Links 1/3/18

Weather Underground

NYT

CNBC. Cheering on the shorts, here.

FT

NPR

North Korea

38 North. KJU’s New Year’s address.

Bloomberg

NYT

Bloomberg. As he would.

I don’t know how to say “Never look a gift horse in the mouth” in Korean, so this thread:

Not feeling so great about the way the NK situation is going now, although on the surface level a dialogue is a welcome development. Trying to articulate in my head why…

— T.K. of AAK! (@AskAKorean)

The Atlantic

NPR

Sunday Guardian

Eater. Cambodia’s Tonle Sap.

FT

Syraqistan

Translations of headlines from major Iranian newspapers (Nikki Leger). Thread:

Unsurprisingly news of the dominated newspaper headlines this morning. Here are a few from across the political spectrum. I'll translate headlines in the thread below.

— Nilo Tabrizy (@ntabrizy)

Moon of Alabama

Al Jazeera

NYT. From June 2, 2017, possibly germane.

Selective coverage:

Anybody remember the US media giving even 1% of the coverage to South Korea's months-long "Candlelight Revolution" in 2016 to 2017 than it does to Iran's anti-government protests? The Korean demonstrations toppled a right-wing president and ended 10 years of conservative rule.

— Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS)

* * *

Times of Israel. Selective coverage here, too.

The Hill. An empire of graveyards…

Asia Times

Brexit

Guardian

New Statesman

Die Welt

Bloomberg

New Cold War

FT. But see here.

The Week

Nina Illingworth

Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative. “The Korean War finished Truman. Vietnam finished LBJ. Reagan said putting Marines into Lebanon was his worst mistake. Iraq cost Bush II both houses of Congress and his party the presidency in 2008. Should Trump become a war president, he’ll likely become a one-term president.”

Trump Transition

The Intercept. “Complex” as in “batsh*t crazy,” a salutary reminder in these days when any intelligence community perjurer, torturer, or entrapment artist can end up as a Hero of the Republic to liberal Democrats.

WaPo

* * *

NYT

International Business Times

The Hill

Democrats in Disarray

We get letters: “Howdy, long time reader and fan here. The attached is a screenshot of an Instagram ad my spouse and I keep seeing. We live in Rohrabacher’s district. Seems like the ex-Senator Boxer and the Dems think that a great way to beat him is with conspiratorial nonsense like this. We have yet to see a single ad targeting policy or promoting policy. Thought you all might enjoy this little piece of evidence of campaign stupidity from my neck of the woods” –SC

Lambert here: Note the first comment. The Democrat Establishment, unless checked, is going to run 2018 and 2020 campaigns that are even more stupid and brutal than we can possibly imagine.

(PDF). Andrew Guess, Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler

Health Care

Modern Healthcare

Politico (JH).

NYT (EM). Let’s be reasonable. As they teach you in business school: You can’t loot and wreck what you don’t measure.

Big Brother Is Watching You

The Register (E. Mayer). E. Mayer: “Existing ‘flaws’, a.k.a. NSA-designed backdoors which have not yet known to have been discovered and exploited by third parties, will presumably remain operative. Carry on!” And for the extemely geeky: python sweetness. “I would not be surprised if we start 2018 with the release of the mother of all hypervisor privilege escalation bugs.”

Justin O’Beirne (GP). “[T]he satellites seem to be outpacing the Street View vehicles.” Well worth a read.

The Verge

Class Warfare

Bristol Herald Courier. “Working-class people of America, and Appalachia in particular, have long been the backbone of U.S. military engagements abroad. They bear much of the direct, physical, psychological and emotional costs of American war-making.” I’d love to see Sanders make an anti-war swing through the Red States. That would be wonderfully clarifying. As would the lack of said swing.

Counterpunch

Lawyers, Guns & Money. On the Zapatistas.

Quartz

Progressive Army

NYT. It’s good to see elites acquire some sense of noblesse oblige, but this won’t be nearly enough.

Scientific American

Archaeology

The Economist

Berkeley News (DL). Using “visual foresight.” But will they be able to see the human hand reaching for the Off switch?

Engadget (KW). This is very good. Old codgers like me need to understand gaming as a serious thing.

Antidote du jour ():

And here is a survey you might wish to take: .

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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

143 comments

  1. voteforno6

    Re: Democrats in Disarray

    Funny, that first comment was exactly what popped into my mind. I mean, they couldn’t even come up with a more accurate city, such as Moscow or Leningrad?

    1. Bugs Bunny

      They were going for alliteration. Too many English majors, not enough Humanities, doc.

      Happy New Year, NC!

    2. visitor

      You mean Saint Petersburg? But Leningrad would definitely highlight the Cold War mood presiding over the already year-long conspiratorial witch-hunting in the USA.

      1. clinical wasteman

        is there any particular need to insist on the name restored by Yeltsin & friends 5 historical minutes ago at a moment of peak antihistorical zeal, any more than there’s a need to “correct” it if someone wants to use it? “Leningrad” isn’t perfect either, given that – whatever else might be said of him – Lenin is on record as detesting the sort of mausoleum-building human-Icon worship that Stalin foisted on him. But it’s not so hard to accept that one city can have multiple names (like Kolkata/Calcutta (the former sounds more decolonized but is seen by some Bengalis as a recent Shiv Shena imposition) or Auckland/Akaranga/Tāmaki Makaurau. And in the case of the city we’re talking about, ‘Petrograd’ exists as a convenient compromise if one is needed. Perhaps most fitting given that the secular Peter commissioned the building of the early-modern city more or less Dubai-wise & at correspondingly enormous human cost. Either that or – if city names are going to be all about sentimental commemoration – Trotskygrad, for organizing rescue of the place from unspeakable White Terror reprisals during the “civil war” sponsored by UK/US/France. (No, I don’t particularly like him either, but this is confirmed by erstwhile allies who later fell out with him politically in grand style & for generally good reasons, eg. Victor Serge, CLR James)

      1. ambrit

        If you take “Red” to mean American Democrat Party, then you can indeed have both! Given the fluid nature of the colour tags used to denote American political parties, as in Republicans were Blue in the Seventies, and are now Red, perhaps “Better brain dead than Purple” might be appropriate. (With an added theme of Imperial Purple to liven things up.)

    3. flora

      Odessa is in Ukraine, a seaport on the Black Sea. Something happened in that part of the world in 2014 that drove the neocons crazy. Trying to remember what it was….. Guess the Dems still heart the neocons…. Then there’s the 1960’s Ian Fleming ‘James Bond’ book title in the message…. (rolls eyes)

    4. flora

      Odessa is in Ukraine, a port city on the Black Sea. Something happened in that area starting in 2014 that drove the neocons crazy. Trying to remember what it was….

      1. David

        Sochi Olympics (7 Feb – 23 Feb).

        The Euromaidan protests turned violent on 18 February 2014. From ,

        On 22 February, the protesters were reported to be in control of Kiev, and Yanukovych was said to have fled the capital for eastern Ukraine. The parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, voted 328–0 in favour of impeaching Yanukovych and scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May.

        Parliament named its speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, as interim president on 23 February…Over the next few days, Russian nationalist politicians and activists organised rallies in Crimea and urged Russia to help defend the region from advancing “fascists” from the rest of Ukraine.

        Thereby, wiping away any goodwill towards Russia from the Olympic Games.

