Links 1/7/2023

#ReceptioGate and the (absolute) state of academia The Critic (Anthony L)

What’s dangerous about the idea of ‘beauty’ in architecture? openDemocracy. I am sorry, I don’t get upset by Second Empire architecture even if it is often de trop.

Researchers Discover Why Roman Concrete Was So Durable MIT News

Sudden cardiac arrest is leading cause of death in young athletes CBS (Kevin W)

FDA approves Alzheimer’s drug shown to moderately slow cognitive decline in early stages of the disease STAT. KLG:

This quote [from the Financial Times version of the story] does not engender confidence:

“This treatment option is the latest therapy to target and affect the underlying disease process of Alzheimer’s, instead of only treating the symptoms of the disease,” Billy Dunn, director of the FDA’s Office of Neuroscience, said in a statement.”

Whether amyloid plaques (what about tau tangles?) are cause, consequence, or correlation is still an unanswered question. A monoclonal antibody that “dissolves” amyloid plaques in one of the mouse models does that and nothing else. That paper is perhaps 20 years old.

Intermittent fasting can boost your health, but how and when to restrict food consumption is crucial Salon. Hhhm. But probably assumes you go to bed by 11 PM.

Dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s, Hershey has ‘unsafe levels’ of lead and cadmium, lawsuits say USA Today (EM)



Large COVID autopsy study finds SARS-CoV-2 all over the human body New Atlas


China reports three COVID deaths for January 6 Reuters

‘Severe colds’: Celebrity deaths in China raise questions about real COVID toll Sydney Morning Herald (GM)


Great Salt Lake will disappear in 5 years without massive ‘emergency rescue,’ scientists say CNN (ma)

Will the weather eventually provoke radical action on climate? openDemocracy


PLA fully monitors US destroyer’s transit through Taiwan Straits, maintains high alert Global Times

Global Supply Chain Pressure Index: The China Factor Liberty Street Economics

Jack Ma gives up control of Ant Group, restructuring China’s largest fintech company to put it back on path for IPO South China Morning Post


India’s got the BRICS blues Indian Punchline (Kevin W)

For Indian techies, is it the end of the great American dream? Economic Times

European Disunion

1 in 2 French people want ‘social explosion,’ ‘new protest movement’: Survey Anadolu Agency

Old Blighty

Rishi Sunak proposes talks with UK union leaders in effort to halt strikes Financial Times

UK Train Stoppages Continue as Threat Grows of Broader Strikes Bloomberg

Inside Sweden’s collapsing housing market – and how Britain could be next Telegraph

New Not-So-Cold War

Biden administration announces nearly $4B in new military aid for Ukraine The Hill. Actually $3 billion. Package is $3.75 billion with:

…another part of the nearly $4 billion drawdown includes $682 million in Foreign Military Financing to European partner countries and allies “to help incentivize and backfill donations of military equipment to Ukraine.”

Western Escalation in Ukraine: Sending in Armor – But is it Too Little Too Late? Brian Berletic

Russia’s Active Su-57 Stealth Fighter Fleet Just Grew By 66 Percent: 22 Aircraft Expected in Next 24 Months Military Watch. I though the Russians weren’t so keen on stealth, that doctrinally they liked super fast planes better. Readers?

Fighting continues despite Russia’s proposed truce DW

Arrest of Russian outlet’s journalist is blow to press freedom – Moscow RT


OPEC’s Second-Largest Oil Producer Issues Arrest Warrant For Donald Trump OilPrice (BC)

The Chairman’s Afghan Problem American Conservative. Important despite unprepossessing title.

Harvard blocks role for former Human Rights Watch head over Israel criticism Guardian (BC)

Warning shots fired as Greek, Turkish patrol boats face off Associated Press (BC)

Imperial Collapse Watch

The West is Weak Where it Matters …Aurelien

The Cure for Overstretch Is Reduced Ambition Daniel Larison

GOP Clown Car

As of 11:30 PM Eastern: House Speaker vote: Drama on House floor as Gaetz vote sinks McCarthy Speakership bid The Hill. But of course: Kevin McCarthy secures Speakership after historic floor battle The Hill

What has Kevin McCarthy given up, and at what price? BBC

Here’s a list of items that are stalled until a House speaker is elected CNN. BC: “Interesting that if the Speaker vote is not resolved, it’s Congressional Staffers that won’t get paid, but Members will be fine. Upside down? Surprised?”

Your tax dollars at work (Chuck L):

McCarthy Warns Not Voting For Him Could Delay More Funds To Ukraine Babylon Bee

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activates National Guard to DETER migrants entering Sunshine State by sailing into Florida Keys and blasts ‘inept’ Biden’s ‘failure’ to stem tide of illegal crossers Daily Mail

Democrats en déshabillé

Democrats worry over potential of retirements in Senate The Hill

Pre-CPI Trading Surge Was ‘Extremely Unusual,’ Analysis Shows Bloomberg (Li). Bloomberg is alleging front-running by those with access to CPI data pre-publication. Probably not the Dept. of Labor, they are perceived to run a tight shop. Most likely perp is staff at Treasury.

Our No Longer Free Press

Media Silent as Latest Twitter Files Expose Flagrant Misconduct in Govt. & Journalism Glenn Greenwald


U.S. appeals court blocks ban on rapid-fire ‘bump stocks’ Politico

Six-year-old intentionally shot teacher in Virginia school, police say Guardian

ChatGPT banned in NYC schools over learning impact concerns Bleeping Computer. BC:

I thought ChatGPT was only barely beginning beta. Why would it be getting implemented anywhere at this point? The tech is very impressive at seeming to be intelligent, but it also seems to have no basis for assessing the accuracy its own conclusions, which for practical use, makes it useless or dangerous.

College Student Made App That Exposes AI-Written Essays Polygon

Trouble at Tesla: the end of a golden age of growth? Financial Times

Mercedes-Benz Gets Approval To Deploy Level 3 Driving Tech In Nevada The Drive

The Bezzle

Bankruptcy Judge Says Celsius Crypto Investors Don’t Own Their Accounts Gizmodo (Kevin W). This has more clear cut language, but as we indicated, the FTX terms were contradictory and amounted to the accounts being comingled funds. We warned that unless crypto exchange customers paid an upcharge for their own wallet, they should assume they were in a unregulated mutual fund.

Sam Bankman-Fried wants to use Robinhood stake to pay lawyers New York Post. BC: “Wowsers! LITERALLY no shame.” Moi: A lawyer friend brought this up and said she couldn’t believe SBF’s lawyers would further run up his presumably never-to-be-paid legal bill on such a patently ridiculous argument.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has not been found criminally or civilly liable for fraud, and it is improper for the FTX Debtors to ask the Court to simply assume that everything Mr. Bankman-Fried ever touched is presumptively fraudulent,” the attorneys said in a filing, according to Bloomberg.

US recession alarm bells ringing far and wide Asia Times (Kevin W)

McDonald’s CEO warns of possible 2023 layoffs as chain leans into fast service, innovation, and operational efficiencies Business Insider

IBM Staff Grumble Redeployment Orders Are Stealth Layoffs The Register

Class Warfare

Jobs Report Updates: US Labor Market Expected to Slow in December New York Times. BC: “Interesting to write about the report of the ‘slight decrease in hiring’ without mentioning the latest job cuts from Amazon and Salesforce.”

IRS Audits Few Millionaires But Targeted Many Low-Income Families in FY 2022 TracIRS (notabanker)

In a World First, AI Lawyer Will Help Defend a Real Case In the US Interesting Engineering

Antidote du jour. Martha r: “An actual gift a friend of mine received, occupied here by her kitten/young cat.”

And a bonus:

A second bonus:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. .Tom

    > I don’t get upset by Second Empire architecture

    Me neither. And defending modernist architecture can get you into all kinds of corners too.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      That article seemed all too keen on painting fans of classical architecture as white supremacists. It ignored that the vast majority of buildings constructed now more or less reject modernism, if you count commercially available housing. People simply prefer traditional, vernacular, or quasi-vernacular forms in nearly all cultures.

    2. playon

      Isn’t ornamentation a part of human nature? The more brutal styles of the 20th century remove all of that to leave what is basically a box. Tom Wolfe wrote a small book called From Our House To Bauhaus which I found to be a very entertaining read.

      1. Adam Eran

        Recommended alternative (from an architect/planner) Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Duany, Speck and Plater-Zyberk.

        The key concept: pedestrians make neighborhoods. Autos make sprawl. No pedestrians? No transit possible, and (bonus!) an impoverished public realm. The public realm is everything available even to the poor. The U.S. has been working mightily to make sure the public realm is crapified. Streets are designed for autos only. Uses (commerce, residence, industry, office) are separated by mandatory auto-centric commutes. This is the design equivalent of enforcing Kalecki’s “labor discipline”–the message: “You had better take whatever crappy job is on offer, or suffer the indignities of poverty, an impoverished public realm, even homelessness and starvation. And if you protest too much, we’ll put you in a cage.”

        “But people prefer it that way” is a common response. That’s contradicted by what people commit their resources to buy. The expensive nice neighborhoods are in the old, traditionally-developed areas, typically. People pay a premium to live where they can walk.

        1. tevhatch

          Thousands of people across North America are working to make their cities safe, livable, and financially resilient. Are you ready to join the movement?

          It’s redundant in much of the rest of the world, which never gave up walkable cities.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Russia’s Active Su-57 Stealth Fighter Fleet Just Grew By 66 Percent: 22 Aircraft Expected in Next 24 Months Military Watch. I though the Russians weren’t so keen on stealth, that doctrinally they liked super fast planes better. Readers?

    There seems little doubt that there have been doubts within the Russian airforce about the value of putting much resources into the Su-57. It had lots of problem in its development (just as many as equivalent western programmes, we just don’t hear about it so much) and is a lot more expensive than the Su-27-35 range. But it seems the current conflict has solved that dilemma, probably because a lot more money is now pouring into Russian defence coffers.

    There is a lot of nonsense talked about stealth. Stealth is a relative, not an absolute term. There is no fully stealth aircraft in existence (its probably impossible). It is one of a range of characteristics needed for a combat aircraft along with speed, range, payload, sensors, integration, etc. The USAF as a matter of operational doctrine puts heavier emphasis on stealth than other airforces (including the USN), but that doesn’t mean that every airforce in existence doesn’t value it. Every single combat aircraft now under development has some stealth characteristics. Quite simply, the stealthier you are (even in relative terms), the more likely you are to survive in combat. Its not a case of being invisible, its a matter of an enemy not being able to identify and target you quickly. In modern warfare, the person who gets the first reasonably accurate shot in usually wins.

    The Su-57 is far stealthier than previous Soviet aircraft (which were staggeringly unstealthy in comparison to Nato aircraft, even going back half a century), but like the Chinese J-20 its not fully configured for maximum stealth. You can tell by details like the control surface design that the usual Russian focus on reliability and ease of maintenance still trumps other factors (in simple terms, a stealth aircraft must try to make every surface feature flush with the body, but this creates all sorts of engineering problems – keeping ailerons and flaps, etc, slightly gapped from the main body is far easier). This doesn’t mean that with subsequent variations they won’t increase stealthiness as they get more experienced with the manufacturing and maintenance of stealth features. Its basic shape will allow further enhancements.

    The Russian emphasis on kinetics (i.e. sprint speed entering combat) was probably more a matter of necessity than doctrine. Russian engines have always been about a decade behind western ones, so there was an emphasis on aircraft having an intensive sprint either to launch long range missiles with more kinetic energy, or to get out of trouble more quickly. Western aircraft always saw mach speed cruising as more important. But the latest Russian engines are pretty good, so they are probably converging more on western characteristics in terms of balancing up capabilities. But from what we’ve seen so far over Ukraine, including possible very long range interceptions of Ukie aircraft, the Russians still place a very high value on long range missiles against conventional targets. The problem is that this isn’t much use against western stealth aircraft as they’ll need to get a lot closer to get a lock-on, and that brings them within the range of some very effective western medium range missiles.

    The Russians also strongly favour dog fighting manoeverability, something most western airforces consider to be something of a waste of time as they think few modern aircraft will get close enough for this in a high level fight (judging from the design of the J-20, the Chinese agree). It remains to be seen who is right about this. In a dogfight, it seems likely the Su-57 would reign supreme, although its still an open question as to whether this is much use in reality, Tom Cruise movies notwithstanding.

    1. Paradan

      In addition to a modern day AESA radar, it’s a got a secondary radar that’s low frequency, and is capable of detecting “stealth” aircraft. These low frequency radars don’t provide a targeting solution( it’s like having a 3 mile wide fuzzy dot on the screen as opposed to a definite target with speed, heading and altitude), but it’s good enough to engage with an active radar missile(using inertial guidance initially) or long range IR.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        The problem with that secondary radar (and any other such radar) is that when it uses it, the aircraft is not stealthy anymore (i.e. someone can track you using your own radar). Plus, low frequency radar can identify stealth aircraft, but its likely they can’t track them with any great accuracy, certainly not enough to aim a missile. The Russians have developed very good passive IR detectors which can track from a distance without giving away your position, but their range is of necessity limited. The Europeans do this too – its one area that the US has lagged significantly as it was never seen as important.

        One point to bear in mind though is that an aircraft doesn’t have to be fully stealthy to avoid getting tracked. It can, for example, point its stealthiest profile at the enemy radar to confuse it at the right moment. This seems to be the thinking behind the Chinese J-20, which has a peculiar mix of stealthy and very unstealthy (the canard) features. The Indians have claimed that they can track J-20’s over the Himalaya very easily.

        The Chinese seem to be working on layers of UHF frequency radars to provide multiple data sets to allow stealth aircraft tracking and this is probably similar to the Russian strategy. Most countries are doing something similar – the British/Germans claim to be able to do this to track F-22’s using the Eurofighter, and the French and Swedes have hinted they can do the same. But then, they would, wouldn’t they. Only a real war will tell which system works.

