2:00PM Water Cooler 12/27/2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Trump Transition

“To achieve their goals, Republican leaders plan to push through two major reconciliation bills in 2017” [Robert Greenstein, WaPo]. “The first, which could pass as early as January, would repeal the ACA’s coverage expansions and most likely take effect at the start of 2019. That would double the number of uninsured Americans, from 29 million to 59 million, and leave the United States with a higher uninsured rate than before the ACA, the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute estimates. The second reconciliation bill could couple regressive tax cuts with a radical overhaul of Medicaid and possibly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and even the Supplemental Security Income program for the elderly and disabled poor — three core low-income assistance programs. If previous House GOP budgets are a guide, Republicans will likely seek to eviscerate the basic structure of these programs, under which there are minimum federal eligibility and benefit standards and all eligible families who apply for benefits receive them. Recent House GOP budgets would instead give states fixed, inadequate pots of money (likely block grants), with sweeping state flexibility to respond to the funding reductions by restricting eligibility and cutting benefits.” Of course, Obama — had he wanted to be the FDR his mandate allowed him to be, and had the Democrats wanted a second New Deal — could have used the exact same mechanism in 2008-2009. Obama, and the Democrats, squandered that opportunity, and now we see the result. So the headline — “America’s concern for the poor is about to be tested” — is on point, but not quite in the way intended. Heaven forfend that the Democrats should do anything more than “fight” to retain existing programs by advocating, say, Medicare for All. I understand it focus-groups quite well across a broad spectrum of dull normals.

“President-elect Donald J. Trump’s $1 trillion investment plan, which relies heavily on public-private partnerships, sidesteps the unpopular fuel tax hikes, the near-impossible increase in general spending, and the sticky red tape of business tax reform that doomed President Barack Obama’s infrastructure agenda. The Trump team is even reportedly eyeing an infrastructure “task force” to help realize the president-elect’s agenda. But neither the plan nor the task force aimed at buttressing it can avoid the opposition of the president-elect’s own party for increased spending that doesn’t come from cuts elsewhere, more borrowing, or higher taxes” [Journal of Commerce]. “But investment means money, money Obama found it difficult to find. Hiking the federal fuel tax, something that hasn’t been done in more than two decades, was floated and sank. The national infrastructure bank, bankrolled through business tax reform — repatriating corporate profits made overseas by US companies — met the same fate.” Stephanie Kelton knows where to find the money. Note, though, that if Trump can’t deliver on infrastructure, he’ll have to fall back on Republican snake oil nostrums to deliver jobs. Therefore, he will fail. Making the Democrat Establishment’s absolute refusal to come up with a positive program to oppose Trump all the more delusional and reprehensible. Then again–

“One thing I think we can finally count on is some movement on shoring up the country’s crumbling infrastructure. President-elect Donald Trump has released a plan that includes $1 trillion in investment, supported by as much as $140 billion in tax credits. While this would fall short of covering the total cost, at least it is a start, and I believe that for the first time in many years, we might see a workable plan. Having said that, I also believe we will all feel a little more comfortable when we see a sound total funding proposal. Management of the infrastructure initiative will fall to the secretary of transportation—presumably Elaine Chao, who served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush. Some think her marital relationship will help her push the administration’s transportation agenda through Congress, but whatever the case, I believe we will see some significant progress on infrastructure. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress should be willing to get on board since Democrats will like the job creation aspect and Republicans the tax reform” [DC Velocity].

“Rethinking US Financial Regulation in Light of the 2016 Election” [Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation]. “Although clarity is not expected for several months, it is possible to identify some likely areas of change, and at least some change seems likely because the Republican Party will control both houses of Congress and the presidency. The President-elect wants to encourage increased lending by reducing regulatory burden in some manner, the Republican leaders in Congress seem intent on achieving regulatory rollback in some form, the principal financial regulatory agencies will have Republican leadership, and the designated Secretary of the Treasury has intimate knowledge of banks and financial markets and appears to be amply equipped to develop and promote a reform agenda for the Trump Administration.” That’s pretty general, but the article has lots of detail. Well worth a read.

“Some influential voices in Mr. Trump’s world insist banks should, as a quid pro quo for rolling back some regulations, maintain higher capital—shareholders’ funds that act as a cushion against losses but can also curb profits” [Wall Street Journal, “Trump’s Financial Deregulation Might Be Bad News for Banks After All”]. “Mr. Trump’s picks of two former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executives to run his economic team—Gary Cohn, to head the National Economic Council, and Steven Mnuchin, for Treasury secretary—might give Wall Street a powerful voice at the policy table. But at least two candidates for the job of Federal Reserve vice chairman in charge of bank oversight, arguably the single most powerful bank regulatory position in the world, are supporters of tougher capital rules. So is House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), who will next year be at the center of reshaping the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law.”

“Pence, an alumnus of House Republican leadership, has most aggressively positioned himself as the incoming administration’s natural liaison to Congress, very much in the Biden mold” [RealClearPolitics]. As opposed to the Cheney mold.

2016 Post Mortem

“The best photographs of 2016 – in pictures” [Guardian (isolato)]. Many great images, but Isolato suggests this one:


From the story:

There were about 500 people that couldn’t fit in the main campaign event in Orlando, Florida [on September 25], so Hillary went and visited them in an adjacent room afterwards. She suggested they could do a group selfie, and then she posed with the crowd for it. It was great fun.

