aid relief: report AlterNet

Europe starts Covid-19 vaccination as new virus strain spreads FT

Beware the danger of ‘vaccine euphoria’ Stat

New York investigates healthcare provider that ‘fraudulently obtained 2,800 doses of Moderna vaccine and gave them to the public before healthcare workers’ Daily Mail (The Rev Kev)

If the U.S. Already Had a Covid Variant, We Wouldn’t Know The New Republic (UserFriendly)

HUNDREDS of Brits ‘vanish’ from Swiss ski resort after being ordered into quarantine amid new Covid-19 strain scare RT (The Rev Kev)


A year of the pandemic, in 26 photos Business Insider

Firms Want to Adjust Supply Chains Post-Pandemic, but Changes Take Time WSJ

Trump Transition

Shutdown averted after Trump signs stimulus package Politico

Trump to hold rally in Georgia ahead of Senate runoffs The Hill (The Rev Kev)

A Blatant Violation’: Sahrawis Dismiss Pompeo’s Announcement of US Consulate in Moroccan-Occupied Western Sahara Common Dreams

Dozens of anti-gay groups are making money off Amazon’s charity platform NBC News (furzy mouse)

Biden Transition

Nominee Buttigieg Vows To Dismantle ‘Racist’ Freeways StreetsBlogUSA UserFriendly:”this is true but likely to go over like a lead balloon.

Why congressman James Clyburn was the most important politician of 2020 Guardian

Class Warfare

The US Government Can Provide Universal Childcare — It’s Done So in the Past Jacobin

COVID-19 pandemic making healthcare leaders billionaires NY Post

How Amy Coney Barrett and Barack Obama Transcended Petty Partisanship To Crush Community Activists in Chicago Jacobin

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption Politico


Boris Johnson admits Brexit deal falls short for financial services Guardian (The Rev Kev)


Scott Morrison Isn’t the Australian Trump — He’s a Margaret Thatcher Tribute Band Jacobin


PM Narendra Modi launches India’s first driverless train on Delhi Metro Magenta Line Scroll

‘Farmers’ Concerns, Due Process Ignored’: Indian Academics on Central Farm Laws The Wire

How US bill on Tibet can check Chinese excesses, but why India’s hands are still tied The Print


China to strengthen military coordination with Russia Asia Times

Alibaba shares fall after Beijing turns up heat on Ant FT

Climate change: Extreme weather causes huge losses in 2020 BBC

The Big Thaw: How Russia Could Dominate a Warming World ProPublica

Public-Private Climate Urgency Project Syndicate. Ut oh. Ur-Dem Party insider and former USTR Michael Froman on how to address climate change.

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

Antidote du Jour (via):

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    1. Louis Fyne

      the author is definitely trolling us.

      yes, absolutely art is subjective. But if there is anything close to an artistic “truth”‘—-Empire is a perfect 2nd act of a 3-act story.

      If it ain’t, might as well say that the Mona Lisa is a depiction the patriarchy’s objectification of women or that Beethoven’s 9th and its lyrics are really about the cultural imperialism of European values.


      1. Procopius

        As I understand it, Beethoven wrote the 9th in celebration of the final defeat of Napoleon, whom he had glorified in his 3rd Symphony. The Ode to Joy are an outpouring of happiness at the end of the tyrant. If it’s “about” anything, that’s it.

  1. Wukchumni

    Is Society Collapsing? Counterpunch
    My friend Wonderhussy lives in Las Vegas, and she did a 7 mile walk up and down the strip a few weeks ago, passing by a city hooked up to life support in lieu of the service economy it once was, but for how long one wonders?

    Pavlovegas collapsing is one thing, but all across the country, businesses are calling it quits, why bother fighting off the inevitable against an invisible invader with so much staying power.

    Walking Around Deserted Vegas at Christmas 2020

    1. Arizona Slim

      You’re a friend of Wonderhussy? Me too!

      One fine day this past summer, one of her videos popped up in my YouTube feed. And I got hooked.

      1. SomeGuyinAZ

        Where there’s a hot spring, there’s a wonderhussy, err way. It’s been pretty neat seeing some of the historical ghost/mining towns she was visiting recently.

    2. fresno dan

      December 28, 2020 at 9:10 am
      Wow – that really struck a chord in me. From the reference to the Peppermill (way back, we had one in Fresno! O to see what has happened to it). Demonitized by YouTube….we must keep the internet pure…
      But most of all – the heartbreaking, disturbing, and desolating lack of DRINKS!!! I was thinking about going to Las Vegas as soon as I got poked, but hopefully getting there prior to the tsunami of lasciviousness that will surely follow mass vaccination, and as Wonderhussy alluded to, the debauchery buildup that demands release.
      So did Wonderhussy use to be a showgirl?

      1. Wukchumni

        Wonderhussy wasn’t a showgirl, she did nude modeling in natural haunts on the outskirts of Vegas for many years and worked in the casinos a bit, but her true love is aqua caliente!

      2. Arizona Slim

        She was a cocktail waitress in one of the casinos. Wonderhussy also worked as a photographer and as a model of the unclothed artistic variety. Not the sort of model you’d find in, ahem, certain kinds of films.

    3. shtove

      “Aw, they’re out of eggnog. 2020 is the worst year!”

      Thanks for the link – real interesting. One day it will suffer the Resident Evil scenario.

  2. cocomaan

    Good to be back!

    NYT Why Should We Ever Return to Living and Working So Close Together?

    It’s weird that the author doesn’t bother to mention this summer’s protests and riots when talking about the urban flight. In Philadelphia, which is the closest major metro to me, ATMs were being blown up on blocks that I, as a tourist, used to walk through. Murders have spiked hard. Philly is also suffering from increasing urban problems like permanent homeless encampments on the Parkway. A homeless man was stabbed to death last fall in Rittenhouse square, one of the richest quarters of the city, and it’s only gotten worse.

    The opinion piece also doesn’t really talk about what this blog has observed: the hollowing out of urban areas by awful policies and a desire to appease a professional class that doesn’t really care about the health of the city.

    The only mention of the Democratic Party, who runs most of these urban metros, is a link to an Op-Ed in WaPo about how Trump is awful, can you believe what he said? etc etc.

    Unfortunately for many urban centers, the cat is out of the bag when it comes to remote work. The upper class has discovered that it can do a lot of its work remotely. Older generations holding onto the physical office model are not immortal and neither are their ideas.

    1. Carla

      “The upper class has discovered that it can do a lot of its work remotely.”

      And everyone else is discovering that “the upper class” is truly non-essential.

      BTW, by relying on The New York Times as a news source, we’re relying on “a professional class that doesn’t really care about the health of the city.”

      1. cocomaan

        Yep, pretty true, though to me it’s a Pareto. There’s a number of the PMC that probably have a function and do actual work, but it’s about 1/5th of them. The rest are just coasting on the long con that they are essential.

        I wonder where the editorial board of the NYT actually lives, physically.

      2. dcblogger

        And everyone else is discovering that “the upper class” is truly non-essential.

        ain’t it the truth.

        not sure why anyone is talking about riots. Other than one burst of looting after Trump cleared Lafayette Park with tear gas, there has not been any riots in DC and no other cities that I know of. Black people demonstrating does not a riot make.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Minneapolis was surely a riot. And Michael Tracey did a tour of flyover, and found this:

          While the most extreme riots in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and particularly Minneapolis did receive considerable attention — however fleeting, incomplete, and unnecessarily inflected with knee-jerk partisanship — there were also smaller-scale riots in surprisingly far-flung places that you hardly would’ve known about unless you lived in the area, happened to visit, or intentionally sought out what remains of the bare-bones local media coverage. To take just a small sampling: Atlantic City, NJ, Fort Wayne, IN, Green Bay, WI, and Olympia, WA all underwent significant riots, at least per the normal expectations of life in these relatively low-key cities. Did you hear anything about them? Because I hadn’t, and I’m abnormally attuned to daily media coverage. Only because I personally visited did I learn of the damage.

          These riots exploded with such intensity, across so many jurisdictions, and within such a contained period of time — roughly speaking, a one-week stretch beginning May 28, the day the chaos in Minneapolis/St. Paul reached a grisly apex — that no other instance of past civil unrest seems quite analogous.

          1. Procopius

            Probably the propaganda machine does not want a repeat of 1968. You didn’t hear about very many of the 900 or so strikes, either. Actually, now that I think about it, the only place I remember hearing about them is Payday Report, and I don’t know why I visited that blog, yet I trust the number.