    2. The Rev Kev

      I would imagine that the purpose of having Su-57s in the mix is to give the Russians greater flexibility in their responses. And rather than a stand-alone fighter, it will be integrated within a layered aerial defence system for where it is needed. Sort of like horses for courses. I get the idea that with Russian weapons systems that the key word here is systems. You see an example of this with their aerial defence systems. The US Patriot battery system will fire a standard missile, no matter what the target is and often misses. The Russian S-400 system has a variety of missiles available to fire and will select the missile best suited to its target. So what I am getting at is that the Russians appear to be systems thinkers and it shows in their military choices.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Well, in theory all militaries claim to have fully integrated systems, although these don’t always work out in reality. This is probably the one great strength of the F-35 – it can be a focal point for integrating systems in a way which no other aircraft can do in the West (yes, I know its fashionable to diss on the F-35, but multiple airforces are trying to buy them for a reason). Essentially, it can act as an airborne version of a S-400 (with other, cheaper aircraft and missiles making up for its lack of payload), but can do it offensively as well. Thats the theory anyway. Both he Gripen and Rafale claim to have highly integrated systems, constantly swapping information with other aircraft and ground control. Most is classified of course so its hard to tell reality from marketing material from fanboy stuff.

        This is one reason why the F-22 was such a staggering waste of money. It was a completely stand alone system which never integrated with other aircraft in the USAF inventory. It was utterly stupid – far more stupid in conception than the F-35, but it gets away with it cos it looks cool (thats my theory anyway).

          1. kemerd

            Fighter mafia hated F-22. Spray even wrote a paper on F-22 and why stealth fighter concept itself is a non-starter

        1. Wukchumni

          I agree that the demise of the Edsel of the air is greatly overrated, thanks to that Rx prescription for Buyagara-the F-35 can still get it up, a couple yesterday were getting it on overhead so I cranked the Barry White to 11, and one of them tilted its wings @ me from 9,400 feet, I think.

        2. Jeotsu

          I also wonder how the Su-57 fits into the developing ‘net-centric’ warfare doctrine. While net-warfare capabilities can be added to older aircraft, they are built into the Su-57. It is much easier to remain stealthy if you are using the combined sensor pictures of other allied assets (air and ground based). Consider the possible synergy of the Su-57 as part of the greater air-defense network, especially for a country that has very few AWACS-equivalent craft.

          As I understand it the Su-57’s the the Ukraine theatre have been hanging back well into Russian airspace, while contributing significantly to the air battle. That is a good model if your air force is much smaller than your NATO adversary, and allows you to prevent NATO from getting air supremacy (or even air dominance), while your conventional land forces grind the (much smaller) opponent ground forces. Just preventing air-support would really cripple the ground combat power of the US, when traditionally every tactical problem is usually solved by a guided air-dropped bomb.

      2. Betty

        In my IT career in financial services I found Russians were frequently systems thinkers (compared to Americans with similar levels of work experience), which I thought reflected their training in logic, perhaps. I saw this from the days when they were brought in by the State Dept. Also, they were excellent at getting advice from networking.

    3. Raymond Sim

      The Russians also strongly favour dog fighting manoeverability, something most western airforces consider to be something of a waste of time as they think few modern aircraft will get close enough for this in a high level fight

      However, it is quite plausible (though not much discussed so far as I’m aware) that the Russians have adopted supermaneuverable aircraft precisely because their capabilities complicate long-range targeting solutions, especially for air-to-air systems. It wouldn’t necessarily take a big effect to alter likely exchange rates to such an extent as to make USAF planning for deep interdiction of Russian forces look like a unilateral disarmament initiative.

    4. Polar Socialist

      I’m assuming (not based on any certain knowledge, naturally) that Russians think of stealth as only one feature among many – nice to have, but not highest priority and not at any price.

      Regarding this delivery, it seems that the factory building the latest variant of Su-30 and Su-57 is currently modernizing it’s production line, and it may be that it’s better to start building the next generation fighters than continue with what is basically a version of something that flew first time in 1977.

      If the claims are true that Su-57 is only 10-12% more expensive to build than Su-35S but has much better performance, sensors and weapons systems, maybe switching to next generation fighter at this point makes more sense than continue the old production line.

      For Russians the fifth generation means several capabilities the most important of which are ability to control drone wingman (or men), improved stealth, supercruise, supermaneuverability and AI based information integration. And by stealth they mean making it harder for the enemy to lock and track and easier for the pilot to evade enemy missiles – not invisibility. Of course, also supermaneuverability, speed and counter-measures (ECM, flares, chaff and others) make it easier to evade enemy missiles and Russians obviously like stealth only to the extent it’s not hindering the other defenses.

      And finally, it’s my understanding that L-band (or D-band in NATO lingo) is accurate enough to use as fire-control, the main problem with airborne use has been the size and weight of the elements and their cooling. So it can never be the primary or only radar of a fighter size aircraft, but it can be used as a secondary radar to specifically track stealth airplanes, albeit only in a narrow cone that can not be steered much in any direction. Only way to sweep an area is to turn the plane, but that’s enough if an UHF band ground radar can provide an intercept vector.

  3. Henry Moon Pie

    Architecture and beauty–

    Everybody on earth knowing
    that beauty is beautiful
    makes ugliness.

    Everybody knowing
    that goodness is good
    makes wickedness.

    Tao te Ching # 2 (Le Guin rendition)

  4. The Rev Kev

    “IBM Staff Grumble Redeployment Orders Are Stealth Layoffs”

    I understands that the Japanese method of getting rid of people is to have a group of them report to a room daily where they have no work or anything to do but just to sit there. If IBM tried to do the same, they would be well advised to make sure that it is a room with no internet connectivity whatsoever or those employees would have a ball being able to spend all day on the net with no pointy-haired boss breathing down their neck and no TSP report forms to fill out while being paid to do so.

    1. Bart Hansen

      IBM has an old history of stealth layoffs. A very long time ago I spent five years with IBM in a Washington D.C. suburb on a computer project for the Federal Government. As the economy was dropping into a recession, true to their policy about not firing anyone, IBM transferred me to Whippany, New Jersey on the later to be abandoned ABM project.

      Not only did I not want to work on that project, my wife and I soon learned that Whippany was near NYC and homes there were very expensive. Fortunately, I was able to find a good job at a nearby central bank in D. C. where I spent the rest of my working life.

      1. curlydan

        The whole “Watson” AI system is absolute crap and a grand marketing ploy.

        The system IBM recently tried to develop for the group I work in was terrible. I couldn’t believe when my management selected IBM for the project. I groaned. They ignored me.

        It’s almost shocking how bad they were.

    2. griffen

      As a dutiful filer of TPS reports, I find it comforting that each day I have my marching orders with little variation. Now on occasion I must look more closely at the actual reporting, since other departments also filing their daily inputs can cause things to start going awry.

      IBM may have been a gold standard bearer kind of company, once upon a time. Alas for what the free markets have caused in their wake, mostly thanks to the Chicago school teachings when combined with the ill tidings of global free trade, super capitalism and that shareholder value trumps basically everything.

    3. Betty

      Rev, I found that to be a very common management technique. The NYC Dept of Ed has storehoused teachers for years. The Daily News did that to typesetters who had won the “perfect contract” – permanent work during the automation of their jobs. They were given training, but with workloads that took an hour or two. In technology, if your workload decreased it was red flag that you should start looking fast (otherwise you would be looking for work when everyone had already gotten jobs and badmouthed the project). Developers would debate over how quickly they should move on, what the delicate balance balance point would be between “smart” career move vs. passive lay-offs.

    4. Kfish

      I’ve been there. It sounds trivial but the real pain is from very publicly having nothing to do, while being surrounded by people who are doing useful work.

  5. Wukchumni

    Goooooooood Mooooooorning Fiatnam!

    The 2 companies were dispersed along usual division in simulated war games held in the House, and team red floundered frequently while in full flummox, fairly flailing was the feeling felt, only to finally prevail when they ran out of other options.

  6. griffen

    Kevin goes 15 Rounds, and after hitting the mat 14 times he finally stands victorious. I can’t think of lyrics to accompany the song but Kevin has the “Eye of the Tiger”. It’s a super human feat of strength I tell you, with a tinge of sarcasm and a dash of irony.

    1. The Rev Kev

      If Kevin just goes ahead and acts like nothing happened and feels that he can forget those promises, well, I would expect serious trouble. I’m not sure that all the pledges that he made have been made public. For example, will there be one to squash what came out of the January 6th Committee? One to investigate what really happened that day? One to actually investigate the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop? If none of this happens, then I foresee a future motion where the emblem of the elephant for the Republican party will be dumped and that of a rhinoceros substituted instead.

      1. Lydia Maria Child

        I too am very interested in finding out what the concessions were; both what was asked and what was agreed to. Jimmy Dore mentioned a $75 billion cut to military, which I found shocking. And haven’t heard anyone else mention it. And then realized that there has been very very little discussion about the actual concessions and mostly coverage of the partisan drama and spectacle. I’m assuming they have a lot of bad ideas and a few good ones (military cuts, 72 hours to actually read the bills, etc.). I’d like a much deeper discussion on this, as I think we all know why this aspect of the story has been all but buried.

        1. Lexx

          I don’t think the days of drama were about concessions today, but what they can get tomorrow down the road. It was to prove to the public they could hold the Senate hostage any time they liked; McCarthy may get the title but he would be a lame duck speaker. It was the opening act for the bare-fisted boxing matches to come. I was a little surprised no one got punched in the face… or did I miss that story? Probably just wishful thinking on my part.

          Fairly certain McCarthy will do everything within his new powers to get even with them too.

          Altogether bad news for the tax-paying public.

        2. Cas

          Some concessions:
          McCarthy won over most of his House Republican critics with a series of commitments to rein in spending — opening up the appropriations process in the House and using the debt ceiling as leverage — and to hold votes on conservative priorities, like a balanced budget, congressional term limits and a border security plan Texas Republicans crafted….
          McCarthy also agreed to ensure the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, which most of his flipped opponents are members of, has proportional representation on committees compared to other ideological groups in the Republican Conference.
          And perhaps most importantly, the California Republican agreed to restore a longstanding rule on the procedure for ousting a sitting speaker to allow one member to force a recall vote at any time…
          Earlier concessions McCarthy made to conservatives to limit bills to a single subject and make it harder to waive the germaneness rule for amendments are included in the rules package, as well as language setting up a separate vote to create a Judiciary subcommittee they wanted to centralize investigations into the executive branch.
          McCarthy also agreed to appoint “three solid conservatives” to the Rules Committee… That will help conservatives ensure leadership doesn’t send legislation to the floor that doesn’t have significant Republican backing.

          the link to the whole article:

          So a whole lot of bad. I’m particularly furious over the debt ceiling. The Dems knew this was coming and didn’t do a thing. Since they want to gut entitlements as much as the Republicans do, I’m afraid this might be the year they finally succeed in gutting Social Security.
          I do think we’ll get Hunter Biden’s laptop hearings, but I’m afraid they’ll focus more on the salacious than the criminal.

          1. Katniss Everdeen

            “…a whole lot of bad”????

            What’s so “bad” about “a balanced budget, congressional term limits and a border security plan”? Or making “it harder to waive the germaneness rule for amendments,” (commonly known as pork, massive amounts of corrupt pork)?

            I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “germaneness rule,” but it sounds like a reasonable thing to me.

            And you didn’t finish this quote:

            And perhaps most importantly, the California Republican agreed to restore a longstanding rule on the procedure for ousting a sitting speaker to allow one member to force a recall vote at any time…

            It ends this way:

            …His detractors said this concession was needed to ensure accountability, as they didn’t inherently trust McCarthy to make the changes he promised without a backstop.

            That would be called ensuring you have a mechanism to “hold leadership’s feet to the fire,” something the democrats have claimed, in the past, to know something about, and something that should generally be considered an absolute prerequisite for awarding a vote. Or so I’ve heard about a million times in comment sections such as this one.

            1. Pat

              About the only thing I worry about is the balanced budget issue. IF I didn’t think it was not more about cutting so-called entitlements rather than actually making responsible choices in how to spend government funds I might not dread it so much. But since I am quite sure most of our elected officials would rather cut off their hand then cut funding for the MIC and our foreign military misadventures, I foresee massive cuts for things I feel are important like Education, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid, SS especially disability, the Post Office, Veterans Adminstration… Especially as I am sure another round of tax cuts for the wealthy is also on the agenda.

              But like I said the other stuff, not so much.

    2. Wukchumni

      GOPhog Day was interesting, they could’ve got it done so quick without a voice vote, but for once we got to see how sausage is prepared, and frankly i’d go with the navy bean soup instead.

      1. Lexx

        I like a bit of salt pork or a smoked ham hock in my navy bean soup. Ma made it that way going back generations. Not sausage, but pork nonetheless.

        1. Wukchumni

          From the glimpse I saw of sausage making in the House on C-Span, most of the cuts consisted of organ meets.

    3. Mildred Montana

      The House-sponsored television series “The Apotheosis of Kevin McCarthy” mercifully ended last night. All fifteen episodes were painfully devoid of drama, since anyone of any intelligence knew from its premiere what the final result would be. That’s the problem with congressional theater. Outcomes are so predictably predictable.

      In other news…The swearing-in of House members took place late last night. George Santos (Republican Representative for New York’s Third District) swore the Oath of Office. I hope he got some lawyerly advice on the consequences of perjury before doing that. Pathological liars and incorrigible scammers usually take the Fifth.

  7. griffen

    The golden arches will not be earning any of my business soon, based on the incredibly slow service and backed up vehicles waiting at the drive thru (anecdotal to me and the nearest location). Just to note that when you drive by the national chain location at 7am in the morning, and are left asking yourself is the store really open or not? Or you hit the drive through only to learn their systems are all down. And the food quality is not reliable. To be fair at the very least, the pandemic “temporary lockdown” and then afterward opening slowly again has caused all manner of labor problems.

