Links 12/17/17

CNN

TLS

Aeon

Motherboard

California Wildfires

AP

WhoWhatWhy.org

SF Chronicle

LA Times

Is this the future for produce farming? Yikes.

TreeHugger

Russia

Asia Times. Pepe Escobar.

London Review of Books

Quartz

International Business Times

The Week

Business Insider

MIT Technology Review

Tax “Reform”

WaPo

MarketWatch

NYT

The Hill

Sex in Politics… Not

Business Insider

Slate

LA Times

Ars Technica

Guardian

China?

The Wire

SCMP

Reuters

Guillotine Watch

Scroll.in

France 24

Puerto Rico

NYT

Jones v. Moore

Marshall Project

Brexit

EUReferendum.com

Guardian

Guardian

Independent

Bloomberg

India

Scroll.in

Economic Times. Votes are cast, with results to be released Monday. Anything below 100 seats represents a major setback for the BJP.

The Life of Science

AlterNet

Migrant Watch

The Wire

Trump Transition

Politico

FT. From last week and still well worth your time.

Politico

T TruthOout

SCMP

Politico

Guardian

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

New Zealand Herald

Syraqistan

Independent. Patrick Cockburn.

Class Warfare

The Conversation

Marshall Project. The deck: Why are black imprisonment rates going down? Four theories.

NYT. Annoyingly chirpy piece, focusing on those who love their jobs rather than those who must work to keep the wolf from the door.

FT

Wired

WaPo

Antidote du jour:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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138 comments

  1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    Ah, a blue tit…..I bet they miss the cream at the top of the once delivered milk bottles.

    1. Edward E

      Appears that the peaceful little birds are recently having a tough time, people can maybe help by putting out more peanuts, suet and nest boxes. A search of articles show millions of young are not surviving the wet weather and possibly diseases.
      Where Have the Blue Tits Gone?

      WORDS: KATE RISELY, OF THE BRITISH TRUST FOR ORNITHOLOGY (BTO)

      A nestbox seems to be the essential garden accessory – every suburban garden has to have at least one, and they are also common in urban areas.

      There are nearly five million nestboxes in gardens across the UK, but these are mainly used by just two species – Blue Tit and Great Tit. Of these, Blue Tit is slightly more common, so can probably lay claim to the title of the greatest user of nestboxes in the UK.This fact makes me think; where would Blue Tits be without people?

      It’s not just about nestboxes – Blue Tits are one of the main beneficiaries of the bird food that so many of us provide in our gardens. Although the habit of putting out crumbs and scraps for birds was widespread in Victorian times, it was during the post-war period that the practice of ing garden birds really took off.

      At that time, the items most commonly provided were monkey-nuts threaded on strings, and coconut shells filled with suet – hanging foods designed specifically to appeal to the agile and generalist Blue and Great Tits.

      A look at the bird population trends generated from the Common Birds Census and the more recent Breeding Bird Survey shows that Blue Tits have experienced an upward population trend since the 1960s, probably as a direct result of people providing bird food and nestboxes that disproportionately benefit this species.

      The huge rise in garden bird ing, and the habit of providing nestboxes, came at a time when the proportion of the human population living in towns and cities was increasing rapidly, and it’s thought that ing birds was related to the desire of town-dwellers to re-establish with the natural world.

      And what more enjoyable sight than a Blue Tit outside the window? We are lucky, indeed, that this bold, opportunistic species, so quick to exploit garden bird ers, also happens to be so pleasing to the eye.

      An interesting fact about Blue Tits is that although the males and females look alike to us, the birds themselves can tell the difference – all birds can see ultra violet light, and the plumage of male Blue Tits reflects UV light more brightly than that of the females. No matter how attractive their colours, however, familiarity certainly breeds contempt, and the Blue Tit is an under-rated bird – if they were rare, they would be at the top of every birder’s must-see list!

      Interestingly, the population trend graph for Blue Tit has dipped in recent years, and results from Garden BirdWatch have suggested that the number of Blue Tits using gardens has started to decline – this could be due to a change in the kinds of bird food provided, with seed ers replacing peanuts and fat balls, which may mean that finches such as Greenfinch and Goldfinch are out-competing Blue Tits at garden ing stations. …

      1. Edward E

        Effect of nestbox construction and colour on the occupancy and breeding success of nesting tits

        Woodcrete +64%
        Some of these nestbox ideas would help birds at my place. Bumble bees are problems in some nests that woodcrete construction would solve and purple martins just don’t like my big metal box.

  2. Meher Baba Fan

    How funny to read about Harold Holt here. ‘ the theories do not hold water’ Some friends had a rental not far from parliament house in Canberra. A digital watch alarm went off once or twice a day without fail for years but the origin was a mystery. The joke was that Holt was hidden in the walls.
    The entry to Port Phillip Bay is , for a boat, I am led to believe one of the most treacherous in the world

    1. witters

      To be compared with Hell’s Gates, Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania. Lost some relatives there not so many generations ago.

  3. Doug Hillman

    CA wildfires administer poetic justice: “the loss of 12 multi-million homes is being blamed on a cooking fire gone wrong at a homeless people’s encampment in a nearby ravine.” (Who What Why)

    1. Wukchumni

      It’s a little fire-related to the story as more than likely the homeless folks that caused the conflagration were using one of the neatest consumer items ever, the venerable Bic lighter.

      About a buck fifty gets you an amazing art-deco wonder that’s sleek and fits perfectly into your hand, and the design hasn’t been updated ever really, why mess with perfection?