        2. cocomaan

          I didn’t say anything about black people. For instance, a friend was telling me about a pair who got into trouble at a central PA flea market this past summer. They were hocking looted electronics from stores in Philadelphia. They were white women.

          To piggyback on Lambert’s point, Lancaster in Central PA had a riot over a police involved shooting this fall. There was an internet rumor that the victim was a minor. It spurred property destruction and clashes with police. Turned out the rumor was not true.

        3. Duke of Prunes

          Kenosha? The mostly peaceful protests burned down a few blocks. Looked like a war zone.

          Chicago was rocking all summer. Not necessarily looting, except a couple times.

      3. ShamanicFallout

        While others, of course, do their work for them. I was just doing my weekly grocery shopping. I have been going ‘off hours’ to minimize being in more crowded situations. But the store is mainly full of personal shoppers for the related apps they work under. Shopping carts filled to over flowing with stuff for other people. Totals at the register over $300. I wonder how much a person shopper makes in a day?
        I’m always torn about this. I have always vowed never to use this kind of service, but then maybe a lot of these people need income right now. It’s a trap of course- some benefit while others are left to carry out the actual work. Apropos of the ESB link above, as the Emperor says, ‘Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen’.

    2. Carolinian

      Here in SC the Upstate area has become a hotbed of the New Urbanism and is also a hotbed of Coviid. Coincidence? But then car culture, blue state California is also a hotbed. It should be interesting to see if Covid flight reverses itself when Covid finally gone.

      1. Pelham

        Yes, that will be interesting. I’m guessing Covid flight won’t reverse, due to inertia and the fact that many (not all) of the little urban inflections that people routinely enjoy can be rather easily transplanted to the hinterlands. Plus big-screen TVs and high-speed internet.

        But more than that, there may be a general but not entirely justified perception that smaller cities in more remote areas are likely to be safer from the next inevitable wave of globalist-induced contagion and idpol-inspired riots.

    3. The Historian

      I’m seeing a ‘theme’ today with the Empire Strikes Back story and the NYT story and the Counterpunch story. In many ways, they seem to be related. I’m currently getting into what happened in Europe between 1815 and 1871 in order to better understand Marx’s world and again I’m seeing that history again rhymes.

      The period after Napoleon definitely reminds me of the Empire striking back with the Concert of Europe designed to put down any wars or rebellions with Russia acting like Europe’s policemen – kind of like our country does today. Obviously the writer of the ESB article thought that one rebellion should have stopped the Empire – but it never does. After every rebellion there is always a time of retrenchment back to conservatism and loss of the democratic gains made by the rebellious forces. See any similarities?

      And then came the 1848 period of revolt which in many cases, failed badly because the rebels couldn’t come together – they were so divided ideologically from each other but there was much violence in all of Europe – sort of what that Counterpunch article describes. And since the powers that be were much more cohesive and worked together far better than the rebellious forces, they were able to quash the revolts – but thankfully, not the ideas. This is the time when the powers that be co-opted nationalism from the rebels and made it about ethnic issues instead of economic issues. See any similarities to today?

      It is interesting that Great Britain avoided most of the violence in Europe because they co-opted the middle class with the Reform Bill of 1832. The rest of the powers in Europe were absolutely not willing to accept the middle class as even semi-equals as Great Britain did, so they pushed the violence in their countries even further. Is that what is going to happen here?

      Since the time perioid of 1815-1871 was a time of urban growth because of industrialization, cities became hellholes too because those in power didn’t want to invest their profits into the health of the cities or the health of their workers – kind of like what the NYT article describes. While the causes may be different, it appears the results are the same.

      BTW, if anyone is aware of any really good histories that might shed a different view on the time period in question, I would love to read them!

      1. cocomaan

        Hey Historian, I’ve been a huge fan of the Revolutions Podcast by Mike Duncan. He has been covering the Russian Revolution lately and that’s been a huge learning experience for me. I think he covered that period of French history, too, but also did the Hapsburgs and so on.

        I’m a big fan of cyclical history so what you’re saying about France’s dominion falling in on itself makes perfect sense to me.

      2. Alternate Delegate

        I hope you’ve read Karl Polanyi’s “The Great Transformation” about the industrial revolution and the double movement of the market versus society? I originally heard about it here on NC. Maybe even from you, for all I remember!

        (One contention: the Speenhamland experiment was *not* universal basic income, and should not be used as an argument against UBI.)

        1. Massinissa

          I also highly recommend Polyani’s book. An incredibly useful read. I think Michael Hudson or some other notable personage wrote a preface to it in a recent reprinting.

        2. The Historian

          It is on my list as one of the books recommended to me in my study of this time period, along with his book, “Primitive, Archaic, and Modern Economies”. I hope to get to them soon, but I need to find the second one at a library – it is an expensive book!

            1. The Historian

              I have the book so maybe I’ll start reading it now with my other texts. I often read several books at once – helps to contrast and compare.

      3. Jeremy Grimm

        I believe the rhyme of history is doggerel, but whatever rhyme marks the history of our present chants forward of a dark background inexorably growing darker. We and our children have been born into a time of cataclysmic changes. The rebellions and wars, the retrenchment of the conservatives and their means for control, these conflicts rhyme with a past that does not anticipate the future awaiting us through the next few decades. Humankind faces multiple threats that make trivial the sturm and drang of Empire and Imperial Collapse: increasingly rapid Climate change and Chaos, with its manifold impacts on agriculture, the oceans, fresh water distribution, the habitability of many areas of land; the depletion of resources including such resources as oil, phosphorous, water aquifers, topsoil; the threats of ill-conceived plans to engineer the climate, modify life forms, rebuild the world to fit old ideas and old concepts of how things were, or should be — we will soon be living in a very different world. [I blindly trust no fool will initiate a nuclear conflict].

        1. ObjectiveFunction

          “I believe the rhyme of history is doggerel”

          Ha, you win my Internet today, comrade!

          Far, far behind on my NC reading, but I was trying to think of a suitable anthem to ring out this benighted Year of Our Lord 2020. I keep coming back to Klaus Nomi, whom I had the great good fortune to see live at Danceteria back in my callow youth, tagging along with more sophisticated college friends.

          After the Fall

        1. The Historian

          I am going to read that book after I get a good grounding in the history of that period. Marx is often difficult to read if you don’t have a good basis first.


          1. Jack Parsons

            Brumaire is fun. Max did difficult and easy in different works. He was fantastic at turning a phrase.

      4. The Rev Kev

        ‘those in power didn’t want to invest their profits into the health of the cities or the health of their workers’

        Maybe that is one reason that GB was an outlier here. They actually did work on the health of their cities. The Victorians were fanatical about facts & statistics and used it to build a massive sewer works beneath London that is a marvel of engineering and is still in use today. They started to clean up waterways, put through legislation to eliminate child labour and make sure they went to government schools instead, put gas lighting through the cities, started to eliminate slums. The Victorian period saw an amazing transformation here, even though it was uneven. There was even a documentary series on this called “How the Victorians built Britain” which you can find on YouTube.

      5. Procopius

        I suppose you’ve already red Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution 1789-1848. He’s said to write from a Marxist point of view.

        1. The Historian

          Hobsbawm is highly recommended and not just by Marxists! And yes, I am reading that book!

    4. Roxan

      Not PC to admit the riots destroyed a lot of downtown areas, and surely spread the virus, too. Philly has been limping since 2008, and I doubt it will recover. Lots of youtubes about the destruction in the Kensington section. Deserted streets filled with homeless are not safe so I pretty much avoid going in the city.

      1. dcblogger

        If Mayor Bowser could trace a single case of covid to BLM demonstrations she would be shouting it from the roof tops. She has used brutish tactics to stop the demonstrations. So, I don’t think BLM has been a factor in covid here in DC. At the few demonstrations I attended everyone was masked and social distancing.

      2. lordkoos

        The demonstrations earlier this year did not cause a spike in COVID cases, likewise the current increase in cases has nothing to do with any demonstrations that may still be happening. Being masked and outdoors does not seem to have been very risky.

  3. Massinissa

    About that Star Wars piece on The Empire Strikes Back…

    I can see how one might think the movie is overrated. But alot of this guys arguments don’t even make any sense. One complaint he had was he didn’t understand why the Empire wasn’t defeated already by blowing up the first Death Star. How hard is it to understand that evil empires don’t give up and die after one setback? Then he complains that this movie isn’t about Wars in the Stars anymore… Basically contradicting that other criticism. Also he… doesn’t like any of the set designs, apparently.