    Heck no McDonalds, I will not go.

    1. Keith Howard

      I have not darkened the door of a McDonalds for probably 40 years. On that last occasion I realized that the procrustean furniture and the presto possibile music meant, ‘Chew faster and get the hell out of here.’ I did.

      1. Arizona Slim

        When I was in my senior year of high school, I worked at McDonalds for a few months. And I was fired.

        Well, before you break out the sympathy cards for 17-year-old Slim, let me tell you something. A diet that was heavy in McDonalds foods really trashed my health, and I had been a healthy kid.

        Thank to my forceful ejection from the Golden Arches, I began to realize the connection between nutrition and health, and, yes, I regained my health. Oh, did I ever.

      2. Mildred Montana

        Fourteen-year McDonald’s boycotter here, ever since 2008 when a Filet, a Quarter-Pounder, and a milkshake set me back ten bucks. I could have gone to a Chinese restaurant and for the same price or less eaten much healthier. After that I said to myself, The only thing “fast” about fast food is how fast it drains one’s wallet and how fast it ruins one’s health (as Arizona Slim points out above).

        Strictly anecdotal: I have a friend who is ten years younger than I am. He really, really loved McDonald’s. He had a crippling stroke ten years ago when he was fifty.

        My takeaway from the movie “Supersize Me” was that, although the food was uniformly bad for one’s health, the fries seemed to be the worst. Must be all that gunk they’re fried in.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’m gonna hit up the McDonalds in Farmersville for breakfast this morning, and I probably live the furthest away from a fast food place as any of you @ close to 25 miles, and it isn’t something I do all the time, but allows me to get a pulse on the country, in ways that are subtle and you’d never see if you weren’t there, witnessing.

          McDonalds did away with the help-yourself soda fountains a few months ago, the reasoning I think being that said fountains were an attractant to the homeless, and they were losing money giving you refills. (no more of those if you ask at the counter, either)

          I don’t often dine at fast food restaurants, but when I do-I like to watch.

          1. Mildred Montana

            >…allows me to get a pulse on the country…”

            Please do give us an update on your vitals—especially your pulse. ;)

              1. Mildred Montana

                But hey, Wukchumni, that was last week, not after your McDonald’s breakfast binge this morning. NC, like doctors, privileges up-to-the-minute information.

                Nevertheless, your BP of 111/70 is admirable for a codger. The last time some white-coat informed me, about two years ago, I was 180/100. He or she wanted to do the test again. I refused. The first thing these white-coats want to do upon initial examination is to take one’s blood pressure—because it’s so damn easy! Forget about a history, a consultation, a physical, just a BP and then a litany of blood tests, easy-peasy. Ka-ching! Get the f***out of here.

                Therefore I prefer the ostrich’s head-in-sand strategy. I will ignore all the advice of medical professionals and assume that my circulatory system is designed, after years of good eating and exercise continued to this day, to withstand the onslaughts of high blood pressure.

                Medical advice notwithstanding. And pharmaceutical high blood-pressure medications be damned.

          2. John Beech

            On Fridays I pick up Egg McMuffins and coffee for the crew. More of a mid-morning thing as I’m usually in line around 9-9:15. Done this for years.

            So just as I keep track of how full the parking lots of Walmart and Target are during the Black Friday through Christmas period, this line is a good proxy for the economy. Let me tell you, the last few years for business has been booming! Believe it or not, especially the last three pandemic years.

            Until, that is, October when from a long term average of being 11th in the drive through, things were distinctly slower and I was 7th on average. By December I averaged 3rd and pulled into one of the two empty ordering slots twice (two lanes merge into one payment and pickup line). Yesterday, first Friday in January, I again pulled in directly and placed my order, no waiting.

            So make of it what you will but there are fewer folks buying breakfast at McDonald’s in my estimation. These are likely <$10 out of pocket purchases. And FWIW, Walmart and Target had similar levels of cars in their lots this year.

            Meanwhile, government and industry are overwhelming parts of our business with about 8% representing hobbyists. Both continue spending – but – there has been a distinct shift in buying by hobbyists beginning last quarter from top shelf to lower end.

            Anticipating this possibility (benefit of having been around the block a few times), last June I negotiated a contract with my steel gear supplier. One, which allowed me to expand their use through our entire product line (basically introducing their use into our more popularly priced products.

            So in agreeing to replace our all-metal gear set supplier by expanding business with our all-steel supplier (all-metal meaning a mix of steel, brass, and aluminum while all-steel means just that, all the gears are steel) I got a good enough price to offer the benefit of a longer lasting gear set to our entry level product consumers who otherwise balk at spending for products featuring these materials.

            But this meant I got a good enough deal that in exchange for eating a few bucks, I keep the prices at the same level they've been at for years (we endured a huge spike in aluminum and polymer costs but these have come back down). Point being, we're competitive with imports on pricing and now we're delivering a better product for the money.

            The point? Entering this recession (and for the first time ever) instead of pulling back on our advertising, we're expanding our advertising buy. And we're emphasizing how our popularly priced products are now best-of-breed (competitors always emphasize their top of the range products, which we never do relying instead on word of mouth). Point being, I'm now going after the working man's business more so than the guys for whom money is no object (and amongst whom we do pretty well, already).

            Will it pay off? If we get the long lasting recession I suspect we're headed for, then yes, I believe so. If you think about it, ask me in a years if I have any regrets. Moreover, with this being our 40th year of me signing the front of paychecks, it's the first where I think maybe I'm ahead of the curve, for once.

            Anyway, if I'm right, I'm about to drag my two biggest competitors into a dark alley and work them over. And if I'm mistaken? Then the little guy gets one Hell of a deal. I can live with this outcome, also.

        2. IM Doc

          I, like you, Slim was fired from my very first job as a high schooler.
          Except mine was Wendy’s.

          The problem is the vegetable oil. These fats may as well be an alien being to your liver. They are not found in nature in any way. Your liver’s attempts to process them biochemically leads to some unfortunate by-products that are literally like sandpaper to the lining of your arteries.

          And when the vegetable oil is deep fried it becomes even more unstable and ugly. They would be much better off frying their food in lard or butter like grandma did – but that would be entirely too expensive. Lard and butter are natural fats and your liver knows exactly what to do with them. Also, they are very stable while being fried unlike Wesson and Crisco. The same thing applies to anything fried in vegetable oil from doughnuts to KFC to McNuggets. It is literally toxic poison. The problem for humans is that this particular poison does not kill in 1 day – it takes decades. I am certainly not recommending that people eat lard and butter all the time – but there is a reason that I see many 90 year olds that use lard and are healthy, while I see all kinds of 40-50 year old McDonald eaters struggling and dying.

          It is staggering to comprehend how successful the snow-job was for generations of Americans – that these fats – CRISCO, WESSON, MAZOLA – were healthy and much safer than lard and butter.

          Back in the 70s, the night crew was responsible for cutting the fries. They were then placed in big gigantic white barrels of sugar water – the sugar making them very crunchy and brown when fried.

          There is a very special bun machine in every outlet. There is a rolling cylinder on the top dunked in vegetable oil. Underneath is a toaster. You were literally told to hold the buns on the cylinder and count to 5 before releasing. The buns were then toasted while full of vegetable oil from top to bottom.

          Don’t even get me started on the “healthy” chili. I also recently had occasion to be in a family event in a restaurant chain called Golden Corral. I only thought that fast food joints were the pinnacle of bad health. I will never forget that experience in my life. Was emotionally sick for days.

          Like you, Slim, the exposure of this opened my eyes for my entire life. I now live in a community where there is virtually no fast food. Compare that to the big city where there were 10-12 outlets on every corner. I have no doubts why I see a small fraction of the diabetes and CAD that I did in the big city.

          The problem is that we have allowed the entire economies of 8-10 of our states to be completely dependent on the production of this crap. I have no answers.

          1. Jason Boxman

            Oh wow! I went to a Golden Corral once at the behest of some people I’d met after a brief afternoon of 5 minutes of horseback riding. (No where to go in that little enclosure, and the horse seemed mostly to want me to get off.)

            And the place is just this massive massive buffet of all you can eat food, tons and tons of it, little of it healthy at all, for like at the time $10. Just insane. As someone that gets fat eating much food at all, buffets are the worst of all. I do miss the hibachi buffet place I used to go to a few times a year in Orlando, though. They’d cook up some vegetables and pork for me, with some rice, and that was epic.

            And the desserts! Some of each please!


            But yeah, Golden Corral, wow. Crazy. Americans eat too much of the wrong things.

          2. Greg

            The problem is the vegetable oil. These fats may as well be an alien being to your liver. They are not found in nature in any way.

            Can you explain more here? My understanding was that vegetable oils were pressed from various seeds, depending on flavour. What do you mean by not found in nature?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              He explains very clearly in context. Wesson, Crisco, etc.

              I hope he comes back re olive oil. I have read that its health advantages are mitigated when it is heated, although not sure if that makes it problematic, v. merely “not health beneficial” as in when in when at room temp, like in salad dressings.

              Canola oil isn’t well regarded among hard core health food types either……although again they seem to be v. it across the board when it may be a heated v. unheated issue.

              1. Greg

                OK thanks, not brand names I recognise so I didn’t register that. Crisco as I’ve encountered it (“Kremelta”) always seemed like an industrial product to me, not really a pure vegetable oil.

                I’m still not getting how unmodified vegetable oils are “not natural products”, when seeds and nuts form part of pre-agricultural diets, a large part in some regions.
                Heating could be it, the modification of the double bonds and side chains resulting perhaps.

                Doesn’t change the main point IM Doc seems to be making of “lots of these arent good for you”, of course.

              2. Alice X

                Olive oil is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are said to be good. Butter and lard contain mostly saturated fat, especially the former, which is said to be bad. So I’m not sure about the good doctors statement. The site here has useful tables and a search engine for other foods.

                The site next (it’s the North American Olive Oil Association so there might be contrary reports) states that olive oil’s fat composition doesn’t change with heat, though I’ve found that it doesn’t take that much heat for it to smoke, which is when I would think it would degrade.

                Does olive oil lose its health benefits when heated?

                Another report is here.

          3. TimH

            To paraphrase Michael Pollan: Eat food, mostly vegetables, and not too much.

            His book Cooked is very interesting, btw, and not so much a lecture on diet like the others.

            Per Wiki, the products sold under the Wesson brand are oil mixtures that may include canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil or sunflower oil… is the digestive issue one of those oil sources, or simply the hydrogenation?

          4. semper loquitur

            Oh God, Golden Corral. Ate there about 30 years ago, the steaks were gristly and inedible. The salad bar looked as if someone had microwaved the vegetables. The dessert bar offerings must have shipped in 50 gallon drums.

          5. Bazarov

            Until somewhat recently (mid-2000s?), Crisco was rich in transfat. The Crisco people hawked transfat as a healthy alternative to saturated fat.

            Turned out transfat is far more deadly.

      3. Mikel

        After a decades long hiatus from most fast food places, whenever I’ve found myself having to go in one with someone else or to use a restroom (in the past), I’ve noticed they smell strange. Just kind of off….

      4. Jason Boxman

        I forget these places even exist. I do like me some Wendy’s frosty though, but the classic, not this new vanilla thing.

        Around here it’s the Chick-fli-a or whatever that has the line around the block, though. The main drag into town is all fast food places. And across the street we’re getting a new Popeye’s, because why not? The parking lot owner decided to capitalize on that empty lot of land. Oh capitalism baby!

        Go to the Walmart here in western NC, and it looks like most people there are ready to up and die at any moment. No masks in sight, either. Very sad. At least the people in Sarasota, as I recall, while older, didn’t look of death.

        1. griffen

          About the only line I can get into is the waiting in my vehicle line for a Bojangles breakfast biscuit, and even that has turned into a more expensive habit ( so the habit is limited, once or twice a week at most ). At the very least the country ham is as close a thing to my younger days that I can find (and still very palatable). But I digress.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I’m with you. Rarely stop there except for “emergencies”, most recently to stave off head explosions from hangry family members in the car during a road trip. Hadn’t been in one for years and was surprised to find nobody inside to take our order. Evidently I was now an employee and customer at the same time and was expected to use an ipad to place my order. I insisted on giving someone my order and paying at the cash register, which took a while as nobody seemed to know how to run the thing anymore.

      Won’t be going there again as long as these trends continue. If they want to hire actual human beings and pay them decently I might reconsider. Using actual food in their recipes rather than pink slime would also be a plus.

      1. earthling

        Everywhere I go these stores are crowded and doing big businesss. Apparently they are training Gen Z to put in their orders online, and they want all of us to do the same. I walk out of stores that want me to use a kiosk. Um, if you want me to learn your software and do your data entry, you need to pay me by the hour. I guess it’s a good thing for all of our wallets and nutrition that we are being turned away. The fast food habit is almost killed in me, last week’s $12 Subway meal may have been the last.

        Meanwhile, the article itself is quite a case study in greedy CEO behavior, “McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski warned staff Friday of possible layoffs in the spring”. The upshot is, business is booming, sales are up despite rough economic times, labor is hard to find, but we want more, more, more, and we’re going to squeeze to get it.

        PLUS they just telegraphed their move, giving employees at every level the push to get out now. Presumably a lot of their best people. What a genius. He’ll jack quarterly profits up a bit, and hollow out the company. I hope there is re-incarnation, and he comes back as a poor single mother given odd shifts to work at a McDonalds to get by. Til getting laid off.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          Apparently they are training Gen Z to put in their orders online…

          And to have them delivered, which only makes something already too expensive even more so. But at least it all goes on a credit card so it’s not so noticeable.

          1. semper loquitur

            Tried to order a pizza earlier, a really good local joint has an incredible pie. Delivery? Gotta go through Uber. Pickup? Gotta go through Uber. No phone number to call an order in. I walked.