      A decade ago a friend was in Nepal and the Himalaya for 6 months, and when he returned we went on a backpack trip, and he showed off his pride and joy, a Bic lighter that had 4 lead plugs inserted into the side of it, and he told me for about 15 cents, enterprising Nepalese would drill a hole in your lighter, refill it with gas using a hypodermic needle, and then insert the lead plug.

      1. barefoot charley

        In Instanbul in 1979 I bought a refillable Bic throwaway in a bazaar, with a valve somehow melted into the side. Guy said I could come back for free refills, but that would be expensive . . .

    2. Meher Baba Fan

      I am easily the poorest person reading this blog. And I’m entirely offended by what I see as a glib and thoughtless remark. People lose everything, probably damage their health and are traumatised maybe for life- and you call it poetic justice? Because they are rich? I suggest you consider your lack of empathy and what you’re going to do about it.

      1. whine country

        Some would argue that “poetic justice” is a synonym for Karma which is something that Meher Baba is a fan of.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Karma should be more specific.

          Trees, for example, burned down around those houses, haven’t really done anything to deserve that fate.

          And ants that dwelt there.

          Kids and innocent others lived in those houses too.

          Further north, Santa Barbara is said to be a ghost town today.

          1. tony

            That is not karma. Karma is closer to the principle of cause and effect. You carry the karma of your actions, your past lives, and you parents. Simplified, you mother was highly stressed when she had you, and as a result you suffer from a weak immune system.

            Buddhism is not about some divine justice like Christianity is. It does not have those ideas about rights that Christianity got from Egypt via the Jews has. Good, evil, these things are not real. Vamachara tantra, the left hand path of Buddhism, may even include murder as a way of reaching enlightenment. It’s just that going full amoral monster is a good way to get killed, which a waste of a human lifetime.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Indeed, it’s a tragedy for anyone who has ever lost anything.

        Those homeowners are victims here, in the sense that all of us, good or bad, can be victims at one time or another as we journey through life.

        Perhaps it was their ostentatious display of excess material wealth.

        In that way, people are offended by these other showy exhibitions:

        1. Showing off one’s 1% intelligence.
        2. Showing off one’s 1% humor
        3. Showing off one’s 1% pulchritude…e.g. those long legs, perhaps.
        4. Showing off on’es 1% moral superiority
        etc.

        If you inherit (or even through hard work) something others desire, share it…like money.

        1. Meher Baba Fan

          Oh man. Pulchritude! What the hell does that mean! Cant wait to look it up. You rock – thanks for the vocab boost. Got others ? :-)

      3. flora

        +1.
        There seems to be an increase in these on-the-surface-glib comments (hey! it was a joke!) that contain a subsurface ugliness, imo. Interesting. Maybe positioning themselves for next year’s election season. NC is on the political radar now. (See propornot.)

        1. Mel

          You mean as in a Democrat party consultant has said “Those people over there? They’re Economic Activists. I know all about them. I’ll go over and rope them in.” ?
          Could well be.

        2. Charlie

          Surely, and funny how it seems to come right out of the woodwork when there is any suggestion of consequences for the 1% or professional class.

      4. timbers

        Perhaps you’re right. A better way to phrase it might be “Yet another example of why the rich really do benefit from the eradication of poverty” which is a common theme here.

        1. John k

          Yes. We all benefit…
          But the rich focus on their benefit from neolib, they’re gonna stay the course.

      5. Plenue

        Looks like a bunch of people are agreeing with you and saying it was in poor taste. I’m going to double down in the opposite direction: saying these people ‘lost everything’ is almost certainly hyperbole. Anyone who owns a multi-million dollar home likely has another (albeit maybe worse) home stashed somewhere else. Or at least has the money and/or connections to ensure they have a softer landing than living in a cardboard box on the street. I would imagine having to live in a makeshift homeless camp is damaging to your health and traumatizing. I’m not going to attempt to empathize with some California Beverly Hills type whose *house* was worth more than most people make in an entire decade (or more).

        And yes, it is poetic justice, since there’s a very high probability the people living in those houses got so wealthy at least partially because of policies that enriched them while impoverishing others. And I can basically guarantee you that the entire extent of the concern these rich residents had for the nearby homeless encampment was that they agitated for its removal because it was an eyesore that hurt their property values. It’s called class warfare for a reason.

        Now if anyone died in this, that I actually do feel bad about. But I refuse to feel sorry when rich people lose their things, especially if the cause was a homeless person whose entire set of belongings was worth less than the cheapest painting in one of those houses, and who (apparently accidentally) started the fire because they wanted to indulge in that rarest of luxuries: a hot meal.

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          +1,000,000

          Oh, and saying one is “the poorest person” here is actually the kind of prideful statement I doubt Meher Baba would approve of, since I can assure you, you very likely aren’t. Or that, at least, you have ample competition for the title.

          1. flora

            Well, I don’t disagree with your or Plenue’s points. My point is that too many of these like remarks (see original comment this thread) have the faint whiff of “lets you and him fight”, imo.

        2. kareninca

          Well, the other thing is that all of these rich people would have had fireproof safes. If you are very well off you can afford lots of fireproof safes, or big ones. You can put your most precious material possessions in them well in advance, and then head off to the Bahamas with the dog and have some reason to think your stuff be there when you get back. So I really don’t think that these rich people lost much of anything that they can’t replace.

          There are cheap ones, too; you need to research them a bit to make sure they’ll be effective:

            1. Oregoncharles

              No, but it’s possible to make both the house and the grounds fire-resistant. The Permaculture books have quite about landscaping for fire.

