Links 12/1/17

December 1, 2017

Patient readers: Yves had to cope with some personal matters over the last 24 hours and had to turn in. Hence no original posting from her today. –lambert

Meet Max, the cat who lost the library but won the Internet WaPo (DK). Domesticating the humans…

Scallops have 200 eyes, which focus like telescopes Japan Times

Bird-Brained Behaviour: Pheasant Cognition Animal Cognition

Bitcoin Is Sucking All the Oxygen Bloomberg

World’s biggest bitcoin exchange launches in U.S. as currency nears $10K American Banker

Coinbase ordered to give the IRS data on users trading more than $20,000 TechCrunch (CM).

Report: Wells Fargo may face more federal sanctions over insurance, mortgage practices LA Times. Why are these criminals still walking the streets?

Europe’s chief regulator Margrethe Vestager on reining in tech: ‘This is the biggest wake-up call we’ve ever had’ Recode

Letter: “We write to you regarding the ‘Algorithms: How Companies’ Decisions About Data and Content Impact Consumers’ hearing (PDF) EPIC

Uber’s use of encrypted messaging may set legal precedents Reuters. Just spitballing here, but it’s occurred to me that “eyes on the prize” for the big money backing Uber might not be Uber’s (non-existent) prospect of profit, or even Uber’s shiny narrative, but the prospect of a successful IPO for an outright criminal organization, which would mean that for capital, the abolition of the rule of law would open and clear. Via Snow Crash:

“The Mafia wouldn’t do that.”

“Don’t be a sap,” Hiro says. “Of course they would.”

Y.T. seems miffed at Hiro.

“Look,” he says, “I’m sorry for reminding you of this, but if we still had laws, the Mafia would be a criminal organization.”

“But we don’t have laws,” she says, “so it’s just another chain.”

Just another outlaw predator corporation. The difference with Uber would be that anybody paying attention knew the story going in.

Uber Investor Shervin Pishevar Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Multiple Women Bloomberg. The fish rots from the head.

Uber’s Data Breach Cover-Up Strategy May Be More Common Than You’d Think National Law Journal

Lloyds Bank settles with couple hit by HBOS fraud Reuters


Hickory, dickory, dock: Time’s up Handelsblatt

UK concessions mark slow surrender to Brexit reality FT

How the Irish Border Became Brexit’s Biggest Hurdle Der Spiegel

North Korea

North Korea: “The Missile Program Is Now Complete” Moon of Alabama

The New Hwasong-15 ICBM: A Significant Improvement That May be Ready as Early as 2018 38 North

North Korea missile launch: dictator’s consistent strategy confounds America and allies Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times

China and US step up military talks to prepare for the worst on North Korea South China Morning Post

Trump says China’s diplomacy failing to rein in North Korea Asia Times

He’s got a point:

Big Rocket Man Gary Wills, NYRB. On executive power.


China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Prospects and Pitfalls The Diplomat

Chinese man repaints road markings to make his commute quicker South China Morning Post. The robots aren’t gonna like that…


China pumps billions into Iranian economy as Western firms hold off South China Morning Post

How—and why—to end the war in Yemen Economist

Blackwater founder pitches plan to quell Libya migrant crisis with private police Guardian

US putting off planned ban on its use of cluster bombs AP

B-52s Are Dropping Hundreds of Dumb Bombs in Afghanistan to Literally Shape the Terrain The Drive. Proven technique. It’s how we won Viet Nam. Oh, wait…

Strong Evidence that U.S. Special Operations Forces Massacred Civilians in Somalia Daily Beast. If the goal is blowback, here as in Yemen, we’re doing quite well. Ka-ching.

Who Gets to Speak about Anti-Semitism? “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice” at the New School for Social Research Tikkun

Tax “Reform”

Republicans rewriting tax bill — with fight pushed into Friday Politico

Republicans’ tax reform drive hit by deficit projections FT

Stoller on the tax bill:

Yves comments:

The overarching goal of the bill is ‘tax reform”. The centerpiece of that is the simplification of corporate taxation and the lowering of corporate tax rates from 35% to 20%.

But doing that requires goring every ox that moves. The US has a very low Federal tax as a % of GDP by global standards, so the deficit hawks can’t be satisfied by cutting programs to make the budget balance. There aren’t enough cuts to be had.

So they have to go after loopholes and other breaks.