    3. curlydan

      And the contagion is spreading to even once sane venues.

      Just yesterday I visited my favorite store, Aldi. After encountering widespread shortages and $5 eggs (unheard of for Aldi), I went to check out and was greeted by a new phalanx of “self-serve” checkouts. Now anyone who knows Aldi knows the employee run checkouts are incredibly fast and seem finely engineered to be that way. But there’s only one employee at the checkout now.

      So I go to the self-serve checkout and immediately run into two mis-priced item issues. The manager has to come be called, we get into a 5 minute debate, but he eventually gives me the prices that were marked on the shelf. All of this could have taken the normal cashier 1 minute max to resolve. Crazy! And some poor cashiers probably have lost his/her half decent job.

      1. agent ranger smith

        I see that Krogers is trying to train all its shoppers to use the robo self-checkout machines. There are more of them than there used to be. And the live-cashiers checkout lines are often closed. The last few times I encountered this, I left my full cart and walked out of the store. One of those times I asked an employee why there weren’t any cashiers? She said there WERE . . . . they were several people standing around the robo self-check area standing by to help any self-checkout customer who was having trouble with the self-checkout.

        Standing around waiting to help. Meanwhile all the cashier checkout lines were chained closed. And the employee in question said the reason they were chained closed was because of a “shortage of people” to man them. AFTER telling me that the people standing around the robo-check area waiting to help were “cashiers”. Deployed standing around waiting to help the self-checkers in order to prevent them from being deployed manning the checkout lines.

        That’s when I realized this had to be coming from Higher Command.

        When the big snowstorm was expected, I went into a Krogers and saw so many people shopping that Krogers must have felt forced to have some actual lines open. So I bought stuff with the help of an actual cashier womanning the actual line. Later in a different Krogers I again saw an actual cashier at an actual checkout line. I told her how grateful I was to see her there and how much I hated those robo-checkers. She said she wished she could destroy those machines.

        So now I will go into Krogers now and again and if I see actual checkers manning actual checkout lines I will shop and go through the line. I thank them for being there and tell them that as long as Krogers keeps putting real people on those cashout lines, I will keep shopping at Krogers.

        Maybe if enough tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people all do the very same thing at hundreds of Krogerses, we might be able to train Krogers to keep its checkout lines open.

    4. MaryLand

      All the fast food joints seem to have gone to a mainly drive through operation since the pandemic. Husband tried to order inside a Wendy’s and they almost couldn’t do it. Nobody at the counter; nobody eating inside. On road trips we eat in the car because of covid, and because of husband’s diet restrictions there are only a few restaurants he can get food he can eat. All the fast food places seem to have really long lines for the drive through.

      1. Wukchumni

        I like Yoshinoya Beef Bowl, and there were lots of locations in SoCal, but none here in the Central Valley until one opened up in Visalia 3 years ago, and went out of business a month ago.

        Their timing of course was spectacularly bad as far as Covid went.

        1. chuck roast

          A very weird McDonalds confluence today. Here we are, gabbing away about the last time we experienced McDonalds cuisine. I’m watching Mercouris in the late afternoon, and he mentions my personal bete noir, Max Seddon of the Financial Times. It seems that Max has written a piece in Weekend FT. I go, “How did I miss that today?” So, I go online to check it out, and here is Max opining annoyingly about Moscow like it’s 1967 Washington, DC…geez, nobody cares except the PMC…and here are young guys thinking about Montreal or Toronto, and a whole host of ordinary people enjoying the day while Max is totally peeved…sorry for the time warp.

          What was really interesting was that Max…FT’s “Moscow Correspondent”…had apparently returned to the actual Moscow City from Riga or Berlin or where-ever he has been for the last six months gabbing about the completely dysfunctional and corrupt losers in the Kremlin. It’s great! Now we can look forward to a daily dose of straight ahead, local bilge from the boy. Here is the link to what appears to be the first in a series of Max’s, A Moscow diary. As we used to say in high school, read it and weep.

          Oh yeah…where does McDonalds come in? Max’s piece contains a photo of a queue in front of the Autarky McDonalds. How dare these people not care about the bombing of Ukrainian hospitals and schools…and Bucha! If you look closely at the piece it even has an advert for Luke Harding’s new book Invasion. Man…you cannot make this stuff up.

          It all strikes a chord because I have been seeing a psychiatrist for a number of years about my addiction to pink slime.

  8. Not Again

    Dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s, Hershey has ‘unsafe levels’ of lead and cadmium, lawsuits say

    Who doesn’t love “glow in the dark” chocolate? Think about it: You are trick or treating – you live in Texas so the lights go out whenever the temperature dips below 50 degrees – just rip open a Hershey bar and you have an edible flashlight. Only a Luddite would disagree.

      1. DataHog

        Notice that Consumer reports credited and linked earlier studies. The “fix” part of those reports are illuminating.

        From the CR report:
        “Getting the Lead and Cadmium Out
        To further complicate the issue, lead and cadmium appear to get into cacao in different ways, which means that each requires a different type of fix, DiBartolomeis says.

        Between 2019 and 2022, he and other researchers studied how metals might contaminate cacao, as part of a settlement to a lawsuit against chocolate manufacturers brought by As You Sow, an organization that pushes for corporate accountability. As You Sow had previously found high levels of lead and cadmium in some chocolates.”

    1. griffen

      I have a certain nostalgia for the heavy metal and “pop” or hair metal bands of the early to late 1980s. Some were certainly capable of more substantive music than others. Say, a band like Queensryche was writing songs about surveillance and the camera eye some 30 or 35 years ago.

      However, trace elements of lead in my chocolate bar is a decidedly different conversation. If I want lead in my diet I can scour for some lead paint chips to munch on, or consume bottled water downstream of an EPA superfund cleanup site.

      1. Mildred Montana

        Queensryche’s 𝘌𝘮𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘦 is a classic. Listenable from start to finish. As they so often say, “seriously under-rated”.

    2. Joe Well

      Funny, these are also both companies that are extremely secretive about the supply chains of most of their chocolate. Ill try to get Fair Trade hipster chocolate instead.

      1. cyclist

        I’m a big fan of the dark chocolate from TJ’s so this is somewhat alarming. Is this problem is with products from that store or cacao in general? TJ’s sells several different dark bars and they all appear to have different sourcing. A current favorite is a Uganda 85% bar that claims to be organic and produced in Italy. Their other bars are from the US, Belgium. Switzerland and Colombia, some also labeled organic. Odd that one store should have chosen only producers who have contaminated bars. I wouldn’t be surprised if other brands are just as bad.

    3. Lexx

      The physical blow to that report for me was ‘Lily’s’, sweetened with stevia. It’s my ‘go-to’ chocolate. That was a low blow! ‘Is that you in there, Adam Conover. Even chocolate?!’ Yeah, well I hated the whole Obama series, so back atcha.

      1. Melanie

        Another Trader Joe’s recall, Watt’s Farm “organic” vegetables, produced by that little local farmer named

        Buy local organic only.

    4. AndrewJ

      I am extremely curious on where the lead dust comes from! Cadmium from the soil, that’s understandable. But lead dust being blown on to the cacao hulls?? That’s not just a health issue, that’sa worker’s rights issue. Where’s that lead coming from?

      1. cyclist

        Some countries did not eliminate leaded gasoline until much later than the US. So maybe some relation there.

  9. pjay

    – ‘Harvard blocks role for former Human Rights Watch head over Israel criticism’ – Guardian (BC)

    What a shame. Think of how valuable Roth would have been to the humanitarian interventionists at the Kennedy School (the Carr Center where he was to be housed was co-founded by Samantha Power). But alas, the School has become so dominated by the National Security Establishment, and its funding so dominated by the friends of Israel, that even someone as useful as Roth is rejected for daring to violate the Taboo.

    The Kennedy School: where the MICIMATT* comes together!

    (For those who hate undefined acronyms: MICIMATT = Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence Media-Think-Tank complex- Ray McGovern)

    1. pjay

      Oops! I forgot the ‘A’, which stands for ‘Academic’ – a significant omission given the topic.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        Ray McGovern over looked a critical player when he updated the original MIC acronym. It should be MICLIMATTIC. The added “L” is for lobbyists.

    1. Not Again

      They had to move it because January 6th is a Democratic Party holiday. It commemorates something, freedom, something, democracy, Nancy’s birthday, something, Trump is bad.

  10. Cervantes

    Not a smart article from the tracIRS people (and I know a thing or two about taxes)…first, it uses people with income greater than $1 million to count as millionaires rather than, well, actual millionaires, who might report much less income. (The rich towns always tried to hide their grain when I was collecting for ol’ king Phillip.) While the article doesn’t specify how it defines income, such large incomes might include middle class people selling a house in California or otherwise. Many of the millionaires who need audited most closely will report very low incomes (like Donald Trump) after taking many deductions or using business fringe benefits rather than paying themselves salaries. So the stats they’re playing up don’t mean what they say they mean.

    The article also plays into anti-tax talking points by implying that what the IRS really does is target poor people, so maybe that’s where the $80 billion in funding over 10 years will go. That’s extra foolish because unlike many critics, the article shows it knows the difference between a computer spitting out a letter and agents actually going around to call or talk to people. So audit numbers aren’t representative of where the agency’s financial resources go. They don’t need to hire 80,000 people to send out more computer-generated letters, I’ll tell you that much. (Now, if only I had been able to use the computers when we were raising taxes for the Enterprise of England!)

    It also seems to assume you need the same rates of computer-generated letters going out to EITC claimants and everybody else to have justice. The truth is that there are just a lot more people on EITC in this country than there are other people claiming a million dollars per year. The article tries to play a tiny violin for people claiming EITC, but the program is rife with fraud. The IRS estimates that a quarter of all EITC claims are erroneous or fraudulent. Should they just stop using computers to cheaply send letters asking these people about the globs of names and SSNs they put on returns? What happens when they stop, the right-wing academic investo journalist outfit finds the fraud, and then Republicans propose scrapping the EITC altogether–does that help legitimate EITC recipients?

    Look, I get it, put more people on the phones. Make it easier for them to go in to service centers. (Or, in my case, have the collector travel from town to town asking for the grain.) But stop pretending that there’s some kind of great hypocrisy or catastrophe that just happens to make your nonsense do-nothing academic project look smart or garner funds. If the tracIRS people are so great, they can apply for one of the 80,000 something jobs.

    1. earthling

      The EITC is a ridiculous hoop for poor people to jump through. Just lower tax rates on low income people, don’t take as much out of their checks in the first place so they don’t have to wait a year for refunds. The fraud comes in whenever someone has to apply to the IRS instead of just getting their due automatically, it’s too easy for individuals and neighborhood tax shops to file bogus claims.

      There is nothing wrong with pointing out that right now the hammer still falls more often on the little people, and the fact that audits of high earners have fallen over recent years, even as their numbers skyrocketed. If tracIRS is zealous, maybe it’s because the mainstream ‘media’ and politicians are absent from the front.

      Nobody disputes the IRS is not going after the big guys with their teams of accountants in the numbers they used to or should, because they are short staffed. We can all are draw our own conclusions about whether malice is involved, some doubt it, others believe it.

  11. The Rev Kev

    “Great Salt Lake will disappear in 5 years without massive ‘emergency rescue,’ scientists say”

    There have been megadroughts in the past and there will be megadroughts in the future. So maybe, just maybe, let it dry up. Sooner or later the rains will return and that lake will fill up again. Are you really going to divert billions of gallons to try to save it when it may not need saving? Wouldn’t that water be better put to use elsewhere? It’s kinda like denying drinking water to a town so that Las Vegas can have massive fountains spraying away.

      1. The Rev Kev

        It’s not the toxic dust storm’s fault that a city was built there since the last time there was a mega drought in this region.

        1. Carolinian

          They could pave the thing over and put up shopping malls. Problem solved!

          One doesn’t want to pick on Utah too much since it’s one of our most scenic states.

        2. Wukchumni

          I prefer my atmospheric rivers to be served wet, and there’s lotsa potential for that coming up for those remainers in Cali, but count me out, i’m slitting my risks, on a mission if you’d like.

          In theory i’m going to investigate the Great Salt Lake, in practice I won’t be all that far away, and my friend there told me the skiing conditions are ne plus ultra, whats not to like?

    1. Utah

      Considering I live here, I would really love to not breathe in toxic arsenic dust. If we weren’t diverting the water for alfalfa fields, the lake would only be 4 feet lower and not 17, as per my own undergrad research paper that I wrote about how climate change may affect the lake level.

      I’d rather get rid of farms in the desert than the lake, personally.

        1. John

          Farming water hungry crops in the desert. Why would someone do that in the first place and insist on continuing in the face of a drought? I have the answer: because markets.

    2. thousand points of green

      The Great Salt Lake is a crucial stopping point for many thousands of migratory shorebirds and waterbirds on their flyways. If it dries up so much as to become utterly sterile, those birds will probably starve to death and cease to exist from migrating any more. Or nesting or wintering either.

      Here is something about the Bear River National Wildlife Refuge in particular, which is on the North End of the Great Salt Lake.

  12. KLG

    From the link to ReceptioGate:

    “This tyranny of quantification is compounded by government systems like the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK, which purports to assess the quality of research undertaken in universities, but in reality does nothing of the kind, either in science or in the humanities. Reducing research to a numbers game incentivises gaming the numbers, not scholarship.”

    See “Covid” in Pubmed: 322,839 this morning. An increase in 865 in the past 5 days. Not hardly, as they say in these parts. How many of those are in predatory or neo-predatory online-only “journals”? I’m guessing >800, each with an open-access fee of a minimum of $1,500. Nice work all around if you can get it.

