Link Roundup, 8/31/2019

From Wired: How Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account was hacked.

From Regulations.gov: Trump Administration proposing to slash public oversight of logging decisions on public land.

From ArsTechnica: A complex picture of the impact of genes on sexual orientation.

From The New Republic: A first-person appeal from a psychologist working with suicidal farmers.

From Business Insider: Spike in fuel card delinquencies points to looming bankruptcies in shipping.

From CNBC: Air cargo volumes are collapsing along with the trucking industry.

39 Comments

  1. This update on farm loan delinquencies helped me understand the New Republic piece a bit better from an economic standpoint. What still confuses me is why farmers risked buyer relationships that took years to build after their 2001 debacle in the first place.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-09-06/wisconsin-farm-loan-delinquencies-jump-levels-not-seen-2001

    Why are their representatives so tepid in calling out the trade war that is killing the livelihood of their constituents? I might be shocked again in November 2020 but I can’t imagine Trump getting Wisconsin and Iowa again.

      1. EJ

        I don’t mean to discriminate against Russian media by any means, and I would be fascinated to read high-quality Russian analysis of current events (if any is in English, German or French, as sadly I cannot read Russian). My hesitance should be understood as being directed towards media which is directed towards a non-Russian audience and which does not make its Russian funding links plain; that is to say, state propaganda.

        (Russian propaganda is no more and no less inherently bad than German propaganda or American propaganda, or indeed Disney or Apple propaganda, of course; but the world would be a better place if we were rid of it altogether.)

  2. Question:

    Is the precious metals depositories in the states activities related to
    the return to the gold standard movement related to
    a desire for a federal government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub?

    I’ve started my due diligence on the November ballot and proposition 9 led me to discussions of good money (metal standard) and bad money (federal money), and how a limited money supply (metal standard) would limit the federal government ability to act. In emergencies. In non-emergencies. Government in the bathtub.

    i think that’s what I’m seeing. Please, chime in.

    Proposition 9 on the Texas ballot:

    https://ballotpedia.org/Texas_Proposition_9,_Precious_Metals_in_Depositories_Exempt_from_Property_Tax_Amendment_(2019)

  3. Sorry this is more relevant to your Open Letter piece Chris. I am a bit gobsmacked by this article in Mother Jones regarding a $50 million dollar loan Trump owes to his company Chicago Unit Acquisition Inc.

    It appears as an asset (Account Receivable) on the company books. The company has no revenues and Trump notes it on his federal financial disclosure but there is no record of this debt. This would lead a forensic accountant to believe the loan was invented…made up to avoid taxes on $50 million. Complicated in its construction but a simple fraud nonetheless. I only share it because like your illustrations in the Open Letter piece it demonstrates our President is Tony Soprano. Only he uses Government as his front instead of Waste Management.

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/09/donald-trump-has-never-explained-a-mysterious-50-million-chicago-unit-acquisition-loan-is-it-evidence-of-tax-fraud/

    1. Thing is, it’s actually not that complicated. As Enron demonstrated, it’s difficult for a public company to pull off, but for private entities, especially a family-run LLC with little concern about law enforcement, it’s a breeze. He likely has dozens if not hundreds of these scattered through his various corporate entities.

  4. I might add in reply to Fly that the individual farmers are not really that white supremacist or racist. That is on the individual level, however. There are still the long standing institutional barriers based on white supremacy and racism, that frequently precludes Hispanics and other minorities from being able to get the required educations and financial support necessary to get established in the agricultural sector. When I mentioned above that the operations are being turned over to Hispanics, that is generally through a lease-to-own, through wills or some other private arrangement, rather than through market mechanisms.

    1. I agree 100% here. Someone like EJ who has a better working knowledge of the parliamentary system is can correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression of Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament was very high risk/low reward. I can’t see what he would gain, and he just lit a bonfire under his opponents.

      Brexit, as it was done, is an stupid idea, and no-deal Brexit is orders of magnitudes dumber. One legit argument I’ve heard from the Leave side is the bad effects of the austerity measures. But my issue with their cause is 1) they resorted to some outright lies about the benefits of Brexit, and 2) they put it on the ballot with absolutely zero plan about how they would leave. This is gross political malpractice.