    I can see how someone might write a good piece with this same heading. I’m pretty sure something like this could be written in a very sensible way. But this guy isn’t writing something that does that particularly well. Instead of being a sensible well written article it mostly seems like a bunch of personal gripes strung together.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I was at the UK premier of “The Empire Strikes back” in London with the cast there watching. After the movie finished, there was a noticeable disquiet in the theater, even though you had a PR person try to get clapping going from the back of the theater where I was. The first movie was quick and sassy with their lines but this movie was really slow with their lines and it really stood out. It was awful. It may be that Lucas had years to think out the first Star Wars but the follow up was forced and it really showed.

      That one complaint he had that he didn’t understand why the Empire wasn’t defeated already by blowing up the first Death Star? That has confused lots of people that- (45 secs)

      Forgot to mention that I was in Germany during the Falklands War. When the British sent a fleet to the South Atlantic, one German newspaper had the headline ‘Das Imperium schlägt zurück’ which caused me to keel over in laughter.

      1. Leftist Mole

        I’ve thought for a long time that the only good Star Wars was the first one. All the others keep repeating lines and events and frankly I think the whole Vader arc is deeply stupid. It makes Obi Wan Kenobi a liar and an unrepentant mass murderer is supposed to be redeemed just because he finally decides to save his son? Yuck! Never mind that he also tortured his daughter Leia. Guess the old Force doesn’t work on recognizing female children.

        The original was original, a fairy tale coming of age story done in outer space. The rest suck. Like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, only the first one had charm.

        1. fresno dan

          Leftist Mole
          December 28, 2020 at 11:39 am

          I’m thinking the only sequel I ever saw worth seeing was Godfather II.
          And the very first scene in the sequel to The Road Warrior (which confusingly is really Mad Max II). Oh yeah – Evil Dead II

          1. Wukchumni

            I saw Mad Max 2 @ a Hoyt’s in Melbourne.

            Watched the latest episode of the fanchise again, and nope it’s not as good as MM2.

            1. Procopius

              I somehow watched the first three. Thunderdome is the third. The first is pretty bad. The second, he didn’t really have it together. Escape from Thunderdome was OK, but I couldn’t stop wondering, how do they have so much ammunition? How do they have enough gas for this? It’s like when I was a kid at the matinee, I couldn’t not notice that the cowboys never had to reload their guns.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          I have watched the first series of Star Wars movies many times but I have never fully warmed to the second trilogy supposed to be earlier in the chronology and supposed to create deeper contexts for the first trilogy. Given the success and reach of the Star Wars franchise I am most interested in the interpretations of the Star Wars story by Joseph Campbell — although I don’t recall he went far beyond the first Star Wars movie. I believe it is undeniable that there is something mythic in the Star Wars movies, though most apparent in the first trilogy of movies, and the first movie of that trilogy.

          [I feel compelled to remind Leftist Mole that Vader did not know that Leia was his daughter until after he had her in his torture chamber. “Guess the old Force doesn’t work on recognizing female children.” … perhaps … or perhaps Leia was better protected than Luke?] … [I do readily concede Luke did seem favored versus Leia in the first Star Wars trilogy … and hope not to annoy anyone.]

          For reasons I have not analyzed or understood when I attempted to analyze them — I like “Empire Strikes Back” best among the Star Wars movies. I will have to think about why that is so. It makes a worthy click-bate attraction.

          At this time, it is too easy to forget how epochal the movies “2001” and not too long after, and even more so, “Star Wars” — really were. Before that Science Fiction was “Forbidden Planet” or “Day of the Triffids”.

          1. LifelongLib

            Well, besides 2001, don’t forget “Colossus, the Forbin Project”, “The Andromeda Strain”, or even the original “Planet of the Apes”. Watching Star Wars when it came out, I recall thinking it was fun but not serious SF.

            1. The Rev Kev

              I think that was the point. It was Space Opera. The 70s had a lot of bad things going on. The Vietnam finally ground to a halt, there was inflation, Nixon’s impeachment, disco, bell-bottom pants. As I said, lots of bad things going on. A lot of the movies had dark undertones and I think that people were just wanting a bit of exciting entertainment in a good vs evil epic – which Star Wars filled. The blaster fights were amazing back then and there was yet another twist.

              Too often in scifi films women would just stand around and scream. In fact, Star Trek Voyager mocked this stereotype mercilessly in a holodeck character. named Constance Goodheart ( but Star Wars was new. The main female lead just grabs a blaster and lets fly at Stormtroopers and then blasts an escape hole in a wall. A strong female lead that would help other female leads like Ellen Ripley become easily acceptable and film favourites.

          2. Procopius

            The first Star Wars movie is now titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Makes it confusing when people refer to “the first.”

      2. marieann

        I didn’t see the first Star Wars until there were DVDs, for us it was 1984.My sons were 4 and 1 when it came out and as babysitters were expensive we were selective about what movies we went to see.

        Of course by then we had all gone to see The Empire striking back… sons loved it and then there were Star Wars toys and Darth Vader costumes, I remember making them a Darth Vader ceramic lamp.
        So in our house it didn’t matter about the dialogue or continuity or even the really stupid bits it was the “thing” and today we still use some of the dialogue in conversation.
        It is on my list of movies I rewatch every couple of year…..along with Star Trek.

      3. ShamanicFallout

        To be fair to Lucas, the screenplay was by Lawrence Kasdan and it was directed by Irv Kirshner and produced by Gary Kurtz. Lucas had written the story but I think his actual contributions (or lack of) to ESB are not generally known. I think it’s taken for granted that he did everything on all of ‘his’ movies, but it really was only the first, and only great one, that belong to him

    2. Carolinian

      Pauline Kael proclaimed the 1970s the golden age of a US new wavey film renaissance and then along came George Lucas (and Jaws) and the rest is history. Count some of us as non-fans of the Star Wars saga in toto. Reportedly Disney, having bought out Lucas for billions, plans to monetize said saga with sequels and spinoffs to infinity and beyond. Aieee….

      1. Wukchumni

        I guess I saw the original Star Wars films-which left such a light impression that I vaguely remember the plots now, they never did all that much for me, either.

      2. Massinissa

        The comments by both you and Rev Kev are more elucidating than that entire article. My problem is not with the article’s concept but wit its execution.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        I will admit to seeing the new Disney Star Wars films in the theater only because I wasn’t allowed to see the originals in the theater – my folks thought PG might be a little too much for my 7 year old self – and didn’t want my kid to be the only one who hadn’t seen the new ones this time around. My first thought after seeing the first Disney film was that is was a complete ripoff of the original movie, from its beginning on a desert planet to the ending where another death star bites the dust.

        The new movies don’t seem to be the cultural phenomenon the old ones were anyway so I probably won’t be taking the kid to any others as it pains me to give Disney any money if I can avoid it, which I absolutely can.

        I’ll take Star Trek over Star Wars any day (at least until Disney takes that over too) and so should everybody else – Make it so!

        1. Wukchumni

          My mom took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey @ a theater in midtown Manhattan in the summer of ’69, and she told me a few years back that I was the only child and she was the only woman in the audience.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            IV: a New Hope is my fave, still…saw it 10 times in theaters…then Lucas got increasingly cheesy and action figure focused….pandering to the toy market.(Jar Jar Binks was a travesty…ewoks were bad enough)

            as for 2001: a space odyssey…that film had a gigantic impact on my whole life course.
            saw it on tv in the mid to late 70’s…couldn’t get the Strauss theme out of my head…found the album(the Strauss album, no less) at the local library…mom got mad at paying all the late fees, and i pestered her to get a copy.
            jammed that all the time,lol.(which was instrumental at getting her to leave me home alone,lol)
            and wondered who this Zarathustra person was…enter 10 year old Amfortas into a career in Philosophy!(high school counsilor: whatcha wanna do?-me: “be a philosopher, live on a mountain and wear robes”=I’m a raging success!)
            I’ve reread that book more than any other. 2 copies are within reach, right now(I like the non-Kaufman translation, with the King James sounding cadence and flourishes.)
            that was definitely my fork in the road/road less traveled moment…

            Star Wars, otoh, played directly to the other literary obsession at the time: Knights, Arthur and Chivalry.”’Ivanhoe, LOTR, Joseph Campbell’s Masks, vol 4…
            …and later Quixote, of course….all also pretty foundational to who i am.