  13. Randall Flagg

    Massive Brown Bear. That bear would have been great auditioning for a Stanley Kubrick movie. Has the look…

    1. ambrit

      Producer: “Hmmm, Stanley, doesn’t “Goldilocks” sound a bit too Disney?”
      Kubrick: “Not to worry. I’ve got the leads lined up and we’ll use show tunes for the soundtrack.”
      Producer: “Well, here’s my floor. Send me a treatment and I’ll get back to you.”
      Kubrick: “Will do.”
      Producer and entourage exit elevator. Aide presses Down button.
      Kubrick, to aide: “Well, that didn’t go too badly. I don’t know about this Weinstein character though.”
      Aide: “Yes sir. Harvey is known far and wide as a “hands on” kind of boss. Creepy, even for this town.”
      Kubrick: “Right. That’s settled. The film gets made at Shepperton. Absolutely.”
      Aide, laughing: “Beam me up Scotty.”
      Kubrick, also laughing: “There’s no sign of intelligent life on this planet.”
      Ground floor. Doors open. Exeunt omnes.

    2. griffen

      Since the idea was suggested and I am a suggestible human…following is not safe for work, not safe for child’s eyes either. I remember renting this movie when a VHS tape was still a thing, quite awhile but a few scenes I can recall. Full Metal Jacket…

  14. flora

    This Peterson interview of Prof. Richard Lindzen is related to both the current state of academia and climate science. One of the best descriptions I’ve heard encapsulating what’s happened in academia over the last 30 years. Long. ~ 1hr: 50 minutes. utube.

    What Does the Science Say? | Dr. Richard Lindzen | EP 320

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I gave this link you pointed to an hour and again left underwhelmed. The first 20 minutes were devoted to polishing Dr. Lindzen’s creds and the rest of what I watched wandered around various efforts to undermine the evidence for human caused climate change and/or minimize the impacts as small and nearly unmeasurable. Why are you watching this stuff?

      1. flora

        Because I’m an academic with an interest in the soft, money based destruction of academia, and I’m in a scientific field and again interested in the capture of academia’s sciences by deep pocket private interests that have their own narrative to promote and justify (for their own power and profit). So, I always look for counter evidence and try to weigh that as well as the popular press stories. Not just in the climate field but in many scientific fields. Silencing well-grounded counter evidence always raises an alarm for me that there might be something hinky going on. That’s just me.

        1. flora

          adding: one of the under-one’s-breath jokes in my department is that we’re expected to generate “billable hours”, aka grants.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            I worked for a firm where “billable hours” was no joke. I generated no billable hours, but I worked them for me and for the firm and I saw what they cost the integrity of my firm, the integrity of our clients, and the integrity of those who like me worked for a ‘cut’ of those “billable hours” whatever the costs to our integrity. I have two children, and I had child support payments to pay. I am not proud of what I did to keep from vanishing in prison under debt and obligations … but I would not have acted differently given the chance to relive those moments.

            Adolf Eichmann stood trial for his crimes but what about his clerks and their clerks and their clerks’ clerks. Where does Guilt end?

      2. flora

        adding: I always respect your comments and challenges, JG. I’ll offer my own (tin foil bonnet alert) idea about what might be happening in academia and in the unwillingness of journals to print counter arguments and etc. And again, this is only my personal and unproven and quite possibly (or probably, ha) wrong idea.
        This climate (and other) dispute, where one side of the dispute is not straight-forwardly argued against but is instead silenced, makes me think that possibly in the larger, overarching scheme that the real contest is between the older fossil fuel domination of politics and wealth and the growing digital, Silicon Valley dominance of politics and wealth. That is, Silicon Valley is trying to unseat the dominance of the fossil fuel industry in influence and wealth and using the digital the tools that could be used to accomplish that outcome. I simply watch what’s happening and try to find a rational explanation, which may or may not be correct.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          I value that you respect my comments and I feel similar regard and respect for your comments. I share your concern that journals, and the Media squelch opinions contrary to approved opinions and patterns of thought. Recalling the slow adoption and shunning of continental drift in spite of fairly compelling evidence presented by Alfred Wegener … though lacking a theory of “motive mechanism” … and I need no tinfoil hat to sympathize with your concerns.

          I also see a contest between the old fossil fuel domination of u.s. politics and wealth and a new “Green” new deal aggregation of power and wealth. Sorry, but I perceive the “digital, Silicon Valley dominance of politics and wealth” as peripheral to this conflict in as much as I see Mr. Bill as thrall to his own private demons enabled by Silicon Valley politics and wealth, but other “Green” ‘entrepreneurs’ seem to originate from other aggregations of political power and wealth — I am not sure what origins in most cases. However, based on the arguments I have heard and considered, I have great difficulty viewing Climate Change denialists as victims of being summarily silenced. It is not summarily silencing an argument to wait an hour through chaff for a tenable argument and hear none. I am old, my life winds down, and I can only wait so long.

          Check on Dr. Lindzen’s bona fide’s … other than a single opinion paper, the last paper where he was the primary author was 2012:

          Regarding Climate Science ONLY — I have a short video you might be interested in:
          Double Pendulum Displays Chaotic Motion

          and if that were entertaining watch:
          Triple Pendulum Chaotic Acrobatics

          Now imagine the Climate Systems are as complex as a double or even a triple pendulum and kick the level of CO2 from 280 ppm to 420 ppm in a century or so. If you agree that C02 does affect the amount of insolation retained — it increases the Earth’s alebedo — this little change in atmospheric CO2 may appear alarming knowing how past Climate has responded to much less disturbance from variations in the Sun’s insolation.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I appreciate your response to my comment. I look for and read your comments with interest … and this is why your comments referring to recent you-tube videos so disturbed me. I am a retired layman but the money based destruction of academia disturbs me deeply.

      Before I retired I observed the debasement of Science close up, and experienced it as an undergraduate watching the before-my-eyes decline in the University of California system when Ronald Reagan became Governor of California. I observed how Science debased itself with needless Jargon and meaningless distinctions of meaning … before the age of Reagan’s move from research grants to research ‘contracts’. I watched how statistical studies replaced basic research. I worked at one of Lucent’s ‘Bell Labs’ facilities and saw close up the rotting remains of what had become a horribly twisted and poisonous research and engineering culture. There, I heard stories about the beautiful atmosphere of once-upon-a-time in the ‘real’ Bell Labs before the cypher locks, patent worries, and Nobel Prize dreams overwhelmed the sharing of ideas.

      I saw first hand how Lucent moved their excellent libraries to trash bins for burning or disposal. I still keep back issues of NASA’s Tech Briefs, along with a large library of the TSPs [Technical Support Package] I downloaded and studied … less than I should have … and I have copies of the vanishingly thin NASA Tech Briefs with their more limited — much much more limited offerings.

      I recall your references to Mirkowski’s papers and books on the Neoliberal absorption of Science. Within this context, your reference to a few unspecified minutes of video recounting the money based destruction of Science embedded in almost two hours of Climate Chaos denial wrapped in lengthy arguments with strawmen … … and I am troubled. At least point to the few minutes of the almost 2-hour video where money based destruction of Science is described.

      1. flora

        Thank you, JG. Your description of the UC system tells me you know well the results of Howard Jarvis’s CA’s prop 13, (aka, cut state taxes and then starve the unis to balance the state’s budget (less tax monies), and the results of that budget reduction on neutral-bias govt funding in all education fields, including in the humanities and in science basic research). Afterwards followed the scramble for financially-interested private corporate grant funding to fill the hole left by state govt funding reductions. Private corporate grants always come with strings attached. Always. This needn’t be bad, but it some cases it is bad. The CA tax cut experiment swept the country. No uni was safe. In the Humanities suffered immense harm, then the Sciences. The less state funding, unbiased funding, the more unis need admin to guide the grant money process. Your point about neoliberalism is very on point.

        For a snippet in the longer utube pointing to this, skip ahead to the 20 minute mark and watch until about the 24 minute mark. Unis are now singing for their supper, imo.

        Thanks again for at least entertaining my comment.

  15. Joe Well

    >>[ChatGPT] is very impressive at seeming to be intelligent, but it also seems to have no basis for assessing the accuracy its own conclusions, which for practical use, makes it useless or dangerous.

    This is missing the point of ChatGPT, which is amazing. Right now, what it does is eliminate the drudge work of writing, giving you first drafts that you can then edit. Yes, some of the statements are in accurate, sometimes laughably so, but that is why the person using chatgpt needs to know their subject; an uninformed author could also make a lot of mistakes. Put another way, ChaptGPT eliminates writers and lets editors do everything directly like they’ve always wanted to, or perhaps turns us all into editors.

    You can even have it do things like reword something you’ve dashed off to make it more concise and polished, saving a ton of time.

    The most amazing thing about it is that it reveals what part of writing is rote drudgework (most of actual writing) and what parts are really unique to the writer (curation, ideas, values, point of view).

    1. Senator-Elect

      Can’t agree. What is the purpose of writing? In school, it is to learn to write or learn about a subject, or to show that you know how to write or that you know a subject. In journalism, academia and literature, it is to convey your argument or message. In business, it is likewise, but perhaps with more persuasion. In government, it is to provide analysis and synthesis. Rarely is it a recitation of facts, like in an encyclopedia article. This last use case is perhaps the only one in which this tool would be useful.
      Writing is most often personal and depends on the knowledge and views of the writer. Without the writer, the essence of a text does not exist. But let’s be clear: this tool uses existing text and therefore the thoughts of human writers, so there is some of that essence present. But it’s no substitute for the real thing, the unique act of creation that occurs when a writer puts their thoughts into words.

      1. Wukchumni

        Give in humanity, I had suppressed this but let it be known that I was 1 of 16 ChatGPT early adapters (I chose the blackened humor variant) and if you saw my prose beforehand, it might have compelled many to go and read labels on cans of soup or rat poison, when so confronted by words worth not much when conjured up by yours truly.

        1. Senator-Elect

          Damn! Sentience has clearly been achieved! Judgment Day is upon us. Watch out, for soon our smart phones will spontaneously combust, our smart fridges will spoil our food and the ICBMs will launch!

    2. Heat Death

      This is about the death metal genre but applicable on chatgpt. chatgpt will make sure evrything it touches will die the heat-death. All chatgtp does is to rehash existing writings. The more you rehash the blander the thoughts until heat death.

      I really like death metal and was in the scene end of 80-beg 90 but after that death metal bands stopped playing death metal and started performing death metal rehashing riffs/styles.

      1. Joe Well

        yes, but that’s all that most writing does anyway: recombine existing writing the author has read before, or things they’ve heard. In fact, that’s how language works.

        I don’t think ChatGPT will write a great work of literature, but I’m sure it could do a romance novel, health advisory, catalog description, LinkedIn Bio, form email, and the other 99% of what we actually read and write.

    3. JM

      I strongly disagree with your conclusion that the editing is the rewarding part, and the creation of the text is drudgery. I’m no author, but that is completely backwards. Creating the text requires an understanding of the topic, formulating your argument, creating turns of phrase that are persuasive (or entertaining, or whatever), etc. Versus what, changing out a clunky word here or there, cutting a run-on sentence, etc?

      Our culture already massively undervalues creativity (actual creativity, not “disruption” by slapping an app on something creativity), and these programs are another attack on it. Critical thinking and creativity are not conducive to the current flow and so are not a priority.

      To paraphrase a tweet I saw: We could use AI for menial tasks to free up time to make Art, but instead we’ll use AI to make Art and give ourselves menial tasks.

    4. flora

      Rogan and Weinstein talking about ChatGPT. short segment. utube. Weinstein makes a good point about people learning to rely on Chat become in some sense intellectually captured if not enfeebled. / my 2 cents.

      What ChatGPT Could Mean for the Future of Artificial Intelligence

      (Just think what internet bots could do with this. / ;)

    5. vao

      Yes, some of the statements are in accurate, sometimes laughably so, but that is why the person using chatgpt needs to know their subject; an uninformed author could also make a lot of mistakes.

      That is where things risk to go off trail. We already know that chat-GPT utters falsehoods convincingly, and has even been observed producing completely invented, but credible-looking, academic references.

      Now, envision a further evolution where a refined chat-GPT devoid of its youthful foolishness delivers polished, well-argued, solidly organized output without any blatant falsehood. It will no longer be a matter of editing a text: it will have to be scrutinized to uncover sophistries and faulty arguments (now well-hidden by a capable AI); every reference will have to be traced back and, if real, perused to figure out whether the AI is misrepresenting what that other article is stating; every image will have to undergo a digital forensics analysis (has it been contrived, in a stupendously believable way, by the AI itself?); every chart checked for inconsistencies (does the highlighted regression line actually correspond to the points displayed on the graph?); every detail will have to be fact-checked (kind of “did Alan McMaster invent the electric toaster in 1893?”); every assertion verified against the state of the art; etc.

      In short, nothing returned by chat-GPT to a query by a human being can be considered trustworthy. It will be less the work of an “editor” than the one of a “peer reviewer”.

    6. C.O.

      I think we can reasonably expect modelling programs like ChatGPT to reproduce highly formulaic texts with real success, though I remain doubtful they can be made to replace people. The English language genre of “romance novel” is one of many of the longer sorts of such texts. I would add “cowboy novels” and various sorts of potboilers that are unashamedly formulaic and fun to read, plus completely (and understandably) unmemorable. Many basic sports articles reporting recent game results, also highly formulaic. We should not be surprised that certain forms of lying are also highly formulaic, and that they are probably taking advantage of formulae often used to present truths to sound convincing – a very clever application of appeal to authority.

      However, anybody that claims ChatGPT can write a convincing undergrad essay clearly has no experience marking them. The samples I have seen so far are dead obvious to an experienced reader, as is plagiarism of genuine essays. There are tells that rushed or lazy undergrads can’t help making when plagiarizing other people. A big part of what gave away the generated samples though, as opposed to students, was lack of actual content and a notable sameness from one generated sentence to the next. That suggests a difficulty for making ChatGPT or similar produce successful results is managing the problem of repetition once the generated text gets beyond a short length.

      Anything can be a chore of course from time to time, including formulaic writing, but I would not describe writing as by definition a chore any more than I would reading.

