Links 2/2/18

Phys.org (CL). I think the headline in is even more sensational: “Extraordinary Biomass-Burning Episode and Impact Winter Triggered by the Younger Dryas Cosmic Impact ∼12,800 Years Ago.”

Weather Underground. “[S]nowpack at just 14 percent of the historical average.”

Guardian (DL).

Economist

Tim Duy’s FedWatch

FT

South China Morning Post

FT

Syraqistan

Bloomberg

FT

Brexit

“No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.” –David Einhorn

There are problems with Brexit in Whitehall.

Here’s a small tale of government indecision, prevarication and “no deal” neurosis with big implications. 2 qs:

1. Have you heard of the Road Haulage and truckers bill🚚

2. Until you do: Is “no deal” planning **really** happening🐌

— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes)

Politics UK (Richard Smith).

Handelsblatt

India

The Wire

Bloomberg

China

Jakarta Post

Bloomberg

Foreign Policy

New Cold War

Lambert here, on #ReleaseTheMemo: A memo, absent its supporting evidence, is meta. Hysteria about meta is metameta. Welcome to the Beltway:

Politico

The Hill. The Hill buries the lead: “How and when the Nunes document will be made public remains an open question. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a senior member of the Intelligence panel, told reporters earlier in the week that it will likely be read into the congressional record [q.v. ], something that can only be done when the House is in session. The chamber is scheduled to convene for a pro forma session at 4:30 on Friday afternoon.” If this indeed happens, it would be an excellent first step toward putting the Intelligence Community under some sort of Constitutional control, so naturally we see principled Democrats supporting it. Oh, wait…

The Hill. Burying the lead again. Heilemann: “This is what Russia wants here. I continue to be baffled by Ryan’s behavior.”

Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Axios

Eugene Robinson, WaPo. Savvy!

Editorial Board (!), NYT

The Onion

The Nation

Trump Transition

Thomas Edsall, NYT (Re Silc). On immigration.

The American Conservative. $200 billion is miserably inadequate. If private money is supposed to pick up the rest, that means toll booths everywhere. That’s “conservative”?

Modern Healthcare

The Hill

Democrats in Disarray

Thomas Frank, Le Monde Diplomatique. Even though this is partially but effectively paywalled, I’m linking to it because what shows is worth a read, and, apparently, Frank has been blackballed by the U.S. media for Listen, Liberal!; this is first venue I’ve seen publish him recently, other than “Comment is Free” in the Guardian. Also, as of this writing (3:26AM), . Odd.

Caitlin Johnstone, Medium

Our Famously Free Press

Paste Magazine

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Guardian

New Statesman

San Francisco Bay View

Health Care

PBS

Newsweek

Net Neutrality

Gizmodo. “Bliss set up traffic cones and rode his bike in the one available lane so that he could ‘throttle’ traffic, unless drivers wanted to pay a $5 fee. This way, as Ajit Pai has put it, ‘consumers can pick the plan that’s best for them.'”

Imperial Collapse Watch

WaPo

The Diplomat

Duffel Blog

BBC

LRB. “The language of the roads is standardised but the handwriting varies hugely. It’s not Transport, the round sans serif typeface designed for highway signs in the late 1950s by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir. The official script is Pavement, an elongated form of Transport, but it’s only a guide: nearly all the shapes and lettering on road surfaces are hand-painted. Reading the roads every day, you begin to notice the different hands. Some do short, fat-bottomed arrows, with an even triangle for the head; others draw long stems topped with a flashy inverted ‘V’.” Something for the robot car programmers to consider…

Antidote du jour:

No kidding.

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.

163 comments

  1. fresno dan

    Nation reluctantly admits most service-members are not heroes Duffel Blog

    If there was some critical thinking about the Congressional Medal of Honor it would exclusively be awarded to ALL the dead who died while serving and only the dead.
    But its just a gimmick to get the young to fight.
    Napoleon: A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.

    1. Baby Gerald

      Great point, Fresno Dan. Napoleon sure knew a thing or two about the mind of the soldier. In the modern era, his point is made amazingly clear when watching old German newsreels from WW2.

      If you search the term ‘Deutsche Wochenschau’ on YouTube or archive.org, you’ll discover that the majority [by my estimate about 85%] of the weekly newsreels that played in German cinemas during the war are still intact, most in their entirety. Watch any one of them– usually between 15 and 30 minutes in length– and one will inevitably see at least one and quite often multiple segments of awards [Abzeichen] being doled out to soldiers, fighter pilots, and submarine crews.

      If one then compares a newsreel from late 1939 when the war started to another from, say, late 1944 when the tide was clearly against the regime, one will notice that the proportion of these Abzeichen segments to actual war reporting only increased as the war dragged on.

      It’s fascinating that an empire in collapse will expend all kinds of energy convincing its people that it isn’t collapsing. Energy better spent preventing the collapse in the first place is instead dissipated away on trivial things like designing and cranking out medals and ribbons.

      1. Wukchumni

        No need to head back to WW2 for good old every soldier is a hero nonsense.

        All over California you’ll see these banners hung from lampshade posts on high along avenues & streets. This one is from SoCal, and it says ‘The City of Torrance Proudly Honors Hometown Hero Brandon Gregory’, who earned his hero status by merely enlisting in the Navy, and there’s a bonus!

        Said banner was ‘Sponsored By The Gregory Family’, so no, Torrance didn’t really pay for the honor of his family deciding he was indeed, a hero.

        1. Baby Gerald

          Very true. As a student of that particular historical era, it’s usually my inclination to look for antecedents there in order to better explain current trends– to show that there’s nothing new under the sun, at least where human nature is involved.

          Those of us old enough to remember the mid 1980s and the efforts of the POW/MIA movement and other veteran support groups to re-cast our soldiers as the victims in that conflict, it seemed an inevitable outcome that any future soldiers sent to do the empire’s bidding would get an overdose of the hero treatment.

          Since the first Gulf War, our fearless leaders have made sure not to repeat the mistakes from Vietnam, at least in regard to the optical displays of support for the soldiers we send to do the dirty work. It’s hard to get dupes patriots into the recruitment office if they think they’ll be sneered at when they return from their call of duty. So much easier if they all come back labeled de facto heroes.

          OK, this is my third post today. I’m going to shut up for now and read more of the excellent links provided. Yves’s commentary today about Amazon is going to get forwarded to everyone I know who seem to think that Bezos is some kind of super genius who is going to fix our healthcare. Then I’m going to catch up on overdue correspondence with folks I met at the last NYC meet up.

          Have a great day and a wonderful weekend, everyone!

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It seems to me that, for investors, Mr. Bezos is a super hero-genius, who will one day be the first Six Trillion Dollar Man.

            He should be honored with many awards.

            And if what others have said here is true, the market-empire today needs or wants heroes like him.

          2. Wukchumni

            The other day on the SOTU I learned that if a cop sees a woman amped up on opioids-along with her having a small infant, if you take said child away from her and raise it yourself instead, you are a hero!

      2. JTMcPhee

        An empire is a locus, a personification, not an entity with agency, it seems to me. It’s lots of individual people, doing over and over again the same asymptotic behaviors involving personal gain at the expense of the general welfare, and species surviva,l that in all past cases have led, by various modes of looting and decimation, to much the same set of nasty conditions. Is that built into our genome?

    2. JTMcPhee

      Speaking of medals as gimmicks, look back to the invasion of Grenada and that Noriega-Panama thing:

      “Medals outnumber G.I.’s (sic) in Grenada Assault.”