      1. Some are spinning this as the liar playing 3D chess and hoped this would happen, since he will call a snap election for Oct 14th, which his then even more pro-Brexit party will win, essentially giving them a mandate to pull out.

        There is quite a bit of logic to that, actually, since it is fully plausible.

      2. EJ

        I think a full summary would be longer than I have space for here; if Chris wants to tap me to write a guest article then I’d be happy to, otherwise I’ll content myself with a few quick remarks.

        Firstly, it is important to understand that Britain nowadays is very radicalised: everyone is aware what their opinion is, all those who could be persuaded have been persuaded, and all the alliances that can be made have been made. Both major parties have been captured by their hardline wings. Moderates have either become radicals or have left their parties and drifted into ill-defined, electorally irrelevant centre groups.

        As a result, Johnson achieves nothing by trying to reach a compromise, because there is no compromise that can be reached. He does, however, risk a great deal by attempting this, because his own party will interpret this as treason.

        Secondly, Brexit is an issue almost perfectly chosen to cause the self destruction of the Conservative party. The Conservative party traditionally consists of a pro-business wing, who cannot abide a UK which is not networked into the rest of the world, and a nativist wing, who cannot abide a UK which is. This conflict is irreconcilable: the party can only operate if the issue is politely ignored, which is no longer possible. It has resulted in the nativist wing coming strongly into the ascendancy and the pro-business wing either converting to nativists, pretending to convert to nativism, or leaving the party.

        Thirdly, this has happened in the tail end of a long process which began in the crash of 2007-2008, which has sent the Labour party into a similar internal schism between socialists and social democrats. Labour had managed to reach an uneasy peace wherein the socialist faction took power while the party was in opposition, in the hope that they could be wrestled away from the controls if and when Labour had a chance of winning once more. However, that time is now and the socialists have no intention of giving up the controls.

        Lastly, the most uncomfortable truth is that Britain is a small country on the borders of the EU, which is large, rich and very capitalist. Britain only has those options which the EU chooses to allow it to have. However, the Conservatives cannot admit this to themselves because allowing foreigners power over them is anathema, and Labour cannot admit this to themselves because allowing capitalists power over them is anathema.

        It may look like a complicated issue, but once you understand that it is a matter of people trying not to face uncomfortable truths while trying to mend unmendable schisms, it in fact becomes very simple.

      3. EJ, one question…..

        Have the polling numbers that are pro-Brexit/ con-Brexit changed since the reality of what will happen started filtering out?

        I also know that Scotland is very pro-Brexit, and there are serious rumblings of them leaving the U.K. over this, and I believe Southern Ireland feels the same.

      4. EJ

        Polling numbers have changed significantly.

        A poll carried out by Strathclyde University and published yesterday by BBC showed that Remain leads over Brexit by 44% vs 38%. A similar poll by Politico showed that Remain leads over Brexit by 49% vs 44%.

        (There are still some people who believe that a deal between the EU and UK is possible; there are also people who believe in horoscopes. Neither should be taken seriously. At this point Brexit and no-deal Brexit are synonyms.)

        One possible explanation for this is simply that Brexit is a cause in which people are divided strongly by age. Old people who support Brexit have died, young people who oppose it have become eighteen, but people who have gotten older have not shifted their opinions. Another explanation is that left-wing Brexit support has largely evaporated.

        I wouldn’t say that this is due to reality filtering in. Each side has picked its own reality. Anybody who was going to be persuaded by facts has already been. This is now about ideology.

        However, this is complicated because Brexit is not the only cause people care about. The main opposition party, Labour, is in the hands of unapologetic socialists, and many Remainers would rather see Brexit happen than see an openly socialist government take power. Likewise, there is a widespread belief that Brexit will result in a backlash that will lead to the Left taking power, and many Brexiteers don’t want Brexit if it means socialism.

