Links 2/27/17

Alarming New Coral Bleaching Event Has Begun at the Great Barrier Reef TruthOut

Watch the heartwarming sight of Olive Ridley turtles taking their first baby steps to the sea

How psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD actually change the way people see the world (David L)

Wendy’s plans self-ordering kiosks at 1,000 locations WHIO (martha r)

The Big Question for the U.S. Economy: How Much Room Is There to Grow? NYT (UserFriendly) Help Me.

Store closings are part of the business, but is this business as usual? Chain Store Age (martha r)

Class Warfare

Twilight of the Technocrats? Jacobin (Joe H)

Warren Buffett endorses share buybacks FT (Marshall) “Buffett has become the worst kind of crony capitalist.”

Buffett and Gates: America Is Already Great, Thanks to Immigrants Atlantic (UserFriendly)

If Facebook ruled the world: Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a digital future The Conversation


There May Be a Huge Brexit Fight Over Financial Plumbing WSJ

Scotland to demand new referendum, No 10 fears The Times

Yanks to the Rescue Time (Sid S)

Models wear pink protest hats at Milan Fashion Week show The Hill (UserFriendly) “​Kill me. How many rural voters do you think this swayed? Which direction?”


China has too much to lose from a messy European bust-up SCMP

iPhones and sex toys may cost more if there’s a US-China trade war BBC (Dr. Kevin)

Only China Can Save the Planet Foreign Policy (resilc)


Interesting week for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump Vineyard of the Saker (Chuck L)

How years of IMF prescriptions have hurt West African health systems The Conversation

What Happens to Refugees Turned Away by the Safe Third Country Agreement Vice

Must It Always Be Wartime? NYRB

Chelsea Clinton lets loose on Twitter Politico

Natural gas could cost less than coal for Kemper plant WLOX (PF)

2016 Post Mortem

That’s the Way the Party Crumbles WSJ


Democracy is damaged when people are afraid to speak out: Amartya Sen Economic Times


Another US Warning on Indian Drugs Over Lax Quality The Wire

Big Brother IS Watching You Watch

Documents Indicate Germany Spied on Foreign Journalists Der Spiegel

I Tracked Myself With $170 Smartphone Spyware that Anyone Can Buy Motherboard (furzy) A reminder of the perils of smartphones– and that Big Brother is only the tip of the iceberg.



Winners and losers from the Democratic National Committee chairman’s race WaPo (resilc)

Sanders revolution resists DNC loss Politico

How Perez edged Ellison for DNC chair The Hill (UserFriendly. ​”You have got to be fucking kidding me.​”

Perez Chosen As DNC Chair Ian Welsh (martha r)

Centrist populists are by no means risk-free FT (UserFriendly) “The populists are everywhere, check under your bed.​”


Trump Transition

How Steve Bannon captured America’s spirit of revolt resilc:

What culture do you think Bannon means? The buccaneering culture of the Wall Street traders? The corrupt culture of the real estate appraisers or the bond rating agencies? The get-rich-quick culture of the mortgage originators?

No, no and no. He means … the counterculture of the 1960s. Bell bottoms. Drum solos. Dope. That’s the thing to blame for the financial crisis and the bailouts. Not the deregulation of derivatives in 2000. It was those kids having fun at Woodstock in 1969.

Pelosi dismisses Trump’s first month, saying he’s ‘done nothing’ Politico (AC). “Nancy doesn’t get that the less-effective evil is just less effective.”

Poll: Majority thinks media too critical of Trump The Hill (martha r)


Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials, key lawmakers to counter Russia stories WaPo (UserFriendly) “​Breaking news! Trump tried to push his side of the story to the news outlets! That means he did it, right?​”

The Art of Don’s Con New Republic (resilc)

Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Is Worsening the Military’s Child Care Crisis Slate (resilc)

The Travel Press is Reporting the ‘Trump Slump,’ a Devastating Drop in Tourism to the United States Frommers (Dr. Kevin)

Nominee for Navy secretary withdraws Politico

More than one in 10 staff at US banks work in Asia FT. Filed here because it discusses whether this trend will continue now that Trump’s called to return jobs to the US.

Chao Warns Governors: Paying for Big Transport Plans to Be Hard Bloomberg (martha r)

Antidote du jour:


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. fresno dan

    Must It Always Be Wartime? NYRB

    Yes. Putin screwing up the Oscars is the last straw – this will not stand. And if Trump doesn’t order a first strike, it proves Trump is Putin’s b*tch.

    1. Carolinian

      The bizarre confusion of the denouement may encapsulate Hollywood–an industry that preaches Love conquers Hate while making gun violence and revenge fantasies into staples of its output. So yes it’s only a matter of time before Putin gets fingered. After all they gave an AA to The White Helmets.

      1. fresno dan

        February 27, 2017 at 8:12 am

        Apparently, from everything I have read, it was due to both Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway being illiterate, OR so old AND vain that they need to wear glasses but won’t…..of course, picking the right envelope to begin with out of a container shouldn’t be that difficult.

        I’m pretty sure this will be used to justify instituting “Logan’s Run”…..

          1. Carolinian

            Well his suggestion that they faked the mistake is surely not true. It’s not as though that sort of thing could be kept secret.

            And it’s likely that most of the geezers who vote for the awards didn’t even see The While Helmets and simply thought it sounded virtuous. It’s our news media who keep the probable truth about the While Helmets a deep dark secret. One of the most amusing things about the show was that the New York Times did ads promoting themselves as a source for “truth.” The Timesmen must be getting worried if they are paying for ads during the Oscars. Like the WaPo’s new sales pitch the theory seems to be when under attack launch better PR. This was also Obama’s theory after all.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I paused watching the Democratic Party Oscar Awards Show (aka OuRs iS The OnLy ProTEcted ForM oF FreE SPeeCh GaLa) long enough to watch this video of Marine Le Pen on the BBC. I can’t seem to find a single word I disagree with:

        I wish someone during the awards would have asked the audience “truthfully now, people, raise your hand if you voted”. My guess is that 85% would raise their hand (but the truth would be closer to 65%). But zero-accountability self-righteous indignation feels so much better.

    2. Ernesto Lyon

      Does anyone else think the Best Picture mixup was purposefully planned for social media fodder?

      My wife was watching so I caught glimpses of the show.

      My hat goes off to the courage shown by all those who would bash Trump in front of that shark pit.

    3. sid_finster

      You would sound right at home on CNN.

      Add a few high-sounding platitudes and you could be writing for the WaPo editorial board.

  2. fresno dan

    Buffett and Gates: America Is Already Great, Thanks to Immigrants Atlantic (UserFriendly)

    Buffett: I think the disparity is what bothers people. It bothers me. Nobody can name the person who topped the Forbes list in 1982. It was Dan Ludwig. He had two billion dollars in 1982. It put him on top of the list. He’d barely make the cut today. The aggregate wealth on that list has gone from $93 billion to $2.4 trillion and the disparities are extraordinary.

    There are two things you could have told my parents that they wouldn’t have believed back when I was born in 1930. One was that real GDP, capital, would go up six for one. In one person’s lifetime. The second thing is that, for a significant percentage of the people, not overwhelming, but a significant percentage, they wouldn’t be able to support a family with a couple of kids by working a 40-hour week. Both of these things happened.

    I USED to believe some getting richer didn’t make others poorer…..I don’t believe that anymore.

    1. Pat

      Mr Buffet must have a very different idea of overwhelming than I do. Mind you he does run in very different circles, one where he actually knows people who can support a family of four on one salary and likely in better style to most of my friends and acquaintances. Oh wait I have met a couple too, and suffice it to say that they would have sympathized with how poor the Romney’s were while Mitt attended college.

      Two salaries, Warren, that is how most families survive any more probably including your secretary.

      1. UserFriendly

        But his $100k a year neighbors are doing fine????

        And science has been making peoples lives better!!?!?!

        1. paul

          The lives of the owners of the scientist’s employers, certainly.
          You can’t have trickle down if there’s not enough in the top, stagnant reservoir.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Science as practiced by greedy humans is dangerous.

          When science is employed by less greedy animals, say, apes, perhaps it would not be as menacing.

          As very few humans are immune from greed (I refer to the saints among us), perhaps we meditate on a universal ban on practicing science, until such time when less greedy humans roam the planet.

      2. Katharine

        I suspect that he was thinking in terms of looking at a data set, in which case “overwhelming” might only mean a significant majority. Unfortunately for most people, it is sufficiently overwhelming to know that many of the people around them, if not (if they are lucky) they themselves, are struggling even with two incomes. He seems to understand intellectually that this is unjust without really being able to appreciate the actual harm implied by that injustice. And at that, he is still ahead of most of his class.

        1. Pat

          Understanding intellectually while not incorporating that into how you behave, in Buffet’s case how he runs his businesses because that is what the law allows is pretty meaningless over time. Ten years ago, I would give him props for realization. Now I just put it in the same category as having to hold Obama’s feet to the fire. It is not my job to make you do what you know it is right, that is merely your excuse for not doing it.

          1. Katharine

            I’m not disagreeing with you, having also given up expecting any real responsibility in his actions. I was just trying to make sense of that jarring phrasing. It is a bit strange that someone who can and does make the analysis also can remain so resistant to the appropriate action that should follow from it, but he seems to do so regularly. Indifferent to cognitive dissonance?

            1. Pat


              We are likely both right and it is something like splitting it like that he can keep it intellectual and avoid guilt even if it really doesn’t make any sense.

    2. johnnygl

      I didn’t think wealth/income was a zero sum game, either. I also didn’t get the concept of ‘primitive accumulation’.

      How many radicals are the oligarchs creating with their bad behavior? 10 years ago no one game sanders the time of day. What are politics going to look like in another 10?

      1. fresno dan

        February 27, 2017 at 8:46 am
        Agree 100% about the zero sum. 90% ain’t enough for them – it has to be 100%

        I can’t say how much I like:
        Twilight of the Technocrats? Jacobin (Joe H)

        “What matters is what works,” Tony Blair proclaimed in 1998, neatly encapsulating the technocratic spirit of the new liberal center (or “Third Way”). Behind the phrase “what works” we find both the essence of this vision and also the key to understanding its cardinal flaw.