      The early days of recovery/revanche from Vietnam War Syndrome. And of “gold star certificate” K-12 “education,” where all the children are above average. ..

      1. Wukchumni

        What’s interesting in terms of medal fetish, is it’s the English & colonials who are really into it, as each of their awarded war medals the past couple hundred of years is inscribed to whom and of what detachment, etc. The more glorious and well known the battle the awardee garnered it for, the more value it has. A ho-hum Victoria Cross from WW1 is worth nothing compared to the VC awarded to a dam buster in WW2.

        We on the other hand never tended to have individual names on our war medals, so they’re all generic and generally not worth much, in comparison.

    3. rd

      I disagree about the Congressional Medal of Honor. Usually the live “winners” of that medal did not enlist or did what they did for a ribbon. They generally enlisted as duty or committed their actions due to the personal bonds of their small unit. They generally feel that the medals should have gone to the people who died.

      I think the medals are more to give the home front heroes to support and new soldiers somebody to look up to. That was why Pat Tillman’s death originally had a fake story attached to it, because it was perceived to be a a home front PR disaster if it came out that he died due to friendly fire.

  2. RenoDino

    What Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph Can Teach Trump About War With North Korea The Diplomat

    Point Eight (mine): To avoid war, surrender to Kim. Specifically, decamp completely from the Korean peninsula and offer to pay him $1 trillion to denuclearize. Humiliating and expensive, but worth the price to avoid a disastrous conflict. Current “negotiations” invite only war.

    1. keivn

      How would you verify he actually denuclearized? And wouldn’t this encourage future efforts to nuclearize both by Kim and other states.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Yeah, he might do like the Israelis have done. And those darn Iranians, they got to be up to no good. Better to do like the Empire did once before, and lay down enough ordnance on the NKs to flatten and burn the whole place—“not one brick on top of another…”

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Very quaint, looking at wars as though they are about territory, or strategy, or national goals and objectives. They ain’t. They’re about money.

        So put the symbol “$” into your equations and calculations about who will war next, where, when, and why. Voila! Equations solved.

        Modern economies (especially the US but most others too) require a steady flow of human blood and misery and pain in order to thrive. Extracting sufficient taxpayer funds to build, deploy and operate the incredibly complex machines required for these (planned or actual) death orgies is the mission, blather about everything from “democracy” to “strategic interests” to “human rights” is simply the covering story.

        Seen from this angle it suddenly all makes sense. Catch-22: we gift Turkey billions in taxpayer dollars to buy armaments; and we’re about to spend billions in order to destroy those same armaments. Having run out of enemies America is deciding to go to war with itself, and the only possible rationale that explains this is $$$

        1. JTMcPhee

          Exactly Joseph Heller’s observation. Milo Minderbinder, and his “syndicate,” using US bombers and crews to bomb and strafe their own airfield and “band of brothers,” under a cost- contract with the German High Command.

          Maybe this was linked to here, I can’t recall, but the title carries the lede: “The relationship between globalization and militarism,”

          And it ain’t going to get any “better.” Our hosts even indicate they are maybe working out the details of de-camping to another country as the personally wise plan of action. But it’s everywhere. My own personal plan is to buy a travel trailer and resume going out on the road with a couple of million others to “Look for America…” knowing I haven’t got that much time left in this Imperial purgatory anyway. “Lord, fill my eyes with the wonders of your creation, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.”

      3. Mo's Bike Shop

        Do you understand how much nuclear weapons cost? And money is just the up front externality. I’d feel happier if we were all concerned about fuel rods.

        1. Procopius

          Well, the story was that Obama had ordered a program which would cost over $1 trillion over a decade and I think they intended to increase the inventory to 4,000 warheads from 2,000, so they’re pretty darned expensive. I don’t know why the Democrats are giving credit for the program to Trump, now. Oh, wait …

  3. The Rev Kev

    Saudi Arabia’s ‘normalisation’ baffles global business

    It does more than baffle international business. One businessman complained that half his rolodex was sitting in that hotel at one stage. Saudi Arabia still wants to go ahead with its Aramco IPO but if I was an investor, I would wonder how safe my capital would be sitting in Riyadh and what exactly the rule of law there really means. You have to remind yourself that this place is not so much a country that has a wealthy family as a wealthy family that has a country, hence the name.

  4. Quantum Bob

    “Hypocrite at the good cause parties” still not in Google, but does show up in Bing and Duck, Duck, Go. 8:12AM … unfortunately, still pay walled.

    1. arat

      If you put the title of the article in quotes, google will produce it- it comes after the nakedcapitalism link though

    2. djrichard

      My local library subscribes to a service for newspaper s, which it makes available over the web. Surprisingly enough, that subscription includes Le Monde Diplomatique, so was able to get the full article that way.

      1. djrichard

        P.S. to Lambert. The other day I said it doesn’t include The Financial Times. I’ve come to learn that it does, except that it’s got a 30 day delay. So for instance, I can only see articles from Jan 3, 2018 and older at the moment.

  5. John A

    Re Paste article Butcher Builders, interesting analysis of western media coverage of russia but then slips in the following:
    “he [Putin] re-nationalized parts of Russia’s oil industry, and used some of the revenue to raise state wages and pensions (though most of the money benefited him personally and his allies).”

    This is simply stated as fact, with absolutely no supporting evidence. MSM reporting in a nutshell when it comes to Putin and Russia.

    1. hemeantwell

      The attempted transformation had left a small class of oligarchs (including Chubais) enriched, and had plunged the country into a deep depression that lasted from 1991 until the millennium

      I’d like to again promote David Kotz’ Revolution from Above as a useful account of what happened. To nutshell it, there were elements in the Soviet elite who wanted to give democratic socialism a try, and other elements who wanted to sell the silver and enrich themselves. Going in for the kill against the Soviet state, the US aligned with the latter. The Soviet reformers didn’t help matters when they precipitously decapitated economic planning structures, thinking that a thousand markets would bloom. Instead, it made for internal chaos and, I think, left Soviet industry suddenly open to foreign competition >>> firesale >>> oligarchy investing in London real estate.

      1. economicator

        I’ve started reading the Kotz’s book – I remember the events in the early 90-ies Soviet Union but was too young at the time to understand them – and it is as fantastic, clear headed an account as I have seen. Sobering, and angering.

        1. Procopius

          Here’s something that has stuck in my craw ever since. I’m surprised it hasn’t been quietly expunged from Wikipedia.

          In 1997, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) canceled most of its funding for the Harvard project after investigations showed that top HIID officials Andre Schleifer and Johnathan Hay had used their positions and insider information to profit from investments in the Russian securities markets. Among other things, the Institute for a Law Based Economy (ILBE) was used to assist Schleifer’s wife, Nancy Zimmerman, who operated a hedge fund which speculated in Russian bonds.[14]

          Larry Summers defended him at Harvard, but I don’t remember what excuse he gave. Probably something along the line of, “What he did wasn’t illegal.”

          1. allan

            See [The Nation (1998)]

            Total cost to Harvard in settlement with the U.S. government and legal bills
            was about $40 million. Even for a tax-free hedge fund with a historic quad attached,
            that was a lot of money in the late 90’s.

    2. a different chris

      And even if it is precisely true, how is that different from giving tax cuts that are $100 to the plebes and 1000x that to the wealthy?