        I’m not sure where you got the position that Scotland is pro-Brexit. At present, Scotland is slightly more pro-Remain than the UK as a whole, but is currently very strongly pro-independence, and this has been levered into a strongly Remain stance because it pisses off the English.

        It is a common belief that if Brexit happens, Scotland will declare independence and then apply to join the EU as an independent state. Whether or not this would happen, and whether the EU would accept Scotland, I can’t say. The EU doesn’t like breakaway regions but also doesn’t like the UK right now, and is not accustomed to hasty decisions.

        The Republic of Ireland, to my understanding, is very annoyed with the UK right now. Brexit would cause hardship for them, but bad decisions by the British have caused hardships for Ireland before, and they have refused to bow to the UK before.

      5. Thanks for the summary EJ. That does clear some stuff up.

        For the record, I need to carefully edit my typing. I meant to say that Scotland and the Southern Ireland (will call it by its correct term hereon) aka Republic of Ireland are pro-Remain, as you have clearly stated.

        Perhaps you can explain the “hard backstop option” (think that is the correct term) regarding the Irish border. I know that the Republic of Ireland is worried of going back to a closed border with barbed wire et al, again.

      6. Thank you very much for that EJ, it’s most informative.

        One of the things that concerns me most about the hard Brexit option is the Irish border issue. I am old enough to remember news reports about the Troubles and we don’t need that terrorist zombie coming back.

        It would be ironic if this mess results in the re-unification of Ireland.

      7. EJ

        Chris: Thanks for that. I shall write something over the weekend, if I may, and send it to you for proofing.

        Dinsdale:
        To make a very brief summary of a complex issue, it goes as follows.

        The EU guards its outer borders very fiercely; it is not likened to a fortress for nothing. The most important aspect of such borders is not security related, however, but trade related. When the UK leaves, the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the European member state of the Republic of Ireland will become such an external border. This will split many communities and probably lead to violence once more. Nobody wants this, not on either side of the border.

        To avoid a hard border, the previous UK government suggested an agreement whereby the UK agreed to keep its domestic laws on certain crucial matters, particularly agriculture and food standards, in harmony with EU law. This agreement was known as the backstop. It was immediately regarded as unacceptable by other British political factions and led to the previous government falling. To more nationalistic British people, it is an intolerable intrusion on sovereignity. To most Europeans, the notion of the British lecturing other nations about intrusions on sovereignity is eye-rolling, considering what the British have been up to over the past few centuries.

        If the UK leaves with no trading agreement in place, it will be cataclysmic to the British economy. Such a move is called a “hard Brexit.” There will probably be food riots, which is a terrifying thing to say about a wealthy country. The alternative is a trading agreement, which will require other agreements too, which the EU has been adamant will include the backstop or something even more restrictive. This is known as a “soft Brexit.” A soft Brexit will allow the UK to avoid internal collapse. However, as it contains the backstop, it will also be politically unacceptable to the Brexit movement.

        Most Brexiteers would like to have other parts of an agreement, and have been asking for the backstop to be dropped from the package deal. The EU, for its part, does not believe that small, weak soon-to-be-outsiders get to dictate terms to it.

      8. Thankyou EJ for your comments. They are very enlightening. I shall look forward to your piece on Monday. I do have a couple comments, which might be helpful to some.

        1. I have a birding friend who was on a trip to the Grand Canyon recently. During that trip she and her husband got to chatting with a British couple. She did not know the area of Britain from which the couple came, but the couple was older. However the interesting part was that the husband stated that he knew Brexit would be bad for Britain, it would restrict growth and make employment more difficult for his children and grandchildren. Nevertheless, he was for Brexit, because he thought being associated with the EU was making Britain brown skinned. That is self explanatory and is another example of white supremacy.

        I suspect that the British couple was from Central England, because that seems to be the area that has been hardest hit by deindustrialization particularly of heavy industry and is similar to the Midwest and Great Lake States in the US. Southern England around London seems to be reasonably prosperous and is adapting to the 21st Century.