        It will be interesting to see how the neocons react to the World Cup this summer.

        1. flora

          And who can forget “Yats-is-our-guy” Nuland? (July 13, 2015)

          She of “F- the EU” fame. (Feb. 7, 2014)

    5. OIFVet

      I remember a BG TV report from the NYC shortly after the wall came down. The reporter was asking random people on the street some questions related to the political geography of Eastern Europe, and most of them could not read a map if their lives depended upon it. In retrospect that alone should have given us Eastern Europeans a pause in our pell-mell rush to embrace all things Western. Still, it is a shock that even he exalted “elites” are only a little more informed than flat earthers of yesteryear. Perhaps it’s Columbus’ legacy…

  2. The Rev Kev

    Re Economists Are Saying We Will Have A Happy — Really Happy — New Year

    Ah yes, the economists say that. With all their experience and analytical techniques, their ranks resplendid this Nobel Prize laureates. Those economists. Yes, that is very interesting that. Excuse me a minute, won’t you?

  3. Ignim Brites

    “I’d love to see Sanders make an anti-war swing through the Red States. That would be wonderfully clarifying. As would the lack of said swing.”

    It is not at all clear that Sanders is anti-war even in the sense of just being a leader/follower of an anti-war movement. Frankly it is not clear that there really is an anti-war movement.

    1. allan

      Just as the phrase “white working class” airbrushes out the large number of minorities in the working class, this article’s phrasing, “Working-class people of America, and Appalachia in particular, have long been the backbone of U.S. military engagements abroad.” airbrushes out the fact that minorities are over-represented in the (lower) ranks of the military. Blacks etc.

      If Bernie is going to do an anti-war swing, I’d rather it be through the Bronx, the South Side of Chicago
      and South Central LA rather than Hollow-du-Jour, KY.

      1. Spring Texan

        Working-class people are black as well as white. So it doesn’t ‘airbrush out’ anything. Measures to help working-class people are very good for all races.

        1. allan

          From the original story: “and Appalachia in particular”

          No dog-whistle there, nosiree.

          I completely agree that policies, and campaigns, should include all of the working class.
          The J.D. Vancing of the current national discussion of the working class is a trap.

          1. Fred1

            Bristol is in Appalachia. Also it promotes itself as the birthplace of country music, Carter Family, ect.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Anti-culture war is also anti-war.

      Should a peace person abstain from joining one, on either or any side?

      *From Wikipedia, Culture War:

      The expression culture war entered the vocabulary of United States politics with the publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter in 1991. Hunter perceived a dramatic realignment and polarization that had transformed United States politics and culture, including the issues of abortion, federal and state gun laws, global warming, immigration, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, LGBT, and censorship.

      Are you, the reader, anti-culture war?

    3. JohnnyGL

      Well, Sanders has pretty vigorously defended the Iran deal as a shining example of how diplomacy works and he’s also speaking with Bill Perry, former Sec. of Defense under Clinton who was intimately involved in getting the deal done with N. Korea in the 1990s.

      I think he’s anti-war from a practical perspective, but I’d agree that he doesn’t seem to do overt, principled, anti-war campaigning.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        My personal take (as an outsider) on Sanders approach is that he is personally radical but as a professional politician is very cautious and is always trying to find a balance between advocating radical policies while staying just about within the Overton Window of ‘respectable’ politics. He didn’t get to be so successful as a politician by being naive and he clearly is determined not to become another Nader. His political history seems to be mostly about focusing on practical real gains, and avoiding issues where his personal beliefs would represent a political millstone around his neck. In other words, instead of lying for political gain, he deliberately avoids the sort of minefields other principled politicians fall into. Look at the way, for example, he avoided getting caught up in gun control and reproductive rights arguments during the primaries (i.e HRC’s strong areas). It takes a very skilful politician to do that, and its even more impressive that he did it without using the usual politicians tactics of lying or pandering.

        He succeeded so well I think in his Presidential run by focusing entirely on inequality and the banks and refusing to allow anyone drag him away from his area of comfort. He succeeded brilliantly in forcing the Overton Window over onto his ground, and he did it by keeping a narrow focus. In some ways he was helped in this by the media’s determination to pretend he didn’t exist. I think his strong political instinct is to keep within his own areas of comfort.

        If he runs again – and I’m pretty sure thats his intention – then I think he realises he may not be able to reproduce the trick, hence his cautious stepping into the foreign policy arena. He knows its a much more difficult area where he is more prone to attack, so it looks to me like he is trying to forge an identity as a pragmatic moderate on foreign policy, on that tightrope between being against the Imperium while not actually being portrayed as ‘unpatriotic’. I suspect he will only firmly commit himself to a more anti-war stance if he feels he can pull off the same trick he did with medicare for all. If he feels he can’t, then I think he will not endanger his position by overcommitting politically. This is obviously disappointing for every sensible anti-war advocate, but it makes political sense.

        1. jsn

          If you read David Talbot’s biography of Allan Dulles, “The Devil’s Chessboard”, he makes a very compelling case that the embryonic “blob” of the day had Kennedy assassinated to prevent a deviation from it’s preferred foreign policy. Talbot builds his case from numerous primary sources.

          In this light the Donald keeping his private security when given Secret Services “protection” was pure practicality.

          Bernie lived through all of this and may actually know the score. To campaign directly against all the perversities of the last 70 years of US policy is to more or less guaranty, one way or another, that you won’t get the chance to mend them. For better or worse, we won’t know Bernie’s real position until after he’s elected.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I didn’t want to go there, but I do think that yes, fear of an assassins bullet is one factor that may well persuade a politician that its not worth taking on the blob frontally.

            Even if its not true that a bullet awaits a too ambitious progressive politician, I’ve no doubt that plenty in the security services find it useful to allow the idea that there is to be promulgated.

    4. EricT

      The defense industry will never allow an anti-war presidential candidate. If a candidate is anti-war, the best advice would be to keep it on the down low.

      1. Aumua

        Defense industry? The American people want war! Mark my words, war is what will turn public opinion on Trump toward the positive. Especially if it’s full of high tech asplosions. Trump needs a war, and the U.S. is all about war. Public opinion is shaped by the media, and if anyone loves a good war, it’s the media. The American people really are that mindless, make no mistake. The cross section you see here on NC is NOT representative. It’s all gone way out of control..

        1. Edward

          It isn’t trump who needs a war, it’s the oligarchs. They need it going before they can crash the economies.

    5. Oregoncharles

      There is, actually: Veterans for Peace is still quite active. I know two former presidents of that organization.

      In the broader sense, though, no, Kerry’s campaign finished it off. By no accident at all.

  4. Wukchumni

    A local mountain lion story:

    About 10 years ago, a large ranch decided to add 3 buffalo, and it was fun to drive past them, and over the course of about 6 months, I must’ve done dozens of drive-bys, so majestic an animal and not seen around these parts much, and then one day they were gone.

    Fast forward a few years later and i’m hiking with the park plant biologist and the subject of, where did those buffalo roam? came up.

    And my friend tells me that 3 mountain lions descended upon the trio, killed one, gouged the eyes out of another and the other one was unharmed. The owner realized if he couldn’t keep 3 safe, 1 was not going to work, so he sold it.

    We have hundreds of fenced horses & cows here that never are molested by the large felines, and it got me wondering about why the attack, and seldom do mountain lions kill en masse, they are solitary hunters.