              I thought the article about it was on here, but now I don’t remember for sure. Besides keeping the surroundings and the house itself well watered, you want to prevent cinders getting caught in niches that can light the house. A fireproof exterior might be a good idea. Steel roofs, for instance. There are some fancy versions that look OK.

              Something similar could be done for neighborhoods – plan them with firebreaks. Should really be in the codes.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                I don’t know if California brush fires get as hot as Australia brushfires. So this may or may not be relevant.

                I remember reading that Australian brush fires can burn so hot that the 3-4 second flash of pure infra-red radiation can heat-pop the glass right out of a window and then heat-flash the interior of the de-windowed house into instant flame.

                It makes me wonder if once the rest of the house has been fire proofed and ember proofed and infra-red heat-blast proofed, that there should be “fire-shutters” hinged to the house outside every window, ready to be slammed shut at the first warning of approaching fire. They would be faced with the kind of super-reflective infra-red bounceback foil that those shelter-in-place aluminum tents that fire-fighters use are faced with.

                And perhaps such a thing should be invented for California houses too.

      6. Spring Texan

        Thanks, I agree with you, Meher Baba Fan. Spreading misery doesn’t help anything. Rich people are people too (even though I’d like to remove a lot of their money, but none of their happiness, when they have it).

        I don’t mind also removing a bit of the false happiness from self-satisfaction that they are much worthier than the rest of us, but I don’t want to burn their houses down.

        Confess to feeling a little satisfaction about the houses of those who have a dozen elsewhere, provided no one had to evacuate and they and their animals stayed unhurt, but none about anyone who like all of us is terrorized by fire and had to flee.

        1. Charlie

          Houses (read mansions) of the rich have noticably high square footage, meaning they use more resources (electricity from heating, cooling, etc) that contribute to climate change.

          I’m not sorry when their houses burn down. Isee it as Gaia trying to save itself by hitting the right neighborhoods.

          1. flora

            Well, maybe. Except that homeowners insurance premiums are raised on all of us to cover the cost of massive losses in any subset of policy owners. So there’s that.

            1. Charlie

              That is, as the free marketeers love to tell us, part of the cost of a business where societal values are based on greed and not sustainability or justice for all.

              Change that by instilling a sense of limit, and that goes away. I’d limit all residential housing to 5k sq ft tops. Even that is a bit high, so I’m being charitable to them.

  4. cnchal

    The Big Read: How our spies got so out of control that they wound up getting Kiwi data ‘unlawfully’

    “There wasn’t a compliance team, there wasn’t a compliance framework, very small legal team.

    “And, actually, all of the agencies need more resources so they could strengthen those systems and processes … essential to provide confidence to the public that you’re doing what the public expects you to do be doing.”
    —————-
    The issue with the Customs database is now resolved – a new intelligence law this year has made use of it legal.
    —————

    Out of control spies are in control now.

    All spy agencies everywhere should be subject to budget cuts. They represent a massive suck on the taxpayers teats, and do whatever the hell they want and have zero value.

    Stop terrorism at the source. Put the bombs and drones away, and shut down production of those devices.

    1. Anonymous

      Look end to end. How your keystrokes flow through so many hands before reaching unknown eyeballs. That is a part of the story that never gets told.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      All the illegal drugs which those spy agencies are involved in selling would have to be legalized so as to deprive the spy agencies of those off-the-books revenue streams. If one really does wish to de-fund the spy agencies.

  5. fresno dan

    An exclusive analysis of data from the 50 largest local police departments in the United States shows that police shoot Americans more than twice as often as previously known.

    VICE News examined both fatal and nonfatal incidents to determine that cops in the 50 largest local departments shot at least 3,631 people from 2010 through 2016. That’s more than 500 people a year. On more than 700 other occasions, police fired at citizens and missed. Two-thirds of the people cops fired at survived.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The New York Police Force seems to have a pretty loose set of rules for when to shoot. Most countries you do not fire unless you know what your bullet is going to hit in case you miss. Simple common sense as well as a basic firearm rule in hunting.
      A coupla years ago NY police opened fire on a suspect in front of the Empire State Building. They killed him but the volley also brought down nine other pedestrians (“That’s good shooting, Tex!”). I saw the video and it was a normal crowded sidewalk which was reckless in the extreme. Those 9 must be a part of the 3,631 people shot between 2010 to 2016.
      An article at talks about how accuracy is impossible so I would say that rules for shooting must be actually followed to reflect this reality. It would be interesting to know how many of those 3,631 people shot were not even the targets.

      1. fresno dan

        The Rev Kev
        December 17, 2017 at 8:19 am
        “….talks about how accuracy is impossible ….”

        That’s a feature, not a bug….
        My view is that the willful blindness is purposeful. If all police shootings had been rigorously documented over the years, it might be possible to see if my hypothesis* that the police have gotten less constrained in drawing and discharging their weapons over the years is true. As they say, you can’t affect what you can’t measure….or fresno dan’s corollary: you don’t WANT to affect what you don’t measure….

        * if the economic interests of the 99% are ignored by government, it follows that the police ignore the safety of the 99% as well? After all, how many in the 0.01% get shot by the police?

        1. JBird

          As Fresno Dan alluded to, we talk about the numbers of people killed by the police, which annually is around eleven hundred people, but we don’t talk about the numbers of people injured. Looking at military numbers it could easily add three times as many who were seriously injured.

      2. bob

        I remember seeing that. There was video of the cops firing.