        In the same speech, Blair variously endorsed “reconciling themes which in the past have wrongly been regarded as antagonistic,” including “patriotism and internationalism; rights and responsibilities; the promotion of enterprise and the attack on poverty and discrimination.” In actualizing these values, he added, “a large measure of pragmatism is essential.”
        To Blair endorsing “what works,” we might reply: for whom? To what end? On the basis of which guiding principles?
        I’ve been stuck on this theme for a long time, that the Davos man idea that they are just applying natural law, or science, or sumthin’ so if you oppose them you are against physics, or math, or geology instead of it being the rules of humans – and the funny thing about the rules of humans is that the rules of humans is that they ALWAYS benefit the humans making the rules…..(and the humans making the rules SAY they benefit all humans)

      2. Benedict@Large

        Primitive accumulation says that in order for there to be capitalism, there must first be capital. Primitive accumulation is the process before capitalism that creates that capital. In other words, theft.

        1. johnnygl

          Yup, capitalism’s dirty little secret of original sin. The real problem is that it never really stops. Oligarchs only get to be oligarchs because they manage to find a way to rob or sponge off of the state.

        2. Olga

          Or – as in the case of the US – conquering a land by genocide and then accumulating wealth via slave labour (and in agriculture first (think 17th and 18th centuries)). So yes, theft, and on a grand scale.

      3. jrs

        maybe only some forms of wealth are a zero sum game (real estate can be). But wealth as political and market power surely is.

    3. justanotherprogressive

      I certainly hope these two guys don’t break their arms patting themselves so hard on their backs. But are either of these two men willing to give away enough money to risk their positions as the No. 1 and No. 2 world’s richest men? Not hardly……apparently their “giving” is just to enhance their own reputations, and not out of some desire to “do good”.
      Nice to know that all Buffet’s neighbors who earn $100,000/year are doing so well…..but err…the average salary in this country is about $52,000… is the average American doing? Oh, yea, Buffet and Gates don’t know because those people aren’t their neighbors…..
      And as for their “giving”? Maybe they should read Poverty Inc. How much good are they REALLY doing as compared to how much good they think they are doing…..

      1. Kokuanani

        Actually Buffett lives in a very ordinary house in Omaha NE, in a modest neighborhood. Any of his neighbors who make $100,000/year could live like princes there because of the bargain basement cost of living.

        OTOH, he’s also got a house in La Jolla CA that’s got some quite fancy neighbors. He frequently makes the point that because of CA’s Prop. 13 [which limits property taxes on residences & business property — they’re only reassessed up to current market value upon a sale or change of ownership], the property taxes on his multi-million dollar abode in CA are less than what he pays in Omaha.

      2. Propertius

        .but err…the average salary in this country is about $52,000…..

        I think that’s too high. The median household income in the US was actually a hair above $56k last year (it’s been under $52k for most of the “recovery”), but given the number of two (or more) income households that includes, the salary figure has to be lower. A lot lower, in fact. I believe the median personal income for workers over the age of 15 is a little over $30k these days. That’s probably closer to an “average salary”.

        So yes, if you make over 3 times the median personal income or nearly twice the median household income and you live in Omaha (so you can be one of Buffet’s neighbors) you are probably reasonably comfortable. You might have even put away enough money to keep you in cat food during your golden years.

        1. Milton

          Indeed. Median household income is $54,149 for 2016*. Per capita income is $29,472.

          *Esri 2016 Demographic Update

    4. paul

      I’m sure he’s just waiting until he has a big enough pile to really make a difference.
      I’m sure he feels as helpless and frustrated as the rest of us.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        In 2014, 62 people controlled half of the world’s wealth, as of 2016 that number is down to 8 people. If we wait 3.5 years, half the world’s wealth will be owned by one guy. We can then strangle him in the bathtub and redistribute, the resulting economic golden age would make prior periods look like a faint glimmer.
        (I know, I know, multi-billionaire funds are already invested in companies from their hidey-holes in Panama…but redistribute to George and Martha and they’d buy a washing machine, not just make stocks go up.)

        1. Yves Smith

          That is based on an Oxfam study that is garbage. Please don’t refer to it. There’s no doubt income and wealth inequality have risen without them overegging the pudding.

  3. fresno dan

    Last September, Politico published a long-form feature on Elan Kriegel, Hillary Clinton’s analytics wizard and the principal architect of her campaign’s leviathan data strategy.

    One of the highest-paid staff at Clinton HQ in Brooklyn, Kriegel developed a devilishly complex algorithm called “Ada” that reportedly guided all of the campaign’s most critical strategic decisions — from which states to send the candidate and her surrogates to where and when to run ads and invest resources. So panoptic was Ada’s reach that it frequently overrode the judgment and local knowledge of Democratic activists on the ground.
    More than perhaps any waged before, the Clinton campaign invested an inexhaustible faith (not to mention considerable financial resources) in the wisdom and effectiveness of experts, its upper echelons dominated by a generation of Democratic insiders steeped in Third Way thinking and analysis.
    So many good articles today.
    Expertise…..knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing….

    1. Steve H.

      Not exactly nothing. Dividing the world into finer and thinner slices is nonlinear but never reaches zero. [Ask A Korinthenkacker]

      Asymptotic ASSumptions: Assymptotic? Assumptotic?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Polling is only as good as the data used, and I suspect Team Blue relies too heavily on Republicans in the Washington metro area in seemingly safe blue seats for data. Republicans with similar standard of living in the states where Hillary did worse than Kerry (the states that mattered) didn’t come out for Hillary.

          What would a vote for Hillary bring them? There is no social capital to be gained as the Democrats aren’t a dominant force, and the calculus of voting and not voting is different in a safe race and a competitive race. Would Utah have ever polled well for that third party guy if the Mormons really believed Hillary could win? I bet he would have politely bowed out. If the expectation was Hillary was going to win regardless, then social capital is the best reason to vote.

          I’m not sure a Hillary appearance would have helped, even in Wisconsin. It’s not like people were unaware of Hillary Clinton or the election. She’s unpopular because she’s been around so long even a devoted press couldn’t are her look good. She stopped taking questions from the media for a reason.

          Some years back, the proto-Teabaggers and the GOP power brokers challenged every Republican who voted for the Mark Warner backed budget in Virginia which was actually written by two Republican state senators. The Club for Growth was in on this action because of tax increases. The question was should Democrats vote for the eight GOP defectors. Winning the legislature wasn’t a pipe dream at the time, and so the argument, enter was do we want to risk a lunatic we can definitely beat or deliver a permanent Republican majority with eight or so now “reasonable Republicans” in once winnable races. Yes, these eight guys were reasonable enough, but they end the possibility of ever taking the lower house of the legislature if they were on the ballot in November and not taken out by Grover Norquist. Only Democrats in those districts had to make the decision to vote in a Republican primary. Are we practical and lose or pure and win but destroy bipartisan cooperation in the future?

    2. David

      The Jacobin piece is a bit confused and tries to cover too many different points, but the essential message is that the idea of the apolitical technocrat is quite simply rubbish, as I’ve said before on this site. Whilst people, or even groups of people may well believe that they are acting on purely technical grounds, irrespective of their interests and beliefs, this is seldom if ever the case. The really important point though, and not addressed here, is that in the paleolithic era (say up to 1980) this was all acknowledged and above board, and the “experts” worked directly in government for political masters. Their ideas and judgements had better be correct, or they wouldn’t have much of a career. The retreat of government in the last thirty-odd years has created a whole population of semi-detached or even entirely privatized power-centers who are immensely influential without being accountable to anyone, and who never suffer because of their mistakes. This is helpful to politicians who can always find an allegedly “independent” source telling them that what they want to do anyway is perfectly fine. To the extent that the current backlash against experts is justified, this is really because the whole concept of expertise has been devalued into a product to be sold to justify a policy that has already been decided.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        This is a very important point. Over the years many formerly government ‘technocratic’ advisory roles performed by government employees have been outsourced in one way or another. Even in my working lifetime, I’ve seen a creeping process of where they are performed more and more by private companies, either through privatisation or through government departments and agencies being forced to hire consultants rather than hire in-house expertise.

        This has inevitably both chipped away at institutional knowledge within governments, as well as providing an obvious in-built bias to the advice its been given on a very wide range of issues. Even though its very hard to quantify its hard to believe that this hasn’t caused a degredation in the quality of advice recieved by the wide spectrum of decision-makers.

        1. cocomaan

          That’s why any call to dismantle government bureaucracy is usually benign, in my experience. The bureaucratic load ends up being administered by whatever private industry benefits wanted the bureaucratic reduction in the first place. Bloat never ceases to increase.

          I try, as a thought experiment, to figure out what area of my life has been de-bureaucratized, but it’s hard to pin down. Banking and finance certainly still has its own forms of carbon copies, all digital, where’s it’s still just as hard to send twenty five dollars to a friend as it was years ago. Higher ed is a disaster. And so on.

          What we need is a real understanding of bureaucratic technique and a rethinking of Weber, but there’s very little study going on in that regard.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I think there is plenty of evidence that the digitisation and streamling of processes has actually led to more time been spent on administration, not less. Sometimes its deliberate – i.e. technology being used to increase management control, not speed up work, sometimes just the inevitable consequence of ‘new’ systems ending up being more complicated than necessary. In my experience, almost all the advantages given by pushing work online and on the cloud has been eroded by the multiplicity of rules put in place to plug security problems caused by the technology.

            Incidentally, to go back to the original point – HRC’s campaign and Ada – it did occur to me that it would have been unthinkable for any political campaign of any size or scale 20 years ago to put its entire faith into an outside consultant, and over rule its own people on the ground on this basis. That would have been seen as both wasteful and far too risky. No algorithm can replace feedback from people on the ground. Something deeper is going on when apparently rational, experienced and intelligent people make such a jaw droppingly stupid decision.

            1. David

              If you see the de facto role of the private sector as being to take simple processes and turn them into complex and expensive ones in order to extract rent at each stage, then all this makes perfect sense. A publicly-owned transport system, for example, needs experts but mainly on the technical side. A privately owned transport system, on the other hand, needs a parasitical army of lawyers, accountants, bankers, auditors and PR specialists, and is in turn courted by an entire new industry of external “experts” all asking to be consulted about various things. Private ownership, simply put, creates “problems” which in turn need “experts” to solve them who were not necessary before. I think, to come back to the beginning of the article, that the effect of this privatization and leaching of expertise has been to make politicians turn reflexively for advice from “outside experts”, when there own people almost certainly know better.