    Could it be that despite never having seen these apex predators from the east that ruled by rolling over their prey in thundering herds, the lions had ingrained memories of them, and collectively decided to rout the advance guard of what may have been perceived as an invasion?

    1. JohnnyGL

      Interesting anecdote. Regarding your questions, I’m going to launch into some uninformed speculation.

      Buffalo self-defenses may not function properly unless as part of a larger herd. Perhaps 3 isn’t a critical mass of buffalo that’s big enough to function properly? I’ve seen a few nature videos which filmed predator-prey dynamics with buffalo vs wolves or African Buffalo vs. lions. Both seem similar. The buffalo aren’t really brave individually except for short bursts, especially mothers protecting young. But they do watch each other’s backs, more or less. The trick for wolves or lions is usually to get an individual isolated from the herd and they work together to do that, then attack it from behind to bring it down. Multiple predators means they can’t keep track of all at once and keep the predators in front of them.

      With only 3 buffalo, the ‘isolation’ part of the work was already done for the big cats and all they needed to was to maintain the element of surprise. Again, smaller herd means fewer eyes looking for predators, probably made for easy-picking for the mountain lions.

      Sounds like your friend needed to go big on buffalo, maybe a herd of 20+, or not at all.

      Again, happy to defer to those who know better on this topic, but thanks for the interesting story, anyway.

      1. DonCoyote

        My graduate statistics professor liked to use animal analogies in his class. One of them that I remember was “It’s the lion you don’t see that eats you.” The short version was that, in Africa, some herbivore groups (fast ones) don’t run from lions immediately, they assign a “spotter” whose job it is to watch the lion and sound the alarm if it gets too close/threatening, and it works pretty well–as long as the lions get spotted in time (the corresponding statistic had to do with sources of variation and putting them in the model even if they weren’t part of your hnypothesis).

        I don’t know if bison rely on outrunning or outfighting lions, but (like statistics) both probably work better with larger N size…

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve no idea if its widely accepted, but I recall reading a theory that the American buffalo was, like the European Bison, originally a solitary species, but only began herding behaviour relatively recently as a response to human predation on the plains.

      I wonder though if its more likely that the three mountain lions were a female and semi-grown cubs. That might account for the maiming of one of the buffalo, young felines are often pretty clumsy and unfortunate animals can be used for kill training by mothers.

      1. Kevin

        The mother and cub scenario you outline seems quite possible.

        I travel to Kodiak Island occasionally – they tried introducing buffalo there. The grizzlies loved bison burgers!

    3. JP

      I’m just to the south at Dennison Mt and Blue Ridge. Until a few years ago a rancher kept a small herd on Blue Ridge. There were never any mountain lion problems but with plenty of other locals providing goats who would want a tough old bison.

  5. timbers

    “Odessa isn’t even in Russia”

    Maybe that’s the point.

    Recently a cult film (Suspiria) noted for it’s spectacular use of color was released on blu ray. It followed a competing release from Germany that used duller, normal color, claiming original color sourcing.

    To “prove” the German version had “accurate” color, someone posted a pic of a car from each version from this 1977 movie. One was orange, the other red. The orange car on the color popping version, was claimed to be “evidence” it’s colors were wrong because the car never had orange from original manufacturing specifications, which were also posted.

    This set off a tidal wave of posts in response, of manufacturing car color specifications. Some showed orange was indeed an option with the particular car model. Others pointed out it could have been a custom color job.

    This went on for pages and pages. It become comical.

    Moral of the story: A thread about different versions of restorations of beloved movies ended up looking like a Car And Driver forum on cars and their original color specifications.

    Moral applied to Boxer’s add: Any subject and debate not about policy that her add generates, makes it a success from her point of view.

      1. Wukchumni

        A great earlier color film and beyond trippy for the era, is A Matter Of Life And Death, with David Niven from 1946. The color scheme is unlike any other movie i’ve seen.

        2 thumbs enthusiastically up!

        1. fresno dan

          Wukchumni
          January 3, 2018 at 9:03 am

          Based on your recommendation, I have put it in my netflix queue – and the story synopsis makes it sound interesting also….

        2. Carolinian

          Powell and Pressburger were noted for their innovative Technicolor. See The Red Shoes where color is used for maximum expressionistic effect.

          1. voteforno6

            I think that’s one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films. I know that he certainly admired the Archers. I doubt that it’s too much of a coincidence that Michael’s Powell’s widow is the editor for all of Scorsese’s films. A couple of other films from that duo that are worth checking out are The Tales of Hoffmann and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

        3. Jim A

          AKA “A Stairway to Heaven” in it’s American Release. Similarly to “The Wizard of Oz” partly Technicolor (Technicolour?) and partly B+W with the transition meant to show different worlds.

          1. barefoot charley

            My wife and I recently watched “South Pacific” after reading Frank Rich’s appreciation of the Broadway revival’s racial sensitivities. Not much evident in the movie, but colors were! It was a 50s acid trip, every long shot of an island paradise seemed to be shot with a different, usually tawdry, steakhouse light gel. I think the coloring was called Toddvision, as in one of Liz Taylor’s early exes, who clearly hadn’t made his mint that way.

      2. epynonymous

        I believe the color concept is signaling ‘hot \ cold’. I first caught it in the blackjack based film ’21’ where it is spectacular. Note the wardrobes are carefully chosen for this effect.

        Like how food is red\yellow. The article implies cost, but its a scientific choice I suspect.

      3. Carolinian

        Hard to say the current trend is not an improvement over the candy colored Technicolor that prevailed when most films were black and white. These recent contrast enhancing color schemes are doubtless a quest for that old black and white abstraction at a time when, commercially, all films have to be in color.

      4. Kevin

        Yes, the colors are dark, but what about the content!!!
        Scrolling through Netflix is depressing as all get out – all dark and depressing movies/series.

        gee, I wonder why?

        1. Lord Koos

          I think one can notice a different tone in American popular culture after 9/11. The optimism is in short supply these days…

  6. jo6pac

    Iceland sometimes called Niceland for a really good reason. Amerika just might have to attack this commie country and soon;-)

    1. The Rev Kev

      And they were the only nation that put top finance executives into the slammer after their banking crisis. Damn commies!

      1. Carla

        Amazing what a nation of 332,500 people can do. Also, it’s stunning what a nation with a population almost 1,000 times as large can fail to accomplish.

        1. JTMcPhee

          I would be careful in pointing to Iceland as a “success story” in efforts to “rein in corruption” (it can never be “brought to heel” or “ended,” of course). The beat goes on, as everywhere humans congregate:

            1. JTMcPhee

              But the banksters are still at it. Was it a “wave of revulsion” election? Don’t see it. And so what if they elected a woman, even Gree and quite young, if the neoliberal train still runs on time?

        2. jrs

          truthfully probably connected, the U.S. is too big and ideologically diverse to be governable (at least in any decent way) it often seems. Iceland is not only smaller in population than many states, smaller in population than all big U.S. cities, but also smaller in population than many a mid-size city in the U.S.. It really is that tiny. Due to it’s size the U.S. certainly has the money to accomplish more. But due to it’s size, it seems to lack the political ability to.