I’ll leave any metaphors as exercises for readers, but note the careful advance work: The crowd is fenced off (and there’s what looks like additional cordage, in orange, to make the fence even more effective, Clinton has a box to stand on, the edge of the box is marked with colored tape so she doesn’t trip and fall, the campaign logos are placed behind her head, and her security is present but not in the shot. That’s a rp

“The Clin­ton team was so con­fid­ent in its ana­lyt­ic­al mod­els that it op­ted not to con­duct track­ing polls in a num­ber of states dur­ing the last month of the cam­paign. As a con­sequence, de­teri­or­at­ing sup­port in states such as Michigan and Wis­con­sin fell be­low the radar screen, slip­page that that tra­di­tion­al track­ing polls would have cer­tainly caught” [National Journal]. “Ac­cord­ing to Kantar Me­dia/CMAG data, the Clin­ton cam­paign did not go on the air with tele­vi­sion ads in Wis­con­sin un­til the weeks of Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, spend­ing in the end just $2.6 mil­lion. Su­per PACs back­ing Clin­ton didn’t air ads in Wis­con­sin un­til the last week of the cam­paign. In Michigan, aside from a tiny $16,000 buy by the cam­paign and a party com­mit­tee the week of Oct. 25, the Clin­ton cam­paign and its al­lied groups didn’t con­duct a con­cer­ted ad­vert­ising ef­fort un­til a week be­fore the elec­tion. In fact, the Clin­ton cam­paign spent more money on tele­vi­sion ad­vert­ising in Ari­zona, Geor­gia, and the Omaha, Neb­raska mar­kets than in Michigan and Wis­con­sin com­bined. It was Michigan and Wis­con­sin, along with Pennsylvania (the Clin­ton cam­paign and al­lied groups did spend $42 mil­lion on tele­vi­sion in the Key­stone State), that ef­fect­ively cost Demo­crats the pres­id­ency.” Apparently, a Putin agent was in charge of Clinton’s analytical models. It’s the only explanation!

“Why Clinton Lost: An exercise in victimology” [Global Guerillas]. “here’s a list of ‘popular’ reasons for why Clinton unexpectedly lost the election to Trump according to the establishment. Notice how all of them blame the ‘other.’ This is the language of betrayal. The type of language that feeds civil war.” I agree, and will have more to say about that.

“It’s common for people to put the blame on the non-voters here. They shirked their duty: to vote for the status quo, even if it’s slowly killing them. This complaint is usually unpleasantly whiny. The fact that these people feel entitled to make it points to exactly why they keep on losing” [Sam Kriss, Guardian]. “In The Implosion of Meaning in the Media, the philosopher Jean Baudrillard describes this kind of voter alienation as a tactic. The demand political systems make of us – ‘of constituting ourselves as subjects, of liberating ourselves, expressing ourselves at whatever cost, of voting, producing, deciding’ – are in their own way an exercise of power. In these conditions, resistance takes the form of the refusal to do so: ‘the renunciation of the subject position and of meaning – precisely the practices of the masses.’ … In the US, mainstream liberals are announcing their “Resistance” to a 2017 that’s smashing into the end of December with all the dumb force of a Trump presidency – but their ideas mostly consist of giving money to the Democrats. Whatever form resistance does take, it won’t be that.” So, one might say that the interesting act of resistance has already taken place. Of course, if the Democrats cared about alienated voters, expanding the franchise would be a core party function. Imagine what the billion dollars Clinton set on fire and threw in the air while losing to Trump could have done, if put to use serving that purpose!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Defend George Ciccariello-Maher” [Corey Robin]. “[N]o one should be punished by his or her employer for political speech off the job. This is a cornerstone of academic freedom, but many of us believe it should be extended to all forms of employment.”

“Imagine what 4 million impassioned Hillary Clinton followers, acting in concert, could accomplish over the next four years. Targeted boycotts — 4 million people have a lot of buying power, and many of them represent households. More millions. Think of 4 million postcards showering down on the offices of legislators who propose to gut Medicare or create registries to track Muslims. That was what I thought I was getting into when a friend invited me to join the secret Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. I imagined we were mobilizing for the political fight of our lives” [Los Angeles Times]. There was a lot of venting, but no action, until ” last Monday, when [founder Libby] Chamberlain announced, out of nowhere, that she had filed for nonprofit status and that she was ‘beyond excited’ because she had signed a deal with Flatiron Press to reprint the stories that people had posted in the group, if only they would give their permission.” BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! Pantsuit Nation turned into a book deal! No shame at all, eh?

“Donald J. Trump won the white working-class vote over Hillary Clinton by a larger margin than any major-party nominee since World War II. Instead of this considerable achievement inspiring introspection, figures from the heights of journalism, entertainment, literature and the Clinton campaign continue to suggest that Mr. Trump won the presidency by appealing to the bigotry of his supporters. As Bill Clinton recently said, the one thing Mr. Trump knows ‘is how to get angry white men to vote for him.’ This stereotyping of Trump voters is not only illiberal, it falsely presumes Mr. Trump won because of his worst comments about women and minorities rather than despite them” [David Paul Kuhn, New York Times]. “But traits are not motives and don’t necessarily decide votes. Consider that four in 10 liberal Democrats, the largest share of any group, said in 2011 that they would hold a Mormon candidate’s faith against him or her. It would be silly to argue that, therefore, liberals voted for Mr. Obama because Mitt Romney was Mormon. Yet the Trump coalition continues to be branded as white backlash. The stereotyping forgets that many Trump supporters held a progressive outlook. Mr. Trump won nearly one in four voters who wanted the next president to follow more liberal policies.”