  6. Jim Haygood

    Cuomo’s folly:

    Empire Resorts Inc., controlled by Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Genting Bhd., on Feb. 8 will open Resorts World Catskills, a $1.2 billion casino, hotel and entertainment complex.

    Empire Resorts is counting on Genting’s customer base from casinos in Malaysia, Singapore and other countries, to help build business from the other side of the Pacific.

    The two upstate New York resorts that have already opened, the Del Lago Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes region and Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, haven’t generated the revenue originally forecast.

    At Genting’s Resorts World New York City casino in Queens, where the company began a $400 million expansion last year, gambling revenue was down slightly to $850 million even after adding 1,000 slot machines.

    Atlantic City hit the wall as states authorized way too many casinos in the east. Yet New York is going to roll the dice on attracting punters from the other side of the world to cash into an extractive industry which offers few jobs with any future in the knowledge economy.

    New York’s state-led investment model, which predates Cuomo, is reminiscent of eastern Europe during communist days. It looks set to deliver another damp squib, followed by white elephants littering the landscape. Maybe they can be converted into old folks homes … with some slots left behind so that bored seniors can them buckets of nickels.

    1. upstater

      Cuomo’s “economic development” model for upstate NY is gambling. And the precariet population is tapped out. These social parasite “businesses” will no doubt be soon asking for taxpayer handouts:

      I suppose they could always turn it into a prison. Or better yet, maybe it could be used like the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton to hold NYC billionaires and shake them down for ill-gotten gains.

      1. allan

        In fairness to Cuomo, his economic development model
        has also given to the criminal defense bar in NYS.

      2. polecat

        “shake them down for ill-gotten gains.”

        I LIKE IT .. !!

        Lets start with the C-man himself …. even if he’s only worth millions .. !

      3. bob

        Is that better or worse than the past economic driver of upstate-

        Prisons

        Our only hope in NY is Cuomo for prez. It’s the only way we’re ever going to get rid of him.

      4. rd

        Before the new casinos got approved, the long-standing casinos in upstate NY commissioned an economic study that basically said there was a limited market and new casinos would largely be poaching from existing client bases of other casinos. In other words, little growth. This was ignored as mere oppo research, but is basically proving out today.

        The Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls has Niagara Falls, which is a world-famous draw in itself. The Oneida Nation Turning Stone developed itself as a multi-purpose attraction with good restaurants, night clubs, concert venue, and golf course. Tiger Woods has played charity matches at that golf course as one of his college friends is affiliated.

        Del Lago is a fraction of the Turning Stone size and is simply plopped along the edge of the NYS Thruway in the middle of farm fields halfway between Seneca and turning Stone Casinos. There is little reason to go there other than to gamble and drink. They have a few concerts, but generally not at the level of Turning Stone.

        1. Baby Gerald

          But wasn’t poaching clientele from Native American-owned casinos the whole point? Turning Stone, Foxwoods, and Mohecan Sun are three in the Northeast that come to mind. Tax-free cigarettes only add to their appeal.

    2. Wukchumni

      Casinos = Broken Widows Economy

      One of the local indian casino’s billboard on Hwy 99 has a granny with a huge smile and the words “Where Shouting Is Fun!”

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      An extractive industry which offers few jobs.

      —-

      And fewer still in the near future, as soon as robot dealers are ready.

      But not as many tourists are coming to the US, so that customer base will over on the other side of the Pacific.

      1. Baby Gerald

        It should also be pointed out that a lot of these new so-called Casinos [see, for instance, Resort World] are nothing but video poker and slot machine rooms. Less employment than your average casino and most of it the low-paying, non-tipping kind.

  7. visitor

    From the LRB article “On the road”:

    nearly all the shapes and lettering on road surfaces are hand-painted

    Well, that is a surprise. Perhaps they are hand-painted in the UK, but in other developed countries (I presume most of them), they are stencil-painted with some kind of airbrush. The process does not require much qualifications, is faster, and results in standardized (hence less distracting) symbols.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Hand painting is still very common in the UK, as examples from the always hilariouswill show. have a certain artisanal quality that ones (NY example ) just can’t match.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I would add that I think the reason why stencils haven’t caught on in many countries is that in older urban areas paths and roads tend to be of non-standard sizes, so unless you had thousands of different sized stencils you’d never fine one the .

  8. Ignim Brites

    “A Never-Trump Press in Near Panic Over FBI Memo”. Pat Buchanan thinks the MSM is panicked over the memo because it shows them to be played as useful idiots in a “deep state” plot to first defeat Trump and then overthrow an elected President. But it seems more likely that they would be concerned that it shows Republican support for a narrative that entails major investigations into MSM collusion in treasonous actions. Regardless of whether or not indictments result a full bore investigation would cripple the MSM even more than it is already crippled.

      1. allan

        Yet another link to a Kimberley Strassel op-ed at the WSJ.
        Buyer beware. Listen to what she was saying

        If she truly cared about civil liberties and government spying,
        Strassel would have opposed the FISA section 702 worsening and re-authorization and last month.
        She didn’t.

      2. integer

        Thanks. Before the release of the Nunes memo, I saw :

        1) I’ve covered politics a long time. I’ve never–never–seen anything approaching the desperations Ds have to keep this memo quiet. And as we know that worry about law enforcement (Snowden/Manning) is not their biggest worry, this memo must be damning to the core.

        2)Have been in journalism all my life. Have never–never–seen the press corps fight so hard against transparency. Same media that after election wondered if it was out of touch with avg Americans, now ignoring the legit worries so many have about govt. accountability.

        3) Every journo should be asked if they’d be fighting this hard against disclosure if it was a Bush DOJ/FBI accused of wiretapping abuses. Of course not. They’d be leading the charge to put it all out. 4th estate is supposed to enlighten the people. Not cover for govt. officials

        In my opinion she was and is 100% correct to be pursuing this line of inquiry.

    1. Stromcrow

      Wishful Thinking?

      Justin Raimondo:

      Goodbye Russia-gate hoax
      Goodbye @RepAdamSchiff
      Goodbye fake “liberals” and “libertarians” who defend the FBI spies
      Your day is over.

      1. fresno dan

        Stromcrow
        February 2, 2018 at 12:39 pm

        Unfortunately my volunteer work is this afternoon, so I will miss the updated information and debate about it in Water Cooler until I get home (5 pm CA time) – I’m sure there will be some great insights and deep dives into all the data. I am looking forward to getting home and reading through it!!!

        The question that strikes me as critical, did DoJ and FBI really have anything other than Steele “sources” ? If not, it seems to me that shows pretty conclusively that the whole thing* is a house of cards.
        Of course, other than vindicating Trump, constitutional rights for everybody else aren’t even worth mentioning…..and repubs are the only people EVAH screwed by the police…..

        * WHOLE THING – and by WHOLE THING I mean FISA in general. Will anyone even SUGGEST investigating everyone else that was surveilled to see if their surveillance was abusive???????

        1. Mark P.

          The question that strikes me as critical, did DoJ and FBI really have anything other than Steele “sources” ?

          Why, of course they did! They had the unassailable declarations of Clapper, Hayden, et al — men of irreproachable, spotless veracity!

          1. The Lurker

            Now they’ve moved the goalposts on this very point, claiming “of course a FISA warrant would be based on multiple sources”

          2. Procopius

            I haven’t read the Steele dossier, but from the descriptions I’ve read of it it seems like it’s sufficient to present as new evidence of reasonable suspicion requiring further surveillance. I really should look through what Emptywheel has been posting the last couple of weeks — she’s an actual expert on FISA and the whole panoply of surveillance statutes. I don’t think the agencies are required to present verification of the evidence they are trying to investigate, but what do I know?