      1. John

        If this chat thing is going to write potboiler novels what happens to the people who write potboiler novels? You have no pity for the hack writer.

        1. C.O.

          Honestly I think ChatGPT and the like will make hack writers look better, because it will reveal that actually hack writers are skilled (whether or not we like what their skills are in), although that won’t necessarily help them professionally.

    7. LilD

      It’s objective function is to predict the next word…. Keep that in mind when evaluating.
      My objective function might be “make good art”
      Not aligned completely so I’ll need to supervise the output of the system and direct it towards MY goal

    8. linearperk

      You’re right Joe. The LLMs are going to eliminate a lot of drudgery. Most of the detractors here haven’t a clue and my guess is because they are only thinking about it in the abstract.

      ChatGPT works best when you do the thinking since it can’t think. It’s an amazing tool for transforming text. I use it often to prepare drafts of the same material for multiple audiences.

      To the detractors: it’s easy to go experiment for yourself and then reach conclusions. Seems the height of incuriosity to have strong opinions with no experience.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “Harvard blocks role for former Human Rights Watch head over Israel criticism”

    Centers of higher education know who they want so it would not be this guy. You know who they want? People like Hillary Clinton who has just been made ‘a professor at Columbia University in New York, where she will instruct students on public affairs and global politics, following her long career.’

    You get the same in the UK where Fiona Hill was recently made the Chancellor of Durham University-

    The students for those two people will probably swoon to them but intellectually they will be doomed.

    1. ambrit

      If we are speaking of politics as a profession, and the courses in question are building blocks towards a viable political or political adjacent career, then the “networking” available at these Vanity Glamour courses is the real point.
      Real intellectuals have a very spotty record in politics. The last really successful one I can think of is, perhaps, Cicero.

      1. witters

        Do we count James the 1st?
        Catherine the Great?
        Caesar wasn’t bad, mind-wise.
        Fidel too.
        Stalin wrote and thought a bit (and was a pretty good poet) and Lenin knew (like Mao) a thing or two.
        Chavez was no fool.
        Jefferson and Adams had something upstairs.
        Menzies and Whitlam had antipodean smarts.

        What is a ‘real intellectual’?

  17. The Rev Kev

    “The West is Weak Where it Matters …”

    A good read this. Looking over the past few years, I get the impression that the security services of western states – which includes the military, police, spooks, etc. – are mostly dedicate to tamping down any internal dissent while having just enough capability to go on safari to some foreign country to bash up the locals that they do not like. But as these other countries are increasing their capabilities and sending expeditions overseas is horribly expensive, that this era may be coming to a close for those nations that do not learn the secret sauce. An example of the later is training local troops up to professional standards where they can stand on their own. But the US and others have a horrible record here as they have forgotten how which is why both the Iraqi and Afghan militaries both folded under pressure.

    1. digi_owl

      Every empire follow the same path it seems.

      First they either beat the old empire into submission, or take over its domain as it fades, and then expand both internally and externally as their leadership is willing to sacrifice for the whole. But given time the leadership lose their will to sacrifice, and thus the empire’s ability to expand dwindles. eventually it starts to shrink as upstarts along its borders overpower them until one overtake the old.

    2. fresno dan

      …why both the Iraqi and Afghan militaries both folded under pressure.
      I see a pattern – whether the people we had at the Bay of Pigs, South Vietnam, or Iraq and Afghanistan, it doesn’t seem like the people we buy stay bought…
      it even seems like we are incapable of allying with people who are willing to sacrifice for their cause – perchance all that freedom stuff if bullsh*t

      1. hk

        Because we don’t want to ally with people who have causes they would sacrifice for. We want people to sacrifice for causes we want. (Obviously, these people don’t exist)

        A case in point: the hardest fight put up by South Vietnamese during the Vietnam War took place on a disputed island to the east, against the Chinese. Why? Because they were Vietnamese fighting against foreign intrusion upon what they saw as part of their homeland. We, the Americans, were foreigners intruding upon their homeland for agendas of no interest to them.

    3. John

      The author of “The West is Weak Where it Matters” has an archive of remarkable insightful essays. Cannot get enough of him.

    4. panurge

      the security services of western states – which includes the military, police, spooks, etc. – are mostly dedicate to tamping down any internal dissent

      While reading “The West is Weak Where it Matters …” I shared this very same impression, somehow thinking that as of “late”, the police is here increasingly to protect the policy rather than the polis.

  18. Carolinian

    Re FT on Tesla–so a cavalier attitude toward traffic safety wasn’t enough to turn Tesla buyers against Musk but allowing Trump back on Twitter was? One might suspect these eco crusaders are a fickle, superficial bunch at best. Rolex better watch their political step or sales may drop to nothing.

    Musk on the other hand may see his stock losses as easy come easy go. Once you score your first several billion the rest is gravy.

  19. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yves Smith: The funeral of Pope Ratzi must have thrown you off theologically.

    Yesterday, 6 January, was the Epiphany. The fascinating thing about the epiphany is that it is a revelation of divinity. Christians had to keep up with the revelation of the divinity of luminaries like Dionysos (see The Bakkhai) after Dionysos was delivered from Zeus’s thigh by Hermes. Divinity is complicated. Heck, Zeus was giving prophecies through the oak tree at Dodona.

    So Jesus *had* to get competitive.

    Wikipedia sez: “Epiphany (/əˈpɪfəni/ ə-PIF-ə-nee), also known as Theophany in Eastern Christian traditions, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany[1]) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”

    So it reveals incarnation. We are ending Yuletide on a highly mystical note.

    Here in Chocolate City, Epiphany was a minor holiday and yet much was closed. Epiphany is also the feast of the Befana, who brings gifts to good kids and coal to those in need of improvement. Talk about a power couple, Gesù and la Befana.

    Meanwhile, Pope Ratzi’s constant companion, Monsignor Georg, seems to have gone rogue. I guess la Befana didn’t show up at his quarters with enough roba bona.

    1. flora

      Thanks for this.
      An aside: In the US January 6th is now celebrated/reviled as the “Day of the Capitol Riot.” The Epiphany takes second place on the calendar. / ;)

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Standing corrected, I have just unplugged the tree :-(

        Yes, that plus I have a friend who is an astrologer and astrologers consider Epiphany to be Astrologers’ Day. I wished him “Happy Almost Astrologers’ Day” on the 6th and he didn’t correct me.

  20. Gregorio

    re: SBF wants to use Robinhood stake to pay lawyers. I never could understand why the feds treat white collar criminals so much differently than drug dealers. When the Feds prosecute drug dealers, they have no problem whatsoever with immediately seizing all their assets, leaving them with only the option of a federal public defender to represent them.

    1. griffen

      Well the Justice Dept. seized the assets, so that potential source of funds for the legal fees seems like a non starter. Reading a related article from CNN which goes along with the article linked above. Just maybe SBF and his parents can start a Go Fund Me page, or sell memorabilia to free the “falsely accused.” That is not sarcasm but a reality of today’s short memory world.

      Hard to believe that was back in May or June, when SBF was making headlines for taking the stake in Robin Hood. Just proves the axiom, how great it can be to spend stolen or ill-gotten wealth and influence policy markets in DC while doing so.

  21. Screwball

    RE: Pre-CPI Trading Surge Was ‘Extremely Unusual,’ Analysis Shows – Bloomberg

    I was surprised this is still being questioned, although the article didn’t really tell us anything that hasn’t been covered before. A few here talked about this when it happened.

    The S&P futures moved 40 pts in the minute before the CPI report was released. I watched it live as it happened on my computer screen through my trading software, so I know it happened. I even took a screenshot.

    But here’s where I don’t get it, and others can help. A few questions;
    1) how much money would it take to more the S&P futures 40 pts in a minute?
    2) Do these trades not go through an exchange via a buy order of some sort (electronic or human)?
    3) Don’t all trades still get recorded in some way, and the buyer/seller get a receipt in some form with a CUSIP number?
    4) If the 3 above = true, which I think they are, why is this do difficult to track down? Shouldn’t someone have a record of these trades?
    5) Or, was this done in the primary market by the broker-dealers and the data will never see the light of day?

    1. Not Again

      Nancy Pelosi has a lot of free time now that she’s not Speaker. She was probably just re-allocating her portfolio on her E-Trade account once she got the inside scoop from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    2. Tom Doak

      How exactly is the CPI report released? Who would have the ability to delay it by a minute to capitalize?

      1. Screwball

        The link above explains the various places it could have leaked from, but they all say nothing could have happened.

        But, it did. I don’t think there is any question. My point, and if I were a news outlet, I would be asking about the paper trails of the trades (CUSIP numbers). Nobody seems to be asking that question.

        1. Jason Boxman

          One thing the SEC seems to be good at is insider trading, so it’s hard to believe this couldn’t be tracked down, if only someone cared to, as you’ve suggested.

  22. fresno dan

    The Chairman’s Afghan Problem American Conservative. Important despite unprepossessing title.

    The evidence taken as sufficient to justify the lethal strike in Kabul is nothing short of astonishing (disgusting is a better word).
    Zemari Ahmadi, an engineer who worked for a U.S.-based aid organization called Nutrition and Education International, drove a white Toyota Corolla. Intelligence suggested that a white Toyota Corolla might be involved in an impending ISIS-K terrorist plot. (The Toyota Corolla has been the most popular auto model in Afghanistan for two and a half decades.)
    If that wasn’t enough, U.S. intelligence personnel witnessed Ahmadi placing a parcel in the car, which he handled so carefully that it could only have been a bomb. (It was his boss’s laptop.)
    The coup de grâce: After the drone-launched missile strike that blew up Ahmadi’s car, U.S. officials claimed that the size and force of the resulting blasts meant he must have been carrying explosives.

    Even as the failure became clear, U.S. officials refused to own up to it. It was not until relentless reporting forced some kind of admission that military leaders admitted first that they had accidentally killed a whole family of civilians in the process of taking out an ISIS terrorist, and then that they may not have actually gotten the terrorist after all, and finally that there never was a terrorist in the picture to begin with.
    Even then, no punitive action was taken—no accountability for any of the commanders whose poor judgment and plain stupidity caused ten indefensible deaths.
    Isn’t that how everything now works? Lie, lie, and lie some more until finally the truth goes viral – you certainly can’t count on the US free press (i.e., neoliberal, under the heel of the oligarchy press to report reality). And of course, no real investigation, no prosecution, no punishment.

    1. LifelongLib

      It would be nice if such events really could be traced to some individual’s poor judgment or stupidity. But they can’t, they’re systemic. Anyone in a position to know what actually happened can easily imagine themselves being in the same situation. Hence the reluctance to investigate, prosecute, punish.

    1. kareninca

      I just tried the sample Brave search and just got the same stuff that I’d found via google. I guess you need to download the actual Brave browser to get to something like Bitchute; that is interesting.

  23. Ghost in the Machine

    An epidemic of heart failure in their 40s and elevated mortality indefinitely? I would say Covid is going to be a component of our real world Jackpot.

    1. jochen

      Well, my mother has been completely internet radicallised. They had made her general antivax prior to Covid, already. Of course the virus is harmless, masks are evil and having had any number of doses will make us all die. These heart attacks are simply the proof. The unvaccinated will be safe…

      I’m aware, of course, of the actual risks and problems of the current vaccines. But for those not having had side effects, it’s laughable that a small dose two or three times (3x in my case) will have such delayed long term effects, but the constant exposure to the corresponding virus couldn’t possibly do anything.

      So we can preach as much as we like. You can’t fight wind mills. As for everything else… in Germany, and probably everywhere else, people will not voluntarily wear masks. Only few others on train and bus are still wearing it. And before that no one was doing so properly. Effectively not at all.

      Masks, air filtration (noisy) and ventilation are universally rejected. People are not interested in Covid.

      It will be an interesting long term experiment.

  24. Wukchumni

    Hair furor seemed effectively defanged when defied by those who owed so much to him for showing the way, but naturally that isn’t the last we’ve seen of him as there’s a fair bit of kissing and making up to do.

    1. thousand points of green

      I like chocolate a whole lot, the darker the better, so this article upset me. As I sat here thinking about cadmium, I remembered that cadmium is just similar enough to zinc in its interaction with biological systems that there maybe could be some sort of exploitable interaction between them.

      I found this article . . . ” Dynamic interactions between soil cadmium and zinc affect cadmium phytoavailability to rice and wheat: Regional investigation and risk modeling ” Here is the link.

      The article itself is worth reading and working to understand. Yes, it was specifically addressing cadmium uptake as affected by the soil co-presence of zinc in rice and wheat specifically. But perhaps the knowledge could be applied to the management of soil in which cacao trees grow. If the cacao tree area soils are non-acid enough that an at-or-above-threshhold level of zinc in the soil would suppress cadmium uptake by the cacao trees, would there be a way to get more zinc into that soil? And if the soil were too acid to permit this Zn-Cd antagonism to work for the benefit of the trees, would it be possible to down-acidify the cacao-land soil enough to where this antagonism could start working? And would that make it possible to make putting more zinc into the cacao soil a worthwhile thing to do?

  25. tindrum

    I am continually amazed at the attribution of “excess deaths” that we are seeing world wide to anything but the mRNA treatment. In the UK it is entirely due to ambulance strikes, in this article here is is down to Covid itself. Given the very limited testing of the novel gene therapy and the many indications that there are serious side effects I can not for the life of me understand why we are not withdrawing these products from the market as a purely precautionary measure.
    Very few in the medical profession, fewer in the media and almost no one in politics wants to admit that there could be major problems here.

    1. ambrit

      As long as, A) there is money to be made, and B) the “treatment” doesn’t kill off the customers too quickly, the process will be continued. Shareholders must be ‘serviced.’

    2. schmoe

      This pre-print Lance paper compared mRNA v. adenovirus v. control all-cause mortality.