            1. ShamanicFallout

              Seconded on the (real) first Star Wars. Probably can’t count the number of times I went to see it. The first time we went, my mother promised to take us: It was a sunny Saturday and my brother and I were mored excited than any Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. On the way to the theater, we got in car wreck. Someone ran a red and totaled our Pontiac Bonneville. And since it was the 1970s, my brother and I were bounced around the inside of that thing like disturbed electrons. But no real harm. We were like rubber then.
              But, in spite of all this, my mom checked our bruises, had the car towed, called a taxi from the pay phone and took us to see it. So great. Then, on the way out of the theater we saw a friend of the family driving by in his truck, she flagged him down, and we got to ride home in the back of the bed of the truck. Gawd I miss the 70s!

            2. Eustachedesaintpierre

              Having a few hours to kill one weekday morning I wandered into a cinema & decided to go with the Sci-fi film option that I had never heard of. I was initially thrilled to bits to have the place to myself but that feeling of glee soon began to dissipate & had become the polar opposite after the little bugger decided to exit it’s host through John Hurt’s belly. It was the single most intense cinema experience of my life, but fortunately no-one could hear me scream.

              I also had Bladerunner 2 to myself by design on a weekday evening which was IMO very good helped probably by the THC aperitif, which I am glad i didn’t have for the above.

            3. HotFlash

              My dear LMole,

              re The original was original

              No, no it wasn’t. Akiro Kurasawa’s Hidden Fortress was the original.

              On edit: this was a reply to
              Leftist Mole
              December 28, 2020 at 11:39 am

          2. mary jensen

            Yes yes yes Wukchumni! Just imagine a tacky Hollywood sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Never ever gonna happen. Thank Kubrick for his iron clad integrity.

        2. occasional anonymous

          Star Trek vs Star Wars is a completely meaningless comparison. Other than both being major science fiction franchises, they have nothing in common. Star Wars is a heroes journey fantasy story in space. Complaining that isn’t as intellectually sophisticated as Star Trek is (at its best) is basically an invalid critique. Because Star Wars isn’t trying to be sophisticated. It’s doing something completely different. If you don’t like the thing it’s doing, fine, but don’t complain that it isn’t being the thing you want it to be. Go find something else instead.

          Both Star Trek and Star Wars are wholly inferior to a vast amount of science fiction, most of which is only found in books, by the way. Star Trek fans acting elitist is vaguely pathetic.

      4. Pelham

        Good point. I’ll admit to being briefly enchanted by the initial “Star Wars” before quickly souring on space and comic book movies.

        And I loved comic books back in the early ’60s as a kid! It’s my conviction that the magic and power of sci-fi and the comics were inextricably bound up with certain types of media — chiefly involving cheap paper and low-quality printing — and a certain period of time, the the 1930s to the early ’60s. I’ll also include the sci-fi movies of the ’50s. Attempts to bring this kind of content to other media may dazzle briefly but inevitably leave the essence of the originals behind.

        1. Massinissa

          Your comment makes alot of sense, though as someone who has a large collection of comics from the 1970s specifically (I suppose that would be a long story in and of itself, especially considering I was born in the 90s) I’m not sure I agree with your cutoff date vis a vis comics. To each their own I suppose.

      5. ShamanicFallout

        I’m sure Pauline Kael, and Ebert and whoever, are smart and clever and/or whatever etc. but I always think of John Cleese’s take on the whole film critic thing:

        “…having ‘critics’ who can’t themselves direct, write, act, sing, dance or claim any other kind of expertise, would we not get superior commentary from people who can ?

        Why should artistic criticism from untalented people be preferred to that of outstandingly talented ones ?”

        1. Jeff W

          …would we not get superior commentary from people who can…

          You don’t have to be a hen to know a bad egg, as the saying goes.

          1. RMO

            Ebert could write. He co-wrote Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls with Russ Meyer. I think that movie is amazing and unforgettable. Of course I also watched The Beast Of Yucca Flats with great care on my second viewing because I wanted to see if any of the narration formed an unintentional haiku.

            I liked both Ebert and Siskel as reviewers of movies in new release because regardless of how much or little they liked a movie they would almost always tell me enough about it for me to decide whether I might like it. I also admired Ebert for being willing to admit when he had been wrong about a film. Pauline Kael on the other hand I found to be like most film and music critics in that she wrote primarily about herself and her articles seldom managed to give me a clue as to whether I would like a movie or not or give me any deeper insight into the film in question or into film in general.

            1. Jeff W

              I never liked Roger Ebert—I thought he had fairly middlebrow, prosaic approach to the movies. (I recall he simply didn’t understand The Usual Suspects.) I preferred Gene Siskel because he seemed a bit more thoughtful in his approach. I actually did like Pauline Kael. If nothing else, she got me to appreciate both some of the aspects of a film that I might have missed—I can never forget her describing the “gliding, glazed-fruit cinematography” as “intoxicating” in her review of Brian de Palma’s 1980 Dressed to Kill—and the way a movie affected me, how some aspects worked and others didn’t. Renata Adler famously slammed Kael’s work “line by line, and without interruption, worthless” but it always gave me a bit of a charge even if I didn’t agree with her impressions.They were primarily about her but I thought they did give me some deeper insight as well.

    3. Louis Fyne

      The BBC is not immune to clickbait articles. (particularly the BBC dot com, non-UK commercial arm).

      Want to trigger clicks? write an article with a headline attacking the original trilogy from a 2020 nihilistic POV….particularly as there is a giant schism among the Star Wars re. the artistic quality if 77-83 Star Wars versus the 2014-20 Star Wars.

    4. Aumua

      It’s hard to tell who is trolling here and who is actually serious, and that goes for the article author too. I would certainly hope that he is not as dumb as he is acting, but these days you never know. If you haven’t seen The Empire Strikes Back in a while then I recommend viewing it again. It’s not for nothing that it is considered the best Star Wars movie, and I personally would consider it somewhere in the top 10 movies of the 80’s at least.

      Also check out Red Letter Media sometime and their Star Wars prequel reviews on youtube.

      1. Carolinian

        the best Star Wars movie,

        Damning with faint praise? It’s not whether it’s the best Star Wars movie but that it’s a Star Wars movie. I agree with those who say Star Trek is better–none of those Joseph Campbell pretensions.

        1. Aumua

          Oh I’m sure I could out-trek just about anyone here but like several others have expressed, I am pretty much dead center of generation x so star wars is kind of in my blood.

    5. Shleep

      I vividly remember leaving the theater after ESB, 12 yrs old, and being profoundly disappointed.

      Star Wars stood alone, and could still.

      With the Ewoks, it was clear that Star Wars had Disney-fied itself. Jar-Jar removed all doubt. It was not so much about the story anymore as the appeal to children – and the merch.

      I finally watched the other 5 episodes last year. As with so much Hollywood fare of the last few decades, a few hours I’ll never get back.

  4. NotTimothyGeithner

    Re: Empire

    Egads! Sometimes I think I’m the only one who has ever watched these movies besides Rian Johnson. The original trilogy is and always has been about Luke Skywalker growing up. Obi Wan and Leia have no use for Han beyond his means to an end. Luke sees a pirate esque type and tells him to be better. What happens?

    It twists the saga from the political to the personal, from space opera to soap opera

    There are no politics beyond “before the dark times” and “jedi knights were guardians of the old republic”.

    1. cocomaan

      Jerri-Lynn really wanted to get the nerd rage boiling early this morning, maybe for her morning tea! Haha!

      I don’t really understand the reviewer criticism about the lack of wars in the stars. The entire movie has the running gag of the Millennium Falcon having to evade imperial pursuit through asteroid fields, the belly of a giant worm beast, latching onto the back of the star destroyer, and so on. It’s my favorite swashbuckling B story of the franchise: Han Solo, overconfident, and his piece of @#*% spacecraft that his second mate has to repair on the fly.

  5. Dikaios Logos

    re: Why The Empire Strikes Back is overrated

    This is good and more of these re-assessments are needed. I remember feeling played when I first saw The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, that the freshness (oddness? seventies-ness?) of the original Star Wars was gone and it was replaced with something utterly generic and tedious.

    I wonder if a lot of us here see how the Star Wars franchise echoes so much of the Anglo world of the past few decades. Staring with The Empire Strikes back, we suddenly got cold feet about all the bolder, more romantic ideas of youth and rag-tag rebels, and ran to the familiar embrace of entrenched authorities and steady cash flows. I can’t stand the franchise at this point, it’s taken up way too much attention and resources and has almost entirely served the dark side. Enough!