  9. Jim Haygood

    With the unemployment rate having reached a Permanently Low Plateau of 4.1% for the past four reports, mathematically it is gradually increasing compared to its own 12-month moving average (12MA). Today’s value divided by the 12MA is 0.953, where 1.000 would be a recession warning and 1.015 would confirm recession. Chart:

    Consistent with other healthy indicators such as the ISM manufacturing index and Ed Yardeni’s fundamental indicator, the US economy continues strong for the time being.

    1. allan

      [WCEG]

      Some interesting charts:

      I. Prime employment has leveled off at about 79%, a high for the recovery but lower than rates before the recession.

      II. After falling to an all-time low in December, African-American unemployment ticked up sharply in January.

      III. Nominal wage growth ticked up in January while inflation fell slightly in December.
      Nominal wage growth remains relatively stagnant. …

      Even with the happy talk about recent wage gains, those are (a) only recent and (b) barely outstripping inflation.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            If so, and if it’s not just one month, perhaps we have come to the end of one of the longest recoveries, though very weak, in history.

    2. Procopius

      My memory is probably distorted, but I thought prior to the Eisenhower Recession normal unemployment was thought to be about 3%. Normal inflation was in the range 3.5-5% per year. The current calculation of NAIRU seems to be based on what Volcker did with his “blood on the floor” approach, which appears to be too high. They’re never going to admit they’ve been wrong for over a decade.

  10. Wukchumni

    If a Wall*Street CEO sees the shadow economy today when emerging from his borough in the Hamptons, there’ll be 6 more weeks of winner.

    1. Edward E

      Better than waking up with Fox and Friends blaring from your TV, surrounded by cheeseburger wrappers with a phone in your hand displaying tweets you don’t recall sending.

    2. polecat

      Within the last decade or so, Winter not only came … it never left, where the plebes are cocerned !

  11. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Brexit

    “No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.” –David Einhorn

    The Road Haulage issue is indeed a crucial one, and it says everything that the British cabinet can’t even agree on precautionary legislation. I suspect the reason is that its been signaled that if Britain starts overtly planning for a quick ‘no-deal’ exit, then the EU will do likewise, which is in effect a trade war, and there is only one big loser from that.

    Philip Stephens in the FT ‘Britain is not actually capable of leaving the European Union’ (, maybe paywalled) seems to think that the government is so utterly paralysed that it won’t actually be able to exit.

    All too easily the extraordinary becomes the unremarkable, the aberrant the commonplace. This is what has happened in Britain following the referendum decision to leave the EU. The attempt to wrench the nation out of its own continent has triggered a national nervous breakdown. Only the British cannot see it.

    Open plotting against an enfeebled prime minister, civil war in the cabinet, a ruling Conservative party riven by faction, a Labour opposition led by a life-long admirer of Fidel Castro, parliament imprisoned by the referendum result, paralysis at the heart of government – all have become the stuff of everyday politics. Britain was once a sturdy, stable democracy. Anger and acrimony are the new normal, as likely to elicit a weary shrug as incredulity.

    Historians will scratch their heads in wonder. These are truly extraordinary times. Britain is upending the economic and foreign policies that have set its national course for half a century. Nothing in modern peacetime matches the upheaval. The impact on the nation’s prosperity, security and role in international affairs will be felt for a generation and beyond. Unwrapping decades of integration is a task of huge complexity.

    And yet Theresa May, the prime minister, dare not set out her preferred course for a post-Brexit settlement lest she be toppled by her own Tory MPs. Instead she pleads with Germany’s Angela Merkel to tell her what Berlin might offer in terms of a future relationship. The humiliation is excruciating.

    and

    May could survive. But to what end? Without the confidence of her cabinet and deprived of a majority in the House of Commons by an ill-judged general election, May has neither the wit nor the authority to reach a sensible agreement with the EU 27. Most MPs would back a “soft” Brexit, leaving Britain’s economy closely connected to Europe. May feels threatened by the English nationalists. Her strategy, if you could call it that, is to leave all the serious decisions until after Britain’s departure from the EU in March 2019.

    and

    If there is a slim hope that Britain can emerge wounded rather than broken, it lies in the possibility that things will get still worse in the short term. Mendacity, chaos and division could end in complete paralysis – with parliament failing to agree on any form of Brexit. If Britain does remain part of the EU after all this, it will be because, in its present state, it is simply incapable of leaving.

    I think he’s quite right that Britain could easily find itself in a situation where it is incapable of making a decision. The problem of course is that the bus is running downhill with its brakes gone, and the only way to avoid going over the cliff is for someone to grab the steering. But there is no prospect of that, the only faint hope being that the EU takes pity and simply pretends the whole thing didn’t happen (in other words, allow some sort of indefinite stay on A.50 – at a price of course). I don’t see that happening. A chaotic exit in March 2019 – something everyone seems to have thought had been avoided last December – seems more likely by the day.

    1. voteforno6

      Part of me is wondering if they’re just trying to string it along until they can punt it over to Labour to clean up the mess. Of course, that would require some planning ahead, and the Tories right now don’t seem very capable of that.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        They actually had a chance to do that. At the end of the last election the Tories could have said that they could not form a coalition and would not govern as a minority party and asked the Queen to ‘invite’ Corbyn to form a government.

        I was quite relieved they didn’t think of that (or more probably, the egos of the people in charge didn’t want to do it).

        Strategically, for the Tories it would have made sense to have a minority Labour government during a period of upcoming turmoil, they would reap the benefits in the next election.

    2. Davis

      I’ve been saying this for some time, though I confess the shambolic reality has been infinitely worse than I feared. The logic of Article 50 is that the exiting state has a coherent government, capable of negotiating a withdrawal agreement, and this is indeed what everyone assumed would happen here. But there is actually supposed to be an agreement, consented to by the European Parliament, so there should be an agreed text with a date for its entry into force. The absence of such an agreement produces the famous “crashing out” scenario, unless the period for negotiating it is extended. So far so bad, but I have never seen a proper analysis of what “crashing out” would mean, and the reality is, I think, that whilst various apocalyptic scenarios can plausibly be constructed for certain areas, it’s impossible to say what would happen overall, because the situation is incredibly complex, and nobody ever imagined anything like this was possible. In my more wistful moments, I picture May and Corbyn doing a deal to get a cross-party majority together to extend the negotiations, then extend them again, until everyone becomes sick of the whole thing. After all, playing it long is a recognised tactic in politics, and you never know what might happen. I think the EU would go along with this, because it would be the less bad of two alternatives, but it requires a maturity and sense of tactics from the British side which, let’s say, has not been very obvious recently.

    3. Lee

      All too easily the extraordinary becomes the unremarkable, the aberrant the commonplace

      On both sides of the Atlantic.

      1. VietnamVet

        So true. The Memo. Brexit. Syria. Incompetence beyond belief throughout the Atlantic Alliance. It is simply impossible that this is all unrelated.

        The neo-liberal snake has turned on itself and is eating its tail.

    4. Tom Bradford

      “Britain is upending the economic and foreign policies that have set its national course for half a century.”