  7. Sid Finster

    Re: Team D running stupid and brutal campaigns – Team D is the OG poster child for the Iron Law of Institutions.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Ahh, Team D. Yes, of course. The Wile E. Coyote of the American political scene taking all the advice of the Acme Consultancy Corporation.

    2. sleepy

      Unfortunately, dems running as the anti-Trump might just work. It seems that Trump is the ideal foe for a dem party unwilling to offer anything of substance to the public.

      If the dems run Biden I hope to god he loses. It’s wishful thinking but I hope that would mark the end of the dems as we know them.

      On a related note, and I apologize if it’s already been posted hereabouts, but there is a great takedown of #resistance William Kristol on his Iran views, together with Msnbc’s defense of their neocon pundit.

  8. redrick

    re: ‘PUBG’ is quietly changing video games with its 3D replay technology.

    This article is mainly a fluff piece. Aside from the how easily this company is letting you interact with game replay (even this is questionable) – ‘3D replay’ has been around for a long time across many game engines (quake II, quake III, source). A good example of this ability is demonstrated from the counter-strike movie making community, dating back at least a decade. For future VG related links, some topics of interest could be around the rise of streaming, game monetization / micro-transactions, or transition to VR.

    1. pictboy3

      I think VR just isn’t going to happen any time soon. It’s technology looking for a market.

      IMO, one of the bigger stories is the decline of MMOs and conflicts between subscription models and microtransactions, which I’m guessing you were alluding to in your comment. That topic also fits well into “crapification,” if the conversations I hear among my fellow gamers are any indicator.

      1. Knifecatcher

        Have you tried VR? I highly suggest doing so before writing off the technology. We bought an Oculus Rift over the holidays. Prices have gone down dramatically, I paid $350 which isn’t far off of an XBox or Playstation, though of course you need a beefy PC as well. It’s an absolute riot, and I’m personally amazed at how realistic and immersive the experience is, especially for what is effectively still first generation tech. Google’s Tilt Brush application is especially cool, it’s a 3D drawing app that lets you create immersive art that you can walk through, look at from multiple angles, etc.

        IMO we’re close to the tipping point where it becomes mainstream. We’ve got neighbor kids lining up to take a turn. Some of the early adopter nerds are designing spaces in their houses as a holodeck to optimize their VR experience. The tech is still waiting for the first “killer app”, a real VR native AAA game title to drive mainstream adoption, which I expect will happen in the next year or two. Once that happens the 2D game systems will either go VR or die.

        1. pictboy3

          So I will say that I have not tried it, and I’m willing to be proven wrong.

          That being said, this is my issue with VR: nothing I’ve read suggests that it’s really an improvement in control fidelity over a standard mouse and keyboard. We can bang on about immersion until we’re blue in the face, but ultimately immersion is a gimmick that’s used to hook people into a game. People hear VR and they think it will be this full-dive, SAO-like experience, where they can move and crouch and run just like in real life, and that just doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s a reason PCs have stuck around as the premier gaming platforms despite the console makers’ best efforts, and that’s because their controls are just better for all types of games. You simply can’t play a FPS at the same level with a controller, and you essentially can’t play RTS at all without a mouse and keyboard.

          If VR can solve that fidelity issue, it will take off. If it doesn’t, which I expect it won’t, then it will be an expensive flash in the pan.

          1. Knifecatcher

            The latest Oculus “touch” controllers make picking up and manipulating objects feel shockingly natural. Imagine a first person shooter where you have to hold and aim a virtual gun instead of moving a mouse and mashing buttons. And seeing an enemy come around the corner full sized, guns blazing is far more visceral than something on a computer screen.

            One of the sample apps the Oculus came with has a moment where you come face to face with a full sized T-Rex and it was legitimately terrifying. The level of sensory input is something a flat screen can’t match. At some point something like Overwatch will be released for VR and the floodgates will open.

      2. Aumua

        Have no doubt: VR is here. You think there’s no market? Look around you. Everyone’s constantly got their face in their various screens as it is. The market is just waiting for some trigger, any trigger. I personally think it has such immanent potential to take over everything that it’s dangerous. We’re on the cusp of something unprecedented with VR.

        1. epynonymous

          So the few VR games are going non-VR. The oculus is ‘dropping prices’ (indicative of sales).

          You can’t even watch the few VR games online… unless you speak German. I remember the hype in the 90’s about the tech.

          In the 2000’s it was ‘motion control’ Xbox Kinnect, PS Move, and the WII systems. All have been discontinued.

          It’s just not there. The bar for serious ‘immersive’ gaming is can you have a sword fight. The answer is no, because if you hit the opponents sword, your sword needs to stop, or the game loses all credibility. This is impossible.

          The last high-end game system to promise revolutionary technology was a CD drive system back when everyone else was analog. PS1 came 3 years later in 1994.

          For VR, the developers aren’t there, the hardware isn’t there, so the demand is irrelevant.

          Star trek Bridge Crew was released like 7 months ago, and despite the built-in nerd interest there is no community, players claim to have trouble finding a multiplayer group of four.

          15-20 minutes in and I can only find one full play through… at 441 views on youtube (compounded by the search’s embargo on results… only allowing top industry steams to show… leaving one page of results.)

          The top result has 400K views, but this one has only a few hundred, and if you watch a bit you’ll see how disorienting it can be. Heads and eyes move differently to track what we view. VR doesn’t track eye movement, and even if it did, maybe it shouldn’t.

          Oculus Rift claims 400K units sold. The Phillips CD-i sold 570K (again, allegedly) by it’s retirement in 1996.

          1. Aumua

            I know it been “on the horizon” for a long time (no pun), and it’s easy to dismiss because of that. But it’s really getting to the point where cgi can create “realistic” realities. How do you know there is no way to fool the mind into feeling the sword stop? I think you’re underestimating the power of the mind, and the addictive nature of the technology that infiltrating our lives more and more. We’re already significantly addicted to computers, and if something comes along that raises the bar on that addictive potential 10 fold, you can believe it’s going to take off like nothing we’ve seen so far. I don’t think looking at what’s already come so far is a very good indicator of what’s to come, in this case. I’m thinking of something that really goes beyond ‘games’ as we’ve known them.

      3. Plenue

        “Old codgers like me need to understand gaming as a serious thing.”

        On that front, it may perhaps be useful to know that since modern, big budget games often have so much story content and sections that don’t feature gameplay and are essentially movies, people have been able to edit footage of them together into what are basically condensed film versions.

        This one from 2007 (and recently re-released) is basically an exploration of what would happen if Ayn Rand Libertarians made their idea of a utopia. It doesn’t end well for them.

    2. Daryl

      As a sports fan, I’d kill for something like this, explorable in real time. Rather than watching the announcers replay the same three angles over and over again to try to figure out what happened.

      We already have 3d cameras that record player/ball movement in 3d for every basketball game, but presumably they’re not quite at that level yet.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Say what you will, the fact remains that through its design, graphics, concept and technology PUBG is mopping the decks with all its competition such as ‘LawBreakers’ () and is getting better all the time. A few days ago they had three million simultaneous players online all at once. And as they say-
      ‘Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!’

  9. Andrew Dodds

    New Brexit Plan: Tow the UK into the middle of the Pacific ocean. Well, it’s less delusional than what has gone before..

    1. rd

      I think that is Australia and New Zealand. That spot is already taken. The Brits will just need to negotiate or throw a tantrum.