    1. 1 Kings

      Just because the woke, not funny, hatred of original characters, plagiarized, politics over story, cash grab by Disney make the recent Star W movies, um, utterly forgettable, doesn’t mean Empire was ‘tedious’ and generic. Other than action, story and character development, twists, tragedy and a jaw dropping suprise ending that stil moves people 40 years later, your ‘take’ is well founded…

        1. Massinissa

          I believe you’re thinking of Wookies, not Ewoks, if we’re talking about the christmas special with live actors in it.

          On the other hand, there was a rather terrible Ewoks cartoon show in the 80s, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that had some dreadful christmas episode itself, though I assume that’s not what you’re referring to.

      1. Phillip Cross

        It is probably to do with whatever your age was at the time. I was coming up on 10, and was mad on Star Wars after the first film, so it was a really influential imprint on my young imagination.

        More recently, when I watched the films to my son, I could tell he wasn’t that impressed and found it quite boring.

        1. Wukchumni

          True that!

          I was 7 when we landed on the Moon and knew nothing about the Vietnam War, but if i’d been 15 nearing draft age it would’ve been a completely different experience.

          We’re all prisoners of time & timing.

          1. Alex Cox

            I saw Star Wars when it came out and was most impressed by the bad acting, weak script, poor editing and 2nd rate special effects. But the most interesting aspect was the militarist nature of the story – something Reagan immediately picked up on when he rechristened SDI “Star Wars.”

            Wonderful to read this celebration of the innocent magic of Hollywood!

            1. Wukchumni

              Hear, here!

              And by the way, just loved your work: Walker, with Ed Harris, exquisite time bending, Sir~

            2. Jonhoops

              Actually the special effects in Star Wars were best in class at the time. They were the first to use motion control cameras for miniature work , and at the time had the most optical shots ever in a film. Lucas was always interested in cutting edge filmmaking , pioneering things like editdroid which later became Avid.

              The alumni from Star Wars pretty much created the vfx industry.

          2. John

            The moon landing was on my 33rd birthday and the first Mars landing on my 40th. My 15 year old son and I went to see the first Star Wars film. We loved it. Empire strikes Back was okay but I thought ewoks too cute. When I sit in my seat in the theater, I just go with the world being presented to me and take it as it is.

        2. 1 Kings

          No, Return of Jedi was weak, Lucas pre quels are boring as he’ll, but Empire is one of the greats of all time. Everyone reading this check out RobotHead u tube on it.
          The movie was hugley popular in 1980, then re-released twice, dominating the theaters. Must have been a whole lot of 10 year olds back then..

          Seriously, this constant deconstruction by so called ‘critics’ must be challenged. Everyone loved it and wanted to see if again and again, oh we must squash that. Sounds an awful like our current econ problems. Good things crushed, take this and like it.

          1. Aumua

            This critic is clearly just playing for attention. I mean there’s nothing more to say about Empire that hasn’t been said, which is basically that it’s great, so let’s focus on a few of the most minor of flaws and yell OMG! OVERRATED!!!1! CLICK HERE!

        3. fresno dan

          Phillip Cross
          December 28, 2020 at 11:38 am

          I was a young man when I saw the original “Star Wars” trilogy and I recall that I quite enjoyed it at the time. Part of it is the age you saw it at, but the age (time) in which you saw it also influences one’s view. But now, from what I remember (I only saw it once) – really, aren’t the Stormtroopers quite absurd? Like on par with the keystone kops…

          1. mary jensen

            Best ‘sci-fi’ film I’ve ever seen is “Plan 9 From Outer Space” which stands up no matter the passing years since release (or should I say ‘unleash’) and/or your age.

  6. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Thanks for opening the comments and the links. On the collapse thing – the societal collapse article made me think that 2020 really exposed the flaws in the whole “service based economy” model.

    Once there are no longer enough service jobs to keep the bottom half (or 90% more likely) occupied, then direct payments may be the only alternative to civil unrest. Not to mention all the environmental problems caused by too many folks going on cruises, international travel, etc. The problem now is that these payments are seen as “temporary” until all the aforementioned industries can go right back to where they were in 2019.

    It seems we really were on a road to nowhere and 2020 might have given us a respite. Too bad we lack any semblance of a political class that is interested in a different future.

    1. Carla

      “Once there are no longer enough service jobs to keep the bottom half (or 90% more likely) occupied, then direct payments may be the only alternative to civil unrest.”

      Look, there’s PLENTY of work that needs doing. The 10 percent just doesn’t want to PAY anyone to do it. The physical infrastructure of this country is a shambles. Ditto the public health infrastructure, which is actually nonexistent — or negative. We need elderly care. Pre-school education.

      See today’s link on “The enduring lessons of a New Deal writers project.” Replicate that in theatre, fine art, music, dance — architecture, for God’s sake.

      Renewable energy development. Retrofitting homes with renewable energy. Public transit. Organic farming. Soil reclamation. Reclaiming the entire food system.

      There is literally so much work to be done in this country, and in this world, that I could go on for days. The Powers That Be don’t wanna pay for it. Don’t even want any of it done. Somehow saving the world diminishes them. Beats me how a single one of them gets up in the morning.

      1. Michael

        I would take it a step further and say the PMC doesn’t want to suspend or repeal laws, ordinances, fees etc in order to allow some green shoots from the average beaten down citizen to take hold.
        In the face of 50 pages of regs and $$ to do anything productive, I doubt those who did it once will do it again.

      2. DJG

        Carla: As Juliania writes, yes, yes, yes. American cities are drab and looking threadbare and forlorn (other than some big shopping district for the tourists like North Michigan Avenue or Rittenhouse Square).

        The post offices all need sprucing up. Parks need repairs and restoration of fieldhouses.

        Potholes? Broken sidewalks? Dented municipal garbage cans? Cockeyed street lamps?

        Plenty to do to make the U S of A livable, instead of just a hotbed of “Twenty-Four Hour Shopping,” to quote Blondie.

        1. John

          If the only thing not threadbare and forlorn are shopping districts, we are even farther down the slope than I though we were. Given the progressive immiseration of the populace at large, just who is supposed to be supporting those shopping districts? I was in the market this morning and was again impressed with how much of what is on offer is duplication of product distinguished only my marketing ploys.

      3. CuriosityConcern

        Creation is harder than destruction. Restoration can be harder than creation. Same with reclamation. Supplication is easiest.

      4. dcblogger

        Look, there’s PLENTY of work that needs doing. The 10 percent just doesn’t want to PAY anyone to do it. The physical infrastructure of this country is a shambles. Ditto the public health infrastructure, which is actually nonexistent — or negative. We need elderly care. Pre-school education.

        here! here!
        besides, there is nothing wrong with service jobs that a good collective bargaining agreement would not put right.

      5. Susan the other

        agree completely. I always assume it is because we only have so much time and if we do not spend it organizing a profit-making structure for the “economy” then no profits are made. Not in money. Invaluable benefits would be made for people, creatures and the planet, but not for monetary gain. So profit itself is a structure – a purely social construction. No? The big question that has been circulating ever since “An Inconvenient Truth” is how do people secure their profitable position? So naturally everyone went full pig-headed and thought up schemes to secure profits. Think PE and emergency rooms and a million other nauseating examples. Which are even more rapidly self-defeating than than a slow and inevitable decline. And there’s a mantra everywhere about how the dollar is losing its value? Because we are spending it? We’re so nuts. Too bad someone doesn’t come up with a grand clarifying sanity equation; a new ideology based on what is actually achievable.

        1. Carla

          Thanks for all the “Atta girl’s” — very kind of you all.

          Now please help to amplify the message every time a BIG (Basic Income Guarantee) is mentioned as some sort of solution: it AIN’T the answer. It will always be too little, too late, and while it may keep some people going from one day to the next, it won’t really solve any of the existential problems staring us in the face.

          People want purpose, and this world needs people with a purpose. Profit is not a purpose. Creativity is purpose. Construction is purpose. Cultivation is purpose. Conservation is purpose. Care-giving — to people and the planet — is purpose.

          I’m probably going on too long, but the human race needs work, not hand-outs. Incomes for those who can’t work, sure of course. And purposeful work for all who want it.