        2. Also Britain’s traditional historical strategy concerning the Continent is to stand off from the Continent unless any given Continental power was strong enough to threaten the UK. Then and only then would the UK intervene in European affairs. That has proven to be true ever since the Spanish Armada and most likely since the Norman invasion. That explains the Napoleonic Wars, WWI and WWII.

        3. My personal interpretation is that the nativist wing of the Tories want a hard Brexit with borders on the Irish Border, because that is in line with the traditional strategy of the UK. They have convinced themselves that a trade deal with the US will compensate for the loss of the EU. Their position and outlook is cut from the same cloth as that of the hard right Republicans in the US. Those thoughts are all fantasy, however.

        4. Finally an anecdote from a conversation i had today. That is the nativist Tories really want to MAKE BRITAIN GREAT AGAIN, i.e. MBGA. Their logic seems to be very similar to the Trumpistas, or MAGA, which is really MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN. Basically, I have concluded that both America and Britain have a serious infection of Whiteness, which for many is life threatening.

        Most of you know that my home is in Seattle, WA, USA, which happens to be one of the most progressive cities in the US. My congressional representative, Pramila Jayapal, though a Democrat, is really a Social Democrat and is Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. We are very typical of the urban areas on the Left Coast, i.e. CA, OR and WA. All those urban areas are very prosperous and have been growing very rapidly, they generally have a very progressive outlook, which is actually more like the Social Democrats in Europe. Although most people here are confused by the turmoil in the UK, they typically have a similar outlook to mine, which is that the UK should remain in the EU, and that another referendum should be held.

        Suffice it to say that in Seattle, Trump lost by a huge percentage (probably 80 – 20 or greater. In 2020, he will lose by an even greater percentage.

      9. Quickly, my understanding is that Parliament refused to approve a Snap Election today, 9/5 and that Johnson meekly agreed to resume negotiations. I am writing this at 21:30 PT. On the East coast of the US, it is after midnight and in Europe it is now mid morning of 9/6.

      10. EJ

        There was never going to be a snap election.

        Under UK law, a government needs a two-thirds majority to call a snap election. The current government has no majority at all. Therefore, a snap election would only have happened if the opposition wanted it.

        An election on 15 October would have been a strong advantage for Johnson. An election later, say in mid-November, would have been a strong advantage for the opposition. Nobody involved is enough of a fool to give way on this, therefore it didn’t happen.

  5. For those that say that violence should not be be in the political toolbox…yeah, tell that to the Hong Kong protestors, that just got the extradition bill retracted, the one that triggered the protests in the first place.

    All this with a totalitarian regime with well earned reputation to use violence on citizens practicing protest breaking tactics about 10 miles away.

      1. Man, you are incredibly naive or your news sources are just plain bad.

        I will quote the first few lines of this article from 4 days ago: “Rampaging protesters reduced Hong Kong’s streets to charred battlefields on Saturday, setting off multiple fires and hurling petrol bombs at riot police who fought back by firing rounds of blue dye from water cannons and tear gas, as the city marked yet another weekend of heightened violence.”

        That ain’t holding hands, singing Kumbaya, and saying “All we have to do is vote them out”.

        Here is a very quick and short list of articles describing VIOLENCE USED AS A POLITICAL TOOL in Hong Kong:

        https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/31/hong-kong-protest-1479437
        https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/petricic-hongkong-protesters-rising-violence-1.5268456
        https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/08/28/frontlines-hong-kong-public-hospital-doctors-making-stand-police-violence/

        But hey, you just keep believing that violent demonstrations did not create that crack in the concrete facade.

  6. This link fits into our discussion:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-trump-country-a-group-of-coal-miners-rebel-over-lost-jobs-missed-paychecks/2019/08/31/52ee4fbc-cb2e-11e9-a4f3-c081a126de70_story.html

    I’ll wish them luck on this. One of my top moral outrage triggers is wage theft, and that’s how I see this situation, because I’m betting that the management didn’t miss any paychecks. One financial reform that I’d like to see is that when a company has to file for bankruptcy, back pay for the workers ought to be one of the top priorities in the restructuring or liquidation.

    These guys say that they don’t want to make it political, but I think that’s a big mistake, because it’s already political. The GOPers you keep voting for only give you empty words.