        Instead of moving to the curb, to fire across the sidewalk, they moved to the center of the sidewalk to fire along/down the sidewalk. Not that occupied buildings make the best backstops, but they do make better backstops than a crowded sidewalk in Manhattan.

        The cops looked completely panicked, I don’t remember seeing anything about the cops afterward. They should be, at the very least, cops on desks now, if they are allowed to be cops at all.

        Yes, yes, no one knows how they might react to situations like this. But, we do know how those cops reacted. It wasn’t good.

      3. JTMcPhee

        Here’s an interesting take on the Empire State shooting from a place that is on the cop side of that Thin Blue Line:

    2. wilroncanada

      fdan
      It’s akin to debt, sorta.
      Debt that cannot be collected, will not be collected.
      But, information that must not be collected, will not be collected.
      Vice will pay for this!

  6. fresno dan

    In table 1 in the article, an interesting take on how the proposed tax bill affects CA homeowners (or more accurately, MORTGAGE holders).

    1. Wukchumni

      SACRAMENTO – Payday lending slowed in California in 2016 although it increased dramatically among senior citizens who for the first time took out more of the loans than any other age group, according to a report released today by the Department of Business Oversight.

      Borrowers paid an average annual percentage rate (APR) of 372 percent on those loans, up slightly from 366 percent in 2015, but lower than average annual APRs that exceeded 400 percent for much of the past decade.

      In contrast, the number of loans taken out by seniors, those 62 and older, nearly tripled to almost 2.7 million in 2016 compared to fewer than 945,000 in 2015.


      ~~~~~~~

      You’d think senior citizens would hit up the First National Bank of Their Home for a HELOC instead, at rates 1/100th of what they’re paying in interest on payday loans, but maybe they already did?

      1. sd

        Ummm. It’s not obvious to you? They are renters who don’t own homes. Rents in California have skyrocketed.

        San Francisco has seen devastating evictions of seniors under the Ellis Act. Try finding anything to rent in the state of California on a fixed income from Social Security. There’s a reason homeless camps have sprouted up.

        Here’s a cruel irony. To qualify for low income housing under the various public/private partnerships requires $1400 month of income. In other words, those living in homeless camps likely don’t make enough to even qualify.

        1. Jean

          What’s to stop relatives from “paying them 1400 a month” so that they qualify for low income housing and only have to pay their social security on that?

            1. Anon

              Yes, all of the above, there are loong waiting lists to get into subsidized housing. Not to mention the paper work: Section D housing (subsidized) is a federal program.

              1. JBird

                How about forever? In one county I checked, the waiting list has been closed since September 2008. This does not count the time on the waiting list. Waiting in other counties are merely excessive.

  7. The Rev Kev

    Re We feel like our system was hijacked

    Well of course it was. They could have nailed those sleazeballs hides to the barn but orders from the top let them off with a slap on the wrist – again. I had thought that this was a case of the elite class sticking together to protect each other. After all, the executives that run this corporation have a revenue stream of nearly 200 billion dollars so the people at the top must belong to the elite class.
    Upon reflection, perhaps it is more of a case where the elite view is that prosecutions of any of the elite must be permanently off the table lest any of them also end up facing serious jail time. I do not think that any of them would want to share the fate of the executives for Enron or Arthur Andersen. Proof of this may lay in the fact that very few have gone to jail since the Enron case from what I have read and there has been very little prosecution for any business executives involved in the 2008 crisis. This will not end up well.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      It occurs to me that this is akin to a failure to clear the build-up of highly flammable materials in the understory of a forest. If you don’t clear it (analogous to prosecuting white collar criminals and fraudsters), when the inevitable fire does occur (social revolution by analogy), it burns with a ferocity that is damaging not just to the undesirable efflorescence of highly flammable materials in the understory, but often very deleterious to the trees of the forest, and harmful to everything (and everyone).

      But criminal sociopaths will be criminal sociopaths, thinking that they are so clever that it will never happen to them, and in essence they just keep dousing themselves in gasoline while continuing to play with matches. But there are others who have acquired wealth and position honestly (well, by this society’s sometimes questionable rules), and they will face the flames along with the criminal sociopaths and their enablers in the political and legal system.

      Silence on the part of these people can easily be perceived as complicity. And so it goes.

  8. John Beech

    A chirpy piece in NYT about working past retirement age comes at a good time. Last night, at a Christmas party a 71 year old lamented retiring from Siemens at 68. Said 1M wasn’t enough and he should have had 2M squirreled away. Now he’s worried the money would run out. Regrets retiring, because he needs to keep the wolf away is exactly what is going through his mind. And before you slam the old codger, he’s not living a high end life, instead he’s leading a distinctly middle-class life. How sad.

    1. andyb

      Retirement, in a few years, is going to be a catastrophe for those who are laboring under the delusion that their pensions or 40l (k)s are sacrosanct. There is a movement afoot by several of our corruptocrats to bail out Illinois, NJ and Ct (among too many others) in their grossly underfunded pension liabilities by effectively garnishing 40l (k)s and other private pension plans. These would then be added to the mix of state pension funds with their sad history of investment malfeasance. In light of the Calpers criminality, I’m sure that California pensioners will be pleased. /sarc

    2. Lord Koos

      What’s crazy about that to me is that I could easily live the rest of my life on $1,000,000, and live well (I’m 66). But then I do not require the type of middle class lifestyle that this man probably does. Unless he lives in some very expensive area, I don’t get it. If you’re not in a trendy, high-rent region, it’s not difficult to live on $50k a year in this country if you aren’t raising kids.

