Links 2/14/15

Wired (martha r)

CNN. Um, Men’s Health covers are a close approximation.

UPI

BBC (David L). Note that the Anasazi were an advanced civilization in Chaco Canyon, NM, by 1200-1300 standard. The end game of the drought included .

New York Times

Financial Times (David L). Look at the odds they assign…

Science (Nikki)

y MIT Technology Review (David L)

Science (Nikki)

Wired (Robert M)

c Business Insider (David L)

South China Morning Post

London Review of Books. Martha r: “Not as hard hitting as the title might suggest.”

FT Alphaville

Financial Times

Reuters (martha r)

Grexit?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph (Swedish Lex)

Financial Times

Financial Times

Business Insider

Guardian

Nation

BBC

in.gr. The Greek goverment leaked a document giving their side of what happened in the negotiation breakdown on Wednesday. Alan provided a rough translation here.

Project Syndicate (David L)

Reuters

Associated Press

Ukraine/Russia

New York Times

Financial Times

WSJ Economics Blog

Syraqistan

MarketWatch

Bloomberg

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Bloomberg

Obamacare

Did Chief Justice John Roberts Save the Affordable Care Act? New Yorker

The Hill (furzy mouse). The Republicans couldn’t find better plaintiffs?

NPR (David L)

“Trade Deal” Treason

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Vox (Scott)

Reuters (EM)

Daily Kos (furzy mouse)

Bloomberg

Class Warfare

Consumerist

Housing Wire

Antidote du jour:

Valentine-Day-cats Links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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92 comments

    1. abynormal

      “We can’t stop here, this is bat country!” HST/fear & loathing in lv

      “Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.” (bonus and my valentine to the murdoch’s)
      HST/A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

    2. craazyman

      You’d call that civilization? bowhahahahahah

      sorry. my favorite Woo Woo Foo Foo Radio host broadcasts from Las Vegas. he calls it the city of ‘sun, fun, sex and secrets, My not so humble hometown, Las Vegas Nevada”.

      The fact that he broadcasts from Las Vegas sort of discredits the phenomenon he broadcasts about — like bigfoot, shape shifting animals, UFOs, ghosts, Star People, cryptids, reptilians, fairies and Area 51. I believe eveything I hear on his show. Just like I believe everythhing Yves writes here and all the Doomers & Gloomers who post here about the end of the economy. Fortunately, I can’t lose money in the paranormal market as easily as I have in the stock market.

      1. craazyboy

        Here’s a Doomer and Gloomer who will scare the crap outta ya. Ex CIA economist Jim Rickards.
        You’ll be hiding under the bed after listening to this!

      2. Swedish Lex

        The Colorado River and other sources are drying up.
        They will try keep the last golf course green with Martinis.
        Then dust.

        1. scott

          Not a proper haiku, but still good.

          The rain is no more
          Mankind has overstayed it’s
          Time on the West coast.

          Even better:
          Luke: “What is it Obi-Wan”
          Kenobi: “It was a disturbance in the force, like a million almond trees cried out in thirst and were silenced. Set a course for Fresno”.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Should lost civilizations stay lost or are they better off no longer lost?

      The Lords of Sipan have reasons to be concerned.

      They say the stuff you see in museums are usually, or often enough, low quality stuff, passed over by cash-rich collectors.

      1. cwaltz

        Who says that the problem isn’t already being taken care of? f I’m not mistaken the birth rate here has gone down, that’s why they’re freaking out about the retirement rate of those of us born at the end of the boom(the ones told to pay more for our retirements back in the 80s.)

        Quite frankly the alarmists on overpopulation are tiresome. If they are that darn concerned about how many people we have here maybe they should take themselves out of the equation instead of telling others not to create progeny.

  1. Kevin Smith

    re: Car Loan Bubble

    My wife and I just bought a Subaru Forrester. We were told them we wanted to pay all cash, they came back and PUSHED us to take a loan a 1.5%, even giving us the same discount if we’d take a loan! Offered to let us repay the loan in full after a month, no penalty if we wanted to liquidate the thing.
    Bizarre.
    Anyhow, as is our custom, we will pay cash.
    Anyway

    1. mad as hell.