Stats Watch

Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, December 2016: “Manufacturing activity in the Fifth district expanded further in December, with the Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index rising 4 points to 8, after coming out of contraction in November with a strong 8-point increase” [Econoday]. “The biggest gains were registered in backlog of orders… On the employment front, hiring softened somewhat, with the number of employees falling to minus 1 from 5, but the average workweek increased, rising from 4 to 12 points, and wages increases were more widespread.”

Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey, December 2016: “broadly higher” [Econoday]. New orders up.

Consumer Confidence, December 2016: “Consumer confidence shows no sign of slowing. The index is up 12.9 points since the November election in gains driven by older consumers. The level for December is 113.7 which is the highest reading since way back in August 2001” [Econoday]. “December’s gain is centered in expectations, not in current conditions….. No set of data have been showing the strength of the various consumer confidence readings. Yet this confidence didn’t help November consumer spending and how much it helped December’s spending has yet to be sorted.” But: “…. extreme volatility of this indicator…” (charts of consumer confidence and GDP) [Econintersect]. And but: “Investors and economists need to understand that these gains are actually mixed, even if the new reading is the highest in years. The Expectations Index rose sharply from 94.4 to 105.5, but the Present Situation Index actually decreased from 132.0 last month to 126.1” [247 Wall Street]. And but: “the election of Donald Trump has raised household expectations for the economy to a very high level. It remains to be seen whether Trump can deliver” [Amherst Pierpoint Securities, Across the Curve]. Doubtful. The infrastructure program is already looking sketchy, as Yves points out here (and see in Trump Transition, supra).

State Street Investor Confidence Index, December 2016: “fell 3.4 points” [Econoday]. “The decline in global institutional investor confidence was driven by a decline of 6.7 points in the Asian component to 109.1, and a 6.0 point drop in the North American component to 87.5. In contrast and countering the downward pull was a sharp increase in confidence among European institutional investors.”

Case-Shiller Home Price Index, October 2016: “Home-price appreciation isn’t spectacular but is steady and firm. Case-Shiller’s 20-city adjusted index rose 0.6 percent in data for October with the year-on-year rate unchanged at 5.1 percent” [Econoday]. “Readings on home-price appreciation have been ranging from about 5 percent to 6 percent, which is limited but still ahead of personal income where growth has been trending closer to 4 percent.” And: “Many pundits believe home prices are back in a bubble. Maybe, but the falling inventory of homes for sale keeps home prices relatively high. I continue to see this a situation of supply and demand. It is the affordability of the homes which is becoming an issue for the lower segments of consumers” [Econintersect]. And: “According to the data, prices increased in all 20 cities month-over-month seasonally adjusted” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Compared with their peak in the summer of 2006, home prices on both 10-city and 20-city indexes remain down about 9.2% and 7.1%, respectively. Since the low of March 2012, home prices are up 40.4% and 43.1% on the 10-city and 20-city indexes, respectively” [247 Wall Street].

The 420: “According to the 2016 Marijuana Business Factbook published last March, the impact of cannabis products on the U.S. economy will rise from an estimated total of $14 billion to $17 billion this year to an estimated $44 billion by 2020” [247 Wall Street]. “Which companies will be earning those billions? Analysts at Viridian Capital Advisors maintain a cannabis stock index, and for 2016 through December 9, the index is up 175.3%.”

Rail: “Feds to study Chicago-Columbus higher-speed rail route” [Progressive Railroading]. “Service could begin as soon as 2020, [Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association] officials said.” Higher speed.

Shipping: “US shippers forced to look inland for warehouse space” [Journal of Commerce]. “The vacancy rate nationwide, which had exceeded 10 percent in the depths of the 2008 to 2009 economic recession, has been cut in half…. [S]pace at warehouses and DCs that serve West Coast ports was even tighter… A related development, driven primarily by e-commerce fulfillment, was a demand for so-called intermediate facilities located between the large import distribution centers and the urban core locations where the consumers live. The intermediate facilities specialize in breaking down shipments to the package level and delivering those packages to consumers for pickup at the stores or for direct delivery to homes.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 70 Greed (previous close: 66, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 79 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 27 at 1:54pm. Not too much egg-nog, then?

Class Warfare

“The Curse of Credentialism” [Baseline Scenario].

A world in which success means Rhodes/Teach for America/Goldman/McKinsey followed by Yale Law School/Harvard Business School followed by Blackstone/Bridgewater/Facebook is one in which too many talented, well-intentioned people follow the same path and end up doing the same few things. (Since I graduated from college a quarter-century ago, the only real addition to the hierarchy have been TFA and the technology behemoths.) In their famous paper, Kevin Murphy, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny found that countries with more engineering majors tend to grow faster and those with more law students tend to grow slower. A society in which smart, hard-working young people with generic ambitions tend to become hedge fund and private equity fund managers, management consultants, corporate lawyers, and strategists for technology monopolies is probably not one that is allocating talent effectively.

“Research confirms what already warms the hearts of many parents: spontaneous prosocial behavior exists at a very early age (Eidenberg, Spinrad & Morris, 2013. Toddlers display prosocial and empathic behavior, by offering to help, share food and hug a crying peer, and young kids under the age of two demonstrate a developed sense of fairness” [The FCPA Blog].

If we are hardwired for integrity, as these findings suggest, what are the implications for anti-corruption policy?