      6. fresno dan

        December 28, 2020 at 10:12 am

        +++ and in keeping with the Star Wars and such theme, to infinity and beyond!!! (I’m referring to the number of stars you should get, not a space program)

      7. ChrisFromGeorgia

        Late to reply, but I couldn’t agree more. I was literally feeling the blood rush to my head in anger as I read about the latest “stimulus” relief bill that Trump reluctantly signed.

        Where was the imagination, the investment in our future? All they can do is print money to hand out to people in a desperate attempt to keep the same ole rackets going.

        How about creating a civilian jobs corps like FDR did? That could have addressed all your points Carla.

        Or what about an army of contact tracers? That would put people to work and give them dignity.

        Instead we get $600 checks, and bailouts for airline CEOs.

    2. Skip Intro

      2020 is a flat tire on our road trip to nowhere! We got out of the car, looked down the road at the consequences of the choices we’ve made, and those that were made for us, and said “I can’t wait to get back in the car”.

    3. Glen

      I fear what our “betters” have learned.

      In 2008 they learned that they can bail themselves out of economic fraud and corruption with trillions from the Fed. The bailouts are continuing to this day reaching as high as a billion dollars a day during this year.

      In 2020 they learned that in a world wide pandemic, they can let people die, starve, and get kicked out of their homes.

      1. Wukchumni

        If Congress comes through with a couple thousand clams, my daily assistance from them for perhaps a year, will be a little over $5 a day.

        I got bought off cheap.

  7. Wukchumni

    The thin fur line is suffering through the coldest nights (Cali cool = freezing) of the year, and felines run around 101 degrees compared to our 98, as if they have climate change baked in already.

    That said, I doled out the hot waterbottles under blanket in their beds to what I think were appreciative smiles, not that anybody can really be sure with a cat.

  8. Keith

    Regarding Pete redoing highways in cities to fix historical problems, why do I get the sense that this will create a boon doggle that will make urban traffic and congestion even worse?

    1. Wukchumni

      How hard would it be to rename the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway, to the more pleasing to the eye Christopher Cuomo Transcontinental Highway, you’d only need to change one word and you can reuse a bunch of letters, easy peasy.

      1. The Rev Kev

        How about naming it after his brother and calling it the Fredo Transcontinental Highway. Only five letters there.

      1. The Historian

        I’ve been watching a lot of Midsomer Murders this last year. Is the term ‘form’ the same as the British use it? For Mayo Pete, it ought to be!

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      He’s just putting this out there, so he can say he tried given his past. Without adding buses and other improvements, pulling out the freeways is virtually impossible without going all in on a Big Dig type project. Pete will propose monorails or some nonsense when what is needed is more trolley like operations because the real transportation crisis is intra-metropolis traffic.

      Some cities need to be dismantled as they are just madness and sprawl. cough, Houston and Raleigh-Durham. cough.

      There was an article on the DC metro a few years back. The designer planned for a huge increase in the population, just nothing like what happened. Not only do we need to improve intracity transit, but look at moving people wholesale. The Russian development of Socchi is designed to move people there. We need to do that again. Cleveland, Buffalo, etc should be built up again. As modern cities and states, they can’t do it, but the Federales could.

      1. Carla

        “Cleveland, Buffalo, etc should be built up again. As modern cities and states, they can’t do it, but the Federales could.”

        Yeah. A frickin’ jobs program. Imagine!

        1. Wukchumni

          If the computer systems that deliver water to 20 million in the SoCalist movement were to get hacked and H20 rendered immovable, places such the rust belt would be instantly of great value in a ‘Go east young man’ turnabout on Greeley.

          1. polecat

            Let Pete clean out the Canales of Sars first .. with with his smooth, baby’s bottombare hands .. minus the driving gaunlets, of course .. and see where he goes not from there.

    3. Katniss Everdeen

      I can’t seem to shake the feeling that there’s much more to this cabinet appointment than meets the eye.

      From “autonomous vehicles” to possible vaccine-dependent interstate travel restrictions to the 737Max and general airline mismanagement to this out-of-left-field “need” to “address” the racist highway construction policies from “between 1957 and 1977,” there’s got to be some ulterior motive in putting this particular mckinsey tool into this particular position of authority. Just gotta be.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > there’s got to be some ulterior motive in putting this particular mckinsey tool into this particular position of authority.

        Agreed. Pete is not a man of fixed ideas; he was certainly the most flexible and unprincipled of all the Democrat candidates (and had the jaw-dropping chutzpah to claim victory in Iowa when the official count was zero). Why these charcteristics are essential at DOT, I do now know.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Isn’t DoT the GOP dumping ground for a token Democrat? Between earmarks and state DoTs, I’m fairly confident DoT is a bit of a booby prize. Rahm wanted it because he couldn’t justify another position. Sending Pete to China didn’t really make sense with the plans to push “OMG China.”

          DoT was a position once filled by Norman Mineta, the Alan Colmes of the Beltway. $75 billion sounds like a lot, but much of the money is matching funds set by Congress.

          1. cocomaan

            Trump’s DOT was Mitch McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao.

            Honestly, I would be happy if some DOT bureaucrat just got rid of the semi annual time change. It’s the DOT that administers the dumb practice.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              I loathe time change.
              the one in october, especially.
              met one person in my life who liked it…and they were pretty much psychopathic, any way.

              1. LifelongLib

                Growing up near Seattle, it was the spring one I didn’t like, having to get up an hour earlier.

                Here in Hawaii we’re on standard time all year, since the length of daylight doesn’t vary enough to make daylight savings worthwhile (if it is anywhere)…

        2. Glen

          It’s the follow-on act to them selling the City of Chicago’s parking meters to a Wall St bank.

          It will be the J.P. Morgan Memorial Interstate system coming soon with a Chase Bank toll booth near you!

    4. fresno dan

      December 28, 2020 at 10:08 am
      That was just the first article Google provided, but there are about a zillion articles that freeways make traffic, not alleviate it. I know in the sixties Fresno went on a big freeway building project. And yeah, tons of cars use the freeways. But for what? To travel to the outlying sprawl created by the freeways. Thousands upon thousands of close in houses destroyed so that houses could be built miles away from the city center. Pretty much the destruction of the city center as it is so easy to drive to the hinterlands.
      To have enough freeways in LA to alleviate traffic, there would ONLY be Freeways (30, 50, 100 lanes?) – no one would drive there, NOT because there was finally enough roads and no congestion, but because there would be literally NOTHING to actually drive to.

      1. Oh

        Every time they expand the number of lanes in the freeway they back up the feeder highways. Plus the great EPA idea of lane access control signals to allieviate pollution on the freeway; all it does is shift it to the feeders.

        1. chuck roast

          Other wise known as “induced traffic demand”…the unmentionable in transportation engineering circles.

  9. Lex

    ‘Is Society Collapsing?’

    I was lured into reading the whole article by the implied promise of telling us who won the $1000 check, and nada. What? The judge can’t still be be deliberating; we haven’t heard the defense’s argument!

  10. Wukchumni

    Boy Scouts of America accuse Girl Scouts of starting ‘war’ BBC

    A backpacking buddy and his daughter have joined us on maybe 6 trips starting when she was 10, and in terms of taking to it, she’s a natural and makes my nephews seem oh so awkward in comparison, as she’s an explorer and indefatigable in the outdoors. I’ve never seen a kid take to it since, well, me.

    Fast forward to now, and her dad wants no part of the Girl Scouts for her, as the kind of stuff they do typically isn’t up to her speed, and she’d be the last person trying to hock cookies to strangers in front of a supermarket also, that ain’t happening.

    Her dad tells me the BSA is practically infatuated with the idea that a single adult can’t ever be alone with their young charges-always at least 2 elders must be in cahoots, and it really took away from the whole experience, and both agreed it wasn’t for her.

  11. Katniss Everdeen


    “So many hospital decision makers don’t read the scientific literature because many of them come out of manufacturing and other business sectors….” said Aiken.

    Sounds like the same great business minds that “managed” the u.s. into its historic victory in Vietnam have taken charge of the “healthcare” system. The promise of america lies in its ability to continue to produce “the best and the brightest” humans on the planet. It’s positively inspirational.

    1. John

      I knew a guy years ago who insisted on being of the managerial class because status, or so he thought. He also said it did not matter what he was managing. Apparently, that idea is even more widespread now than it was then.

      It is akin to schools of education which are long on methods and short on content.