      Well, half a century ago New Zealand exported most of its butter, cheese and lamb to the mother country for a steady flow of sterling in return. Then the UK joined what was then the Common Market and turned its back on New Zealand (and other Commonwealth counties) overnight like a hooray Henry ditching a pregnant girlfriend.

      After a decade of disruption and economic chaos New Zealand managed to realign itself with Asia, and particularly an emergent China, and is now doing very well, thank you. If the UK now comes knocking at our door with a bunch of flowers and an apology thinking all will be forgiven and we’ll hop back into bed with it, I think it will be sadly disillusioned. We’re all grown up now.

  12. Carolinian

    Re Bernie, Caitlin Johnstone, The Medium–Sanders comes off as perfectly sensible and level headed in interviews and yet when it comes to Russia he talks like Nikki Haley. Who can account for this strange madness that has gripped our political class? The Trump hate is so strong that almost any accusation is taken to be true.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t follow his speeches enough to say for sure, but it does seem to me that he only mentions it in scripted appearances, never in interviews, which suggests to me he feels the need to pay token fealty to orthodoxy on the issue, he doesn’t personaly have strong views one way or the other on it.

      It could also be that he has simply spent too much time in the company of establishment pols and just hasn’t looked into or thought about it enough to contradict it. I think one of Sanders political traits is that he only steps outside the Overton Window when he is fully briefed and competent on a topic.

      1. Carolinian

        One could speculate that Sanders doesn’t want to buck the tide because doing so would diminish support for his domestic issues. But then why bring up Russia at all? It’s almost as though it’s considered cost free virtue signaling.

        At any rate I think Johnstone is making a needed point. If you want a more rational government then you need to be consistent.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Agreed and Bernie’s history shows that he’s a persuadable person.

          If he’s got a lot of people yelling at him, saying “stop the russophobic nonsense”, he might give a little on the issue.

          We’re over a year into Russia-gate and there’s just too many powerful people who are deeply invested in this narrative for it to go away quickly. We’re going to have to find a way to ease it out of the picture.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I would agree, but perhaps in the back of his mind is that if a ‘smoking gun’ is found (even if its not a genuine one), then he would end up with egg on his face. In fact, that would be a very good motivation for certain people in the security establishment to ensure one is found.

        2. Eureka Springs

          If you want a more rational government/society simply ask for hard evidence. That Sanders is failing to do so on Russia does not bode well.

          1. witters

            Apparently (thanks PK) it is his manners obsession. He doesn’t want even the slighest chance that he will end up “with egg on his face.”

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Never in interviews.

        One would have to watch every interview to check that.

        And if indeed it never happens, is it because interviewers don’t ask, or is it the case that the interviewers ask him, but he remains silent?

      3. Elizabeth Burton

        I edit fiction for a living, and I read Bernie’s response to the SOTU, including the paragraph about Russia.

        First, it struck my “this is off-key” editorial string, because it was such a total departure from the bulk of his speech. Were I editing said speech, it would have received a note that to that effect, with the addition that it was so off-story as to be jarring.

        Second, it was near the very end of the piece, after all the important stuff had been covered; and was the last item in a rhetorical confrontation with Trump. In addition, the last part was very carefully composed to focus on the Trump administration’s being the source of the idea there would be Russian interference in November. Why, if there were any actual validity to the idea, would those most likely to benefit from it announce it to everybody and their cousin?

        I’ll vote with the segment that sees these inclusions of Russian mania as a sop thrown to ensure the Democrats can’t use their fairy tale against him when he runs. Given how many people are now convinced Russia stole the election for Trump, that matters. Nevertheless, it always sounds forced when he does it, and usually he’s quite adept at hitting on it and moving on as fast as possible.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      The memo, written by Downing Street foreign policy aide Matthew Rycroft, recorded the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) as expressing the view following his recent visit to Washington that “[George W.] Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

      It quoted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying it was clear that Bush had “made up his mind” to take military action but that “the case was thin.”

      –From Wikipedia entry on “Downing Street Memo”

    3. Kevin

      We’re just getting to the bottom of Natalie Woods drowning (insert obvious joke here) I think maybe, in similar fashion, in another 36 years, we’ll get to the bottom of whatever is going on now in Washington. Until then, people are making bucketloads of money in this media circus – others, unfortunately, are losing hours, days, months they will never get back watching the show.

      1. Lee

        I’m still trying to get to the bottom of Richard III, not to mention Romulus and Remus. And then there’s Cain and Abel. Palace intrigues make great entertainment at an historical remove.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          From Wikipedia, on Guangxu, the emperor before the last emperor:

          The Guangxu Emperor died on 14 November 1908, a day before the death of Empress Dowager Cixi. He died relatively young, at the age of 37. For a long time there were several theories about the emperor’s death, none of which was completely accepted by historians. Most were inclined to believe that the Guangxu Emperor was poisoned by Empress Dowager Cixi (herself very ill) because she was afraid of the emperor reversing her policies after her death, and wanted to prevent this from happening. The fact that the two died a day apart is significant. Another theory is that the Guangxu Emperor was poisoned by Yuan Shikai, who knew that if the emperor were to ever come to power again, Yuan would likely be executed for treason.[16] There were no reliable sources to prove who murdered the Guangxu Emperor. In 1911, Cixi’s former eunuch Li Lianying was murdered, possibly by Yuan, implying that they had conspired in the emperor’s murder. This theory was offered by Puyi in his biography, who claimed he heard it from an old eunuch.

          Most likely arsenic poisoning as later in the article, a 2008 test showed it to be 2,000 times normal.

          But who did it?

        2. Procopius

          Romulus and Remus is a fascinating case. Tantalizing. What was the reason? As is the Princes in the Tower. I heartily recommend Josephine Tey’s, The Daughter of Time.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        LOL but this imagines that we have some kind of national institutional memory that can endure, and thus be wise, when looking back on decades of egregious and incredibly costly errors so that we do not make them again.

        I seem to recall an episode where America committed its national blood and treasure to keeping Communists out of French Indo-China, resulting in a complete and unmitigated disaster for the nation and the world. This gave our genius leaders not a hint of pause, however, when committing our nation to doing precisely the same thing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

        When you hunt a deer and he hears or sees you, you just freeze motionless in place and wait for about 5 minutes, by which time the deer will have completely forgotten you existed. “There’s a dire threat that could kill me in an instant!” becomes “now where was that clump of of grass I was chomping on a minute ago?”

        1. Lee

          Sorry to nitpick but as one into wildlife conservation, I simply must. Deer are preferential browsers, not grazers. ; )

          Deer do eat grass but it is not their preferred or nutritionally-necessary food. Deer eat mostly browse (leaves, twigs, shoots of woody plants and vines) and forbs (weeds and other broadleaf flowering plants). They do eat some grass, but only when it is young, green and succulent.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Yes, that’s why they’re so hard on gardens and fruit trees. At one point, I planted clover in a long bare strip right outside our window, the best way to restore grass. A doe religiously kept it mowed off flat. They’ll go around picking off dandelion flowers, too.

    4. Ted

      What I enjoyed about Johnstone’s piece was her own confidence in asserting “friends don’t let friends Russiagate.” This is quite a change from a year ago when it seems everyone felt they needed to blunt their criticism, just in case it turned out to be true (as if!). Now the alternative left press is boldly calling it out for what it is, an unbelievably total exemplar of media and political class propaganda. That it has been so successful suggests to me that we are in a new era if what 20th century sociologists called “the mass society.” Where new media (then radio, movies, and newspapers) created a collective consciousness that was incredibly successful in promoting elite interests (and the world into a series of incredibly violent and destructive wars). Well, here we are again, authoritarianism (this time brought to you by team blue) is everywhere on the rise … and gleefully embraced by the public and the professional classes. Particularly by the professional classes. That a confident left criticism is emerging is a hopeful sign. Time to dust off your old Frankfurt school texts, as they might have a thing or two to make use of.