One lesson is to incentives (positive or negative) parsimoniously, as they can turn the intrinsic drive for natural moral behaviour into instrumental and incentives-driven behaviour.

Secondly, awareness-raising campaigns and nudges can seek to reinforce natural moral behaviour rather than correcting unethical behaviour.

Thirdly, anti-corruption practices based on fundamental distrust, such as the “four-eyes principle” or multiple layers of administrative control, may be replaced by systems that grant more personal responsibility to staff and managers in carrying out their tasks.

Shrink the administrative layers?! Lotta rice bowls there…

“This Chart Shows Who Marries CEOs, Doctors, Chefs and Janitors” [Bloomberg]. Bloomberg’s top-ranked page by hits.

“Is Life Getting Better (or Worse) for the Middle Class?” [Cheat Sheet] (original from Pew Research). If you have to ask…

“”Economic possibilities for our grandchildren” by John Maynard Keynes, The Nation and Athenœum, 11 and 18 October 1930 [Fabius Maximus].

News of the Wired

“Hubble’s Shining View Of Deep Space Beyond The Stars” [Forbes]. Many gorgeoous pictures of deep space from the Hubble telescope.

“Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker” [The New Yorker]. Lovely profile. Remnick should stick to writing.

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (pq):


Douglas fir in the the Northwest. It’s 40° in Maine today, so I bet there’s plenty of melt there, too. Of course, “we’ll pay for this” come January…

Readers, I’ve gotten many more plant images, but I can always use just a few more; having enough Plantidotes is a great angst deflator. Plants with snow and/or ice are fine!

Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the very successful Naked Capitalism fundraiser just past. Now, I understand you may feel tapped out, but when and if you are able, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.


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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.


  1. armchair

    Just to be clear, the Douglas Firs would be in the background. The tree in the foreground is deciduous, not ‘evergreen’. I would guess the tree in the foreground is an Alder.

    1. polecat

      Could also be Acer macrophylum ……. aka .. Bigleaf Maple .. which dominate large swathes of forested lowland areas ajoining rivers here !

        1. polecat

          Yeah, armchair … the image being a close-up, of a part of a tree, makes it hard to know with accuracy, being that both species can vary in size, shape, and form …. so it could be as you say … some leaves would make ID easier, but it is Winter after all.

          please note lambert: i’m not knocking the photo, or the choice thereof … at all …

      1. different clue

        Speaking of “bigleaf maples”, I remember reading some decades ago that in some of the hot-zone footprints around the Three Mile Island area, that some maple trees had been mutated to produce leaves 16 inches across. Maybe someone will explore around there and see if it is really still true.

        If they find those bigleaf mutant maples, they can take cuttings and replicate them and develop a new landscape tree. They could call it ” Thornburgh Atomic” maple.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          I’ve got a Bigleaf Maple in the backyard here that has probably produced leaves that large absent the ionizing radiation.

          1. Oregoncharles

            How close are you to a nuclear power plant?

            (Yes, I know, they can do that entirely naturally. I also enjoy the bloom – they aren’t usually mentioned as a flowering tree, but they light up yellow in the spring.

            Little known fact: they can be used to produce maple syrup. The sap runs in January.)

    2. Old Jake

      On a related note: the moss. I’ve been in all northeastern states and never seen it, but here in the Cascades it is ubiquitous. Friends who venture east come back wondering why there is none there, for which I have no answer. But it certainly characterises these forests.

      NB I’m surrendering my prior moniker to someone whohas recently arrived and seems to like it. I’m not so attached that I can’t move on.

    3. lambert strether

      pq writes:

      The NC commentariat knows their plants! Today’s Plantidote is indeed a maple, although not bigleaf

  2. Steve C

    Democrats failure to use budget reconciliation in 2009-2010, except as a last-minute desperation move to salvage Obamacare gives the lie to their claims the Republicans kept them from enacting their agenda. They have no agenda. They lost their mandate because they squandered it.

    Bush got three budget reconciliation bills. It’s how he got all his tax cuts for the rich. There must be a clause in the law saying for use by Republicans only.

    1. polecat

      Demorats …. ALWAYS, without fail, dropping the ball of wax … down the heater vent ! … never able to collect enough to illuminate the public towards their righteous and noble cause ….

    2. Pat

      Nah, there is just a vetting process including top campaign donors of both parties. Without the approval of the majority of a party’s big donors, it just doesn’t happen.
      Neither party is interested in what their voters of lesser means want or need. Similar to rank and file Democrats who still kid themselves that their elected officials didn’t mean to hurt them, Republicans do the same. I’m pretty sure this current agenda is not going to end well for many of their voters.

    3. Altandmain

      They didn’t try. They were being paid by Wall Street not to do so.

      There’s more energy amongst a small number of Tea Party and Trump supporters than there is in the majority of the Democrats.

      Their donor class would not have it any other way. The problem is that unless the left takes the Democrats, they will serve the donors first and foremost.

  3. Anne

    The only point in continuing to go back over the election, fly-specking smaller and smaller details, trying to identify the turning points, would be to actually learn something from it, but as near as I can tell, there seems to be less interest in learning and adjusting and planning for ways to fix the mistakes, heed the voice of the people who told them what they wanted from the party, plan to thwart the coming GOP shitshow, and grow in a positive, affirmative way going forward, as much as there seems to be a collective belief that if they can only just align the existing pieces perfectly and master the art of magical thinking, Democrats will wake up on January 20th and it will be Hillary taking the oath of office – and then they won’t have to change a thing – a thing.