      1. a different chris

        Yeah, I’m scratching my head a bit (worriedly!) about that. Does he still have a mortgage? A payment on a car that was maybe quite a bit fancier than he needed?

        Or – did he wind up cosigning kid’s college loans. And in that case, even if they “insisted” on going to say the Ivies, I do have sympathy. That part of the US is so (family blog)ed up it is unreal.

        (Sympathy a bit muted if he has a lot of kids, as an enviro-nazi I’m not too cool with that)

      2. ambrit

        Not to sound too snarky, but, I’ve never made $50,000 USD a year, ever.
        Many of us will be relegated to trying to eke out an existence on $12,000 a year, what can be begged, borrowed or stolen. That’s tinder even dryer than that in California.

      3. Aumua

        50K heheh… I live off about 12K currently. I’ve never made more than 16K/year in my entire life. I have no savings, and yet I’m not really worried about ‘retiring’. Maybe it will come back to bite me.

        1. ambrit

          Take care of your body Aumua. (Medical issues have torpedoed our fanciful “retirement” ideations.) That and try to have a circle of family or friends to fall back on in times of trouble. If you do expect to work till you drop, try to do it in some field that you enjoy. The psychology of job to person mismatches is a study in Deviant Psych.

  9. Carolinian

    Disney/Netflix–This is not unrelated to this morning’s Net Neutrality post. Perhaps we should be asking whether turning the web into a la carte cable tv is really a good thing. Of course the most famous vertical integration case was the 1940s Paramount decision

    The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948; their verdict went against the movie studios, forcing all of them to divest themselves of their movie theater chains.[1] This, coupled with the advent of television and the attendant drop in movie ticket sales, brought about a severe slump in the movie business, a slump that would not be reversed until 1972, with the release of The Godfather, the first modern blockbuster.

    The Paramount decision is a bedrock of corporate antitrust law, and as such is cited in most cases where issues of vertical integration play a prominent role in restricting fair trade.

    In our current century the Hollywood studios are back in the driver’s seat with little prospect of pesky antitrust laws to impede them. It could be time for our government bureaucrats to start doing their jobs rather than sitting around thinking of reasons to start new wars.

    1. WJ

      Despite some chirping a couple months back about the monopolization or near-monopolization of several important US industries and markets, there has in general been and continues to be an almost audible amount of silence on the issue from both corporate and independent media. The former is to be expected, but the latter is a bit surprising.

      Unless I am mistaken, there was relatively little discussion of the monopolization issue in advance of the FCC net-neutrality issue, even though the fact that only one or two providers control pretty much every local market is certainly pertinent to the likely outcome of the recent change in policy. So, too, the latest proposed conglomeration of what are already two mega-media conglomerates has been covered (again, for the most part) as if it were a kind of celebrity affair you would read about in US Weekly, rather than another signal event toward the total monopolization of liscened media output in the US.

      I am wondering whether we are simply past the point of being able to protect against monopolies in this country; if so, what is likely to be the mid to long term outcome of this trend? Both neoclassical economics and more traditional theories of political economy tend to present monopolies as bad things to be avoided (though Marx of course thought that monopolies were the logical outcome of capitalist modes of production and so were inevitable in some sense).

      Is the monopolization of the economy related to what has been analyzed as the soft totalitarianism of the corporate state? What role has the formation of monopolies played in prior historical and social conflicts, such as WWI and WWII, etc? What role did monopolies play (if any) in the collapse of German parliamentary democracy after Paris, and in the subsequent rise of the Nazi party? What happens when the interests of different monopolized sectors of the economy no longer exist in competition with one another? The former condition would seem to allow for at least some tension or conflict among the plutocrats themselves and their congressional servants, whereas the latter would seem to produce a kind of monolithic corporate-state interest machine that would prove almost impossible to halt. Are we already at that point?

      1. Lord Koos

        The “monolithic corporate-state interest machine” is here and has been here for some time. It’s close to the definition of fascism.

  10. marym

    [Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam] has the weight of a Democratic landslide to throw around in the State Capitol, but he’s holding back.
    ….
    Northam has been meeting with each of the freshman lawmakers, urging them to pull together — and to look beyond partisan differences.
    ….
    Similarly, Northam said he has no plans to try to force Republicans to accept a broad expansion of Medicaid. Instead, he has begun talks with lawmakers in both parties about overhauling the state’s Medicaid system to expand access to health care while better defining eligibility to control costs.
    ….
    “So I look forward to . . . seeing how we can provide better service and at the same time cut costs” through “managed-care Medicaid,” he said.

    A managed system would involve rewarding “healthy choices,” he said. “I want people to have skin in the game. I want to incentivize people to really have good health.”

    1. allan

      Hah. I just began to post exactly the same quotes and saw your comment.

      I am utterly finished with the Democratic Party.

        1. Jean

          How about a real Second political party in the U.S.?, instead of the Demopublican/Republicrat
          Wall Street puppets?

      1. John k

        Why not?
        That dude made pres twice… the gov probably thinks he’s pres timber, gotta talk the talk… which is all obomber did.

    2. nycTerrierist

      modest proposal re: “skin in the game”

      let all elected officials purchase their own health insurance sans any subsidies

      a small gesture, but a start

    3. marym

      with a few more buzzwords:

      I have and will continue to advocate for Medicaid expansion because it is a no-brainer for Virginia families, our budget, and our economy. We can also come together on smart policy choices that will allow us to deliver better care at lower cost.

      The replies are excellent.