              1. Praedor

                To me, NO government service should ever be privatized UNLESS it is a short-term, or very periodic activity. Ongoing services cannot “benefit” from privatization and can ONLY cost users more for less service. This is simple logic. A government service doesn’t have a useless, fat CEO trying to self-enrich (give self “bonus”), nor is there any attempt to “maximize shareholder value”. All a government run service needs to do is break even, though a SLIGHT profit would be nice to make for easy upgrades in equipment and training rather than having to wait for appropriations to OK it.

                Perhaps emergency situations could be semi-privatized. Instead of paying for an on-going government service that only gets used (hopefully) once in a blue moon, you use private SHORT-TERM contracts to handle emergency situations as they arise.

                1. Oregoncharles

                  You mean the fire department?
                  The contracting process is too slow for emergencies.
                  Highly intermittent but foreseeable activities do fit the contracting model – like construction. Road maintenance is consistent enough that it should be public.

              2. PlutoniumKun

                Agreed. A classic example of this is public-private partnerships for infrastructure. Once upon a time if a new road was needed a government agency designed it, put it out to tender, and let the cheapest private contractor build it.

                With public private partnerships you create a vast bureacracy to negotiate every detail of responsibility, you create layers of complexity to raise money for it (invariably at higher rates than it would have cost the government to just borrow for it), and another set of layers to run it. And almost inevitably it goes bust and the liabilities for all the costs ends up with the public again.

                1. pricklyone

                  Yep. You get to pay all of the same costs as if Gov. built it, plus a GUARANTEED profit for the operating company/investor. And a premium for ‘private’ financing.
                  “It’s the way things will get done in the future”. TINA.
                  We are doomed, unless people start to understand how they are being gamed.
                  Don’t even look at sports stadium financing!

      2. UserFriendly

        Yeah, the whole technocratic I’m always right no matter how much I fail discussion yesterday reminded me of this excellent article from april, but I didn’t post it till late. So in case anyone missed it….

        Of course the best thing I’ve ever seen on vox would be from the kid they ended up firing because he ‘called for anti Trump rally’s’.

        1. Outis Philalithopoulos

          Funny, it’s also the best thing I ever read on Vox.

          It should be remembered that Remsin’s point was not exactly received with general enthusiasm. Salon published a response from David Masciotra, ridiculing every aspect of Remsin’s article and saying, no, We must shame dumb Trump voters.

          Subheading: “It’s not smug liberalism to point out that Trump backers are uneducated. What’s dangerous is to sympathize with them.”

          1. UserFriendly

            God that was the worst thing I have ever read. Those small town racists get shamed by coastal elites and wear it as a badge of honor. Kim Davis went on a ‘give me money’ rally around the country with some reactionary; either Santorum or Gingrich. How far does your head have to be up your behind to just pretend that shunning Conservatives from thousands of miles away will have a deterring effect. It should be OBVIOUS that shunning is only effective from someone from your social circle, people that you have nothing in common with, you either revel in their disapproval or just ignore it.

            Does he really think in a country of 300 million that going 180 on a policy law that is based on someones flying spaghetti monster, which millions worship, would just have everyone fall in line, cause after all it’s the law. He had better not be protesting Trumps travel bans in that case.

            Also, he makes the false assumption that Resin is a coastal elite to contrast with his real america life in Indiana. Resin lives in Iowa City, which is in his twitter bio. excellent journalism there.

            Resin has a new piece on the failure of the pundits, worth the read.

          2. Lynne

            The shaming worked so well for the left in France too, didn’t it? Last year, Marine LePen told an interviewer about how difficult it was a little girl when her classmates’ parents would not allow their children to play with her because of her father’s politics. The smug shaming worked really well going after a child. They really put a spoke in the right with that one, didn’t they?

      3. Katniss Everdeen

        Funny story, kinda sorta, about “expertise.”

        Many, many moons ago, I had an idea for an “invention.” It was for a recording of busy office sounds, to be played when answering the phone in a small or home office, giving the impression that the business was larger and busier than it actually was, and promoting sales.

        Through a bizarre set of circumstances, my idea came to the attention of a Chicago PR firm who called me and asked for a meeting.

        Their pitch was that if I gave them $5000, they would promote me as an “expert” in home offices, about which I knew absolutely nothing, a fact which they dismissed as completely irrelevant. I could “learn.”

        Being somewhat of a pragmatic sort, I told them that I found the whole idea beyond ridiculous and blew them off. Little did I know……..

        1. Ernesto Lyon

          My lawyer friend defines an expert as someone who “makes $500/hour and lives two states away.”

        2. Katharine

          There are simpler methods than having a recording. You can be one of the one or two people in an office and answer the phone, “Blank, Inc. How may I direct your call?” The illusion can even almost fool the other person listening to you from five feet off.

          1. craazyman

            what if you’re business isn’t called “Blank, Inc.”?

            That would certainly defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?

        3. craazyman

          That may have been patented already.

          I remember watching Get Smart back in the day. Maxwell Smart was walking down a hallway in an office building pretending to be a Nazi and had a device on his shiny black boot, when he pushed a button, it sounded like hundreds of people marching down a hall.

          If it wasn’t Maxwell Smart and was some other character. huge bonus points will be awarded for Sitcom trivia correction.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Craazy, love ya man, but isn’t it amazing what MP4s get stuck on “Replay” in the recesses of our craniums?
            I remember watching the very first Get Smart episode, enraptured. I was with my best friend Ted Fischer and we watched from under the bed in his parent’s bedroom, hiding like spies.

      4. Romancing The Loan

        the whole concept of expertise has been devalued into a product to be sold to justify a policy that has already been decided

        Well put. If NC was that sort of site, I’d in-line that .gif of an audience applauding enthusiastically.

      5. manymusings

        Others basically have already said this, but worth emphasizing: the corollary to the technocratic conceit of being above or beyond ideology is the conviction that the status quo, and its clear trajectory, are inevitable. Faith in inevitability is a part of what makes technocratic ideology total and totalizing; deteriorating outcomes, human suffering, the worsening of social welfare and civic life by basically any decent measure — these things never are evidence of failure or cause for reflection, they are simply areas where “more progress is needed” and, don’t worry, this march of progress is inevitable. Thus its failures are papered over with smug platitudes like “continuing to expand opportunity” which reinforces both the notion of progress (“expand” signals the New Way belief that things are always getting better even as they obviously aren’t) and the notion of meritocracy (“opportunity” is of course the New Dem euphemism for making sure influence and resources remain in the hands of the deserving).

        I would add, too, that the technocrat obsession with “unity” is meant to discredit dissent from any quarter, in any context. Who can count how many times Perez said on the Sunday shows “the democrats’ unity is our best weapon and Trump’s worst nightmare!” (barf.) For the Beltway press corps and punditry circuit, the litmus test for the new Administration is “can he bring the country together?” (And of course, the perception of discord surrounding the Trump Administration is implicitly construed as not just failure, but as evidence of Trump’s extremism, his lack of technocratic cred). The logic or purpose of “unity” is assumed as self-evident, because the most vexing problem faced by those in power is that anyone might believe there’s a problem at all; it is the mere fact that people disagree. Implicit here is a rejection of any substance of disagreement; to the technocrat, the issue, the problem, is the disagreement itself.

        Technocrats, safe in their perch and assured among themselves that they never have to answer to anything or anyone, bat down any challenge by painting it as angry intransigence from the “far left” or “far right” — never mind that those labels increasingly fail to describe political factions or common cause, and often are used by the same technocrat in the same breath in totally incoherent ways (e.g., this weekend Chuck Todd seemed to conflate Ellison backers with the “activist energy of the recent marches,” even though the latter are far more likely to be Clintonite dead-enders scolding others about “unifying,” and to the extent the democrat establishment thinks it’s winning by”harnessing the energy” of this cohort — professional-class-pragmatists-turned-self-identifying-“resistance” — it will be surprised and outraged over and over again when the “far left” fails to fall in line). These labels aren’t intended to be accurate or to clarify anything, they are intended to reinforce the logic and hierarchy of the power structure: the technocrat always occupies “the center” and is a “moderate” (no matter how extreme the policy or position); and by identifying with the “center” the technocrat claims the mantle of “compromise” (even though the beneficiaries are always the same); and claims “compromise” as the goal of democracy, inherently reasonable and fair (regardless of the source of a policy, whom it serves and to what end). It need never justify itself. As the Jacobin article notes, any question of “for whom” and “to what end” is construed as unreasonable, angry, extreme, “populist” — and depending on the particular bent, either “far left” or “far right.”

        The calls to unity are voiced in terms of “inclusion” and “stronger together” but of course the tagline is always “so long as I’m in charge.” It is meant to reassert power and discredit in advance any dissent. To stamp out any, you know, diversity.

      6. PKMKII

        The really important point though, and not addressed here, is that in the paleolithic era (say up to 1980) this was all acknowledged and above board, and the “experts” worked directly in government for political masters. Their ideas and judgements had better be correct, or they wouldn’t have much of a career. The retreat of government in the last thirty-odd years has created a whole population of semi-detached or even entirely privatized power-centers who are immensely influential without being accountable to anyone, and who never suffer because of their mistakes.

        The flip side of that is how they become to be seen as “experts” has become less and less connected to their accomplishments and more about their connections in Washington. Know a guy who knows a guy who can hook you up with the contracts dept. at such and such agency, be able to BS your way through a presentation or mission statement (do your best Gladwell impersonation), you’re in the money, even if you don’t have any clue about the subject. This has become most apparent in the realm of cybersecurity contractors, who’ve shown a knack for both talking a big game about defeating hackers, and for being easily brought down by hacker collectives.

    3. stillfeelintheberninwi

      I USED to believe some getting richer didn’t make others poorer…..I don’t believe that anymore.

      Expertise…..knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing…

      You are on a roll today. Making my morning feel better, because I totally agree.

  4. Harry

    Trump Slump ?

    You don’t think the big dollar rally might have affected vacation travel plans more than Trump distaste?

