2:00PM Water Cooler 3/15/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, I have an odd schedule today, so I’m putting Water Cooler together earlier than usual. Hence, missing stats, plus some material I stashed after blowing past it in the usual mad rush to post. –lambert


“Tisa plans final album” [Solomon Star]. Google hits on TISA not all they could be. But indicative?

“Tisa the giraffe dies at Wellington Zoo after general anaesthetic” [New Zealand Herald].

“Malcolm Turnbull is in more trouble than a Stark at a wedding. The polls are down and the knives are out. Part of the problem is he talks a lot but he doesn’t do very much – and there is no better example of that than what he has been doing on trade” [Australian Financial Review]. “One of the biggest trade deals currently being negotiated by 50 countries including the US, European Union and Australia is TiSA – the Trade in Services Agreement. This agreement focuses on services and would cover 70 per cent of the world’s trade in services. Turnbull has said TiSA is a top priority. Last week at Senate estimates we found out just how important the Turnbull government thinks it is. We asked how many people were working on the deal in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The answer – less than one.”

“Galvanized by a need to band together against other trade pacts and a desire to preserve the time, effort and intentions that went into the trade agreement, the 12 TPP countries plus China and South Korea are convening in Chile this week” [Sourcing Journal]. “Though the U.S. will be represented at the meeting, the attendee will be the ambassador to Chile rather than the U.S. Trade Representative, who is awaiting confirmation, or another trade official. Rather than forge ahead with separate deals, some members of the group may simply be hoping that if they’re able to keep momentum going on the deal, it will survive long enough to wait out the current political climate in the U.S. Some U.S. government officials may have hopes of their own for this meeting, according to Akira Amari, former Japanese cabinet member. They think that a “TPP minus one” deal could be enough to incite businesses to lobby the U.S. government into reconsidering participation in the pact.”


Health Care

“Obamacare: Share Your Story” [WhiteHouse.org]. Trump shamelessly steals another Democrat trope (and how come they’re so easy to steal, eh?)

New Cold War

“The American Empire Isn’t in Decline” [Jacobin]. “We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes / We own all your generals – touch us and you’ll lose….”

“Trump Takes on The Blob” [Politico]. “In just a few weeks as president, Trump managed—or threatened—to blow up many of The Blob’s most cherished beliefs about American power. In doing so, he finally united Democrats and many Republicans, hawks and doves, neocons and Obamians, in a frenzy of worry. Whether left or right, fierce advocates of “soft power” or proponents of the “bomb, bomb, bomb” school of international relations, most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment had spent the hours since noon on January 20 in alternating states of fear, rage, dismay, bewilderment and mental exhaustion. The old distinctions no longer seemed to matter as much; for the moment, at least, they were all The Blob now.”

Trump Transition

“Nothing in the two pages produced on Tuesday night suggested any ties with Russia,” although the tax return is from 2005 [New York Times]. So Maddow is the Northingburger Queen? No line item reading “Dmitri, services rendered: $1,000,000”?

On Trump’s EO reorganizing the executive branch: “If there’s anything that Trump hates, it’s having his hands tied and not being in control. He’s only recently come to realize that the President of the United States is not a CEO position but rather a coequal COO position in an organization without a CEO but with a General Counsel (the Supreme Court), a CFO (Congress), and a Board of Directors (Voters). He didn’t sign up for this so he is trying to change the game and the only way he can do this is to remake the executive branch in his own image but first he needs to go to war with it” [John Laprise, Medium]. I agree LaPrise describes one plausible motivation for Trump, but it also tosses the Freedom Caucus a big gummint chew toy. Politics aside, this is a good summary and well worth a read.

“Democrats in Congress have long argued that the ongoing intelligence committee investigations into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and the Trump campaign’s ties to the Kremlin are unlikely to get to the bottom of the issue. Now a group of ‘Never Trump’ Republicans are planning to pressure GOP leaders to establish a bipartisan select committee to take over the inquiries and settle the matter once and for all” [WaPo]. And we all know how effective the “Never Trump” crowd was in the primaries…

“Trump made clear after the election that he had no appetite to go after Clinton legally, and on Monday his administration went further: His Justice Department went to court to fight those still going after Clinton” [WaPo]. “Two conservative legal groups [Judicial Watch and Cause of Action] were in federal court in Washington on Monday morning to compel the release of more Clinton emails. And the Trump administration was on the other side,”

2016 Post Mortem

“Unity commission another challenge for Democrats” [The Hill]. “Progressive calls for open primaries have been met with concerns that new Democratic voters may not share the party’s values.” They say that like it’s a bad thing!