    2. wilroncanada

      Andrew Dodds, new Brexit plan
      Better to the middle of the Indian Ocean, where they can pit their armada against the might of Sans Serif. Commandante Garamond has just overthrown the long-time ruler, Generalissimo Pica.

  10. Jim Haygood

    ISM’s monthly manufacturing survey, formerly known as the purchasing managers index, rose to 59.7 in December, approaching its 5-year high of 60.8 in Sep 2017. The New Orders subindex reached its highest level since Jan 2004.

    Of particular interest is the Prices Paid subindex, which advanced to 69.0 on a scale of 100. In the past when Prices Paid has advanced into the eighties, it has proven problematic for stocks and bonds. West Texas crude is at $61.05 a barrel this morning, a 12-month high.

  11. Matthew G. Saroff

    Considering Thiel’s complete lack of ethics and decency, I would wonder if he’s not making a small purchase, leaking it to the press, and then making really big short bets.

    Compared to doing unauthorized human experimentation in Latin America, this is ethical chump change.

        1. Meher Baba Fan

          Expat thankyou for following up with a link to your interesting comment.
          Ben Goldachre is a GP and Guardian writer, at least used to be. He has a well known book called Bad Science which reveals the multitude of ways Big Pharma manipulates Science. theres a particularly strong piece called ‘ So, You Have A Pill’ and its about how they might get a pill to market and into a prescribing doctors hands even though its not all that effective and won’t survive peer review. Its a very very funny read and shocking and scary all at once. About three quarters of the way through the process he refers to the Gitmo method. ‘ Data won’t tell you what you want to hear? Torture it’ and he explains just how to mess with the stats to achieve a better outcome

  12. John D.

    What really gets me about the Democratic “leadership’s” doubling (and tripling…and quadrupling!) down on Russiagate is that it’s yet another stab at a so-called strategy that’s been a proven failure for decades. When you get right down to it, this is an attempt to out-flank the Republicans from the right, which never works. Not only will the GOP leaders not allow such a thing, the Rethug rank and file – the true believers who actually love Trump on his merits of being a bullying asshole – are the only ones you can aim this kind of propaganda at…and they ain’t buyin’. They’d sooner cut their own throats than support a Democrat, no matter how demonstrably conservative or business-friendly or even out-and-out right wing said Democrat is.

  13. Matthew G. Saroff

    Re: the Intel kernel memory leak story: I trust El Reg on the technical stuff, but the bit about, “Forcefully Unmap Complete Kernel With Interrupt Trampolines, aka F%$#WIT,” sounds apocryphal.

    Can anyone in the Linux community confirm or debunk?

    1. hunkerdown

      It’s perfectly in line with the sense of humor I’ve come to expect from kernel developers. From to the kernel mailing list:

      2) Namespace
      Several people including Linus requested to change the KAISER name.
      We came up with a list of technically correct acronyms:
      – User Address Space Separation, prefix uass_
      – Forcefully Unmap Complete Kernel With Interrupt Trampolines, prefix fxxxwit_
      but we are politically correct people so we settled for
      – Kernel Page Table Isolation, prefix kpti_
      Linus, your call :)

  14. Matthew G. Saroff

    On the NSA’s top talent leaving, I’m wondering how much of this is guys “leaving” the NSA one day, and coming back to the same desk the next morning as a contractor at twice the pay.

    1. voteforno6

      More than likely they already were contractors. The government probably tried to get cute by driving down their bill rates, so they jumped ship.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Or, how many are moving on into “serving other masters,” like in “private security” for our True Lords And Masters? Whether Banksters or the Silicon(e) Valley types, or maybe Foreign Governments? Snowden: altruist, small-d democrat, public citizen, or (witting or not) part of some arcane inter”service/agency” plot? Or just a mope who missed a big payday?

      There’s a bit in the movie “Oh God,” where grocery store manager John Denver asks G_D (George Burns) “Have you ever made any mistakes?” The quick answer, “The avocado. I made the pit too big.” Too bad Denver did not ask whether the structure and functioning of the limbic system, , was likewise a mistake (not to mention knee and shoulder joints, and the lumbar spine…)

      When everything is everything, nothing means anything. But of course a very few, in this globalized world, will get their maximized limbic-system-stimulating jollies and bennies, at the expense of everyone else…

      And most everyone else, including the ascetics and martyrs and saints among us, aspires to that same level of stimulation… “Oh Lord, make me chaste… but not yet!”

  15. Wukchumni

    The California of a century ago had a lot more farmers and livestock, and mountain lions were perceived to be something to do away with, and the preeminent hunter was a fellow named Jay Bruce, who was the official mountain lion hunter for the state for over 25 years, and he dispatched 669* of them in some 7,000 hunting forays, a force to be reckoned with, when his trained hounds were on the prowl. His book from 1953: “Cougar Killer” is a tour de force, and i’m not interested in them being killed now, as they are an integral part of the ecosystem in that they keep the deer population in check, and also supply other denizens with food in the parts they don’t eat, but I found the book utterly fascinating in that I learned oh so much about their behavior.

    Here’s a rather amazing video from 1925 with commentary added much later, of Jay doing his thing. There are a number of lions that meet their maker, so if you’re not into that sort of thing, don’t watch it.

    They don’t make em’ like Jay anymore, I couldn’t believe the energy that one man could possess, damned near indefatigable…

    * I doubt there are that many mountain lions left in the state now

    1. Coast Ranger

      I’ve lived in the boondocks on top of a mountain in northern California for 40+ years. A long time ago we used to hear of lions from both a federal trapper friend ( we used him when we had bears destroying our orchard) and our neighbor who ran cattle on property next to ours. No big deal although some lions had to be trapped but usually treed and shot. We also have bears every summer wandering through his land and ours (and still do).

      About 15 years ago the bears began to takeaway the deer the lions killed. So, naturally, the lion would kill another deer and on and on. By the time that summer was through the deer herds were, essentially, wiped-out. We used to see a couple of dozen deer laying in the shade in the afternoon by our pond….now we are lucky to see one drinking before it heads off.

      And then there is a deer disease called Blue Tongue. But that’s another story that doesn’t involve lions.

    2. Wyoming

      re: “* I doubt there are that many mountain lions left in the state now”

      Here is a link which indicates there are 4000-6000 in the state today.

      120 cats were killed last year that were permitted (this, of course, means that many more were just shot and buried as that is the norm for many in the rural ranching communities)

      1. Wukchumni

        A quite large lion was shot here a couple of years ago, after a depredation order was filed, on account of having an ongoing livestock buffet.

    3. Lord Koos

      That’s a stunning number killed in California. In the 1920s near Wenatchee WA, a small boy went missing and was presumed killed by a cougar. Hunters went on a rampage and killed a half dozen of them before finding one with the boys coat in its stomach. This decimated the mountain lion population in central WA for decades, as one male cougar needs 50-100 square miles of habitat. Now that they are protected here, and with many people building houses in the woods, they’ve learned to prey on garbage, dogs, sheep, and whatever else is around. They now roam much closer to human settlements than previously.

  16. Craig H.

    My attitude towards mountain lions is that I love them. I did an image search on the antidote and there is a whole page full of them:

    Britain’s class problem comes down to “assortative mating”

    Nobody does eugenics like the English do eugenics. I would more impressed with them if they were a little less gloating about their stupid DNA.