    1. Quentin

      Bingo! The US now offers little value for money, as they say. To boot, there are so many nice places to visit around the world.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Yah, so them as can “afford it” (because they don’t have to pay for the externality damages and horrors that are “passed along” to the future) can hop on a CO2-spewing jet and lay another trail of misplaced moisture and combustion byproducts through the upper atmosphere. On the way to “enjoying their very personal pleasure experience” somewhere else’s. Because they are “worth it.” And “earned it,” in a variety of surely socially useful ways, like Innovating! and Investing! and Looting! And thus are Entitled! to Enjoy Freedom! ™ from immediate personal consequences… And of course there’s a myriad of justifications for why this or that person has “truly earned that experience of a lifetime,” going somewhere else to do a tiny little bit of warpage to another culture, by laying down some foreign currency and the disaffections that come from use of phrase books and demands for “service…”

        Of course there are lots of what I, in my arrogance, would deem are “legitimate” reasons to travel that way, now aren;t there? Like “medical tourism,” maybe, because (and I love this phrase, it had not occurred to me before,) home-country HEALTH SYSTEMS are damaged beyond utility. Health systems — so much more healthy than “medical UNsurname” or “coverage.” Especially the latter, recallling another use of the word “cover,” which is what stallions do to mares to prolong their species…

        1. ewmayer


          But, yeah, lotsa rich rhyming-negative oppos here: chump,dump,frump,grump,lump,rump,slump,thump,pootinstooge…

      1. FluffytheObeseCat

        If I were a foreign national, even a white from the Anglophone world, I would not be rushing to visit the U.S. Our borders are unpleasant and intimidating to cross even for citizens. Our customs admissions centers are understaffed and our border agents are unwelcoming, officious and very powerful.

        The key point is that this is not suddenly due to Trump; they were this way even in the latter part of the previous century. However, the fear that Trump is emboldening petty tyrants and worsening the problem is not unreasonable. There are quite a few news reports suggesting this is the case. (I suspect our petty-natured, virtue-signaling media is just finally reporting on crap that went on under the radar for decades but, I don’t have the data to prove this).

        1. RMO

          I’ve had a reluctance to cross the border into the U.S. for years. I found it to be unpleasant and intimidating even back in the pre-9/11 days. I live within a 15 minute drive of the border crossing but it always amazes me just how different things feel once I cross that line.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      The dollar rally (and in particular the drop in sterling which has been a double–whammy for UKers) has been significant, but I think the biggest reason is just that people fear getting caught up in visa/security hassles in getting into the US. For someone planning a short vacation trip or a visit to relatives, it makes them think twice.

    3. DH

      The US dollar has been up in this range since early 2015. Any slump due to the dollar should have shown up in late 2015 and 2016 since people rarely plan trips more than 1 year in advance.

      1. L

        Agreed. This kind of event scares people. And in a purely at-will market like tourism they will just take their business elsewhere.

        The catch is, it does not appear that Trump, or to be more accurate, Bannon, are bothered by that. In an interview with Steven Miller Bannon once stated:

        “As horrific as that is, and it’s horrific, don’t we have a problem? We’ve looked the other way on this legal immigration that’s kinda overwhelmed the country?”

        Given that he apparently views all immigration or outsiders with distaste it is hard to see him worried about scaring off foreign tourists.

        1. Lord Koos

          There are an awful lot of businesses that aren’t going to be happy about this however, and at some point they will take it up with the white house.

      2. DH

        Headlines like this may have something to do with it as well:

        For some reason, many people view the US as a very unsafe place to visit given the level of gun-related homicides along with the rise of hate crimes. Contrary to the NRA’s opinion, the statistics say that more widespread guns create more, not fewer homicides. Most of the rest of the world (apart from war-torn areas) is not used to the level of gun violence that is present in the US.

      3. forgotmyname

        Highly educated presumably middle class techies including from anglo saxon countries not exempt from absurd questioning by immigrations officers:

        I assume there are many more cases like this (had a few more links, but didn’t want to clutter up my post). In both cases they were let in, but as a german citizen with a Persian first name doing my PhD in a stem field in the US I can’t say I am not a little worried about being arbitrarily denied entry.

        1. peter

          I usually visit the US twice per year, from Brazil, for work. I’m a resident in Brazil but a Dutch citizen. The airline provides the passenger list to US authorities and authorities select passengers to be questioned and searched before boarding.

          It so happens that for the last 4 years, or so, I’ve been ‘picked’ each and every time. I know a thing or two about odds and this is not normal. On my last trip something new happened. Entering the US I was taken downstairs for ‘friendly’ questioning. Actually, they didn’t ‘question’ much but for some standard questions, and also asked for my email, work address, etc. Then on the way out of the US back to Brazil, they printed 4 large capital S’s on my boarding card. When I got to security the lady officer looked at it and shouted.. ‘I’ve got 4 S’s here. I need somebody…’, which meant I got ‘special treatment’ and was body searched and special search procedures were taken with my hand luggage and laptop.

          Now, I have a totally clean record and never engaged in anything illegal. My wife is an activist for indigenous causes, My son denominates himself an anarchist, but in spirit only. He wouldn’t be on the teargas soaked front lines, so to speak. I’m probably a bit too outspoken on FB and other social media and highly critical of US foreign policy. I read people like Chomsky and Robert Fisk and visit sites like democracy now and lately follow many links from NC. I contribute financially to independent media every now and then, but small amounts. Other than that, I work for a company that builds security software, but really nothing of interest to authorities (anti-spam, anti-virus, DNS security).

          So what the heck is going on? The company I work for now provides me with a letter before I enter the US, stating that I’m required to be there and names/telephone numbers of CEO, Sales VPs to be contacted if necessary, etc.
          Really. Why would I want to go visit the US for tourism under these circumstances? My next vacation in June will be to Canada with my family. We were thinking of visiting friends in Seattle from Vancouver, but afraid of the hassle we decided not to do it. So yes, I can see how tourism numbers are dropping in the US.

  5. Bill Smith

    “Documents Indicate Germany Spied on Foreign Journalists”

    Journalism was a common cover for Soviet intelligence operatives. Have the Russians changed this?

    1. diptherio

      Journalism was is a common cover for Soviet intelligence operatives.

      There, fixed if for you. Adding, our intelligence services have been known to pretend to be doctors giving vaccines. Fortunately, we’re the good guys, so it’s ok.

  6. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Is Worsening the Military’s Child Care Crisis Slate

    At the risk of stating the obvious, there’s something more than slightly twisted about a “crisis” in finding childcare for people who are training or deploying to kill and maim other people’s children, or the parents / caregivers of those children.

    Not to mention needing childcare so you can do your job of raining continual terror down on other people’s children and pulverizing the infrastructure on which they rely for shelter, water, food and medicine, while someone else makes sure yours are “safe.”

    I suppose it’s too much to hope that Trump’s “callous” hiring freeze could help end the madness by making it impossible for these loving military parents to show up for the killing.

    1. Eureka Springs

      One of the horrors of my childhood… being left on occasional evenings under military base childcare in Fort Hood. Forty five years on I can still smell it, see it, hear and feel the horror of it. Nurse Diesel and Ratchet combined had nothing on these ‘caregivers’.

    2. wilroncanada

      I suppose we could go back to the good ol’ days, where a lot of employees were not allowed to get married or have children, unless given special permission by their employers: many teachers, many nurses, bankers, and others, as well as many military.

  7. ProNewerDeal

    Given the news of the election of DNC Chair Tom Perez, it seems that the neoliberal Establishment D faction keeps power in spite of their repeated incompetence. It seems Ian Welsh is correct in opining that the Est Ds would rather keep power over the D party & lose to Trump, then have Sanders win & risk losing power over the D party.

    For those interesting in New Deal/social democratic or more-left policies, e.g. the majority of USians, do you have an opinion on what is worth supporting in activism time/money given likely effectiveness?

    1 Progressive D faction hostile to neoliberal Establishment Clint0n/0bama Ds, like Justice Democrats

    2 Progressive 3rd party, like Green Party or Democratic Socialists of America

    3 independent social movement, like or (MedicareForAll advocates)

    There is also the issue of what organizations have proven themselves to be effective & efficient over time. IIRC Lambert opined that the Green Party are well intentioned, but are ineffective, operating “like a dysfunctional nonprofit org”.

    I am feeling the US political situation given recent events including the Perez election is grim currently. Thanks in advance for any feedback on this topic of effective activism.

    1. Carolinian

      The Iron Law of Institutions at work. If you are a Dem party honcho why would you support a reform movement that will kick you out as one of its first moves? Ian Welsh has said that the left should concentrate on the long game because short term there probably is no solution. A start might be founding a left party not called the Greens.

      1. Eureka Springs

        If the Green party had a democratic process and mechanisims to keep candidates bound to the platform, rather than insular top-down structure like the d party, I would beg to differ. I mean they do have a much better platform to begin with and they have managed to get on many a ballots for quite some time without taking huge sums from oligarchs and corps… a huge start compared to beginning anew.

        A few years back here in AR (a now deep Red State – over 60 percent Trump), when Dem Senator Mark Pryor ran unopposed by an R, a Green challenger with no money and no media attention garnered 20 plus percent in the general. Next round it was back to just D vs R and Pryor (think young Joe Lieberman dem) lost to Tom Cotton. In other words it was effectively a wash between two extreme war hawk neolibralcons.

        Practically every Green I’ve known running for office had to maintain their other full time day job to keep food on their family (H/T Bush Jr.). We can only expect so much with so little support in any third party.

        Whatever the case there is no time like the present to challenge both major parties any way possible.

      2. John k

        Bernie was offered the greens. Why not take them over? Get them functional if, as some here say, they’re dysfunctional? Wouldn’t this be faster easier cheaper than starting from scratch?
        They’re desperately short of money, progressive money appeals has been shown to work.
        Plus with trump pushing pollution a combo green progressive party is a natural fit.

        1. Lord Koos

          I think moving to support the Green party is a good idea. They have already done an enormous amount of work to enable them to actually appear on the ballot in most states – a new party would be starting from scratch.

    2. nick

      DSA isn’t exactly a 3rd party. Useful distinction is that much of its electoral work thus far has been within Dem primaries or non-partisan local elections.

      I have enjoyed my work organizing with them, but the recent growth means that there’s comparatively little, and strained, infrastructure. This has been fine for me but has also meant I’ve taken on more than I originally envisioned. It also means that because of the democratic structure of decision making things could look a bit different after the next convention.

      I’d recommend that someone assess their ideology and time/effort budget when evaluating options. If there’s no single, clear choice, just check a few of them out in person and see how the community and the work feels to you. I don’t think any such orgs have steep up front costs to participation, but maintaining even reasonable amounts of effort over time is a challenge and friendship and community help it happen. I’d also pay special attention to what they’re doing on local issues because it’s nice to actually win and god knows the national scene is dismal right now.