From the Senior Editor of the New Republic:

Ya think?

“Kremlin spokesman: Russian ambassador met with advisers to Clinton campaign too” [The Hill]. The audacity!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The surge of activism sweeping the U.S. since Donald Trump’s election has energized the nation’s largest socialist organization, which has tripled in size over the last year to claim more than 19,000 dues-paying members. That’s a record for the DSA, which was founded in 1982” [Los Angeles Times]. “The Democratic Socialists of America’s membership spike seems driven by three factors: younger Americans, who polls say are more open to socialism than previous generations; the 2016 Democratic primary campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist whose race ignited a grassroots following but also left bitter feelings about the Democratic Party; and the galvanizing effect that Trump’s election has had on left-leaning Americans, who have increasingly turned to grassroots activism.”

Sanders in coal country, McDowell County, West Virginia:

I don’t get it. Why isn’t Sanders calling out this guy for his white privilege and then segueing to his talking points on Putin, like normal Democrat? I look at Sanders as a sort of Johnny Appleseed; see the link to the DSA above.

More on Sanders in coal country, via [PoliticsUSA]. “Not only did Sanders debunk the myth that Trump and Republicans constantly feed to their base of supporters that there isn’t enough room in the budget to help those who need it most, but he also convinced one coal miner – a man who voted for Trump – that it’s time to make health care in the United States a universal right.” Video:

And the crowd goes wild. I can’t find the transcript, though. Readers?

Blue-State Secession Is Dumb and Cruel” [The Nation]. A nice takedown of Kevin Baker’s ” shrieking” in Salon. To me, what’s important about Baker’s article is that liberals have now abandoned universal benefits as a value; the undeserving shouldn’t have them. Hence, ObamaCare’s lack of universality, the presence of (credentialed) liberal gatekeepers everywhere, etc.

Stats Watch

Shipping: “[Maritime analytics company Windward says that] cargo ships and other vessels are routinely ‘going dark, making it impossible for authorities to know where they are or what they are doing, risking collisions and loss of life in busy shipping lanes” [Sky News]. “Windward’s data showed that 2,850 ships disappeared off the radar before entering European waters in January and February alone, and while some may have had technical difficulties, most are thought to have been engaged in illegal activity.” Hmm. Given collapsing margins in shipping, such behavior is only to be expected?

Retail: “Macy’s is morphing into a discount store” [Business Insider]. “The department-store chain is testing self-service systems in its shoe departments and at its beauty counters, meaning customers would serve themselves instead of finding a salesperson to retrieve shoes or make eyeliner recommendations. This model copies highly successful off-price retailers like TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack. Customer service was once what set Macy’s apart from those retailers. Macy’s is realizing that the traditional department store model is crumbling, and it needs to become more like a discount store to stay competitive….” Shrinking their way to profit…..

Retail: “Traditionally, Macy’s staffs its shoe sections with a salesperson who runs back and forth between the selling floor and the backroom. But at the locations in this test, customers grab their own size and colors themselves from stacks of shoes, more of which will be on the floor now. In addition to J.C. Penney, which is also testing ‘open sell,’ this way of presenting shoes is similar to practices at off-price chains like TJX Cos’ T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, as well as DSW” [Fortune]. “Open sell” is GENIUS! That said, I have biggish feet that fall between sizes. And I’ve noticed (at the local shoe store I go to) that the size ranges available seem to be decreasing. So I depend on random manufacturing variation, and I need a salesperson to find me the 13 that really a 13-wide. Either that, or I’m going to be sitting on the floor in front of the stak of shoes, trying on shoe after shoe ’til I find the one that fits. More crapification…

The Bezzle: “If Google wins its trade secrets suit against Uber, it could tank Uber” [Boing Boing]. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. And when you think about it, a pile of cash like Uber’s got would be expected to attract predators. “But what if Uber loses all its self-driving car research to Google, ordered by a court to go back to square one because it’s been caught stealing trade secrets?… At that point, Uber isn’t just at square one, it’s at square minus one million, having to find an exit for the investors who gave it billions to subsidize our rides in a winner-take-all bet on self-driving cars that the company has lost.”