      1. Carolinian

        Oh I think some of us have been calling it bs from the beginning and looked on in disbelief as Boris and Natasha jumped off the Bullwinkle TV screen into real life. The “make your own reality” thing may apply even more to the Dems than to the Dubya era Repubs.

        1. Procopius

          While I’m glad to see more people realizing how foolish the whole thing is there are still a couple or six blogs I like a lot where all the commenters are still as utterly convinced Russia robbed Hillary of her rightful inheritance as your crazy uncle is that the email he’s forwarding is absolute truth you absolutely need to know. Not one of them has a scintilla of evidence, but they hate Trump so much they can’t believe it’s not going to be his downfall.

    5. Sid Finster

      My SWAG is that Bernie has figured out that if he wants to run in 2020, he had better give the Deep State what it wants. He’s already in bad graces for running against the Anointed Queen.

        1. Procopius

          I don’t think that would be nice. I think it would just drive the neoliberals to new depths of madness.

  13. Wukchumni

    California and Beyond: The State(s) of The Expanding Drought Weather Underground. “[S]nowpack at just 14 percent of the historical average.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Aside from black bears, the rest of Mother Nature’s clients exploded in population last year after 5 years of long drought and a most bountiful winter, must’ve seen 350 deer in the higher climes, and there were so many gophers here, some greens had 47 holes sans pins, making it difficult knowing which one to save par on with your approach shot from a catch .22?

    It was akin to QE for creatures big & small, and then came stark austerity again. There’ll be a scramble to survive.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Couldn’t anyone bother to plant a hedge around it?

        Next time Musk tweets about Mars, could everyone ask him to shrink the Sahara as a demonstration project?

        Between the tree shooting drones, the CO2, and the unemployment, I’m about to go spare.

        “I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.”

  14. JohnnyGL

    Dropping this here for readers to see what the original headline was from the AP.

    They’ve since changed it. Trump to DEFY FBI? Who’s supposed to be giving the orders around here, anyway?

    1. Pat

      Our intelligence agencies and military have had a hard time with civilian authority for a long time but they needed to be somewhat circumspect about that as people still had this idea that the President was boss. The rebellion and denial resulting from President Trump has just let them be outright about it.

      1. Mark P.

        Our intelligence agencies and military have had a hard time with civilian authority …. (but) needed to be somewhat circumspect.

        Circumspect is not a word that immediately comes to one’s mind when one recalls the Kennedy assassination. But all things are relative, of course.

  15. Pat

    At an event with Rose McGowan, Ronan Farrow stated that during the investigation of Weinstein the New Yorker needed to have two on the record accusers at all times (meaning that if anyone took themselves out, another woman had to step up – McGowan took herself out at one point). He apologized and said that was how it was at that point. The audience had a totally different reaction than I did. After all the BS that has been flying around regarding Russia, I want that standard on all reporting. You don’t have two on the record willing to be named sources on Russia interfering with the election, it isn’t a story. You don’t have two on the record sources regarding Mueller’s intentions, it isn’t a story. Etc.

    Perhaps that is too high a standard in general, but our current rumor mongering standard on many things – not just Russia, makes most of our vaunted press to appear to be PR outlets and all propaganda all the time.

    (I also had a friend that tried to say that Clinton was ambitious but after Trump you couldn’t call her or Bill corrupt. I think I took them aback when I stated that if it weren’t for the naturalization of corruption under Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama you wouldn’t have Trump. And all the others did was speed the snow ball running down the hill. Just because the buyers no longer see any reason to pay for the influence but have instead just taken it doesn’t change the fact that whatever the motives the influence peddling and subsequent enrichment because of that was still corrupt. Perhaps if our vaunted press had been outraged earlier, we wouldn’t need to have these kind of discussions.)

    1. fresno dan

      Pat
      February 2, 2018 at 10:33 am

      =====================================
      Certainly agree with your points Pat. It just seems to me intellectual honestly, and setting standards that apply to all equally is something most humans don’t even TRY to do….4 legs good, 2 legs bad.
      “A nation of laws, not men”
      OUCH! I hurt myself laughing……

    2. rd

      Requiring two on the record sources would mean that the White House would have no way to communicate with the public anymore.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Or at least socially require a descriptive two-word adjective to each Unnamed Source. E.g. “A rather snippy unnamed source” or “an obviously butthurt unnamed source”. Might be tempting to journalists.

      2. Pat

        White House? Insert any Washington or Albany* government or political office in that statement of you want to be accurate regarding the state of “commnication” with the public.

        * Probably not limited to that state capital either.

  16. Baby Gerald

    I promised to go away, but here’s another great article by Amaru Baraka on Counterpunch to perhaps add to the New Cold War section- and a great companion piece to The Onion article linked above:

    Normalizing the supposed sanctity of the FBI needs to stop.

  17. DJG

    Time for a new Church Committee:

    Even the Republicans listed look like real people, especially compared to the current inhabitants of the Senate. Undoubtedly, the Democrats would tap the statespersonlike Claire McCaskill to defend our civil rights and civil liberties.

  18. DJG

    Lessons from Nokia: One of the weirdest things about Nokia is that the company engages in endless stock buy-backs, a sign that mismanagement still continues.

    I have two Nokia phones. I am reminded of Yves Smith’s admonitions to carry a dumb phone. Nokia’s phones do the job and are sufficiently dowdy that they are less likely to attract unwanted attention. They also travel very well: They are good at picking up signals and getting going once at the destination.

    And Nokia’s phones have always been a tad cheaper than the groovy brands.

  19. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Leaks, feasts and sex parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia WaPo

    Others present for the March 2006 Singapore dinner included the Blue Ridge’s commanding officer, Capt. Jeff Bartkoski, and the 7th Fleet chaplain, Capt. William Devine, who posed for a photo with a thick cigar in his mouth.
    —–
    In an interview, Devine, a Catholic priest who has since retired from the military, said he “vaguely” remembered the dinner. “I didn’t sense there was any inappropriateness,” he added.

    Devine said he recalled discussing the ethics alert with the 7th Fleet’s top lawyer at the time it was issued. But he was at a loss to explain why he decided to go to Francis’s soiree anyway.

    “I guess in my naivete I never saw that as going against any rules,” said Devine, who now serves as the pastor of a parish in Bridgewater, Mass. “I guess I didn’t make that connection at the time. Shame on me.”

    “Bless me, ‘father,’ for I have sinned……”

    O. M. G.

    Go forth and sin no more, my son. But just in case, watch your backs, Bridgewater, Mass.

  20. Craig H.

    The most amazing thing on the internet yesterday was posted on The Intercept. It is a five minute video where all the footage comes from television file shots of plays where one of the guys got a concussion this season.

  21. dcblogger

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Democrat is seeking documents from the National Rifle Association and the Treasury Department following reports of an FBI investigation into whether a Russian central banker funneled money to the group during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    In letters sent to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the NRA on Friday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon requested any documents showing financial links between Russia and the gun lobbying organization.