      I had the same situation when I bought a 2013 Honda. I let them talk me into it. At 0.9% the loan rate for 5 years took the 20k stuck it in a vanguard fund that’s been earning 7%.I have been drawing down on it ever since making the payments. Should still make around $1000 after paying off the $400 interest charge. However if the fund tanks I’ll be in the hole. Roll the dice!

    2. bob

      Car dealerships don’t sell cars. They sell loans to wall st using a car as collateral.

      Going to a car loan store for a car confuses a lot of people. If you offer to pay cash for one of their loan vehicles, you deprive them of the profit they make selling the loan on down the line.

      Think of the bankers!

      1. hunkerdown

        Brilliant. I never looked at it that way, but now that you mention it, perhaps the term “vehicle” is appropriate in multiple senses. And it offers an angle on the Michigan GOP’s direct-sales ban: competition for Wall Street relationships?

    3. SoCal rhino

      Our Honda dealer tried the same. Later, he told us the parent grades them on the average credit score associated with loans, so they want the good scores cash buyers tend to have. He claimed he really made very little selling these low interest loans. Sounded plausible.

    4. Doug Terpstra

      Ah, but it’s in the finance office where the real action is. There’s the obligatory weather protection package ($600 wax), the mandatory enhanced theft protection system ($300 custom siren tone), and of course Gap Insurance , which you must have even if you’re paying cash (why? Well, because, and you’re stupid if I have to ‘splain it to you). Then there’re are those $400 pin-stripes, the custom window tinting (sorry, already on; beyond my control), and naturally the extended warranty (you’re going to need a.new $400 timing belt.at 60k; you’d better spend the $1200 now and not have to worry about that.) Reams and reams of paper work, sign this; sign that and the other; pay no attention to that it’s standard; you do want these keys today don’t you? What, the.wrong interest rate? Oh, those pesky decimals; happens all the time; let me check with my manager. Well, it seems something just came in from one of the credit bureaus; let’s just go with this rate for now and we’ll resolve that little glitch later. Petty boiler room tactics at their finest.

      1. ambrit

        A friend years ago worked in a car dealership as salesman for roughly half a year. He would complain a lot, about management. The sales staff in the ‘Shark Tank,’ (yes they did call it that, even thirty years ago,) would be docked some pay for every potential sale they let get away. He ended up selling beer, and did well at it. (He always had lots of volunteer quality control inspectors!)

    5. cwaltz

      Oldest had to replace his car and needed to establish credit (moving out in June)In order to get a loan he needed to do a 24 month loan which I thought was odd. He ended up using only half his down payment and then going to the credit union and putting his first year’s worth of payments upfront. I thought it was kind of weird that they didn’t want the money up front that would have had him at positive equity in the vehicle.

  2. ex-PFC Chuck

    For the John Boyd aficionados who hang out here (IIRC there are at least a few of us) you may be interested to know that a few days ago John Robb posted links at his Global Guerrillas site to a recent transfer of Beta video recordings of Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict presentation to digital media. A link to the Twitter thread of the man who did the transfer, Jason Brown, reveals that he and others are considering a crowd funded project to polish up the presentation by redoing the slides using state-of-the-art digital graphic technology to make them more legible, and also by adding commentaries from some of Boyd’s associates and proteges.

      1. Mark P.

        So do I. But as you probably know, so did Dick Cheney and to small minds around here that would make Boyd anathema.

        1. ex-PFC Chuck

          A while back I read that Boyd was instrumental, albeit very much behind the scenes, in formulating the “Left Hook” concept of the Desert Storm operation in 1991, when Cheney was unimpressed with Schwartzkoph’s first stab at a plan, which was described as a “High diddle diddle right up the middle.” Because he was so radioactive to his home service (USAF) Cheney only had him come in at late hours and then via seldom used Pentagon entrances. In 2003 it was obvious that Cheney had forgotten anything of significance he’d ever learned from Boyd.

          In a post on his blog a few months ago Col. Pat Lang, who in 1991 was the Middle East desk officer at the DIA, said that when he was briefing some very senior people in the administration about the upcoming operation one of them, who remained nameless in the post, said in all seriousness, “You mean there’s only one kind of Islam?” Lang must have had a bloody tongue after that episode.

  3. Why no Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue of men? CNN. Um, Men’s Health covers are a close approximation.