The Bezzle: “How used cars became a security nightmare” [Engadget]. “[IBM’s X-Force Red leader Charles Henderson] quickly realized that everything about security in the world of connected cars revolves around the first owner. They literally haven’t thought through what happens when someone sells it. Henderson tested four major auto manufacturers and found they all use apps that allow previous owners to access the cars from a mobile device. In his talk, he was careful not to tell us who his car’s manufacturer is. And he discovered that only the manufacturer can remove users from its car. The new car owners remain unaware. ‘There’s nothing on the dashboard that tells you ‘the following people have access to the car.'” Holy moley, this is a must-read. This makes the Internet of Shit Things look like nothing. I hesitate even to imagine the software development process that led to such a result…

The Bezzle: “Urgent action is needed to curb price gouging by electricity companies who are earning “excessive” profits, sometimes as high as 43 per cent of the total household electricity bill” [Australian Financial Markets]. “While all [Australian] states have deregulated retail electricity prices in the past decade, the report argues that power bills are so complicated and consumers are so bored by them that the free market has not produced the same price competition and innovation as in other markets. The report focuses on Victoria because it was the first state to deregulate in 2009 and provides a clear case where final retail prices to consumers have been rising despite falling electricity generation (wholesale) and distribution (network) costs.” I know at this point I’m cranky and counter-suggestible, but what “other markets” are we talking about, exactly? And what “innovations”? Makes me think that phishing equilibria aren’t accidental to markets, but essential. After all, “free exchange” isn’t the point of a market, is it? Information asymmetry is the point!

Our Famously Free Press

“Many publishers have scrambled to adopt AMP, Google’s answer to Facebook Instant Articles. As the Guardian’s experience showed, Accelerated Mobile Pages can be a success if publishers put the work in. AMP has gradually been taking over the Guardian’s mobile traffic; today, 60 percent of its Google mobile traffic is AMP, well above the 10 to 15 percent that publishers have been getting from AMP…” [Digiday]. “AMP pages are 2 percent more likely to be clicked on and clickthrough rates on AMP pages to non-AMP pages is 8.6 percent higher than they are on regular mobile pages.” Putting your content into a proprietary data format controlled by a corporate entity far more powerful than you are; what could go wrong? And then there’s this: “Some publishers have complained that they’re not making as much ad revenue on AMP pages as their regular mobile pages; Google says that the revenue results have varied widely depending on factors like how many ad units the publishers run on their AMP pages and what kinds of ad units they sell on their regular mobile pages.” Sounds like a phishing equilibrium to me…

Class Warfare

Wrenching works like this. There is a ruling set with certain nefarious structural interests. The ruling set could be the ruling class (capitalism), white supremacists (racism), cis-male patriarchy (gender oppression), heterosexual norms (sexual oppression), able-bodies (ableism)…and others. Adolph Reed, building on a long tradition of thinking, has pointed out that racism divides the working classes and helps capitalists maintain power. Yet we know this same thing happens in other social categories. Racism divides women in their struggle against patriarchy. It divides queer communities in their struggle against normativity” [Hampton Institute]. “In each case, wrenching has the same form but different contents: in the struggle of a subordinated set against a ruling set within one social category, another social category–adjacent to their struggle–divides the subordinated set. That’s wrenching: when a subordinated set is struggling against a ruling set in one social category and the subordinated set is divided by another social category orthogonal to their struggle.” Interesting concept!

“The American middle class keeps shrinking. ‘The share of American adults in middle-income households also decreased, from 55% in 2000 to 51% in 2014,’ Pew Research Center reports. ‘At the same time, the share of adults in the upper-income tier increased from 17% to 20%'” [CNBC]. Not news, really, but I find the next sentence remarkable for CNBC: “Although income is just one part of class, it’s a crucial element and the one that’s easy to measure and track” (at which point, we discuss the parable of the drunk looking for their keys under the streetlight). “Income is just one part of class” is a statement you don’t hear a lot from neoliberal economists, or even (?) liberal ones.