    Intransigence married to denial is not a good combination.

    My guess is that, come the new session of Congress, Dems will utterly fail to offer viable alternatives in the form of legislation to the coming GOP effort to throw the old, the poor and the sick off the cliff. And when they lose more seats in 2018, they will be as puzzled and befuddled then as they are now.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Dems will utterly fail to offer viable alternatives in the form of legislation to the coming GOP effort to throw the old, the poor and the sick off the cliff.

      One could see Dems building ramps and handrails to the precipice, guiding the lost to the jumping-off point, and supplying greeters to bid jumpers “a nice afterlife.” :-)

    2. Lost in OR


      I hope you are entirely right. You’re point about learning lessons seems to be directed toward the elite. But really, it is we who need to learn the lessons.
      We know now that the donks will have NOTHING to offer in 2020 but the SOS. If we sit around waiting for that, we deserve what we get.
      The two party system, the MSM, Wall St, K St, the CIA, the MIC, the Stasi, et al … have lost their veneer of decency and relevancy. None of the aforementioned can even pose the questions and issues that really confront us, much less propose a solution. Vision (wisdom?) is AWOL.
      It is incumbent upon us to produce and alternative to TINA. If this is a Democracy we need to prove it. We already know believing in saviors is a false hope.
      So how do we move beyond rehashing the donk’s failures and fear of the Repug’s? That is our mission, should we choose to accept it. Please advise.

      1. Propertius

        Nothing to offer?????? Nonsense! The 2020 Democratic nomination will be a hotly-contested battle of new and innovative ideas between Cory Booker and Joe Biden! Elizabeth Warren’s sterling imitation of the late Mario Cuomo will add excitement and uncertainty to the first 2/3 of the campaign as she publicly agonizes over whether or not to bounce her chapeau off the glass ceiling and into the ring. The last 1/3 of the campaign will feature a series of hard-hitting debates between Booker and Biden, as they each vie to demonstrate who will best be able to harness the awesome might of the US Government for the sole benefit of the FIRE sector.

        I don’t know about you, but I’m investing heavily in popcorn futures.

    3. lambert strether

      I don’t read this posts as “fly-specking” at all. (AFAIK, the really serious analysis has yet to be done, , because the data isn’t ready yet.) I view this process as nailing the alternative narrative firmly in place. “Repeat, repeat, repeat” in blogging is a lot like “location, location, location” in real estate.

      1. flora

        add this data point to the post-election Dem pleas to EC electors to not vote for Trump:

        “The person [Martin Sheen is] talking to seems to be Kansas Electoral College voter Ashley McMillan.

        “But the voter, whose full name is Ashley McMillan Hutchinson, is not Mr. McMillan. She’s a woman. And she’s the vice chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party who wrote in The Wall Street Journal recently that “I won’t violate the will of the people of Kansas simply because coastal elites think Mr. Trump tweets too much.” ”


        Another example of Dems not doing basic homework; of relying on assumptions (assuming a person named Ashley is a man) instead of checking facts, easy to determine facts.

        1. John Zelnicker

          @flora – I think it’s amusing that someone assumed that Ashley was a man. When I started reading, my assumption was that Ashley was a woman. Perhaps that’s because Ashley seems to be a popular name for women here in the Deep South and not so much for men.

          1. Propertius

            Sheen is obviously a big fan of Gone With the Wind.

            Come to think of it, that’s not a bad description of the national Democratic Party after this year.

      2. cwaltz

        The “data” will never be ready.

        That’s what happens when no one actually gets to examine the process or the components of the process(machines) without being called a self serving crackpot.

      3. Anne

        My comments were more a reflection not of the blogging, but about the shape and flavor, if you will, of the analysis that’s being done by the campaigns/staff and by the high-level politicians who have the power to shape the narrative moving forward. It is they who appear to be in deep denial and somehow under the delusion that they didn’t really lose. Almost two months later and as the days count down to Trump’s inauguration, it feels to me like the needle’s stuck, and all the Dems seem to be able to muster is horror and the same kind of disbelief that put them in the position to lose the election.

        It’s happening, and it’s important to document, sure, but what’s the plan? Is there a strategy going forward? Where and in what form is the pushback coming? It’s one thing to document what’s happening in order to formulate and game-plan strategy; it’s another to just essentially watch what’s happening without doing anything to change it.

        It made me realize that it’s time for me to do less documenting of my own observations and be more active: the only way to do that is to step away from the virtual world and into the real one. Make more phone calls, write more letters to the editor, be more three-dimensional.

    4. different clue

      This is an opportunity for any Berniecrats-in-office to try moving their own bills and make the Catfood Clintonites shoot them down in public and in open view if that is what the Catfood Clintonites are going to do.

      Any Democrats revealed to be Berniecrats in the next two years can be voted-for, and any Democrats revealed to be Catfood Clintonites can be voted against by every Berniecrat-minded voter. If this repeats enough times it may begin to decontaminate the Clintonites from out of the Party and out of office. As long as the only Democrats who get defeated are Catfood Democrats, Democratic losses are a GOOD thing. Hopefully the process of weeding out the Clintonites will leave a purified “red Gingrich” type of Democratic officeholder-corps ready to burn down the House and the Senate too in order to get their way or kill trying.

      1. lambert strether

        > Berniecrats-in-office to try moving their own bills

        Excellent suggestion. Let’s start with HR676!