    4. witters

      A managed system would involve rewarding “healthy choices,” he said. “I want people to have skin in the game. I want to incentivize people to really have good health.”…

      So you won’t have any concern with your health unless you have skin in a market game! And you won’t be “incentivized” (in passing, is there an uglier, emptier word in the NL lexicon?) to value good health unless you can say “Because the market!”

      And THAT is from the party that is a source of political hope?

      I find the belief that it is, self-degrading.

  11. Jim Thomson

    re: “California considers green banking as it transitions to full legal pot”

    The state is setting up a special banking system to accept and track marijuana related transactions.
    Why not just use the existing system that HSBC and the others have already set up to accept illegal drug related transactions?

    1. Enquiring Mind

      Combine California green banking with post office banking, for simple transactions like checking, savings and debit card, maybe even some type of credit card although that may be mission creep. The new Post Office Bank Oligarchy Yanker, or Po’Boy. Season with a hint of credit union member-owned flavoring.

      Maybe Margaret Brown at CalPERS has a clone to light up this new area. :)

      Imagine the benefits without all the layers of graft and corruption in the commercial banking sector!

  12. flora

    re: U.S. tax “reform”

    Kansas has already been there, done that. This link is “A Letter From Kansas” about the proposed “Reform” and its likely effects.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    France takes phones away from tech-addicted teenagers

    1. Teenagers have few rights (none in this case)
    2. Big government keeps Big Brother (in smartphone’s clothing) away from teenager kids.

    “Believe me, it’s for your own good…out of love. It hurts me more…”

    1. JBird

      I’m conflicted here. Let their minds possibly be deformed by our addiction to these devices of distraction, or have Big Daddy State play nanny.

    2. flora

      Good for France. The subliminal ‘advertising’ happening in social media would be outlawed in any other media format, imo. Protecting young, pre-adult minds from this is is a good thing, imo.

      I said ‘advertising’ because the social media pull is organized somewhat differently than in the old cut-and-splice short subconscious video ads shown on TV and in the movies.

      The process and format used in social media is undoubtedly different now in social media, but I think the objective, and design towards that objective, is the same. Now they aren’t trying to sell salty snacks or drinks. Now they are trying to sell users on subliminal ideal to increase their social media viewing time, via manipulating individualized dopamine hits. How else can they sell advertising on their platforms? (That’s the real value of personal data for social media companies. Just my opinion, of course.

      1. cyclist

        Agree that it is good for the phones to be banned from classrooms. Several years ago, I taught at a university which was proud that every student was issued a laptop (a novel concept at the time). One idea was that the professor could project his lecture notes via Power Point and the students could also view along on the laptops. So I was working one night in a building where one of my colleagues was teaching in the largest lecture hall on campus. Chatting with a TA for the course outside the back door of the lecture hall, he told me to have a peek into the lecture hall, where one could view the screens of the student’s laptops. It appeared that the majority had ESPN, shopping sites, music videos, and even porno displayed! I can only imagine what it is like now (the era when you are in a bar and a group enters and all of them take to looking at their phones).

  14. Craig H.

    Pentagon UFO x-files

    The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

    Lots of fluff. 1.) they didn’t interview anybody I consider an expert. 2.) Bigelow says China and Russia are “way ahead of us”, which is dubious. 3.) Bigelow looks like an elder fashion model except for the cowboy belt which is either a gaffe or it’s over my head.

    If somebody could please explain the belt I would appreciate it.

    THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

      1. ambrit

        It could be ‘The Horizon of Rah! Rah! Rah!’
        The room in the background could be where Kubrick filmed the Moom landing!
        Iron Sky, here we come!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “China and Russia are way ahead of us.”

      People don’t go to college as an internal quest for enlightenment, but because this-and-that are ahead.

      “Gotta get the MBA, MD, Ph.D (or whatever) degree” so one’s not beyond in the survival game.

      And nations do it as well….’Gotta spend more on drones. We are behind our opponents.”

      The same logic all the time.

  15. Wukchumni

    ‘We feel like our system was hijacked’: DEA agents say a huge opioid case ended in a whimper WaPo
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    …i’m McKesson that if you employ 76,000 peeps in the drug biz and do $200 Billion worth of sales to pushers, you’re too big to fail

    If only Kellyanne had been around to stop this travesty…

    1. Bazarov

      I love Cornell West. You know he’s good since the mainstream media/intelligentsia despises him and takes every opportunity to smear him in print.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China Faces Pushback in the UN on Belt-Road Initiative, Retreats Quietly The Wire

    CHINA’S FALLOUT WITH AUSTRALIA: THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG? SCMP

    Insight: Hoping to extend maritime reach, China lavishes aid on Pakistan town Reuters

    None of the above can be thought of as re-balancing towards greater domestic demand, but, rather, more trade, more exporting.

    From Wikipedia on the Ming emperor who sent Admiral Zheng He and his Treasure Boats abroad 6 times:

    On 1 April 1424, the Yongle Emperor launched a large campaign into the Gobi Desert to chase an army of fleeing Oirats. Frustrated at his inability to catch up with his swift opponents, Yongle fell into a deep depression and then into illness, possibly owing to a series of minor strokes.[citation needed] On 12 August 1424, the Yongle Emperor died. He was entombed in Changling (長陵), a location northwest of Beijing.