“Welcome to a world of unimaginable wealth and rampant inequality, a world where monolithic corporations act as a law unto themselves, where automation and technological progress threaten to undermine the very foundations of society, and where frightened, forgotten, and furious citizens turn in droves towards political extremism” [Ars Technica]. It’s a tabletop board game, silly! “To emerge victorious in New Angeles, you have to defeat a corporate rival chosen randomly and secretly from among your fellow players. You’ll aim to finish the game with more capital—or victory points—than this rival, meaning that multiple players can win. And while a sharp and savvy executive can find plenty of ways to generate cash, that’s not the game’s only concern. Almost every action you take has an effect on the broader city, sometimes sparking civil unrest and fueling resentment among the populace. Allow dissent to get out of control and the US government will step in to impose—shudder!—market regulation, ending the game in a loss for all players.” Cash isn’t capital…

“Google’s parent company, Alphabet, says it plans to apply machine learning technology to promote more civil discourse on the internet and make comment sections on sites a little less awful…. “We have more information and more articles than any other time in history, and yet the toxicity of the conversations that follow those articles are driving people away from the conversation,” said Jared Cohen, president of Jigsaw, formerly known as Google Ideas” [New York Times]. Ah, “the conversation.” Gotcha. And then there’s this, which is the class warfare part:

The Times’s comments section is managed by 14 moderators, who manually review nearly every comment.

Because this requires considerable labor and time, The Times allows commenting on only about 10 percent of its articles. The Times said in a statement last year that it made its comments archive available to Jigsaw to help develop the machine-learning algorithm running Perspective. Linda Zebian, a spokeswoman for the Times, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Some thoughts: Sure, maybe the pencil-necked MBAs at The World’s Greatest Newspaper would rather fire 14 people in favor of an an algo, as opposed to hiring 140 so that humans moderate everything. I mean (guessing) $30K * 140 = $4,200,000 = 14 Thomas Friedmans, so that’s real money. On the other hand, Thomas Friedman’s value approximates zero, and we at NC know the value of a well-curated comments section; imagine scaling that to, well, “the national conversation.” On what you will see is the other hand, there’s a technical question: Some noticed a ginormous increase of Hillbottery in Times comments post-Democrat National Convention. Assuming — and there’s every reason to, given that the Times has, in essence, adopted the business model of Daily Kos — that comment moderation enabled or even skewed those numbers, how do you get an algo to do that? Get a list of pre-approved sample comments from the campaign and feed it to the algo? Or better, pre-approve a list of commenter IPs controlled by the campaign? One hates to be cynical, but 2016 was so clarifying..

“[T]he commanding new fact-on-the-ground is that the American electorate has for now sided with the anti-globalist argument, and we face the imminent presidency of Donald Trump as a result. Should localists declare victory? As we’re about to see, the situation is complicated and holds some opportunities along with plenty of perils” [Common Dreams (DB)]. Let’s be clear: Trump’s ascendancy probably represents not a victory for localism or even populism, but merely a co-optation of legitimate popular frustrations by a corporatist huckster who intends to lead his merry band of cronies and sycophants in looting what’s left of America’s natural and cultural resources. This would be the antithesis of green localism.” Yeah, basically!

News of the Wired

“What should an anthropology of algorithms do?” (PDF)) [Nick Seaver].

“Why Calvin and Hobbes is Great Literature” [Literary Hub]. “Comics, if we define them at their broadest as sequential art, have been with us from the beginning, on the walls of caves, on the sides of pottery, and in how we translated the many languages of starry night skies into our own, simplifying the chaos of why-are-we-here into creations. And when we remove their words altogether, comics suddenly create a new potential for language: a universal form, a language without language that all may be able to understand, a rejection—and resurrection—of the Tower of Babel.” Interesting article, but I’m dubious about universal forms…

“Federal agents can search your phone at the US border — here’s how to protect your personal information” [Business Insider]. “First, Wessler says, travel only with the data that you need. That may mean using burner phones or laptops for traveling. After all, he said, ‘authorities can’t search what you don’t have.’ Second, use encryption services. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Wired both have exhaustive guides to keeping federal authorities — or hackers, for that matter — from accessing your data. Always choose long, strong, unique passwords for each device and account.”

* * *

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

A California pink (Silene californica). But you can’t tell me that pine-cone wasn’t dropped by a human hand! I prefer a little more disorder…

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


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Timmy

    Further to “Retail” and Macy’s becomeing a discount store

    The “open stacks of shoes” that one finds at TJ Maxx as well as the messy stacks of clothes have a marketing purpose and are not just due to low staffing levels. It turns out that the more you paw through merchandise, the more likely you will discover things you like and want to buy. Its become a treasure hunt! Crapification sells.

    1. marieann

      The only really good treasure hunt is found in the thrift stores and yard sales. All the regular stores sell crap, and I’m certainly not going to waste my time looking for non existent treasures.

      Granted there is also a lot of crap in thrift stores but at least you have the chance of finding some of the better clothing from 20 or so years ago.
      I also buy up the older appliances, much better made than whats on offer today.