  7. EJ

    That story about truck companies going bankrupt really worries me.

    What most people forget is that logistics touches everything. No trucks means no goods delivered to stores from depots, which means no jobs in retail, which means no residential rent payments. No trucks means no drugs in hospitals, which means no way to stop epidemics. No trucks means no chemicals delivered to farms in the hinterland, which means no harvests, which means high food prices in the cities, which means illness, unrest and crime. No trucks means no fuel and spare parts for power plants, which means blackouts. It means no concrete for road repairs, which means high wear and tear on cars, which means high expense and additional burden on mass transit.

    Infrastructure is a web, and every part of that web touches every other part, and when one strand breaks, then one by one the others break too.

  8. From the article on counselling farmers:

    “And I do blame the Trump administration partly. Farmers are becoming dismayed about the tariffs. He knew that he needed to take care of people who voted for him, and the farm population by and large voted for him. But Trump administration policies fly in the face of what is needed for a long-term solution. I don’t understand why farmers support him, or why many people support him, because of what he’s doing to actually hurt them.”

    People just keep tip toeing around and looking away from that elephant in the room.

    1. Trump has given the farmers billions in aid to compensate for losses from trade wars. Everything I read on this subject seems to show farmers are upset but still support trump. I will never understand how people who are being financially hurt by his policies and actions can continue to support him. From coal miners to thecworking poor whose Medicaid and SNP etc are being cut, why can’t they see through trump’s rhetoric?

      1. There would be no family farming in this country without a culture of white supremacy. Find another business in the US that operates under the level of government control, supervision and financial support that we deliver to farmers. The nearest you can get would be passenger aviation or maybe utilities, but there are no mom and pop operations in those industries. These people expect to be protected from market conditions, weather and competition, and in the most lucrative agricultural areas they are 99%+ white. We shouldn’t be surprised that they’re backing an overt white nationalist. That’s where their money comes from. The day we stop seeing them as some kind of white American icon, they’ll be replaced by robots and corporate employees in about ten minutes. Exposed to anything remotely resembling competition, these folks would become greeters at the Walmart.

      2. Of course if you mention White Supremacy or racism to them, it’s Wham!-full power to the deflector shields. You get denial or blaming the lefties for daring to mention those topics. I see these people as a lost cause. Even with economic ruin staring them in the face they can’t let go. I can’t dredge up even an atom of sympathy for Trumpkins who get bankrupted from these polices.

      3. Even with the massive government aid, much of agriculture has already succumbed to corporatism. Many of the farms are corporate owned or in other ways controlled to a large extent by corporate agribusiness. About the only truly family farming left anymore is the segment that markets directly to the consumer market using mechanisms such as weekly fruit and vegetable box deliveries, farmer’s markets and specialty food markets such as coops. There are also some truly family operations in the fruit and vegetable segments. In those segments many farmers are slowly turning their operations over to their foremen and others who frequently are hispanic and have been working with the farmer for years rather than passing the operation on to family members. Often times the family members do not want to continue in the business; they’ve moved on to other occupations. But that is certainly not the model that dominates on the large soybean, wheat, corn, potato, and other monocrop operations that dominate in the large agricultural areas of America.

      4. @Chris Ladd If you watched any farm shows lately, that is exactly what’s happening. Without cheap migrant labor from south of the border, automation from Canada and the EU is being brought in and sold at implement dealers so that farms can get their crops in. The trade war is causing farmers to wear thin with their commodity loan backers causing more and more small to just larger than medium size farms to go under in bankruptcies. It’s weird to watch and the hypocrisy is painful to listen to. The farmers want their migrant labor, but they don’t want to see a deal cut with the Democrats for the Dreamers’ citizenship. The farmers want their farm bill subsidies, but they don’t want to understand the the SNAP program is the other half of the equation to make sure there are customers at the supermarket that can afford their food. The farmers want to stick it to the whole rest of the world, but they don’t want to understand that the whole rest of the world is their customer. Farmers by backing Trump have ensured the destruction of their way of life they claimed they were trying to avoid.

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