        1. beene

          For those interested in changing and influencing the democrats we could invest in Lambert’s suggestion. If you’re democratic representative is not on the list of supporting HR676. Perhaps you may want to encourage him/her, by letting them know supporting HR676 will determine your support for them.

          To know who has supported HR-676 go to URL below; plus at the bottom of the page of the URL is write a letter to your representative.


  4. alex morfesis

    May the force be with us all…cf gone at age 60…May we all take a few moments every day to breath a little sunshine into our lives…

  5. Crazy Horse

    I badly misjudged the photo of Hillary and crowd that Lambert used as the lead in this Water Cooler. Seeing that everyone had turned their back to her in the spirit of many of her campaign appearances where nobody showed up, I assumed that someone more important like a Kardasian had just entered the room.

    1. Chromex

      Agree with this. Uninsured being a “nightmare ” scenario is the language of the oppressor. De facto no healthcare is a nightmare many of us are living right now.
      Insurance is meaningless as a standalone assertion and it’s definitely NOT care. The devil is there in the details.

    2. polecat

      well ..it IS a nightmare … for Nancy P. & co. ……..

      F#cking DNC and DemRAT CONgressional MORONS !!!!!!!!!

      1. Vatch

        It’s only a nightmare for the Democratic incumbents if people vote against them. Incumbents usually win their elections. And the incumbents won’t change their behavior unless their constituents convince them that they will vote against them.

      2. John k

        Don’t be silly. Nancy and all the others have the best med care on the planet… for life. Paid for by us.
        Somebody should propose everybody gets their plan… and resubmit monthly.

    3. reslez

      I think all you get out of those high-deductible ACA plans is a free physical: not including a bunch of expensive tests you have to pay for yourself. For women it means you get access to prescription birth control, because the medical establishment gates access to it behind yearly pap smears. Note that both yearly pap smears and yearly physicals have been recognized as detrimental to overall health.

      And the deductible was always a scam. “Out of network” care never went toward the deductible, and what’s in the network changes monthly. Separate deductibles for prescriptions vs other care. Shifting sands to drown those most in need of help.

      The true “nightmare scenario” is for the giant health insurers about to lose 30 million unwilling customers.

      1. lambert strether

        Yeah. You get the knowledge that you’ve got a diagnosis without the ability to do anything about it.

        Why isn’t it better to carry on in ignorance?

  6. footnote4

    Iconic 2016 photo indeed.
    Local press reported attendance at the event was “around 400” – yet the Guardian caption states “There were about 500 people that couldn’t fit into the main campaign event in Orlando, Florida [on September 25], so Hillary went and visited them in an adjacent room afterwards.”

    1. footnote4

      FWIW, confirming estimate of 300 at the event and 100 overflow vs Guradian report of 1000

      They inflated attendance by 150%, and I didn’t protest because I didn’t want to look picky …

      1. Vatch

        Hah! It reminds me of a scene in the Beatles movie “Help!” at the airport in the Bahamas. The visiting British police inspector is meeting members of the Bahamian police force, and as soon as he greets one, the Bahamian police officer sneaks behind the others and gets back in line. So it seems that there are a lot more police than there really are, and the clueless British police inspector doesn’t realize what is happening.

  7. Jim Haygood


    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner was indicted Tuesday in a corruption case involving public works.

    Federal Judge Julian Ercolini approved charges of illicit association and fraudulent administration against Kirchner, and two former aides: ex-Planning Minister Julio de Vido and former Public Works Secretary Jose Lopez.

    Also named was businessman Lazaro Baez, whose Austral Construcciones company allegedly benefited from irregular contracts.


    Jose Lopez is the guy who was caught digging up $8 million in cash that he’d buried in a convent yard, in the middle of the night. Talk about flagrante delicto!

    Small change compared to the Clinton Foundation, of course. Hillary has about three weeks left to consider her pardon options. :-0

      1. John Parks

        Per Otto at IKN

        “The charges are heavy and they’re going to be difficult to counter too, for her friends. CFK’s defense will be 1) it’s all politically motivated against her, which may be partially true but the evidence is between strong and overwhelming no matter who was/is/will be in charge and 2) it was in the time of her husband rather than her, which is a better defense though it drops her pals right in it. However, the 1) argument should be enough for her to beat any prison time because in 2017 there are two sets of legislative elections in which she’ll be able to run for Congress. When she does she’ll have more than enough hardcore vote to be elected under the Argentine system, which means she’ll then enjoy immunity from prosecution.”

  8. Oregoncharles

    ” Consider that four in 10 liberal Democrats, the largest share of any group, said in 2011 that they would hold a Mormon candidate’s faith against him or her.”

    I find myself in the odd position of defending liberal Democrats. That attitude makes far more sense than the article grants it. Mormonism is highly political, including a number of doctrines with major social impact. It is also authoritarian, claiming control over its members. Voting for a Mormon who doesn’t denounce that control would be to vote for very reactionary social and political positions.

    The same is true of many evangelical and fundamentalist churches, the Roman Catholic church, and the more authoritarian branches of Islam. Catholic bishops are even sometimes clueless enough to demand that Catholic officeholders follow doctrine; Mormon authorities have a much tighter grip.

    In practice, these realities are reason to demand answers from candidates from certain religions, about whether they would pursue the policies demanded by their church. That’s neither bigoted nor identitarian. It’s pursuing policy issues.

    1. Steve C

      So you demand that Catholic politicians denounce the hierarchy? Religion is pretty ridiculous from a rational standpoint. Or at least it serves all sorts of purposes other than its usual stated purpose. Why not demand politicians renounce it before you support them?