      Note that the mRNA group and its control group had largely the same all-cause mortality:

      “For overall mortality, with 74,193 participants and 61 deaths (mRNA:31; placebo:30), the relative risk (RR) for the two mRNA vaccines compared with placebo was 1.03 (95% CI=0.63-1.71). In the adenovirus-vector vaccines there were 122,164 participants and 46 deaths (vaccine:16; controls:30). The RR for adenovirus-vector vaccines versus placebo/control vaccine was 0.37 (0.19-0.70). The adenovirus-vector vaccines were associated with protection against COVID-19 deaths (RR=0.11 (0.02-0.87)) and non-accident, non-COVID-19 deaths (RR=0.38 (0.17-0.88)). The two types of vaccines differed significantly with respect to impact on overall mortality (p=0.030) as well as non-accident, non-COVID-19 deaths (p=0.046). The placebo controlled RCTs of COVID-19 vaccines were halted rapidly due to clear effects on COVID-19 infections. “

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Huh? The all-cause mortality deaths were half those of the control group for the adenovirus vector vectors vaccines v. virtually the same for the mRNA vaccines, suggesting that the adenovirus vaccines were effective v. Covid with no other mortality cast, while any Covid mortality benefit for the mRNA vaccines was offset by other fatalities.

        1. schmoe

          I agree with your statement, but is it inconsistent with my comment that mRNA and its control group had the same all-cause mortality?

    3. Raymond Sim

      I’m losing patience with this kind of crap.

      As you say, we’re seeing excess deaths worldwide, as we have since the pandemic began, before ‘mRNA treatment’ and across populations, regardless of vaccination rates. Trying to pin this on the ‘treatment’ requires intellectual contortions that border on derangement.

      It’s one of life’s great vexations that people too emotionally feeble to cope with life’s terrors so often find their consolation in preaching dangerous nonsense.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I think a problem here is acute events after vaccination, which may indeed be due to vaccination or, my pet peeve, vaccination too close to an asymptomatic Covid case. v. long term damage like increases in cancers. The first is easy to pin on the vaccines whether they are fully the cause or not, the second easy to pretend not Covid.

        Having said that, I am sympathetic to vaccine injury worry, having to have a D&C at age 64 due to the vaccine.

      2. tindrum

        “As you say, we’re seeing excess deaths worldwide, as we have since the pandemic began…” Not true – we had “deaths” before the vaccinations but “excess deaths” started after the vaccine campaigns- If this were not the case then there would be no discussion.

        1. J.

          Here is a graph of the excess deaths in the US in 2020, before the vaccines were released. About 470,000 excess deaths.

          Here is an article about the first vaccine shipments in mid-December 2020.

          So I guess you can quit discussing now, since you are wrong.

  26. Mikel

    “The West is Weak Where it Matters” Aurelien

    Even with all the obvious problems, I’ll bet they can still be sold bullets that need software updates.

  27. fresno dan

    The West is Weak Where it Matters …Aurelien
    We are, I think, at a quite unique moment in world history: the West, collectively the largest single economic constellation in the world, has spent thirty years progressively reducing its capability to fight a conventional land/air war, and specialising in the extreme ends of conflict instead.* In practice, this amounts to nuclear weapons and submarines and high-performance fighters and strike aircraft at one end, and counter-insurgency and force projection in a permissive environment at the other, with not a lot in between.
    But it’s not only, and perhaps not even mainly, about technological problems. The defence industries of western states have been reconfigured over the last few decades by the same swivel-eyed MBAs who have ruined everything else. State-owned arms factories have been sold off and closed down. Most basic research and nearly all development have been outsourced. Many national defence industries have just ceased to exist, taken over by international conglomerates with loyalties only to shareholders.*

    Again, the US has found itself unable to actually influence the outcome of a major war in Europe, because it does not have the forces to intervene directly, and the weapons it has been able to send are too few and in many cases of the wrong kind. The Russians are obviously aware of this, but it is the kind of thing that other states notice as well, and then has consequences.
    * I would say we have a military specializing in providing the most profitable military for investors. And it also provides any number of jobs for thinktankers and lobbists, but actually effective? Of course, making the world safe for neoliberalism is starting to encounter serious pushback – ironic that all those people who wanted the Chinese market are coming to grips with the fact that the Chinese might not sell us their best chips during a war (oh yeah, I think they will sell us chips during a war – just the ones with gps tracking) And those sanctions against Russia seem to be doing our “allies” greater harm than Russia…

    1. Glen

      I find myself reading more about events from the fall of the Berlin Wall to now just trying to understand what the [family blog] happen. I was in the USN during and after that event, and I can remember that many of our long term traditional MIC suppliers were being shut down or spun off because the profits were going to be made in the then new “globalist” economy. Burke class destroyers (A very new type at that time) were leaving the pier to deploy with systems that were down because the manufacturers had rather abruptly shut down the factories that made and repair the systems – (not enough profit in military work!)

      One could see that there was going to be some churn associated with the end of the Cold war, but I never at that time envisioned just how completely stupid and greedy our elites would become. Later, as I watched how much manufacturing was being out sourced, I became rather alarmed at how this was going to end.

      So, the “New Cold War”? China won it about a decade ago, courtesy of Wall St quarterly profit seeking, American politicians and political parties that are owned by Wall St, and an enduring belief of American “deep thinkers” that real wealth was being created when the Fed pressed a button and created dollars.

  28. Daryl

    > Your tax dollars at work

    I once went to actual congress, I forget which chamber, and what I recall was… lots of people playing solitaire on laptops. Of course times have changed now — there’s probably a lot more tablets and a much wider range of video games to play.

    1. Screwball

      There is a Rising episode where Briahna Joy Gray interviews Justin Amash from a few days ago. I didn’t want to add a link to Twitter or Utube due to moderation. I thought it was a very telling interview on how the sausage is made in congress.

      Maybe they don’t have a lot of things to do.

      …C-Span has hardly been subtle in pointing out that these shots would normally be barred by the House. The service has long chafed at the rigid framing imposed by the House…

      Turley’s point about the camera’s caught me by surprise. I never watch C-SPAN due to lack of barf bags, but why would they do that? That really is a bad look IMO. But I suppose many don’t know it, or care, depending on what tribe is in power.

  29. Anthony K Wikrent

    “What’s dangerous about the idea of ‘beauty’ in architecture? ”

    Answer: not much.

    A much better question is “What’s dangerous about the idea of ‘ugly’ in architecture? ” Answer: a lot. Ugly architecture oppresses the human spirit. Studies show people feel more depressed when the have to spend time surrounded by ugly architecture. James Kuntsler has brilliantly written on how ugly architecture is often sponsored and funded by someone rich as a monument to their own ego.

    Benjamin Latrobe, Pierre L’Enfant, Frederik Olmstead and others wrote very insightful things about the great social utility of beauty and proportion. There are also writings by Benjamin West and Charles Wilson Peale (see William Dunlap’s 1834 History of the Rise and Profess of the Arts of Design in the United States.

    Thorstein Veblen’s writings on the instinct of craftsmanship included many of the same points: a job well done should be pleasing to the eye.

    And, finally, the oppressiveness of ugly architecture creates an opportunity for right wingers to wage cultural warfare, as the article dwells on. Aesthetics is a grave weakness on the progressive flank.

  30. kemerd

    Russian military has already placed an order for 76 Su-57 fighters years ago, So this is part of that initial order. Once the new engines are ready, I am almost certain they will place orders for a lot more aircraft.

    Regarding stealth, Su-57 design takes advantage of stealth unless it interferes with design goals deemed more important. So, stealth is considered a useful but not paramount. The resulting design is an high performance aircraft with reduced radar signature in comparison to other Soviet/Russian aircraft.

    Also, one must note stealth design features still allow lower possibility of detection and tracking of the airborne radars. So, not completely useless against the western way of fighting.

  31. Joe Well

    I just found the most thorough take-down of manned space exploration I have ever seen. It’s by some random guy but it’s footnoted and anyway, this is common sense stuff.

    Why We Shouldn’t Send Humans to Mars

    *There may very well be microbes on Mars, possibly it could even be the source of all life on Earth (or life on Mars could have been seeded from Earth, or both from somewhere else). Humans will contaminate that and make it impossible to “discover” life on Mars in the future.

    *Humans would have to be encased in some kind of bubble to keep them alive, so it wouldn’t be like they were really on Mars in the sense that we are on Earth. My analogy: like someone who just has a layover in an airport is just technically in that city.

    *There is nothing humans can do in space that robots can’t do better, witness the waste of time that is the ISS.

    *It would cost at least half a trillion dollars.

    *It is already sucking most of the funding away from other space research.

    *Elon Musk is a major proponent /s

    1. JustAnotherVolunteer

      Not just any random guy – Maciej Cegłowski. He’s posts are infrequent but pithy and he runs the PinBoard service for those who still curate bookmarks. Worth digging into his archive if you are interested in the Internet, politics, and security.

      He just took a year off from Twitter and I wonder if he’ll be back. He’d certainly have lots to say.

    2. Michaelmas

      It’s a superficial piece in that it lightly touches on the real reason why sending humans to Mars is a problematic idea when the author says “In particular, we need preliminary data on the physiological effects of partial gravity, and a better estimate of the risk from heavy ion radiation.” The author has been too lazy to go and do the basic work of finding out that we now have far more than preliminary data on the effects of gravity and ionizing radiation because there’s a giant, heavyweight study —

      The Twins Study

      ‘NASA’s year-long Twins Study compared identical twins – Scott and Mark Kelly – while Scott was in space and Mark was on Earth.’

      For starters, note that the ISS, where Scott Kelly spent a year, is still very much within the protection of the Earth’s magnetosphere (as was/is the Moon for the Apollo astronauts), and once beyond that protection solar space is filled with solar and cosmic radiation, up to and including coronals and solar flares. Just a few tidbits from the Twins Study —

      [1] When Scott Kelly closed his eyes to go to sleep at night on the ISS, he could see streaks of light, as if there were shooting stars behind his eyelids. These were the HZE particles (HZE ions, which stands for high [H], proton/atom number [Z], and energy [E]) blasting his retinal cells and passing through his eyes, with all the concomitant cellular damage that implies.

      [2] For most of the mission and when he came back down, Kelly had the highest levels of inflammation markers and cytokine stress the doctors had ever seen.

      Specifically, interleukin receptor antagonist 1 (IL-ra1), an important anti-inflammatory protein, as well as other cytokines, such as IL-6, IL-10, and C-reactive protein (CRP), were all spiking extremely high upon Kelly’s return to Earth.

      For IL-ra1, the closest comparison was with patients who had just had a myocardial infarction. For IL-10, spikes were similar to those found in patients who just survived a severe bacterial infection of the blood (sepsis).

      [3] Weirdly, Kelly’s telomeres got longer when he landed back on Earth. But then, within forty-eight hours, those telomeres returned to normal length (and he lost the extra two inches of body height he’d had in orbit). Still, it can’t be good to have your telomeres accordioning like that within such a short period of time.

      [4] When he landed back on Earth, Kelly’s ankles swelled up to the size of basketballs and he broke out in rashes all over his body, especially where anything touched his skin. His body reacted to something as simple as the weight of clothing being pulled down onto his skin by gravity.

      And so on. It’s a fascinating study. That said, Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut, holds the record for the longest stay in space, aboard the old Mir space station for more than 14 months (437 days 18 hours) in 1994–1995. In 1988, he’d already done a previous trip of 240 days, after which he’d made a point of walking out of the capsule under his own power and then stating, “We can fly to Mars.”

      So it’s a religion. Polyakov lived to be eighty, not incidentally, but then he wasn’t in solar space, where the real radiation is; if one did the trip to Mars the way that Musk claims it could be done, everyone would arrive riddled with cancers — those that hadn’t already died. Given that it’s a religion, however, there are people already thinking about how to finesse the problem(s), here in the West, in China, and presumably in Russia.

      Some possible solutions are:
      (1) Reducing travel time, as a nuclear drive maintaining a constant 1G acceleration could get there rapidly;
      (2) Injectable nanotech buzzing around the astronauts’ systems, zapping the cancers and fixing the weightlessness (NASA has had a program investigating this for at least thirty years);
      (3) Genetically engineering Homo Astronauticus, as for instance by introducing tardigrade genes — because tardigrades have radiation resistance — into humans. The NASA scientist, Chris Mason, that ran the Twins Study has already written a book laying out a five-hundred year genetic engineering program.

      So it’s a religion.

      Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.
      — Corinthians 15:51
      There will be a speciation. It’s not if, it’s when.
      — Chris Mason, Chair of Steering Committee, NASA GeneLab


      1. Jason Boxman

        laying out a five-hundred year genetic engineering program.

        Is that the hand of the Bene Gesserit I detect?

        Granted that would probably be a 10,000 year program.

      2. Grebo

        Before 2 and 3 I would try using the water supply as a shield and generating a magnetic field around the ship to deflect the charged particles, like Earth does.

        1. Michaelmas

          …try using the water supply as a shield and generating a magnetic field around the ship to deflect the charged particles

          Agreed. But it’s not clear to me how much ice and what size mass the generating technology for such a magnetic field would require.

          In other words, what’s being presented with the current generation of designs mooted for a Mars trip is like trying to sail a coracle across the Pacific. Not that in a very few cases some of our ancestors didn’t do that and survive, as the presence of human populations on some of those islands testifies, because we’re a crazy species. But what’s needed are big ships — maybe even on the order of hollowing out an ice asteroid core and putting a drive on it — that are going to have be assembled in Earth or Lunar orbit.

  32. Mildred Montana

    >Six-year-old intentionally shot teacher in Virginia school, police say Guardian

    I am surprised that no one wants to comment on this. The incident is so clearly a sign of family dysfunction.

    Why? When a six-year-old intentionally shoots a person with his own weapon (from whom?) and in retaliation for some perceived wrong, this can only be seen as 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘰𝘳, passed on from parents to children. Innocent six-year-olds do not normally carry weapons or use them maliciously.