    2. Montanamaven

      The crapification of industry is when “MBA’s” aka business types took over running corporations. Boeing used to be run by engineers. Not anymore. My uncle ran Control Data Corporation with Norris. They were both engineers. My uncle had 150 patents to his name. Universities and colleges were run by a kind of collective of the professors. Yes, I know that sometimes we intuitives need help from the detail people. But , Good Lord, we should still split the pay as we split the responsibilities and not have some dude make a gizzilion more than the rest of the company.

      1. LifelongLib

        A company is started by people who care passionately about whatever it does, but when the founders retire or die its bought by “investors” who are only interested in maximizing rate of return. Happened to the big turn of the century U.S. car companies in the 1950s, in the 80s to the companies that were started after WW 2…

  12. Sutter Cane

    If anyone has an archive link to the “Souvenir of the Lost World of the New York Jazz Club” article, I would love to read the full thing. I never went to that particular club, but the opening paragraphs reminded me of all the other music clubs I loved that have closed over the years, or that will be closed by the time the pandemic is over with.

    I was more into blues, punk, and rock n’ roll (ironically, I’m only now listening to a lot of jazz while stuck at home), and had thought that I was born too late to see many of the greats, but covid has really put things into perspective. The number of shows that I was lucky enough to get to see is probably going to look impossible to someone younger whose prime “going out to clubs” years are being impacted right now.

  13. Alex morfesis

    The magic white water fountain and the terrible tenth in black America… dismantled highways after the neighborhoods were disrupted without any capital for the small black owned businesses disrupted and destroyed by those highways…sounds like more rainbow apartheid/gentrification…the “barriers” extended/expanded by the highways will not just magically go away once the highways are gone…in this little part of the south, the terrible tenth krewe is playing along with this pied Piper magic road removal concept…the city had a 2020 plan to prevent 20,000 black folks from owning a home while they were affordable…and now is pushing a 2050 plan, which is to push the remaining 50,000 black folks out of town, except a few of those terrible tenth be to used as props…they succeeded with the federally approved 2020 plan… expect sadly success with the 2050 plan…was it the emperor palpa or the executive director of the urban institute who insisted…”everything is proceeding as I have forseen…”

  14. Darius

    I couldn’t even finish that article about Obama and Jackson Park. He’s so sickening. Trump for brunch liberals.

    1. montanamaven

      I’m from the South Side of Chicago. This museum should not be in Jackson Park. They could move it further West and not destroy this part of Chicago. Obama is from Hawaii and Indonesia. Why is this even in Chicago???

  15. km

    Re: Willie Nelson – selling encyclopedias is a con? Forget weed, is Willie Nelson high on crack?

    The Little Golden Encyclopedia (C)1959 was arguably the best thing ever to happen to me and lots of other people, too. There was this whole world out there beyond Clinton, Iowa, beyond TV, a world that was full of interesting stuff, and you could find out about it, all these neat stories and information, there for the taking.

    All you had to do was open this here book.

    1. Wukchumni

      When my mom fell for some Willie’s spiel circa 1966 I had no idea what sort of hot water it would get me into, as the World Book Encyclopedia was now my oyster to be read from Aachen to eternity largely in the bathtub.

      The ‘M’ volume was the largest and a tough balancing act which accidentally got immersed when I fell asleep one morning and still bears scars from the experience, but i’m ok.

      It started the trend for learning in that I became a very scattershot reader, bouncing off connections I scarcely knew existed, and set the tone for my business life of which every stanza was distinctly different from the prior or future day’s activity, how droll it must’ve been for the vast majority of livelihoods where you knew what you were gonna do, months or years in advance.

        1. Wukchumni

          I think of how a 9 year old current contemporary must be, overwhelmed with as many pages as dared read in regards to Aachen* online, versus the 3 paragraphs that sufficed for me.

          …and that’s just the first word encountered

          * named after Apollo Granus, the god of hot springs.

      1. km

        In my case, it was my grandmother who bought The Little Golden Encyclopedia for my aunt. I got those books some years later as a hand-me down.

        Never mind, I still learned lots. For instance, I learned about South Africa and that Apartheid was bad. In another article, I learned that scientists are helping Negroes prove that there are no meaningful differences between the races. Remember, this was written in 1959. To this day, many of my mental pictures can be traced to the illustrations in The Little Golden.

        It helped that Golden Books spent the money or used their influence to hire the best experts and artists of the day to write and illustrate, scientists, educators, historians, etc.. And Golden Books was proud that they had gotten the best, they listed the authors of the articles and their qualifications on a special sheet. It was clearly a labor of love on their part, the product of intelligent, educated, thoughtful, noble people, people who loved learning and loved teaching and who were confident that putting more knowledge in the hands of more people would make the world a better place.

        Golden thought “to hell with the bottom line” when they wrote this thing or they thought that quality would surely sell itself, even if kids were the target audience. This was not the product of cubicle drones focused on making the cheapest book possible that they could sell as many as possible as quickly as possible for as much per money as possible.

        1. km

          I wanted to add:

          Today, we would get something by and for the lowest common denominator. This was something written to raise the lowest common denominator.

      2. montanamaven

        I got the “World Book Encyclopedia” for Christmas! I was, at first, not happy. But then I read every page. I think it was around 1960. I’m dating myself. Only on this site do I reveal my true age. My friends.

        1. pasha

          the maroon “world book encyclopedia” series was the favorite go-to read amongst myself and sibs. was able to hold its own in our interest even after we got a t.v. paged thru a used set at a book fair a few years ago, and the page layout was instantly familiar and nostalgia-laden for me, even remembered several of the photos

      3. eg

        We had World Book, and more importantly for me, Childcraft, a collection for children (as I suppose the name already states).

        I was so taken with the sets that I kept them for my own children. Who never looked at them, nor any of the other books from my childhood that I saved for them (except some Uncle Wiggly that I read to my son).

        They hardly touched the Lego either, though the Lincoln Logs saw some use.

        Le sigh …

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      in 1977, a britannica salesman showed up at our house in the then wilderness north of houston…and I begged, and begged.
      ended up with the deluxe set: macropedia, micropedia, 3 volume dictionary, with a seven language dictionary attached, and a(?) 21 volume “Annals of America” that went all the way to Jimmy Carter.
      mom learned early that sending me to my room was no punishment, at all,lol.
      like an analog internet.
      prolly 500 pounds worth of tiny typeface….the whole collection just barely fit into my ex’s corolla’s trunk and backseat(which is the last place i saw it…paycheck bounced, leading to eviction and street living, and that car didn’t run any more, so it got towed off and sold for scrap)

    3. Duke of Prunes

      It was world book for me. Reading a random volume got me through many boring days of my childhood.

      My wife bought an entire set of Britannica in the early 00s at a garage sale for $10. I tried to introduce my 7 year old to the joys of random encyclopedia reading, and he looked at me like I had a hole in my head. Oh well… he’s turned out pretty good so far.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Grew up with three sets of encyclopedias – a Britannica, a Groliers and an Encyclopedia Americana. Taught me if nothing else that knowledge is always a good thing to have and led me on to a lifetime of reading. But in continuation with a thread that Lambert mentioned, I have hardly touched a book this year and at present have nine books on my bedhead waiting to be read. I guess that that makes my first New Year’s resolution then.

  16. DJG

    This morning, I checked FBook, and one of my Italian friends, who lives in Pisa, was grousing about the Italian post office.

    Two other Italians, who now live in England, wrote back and countered that the Royal Mail isn’t sending letters and packages to the Continent. Mail is shut down as a consequence of Brexit.

    U.K. residents? Is mail suspended, as these two Italians report?

  17. DJG

    The NYTimes has an obituary today for the brilliant writer, Barry Holstun Lopez, who died on Christmas. If you have never read any of his work, you should. His book, Of Wolves and Men, about the history of human fear of wolves and mistreatment of wolves–as well as many chapters with his keen observations of wolves and their behavior–certainly changed my thinking about how we humans “engage” the natural world.

    One more loss in a year of losses.

    1. JustAnotherVolunteer

      I think Barry’s heart was broken after the Holiday Farm fires tore through his patch of the McKenzie up above Finn Rock. The river was his place of refuge for many many years. So done with 2020

    2. John

      As an antidote read the obituary in the NYTimes of Reginald Foster , the Latinist. I only wish I had known him. How seldom an obituary produces laughter amid loss.

  18. cocomaan

    NYC Ousts 12,000 Students From In-Person Class Over Virus Test Forms

    Zero Hedge just linked me to this one.

    How is this not separate but equal? Seems like if someone wanted to attend in person but did not consent to random testing, they are being denied their right to equal protection.