    McClatchey launched this story and I think it has legs

    1. Wukchumni

      Guns should know by now that smoking is no good for them, if the fishing derby cuts bait and lands caviar emptor.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      That is some eleventy dimensional chess.

      I mean, the connection between the National Rifle Association and Putin is obvious to us all. But how are we going to get the people to believe it?

      Actually, it feels like the basic Clinton, ‘I know you are, but what am I?”.

    3. 3.14e-9

      If the story has legs, it needs crutches. This whole Torshin/NRA thing has been around for nearly two years. It would have been news if the FBI wasn’t investigating.

      The story so far: Big Russian banker guy, Alexander Torshin, is a long-time supporter of the NRA, and the NRA contributed big money to Trump; therefore, the campaign received foreign money, and from a Russian who, given his former high position at the Central Bank of Russia and former political roles, must undoubtedly be close to Putin.

      There’s one small problem: Torshin either resigned or was relieved of his CBR appointment, probably in December 2016. Deputy governors are appointed by the State Duma for five-year terms. Torshin was out in just under two. Since the governors serve at the pleasure of Putin, a likely explanation is that Putin was not pleased with Torshin’s shenanigans, which were being exposed far and wide in the media following a Bloomberg story in August 2016.

      The source of the Bloomberg article was a report by Spanish law enforcement, which was investigating a Russian crime ring suspected of laundering money through real estate in Spain. One of Torshin’s closest associates, who also had been on the CBR board, got jail time. Torshin himself was never charged or called to testify. But he was “charged” by the media for having attended an NRA gala, where he actually spoke with Don Jr. (OMG). For what it’s worth, the McClatchy story reported that Torshin tried to get a personal meeting with candidate Trump, but Jared Kushner put the kibosh on that idea.

      The McClatchy reporters evidently didn’t check out the CBR website, unless it was just to get an email address to request a comment (which they never received), or they would have realized that Torshin was long gone. But it’s playing well with the base, so torpedo the facts, full speed ahead!

      Shortly after Trump was elected, Think Progress, the newsletter for the Center for American Progress, published an article with the headline, “Why has the NRA been cozying up to Russia?” What a neat way to shoot two birds with one stone. WaPo one-upped them with a three-fer that included the Christian Right.

      It’s all so clear to me now: Putin is an authoritarian, Trump admires Putin, Trump is a Republican; therefore, the GOP is serving Putin and will destroy Our Democracy™ if we don’t join the #resistance.

      A few links:

      Guns and religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia ()

      Why has the NRA been cozying up to Russia? ()
      The Right to Bear Arms in Moscow enjoys a close relationship with America’s leading gun-rights group.

      The original Bloomberg story is behind a pay wall, but you can read it here:

      Russian mobster or central banker? Spanish investigators allege Alexander Torshin is both ()

      1. 3.14e-9

        CORRECTION: Of course, one typo always slips through. The “one small problem” in the second paragraph is that the media are reporting that Torshin IS a deputy governor (some are reporting “the” deputy governor) and not a FORMER governor. The way I wrote it, the third paragraph makes no sense.

        It may seem like splitting hairs, as he held the position during the 2016 presidential campaign, but that he didn’t finish even two full years of a five-year appointment says something about just how close to Putin he is.

        A bigger story in my mind is that Team D isn’t backing away from this idea of the NRA as Kremlin enablers. Then, as we’re seeing daily in the links, everyone who doesn’t agree with the neolib D party line is being branded as some variation of Kremlin stooge, Putin lapdog, etc. This is not going to end well.

    1. Hamford

      Thanks for this. Makes me wonder, what is the oligarch attraction to NZ? Is it perhaps their location of choice for a post-apocalyptic kingdom.

      Has the lush country been determined by those in the know as most resilient to climate change? Or a small population that can be appeased rather than rioting? One of the few places left with unfarmed arable land? Just some thoughts…

      1. blennylips

        If they once thought NZ was a climate refuge, t’aint anymore:

        very recent headlines:

        2017: A year of ‘weather extremes’ – Niwa | Radio New Zealand News
        2017 – the year extreme weather ravaged New Zealand – NZ Herald
        NZ’s fifth hottest year on record marked by ‘weather extremes’
        200 Whales Beached Nz – The Largest Whale In The World

        etc, etc, etc

  22. John Beech

    I live in central Florida. I have, since 1980, been a safely straight-ticket Republican-voter but during the last go around, I voted for Democrat Stephanie Murphy, Hillary’s handpicked candidate vs. Republican Rep. John Mica. Why? Simple, John Mica first opposed and then embraced a toll on I-4 new construction through downtown Orlando. Lexus lanes infuriate me. Period. Enough to speak up at church and at my club and business meetings just to try and sway voters against him. he lost and I was happy. Hope someone learns a lesson from it because I will be active against toll roads every time.

    a) The Federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4¢ per gallon.
    b) This gas tax hasn’t increased since 1993.
    c) There are roughly twice as many cars are on the road since then, achieving roughly twice the fuel economy, so net-net tax amounts to basically the same.
    d) Do roads cost the same to build and maintain as 25 years ago?
    e) The price of gas has gone from $2.10 to $2.50 in the last few months.
    f) There are no riots in the streets because of it.

    My point?
    1. Raise the excise tax by a quarter.
    2. Do it immediately.
    3. Index it to fleet average fuel economy (so it doesn’t net less as cars become more efficient).
    4. Create a similar KW excise tax for electric cars.

    Get to building and repairing roads and bridges! Don’t wait.

    Finally, with respect to transport, do something similar. ditto for public transport (buses), trains, aviation, etc. E.g. to support their infrastructure because not one nickle of gas tax should support their users. Last thing, ensure there’s a provision to chop Congresses’ hands off if they try to dip into the monies.

    Bottom line? An excise tax nearly self-administers so bureaucracy costs are minimized. Moreover, the source of funding is stable, e.g. it can be depended on. Regressive on the poor? Yup . . . but that’s the way it is. Live with it. Good thing I’m not king for a day, eh?

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Bottom line: Creating yet another flat tax that falls heavier on those less able to pay it, and punishes those who actively try to limit their environmental impact while doing nothing to penalize those who can afford to and do utilize gas-hog vehicles they don’t need.

  23. neo-realist

    To no surprise, poor people, specifically SNAP recipients, are not able to shop at Amazon Go since it doesn’t accept food stamps. A social network for activists has collected over 14k signatures to present to Jeff Bezos to demand that food stamps be accepted at Amazon Go stores.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That would be an interesting battle – $2 free shipping orders from China, vs. Amazon Go stores.

      “I think I will order that soy milk, delivered to the house at no charge, No compulsive shipping for me.
      I can wait a few days.”

  24. Arthur Dent

    I am baffled about a party that is constantly going on about respecting first responders, standing up for the anthem, views questioning of FISA as un-American (because of course only foreign ragheads are a threat to the country), supports stop-and-frisk as an essential “law and order” tool, and civil forfeiture of assets (your money is guilty even if you are not), is worrying about a little bit of procedural stuff in a FISA court application.

    It appears the House Intelligence Committee is joining the ABA defense bar by writing this memo that appears to be a rehash of the typical “technicalities” raised by defense attorney, that are constantly denounced by the “law and order” folks as getting in the way of real justice.