        1. nick

          Ha that’s a good question: most of the DSA meetings I’ve attended have been held at a WFP office!

          Based on my own, limited experience in one state….

          In practice, I’d say that WFP is an actual party, with presence in specific states only and a comparatively strong emphasis on electoral politics including ballot access. DSA is technically not a party at all and provides something of a national network for local social/political activist groups, each of which can choose to engage in electoral politics among other goals as it sees fit. DSA is also explicitly socialist and thus against private ownership of the means of production, while WFP is not.

          I didn’t want to add orgs to the list, but I’d definitely suggest ppl also consider WFP if it exists where they are.

    3. Annotherone

      1, 2 and 3 should join forces. I’ve often wondered why this hasn’t happened yet – it should’ve happened years ago! There must not be sufficient passion and determination to really get something done.

      1. Oregoncharles

        No, rival parties are not going to join forces.

        2 and 3 are already allied – a lot of the same people, and a network of endorsements.

    4. Carla

      @ProNewerDeal — I would like to make the humble suggestion that whatever specific political route you choose, you ALSO consider joining the national movement to pass the following as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution:

      H.J.Res.48 – Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only.

      HJR-48 now has the signatures of 25 members of Congress, and is the result of unstinting work by the non-partisan group, Move to Amend. I won’t send this into moderation by posting another link, but the web site may be found by typing the name as one word and adding “dot” org.

      1. Carla

        For NC readers in Ohio, or even nearby states, please consider attending this event in Columbus on April 1, 2017:

        Keynote speaker: Dennis Kucinich

        Two Sessions of Workshops (choose 1 of 3 in each session)

        1. Compare/Contrast the Top 4 Proposed Anti-Citizens-United Amendments
        2. Move to Amend Resources – Educational and Organizing (includes Manual: How to Put a Citizen’s Initiative on the Ballot)
        3. How to Spot and Stop Privatization of Public Services at the Local Level (charter schools, prisons, municipal services)


        1. Power Mapping – Strategize to Meet Your Goals
        2. Intersectionality – Making Move to Amend Your Second Issue–connecting MTA to other issues (immigrant rights, health care)
        3. How Move to Amend Addresses Emerging Political Movements: Our Revolution, Pantsuit Nation, Black Lives Matter, Ohio Student Association (Draining the Swamp – Facing the Alligator; 2016 Election)

      2. Propertius

        Personally, I’d rather see an Amendment declaring that campaign donations are not “speech” within the meaning of the First Amendment and are therefore subject to regulation by Congress.

        I’m certainly not interested in stripping the First Amendment right of Aurora Advisors, Inc. to publish this blog.

        1. Carla

          If you click the link I provided above, you can read the entire text, but it’s so short, I’ll just copy it here:

          H.J.Res. 48:

          “section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

          “section 2. Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of that person’s money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State, and local governments shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”.

          1. Propertius

            So section 2 seems perfectly fine to me, but I’d welcome comments about possible side-effects from someone who actually had legal training (Jerri-Lynn?).

            I still think section 1 is appalling. Let us think for a second about how the Pentagon Papers case would have played out had the Nixon Administration been able to argue that the New York Times had no First Amendment rights (yes, I know I’m dating myself here).

            Basically, what you’re doing here is giving the government the legal right to censor virtually all mass media, including most blogs (since they typically obtain access to the internet through one or more corporations, even if they are not directly published by a corporation as NC is). Granted, our friends in the MSM have not exactly been doing a wonderful job of late – but I fail to see how the consequences of doing this can be anything other than disastrous. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t believe that democracies can prosper through the limitation of rights or the restriction of discourse.

    5. Oregoncharles

      Lambert is talking specifically about the Maine Green Party. He’s there and he’s probably right; OTOH, if they’re on the ballot, they’re doing what they have to do – that’s the biggest hurdle for any alternative party.

      No, the Green Party is not a “major” party (and in terms of popular support, neither are the “major” parties; according to Gallup, the Dems are down to 25%). Criticizing a minor party for not being a major party, with all the attendant paraphernalia (and corruption), is missing the point.

      What makes a major party? A few million people and a few million dollars. That’s about one dollar per person; $27 would be really nice. Even though there are legal barriers, it’s really that simple. The legal barriers fall in a hurry if you have enough people. Oregon now has 3, not 2, major parties because enough people joined the Independent Party – which stands for very little. That means the real barrier is in people’s heads, a combination of habits, preconceptions (but it’s a 2-party system!), and of course, fear. Part of that is the MSM pretending we don’t exist; as their share of the national headspace shrinks, the opportunities increase. Taking advantage of that is a new challenge. OTOH, depending on Faceborg for your organizing has obvious pitfalls.

      Judging partly by my experience here on NC, the left failed to take full advantage of a rare opportunity last year because they/we went off in about 5 different directions. I don’t think I need to list them. As an electoral strategy, that doesn’t cut it, and I don’t know what to do about it. Again, the real barrier is in people’s heads, including here.

      At this point, the Oregon Green Party is exploring a coalition strategy; I assume the national party, too. Certainly that’s Kshama Sawant’s plan. But Greens would be much the largest portion, so the gains aren’t huge unless the Dems manage to p. o. Our Revolution so thoroughly that they jump ship. I’m not counting on that. Locally, the top OR organizer just became chair of the county Democratic Party. Now, that’s co-optation. But it’s the bluest county in the bluest state, so it won’t be a widespread strategy.

      According to the Archdruid, we’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic anyway; his theory looks better all the time.

    6. Albacore

      A close result on two ballots where the voting population is a relatively small number of party officials seems more like a harbinger of real change rather than a call for wrist-slashing to me. I’m a ‘foreigner’ but take heart from the result, the process and the prospects.

    7. HotFlash

      re: an opinion on what is worth supporting in activism time/money given likely effectiveness.

      This is something that I have been chewing over for more than a decade. I thought that Granny D’s advice was good. Others also seemed to think that ‘more and better Democrats” was the way to go — I think more than a few of us here remember and participated in Jane Hamsher’s noble and highly instructive effort at FireDogLake to primary Joe Lieberman. For those who don’t, the ‘better Democrat’ actually won the primary but the national Dems and R’s combined to drag Lieberman back into the Senate with a breathtakingly egregious and obvious trick. Bernie Sanders got similar treatment. It is clear that the Dem Party did not get this way by accident, and attempts to change it will be met with strong, er, um, resistance.

      Third parties are currently weak, so far as I can see, both in organization and policy. Greens appear to be happy to stay a tiny tent, Democratic Socialists are few and far between, and Libertarians are just not my cup of tea.

      Factions, whether in or out of the Dem Party, will get slapped down and/or co-opted, viz innies such as the Deaniacs and the Sandernistas or outies such as Occupy and Black Lives Matter.

      What to do? Persist. Keep doing and doing, don’t agonize, just do whatever seems right for you, your skills, talents, time, money and the time and place (geo, social, economic, workplace, etc.) you are in. Follow your enthusiasm(s), which will make the work less dudgery. We don’t know and cannot predict what will succeed, so we should just throw whatever mud we have against the wall. Someday, somehow, something’s bound to stick.

  8. SC Crow

    With the understanding this may be a very small concern I really wish that the antidote du jour animals pictured here could be identified by name. Sometimes I guess correctly (or not) and sometimes I find, but it would be nice to know.

    1. Tigerlily

      I’m not an ornithologist but I’m pretty sure that’s a puffin ;)

      With regard to your request though I suspect in many cases our hosts aren’t themselves certain of the identities of some of the critters. I’ve noticed on Water Cooler there are sometimes quite animated discussions among knowledgeable commenters speculating on the identity of the featured plant.

  9. BeliTsari

    Yet more cheery news:

  10. Mac na Michomhairle

    About the DNC vote…..I suspect they think they don’t need to pander to Progressives anymore because they, the party hacks and sitting members, are now Heroes of the Resistance and Leaders of the Movement..

    But what if someone was to post something concise on the internet (in the form of baseball cards (or whatever?) laying out the highlights of not-very-heroic actual votes that the Heroes have cast, and the amount of money from various industries that they have accepted? Facts will stand alone against gales of blather, with no need tor debate, at least some of the time.

    1. Lord Koos

      That’s a great idea. Why couldn’t that someone be you? You could put the “cards” on facebook. Waiting around for someone else to do stuff is a large part of our problem I think.

  11. RenoDino

    How Steve Bannon captured America’s spirit of revolt

    Scratch a Republican fire-brand radical and find a hippie puncher.

    I did see the movie Generation Zero and found those scenes of the 60s rather odd, but I didn’t really make the connection until reading this article. As the article states, the movie points out there is plenty of blame to go around, but the notion that the lack of personally responsibility caused the Great Recession is given equal weight with out right fraud. The fact that nobody was even indicted and that justice was denied is given prominent mention.

    If Bannon is really disgusted by what the Hippies have wrought, then this is a very bad sign. It’s a throw back to the Bush and Reagan days. Next thing you know they’ll be selling us the Laffer Curve. Wait a minute…

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      Yes. Based on his bio it seems that yet again, a baby boomer who was on the (then) losing side of the culture war has spent decades getting his own back. Now that he is powerful, a nation’s worth of people who mostly weren’t even born at the time are getting jerked around so he can “pay back” a bunch of snooty long hairs who pissed him off circa 1971.

      That is US national politics for the last 40 years in a nutshell. I’m heartily sick of it.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Perhaps he will remind the billionaires their lack of personal responsibility to not wreck the world.

    3. ChrisPacific

      It was still quite useful as an antidote to the typical portrayal of him as a fire-breathing Satanic destroyer of all that is good and true in society (which is all you mostly get from the media these days).

      I did some Googling and found this (might be a repeat) which has more detail on his philosophy:

      The hippie-punching theme is there once again. He blames the financial elites for the crisis but seems to regard them as the inevitable outgrowth of the Baby Boomer generation (i.e., he is just projecting his own concept of the enemy onto them, as lots of people do). He seems to have retained a hatred of elites despite having worked at Goldman, which is something of an achievement given what Yves has said about their culture (then again, Yves is also evidence that it can be resisted). He believes that we are overdue for a massive war and he thinks that it will be the West vs. Islam and that it’s already going on (which puts him on the same page as Daesh/ISIS in that regard). That sounds scary but other than the conflation of Islamic terrorists with Islam in general, it’s not that dissimilar to previous administration Middle Eastern policy, or Hillary’s.