    And what his successor Hong Xi emperor did:

    Already in May 1421, during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, an order was issued for the suspension of Zheng He’s maritime expeditions, apparently on account of their cost (although the order apparently did not affect the 6th voyage of Zheng He, staged around that time).[2] Zhu Gaochi, as soon as he was enthroned as the Hongxi Emperor in September 1424, cancelled Zheng He’s maritime expeditions permanently, burned down the fleet, and abolished frontier trade of tea for horses as well as missions for gold and pearls to Yunnan and Vietnam.[3]

    Many Chinese historians date that as the beginning of the end of Chinese global hegemony, perhaps regretting that they failed to participate in the looting of the Americas, Africa and other parts of the world.

    So, now, they have to catch up…to be a global super-power.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve had a few interesting conversations recently with Chinese friends. One common theme is that Xi has become very unpopular lately. There is deep irritation at clampdowns on the internet and the overt use of WeChat as a spying app. Its also become widely apparent that his anti-corruption crackdown was almost entirely a strategy for silencing his internal critics and deepening his power. The story of poor people being shifted out of Beijing was widely seen as an example of hypocrisy. There also seems to be a feeling that cracking down on currency movements is hitting ‘ordinary’ Chinese, while the One Road, One Belt is benefiting oligarchs.

      I do wonder if Xi may be miscalculating – there would seem to be a little of the MbS about him, putting too much reliance on his charisma and personal popularity and indulging in overstretch abroad. He is very powerful now, but without deep support among the public he could find things could rapidly run out of control.

    2. Meher Baba Fan

      Yo ‘Beef. Admire your Chinese knowledge and fandom. been meaning to ask.
      What do you think about the book 1492- widely condemened – that Zheng and company went to Australia; Argentina – everywhere – first? Its a convincing and engrossing read. The scorn from academia was incredible! There was a follow up .I did not read.

      1. Wukchumni

        You should check out 1491 & 1493, by Charles Mann.

        In the style of Guns, Germs & Steel.

        It’ll blow your mind~

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        They burned the fleet, and somewhere I read, all the documents, so one’s never sure.

        Though, if they had been to all those places, it would and should have been reflected in their arts. I know many new and innovative porcelain forms (distinctively non-Chinese) came along during the Ming dynasty, some they inherited from the metal wares left behind by the fleeing Mongols and presumably Arabs. There is a crescent-moon shaped ‘Kendi’ (a vessel used in Buddhist rituals, for washing hands). That’s probably Middle Eastern influence. And a ‘Monk’s Hat’ water jar, from Buddhism, and from Tibet this time, but this particular shape has been around since at least the preceding Yuan dynasty, and possibly earlier (Song).

        I will try to look for traces of influence from the Americas, if any, in the antiques I come across or in books, other than those brought to China by the Europeans from the 16th century onward (that is to say, after the Middle Ming dynasty).

        So far, nothing. That’s my personal experience. But we do know admiral Zheng went as far as eastern Africa.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        This is a Monk’s Hat ewer, from gotheborg,com, in Sweden (perhaps one day I migrate there, if I can figure a way). The piece in the National Palace Museum in Taibei, Taiwan.

        The glaze is called Ruby Red, the red from copper oxide, reduction fire (oxidation turns it green, or Peachbloom glaze of the early Qing dynasty), and much harder to fire than the famed blue-and-white, the fire must be controlled within a certain temperature range (and a high one at that, itself a technical feat in the 1400’s).

        1. Oregoncharles

          I’m a total sucker for that color, in contemporary pottery, of course. And yes, a potter I knew who was good at it said it was technically difficult, even with modern kilns. We own several failures (mostly clear, rather than green) because my wife liked the mottled look.

        2. Rhondda

          What a stunning piece. I would love to have a lipstick exactly that color! It’s the perfect red. Thank you for that link; the Gotheborg site spills over with beauty and interest.

        3. mpalomar

          The Freer in Washington DC is full of pottery you’d love. Screen paintings as well and Whistlers’s Peacock room to boot and free admission and one of the least visited museums making for quiet time with the work.

    3. The Rev Kev

      So Emperor Hong Xi burned the exploration ships, stopped external trade and pulled back on foreign missions. So…China First?

  17. Jean

    “California considers ‘green banking’ as it transitions to fully legal pot”

    Why not just set up a State Bank, just like North Dakota, which would handle all state financing, bonds, hold tax monies and lead to the same positive outcomes?

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Local Roots, Farm in a box.

    Every aspect of the TerraFarm, as the repurposed shipping containers have been dubbed, has been designed and optimized. The gently pulsing LED lights are purplish—apparently, that’s what lettuce likes—and the solution in which the plants are grown is clean and clear. The “farm” is bright and vibrant, and it smells great in there.

    \

    I think they should explain this in more detail.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Once these farms-in-boxes are rolled out near many big rich Food Culture cities, chefs and gourmets should be used to taste-test farm-in-a-box produce and soil-grown produce side-by-side. If there is a substantial difference between the two, the chefs and gourmets should be able to taste it.

  19. Wukchumni

    August 8th, 1931:

    “The Chicago Tribune announces that 100 theaters in Chicago and vicinity will close up. This is because of the tremendous overbuilding of theaters during the last 5 years of the boom. Each producer built his own chain of theaters and bought the real estate at fancy prices. Now they are going broke. In Youngstown movie admissions have dropped from 60 cents to 35 cents.”