    1. Anonymous2

      Britain’s class problem. I would be surprised if other societies are very different. Of course it raises interesting questions about inbreeding. There was a time (hopefully largely in the past now) when some of the more remote villages had issues with rather large numbers of slightly strange inhabitants which was put down to inbreeding. Bu the upper classes? Not so sure.

      Of course pretty well all of us is descended from Charlemagne or Genghis Khan or some other major historic figure if you go back far enough. Once I realised that I stopped worrying about whether my ancestry was grand enough.

      1. Oregoncharles

        You’ve heard of “upper class twits?” Inbreeding, compounded by spoilage.

        The English, at least the uppers, have no objection to first cousins marrying.

        At least they don’t allow sibling marriage, like say the ancient Egyptians.

        There was a whole mystery wrapped around precisely this issue (is he my brother, or my cousin?) Wish I could remember the name.

    2. oliverks

      We have had mountain lion sightings on my street, which surprised me, as we are a pretty dense residential neighborhood. I unfortunately didn’t get to see it, but there was some video posted

      I’ll snap a picture if I do see one!

  17. Jim Haygood

    Chappaqua isn’t even in Russia:

    Investigators have secured written evidence that the FBI believed there was evidence that some laws were broken when the former Secretary of State and her top aides transmitted classified information through her insecure private email server.

    That evidence includes passages in FBI documents stating the “sheer volume” of classified information that flowed through Clinton’s insecure emails was proof of criminality, as well as an admission of false statements by one key witness in the case.

    Senate Judiciary Committee staff has [identified] 17 witnesses including Clinton were interviewed after the decision was already made [not to charge her].

    FBI Director Comey told Senator Grassley in 2016 that the FBI did investigate whether the unlawful destruction of federal records occurred. But Grassley’s staff has now obtained a sworn affidavit from an FBI agent that directly contradicts the former director’s assurance. The agent testified under penalty of perjury that the Clinton email case did not address the destruction of federal records, Grassley said.

    In the first quarter of 2018 the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release initial findings in a wide-ranging probe into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email case, as well as whether agents and supervisors had political connections, ethical conflicts or biases that affected their work.

    This story is not going away, because the uncharged violations involved — including destroying evidence subpoenaed by Congress and wantonly disseminating classified documents to unqualified recipients such as convicted pedophile Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner — are simply too flagrant to be covered up anymore.

    Heads are gonna roll …

    1. pretzelattack

      i’ll believe the right heads are rolling when i see them gasping in the basket. maybe some lower level people.

      1. rd

        By the time they could investigate, indict, go through numerous well-funded defensive legal maneuvers etc., they would be past the 2018 mid-terms and 2020 presidential election. The prosecutors who went after Clinton could very well get hung out to dry, especially with the numerous tweets from Trump.

        I don’t think anybody but some House GOP members and some people in the Trump Administration (who will likely be long gone) are interested in pursuing this.

  18. allan

    Brookings Econ‏

    How the tax bill will penalize wage earners, in one chart

    Populism with 1% characteristics.

  19. Wyoming

    Cambodia’s Tonle Sap

    Declining carrying capacity is running headlong into rapidly rising global population. A story just as big as climate change.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Whats happening to the Tonle Sap can’t be separated from climate change – there have been very significant alterations to local climate patterns in SE Asia which have resulted in historic droughts. The great danger for the Tonle Sap is that it is entirely dependent on the Mekong overflowing during the wet season. If it doesn’ do that, its dead, and much of Cambodia turns to desert. It could happen very fast. Ironically, the best hope for the Tonle Sap is the Vietnamese – they are doing everything they can to stop the Chinese, Thai and Lao from building dams which reduce wet season flow (the Mekong Delta is similarly vulnerable).

      The population of Cambodia is indeed rising greatly. Its more than twice what it was now after Paul Pot had his way and killed something like a quarter of the population. The article didn’t mention it, but most of the people who live on and around the Tonle Sap are not Khymer, but Vietnamese. They suffered particularly badly during Paul Pot – just having lighter skin was enough to get yourself killed in the days of the killing fields. So I would guess that region is just getting back to what it was before.

      1. Wyoming

        Absolutely true that the carrying capacity issue and climate change issues cannot be separated.

        My point is that the carrying capacity issue all on its own is gigantic in that, even if climate change was ‘not’ occurring, it will collapse the ability of the Earth to support the human population at anywhere near its current levels. Not to mention where it is going in the next couple of decades.

        We are already well past maximum sustainable capacity and heading south quickly. We are currently using resources which would be needed for future generations. As population increases and ecosystems collapse we will reach a point where we will be forced to strip mine our biosphere just to stay alive and then just after that we won’t be able to do that any more. Then it gets ugly fast.

        Climate change impacts the biosphere in the ways you describe as well as a host of others. The two trends positively reinforce each other and both are on exponential curves. Thus we are following to a tee the curves found in the Limits To Growth studies. We talk all the time about climate change trends delivering us circa 2100 into a world which will be very difficult for civilization not to just fall apart in. But when one sees those climate graphs and figures they are leaving out the carrying capacity issues which are going to bite really strongly circa 2040-2050. What we do to survive the carrying capacity problems will almost surely make climate change worse and climate change getting worse makes carrying capacity issues worse.

        We don’t have any where near the time left to deal with these problems as is indicated in things like the Paris climate agreement or the IPCC reports as they are just looking at one part of a systemic problem.

        1. Oregoncharles

          ‘” climate change trends delivering us circa 2100 into a world which will be very difficult for civilization not to just fall apart in. ”
          A self-correcting situation, but not to our advantage.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        You know the Dems have hit rock bottom when its impossible to tell their real ads from political satire and Republican false flags.

  20. fresno dan

    FEDERAL RESERVE:
    Until this paper, we have had no way to know rates of return on all risky assets in the long run. Research could only focus on the available data on equity markets (Campbell, 2003; Mehra and Prescott, 1985). We uncover several new stylized facts. In terms of total returns, residential real estate and equities have shown very similar and high real total gains, on average about 7% per year. Housing outperformed equity before WW2. Since WW2, equities have outperformed housing on average, but only at the cost of much higher volatility and higher synchronicity with the business cycle. The observation that housing returns are similar to equity returns, yet considerably less volatile, is puzzling. Diversification with real estate is admittedly harder than with equities. Aggregate numbers do obscure this fact although accounting for variability in house prices at the local level still appears to leave a great deal of this housing puzzle unresolved. 1

    We find that the real safe asset (i.e., government bonds) return has been very volatile over the long-run, more so than one might expect, and oftentimes even more volatile than real risky returns. Each of the world wars was (unsurprisingly) a moment of very low safe rates, well below zero. So was the 1970s inflation and growth crisis. The peaks in the real safe rate took place at the start of our sample, in the interwar period, and during the mid-1980s fight against inflation. In fact, the long decline observed in the past few decades is reminiscent of the decline that took place from 1870 to WW1. Viewed from a long-run perspective, it may be fair to characterize the real safe rate as normally fluctuating around the levels that we see today, so that today’s level is not so unusual. Consequently, we think the puzzle may well be why was the safe rate so high in the mid-1980s rather than why has it declined ever since. 2

    ==========================================
    1. WOW! Everything I have read is that housing is a rather poor investment, no where near offering the returns of equities. Maybe the fact that it is an agglomeration of data from so many countries has something to do with it or that it covers such a long time span. I will be interested in articles, sure to come, that will dispute the finding of parity in housing and equities’ returns.