      It also seems clear that Trump is heavily influenced by him – the later part of the article parses some Trump speeches (like the inauguration) for Bannon themes and finds them largely congruent.

      I agree with some of his themes but find others well into wingnut territory, and the “burn the world” theme is somewhat alarming. That said I think the systemic checks and balances will constrain Trump more effectively than they would have constrained Hillary (who had plenty of practice at working around them).

  12. DH

    Re: How much room to grow for the US economy

    The company that I work for is seeking to reduce its real estate footprint per employee by up to 25% each time a lease expires. This is done by reducing the cubicle size, reducing the number of assigned work spaces (if you are only in the office a day a week, you will be “hoteling” in an unassigned work space), and encouraging more people to work from home some or all of the time. All of our competitors are doing the same. So, the amount of office space available on the market as a predictor is almost meaningless with this dynamic re-allocation of space occurring.

    Also, there are all of those empty malls and old car manufacturing plants just waiting to be turned into something productive. All you have to do is drive through Trump Country and you can see acres of vacant buildings that used to be thriving businesses a half-century ago. Some of those buildings can be re-purposed, others can be demolished and new ones built.

    Also, there are lots of under-employed people flipping burgers and running a check-out at Target. Many would love a $20/hr job instead of a $10/hr one.

    I hate to break the news to the NY Times, but this was what the election was all about!

    1. Harry

      Well those trampoline and wall climbing businesses seem like a fine use of the old mall spaces. I can see the revenue per square foot must be much lower b but at least you don’t have to scrap the space.

      1. DH

        The big old stores for H&M, etc. are great for kids gymnastics studios. We have a mall that is now largely abandoned other than a thriving movie cinema business, gymnastics and karate studios, and a game arcade.

        From what I have seen, it is much more of a function of the mall owner than anything else to dictate success in our area. We had an abandoned mall in the late 90s near us that a different developer took over and it is now completely full with retain, restaurants, etc. The one a couple of miles away that was doing well in the 90s has gone through a couple of ownership changes, non-payment of taxes etc,. and is almost dead other than the gymnastics studios and cinemas.

    2. Praedor

      Empty malls: here’s an idea – convert them into mini-walkable communities. Convert a lot of the empty shops into apartments and keep/offer some spaces for a few small shops and groceries. You would have a mini-walkable community all under a roof, safe from bad weather.

      Or tear them down and return the land to open/greenspace.

      1. Propertius

        Or tear them down and return the land to open/greenspace.

        I would also expand the idea to include football stadiums as community farms.

        +1 for both of these, assuming the ground isn’t contaminated.

    3. jrs

      Been there seen that with the reducing the desk space (even eliminating cubes entirely and having people at tiny desks with no privacy). No office worker ever thinks they will miss cubes but we did! To save on rent yes. Still seldom seen employers that are really ok with people working from home though.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Worse — I believe working from home makes employees invisible and less human to the employers. When the firm I worked for started hoteling and soon thereafter started allowing/encouraging working from home I read these signs as the beginning of the end of my employment with the firm. I felt increasingly fungible, replaceable … a cog. My work and skills became a coded package of experience quantifiers, work categories, skill levels, years at a specific task, certifications and educational level … and this soon lead to the end of my work for the firm after more than twenty years successfully filling slots through self-teaching and adaptation to the needs of those I supported through the firm.

  13. paul

    RE: The new chelsea

    While the article was hilarious, chelsea’s ‘provocative (interesting)’ new public persona was certainly no laughing matter.

    Seriously,I’ve wasted do much time trying to change my personality, I find myself resentful of her effortless proteanism…..but could she just as easily revert to the spoiled brat we feared before?

    Adjunct professor, hedge fund trophy wife, humanitarian…a model for us all.

    1. Pat

      I’m terrified that in a few years Chelsea in a public office may start making Evan Bayh look like a competent legislator. I can only hope she proves to be as incompetent at running for office as her mother has been in her Presidential campaigns starting with using the same campaign managers.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’d like to hear from some New Yorkers, but from a distance I suspect a Chelsea candidate would likely be laughed out of it by voters not within the tiny HRC bubble. It could potentially be very amusing.

        1. DH

          She might be a big thing in NYC, but her existence is barely acknowledged in upstate NYS. She is viewed largely like a reality TV show celebrity up here, but without the ratings success.

        2. Pat

          I’m sad to say if she could find a way to get a nomination in the city, outside of Staten Island, she would likely win. But no one there is stepping down or would be vulnerable to a primary challenge from her. In Westchester, where they are looking, election is less of a sure thing, but I’m sorry to say she probably can win if she gets the nomination and there is a good chance she can get the nomination despite it obviously being a carpetbagging move.

              1. RMO

                I once had a burning desire to visit NYC and was saving up the money for the trip. Then Les Paul died and I no longer had any really good reason to go. (True story. Though it’s not actually meant as a burn on NYC, I just don’t enjoy being in any large city:-)

          1. polecat

            “a carpetbagging move “….

            the crabapple falls straight down from the tree !

            … actually, a rotting Gingko fruit is probably a more apt description …

          2. Liberal Mole

            Nita Lowey is supposed to retire and hand off her seat to the Inept Princess. It was Lowey’s daughter that bought off the registrar of voters who “accidentally” dropped 100,000 voters off the rolls, so it won’t be much of a change.

            However, our district covers a lot of area up north and across the river, and we have pockets of republicans. Perhaps putting in a hated Clinton clone could give the Republicans a chance to take the seat.

  14. Tertium Squid

    Models wear pink protest hats at Milan Fashion Week show The Hill (UserFriendly) “​Kill me. How many rural voters do you think this swayed? Which direction?”

    Now models. So all along Trump meant “Grab them by the hat”.

    1. Pat

      About the same number as were convinced by the various jokes and statements at last night’s Oscar telecast. Mind you, if they stuck around they were probably laughing their heads off at all those competent smart people announcing the wrong winner of the biggest award of the night. All the statements in support of immigration failed to notice that the people making those statements had either been working in their home country OR had established a legal right to work in America. But hey it was all about what was right. (Although it wouldn’t surprise me if you went out with a few struggling actors, they might want more controls on British immigration after a few drinks complaining of not so big name Brits playing Americans in American productions…)

  15. Vatch

    “Trump wants to raise military spending — but cut everywhere else”

    President Donald Trump is taking the first major step toward putting together a federal budget proposal, asking federal agencies to draft plans to hike military spending and cut back other domestic programs—while making no changes to major entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

    One senior administration official said the plan would call for increases in spending on defense, homeland security, intelligence, the Department of Justice and law enforcement.

    Trump will propose “dollar for dollar cuts” elsewhere, the official said.

    Why am I not surprised?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am surprised.

      “No changes to major entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare???”

      1. Vatch

        Well, of course. People will know if their Social Security payments are smaller, and they’ll be angry. But people often don’t know that their drinking water is poisoned, unless the taste or color of the water is altered, so Trump can get away with slashing the budget for environmental protection. People also don’t always know that their bank or broker is gouging them with excessive fees. They may realize that they’re paying the fees, but they don’t know that the rules are being violated. Trump can get away with slashing the budget for financial regulation.

        As for Medicare, it’s budget might not change, but Tom Price and Paul Ryan will very likely move ahead with plans to start privatizing it. That will probably take several years.

      2. L

        Strictly speaking what Mnucin said was no cuts to the entitlement programs “now”. He pointedly spoke about this round and left future cuts on the table.

        1. Vatch

          Good catch! Thanks.

          “We are not touching those now,” Mnuchin said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.

    2. tgs

      At least he’s laying off SS and MC for now. On the campaign trail he said he would make our armed forces great again! Trump suggested numerous times that countries like China and Iran were ‘acting out’ because we had become weak. Of course that is nonsense and as Daniel Larison points out:

      The U.S. spends as much on our military as the next seven countries combined, and it could afford to spend significantly less than it does if it practiced restraint, but we already know that Trump has no interest in that. Increasing military spending beyond its already exorbitant current level is inherently wasteful, and doing it in the way that Trump plans is completely fiscally irresponsible.

      Throwing More Money at the Military Is a Waste

      Recently talking about the ‘defense’ build up Trump said that no one will dare mess with us. But what counts as ‘messing with us’? Iran’s legally testing missiles? China’s claiming control of islands in the south China sea? If those things are examples of messing with us, then his claims are not just nonsense – they are nonsense on stilts.

      1. justanotherprogressive

        Perhaps we should all become more familiar with the history of Sparta, because that is apparently what Donald Trump thinks of as “great”…….

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        China claiming control of islands in South China Sea is messing with nations around South China Sea.

        1. Olga

          Or… military bases the US built to surround China are messing with the Chinese – there are at least two ways to look at this (and likely, more).

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            True dat.

            And it was a surprise to read China’s ‘North Korea is a problem between them and the US,’ as if they didn’t care about possible military bases by the Yalu river.

    1. Katharine

      I was sorry to see Barbara Lee so far out of touch with the PCCC. Of course it is up to Perez to reach out! You can win an election with a majority, but to run things you have to build bridges to the people who didn’t trust you: you don’t have a right to demand their support just because you won the election.

    2. Portia

      this is not going to help, IMO. this is very bad. the result of a “unity pledge”

      “I trust Tom Perez. If they trust me, they need to come on and trust Tom Perez as well,” Ellison said, standing at Perez’s side as they spoke to reporters after the vote, when asked what he’d say to the people who’d said they wouldn’t feel at home in the party if he lost.

  16. justanotherprogressive

    Re: Clinton’s dependence on ADA:
    Reminds me of two other things…
    1) NASA originally wanted the astronauts to be just riders, nothing more than monkeys depending on the technology. The astronauts, all former test pilots, refused – they wanted to be able to control the module if necessary. They understood that to put infallible trust in technology was nothing more than suicide.
    2) I remember reading quant accounts of the “Black Swan” and how they were caught off guard because none of their “models” that were making them so rich, predicted what happened in 2007-2008…..

    Yet, we are still being sold the story that blind faith in technology will save us….?
    Me? Yes, I will use the technology, but I’m going to do my best to understand the new technologies and control them and not let them control me…..AI anyone?

  17. JohnnyGL

    Does anyone else find it soothing to see these video clips of people yelling at their Congressional Reps? It’s great fun.