    Interesting, isn’t it? If you want to sell to men, it would seem, just put a scantily clad, heavily airbrushed, human on the cover–the gender/sex doesn’t even seem to matter much–mostly naked men apparently get men to pick up a magazine as well as mostly naked women…interesting…

      1. susan the other

        I speak from experience here – you have to do something to catch mens’ attention and get them to go to the doctor because men don’t bother unless they have a heart attack (which you can’t put on the cover of a magazine) or something is wrong with their penis! Which can be more easily sublimated. Amazing.

    1. Pepsi

      Men’s Health comes from the lineage of legal gay erotica in the form of fitness posing magazines. The more you know.

      1. Now that I think about it, my gay male roommate had a subscription to Men’s Health, or some similar publication, when we lived together. I must be an idiot for not putting two and two together. He spent so much time at the gym, I figured he was actually interested in the fitness tips…silly me ;-)

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It might work with cat magazines.

      Naked cats on the cover might get cats to actually want to read it.

      Unless we humans are exceptional in ogling at members of our own…

      God’s favorite species.

  4. Antifa

    The real story behind the spread of Proto-Indo-European peoples and languages westward into Europe from the southern Russian steppes specifically involves the first domestication of horses, which occurred among these Kurgan tribes about 5500 to 6000 years ago.

    Horses in those days were smaller, naturally wild, mean-tempered and couldn’t be saddled and ridden. That came much later. But they were good for meat and milk, and for pulling wheeled carts, which made these tribes highly mobile.

    These carts could also be built as chariots to carry warriors, which made these tribes highly successful at taking over adjoining territories. A chariot was a force multiplier, making a single vehicle a deadly platform for one or several warriors, none of whom had to lug along all the spears and arrows they could discharge from this moving platform. Chariots were also psychologically terrifying to anyone who’d never seen a few dozen of them come charging over the hill. How do you fight something that will run you over if you stand there, and will even run you over while you’re running away?

    The horse-drawn chariot, and even the wheeled cart for carrying food and supplies for an army, were major developments in land warfare for our species. If your tribe didn’t have any chariots, your tribe was not going to win against newcomers who did. The newcomers moved in, took over, married and assimilated, and the PIE language both spread and evolved as it absorbed new cultures.

    1. tyaresun

      You white people can fight till the cows come home about the origins of European languages being Turkey or Ukraine, why the hell are you dragging Indians into this?
      The linguistics studies have so many convenient assumptions that you can drive a whole army of chariots through it.
      The DNA studies have so much uncertainty that all conclusions about what happened 10000 years ago will be easily challenged.
      Let us bury this debate forever and spend our energies on things that would be more useful to mankind.

      1. ambrit

        Well, if by Indians you mean American Indians, there is that consarned similarity between the Algonquin Tongues and early Celtic/Basque.
        Truly, everything we “know” is wrong.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Have they finally settled the question regarding the similarity between the Clovis spear point and Solutrean spear point?

          1. ambrit

            Not that I’ve read. The Solutrean Migration Hypothesis is severely unpopular in ‘Official’ archaeology circles, and gets heavy push back. Sometimes it all sounds like the ‘official’ scientists require the finding of, as in dig up from undisturbed ground, a carving saying, “I Groorg, son of Ferdinand of Castile, made this spear point.”
            One major stumbling block to the theory of world wide trading cultures before the Classical Period is the distribution of major infectious diseases. Small pox is believed to have evolved in human populations about 10,000 BC. Pharaoh Ramesses Vs’ mummy, ca 1145 BC, shows signs of small pox. So, why were the North American Indian populations so susceptible to small pox when it was introduced in the late 1400s? Europe by that time was experiencing regular epidemics of the disease. North America, before the Europeans arrived, was not.
            This controversy is by no means over.

            1. JerseyJeffersonian

              An interesting hypothesis posits the Solutrean tools entered North America via a maritime route along the southern edge of the ice sheet. Hunter groups traveling in kayak-type craft following seals while skirting the edge of the ice. Logical, in that this accounts for a food source for a mobile hunting culture coupled with a fine method of transportation for covering great distances. Rather like the later, well-documented voyages of Vikings, traveling toward the west, but without the discontinuities involved in island hopping, just a steady progression. When the maritime ice sheets retreated, the migration ceased, both because the route then needed to span open stretches of sea, & because the conditions of life & culture adjusted to living on a progressively less ice encumbered European landmass. Why risk a perilous voyage of uncertain outcome when life was getting better where you were?