    From: The Great Depression: A Diary, By Benjamin Roth

  20. Sirr

    Daniel Ellsberg: WikiLeaks Precursor and Unsung Foe of Neoliberal Economics

    Monthly Review Online, Dec 16, 2010

    “Have you ever wondered where the financial engineers who gave us the now fabled toxic derivatives got their confidence to calculate exotic numbers, like Value at Risk (VAR), which lulled the banks’ risk managers into idiotic acquiescence to the laughable (supposedly “riskless”) risks their golden boys and girls were taking?  The answer: these very mathematical models elaborated at RAND and other such Cold War research outfits in the 1950s.  All these incredibly smart people believed strongly that their mathematical, expected-value approach was the way to go.  All except one: Daniel Ellsberg, who soon, from first principles and out of sheer intellectual honesty, exposed the utter folly of the whole approach.  To demonstrate this, he devised a brilliant experiment.”

    The Ellsberg Paradox:

  21. Synoia

    How Australia’s PM went swimming 50 years ago and vanished forever

    Shark. The Swirl and Turbulence is the clue. It is no mystery.

    The chairman of my father’s company went to the beach one Christmas in South Africa. He too did not return.

  22. Kim Kaufman

    from Twitter this morning:

    Doug Jones @GDouglasJones
    “I think there’s opportunity at every turn to find common ground with my colleagues in Congress and the President.”
    6:32 AM · Dec 17, 2017

    Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
    I’m fine with Democrats saying Obama was a fundamentally decent President as long as Dems jettison his entire failed agenda next time they are in power. If the plutocratic stuff sticks and the modest nice stuff can be undone by Trump in less than a year it was bad strategy.
    6:32 AM · Dec 17, 2017

    Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
    Millions of people were illegally foreclosed on during the Obama years by Geithner policies. There will never be an ‘oops my bad’. Eric Holder will do crisis management for AirBNB, banks and Uber. Fine. As long as Dems don’t do it all again next time.

    Matt [email protected]
    As long as Dems don’t do it again. Oh wait look here’s new Virginia Governor Ralph Northram in Virginia DOING IT AGAIN.

    Taniel @Taniel
    Embedded
    What a start: Northam says he won’t pressure Virginia’s shrunken GOP to expand Medicaid. He’s concerned about “obligating the state to escalate costs” & wants to “better define eligibility.” (link: ) washingtonpost.com/local/virginia…
    Show this thread

    Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
    The Obama model is still dominant, which is why newly elected Dem Governor of Virginia won’t be aggressive with the GOP and expand Medicaid. He says “Virginia deserves civility.”

    Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
    “Virginia deserves civility.” No, poor people in Virginia deserve health care. Validating ‘decency’ and ‘civility’ instead of policy is just elitists being politely brutal.

    Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
    Why do I criticize Obama? Because he’s still wielding power badly. It’s not just Perez over Ellison, Obama made it clear behind the scenes in the Virginia primary he was not supporting Periello. And now Northam is refusing to do Medicaid expansion bc he wants civility.

  23. Plenue

    >Jeff Sessions Isn’t Giving up on Weed. He’s Doubling Down. Politico

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a good, comprehensive book or documentary on how cannabis was transformed into the poster-child boogeyman for drugs in America (and elsewhere)? Because objectively it’s incredibly harmless (putting aside its actual benefits). Plenty of people would argue it isn’t even a drug; it’s a plant. The notion that this weed was put front and center as a supposed threat that needed to be banned is just absurd. And what is the source of the continued fear-mongering about it? Whatever the excuses given a hundred years ago, shouldn’t it be totally obvious at this point that this silly weed that makes people lazy and hungry is not remotely comparable to meth or heroin?

      1. Baby Gerald

        Don’t forget the Mexicans. The initial aim of outlawing marijuana was to keep white women from being corrupted by brown and black men. If you search the term ‘Reefer Madness’ you can find stories in outlets like The Atlantic and High Times that outline the history of its being made illegal.

    1. Meher Baba Fan

      Henry Rollins discussed this in detail somewhere, and maybe in a doco. To do with enforcing racism. Search for him. It was only a few years back. ( and he is straight edge his entire life)

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Many years ago I remember reading a book which seemed to me good at the time. I still have it somewhere. Here is a link to it.

  24. Plenue

    >Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants in Libya Are Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’ The Wire

    Jesus. I had no idea the new slave trade was that extensive. The fact that America’s first black president was the one who restarted a form of African slave trade is probably the single most tragic irony of his entire administration.

    Of course, when people say Black or African American in the US, what they mean 99% of the time is “descendent of West African slaves”. Being half Kenyan, Obama’s heritage has no connection to that legacy. Maybe he just doesn’t care that much.

  25. Oregoncharles

    “Brexit: Britons now back Remain over Leave by 10 points, exclusive poll shows”

    And there’s the REAL plan. Did n’t May vote Remain?

  26. Edward E

    If there really is no collusion, Foster Brooks lawyer should be thrilled Mueller has the 10,000 emails – to prove innocence!

    I’m almost ready to bet a treason Tuesday is coming. Manafort Monday, Flynn Friday, Treason Tuesday?

  27. Charlie

    Freshman Democratic Lawmaker accused of sexual harrassment doesn’t seek reelection:

    Last paragraph begging the question. How does one make an advance “in person” through text and Facebook messages? Are they standing beside the person when they send the text?

  28. ewmayer

    o Re. the MIT Industrial-hack piece: “The growing threat of such attacks prompted the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which operates under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, to issue a strongly worded alert in October about the risks to numerous sectors, from nuclear power to water and aviation.” — The irony that the first-known such industrial offensive cyberweapon, Stuxnet (mentioned in the article but somehow without said attribution being noted), was a US/Israeli joint creation, is apparently lost on the author of the piece.

  29. pretzelattack

    oh dear, the guardian reeks more on some days than others.

    apparently the white helmet rescuers are being victimized by, you guessed it, russian propaganda.

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