    I especially enjoy the part where she suggests to a 60 year old guy that his solution for health care coverage would come from “health savings accounts” and, immediately, a massive round of boos comes up in response.

    1. Katharine

      The whole idea of health savings accounts presupposes people have something to save. Funny how congressmen don’t get that.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Is it Dunn-Kruger to think we are always young, strong and healthy?

          “Forever the rugged individual.” – Was Ms. Rand thinking youth eternal?

          Though not just her.

          “Seniors, ask not what the country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” The ‘you’ referred to was of an uncertain age. It was yours truly who added ‘seniors.’ Failure to empathize, because the speaker was not old yet? Can we say to 90 year olds not to ask what the country could do for them?

  18. fresno dan

    If Facebook ruled the world: Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a digital future The Conversation

    “As the MIT Technology Review states, Facebook has collected the most extensive data set ever assembled on human social behaviour. And none of this has been clandestine. Facebook’s statement on advertising reads:

    We believe that more personalised social advertising complements the ways that people use Facebook every day – to discover, share and connect with the people and the world around them.
    In exchange for the free use of the site, users ultimately allow their every activity to be tracked.”

    I can’t help but be reminded of the boom and how everything was “eyeballs,” – and what was amazing was how long it lasted.
    So after my Seiko watch died after 30 years of sterling service, I went to Amazon and shopped for a wristwatch…..and every site I went to there after showed wristwatches….none in the price or type I wanted…. (I hate those polypropylene bands fused to the watch case) for days. I ended up buying a timex from JP Penny – the actual physical place.

    So maybe who is being taken is not the consumers….but the people buying all that “valuable” consumer information. Maybe Suckerberg’s big suck is convincing all the suckers buying advertising that anyone pays any attention to it….

  19. Dead Dog

    Re Wendy’s – I guess how, as a society, do we even let this happen – a corporation blatently removing front line staff and replacing them with a touch screen? It only makes good business sense if the sheeple use them and don’t complain.

    It’ll be the last time I go to Maccas when the front counter is closed and I am forced onto the screen. It’s already nearly happened…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It started with self-service gas stations.

      I understand they are b*nned in New Jersey.

      Is that progressive?

      In any case, we didn’t fight then…or didn’t fight hard enough then.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Self-service stations are banned in Oregon, too. It’s come to a vote several times, but most of us go to neighboring states and know the gas isn’t really any cheaper.

    2. RUKidding

      Similar thing is happening at airports. I rarely ever check bags (just do carry on), but I’ve noticed now that if you do need to check a bag, there are bag self-check kiosks, where the “consumer/customer/guest” uses a touch screen & scale to initiate the bag check process and generate the checked luggage tag that indicates on which flights your bag is to be loaded.

      Then there are LESS counter personnel who actually chuck your bag onto the converyor belt and, I guess, answer questions or resolve problems.

      This seems to be working OK in some airports, but it was absolute BEDLAM when I had to check a bag in Honolulu recently. Almost missed my d*mn plane, and I got to the airport almost 2 houea before the flight. Only reason why I made it to the gate on time was because I have TSA Pre status. If I’d had to wait in the loooooong security line, I woulda missed my plane. It was insanity and took MUCH much longer to get my bag checked and onto the conveyor belt than when I checked a bag in Honolulu 15 months previously when the bag check process was still handled the old fashioned way.

      And… of course, less workers needed, crappification of the process, hideous lack of anything approaching customer service. But boy howdy, someone’s raking in the buck$! whoo hooo….

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Between robots and self-check kiosks, I take the former.

        At least you can speak to a robot (especially nice talking to one designed to look pleasant). You don’t know what you might catch from those touching screens.

      2. Mel

        Recent post by Krebs underlines the importance of having responsible employees who are there. A few hacked credit card readers were found at self-checkout stations.

        The source who shared these pictures said an employee thought the PIN pad buttons were a little too difficult to press down, and soon discovered this plastic overlay and others just like it on two more self-checkout terminals.

      3. Dead Dog

        Yes, another good example of jobs disappearing. Pilotless jets anyone?

        We all said nothing when the gas stations stopped actually filling our cars. We shrugged, did the job ourselves, and concluded they were shit jobs anyway.

        We can all see where this is going to end. Who is going to be able to dine in Wendys (sorry create their own personalised meal) when none of us have a job/income.

        Can no one stop this happening? I rant at this with friends and family, clients – I always avoid the self service isle, yet I see the young happily use the screens to order or self serve their own checkout. I guess they feel helpless to, eh?

        It’s the difference between the incentives for the individual to act ethically in the community and the incentives for the corporation…

    3. wilroncanada

      Automat here we come! Are there still such places?
      Wendy’s could do much better than this, though this may be just the first step. With self-driving trucks they could simply transport all the food to their satellite locations, generate the auto-attach features of truck unload to store load function, transferring all the pre-coded items onto their individual conveyor belts into their dispensing niches. Of course the customers would have to forego some individuating features like “hold the mayo”. I’m sure though, that Wendy’s has the advertising know-how to bend the customers to its will. Refusing to accept cash, only debit and credit cards, would complete the cycle. All staff eliminated.
      Even cleaning could be acomplished by having all the food trays explode on schedule, every ninety minutes or so, allowing for the not touch washing of the whole interior, like a car wash.
      Or they could sub-contract all their food handling to a contractor like Cara, using alien labour, or maybe prison labour paid $2.00 a day.

  20. fresno dan

    iPhones and sex toys may cost more if there’s a US-China trade war BBC (Dr. Kevin)

    Besides planes, these are some other popular US products sold in China.
    Hollywood films
    Soybeans – China is thought to currently buy 60% of the US’s soybean exports.
    Orange juice
    Alfafa sprouts
    I imagine Trump will profess that he doesn’t care much about Hollywood profits. And the US economy is dependent on sprouts? We are much worse off than I thought….
    AND, why is this iphone so sticky?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If there’s a trade war?

      Not defending yourself in the face of aggression and there is your ‘Peace in Our Time.’

      1. fresno dan

        Lord Koos
        February 27, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        I could say something about cucumbers and p*ssy hats….but I’m not gonna….

      2. ewmayer

        Ha, ha, yes, and also one for buttplugs – the so-called “poophole loophole” from the last time legislation along these lines was, um, inserted as a, well, rider on a congressional Bill.

        Maybe also a special waiver for blow-up dolls, but only ones which look like Slovenian supermodels.

  21. Katharine

    Without having seen any numbers yet, I am still guessing Trump’s budget will cut education. Since Baltimore is faced with a staggering shortfall of almost $130,000,000 and the state has been consistently mingy (even despite a bygone court decision), this is not a pretty prospect. A middle school teacher just had these words for the city council:

    Among other things:

    Perkins-Cohen’s comments revolved around explaining how the school system’s costs have gone up and how we now have to find “new structural reductions in costs.” I agree that costs have increased; health care costs, for example, have gone up nationwide through no fault of teachers.

    But it’s not the case that we need new structural reductions in costs; it’s structural increases in revenue that are needed. The operating costs of our school system are not too high. Instead, the investment that’s being made in education is too low.


    Our school system’s budget has been underfunded on purpose. The state refuses to acknowledge the studies that the ACLU have provided which demonstrate beyond doubt that it would take billions of dollars in investment to create an equitable educational environment.

    Instead, Baltimore City is shamed for the decreasing enrollment in BCPS. The school buildings are falling apart because, even with the 21st Century Schools plan, we’re expected to renovate and rebuild using our system’s operating budget. We can’t afford to do that.

    All in all the article is a damning indictment, and although Baltimore’s situation is dire I suspect it is not unusual. This is another of those things that cannot go on indefinitely.

    1. Adam Eran

      Factoid of interest: Federal funding to higher education declined 55% since 1972. (Take that you protesting hippies!)… Gosh, I wonder why tuition keeps rising?

      A previous commenter replied when I posted this previously saying state funding / revenue sharing with colleges is also down significantly. I’d bet something similar went on with K-12, too.

    2. wilroncanada

      You won’t get sympathy from President Trump, nor most of Congress and Senate, nor particularly his Cabinet, especially Ms DeVos. All of them had to hike miles to their one-room schools every day, uphill both ways, in three feet of snow, carrying their little brothers and sisters on their backs because they all lacked shoes. Their schools had no heat, no windows, no desks, just logs to sit on, with the older students guarding the windowless openings against the mountain lions and grizzlies that were constantly attacking.

      Then they had to go home and do twenty hours of farm labour before dinner, which was gruel, more gruel?

      And look at them now! At least that’s my Oliver Twist on the situation.

  22. fresno dan

    Perez Chosen As DNC Chair Ian Welsh (martha r)

    “I’m going to have a lot more to say about the Democratic party, neoliberals, Obama and Clinton later, for now I simply note that the most important thing, for those who control the liberal party, is retaining control over the liberal party.

    I note also that they genuinely believe in neoliberalism. They genuinely don’t want a $15/minimum wage and will only grudgingly give on something as basic (and really, minor to them) as that.

    They want Americans poor. They want the poor to stay poor. They want the middle class to decline.

    I mean this exactly as I say it: the policies they prefer make the middle class poor, and make the poor poorer and have for 40 years.

    This is who they are. This is what they want.

    They are the enemy of all people who prioritize any form of kindness to other human beings. Whether they are better than Trump is irrelevant, they’re just another group of enemies.

    20, 30 years can be a mistake, an error, a wrong headed belief of a few. 40 years is who they ARE.

    1. jrs

      Yea it’s not so easily parsed as Dems haven’t actually had completely control over anything the full 40 years. So the generalizations get too sweeping. They have pushed trade deals, it may well be the case if they had had more power they may have thrown people concessions like minimum wage increases (certainly these are doing better in Dem controlled states aren’t they? Hmm, wonder how Ian Welsh can possibly explain that? Now of course this is not just the Dem party but having an electorate that believes in such things perhaps and one could certainly argue the red states really don’t – but then minimum wage increases are pretty popular).

        1. Lord Koos

          That’s when I decided I was no longer calling myself a Democrat… when I saw them do zip with their super-majority.

          1. mpalomar

            Okay, I shouldn’t bring this up because Obama was a spineless, cheese eating surrender monkey but Obama’s Dems, the despicable dems, were on paper only but never quite a functioning super majority in the Senate.