      There are Mormon politicians who hold their hierarchy at arm’s length just like many Catholics do. Romney doesn’t but neither does Paul Ryan, except when Pope Francis rcriticizes capitalism. What’s the difference?

      1. Oregoncharles

        Politicians who actually denounce/renounce religion don’t get elected. Nor is it necessary – freedom of religion, and all that.

        My point is that some religions both have policy implications and claim authority over their members, so it’s legitimate to ask their members about both the policies and the authority.

        In practice, most American Catholics have a very Protestant attitude toward Church authority. The same may be true of Mormons and for that matter fundamentalists; I wouldn’t know. I’d be very surprised if Mitt Romney was all that subject to church authority. Apparently his biggest problem was evangelicals, who don’t regard Mormons as Christians (they’re arguably right about that.)

        1. Outis Philalithopoulos

          The attitude of evangelicals on the question is increasingly less straightforward – if you’re curious, there is some interesting discussion in this talk.

        2. Pat

          No they aren’t. The basis of Christianity is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the son of God and your Savior. Mormons do that. That it includes a set of Gospels that other Christian sects do not does not change that. But then the same groups that deny that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christian once said the same about the Roman Catholic Church and some still do. IOW it is Christian only one true Church squabbling.

  9. Marco

    With each new HRC horror story coming out daily it’s hard not to speculate that perhaps there was an internal conspiracy to torpedo her campaign. The failure and incompetence boggles the mind.

    1. Tom_Doak

      It was a brilliant conspiracy. Pretend to be a sycophant and help her supporters lull her into false confidence. In fact, it was so easy to pull off that it didn’t even require someone to make it work!

  10. Oregoncharles

    Ummm, that Plantidote certainly isn’t Douglas Fir, which are evergreens. More likely Bigleaf Maple, the “Queen of Maples” because the tree gets huge. But it’s hard to tell just from the details in the picture.

  11. Lupemax

    Re: “Research confirms what already warms the hearts of many parents: spontaneous prosocial behavior exists at a very early age (Eidenberg, Spinrad & Morris, 2013. Toddlers display prosocial and empathic behavior, by offering to help, share food and hug a crying peer, and young kids under the age of two demonstrate a developed sense of fairness” [The FCPA Blog].

    This seems an interesting follow up to the above:

    “The Annie Oakley Award to the American firearms manufacturers and the National Rife Association (NRA) for their campaign to arm kids. The guns for tots are lighter than regular firearms and have less recoil. They are also made in “kid-friendly” colors, like pink.
    Iowa recently passed legislation making it legal for any minor to own a pistol. According to state Representative Kirsten Running –Marquardt, the law “allows for one-year olds, two-year olds, three-year olds, four-year olds to operate handguns,” adding, “We do not need a militia of toddlers.””


  12. cocomaan

    The 420: “According to the 2016 Marijuana Business Factbook published last March, the impact of cannabis products on the U.S. economy will rise from an estimated total of $14 billion to $17 billion this year to an estimated $44 billion by 2020” [247 Wall Street].

    Doesn’t seem like this accounts for the fact that the money was in the economy already, it was just given to drug dealers before in an underground economy.

  13. LT

    How “positive” would a bipartisan infrastructure bill be?
    Crap like Iraq and all that civil liberities killing legislation is bipartisan.
    The Republicans are setting up shop with a new wrecking crew (Thomas Frank will soon have a nice sequel to that book).
    The Democratic Party will stagger on with lip service half measures…

  14. Plenue

    “In their famous paper, Kevin Murphy, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny found that countries with more engineering majors tend to grow faster and those with more law students tend to grow slower.”

    Of course, a society in which everyone is a good little worker cog in Carnegie’s money-making machine is also a nightmare. A society in which no one has the skills to critique and analyze the society itself is already dead. We need less lawyers, MBAs, and STEM graduates, and a hell of a lot more English majors (even as infested as that field is with post-modernist BS). Also, constant ‘growth’ and technological/industrial ‘progress’ will ultimately bring not just individual societies but our species as a whole to the very brink of planetary destruction.

    1. nechaev

      do “we” need any english majors might be a better question – i’d suggest we’re rather well-stocked with them at the moment and probably will be so for at least the next several decades. Can’t say that I’ve ever seen a correlation between holding a humanities [or social sciences] degree and excellence in critical thinking &/or social analysis. Just the opposite, actually : credentialisation leading as it does to myopia….Perhaps “learning a trade” might be a better use of your time, if you’re 18, today. Unless of course Daddy has the $60000 a year or so to throw away to send you to Brown or wherever it is…

  15. Setting America's Agenda

    Hey, maybe the reason Propornot deems you propaganda is because you’ve got no pedos for CIA to blackmail, unlike the New York Times and Newsweek. That seems to be a crucial quality control for CIA, who Eichenwald, by his own account, is frantically signaling.


    Because without Operation Mockingchicken to establish The Narrative, America would be vulnerable to Russian propaganda.