            2. Jack

              I like the scare quotes around Official. The idea doesn’t have wide acceptance because it doesn’t have much to back it up. You make it sound like it’s dismissed because it doesn’t meet some arbitrarily high standard. No, it meets no real linguistic, archeological, or genetic standard and in fact is directly contradicted by at least the genetic evidence. So some tools resemble some found in Europe. Big deal, convergent design philosophy. If something works in one place it isn’t surprising that someone somewhere else also independently arrived at a similar design in the quest to make things that worked well.

              1. ambrit

                Yes, this is still an ongoing dispute.
                As for the ‘Official’ reference, I direct your attention to that trenchant comment by Max Planck, “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”
                An interesting back and forth about the idea is here:

                “Official” science is like anything “official.” It becomes the slave to “Establishments” of one sort or another. The history of the idea of plate tectonics is an example. Wegener, who gets most of the credit for developing the concept, died still being called a crank and crackpot for daring to challenge the prevailing ‘wisdom’ concerning terrestrial geology. It took another generation for the “scientific” community to accept the idea, even though Wegener and others had marshaled masses of evidence pointing to the soundness of the idea.
                It is not so much the ‘wildness’ of the ideas that disturbs the detached observer of this process, as the militant conservatism shown by the ‘official’ sciences. Rice bowls are involved. The trench warfare can get intense. The “Truth,” whatever that is, is always cited, but seldom seen.
                Anyway, that’s my rant for this morning.

                1. davidgmills

                  My prediction is that the same will happen with global warming. Once the old guard dies off, the new will be free to say what they really think.

      2. Antifa

        Ah, but to bury the debate, to declare a finished conclusion would not be science. Linguists and geneticists are grounded in well established facts from which they hypothesize and yes, test out differing assumptions one after the other to see which ones pan out. This is the scientific method, a method of disproving new theories — if you can. And humanity has no finer way of spending our time than this kind of open-ended discovery of the cosmos around us.

      1. susan the other

        I thought the 6000 year – 8000 year timeline for a confluence of language was a little too young. But they’ll get to it. I love their tactic of combining biological markers with language. It has long been held that we “Caucasians” came from the Caucasus region; and I don’t see much diff if it includes eastern Turkey. That there are traces of Chinese language is very interesting because it would push back the region to the east as well as the timeline. And that pitcher from the Black Sea, an example of the Corded Ware culture of central Europe, reminds me of Etruscan pottery. They aren’t too certain where the Etruscans came from or when they came, but their pottery is so distinctive you see the style still in Italian ceramic ware. It is free, utilitarian, and colorful – this example lacked any oxides or glazes but the basic form was amazing.

        1. ambrit

          There is also the problem of archaeological sites that were at ancient shorelines that have been inundated by the ice age melt out, which phenomenon can be argued is still going on with global warming sea level rise. Then there is the Black Sea refilling event that Ballard probably proved out with his expedition to look for submerged sites. That flood is generally considered to have occurred at 7,600 BCE, just possibly in synch with language dispersal theories. The habitat submerged then, about one third of the present surface area of the Black Sea, would have been perfect for Neolithic hunter gatherers and early agricultural settlements.
          For a sparse overview see:

        2. Jack

          “It has long been held that we “Caucasians” came from the Caucasus region.”

          If you’re a Nazi maybe. The entire concept of monolithic ‘races’ has no modern scientific support. Caucasian is as outdated and meaningless a term as Mongoloid. And one of the big points of the Kurgan hypothesis, and most language origin theories, is that language and ethnicity usually have very little relation, and trying to identify a linguistic heritage with one ethnicity (or even nationality) in particular is an exercise in self-delusion and probably nationalist politics. It’s called Proto-INDO-European for a reason. The theory started when an Englishman noticed Sanskrit resembled Ancient Greek in more ways than one.