            If O had had a super majority from 09-12 would he still have crumbled like a stale triscuit on progressive issues, the Bush tax cuts and health care? Probably but there’s always that doubt.
            That could be the Ds motto, “If only.”

            1. mpalomar

              Given sixty dem senators, that’s still not reckoning whether O had the castanets to whip the blue dogs into super majority shape.
              Another doubtful prospect.

    2. ChrisAtRU

      “They are the enemy of all people who prioritize any form of kindness to other human beings. Whether they are better than Trump is irrelevant, they’re just another group of enemies.”


    3. polecat

      But ….. PLEASE … call your Democrat (‘s) Ferengi NOW ! ……. ensconced, as they are, in all their sharpened teeth-gnashing glory …. they’re all ears … for mammon !

  23. Mel

    Bell bottoms. Drum solos. Dope. That’s the thing to blame for the financial crisis and the bailouts.


    “If it feels good, man, just do it!”
    When the executives at the core of the banking system started acting that way, we were just dead societies walking.

  24. epynonymous

    Decline starts at home, then the media figures it out.

    Popsci has stopped running ads for the Brookstone (the stupid store in the mall with 150 dollar speakers for 300 bucks and the gyro copters) products, and now runs articles that show our decline.

    Just this week, ‘How to fix a leaky faucet’ and ‘How to catch that mouse’

    Somebody finally read their real marketing research!

  25. ChrisAtRU

    #DNCWinnersAndLosers (WaPo)

    Under “Losers”:
    “Republican Party: Republicans had been open about their hopes that Ellison would win the chair’s race, believing his strongly liberal record and past controversies would give them a useful punching bag for years to come. Perez, while still quite liberal, is not the lightning rod that Ellison would have been. The search continues …”

    Riiiiiiight … because the GOP can’t make a useful punching bag out of someone who helped #HRC win the Dem nomination.


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Those simple-minded Republicans…why had they been so open about their hopes?

      They should have been more covert. Maybe even tried to help in someway to get Ellison elected.

  26. Altandmain

    This one is interesting:

    Basically their success hinges on Trump totally blowing up.

    The establishment knows that if things continue like this, their days are numbered. However, the establishment also firmly believes the GOP will implode during Donald Trump’s presidency. Citing the President’s historically low poll numbers in his first hundred days along with the burgeoning scandals already enveloping his administration, they’re banking on it. So too do they believe that they’ll be able to use Trump’s record to win over enough of the progressive base to catapult them back into power in a few years. After all,as Perez himself said during the campaign, the Democrats’ real problems are “messaging” and voter suppression.

    But with this strategy the establishment is playing with fire. As of today, with the 2020 Census around the corner, the GOP controls an overwhelming majority of the governorships and state legislatures. As it stands, the establishment has no path to victory, occupying a sort of political no man’s land ever since Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Voters on both the left and right despise them. The most the establishment can do is convince enough progressives to pursue a nonviable third party route, thus empowering the GOP for sweeps the next two elections, and allowing Republicans to redraw the Congressional districts in such a way as to guarantee them control of the House for the next decade.

    They plan to make no real changes.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      They imagine the changes real.

      1. Better messaging.

      2. Stop Republicans’ voter suppression.

      I would suggest additionally:

      3. Suppress Republican voters (an eye for an eye)

      4. Better algorithms

      5. Hire defecting Russian hackers (a tooth for a tooth).

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      This was precisely the belief of the D’s in Wisconsin when Scott Walker got elected in 2010 – that he was too dumb and his policies were awful. Six years later, he is still going strong, ready to run for a 3rd term, and the R’s control the entire state including the state Supreme Court.

  27. Dave

    Re Store closings
    “Sears, which sold its Craftsman brand and is looking to sell its Kenmore brand, and which continues to see year-over-year comp store declines of around 10%, has been the poster child for these challenges.”

    “Challenges?” No, they have been the poster boy for quality decline, subsequent abandonment by the public and outright hostility. We are rooting for Sears to go under.

    Craftsman tools once were The Standard. You could buy more expensive tools, but Craftsman tools meant you were thrifty and smart and were partaking in the sea of Middle Class plenty. Just the name alone invoked lazy summer afternoons with lawnmowers, cut grass and a little workshop where you could do things on your own.

    Over every tool counter was this sign:
    “Guaranteed forever, if Craftsman tools break, wear out or you are dissatisfied, return them for a full refund or an exchange.” Loyalty to that brand was absolute.

    Years ago I attempted to return a worn out Craftsman tool. Instead of the knowledgeable guy who had been there for decades, fired apparently, I had to confront a Hajib wearing woman at the register who demanded my receipt to return the tool. “Receipt? I’ve had this for years.”
    “Sorry, computer says you need receipt.”

    Sears brought in a cheap Chinese brand called “Companion” and sold them along Craftsman, the quality of which suffered as well. “Crapsman” became the nickname.

    Kenmore appliances became Mexican made junk. The Sears “repair persons” became clodish immigrant day laborers with a drivers license and a credit card reader.

    Rebellion and resentment starts not with the big things, but the little ones like the example above.
    Not only will I and tens of millions of American men never buy another Craftsman tool, we will never set foot in another Sears store. Our memories are long and we will boycott any product made by a sucker dumb enough to buy this “brand”. I think it’s fair to say that we have a seething resentment towards those that destroyed the brand and the institution.

    Thanks to Naked Capitalism, I have learned about who the actors are…i.e. Lambert, and how they work. If I ever met him, I would spit in his face. How’s that for a “market challenge?”

    1. Jess

      I’m confused. You’re correct about all the things wrong with Sears but you want to spit in Lambert’s face?

    2. epynonymous

      Craftsman is run by rich white folk?

      Why blame the brown folk they exploit? I’m sure the workers would be happier making a quality product.

      Economics has turned steel into plastic. Technology, not even choice, has dictated that. *edit : not immigrants*

      I’m full of hate. I just know it’s not really called for to name names, except for Sheldon Adelson. Speaking of whom, they’re chosing the next ‘anointed’ Democrat in Atlanta (his city, basically) today.

      Choose wisely.

        1. mpalomar

          Here in Canada Sears is lagging the declining US model but still looks like a dead man walking. It survives as a wounded entity that has lost its identity and purpose. Hard to blame the brick and mortar stores as they succumb to Amazon and Walmart but Sears was one of the early catalogue stores and might have more quickly made the leap to the internet.
          Still their products, Kenmore appliances eg. are no more junky than Samsung or whatever the competition is and probably made by one of them. I suspect their Mastercraft power tools are produced by whoever makes Hitachi or Makita. They seem basically no better or worse than average but not crap.

        2. epynonymous

          Maybe Sears is failing because their old market, a prosperous & independent middle class, is gone?

          Yes, internationalists are to blame.

          However, I don’t think it’s foreigners who are to blame.

          Fair points all around, but I am hardly part of the problem. I’m poor, and hardly anything at all except engaged and trying to understand.

  28. gepay

    Down at the end of the article referred to by Dahr Jamail in his article on the Great Barrier Reef. .
    Katharina Fabricius, a coral reef ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science: “Starfish normally are rare. We want to help Mother Nature keep them rare.” “The research shows that the reef could rebuild itself in 20-30 years despite the cyclones and bleaching, if the starfish population died back”. – Half of Great Barrier Reef Lost in Past 3 Decades By Katharine Gammon, LiveScience Contributor
    What is possible – dealing with the starfish problem, almost definitely man made by agricultural runoff or continuing to believe man made CO2 is a pollutant and so believing drastically diminishing fossil fuel use will make a difference. Which do you think is more possible to get done? where would you put your energy?

    1. jrs

      It depends on if my focus was just coral reefs or much larger environmental issues exacerbated by climate change. There is of course a place for both. Someone needs to focus on the reefs and what is necessary to protect them as they are part of a much larger ecosystem, but there is such a thing as winning the battle and losing the war, if the larger ocean ecosystem is destroyed by ocean acidification etc..

    2. Dead Dog

      I live next to reef, well part of it anyway, it’s pretty big. Our town depends on tourists who want to visit reef.

      The crown of thorns and other weeds of the ocean are surely part of the problem, but overfishing as well.

      The reef, off Cairns, is not worth going to see, like a wasteland in the parts where the most tourists go (eg Green Island).

      With global warming, acidification, allowing coal to be loaded onto tankers (Abbot Point)…

      It ain’t gonna end well. We are just putting our fingers in the leaks and running out of fingers.

  29. Jeremy Grimm

    Re: Store closings
    I decided to start a new thread rather than tie-in with a comment ending with spitting in Lambert’s face.

    I’ve watched Main Street crumple around this country. I’ve seen strip malls with shuttered stores. Where I’ve lived the last few decades the Malls were in decline but still open-for-business although I did notice the pictures posted on this site showing the decaying remains of dead Malls in the Midwest. This link about the hundreds of store closings — major brand Mall anchor stores is very disquieting — particularly this sentence in its closing paragraph: “For industry analysts and observers such as myself, the scale of what is clearly a seismic shift means that there isn’t much point to forecasting beyond 2017.” Even so I can’t help but wonder what’s next?

    1. wilroncanada

      I’ve seen a couple of positive examples of turnaround, one on the East coast of Canada, and another here on Vancouver Island.
      In the east, many small service stations closed on secondary highways as a result of refusal of supply by major oil distributors who were building (self) serve stations with junk convenience stores on the main highways. Some of those empty lots were taken by a local farmer setting up smaller convenience stores combined with a greengrocer, selling fresh produce They have to some degree replaced the corner stores driven out of business by the major supermarket chains. Local, local, local.

      Here on Vancouver Island, many mill towns have become almost ghost towns, the result of closing mills. Local big box and covered older malls have become stores disguised as plywood. But the local town near us has seen the old town centre refill (just two empty fronts currently), and new or upgraded buildings filled by local retailers, all small scale, some doomed to failure as in all retailing. They are taking advantage of the disappearing chains of things like mens and womens wear, toys, house and kitchen wares, even furniture and appliances, to rebuild local shopping.

  30. Vatch

    Pelosi dismisses Trump’s first month, saying he’s ‘done nothing’ Politico (AC). “Nancy doesn’t get that the less-effective evil is just less effective.”

    I think that Trump has been very effective. He has managed to put several very destructive people in charge of federal agencies and cabinet departments. Only one of his choices, Andrew Puzder, has been blocked.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      He could have been more effective in his destruction had he also destructed the Main Stream Media.

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