      1. jrs

        Much junk in thrift stores, I’ve decided to go without most appliances, they are really mostly unnecessary.. There’s treasures to be found with online shopping for a few things if you look hard enough (why again Amazon tempts people despite it’s evilness).

        1. marieann

          Ah! but that’s why you call them treasure hunts….you never know what will be unearthed. And seniors get 30% off on Tuesday :)

          I dislike online shopping.

      2. Octopii

        Yard sale crockpots are always great to find. The new ones run too hot because of food safety regulations. Old ones will truly do LOW and slow.

      3. Carl

        Yeah yeah, tell that to a couple of Patagonia baggys shorts I got a few years ago at TJ Maxx for five bucks apiece. They last for practically ever, which is probably why they retail at $50.00.

        Agree on the older appliances. We have a 1952 Chambers stove, a 40s Hotpoint fridge and a 1955 Coldpoint freezer.

      4. SpringTexan

        I’m hanging on to my old stove (1983) and my old refrigerator (1993) as long as they work. Yes a new refrigerator would be more energy-efficient, but I understand they hardly last at ALL!

        If you buy up old appliances, do you have rent houses or something? I would guess that an old appliance still wouldn’t last longer than a new one, since old — but could be wrong.

    2. polecat

      ‘open stacks of shoes & messy stacks of clothes …’

      Man …That is sooo K-mart !

      …. just add a passel of screaming brats in high meltdown ….

    3. LT

      I could see that working (pawing through stuff) if you like shopping for a long time.
      I’m one that likes to keep it moving and walk hoping something catches my eye before I walk out. I have to see something attractive to draw me in.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I listened to part of it last night. I was blown away by how on point Bernie was. And how heartily the audience agreed with him.

      He could easily upstage Trump if he did more town halls like this one.

      1. JohnnyGL

        I can think of at least 3 that he’s done so far (covered by either CNN or MSNBC). I’ve listened to all of them. He’s absolutely crushed them all. I think there was maybe 1 time I thought his answer was iffy.

        One can only imagine how he would have handled a general election sort of debate, depending on the format. Or even if the briefly hyped and hoped-for Trump-Sanders debate during the primaries ever came off. It would have been a sight to see.

        Sanders (finally getting some help from corp media) continues to break the ridiculous narratives out there about what voters want and think.

        1. neo-realist

          The corporate media/power structure doesn’t mind featuring your narratives or putting you on a pedestal when you are not in a position of power to enact policies based on those narratives (those that challenge TPTB.) It’s akin to cities naming streets and buildings after dead civil rights leaders and Presidents who challenged the power structure (Kennedy.)

          1. Bardamu

            “During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.” VI Lenin

            I am the Walrus.

        2. craazyman

          I suspect he would have won the presidential election. But just to illustrate how lost the Hillbots were — sadly a few extended family members fall into that category. At Christmas one said with heated and petulant emotion that Bernie would have lost because the repubs would have dug up video of him in Nicaragua chumming up to Danny Ortega. I was like “Whaaattt????” (That was in my head. I kept a poker face, just shut my mouth and changed the subject). I was like, in my head, “Oh man. Oh man. Do you think anybody would give a flying fkuc about that? You have got to be kidding me. What a dumb thing to think.” And this one is an Ivy League Liberull through and through. Incredible. It gets to the point where you can’t even have a conversation with somebody. They are so delusional, so lost in the storytime circus planted in their heads by God Knows What. Some wise people know too. I sort of know, but not all of it as of yet. It has to do with Deep Thoughts from esoteric ancient texts that few people know about. LOL. It’s true.

          1. Arizona Slim

            These days, I’m finding myself getting along better with Trump supporters than the lost-in-storytime liberals.

          2. WheresOurTeddy

            Bernie would have beat Trump by 10 points.

            But for Obama, Perez, the DNC, and the rest of your betters, losing to Trump is preferable to winning with Sanders. Because Sanders winning is the End of Days for them.

            Never forget Haim Saban’s money matters more to them than your opinion ever will.

          3. johnnygl

            hrc’s crew tried red-baiting, it mostly flopped. Bernie would have ignored and kept hammering on real issues and made everyone smearing him look petty and frivolous.

            I would have prefered to see that smear, because bernie could have crushed it saying,

            ‘you bet i’m happy to meet with one of the few leaders of a central american country that isn’t a basket case with streams of refugees racing northwards to escape horrible violence.’