          As for the Etruscans, quoting wiki:

          Culture that is identifiably Etruscan developed in Italy after about 800 BC approximately over the range of the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture. The latter gave way in the 7th century to a culture that was influenced by Hellenic Magna Graecian and Phonecian s. After 500 BC, the political destiny of Italy passed out of Etruscan hands.[7] The latest mitochondrial DNA study (2013) shows that Etruscans appear to fall very close to a Neolithic population from Central Europe and to other Tuscan populations.[8]

    2. norm de plume

      ‘The real story behind the spread of Proto-Indo-European peoples and languages westward into Europe from the southern Russian steppes specifically involves the first domestication of horses’

      Yes, and they were apparently more numerous in that area in those days than cattle or sheep and were therefore the staple diet. One big advantage they had was the instinctive nous to break ice with their hooves to access grass and water, while cattle and sheep needed fodder supplied. Once the PIEs were able to tie some horses up they could leave them there as a store of meat for winter.

      There is some evidence that wheels came north from the Mesopotamian region and some that they were home grown, but were soon in use for wagons and then chariots, which conferred a major military advantage.

      Some brave soul must have eventually had the idea to try and ride them; there is some very early horse tooth evidence of rope bridles. Over time they were able to break some in, and catch wild horses to breed with the tame, and the ability to ride gave the early adopters a massive stock herding advantage over neighbours.

      Combined with this is the notion that as cattle emerged as the favoured stock, these people were the first lactose tolerant tribes, giving them within just a few hundred years a significant height and weight advantage.

      That’s a lot of advantages. David Anthony in his great book The Horse The Wheel and Language makes the point that this type of dominance, while naturally breeding resentment in the short term would over longer time frames breed duplication, probably first via some type of submissive tribute relationship, but gradually the tribes eclipsed become assimilated, with language spread a reflection of this. So there’s no need to assume conquest, just influential pre-eminence (with the odd skirmish no doubt).

    3. vidimi

      i’ve recently come to regard the domestication of the horse as the most pivotal technological development in the history of our species. it allowed the PIE people to win europe and asia, spreading their parasitic way of life of pillage along the way. it largely explains who we are today.

      1. norm de plume

        Marija Gimbutas and other proponents of the ‘matrilineal, peace-loving Old Europe destroyed by patriarchal mounted Bronze Age warriors from the steppes’ school would agree with you 100%.

        Myths like Jason and Medea offer intriguing but unprovable insights into this (from Wiki): ‘…part of a class of myths that tell how the Hellenes of the distant heroic age, before the Trojan War, faced the challenges of the pre-Greek “Pelasgian” cultures of mainland Greece, the Aegean and Anatolia. Jason, Perseus, Theseus, and above all Heracles, are all “liminal” figures, poised on the threshold between the old world of shamans, chthonic earth deities, and the new Bronze Age Greek ways…’ which were patriarchal and warlike. For interpreters like Robert Graves, the surviving shape of such myths is history being re-written by the patriarchal winners, with the mounted heroes ascendant over the male-sarificing female moon cults of yore.

        Experts deride this take, but its more fun than the drier alternatives.

  5. Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a little something for all you bitter bachelors and bachelorettes (like myself) out there. From Kate Miller-Heidke, one of my favorite musicians from the land of Oz:

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        And every day as well.

        “Everyday is a good day.”

        ‘And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth, You owe me. Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.’

    1. Marty

      When we told Jordan, the dog, it was Valentine’s Day he reacted exactly as you would expect. He went to his food bowl to see if a slab of meatloaf had suddenly dropped in.

  6. Carolinian

    Re EFF and the TPP

    Based upon the leak, which showed no opposition in key sections, it seems TPP negotiators have already agreed to more vague provisions that would oblige countries to enact prison sentences and monetary fines that are “sufficiently high” to deter people from infringing again.

    Of course such brilliant thinking has been in force in the USA since passage of the DMCA back in the nineties. Strange to say those stern FBI warnings at the beginning of DVDs have done virtually nothing to deter the private copying that the movie studios and their programmers were too incompetent to ensure in the first place (the encryption for DVD files was quickly broken by a Norwegian teenager–a billion copies ago). To my knowledge there have been no instances where anyone was given prison time for personal copying and only a handful of prosecutions for filesharing by individuals. After awhile the movie studios and record companies figured out that treating your customers as criminals was bad for business.