Two examples:

1. Under the current version of the bill, private equity gets hurt because a 20% passthrough rate would be higher than the capital gains rate they are generally able to get on the bulk of their income

2. Many multinationals are unhappy with the bill. Recall they typically can get their taxes to a ridiculously low level due to transfer pricing games and for companies with intellectual property, putting that in a low tax jurisdiction like Ireland and charging royalties on it.

Under the new tax bill, we’d go to a quasi territorial system where companies are taxed only on US income as opposed to global income. However, the bill would eliminate being able to attribute income to entities in foreign countries that didn’t have real operations (this is a crude summary, a tax person could explain this better). The net effect is many (maybe even most) multinationals would come out worse.

So, to top it all off, we have elite conflict between owners of different kinds of capital.

Rubio: Offset Tax Cuts By Reducing Social Security, Medicare Benefits Financial Advisor. Remember that Boehner and Obama had a handshake deal on a Grand Bargain, even though it fell through because Boehner was undercut by the so-called Freedom Caucus.

The GOP tax plan is a ‘catastrophe’ that’ll make inequality ‘materially worse’ Business Insider. Says Robert Crandall (!!), ex-CEO of American Airlines.

The Health Coverage Stakes In The Tax Debate: The Individual Market And Beyond Health Affairs

The Senate’s tax bill is a sweeping change to every part of federal health care Sarah Kliff, Vox

Trump’s Tax Promises Undercut by CEO Plans to Help Investors Bloomberg

Trump Transition

How Donald Trump uses tribal loyalty to drive economic optimism Gillian Tett, FT. Important. I can’t help but speculate that this accounts for the well-known divergence of survey responses and Federal data.

Trump Executive Actions a ‘Disruptive’ Lot Roll Call. It would be really helpful if there were some institution — say, a functional opposition party — that focused on these issues. Instead, what we get is gaslighting Russia, Trump’s mental state, pearl-clutching, virtue-signaling, etc.

Experts Are Really, Really Worried About The State Of The 2020 Census HuffPo

New Cold War

“Earth-shattering!” Bah! Humbug! The Power of Narrative

Trump and the Russian ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’ Lowy Institute. New word: Maskirovka. To replace, I supppose, kompromat with the chin-stroking crowd.

Sex in Politics… Not

#MeToo Is All Too Common in National Security Foreign Policy

Kick Against the Pricks NYRB. A useful heuristic:

What’s been particularly horrifying to learn is the seriality of the harassment enterprise, the enormous numbers of victims so many of the sexual exploiters racked up. It’s like they’re on autopilot, programmed to extract sex—or recompense, or humiliation, or something—from unwilling women. Whatever they’re after, clearly no quantity of it ever suffices. Learning about other humans acting so robotically presents a conceptual difficulty. We wish to emphasize the moral agency of the predators, their supposed gains—sadistic pleasure, the glee of getting away with it—which enlarges their monstrosity and distinguishes them from the rest of us. But who would “choose” to be a robot?

Accumulation of the most primitive sort…

Supreme Court’s cake case pits gay rights versus Christian faith Reuters. But cf. John 8:5-9.

Big Brother Is Watching You

Argument analysis: Drawing a line on privacy for cellphone records, but where? SCOTUSblogs

Amazon is flooding the zone with new cloud A.I. tools that translate, transcribe, and track people CNBC

Class Warfare

The Red and the Black Jacobin

An end to ‘want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness’: why the Beveridge report flew off the shelves in 1942 The Conversation

‘You’re right: We’re a threat,’ British Labour leader Corbyn warns Morgan Stanley Reuters. Remember what Obama said to the bankers? “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” If you’re looking to distinguish between the left and liberals, there’s a good heuristic.

Growing up in forgotten America American Enterprise Institute. Chris Arnade. Oddly, or not, AEI and not CAP.

Report: Amazon Warehouse Employees Worked to Exhaustion as Robots Threaten Jobs Brietbart. I really hate to link to Brietbart, but again, why isn’t a story about Amazon abusing its workers all over liberal venues like CAP? (Can’t CAP afford to repackage the original Mirror story, like Breitbart?)

Transit experts propose ending NYC’s 24/7 subway system New York Daily News (J-LS). Don’t worry. There will be shuttle buses.

More than half of U.S. kids will be obese by the time they’re 35, study predicts Los Angeles Times. Ka-ching.

The Great Baby Bust of 2017 Medium

Antidote du jour (via):

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.

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