    After all, they’re not saying that they will go to school sick, but just that they are not subjecting children to random testing.

  19. JWP

    Re: Politico marijana article.

    After doing some work on a local farm both growing and in sales, it’s become clear state level enforcement is better than federal for the industry because it keeps the number of competitors higher and tends away from oligopoly. I’m not sure if Politico thinks this is what widespread corruption looks like, because most of the instances they describe sound like what the federal government does for banks, oil, fracking, and tech. I much prefer corruption to be on the state level in an industry with tons of competition that, at least in oregon, has produced good products at low prices and pays its employees far better than most and in cash.

    “They have also created a culture in which would-be cannabis entrepreneurs feel obliged to make large campaign contributions or hire politically connected lobbyists.”
    I defy Politico to explain what other industry does not feel this obligation. This is not corruption, it is playing the game, and in our capitalism for the little man economy, that’s just about the only way to get anything done. If anything it is better than racking up billions in debt while jumping to being a monopoly, and tossing out an IPO like the tech route. With weed there is a physical good in high demand with better results than alcohol or tobacco as a substance. Seems like the lobbying is a good thing.

  20. flora

    Dave Barry’s “Year in Review: 2020”. – Anchorage Daily News

    This year deserves Barry’s full-bore satire. ;)

    We sincerely don’t want to relive this year. But our job is to review it. If you would prefer to skip this exercise in masochism, we completely understand.

    If, however, you wish, for some sick reason, to re-experience 2020, now is the time to put on your face mask, douse your entire body with hand sanitizer and then — to be safe — don a hazmat suit, as we look back at the unrelenting insanity of this hideous year, starting with …

    1. Rainlover

      December 28, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      Couldn’t get past the paywall at adn but here’s the whole piece from the Miami Herald. Worth wrestling with the ads for the belly laughs.

  21. marym

    “House to vote Monday evening on increasing stimulus checks to $2,000

    …That vote will require a two-thirds majority to pass since it is taking place under a suspension of the rules”

    (Based on twitter university) “suspension of the rules” means the bill can just be brought up for a vote right away. Regular rules would mean the bill goes through committee(s), is subject to amendments and debate, and there supposedly isn’t time for this before the session ends 1/3/2021.

    “A Republican leadership aide told CNN that while the Republican side is not whipping the bill, “there’s a good chance it can pass.” It’s far from certain, but aides are warning it’s possible.”

    Warning. (scary to think people may get some money)

    Still means-tested based on 2019 tax returns.

  22. Wukchumni

    The art of fire: reviving the Indigenous craft of cultural burning The Narwhal
    It seems remarkable that I could just light a 4x4x4 foot burn pile this morning if I felt like it. There’s 3 of them ready to go, gleanings from the forest for the trees, dead wood edition. Take a hike and clear a little bit is how i’ve been doing it for some time, and you get to know the trees, as there’s always new dead stuff showing up on the lower limbs, that is until I do a little pole saw dance for tips.

    3 months ago we had a wildfire leap 11 miles one day towards us, 9 the next day, and another 8 miles, when the evacuation orders said scram.

    Walking the Ladybug trail a few times since the wildfire, you can’t help but notice how schizophrenic it was in terms of damage. Whole hillsides a 100 yards wide and burnt to a crisp from the river all the way to ridgeline, while equally combustible low lying forest favelas alongside were untouched.

    My long term goal has been to replicate conditions the Native Americans would’ve had here lighting up the understory every late fall without fail, but can see flaws in my fail safe position in that the Wukchumni never had to contend with embers out of my control.

    Anyhow, it makes everything accessible on the all cats & no cattle ranch, so there’s that.

  23. Count Zero

    “The U.K., the leader in genomic sequencing for Covid-19, examines about 10 percent of all confirmed cases”

    A question: people seem to be assuming that the new more contagious variant originated in the UK. Is there solid evidence for this?

    The UK is doing hugely more genomic sequencing than anybody else. It is also testing much higher numbers of people — almost double many of the members of the EU. The fact is that the new variant was DISCOVERED in the UK. But it surely does not follow either that it originated there or that it is more prevalent there?

    Closing borders should be based on evidence surely. Is there sufficient to justify such measures? And a second point — there seems to be some eagerness to claim that any cases of the new variant found elsewhere must automatically have come from the UK. Some cases no doubt have. But all of them?

    1. c_heale

      I did read something early on that said this new variant wasn’t that much different than the old ones. But how true it is I don’t know. What is true is that the virus is completely out of control in the UK (for example teachers and students are prohibited from wearing masks in the classroom – seems like the nonsensical herd immunity idea is still a policy in the UK) and that the current government does nothing but lie. Being a cynical Brit I would like to know where this statistic of more genomic testing comes from.

      I also had the feeling the closing of the borders could have been Macron etc. forcing the UK government to come to an agreement with EU, because let’s face it, the UK government could have come to this agreement a long time ago.

      1. Count Zero

        The statistics on genomic sequencing came from the Monday’s NC, specifically:

        Remark on Covid testing comes from the site:

        I agree with the blatant lies and corruption of Johnson and his nest of vipers. But neither of these sites are in his control. That’s not to say that they should be taken as anything other than provisional bits of evidence to be further questioned and/or reinforced.

        I also agree that Macron’s closing of the borders was a bit of petty spite. We will be seeing a lot more of that during 2021. Nobody is allowed to leave the EU!

  24. Kouros

    The comments were not opened though for the “How The Fracking Revolution Is Killing the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry” article, which is excellent by the way.

    And it helps tremendously the Russian Foreign Ministry in presenting their case of the hypocritical nature of the US sanctions against NS2…

    1. barefoot charley

      It’s disappointing that the lapdog Germans have caved to our junk-LNG disposal program at their expense, instead of continuing their thousand-year trade in reliable Russian natural resources, which have long included gas connections. To think, the third gas pipeline from Putin to Germany is more than 90 percent complete, and only now we order our lapdog to bark. If I were the lapdog I’d plan whose lap to poop in.

  25. Heruntergekommen Sein

    Da. Nord Stream 2 is a must-have even though Nord Stream 1 is currently operating at half capacity. Why? So that the supplies to Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland can be shut off without Gazprom taking a hit and Germany can keep on selling electricity to western Europe. A German-Russia agreement to carve up Poland? When has that ever gone wrong?

    Also, the Russian Empire is only 300 years old. Muscovites only made it as far west as Smolensk in 1632. Ivan III gained independence from Tartar, Turk, and Mongol rule in 1480. Muscovy only became an idea in 1390. Far short of a thousand years. Rus history is a fascinating mirror image of the conquest of the New World, with Russia as Spain, had Spain defended itself from Anglo-Franco-Dutch challenges.

    1. barefoot charley

      I was thinking of Baltic Germany’s Hanseatic League trading with the Novgorod Vikings (the original Rus) for furs, fish and timber since the 11th century. Don’t need no stinkin’ central government.

  26. drumlin woodchuckles

    If domestic fracking kills the domestic non-frack oil industry, that is a good thing. If that industry can be killed, then oil might finally either cost enough or become unavailable enough so as to torture the economy and the society into making do with whatever renewables can provide and offer.

    The only question being, if fracking is able to exterminate the non-frack oil industry, will the side-effects have been worth it?

  27. Skorn

    Re: COVID & Ivermectin

    The media blackout of Ivermectin, as an effective COVID therapy, (unless I’ve missed something) is still underway. I google search every few days out of curiosity and very few recent hits appear. The below link from 12/13/20 took multiple searches to find.

    The researchers and trial data appear to be credible. Curious if the Clinician readership could weigh in here. Yes, a low cost generic drug, if effective, would be harmful to pharma profits. But has “evidence based medicine” so ruined patient care (at the health system level) that certain modalities are not even pursued/debated for fear of admin backlash/retaliation?

    From the medium article…

    “We ask why this same level of skepticism was not directed towards all the other failed therapies before they were adopted widely. None ever showed a mortality benefit yet have been widely supported by NIH, pharma, academia, and the mass media, i.e. remdesivir, convalescent plasma, tocilizumab, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines. With the exception of the vaccines, all these therapies have been marched out and widely used on some of the weakest evidence bases we have seen supporting a therapeutic intervention. Perhaps one could argue that these therapeutic efforts are forgivable in a pandemic but to deny the same “benefit of the doubt” to a safe and cheap drug with such a supportive evidence base while thousands are dying every day in America and around the world will be a historically unforgivable act.”

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