    In fact these absurdly inflated penalties–that simply breed disrespect for the law–could be acting as the “gateway drug” to widespread contempt for property rights in general. The deeply conservative and retrograde people running our world economies think they can simply pass a law or a regulation to hold back the tide on things they don’t like. It’s the same thinking that is behind the US attempt to “lawyer” Putin into submission. It isn’t working with Putin, and it probably isn’t going to work with IP either. Even dictators need the “consent of the governed.”

  7. MikeNY

    This made me laugh, from Timothy Egan’s column today in the :

    Tune into one of the Sunday interview shows, if you can, and you’re bound to find the inevitable Senator Lindsey Graham talking about all the places we need to bomb now.

    Indeed.

  8. sd

    Icelands bankers were running a con. From the Rekjavik Grapevine:

    In the court’s opinion, the four conspired to conceal the fact that one of the investors in Kaupthing, Mohammad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, owned his 5.01% stake in the bank thanks to money lent to him by the bank itself. Investigations into the four go back to the Icelandic bank crash of autumn 2008. In the wake of a report on the contributing causes of the crash from the Special Investigative Commission, the Special Prosecutor’s Office was created. The office targeted many top bank officials from Glitnir and Kaupthing.

    1. LifelongLib

      What was in it for the bank? Nobody’s going to lend you or me money to invest in their own operation. Wonder what made Al-Thani so special…

  9. Lambert Strether

    Greece to review regional airports lease deal, says minister Ekathimerini:

    Greece plans to review a 1.2 billion euro deal for German airport operator Fraport to run 14 regional airports, one of Greece’s biggest privatisation deals since its debt crisis began in 2009, the state minister said on Saturday.

    Fraport, in partnership with Greek energy firm Copelouzos, agreed with the Greek privatisation agency in 2014 to run airports in popular tourist destinations like Corfu. It expected to close its agreement with Athens in October.

    “It (the deal) has not been sealed,» Alekos Flabouraris told Greek TV. «We said it will be halted and we will review it.” ….

    Greece’s new leftist government has sought to cancel key terms of Athens’s 240 billion euro bailout programme from the EU and IMF, including what it calls the «crime» of selling off strategic national assets.

    Since taking power in January, it stopped the sale of Piraeus port, the country’s biggest, and the privatisations of dominant power utility PPC and state natural gas company DEPA.

    It has also said it will take steps to halt a Canadian-run gold mine project and aims to cancel a development scheme at Athens’s former Hellenikon airport.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It sounds like 19th century colonialism.

      The Brits got to run Chinese customs for the Qing empire – how was that different?

      Perhaps the Germans can run Greek’s military or secret police for a reasonable price.

  10. Robert Consoli

    People interested in Varoufakis’ ideas might like to know that his book, Europe After the Minotaur is free on Amazon’s Kindle:

    This book consists of selections from his book The Global Minotaur and I found it a pretty good read.

  11. Ed

    I am not a subscriber to the Financial Times, so I didn’t read the “12 days the world could end” article. I strongly suspect by “world” they are talking about human extinction, not the end of the planet, or at least the end of either the industrial or the neolithic versions of human civilization. I also strongly suspect that the reporter took alot of his or her analysis from these guys:

    The Oxford University Future of Humanity Institute has been studying the bad things that could happen to the future of humanity for some time now, and quantifying the risks. Alot of there work made its way into mass market form in the last chapters of the strangely titled and overly chatty book by the historian Ian Morris, “Why the West Rules for Now” (see , also look at the reviews on Amazon). The book is supposedly about why the industrial revolution took place in northwest Europe and not China, but towards the end gets into a long discussion on the prospects of future human development and the threats of human extinction.

    On human development, the industrial revolution released humanity from a population bottleneck, at just under one billion people worldwide, that developed in the eighteenth century once all the major land masses had been settled with agriculturalists (New Zealand was the last place of significance to be settled). Fossil fuels could be used to transport food from the best agricultural regions to high population areas, and later directly used for agricultural production. But since there are finite amounts of fossil fuels by definition, this was really a big bet that either a) humans would keep discovering new fossil fuel energy sources, or increasing the efficiency of using them, indefinitely or b) humans would not expand their population to the maximum that could be fed with the expanded agricultural production, in the hopes of a). Also burning the fossil fuels degrades the biosphere, possibly to the point where it can’t support human life even if new sources could be found. With bet b) having definitely failed, and a) probably having failed, I really can’t see any way to avoid a population crash in the next century.