    2. It strikes me that “interest” is just another type of return on investment. And as the great real estate bust proved, housing doesn’t always go up, collateral may not be worth what the person offering it, OR the entity accepting it, says it is worth. Low returns make for low interest…

    1. Wukchumni

      Try and name one commonly held ‘used’ item most everybody possesses that goes up in value like real estate?

      Good luck!

    2. Jim A

      Re housing. Well usually because the value of the housing (rental equivalent) goes up over time there is SOME point where housing posts decent returns But all the people “flipping” houses during the RE bubble were strong evidence of unsustainable levels of price appreciation. And if you buy at bubble prices the break even point can be more than a lifetime away.

    3. Jim Haygood

      Purely anecdotal … but the annual return on a house I owned in the NYC suburbs (within walking distance of a commuter train station) was 4.4% — after a more than fourfold price increase in nominal terms over a third of a century.

      During that time the outdated kitchen and bathroom were gutted and modernized, along with a host of other capital improvements. A bidding war erupted which resulted in the house selling for $22,000 over the asking price — not a distressed sale by any means. Yet the gross return was a punk 4.4% annualized.

      In the final year property taxes were more than 2.5% of the house’s sales price, suggesting a net annual return of less than two (2.0) percent before any consideration of financing cost or routine maintenance.

      Alleged high returns on real estate are largely an illusion of leverage. On a unleveraged basis, single-family houses deliver weak returns, exacerbated by high sales expenses and illiquidity during recessions and financial crises.

      1. Lord Koos

        However, if you actually lived in the house for years, it beats the hell out of paying rent, doesn’t it?

      2. Oregoncharles

        Does that include the rental value (if you lived in it) or rent received over that time? Around here, that can run 6 or 7% all by itself.

  21. JohnnyGL

    Real News Network with Paul Jay getting a spot on Real Clear Politics is something I haven’t seen before. Corp media have ignored them for years, perhaps they’re breaking out of their lefty bubble that’s been imposed on them from outside?

    They should pick up that “where’s the collusion?” story that featured Aaron Mate gently and courteously disemboweling tabloid-style writer Luke Harding.

  22. cyclist

    Regarding the NPR article about the Wisconsin truck driver who designed a nuke: odd that they didn’t mention the controversy surrounding a 1979 article published in The Progressive. Journalist Howard Morland was able to cobble together enough information from non-classified sources to publish plans for an H-bomb which threw the national security types into a panic. There was prior restraint against the article which led to a lawsuit and eventual publication. The point was that countries could probably fabricate these weapons if they wanted; it was the public that was being kept in the dark.

    IIRC, Edward Teller wrote an article for Encyclopedia Britannica which was detailed enough to cause a bit of bother, even after being in the public domain for years.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There is very little mystery about how to build a nuclear warhead. Its getting the materials and key components that is technically and economically difficult. And more difficult still are the obstacles to ensuring a warhead is compact and tough enough to be militarily useful (the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs were only really militarily useful because Japan was unable to defend its own airspace from big lumbering bombers by 1945).

      A lot of people suspect that the Pakistan bomb is something of a bluff, that they haven’t been able to go beyond big crude devices. I think the key thing about the North Korean bomb is that they seem to have been able to make the jump from a basic lab based device to a compact, portable one much more quickly than anyone anticipated.

      1. cyclist

        Agreed. Back around the time of the Progressive article, it was also noted that the CIA et.al. put massive effort into tracking not just the flow of nuclear isotopes around the world, but various strategic alloys, machines, etc. This is how it was possible to know just what countries were serious about their nuclear claims.

    2. Mark P.

      PK wrote: There is very little mystery about how to build a nuclear warhead.

      Look, discussions of the ease or lack thereof involved in constructing nuclear bombs are fatuous if they don’t start by distinguishing between, at one end, the kind of dirt-simple atomic fission weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and, on the other hand, the highly complex Teller-Ulam type thermonuclear bombs, also known as the fusion or H-bombs.

      How simple are pure fission bombs?

      So simple that no nation that ever seriously set out to build such bombs — including South Africa — has ever failed to do so. So dirt simple, for instance, that Little Boy was only fully assembled during the approach over Hiroshima because it was feared that otherwise bad weather might jostle the plane sufficiently to detonate the bomb prematurely.

      How complex are thermonuclear weapons?

      So complex that it took some of the best physicists of the last century almost a decade to figure out how to build the initial iterations.

      Though they’re called fusion bombs, they’re actually fusion-boosted fission weapons, usually with two stages in the chain; the initial release of radiation from the fission bomb component gets boosted by the secondary ignition of fusion fuel — deuterium or tritium — placed in a certain physical relationship to that initial fission component

      A lot of people suspect that the Pakistan bomb is something of a bluff

      As regards what Pakistan and North Korea have, there was an intermediate generation (or two) of fission-fusion weapons like the ‘Layer Cake’ or ‘Alarm Clock’ designs. Since you can’t build pure fission bombs small enough to put on the tops of missiles as warheads, that’s almost certainly all that Pakistan possesses and what North Korea had at the start of 2016 when Pyongyang made its initial claim to have a thermonuclear weapon. At the time, I wrote a piece for MIT Technology Review where I discussed the possibilities —

      … the key thing about the North Korean bomb is that they seem to have … (made) the jump from a basic lab based device to a compact, portable one much more quickly than anyone anticipated.

      Not quicker than I expected. Here in 2018 I wouldn’t be surprised if the North Koreans have achieved real thermonuclear devices. The people in the North are, after all, the same basic human capital as those in the South. They’re smart.

  23. allan

    Big Pharma returns from the holidays tanned, rested and ready:

    [Axios]

    A handful of drug companies rang in 2018 with price hikes that easily surpass inflation but stay conspicuously below double digits. Investment banks Jefferies and Cowen highlighted some of the big ones …

    But wait, there’s more: Cowen conducted a survey of large drug purchasers, and most said drug prices will continue to rise. More than three-quarters of respondents also said there’s almost no chance U.S. drug price controls will occur in the next three years.

    Next three years? Why, it must be sheer coincidence, but that takes us through the end of 2020!
    And I distinctly remember certain promises being made during the last presidential campaign.
    Apparently, rational expectations tell us not to hold our breath.

  24. fresno dan

    2018 Outlook on Politics and Policy: Insurers will come out ahead Modern Healthcare

    We don’t know that….Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Sarc

  25. JEHR

    The Google Maps Moat was very interesting. How little privacy we will have in the future, is my comment.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Its pretty clear that Google have had a clear vision of what they want to achieve with googlemaps for more than a decade, and it relates to both self driving cars and a wider vision of controlling spatial data as well as search data. They are to a large extent leaving all other mapbases behind.

      I use maps a lot in my work and I find that googlemaps is overtaking all other online sources (including, sadly, openstreetmap) in usefulness, although certainly in the UK and Ireland, its still not as accurate or as useful as official Ordnance Survey mapping for most purposes. There is lots of information available from public sources (such as land ownership patterns), which they don’t possess, but no doubt would love to do so.