    After all, if the police want a search warrant, it is always obvious that they have a good reason for it. I assume Devin Nunes et al are going to be providing a lot more support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the future as the issues raised by the House Intelligence Committee and the Black Lives matter seem to have a lot of overlap on police over-reach. The one nice thing about wire-taps is that the person being wire-tapped is unlikely to be shot to death by the officer unlike a DWB or stop-and-frisk moment.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think their narrative is that we need FISA. That’s what they think. Many don’t agree. But they voted for it, along with many Democrats.

      What they are saying with respect to the memo is that some government workers used it for partisan purposes.

      The equivalent would be the police targeting only Progressives, Democrats, Independents or Republicans, even to the point of not disclosing evidence in their favor.

      1. Arthur Dent

        The partisans in the FBI investigating the Republican candidate appear to include many long-time Republicans. So I think this is more of a “deep state” issue where bureaucrats are going after outsider politicians than a partisan issue. I assume that means Devin Nunes is worried about a deep state that can misuse FISA and will be voting to defang FISA a lot to protect American citizens.

        I assume Devin Nunes would have been horrified if he came across information indicating that the FBI was illegitimately surveilling people like Martin Luther King.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The partisanship comes in through the connection of the dossier to Clinton, and the memo claims that those government workers knew that.

    2. Procopius

      … if the police want a search warrant, it is always obvious that they have a good reason for it.

      Hahahahahahahaha! You make the comedy.

  25. Oregoncharles

    “New research suggests toward end of Ice Age, human beings witnessed fires larger than dinosaur killers”

    There’s another body of evidence that may support this; sorry I don’t have a link, it’s from an article a while ago, I think on paper. Maybe someone else remembers where it comes from. The gist:

    The Southeast US is sprinkled with very odd lakes/marshes. They’re elongated ovals, usually fringed with trees, and usually a few acres in size. There is no evidence of stone in the bottom, so probably not made by meteors. When the long axes are plotted, they all point to somewhere around Minnesota or adjoining Canada. The theory in the article was that something hit the ice sheet and bombarded the SE(and presumably other areas that didn’t preserve evidence) with flying icebergs. It’s all pretty recent, in geological terms; I don’t remember the supposed dates, but the end of the Ice Age makes sense.

    1. blennylips

      I believe you are referring to the the “Carolina bays” – fascinating stuff I only recently learned existed.

      Were Carolina bays created by the Saginaw Impact Manifold?

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Ehh. The Wikipedia preference is that the bays are features created by the prevailing winds from the glacial period. Which is pretty cool if you aren’t stuck on comets.

        I’m going to look deeper because a thermohaline conveyer collapse and comet impact just appeals too much to my Murphy priors.

        1. Grebo

          Graham Hancock has been using both these phenomena to support the ‘Atlantis’ hypothesis for some years:
          A wacky theory I grant, but it keeps getting more credible:
          You don’t have to believe a wacky theory to enjoy it, and Hancock is at the sane end of the wacky spectrum.

  26. I give up

    Management’s hands in the tip-pool:

    Will Danny Meyer soon stop pretending it’s to help the cooks? If it’s not against the regs, he won’t have to BS his customers anymore with his excuses for vacuuming up diners’ largesse. His PR machine is enviable.

  27. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Trump Has Got Democrats Right Where He Wants Them Thomas Edsall, NYT (Re Silc). On immigration.

    I wonder, but I can’t say for sure, if Trump has got the Swamp right where he wants them as well.

    That would suggest he’s an even higher dimensional (than 11) chess grand master.

  28. Phacops

    Re: Younger Dryass Cosmic Impact.

    I remain skeptical about ascribing biological effects to cosmic impacts, especially when explanations are provided by people without training in biology or the historical science of paleontology. The astrophysicists and planetary geologists after Chicxulub seem intent on posing rocks from space as a driver of biological change. Alas, better measurements of extinctions around the KPg boundary demonstrates a timing and pattern that does not support the Alvarez hypothesis, especially when, during that period, there were massive volcanic eruptions in India that created the Deccan Traps as well as oceanic recession during that same time.

    The takeaway? Don’t count on rocks from space to explain biological transitions.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s always thus – better best-explanation today than the one yesterday.

      Otherwise, we get no progress, if our definition is that today’s best is better.

      So, perhaps, count on no explanations.

    2. Arthur Dent

      The Pleistocene had huge arid areas south of the Ice Sheets, many of which ended up with huge wind-blown silt deposits (Loess). Here is a map of the extent of these areas just in North America. similar areas are present in Europe and Asia (e.g. much of Mongolia and China)

      So 12,800 years ago was a very unstable time for vegetation where vegetation was rapidly expanding from the south back into the north as the ice sheets and the huge glacial lakes retreated. So these areas were occupied by colonizing species, such as grass, pine, poplar etc., all of which are major players in a regular fire-based ecosystem. so it is very possible that comets, meteors etc. started fires, but it is kind of like the wildfires in California and the lodgepole pine forests in the mountains, where every 30-50 years it is a fire just waiting for a match.

  29. Liberal Mole

    Over-educated idiots remove Waterhouse’s “Hylas and the Nymphs” from viewing, including the postcards. That painting, is one of the most famous of the Late Pre-Raphaelites, and Pre-Raphaelite art is one of the few reasons people even bother to visit that museum. 30 years ago it was the only reason why I took a train from London to dreary Manchester. I suggest next that the Neue Galerie take down “The Woman in Gold” so they too can start a “conversation.” Twits.

    1. Mark P.

      ‘Over-educated idiots remove Waterhouse’s “Hylas and the Nymphs.”

      Apparently not educated enough to know the Hylas story that the painting depicts, though, because the whole point of it is that it ends badly for Hylas and the male gaze.

  30. Oregoncharles

    Is the Memo posted yet? From Salon, of all places:

    “scribd,” not the most legible, but there it is.

  31. audrey jr

    It seems to me that the entire country has embraced a neo-Victorian era. If you can imagine the Victorian era with the tech thrown in for good measure and to add a large dollop of dispassionate cruelty to the mixture.
    Between the excellent post on life as a Whole Foods/Amazon worker and what we’ve known for a while about Bozos employment practices I don’t see how anyone, in good conscience, can patronize Whole Paycheck or Amazon.
    In our new world order technology meets the Robber Baron like the rubber meets the road, to borrow from an old advertising slogan.
    It will be difficult to escape from this new mindset, as the “eyes” are literally everywhere, and I am glad that I am entering my senior years so I don’t have to spend many more decades living under the yoke of what appears to me to be an increasingly cold and emotionally desolate desert of a planet. I fear for my children and grandchildren who will have to find their way in a world which may not anything like the world we older Americans have known.
    But then again maybe I just read too much science fiction. Or read too much period. Rant over. Feel better now. Thanks Yves, Lambert, JLS and all who make NC an oasis of sanity in an insane world. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Well, have you tried the Archdruid, now at Ecosophia? Even if he’s too much, there’s links to people who are trying to thinking small and local.

      I’m in a class C market, but boy it sucks to think that every time I order from Amazon, I’m being a lot less ethical than the guys in the Stanford Prison Experiment.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Amazon is just starting to be set up in Australia, though in a half-hearted, stalling way. I think that their business plan was to use the convicts transported out here from the UK for free labour so they did not have to pay their employees but then someone pointed out to them after arriving that convict transportation ended in the 19th century.
        We have work for the dole schemes for the unemployed out here but not for when they work for a mega-corporation so that option is out as well. Then they found out that like the Amazon workforces in Italy and Germany, that they will fight back and that there are few votes in the Government backing Amazon here. Hopefully they will just bail and go home.

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