    On human extinction, there are basically a whole bunch of independent threats. Most of these come from industrial civilization and the attendant population explosion, but they are still independent, meaning that it will only take one threat coming to pass to kill us off, and the others not happening do not decrease the chance of one happening. You have the residual natural threats such as asteroids and supervolcanos that were always present and remain at their very low probabilities. The industrial derived threats are climate change, pandemics, massive emissions of nuclear radiation, and killer robots (eg supplanted by AI), there may be more but these are the ones Morris discusses. I just came up with half a dozen but apparently FT found a dozen. The big problem here is that theses are independent variables, the probability of each one happening can be low but the cumulative probability of one getting us is uncomfortably high. I think population reduction through low family sizes could take care of most but I’m becoming pessimistic of that happening in time.

    1. Vatch

      I don’t have an FT subscription, but I’m registered, so I get access to a certain number of articles per month (I can’t remember the number: I think it’s 8 articles).

      As you surmised, none of the “world ending” events would end the world, they would only be catastrophic for our species (and in many cases, other species as well). And for several of the potential events, the author explicitly states that human extinction would not be the result; rather, there would be a collapse of civilization and/or a catastrophic drop in our population. For most (perhaps all) of the other events, I think civilizational collapse, rather than human extinction, is implied. A couple of the events are very science-fictionish, and could conceivably lead to extinction. As Niels Bohr may or may not have said:

      “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

      I agree with you that some of the disasters can be avoided or mitigated by diligent use of effective family planning methods. I also reluctantly agree that such use of family planning probably won’t happen, at least not in time to stave off a catastrophe.

  12. Ed

    I was somewhat surprised about the BBC story about scientists (archeologists and linguists mostly) now concluding that there was a big group of people living on the steppe in what is now Ukraine who spoke a proto-Indo European language, and they spread out from there, and all current Indo-European languages including the one I am typing in are derived from that group.

    When I first started studying history as a teenager, in the 1980s, this is what I learned. All the old textbooks that were written earlier in the twentieth century said that. I was completely unaware that in 1987 someone argued that this group lived in Anatolia, and apparently that became the orthodoxy. Now people are thinking that the orthodoxy when I was a teenager, which makes more intuitive sense, was correct. Without written records from those times, this is all really speculative.

    There is a big flaw in the model of science (soft and hard) being reliant on grants which are given to go out and find new discoveries. The flaw is that the scientists always have to discover new things to get funding. As knowledge accumulates, its possible to run out of new things. You wind up doing the academic version of recycling, taking theories and models that are fairly intuitive and make some sense, and replacing them with crackpot stuff, and then discovering later the crackpot stuff is incorrect and bringing back the older theories. The big problem with this is that you wind up with a generation of academics with stunted careers because they don’t buy into the current orthodoxy, which is going to be different from the orthodoxy of both a generation earlier and a generation later, and which is often incorrect anyway.

  13. Doug Terpstra

    Matching the warlust of John McCain, Sen James Inhofe officially submits obviously bogus photo evidence of the fourth (or fifth?) mythical Russian invasion of Ukraine. Obtained from the infamous Ukraine Ministry of Truth, Inhofe without question submits into the US Senate record recycled photos of Russian troops repelling the Georgian invasion of Osettia in ’08. Apparently the mountainous background in the photos did not cause Inhofe or anyone on his staff to question the provenance of the evidence. All good enough for American propaganda in the advance of WW3; serial fraud has no effect on this audience.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A complete understandable human mix-up.

      The evidence was supposed to be for proving Russia’s shooting down of the Malaysian plane.

      ‘Humans are so gullible, if you put GM apples before them, they will eat them, no questions asked.’

    2. tgs

      Predictably, Washington and Kiev announce that they have incontrovertible proof of the Russian military on the ground in eastern Ukraine. Predictable, because this happens immediately after every attempt to dial down the violence. Now Obama can send the arms and Poroshenko can declare martial law.

      1. tgs

        By the way, the source of the incontrovertible proof (low resolution grainy images) is via his Twitter account.