      A couple of years ago, when Ireland was adopting a postal code system, google offered to do it for free. In an unusual act of wisdom, the Irish government refused the offer. Its pretty clear that google wanted to get its hands on lots of house by house data as part of the deal. I’m sure we’ll see the same pattern all over the world, and no doubt many countries will be tempted to accept Googles ‘offer’. And we’ll see yet another monopoly with control over what should be public data.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Google Earth Pro, which used to be a paid app, has data on individual US homes and buildings including assessed values, numbers and types of rooms, roofing material, and more.

  26. mini

    Ad targeters are pulling data from your browser’s password manager The Verge

    While I use a password manager, I always set it to not autopopulate anything. If I want to use a username or password, I have to reach in and pull it out, and then put it in the web page. Using it that way seems to defuse the ‘weakness’ that the article is targeting.

  27. Wukchumni

    I get the feeling that the Aussie Flu will take precedence over all news in the not too distant future…

    Here’s an e-mail from a friend:

    “My SIL works for a hospital in San Bernardino and she said their beds are filled up with flu victims. They are turning away elective surgeries cause they need the nurses.”

  28. fresno dan

    Will War Cancel Out Trump’s Triumphs? Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative. “The Korean War finished Truman. Vietnam finished LBJ. Reagan said putting Marines into Lebanon was his worst mistake. Iraq cost Bush II both houses of Congress and his party the presidency in 2008. Should Trump become a war president, he’ll likely become a one-term president.”

    In Washington there is also a powerful propaganda push to tear up the nuclear deal John Kerry negotiated with Iran, and confront the Iranians in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Persian Gulf.

    But how much backing would Trump have for another U.S. war in that blood-soaked region, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria?

    Who would stand with us, and for how long?

    When Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and pledged to move our embassy there, we had to veto a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution condemning us. Then the General Assembly denounced us in a resolution supported by all our key NATO allies, Russia, China, and every Arab and Muslim nation.

    A day later, Trump complained on Twitter that we have “foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East.”
    ===================================================
    Will Trump push his big button with his long beautiful fingers?
    I was reading an article where Trump has in fact, deported at this point in his presidency less people than Obama at the same point in Obama’s administration.
    So Trump is really a standard issue repub. So the question isn’t what Trump will do as much as it is what will the repubs do – can the repubs go 4/8 years without a war? I am thinking – no.
    And just as the dems follow the repubs into neoliberalism they will follow the repubs into war…Russia, doncha know….

  29. JohnnyGL

    ?

    NYT notices that maybe voter disenfranchisement is a problem. Maybe team Dem will lift a finger? Probably not.

    It seems Pelosi and Schumer are being dragged, virtually kicking and screaming, into at least trying harder to fake it over DACA.

    It’s really amazing just how incredibly uninterested they are in actually doing something, really anything, to oppose the Repubs.

    1. Oregoncharles

      As during elections. Their “campaigns” are really just graft for their “consultants” and Big TV.

      I keep wondering when people will catch on. Of course, maybe that’s the 50% who don’t vote.

  30. fresno dan

    Trump shifts gears on Afghanistan The Hill. An empire of graveyards…
    from the article:
    President Trump is changing gears on Afghanistan as he enters his second year in office.

    After decrying nation building during his presidential campaign and lambasting Afghanistan as a “complete waste,” the president is in the midst of sending thousands more troops to the country in an effort to stabilize it.

    The move, military commanders say, will help break a stalemate in the longest U.S. war in history and help beat back a resurgent Taliban and straggling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters.
    ============================================
    So….Trump was against the surge before he was for it….to paraphrase John Kerry.

    1. Jim Haygood

      From what’s-his-name the peace laureate, Trump inherited the Viceroyalty of Vietghanistan.

      Viceroy Trump enters Kabul, borne by grateful native troops:

  31. Andrwr

    I live in Maine and we had a mountain lion in our back field for a couple days last summer. Managed to get pics and video. When we sent them to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife they told us there were no mountain lions in Maine and what we saw was a house cat (it wasn’t). We then spoke to an animal control officer who personally saw and dealt with mountain lions in Maine. The officer explained that the Maine government purposefully denies mountain lions because they would have to halt hunting season until every single mountain lion is caught and tagged, costing the state millions in lost revenue. Made me chuckle when the survey above asked, “I trust my state wildlife agency to provide accurate information about mountain lions.”

  32. crittermom

    RE: Antidote du jour
    Tho’ I love all of the photos that are shown each day, today’s is among my very favorites. Fabulous! The intensity in its eyes, the full view of the pads of its front paw… Wow.

    Sadly, despite extensive searching, I cannot find a credit for the photographer.
    As a fellow nature photographer, I admire others work & have been known to purchase prints from other photographers.
    I must admit it drives me crazy when no credit is given for fabulous photos like this one. (No blame is given to NC for that. I still truly enjoy the images)
    My cowgirl hat is off to that photographer for such a capture.

  33. Wukchumni

    The other day as the year was petering out under the guise of a larger than normal lunar landscape overhead, we took a midnight walk, and it was heavenly.

    Anybody can be artificially well lit these days, but why indulge?

  34. Jeff W

    I don’t know how to say “Never look a gift horse in the mouth” in Korean…

    My Korean’s pretty basic but, poking around, the phrases might be something like:

    선물로 받은 것에 대해 이러쿵저러쿵하지 마라.
    [Don’t comment on what you got as a gift.]

    공짜로 얻은 것에 대해 이러쿵저러쿵하지 말아라.
    [Don’t comment on what you got for free.]

    (More advanced or native Korean speakers, feel free to weigh in.)

  35. Oregoncharles

    “Bitcoin rises …”
    Precious metals are going up, too. Someone isn’t too happy with the state of the economy. Not that Bitcoin, etc., are actually a flight to safety; they’re a flight FROM currency (as well as from China; I do know that.)

  36. ewmayer

    o “Year-End Arctic Chill Persists; Ice and Snow Loom from Florida to Maine | Weather Underground” — So, curious as to just how awful this record-breaking arctic freeze really was, I checked the WU page for NE Ohio, where I lived until 1999, only to discover that it hasn’t even been sub-zero during the recent cold snap. When I lived in Cleveland from ’93-99, we reached -24F during one cold spell. I say if your eyelids aren’t briefly freezing together every time you blink – something that actually happened to me while delivering early-Sunday newspapers during a brutal late-70s cold wave in the Midwest – quitcher bitchin! :)

    o “Economists Are Saying We Will Have A Happy — Really Happy — New Year | NPR” — “and by ‘we’, we mean ‘we economists’. And by ‘really good’, we mean not in terms of our predictive abilities, which will remain dismal at best and downright contrarian at worst – no, we mean in terms of being financially and reputationally rewarded for our ongoing service to the Looter Elite.”

    o “Bitcoin rises after report says early Facebook investor Peter Thiel is buying massive amounts | CNBC. Cheering on the shorts, here.” — Price-goosing based on pure rumormongering … I could be wrong, but that smacks of desperation.

    o “North Korea Calls Hotline to South for the First Time in Two Years | Bloomberg” — “Eh, hello? Yes, we’d like to order a large pizza with the works. Do you deliver across the DMZ?”

    o “Empire of graveyards” — Ooh, nice one, Lambert!

    o “NSA’s top talent is leaving because of low pay, slumping morale and unpopular reorganization | WaPo” — Pravda-on-the-Potomac says that likes it’s a bad thing.

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