    Law enforcement ought to—and I’m sure will—look at the father (probably) or the mother for the likely explanation of this bizarre incident. Very young kids are not innately bad but parents can be.

    1. tevhatch

      Gov. Glenn Youngkin will probably give the child a medal for union busting and be a good solider in the culture war he’s waging.

    2. fresno dan

      I am surprised that no one wants to comment on this.
      Really, what can be said about it? As much as I believe in “gun control” I don’t think that is the problem here. As you say, this is learned behavior, and in particular, American behavior. We live in a society full of guns, where our entertainment media shows guns (TV, Movies, video games) as the solution to every problem.
      If only we would allow our first grade teachers to carry… (do I need a sarc tag)

      1. agent ranger smith

        Maybe a sarc tag is not needed, but it is still a nice courtesy to offer one, even if only in a sarcy way.

        Text on an internet thread is a very poor place to attempt sarcasm without warning the reader that sarcasm is what is being attempted.

    3. eg

      How long before the usual suspects insist that had only the rest of the six year olds been armed they could have stopped this tragedy?

      America is insane.

  33. David

    In case anyone is interested, here’s a few words of context about the opinion survey suggesting that half of French people want a “social explosion.” The poll is by IFOP, a well-respected French polling company, which has been asking similar questions for some years now. You can read the entire report here: it’s pretty self-explanatory even if you don’t put it through a translation program.

    In essence, 48% of those polled were “revolted” by the economic and social situation in France. This is a high figure, but actually relatively typical, and well below the 58% recorded in November 2018, at the start of the Gilets jaunes protests. Unsurprisingly, the only group of voters where less than 40% of the respondents are “revolted” is Macron’s own party. Of those polled, 79% thought there was a chance of a “social explosion” in the next few months. This is higher than it’s been recently, but lower than a couple of years ago. If “social explosion” sounds dramatic, the question goes on to make it clear that it’s really about a repetition of the demonstrations and riots of 2018-19, not French Revolution 2.0. And finally, a question asked for the first time, slightly over 50% of French people would actively welcome such a “social explosion.” Even 13% of Macron’s supporters were prepared to consider the possibility.

    How to make sense of this? Well, some of it is the apocalyptic grumbling that the French have always delighted in, and the figures for public perceptions aren’t that different to those in the recent past. But there is a sense in the air at the moment of something big waiting to happen, and if it does, it will be an entirely self-inflicted wound. Since 2017, Macron has been obsessed with the “reform” of the pensions system. It was shelved during the Covid crisis, but now it’s back, and he’s trying to ram it through Parliament, without a majority, depending on threatening a vote of confidence if any particular proposal is defeated. The proposals are due to be presented next week, on 10 January, and the trades unions (unusually united) are already planning strikes and stoppages. Of the main proposals in play, raising the retiring age to 64 is supported by less than a third of French people, whilst raising it to 65 is supported by scarcely a fifth. Yet Macron seems to make this, rather than Ukraine, energy, poverty, the hospital crisis or Covid, the hill on which he’s prepared to die on. Nobody can really understand why: I personally think that it’s exactly the kind of managerialist problem he thinks he can “solve”, whereas all the other things are too complicated. Certainly, he seems prepared to create major political crisis over proposals that the vast majority of French people don’t want. For what it’s worth, yes, I think it’s going to be an uncomfortable end to the winter, even ignoring all the other problems mentioned above.

    1. eg

      Do Macron’s proposed “reforms” of the French pension system promise a bonanza of fees and opportunities for grift among the usual businesses which might offer him a sinecure for services rendered upon his retirement from politics? That might be one well worn path of motivation.

  34. Raymond Sim

    Regarding the Su-57, from what I see on Wikipedia the numbers of aircraft are downright tiny. I have no idea how anyone not reading classified Russian material can form a firm opinion about what the project is all about.

  35. Tom Stone

    As far as banning bump stocks, that horse has left the barn.
    If someone wants an illegal full auto they can swap out one part on their Glock with no tools and be ready to “Rock and Roll”.
    Amazon sold quite a few thousand in the USA for about $12 with volume discounts ( prosecution Futures!) IIRC.
    And I would guess the number of FGC9 Mk2’s being printed in the USA is growing very quickly indeed, one printer of moderate cost can produce 10 a week at a unit cost of less than $250, these will wholesale for better than $1K apiece.

  36. spud

    i predicted this about the so-called higher taxes on the rich biden was hawking. it was more smoke cover for a stealth tax on the deplorable MAGA people, just like bill clintons so-called tax hike on the rich, which did not include a capital gains tax hike, instead, bill clinton cut them. leaving only wage earners paying a higher tax. this time is no different.

    those 80,000 plus new hires at the IRS are there for one reason only, to go after us.

    IRS Audits Few Millionaires But Targeted Many Low-Income Families in FY 2022

    Published Jan 4, 2022

    1. LawnDart

      “Fighters of PMC Wagner report that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are using unidentified chemical weapons in the Bakhmut direction. The fighters received chemical burns of the respiratory tract and mucous membranes and were sent to the hospital in serious condition.”

      Phosgene gas? Got that WWI retro’thing going full-tilt…

      1. Paradan

        No, I remember something about Ukraine getting a shipment of CN gas, and the AFU has a history of using CR gas on demonstrators. Both are similar to CS gas but much stronger.

  37. Adam Eran

    The openDemocracy article (“What’s dangerous about the idea of ‘beauty’ in architecture?”) is totally bizarre! It says it permits comments, but won’t even let me register and sign in to do so. Here’s my comment:

    What a strange article! For example “Classicism is not inherently right-wing any more than Modernism is inherently progressive.” I’d say things are reversed here. Pedestrian-friendly, humanly -comprehendible Classicism is inherently progressive. Modernism has given us sprawl (the opposite of then-Prince Charles’ Poundbury). Sprawl requires every single trip of significance be in an auto. Every driving-age adult must own, maintain and fuel a car. It’s the most regressive tax known to man. It’s a health hazard, building exercise out of daily life, and making mass transit un-viable (who can walk to the stops in sprawl? Answer: no one but the most dedicated transit rider).

    Frank Lloyd Wright is the epitome of Modernism, and his designs were absolute disasters. The famous “Fallingwater” house built over a stream is a mess, so moldy it is not habitable. His Phillips 66 building in Claremore OK has a pentagonal elevator that has never worked well, and the rooms are so oddly shaped one can never even rearrange the furniture. Oddly enough, functionality is the very last thing considered by the “Moderns.”

    Another example: “starchitect” Le Corbusier built sculptural monuments (like Gehri) that are similarly striking, but these do not “play well” with the rest of the neighborhood. Le Corbu’s design for working-class people “saved” material by making ceilings unlivably low. He was a horrible elitist, discounting poor people’s right to ceilings high enough to be comfortable (imagine huddling in a low-ceiling cave!).

    See one of Krier’s disciples–Andres Duany–for an authoritative takedown of sprawl. (Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream). Krier is discounted because he apparently admired Hitler’s architect. Can’t a stopped clock be right once in a while? Can’t even Hitler (or does this mean the openDemocracy writer has already lost the argument?)

    Personally, I’d say confusing things is one of the objects of politics (“Without lies, there wouldn’t be any politics” – Will Rogers). Deception and deceit are certainly the agenda when architecture that denies the public realm–like the Modernists’–is somehow not “elitist,” or “right-wing” (the right side of the French parliament was for supporters of the King), then you know things are upside down and backward. The public realm is what’s available to everyone, even the poor. That is what Classical design elevates. Crapifying the public realm seems to be one of the agendas of Modernism.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      You did not mention Le Corbusier’s visions for modern life in a suburbs, a life we ‘enjoy’ today, at growing cost.

    2. Michaelmas

      Adam Eran: The openDemocracy article (“What’s dangerous about the idea of ‘beauty’ in architecture?”) is totally bizarre!

      The decoding ring necessary to understand this article — I don’t blame you for failing to — is that it’s a bizarrely Brit-parochial argument it’s making, and one most Brits would rightly dismiss as fatuous.

      The background is that starting in 1945 with the Attlee government, British governments put much work into efforts to improve the quality of life of the British population with efforts like the NHS and social housing. This latter often took the form of tower blocks, designed in the style known as ‘Brutalism.’

      From 1945 to the 1970s, British governments — including Tory ones like MacMillan’s — put their energy and funding into these socialist programs although (1) they were cash-strapped from WWII and had to make repayments on the US lend-lease program and (2) that energy and funding might arguably have been more productively applied to building industries based around the superior technologies that British scientists and engineers developed (e.g. the British had the best jet engines in the world). Then in 1979 Thatcher came to power and the neoliberal strategy for the UK replaced the previous semi-socialist one, so that the finance industry and the City of London were enthroned as the UK’s savior — a strategy that is now running of road and increasingly looks like the sugar high it always was.

      Anyway, the OpenDemocracy author is trying to impose the monomaniacal frame of the tribal war between Socialism and Thatcherite NeoLiberalism on all of architectural design. In the UK, one also sees the same sort of tribal war now occurring with people who reframe everything in terms of the Remainer vs. Brexiter fight.

  38. anon in so cal

    Condolezza Rice and Robert Gates: “Time Is Not on Ukraine’s Side”

    As expected, an ant-Russia, anti-Putin diatribe that frames Russia for US / NATO / EU aggression.

    But a glimmer of reality, then a call for a massive increase in US arms shipments:

    “Meanwhile, although Ukraine’s response to the invasion has been heroic and its military has performed brilliantly, the country’s economy is in a shambles, millions of its people have fled, its infrastructure is being destroyed, and much of its mineral wealth, industrial capacity and considerable agricultural land are under Russian control.

    Ukraine’s military capability and economy are now dependent almost entirely on lifelines from the West — primarily, the United States. Absent another major Ukrainian breakthrough and success against Russian forces, Western pressures on Ukraine to negotiate a cease-fire will grow as months of military stalemate pass. Under current circumstances, any negotiated cease-fire would leave Russian forces in a strong position to resume their invasion whenever they are ready. That is unacceptable.”

    1. Karl

      Thanks for that summary. The end of the quote you provided–“That is unacceptable,” prompted me to read the Op-Ed to learn what Ukraine should do, “since time is not on their side.” The Op-Ed offers this inspired contribution (/s):

      The only way to avoid [the “unacceptable”] is for the United States and its allies to urgently provide Ukraine with a dramatic increase in military supplies and capability…what is needed now are decisions by the United States and its allies to provide the Ukrainians the additional military equipment they need — above all, mobile armor… These capabilities are needed in weeks, not months….The way to avoid confrontation with Russia in the future is to help Ukraine push back the invader now [through more arms aid]. That is the lesson of history that should guide us, and it lends urgency to the actions that must be taken — before it is too late.

      So, clearly they see continuance of the status quo as eventually leading to Ukraine’s doom. They also believe that “a dramatic” increase in “capability” can enable Ukraine to achieve victory. They see mobile armor as the key to this dramatic increase in capability, and (in another quote) they see Germany as the necessary supplier in the short time frame needed.

      They don’t adequately explain why lack of sufficient mobile armor is the crucial limiting factor for Ukrainian victory. This assumption seems highly implausible.

      Clearly Gates and Rice are still seeing the U.S. as the key and their goal is Ukrainian victory. In short, they want to double down. And if more mobile armor doesn’t do the trick? What’s left? As I see it, there are only two options left: 1) U.S. and/or NATO troops; and if those are inadequate, 2) tactical nukes. The latter becomes more saleable in defense of the former if our troops get into a tough spot….

      This is the inevitable train of Gates’ and Rice’s logic, it seems to me. It’s the same logic of progressive escalation that has led to every foreign policy disaster since Vietnam.

      One other quote from this Op-Ed illustrates both their smugness and their ignorance:

      But the United States has learned the hard way — in 1914, 1941 and 2001 — that unprovoked aggression and attacks on the rule of law and the international order cannot be ignored.

      I think it’s interesting they didn’t cite any history after 2001–namely the failed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya…. And they fail to point out that the war in Iraq constituted “unprovoked aggression” and an attack “on the rule of law and the international order.”

      All in all, a pretty poor piece of analysis. But maybe it was just propaganda, sort of “yeah, we get it that Ukraine is doomed, but we still have to cheer them on all the same ….”

      1. Michaelmas

        …it’s interesting they didn’t cite any history after 2001–namely the failed interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya…. And they fail to point out that the war in Iraq constituted “unprovoked aggression” and an attack “on the rule of law and the international order.”

        Indeed. They also ignore the unprovoked aggression and the attack on the rule of law and the international order that the US committed in 1919-20 by directly invading Russia.,_North_Russia,_Siberia

        1. Karl

          Good point! Pretty crazy little adventure, that. We showed our true fidelity to rule of law very early on…. Strictly speaking, it’s the rule of “our” law, which everyone else must follow except, of course, us…..

        2. John Wright

          And there is no mention of Rice’s cheerleading support for the Iraq War II and her “mushroom cloud” statement to amp up the fear of Saddam Hussein.

          “Dr. Rice then said something that was ominous and made headlines around the world.”

          “The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

          Is Rice hoping that she’ll eventually get it right and the WAPO wants to give her a chance?

  39. Jason Boxman

    Tranq Dope: Animal Sedative Mixed With Fentanyl Brings Fresh Horror to U.S. Drug Zones

    A veterinary tranquilizer called xylazine is infiltrating street drugs, deepening addiction, baffling law enforcement and causing wounds so severe that some result in amputation.

    This is insane. What an exceptional country America is, giving people so many reasons to get high to death.

    “It’s too late for Philly,” said Shawn Westfahl, an outreach worker with Prevention Point Philadelphia, a 30-year-old health services center in Kensington, the neighborhood at the epicenter of the city’s drug trade. “Philly’s supply is saturated. If other places around the country have a choice to avoid it, they need to hear our story.”

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