  16. clinical wasteman

    Apologies Optimader if I’ve missed something screamingly obvious, but otherwise I’m honestly perplexed by that advice. Do you mean or are you suggesting that Plenue means (but neglected to say) all students should major in English? Better than all MBAs I guess, but I don’t see any reason to read the comment that way. Or is the reference to the “more” used by the “famous” Murphy, Schleifer and Vishny?
    Anyway I agree with you, Plenue, (based on experience so long ago that college in NZ was free and after that the Quebec government gave away scholarships to foreigners) that English/literature classes can teach a necessary “critical” (in quotes because so often used to mean the opposite) and historical approach to trying to understand the world. Although between peer-reviewed careerism and Creative Writing courses (another type of careerism, albeit a doomed one), it’s less than a sure thing. What does seem urgent (though extremely unlikely) to me is that everything — including sciences and especially economics — should be studied and criticised as history. But then I’m thinking of “history” in a sense that even history departments have abolished in favour of the data entry method practised by those whom Gore Vidal called “scholar squirrels”. The squirrels’ conclusion, remarkably enough, is almost always Alexander Pope’s: “Whatever is, is right“.

    1. Optimader

      My previous comment conveys my impression that Plenue’s premise is a Fallacy of False Alternative

      Ironically enough i briefly considered an English major but not being a trust fund child and having some future lifestyle expectations I instead soldiered on through the STEM curriculum.

      As a treat to myself, I did take film study/ production /animation courses in the school of Architecture and Art. I figured that was one of the few monetizable paths foward in the “arts” that I was reasonably adept at should i wish to take a stab at it

      Frankly I sometimes wonder if I should have pursued the latter?

      As far as the English major? IMO best suited to a lifelong self education , particularly if you need a source of income (in that discipline).

      So yeah, society needs a spectrum of skills, but the notion that the technically educated (STEM) graduates are the a priori source of “nightmare” in our society lacks any nuance.

      I would propose you rewind the tape a bit further and reflect on the educational background of those that make and execute policy, in this country at least.

      A reasonable object lesson IMO would be for you to review the educational preponderance of past CIA directors relative to the efficaciousness of their liberal arts educations influencing their work toward promoting (domestic) and worldwide societal benefits.

      1. clinical wasteman

        Thanks for the explanation: I still don’t see the false alternative fallacy there, but it clarifies what you were arguing against.
        More to the unhappy point, I completely endorse the preference for lifelong self-education over any sort of utilitarian (and time/mental energy-devouring) ‘training’ in the re-regulated ‘humanities’/’social sciences’ OR the physical/technical sciences, at least for as long as all those things are studied under a crushing debt burden and in such a way it’s possible to graduate without a clue about the history of the ‘disciplines’ or the way they constitute history — i.e. present-day-life — for better or worse and worse. In the previous comment I should have emphasised more that I was thinking of the way ‘literary’ courses occasionally worked in relatively privileged parts of the world in the mid-late 20th century, when children of ‘uneducated’/working-class parents would actually be allowed the time and resources to work these things out for themselves. I think I caught the very last years of that. What’s alarming now is the way that for all but the most parentally privileged, neither career-oriented, debt-weighted college NOR ‘learning a trade’ and trying to live from it leaves a moment for self-education whether through reading, everyday social life or ‘activism’. So that somehow, for so many people who are as far from stupid as can be, things as they are seem ‘natural’, yet every new piece of News seems astonishing because it comes out of nowhere. The “dole culture” of the first phase of European deindustrialization — so vehemently cursed in the UK by Thatcher then actually dismantled by Blair/Brown — is no long-term solution anywhere, but at least it did leave some margin for working-class self-education and cultural self-invention.
        (Also, your last point about the educational background of CIA directors (and others with that sort of power?) is a good one. Did the directors draw on that background or was it pure credentialism? It also points to a secondary question about differences within the western imperial system at different times. For decades in the UK and its satellites, an English major was the second-class product sold to the middle class and those young ‘proles’ grudgingly admitted to college: the future directors of anything would have gone through a ‘Classical’ education — wildly unhistorical and largely to do with learning fractional class mannerisms. Now, since around the turn of the century, those superfast-track kids still go to the same Victorian-medieval private boarding schools, then once they get to Oxford they ‘study’ something called ‘Politics, Philosophy and Economics’, containing exactly the same quotient of historical criticism, i.e. none. But a Think-Tank internship awaits.

      2. Plenue

        Have you been to San Francisco lately, and seen how it’s being ruined by Silicon Valley? Or noticed how the ice caps are rapidly melting?

        Also, your recounting of your college course choices illustrates how the entire idea of what a university is even supposed to be for has been completely bastardized. A society in which people feel compelled to only get in education in things that are likely to make them money is not a healthy society.

  17. Optimader

    Mmm…money= freedom and resources, including time to pursue interests, for a curious person at least.

    Are electives no longer required in Colleges now? That would suprise me. I just crafted mine to suit my interests.

    Ha, iirc mortgage interest rates were over 18% within a year of my getting out of college, going into a recession.

    Last time i was in San Francisco was mid Nov 1989. The reason I remember was because it was exactly one month after the earthquake, so no, I have not exactly been there in recent history.

    I do recall being struck by the impression that I had absolutely no interest in living there tho, and ppl there bitterly bitched about the cost of living there at that time! That was , what 26 years ago? Why did anyone stay? to suffer with each-other?? did not compute then, does not compute now.

    If I had to move to Cali, it would be up north, far north, say the Willamette Valley or Bend OR haha!

    With regard to the “the ice cap melting”.. how is it that you have information available to come to that conclusion? Did you build a thermometer and walk there? Technology can be used benignly, technology can be used for evil.

    So I think you miss my point. Technology and STEM educated people are not anymore intrinsically evil than you’re typical liberal arts educated person. I can make a case that they are possibly less evil based on the educational background of the preponderance of people that become societies Policy Makers that Codify the use of technology!

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