        I think Frau Merkel is being sent a message: leave the peace accords to your betters and get back to doing what you do best – making the lives of the Greeks, Spanish, and Irish miserable.

        1. gordon

          It’s a good point. The Germans have long (since Kaiser Bill’s time) lusted after the rich agricultural lands of Central Europe, including Ukraine. If the US tells Berlin that they can’t have them, that they’re earmarked for Monsanto, somebody in Berlin is going to ask why the Germans should bother helping to claim a Ukraine they will never own. Where’s the payoff?

    3. cwaltz

      How unreasonable of you to expect a person making six figures to represent the will of the people to actually be informed on topics and to research things! Who could have ever imagined that a country in dire financial straits might lie in order to further their own self interest or that a vast military faced with reductions might invent threats in order to ensure their massive amounts of money remain in their hands? ;)

    4. Jagger

      Technically, I believe you can see actually mountains from the extreme southwest of Ukraine if you look to the southwest. Unfortunately, all the fighting is in the extreme southeast of the Ukraine.

  14. Mark

    Pasco Washington is close to the the Hanford nuclear waste reservation

    Wikipedia

    “The (Hanford) site is bordered on the southeast by the Tri-Cities, a metropolitan area composed of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, and smaller communities, and home to over 230,000 residents. Hanford is a primary economic base for these cities.”

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Your data after you die.

    Dead men don’t wear plaid, but they do have some rights.

    I believe they can continue to own properties. If you pay for your cemetery plot, without any liens, it’s yours even after you die.

    And you have rights before you are born. You have a right to expect a decent planet the way Nature intends. That should be a right, for any progressive civilization.

  16. jrs

    Obama admin to intervene in west coast strike:

    On who’s side? Zero gonna pull a Reagan? (he admires him so much after all). Oh wait … I remember Zero said he would strap on those walking shoes to walk the picket with us. You mean he didn’t mean it?

    It’s nice to see someone in the working class earning a good salary, yes even 6 figures!!! How many middle class (not minimum wage of course) jobs would be 6 figures today if wages had kept up with inflation and everything hadn’t gone to the very few?

    1. LifelongLib

      The problem isn’t just wages but what they will buy. 40 years ago a color TV cost in the low hundreds but I recall renting a room at the time for $10/week. So you could actually survive on minimum wage if you were willing to do without a lot of stuff. Today it’s the opposite — stuff is cheap but even a basic place to live is more than a person making minimum wage can afford.

  17. Jim Haygood

    The war has developed not necessarily to our advantage:

    WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, American intelligence officials assert, raising the prospect of a new global war on terror.

    Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in an assessment this month that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was “beginning to assemble a growing international footprint.”

    Critics fear such assessments will once again enmesh the United States in a protracted, hydra-headed conflict as President Obama appeals to Congress for new war powers to fight the Islamic State.

    Well, isn’t that convenient? Just when George W. Bush’s crappy, old-school GWOT 1.0 was losing its cachet, Barack Obama’s GWOT 2.0 emerges to contend for blank-check funding and legal impunity.

    One is shocked — shocked — that turning the Islamic world into a fish-in-a-barrel shooting gallery for Obama’s drone strikes has served as a terrorist recruiting tool. Don’t those backward people know that the proper way to protest drone strikes is to write letters to Congress?

      1. Vince in MN

        No, but it doesn’t matter because we have a multi-front strategy – east, west, north, south, up down, old, new, we can do it all.

  18. rich

    Another Cheating Carlyle Affiliate

    The Carlyle Group brags of 30% annual returns on equity. The ever shrinking blue line must be putting pressure on Pac Andes/China Fisheries management, which gets passed down to subordinates.

    Obsession with outcomes produces a wide range of responses, roughly 30% involve lying, cheating or stealing.

    Carlyle funneled the investment through China Fisheries, a subsidiary of Pac Andes. That’s why there’s no mention of a Pac Andes investment on Carlyle’s website.

    A Carlyle Group affiliate was charged with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. I’d venture there’s much more to find in Carlyle’s global net of PEU holdings, many of them well offshore. Somehow PEU and fishy go together.

  19. JTFaraday

    re: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I wasn’t “100% sober” at the State of the Union,” Vox

    Well, good for her.

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