          4. different clue

            If Sanders had wrenched the nomination away from an expectant Clinton and all her retainers, the Democratic Party and the millions of Hillbots in the field would have conspired to defeat Sanders. They might even have all voted for Trump to prevent Sanders from winning . . . so they could circle around and blame Sanders and the left for another McGovern-type defeat.

            1. Marina Bart

              True. But if you do the math, there are very few such Hillbots, conveniently segregated in a very few number of states, most of them packed with poor normals who only vote Dem because they keep thinking eventually there will be an FDR type to help them. The votes of the poor normals in California would have drowned out the bitter Hillbots. Likewise New York. Etc. Maybe they could have swung Connecticut. Eh.

              There really aren’t “millions” of Hillbots in the field. Most of the people who voted for her disliked her and only dragged themselves to the polls out of fear of Trump, or entrenched tribal loyalty. No way would the Clintonistas have been able to make all those people even more afraid of Bernie than Trump. Bernie would have eaten into Trump’s numbers, as well as bringing to the polls many of those who refused to vote for either oppressor on offer.

              Bernie would have won.

              If you’re here visiting from Shareblue: Bernie would have won.

            2. John k

              New thought for me… but I doubt it. So dem neocons and bankers, and the elites, would have jumped to trump, but Bernie wins 3/4 the dems, 2/3 indies, and all the reps wanting uni health.
              And remember 6 mil dems that voted for big o in 2012, 10 mil in 2008, and refused to vote for her, would likely be enthused enough to go vote… Wins pulling away.

            3. different clue

              Your views are more hopeful than mine is. I hope you are correct and that there are fewer Hillbots in the wild than I think there are.

              The Official DemParty would have tried to “McGovernize” Sanders, but Sanders would not have played along.

              I am not from Shareblue or any other specific place. I am a lone unattached webwalker who reads a few sites and then reads some random other ones. I always read Sic Semper Tyrannis, Ian Welsh and Naked Capitalism at every web sitdown session. Then I may read some other things time permitting.

          5. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Bernie would have lost because the repubs would have dug up video of him in Nicaragua chumming up to Danny Ortega.

            Yeah, the “Trump is a Russian agent” thing seems to have worked out so well for them…

      2. thoughtful person

        The more coverage Sanders ideas get, the more popular he becomes. Guess that is why Podesta et al wanted the media to publicize Trump not Sanders. The draft Sanders people are right, there is an iceberg of support for something like medicare for all, and similar policy. I think, with massive turnout, a 70 to 75% majority! (Half Clinton and Trump voters abd most independents). That is how Congress and the Presidency can be taken back from the far right (on both “sides of the aisle”).

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Maybe we need to replace that trope “sheepdog” with “Trojan horse”…

          Maybe bringing Sanders inside the city walls wasn’t such a great idea after all… But… Too late!!!!!

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      Being on the same network as Geraldo Maddow doesn’t set the bar high. Still, glad to see Bernie in WV after they tried to cancel him previously. Poor rurals have way more in common with poor urbans than our upper-class racial similars. The Oligarchy lives in constant fear of that being widely known and accepted.

      Always remember what LBJ told us:

      “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

      1. different clue

        I have tried watching Maddow a couple of times. She talks too long and ramblingly. She got boring after a while and I have no patience with that.

  2. sgt_doom

    Great column today! (As usual.)

    I noticed NPR is on full-scale assault on labor history, with either everyday or every other day, they revise and erase labor history in America.

    Today, Americans in the early 1900s were all drunkards, which was why the brought in Chinese scab workers to finish building the railroads — not that when the workers began organizing, being tired of literally being worked to death — they were fired and Rockefeller and Carnegie ships went to China for replacement scab workers.

    Next, similar circumstances in the mills in Bellingham, WA, so the ships went to pick up East Indian scab workers. But NPR — or Fox — will never report history truthfully!

      1. Pat

        AFTRA needed the merger more.than SAG and actively sought actors largely because their contracts and membership can prop up the news/radio groups that are AFTRA. Their lack of organizing has meant that not just FOX News is nonunion but so are CNN and MSNBC (in the latter case they even allowed a carve out for a location that had been fully unionized – 30 Rock). Even within the union that faction is hostile to union’s.

    1. Gareth

      In a similar revisionist vane NPR might report that in 1936 lazy auto workers in Flint, Michigan sat down in the factory and farted around for weeks, forcing the company to bring in a union to get them back to work.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Americans in the early 1900s were all drunkards, which was why the brought in Chinese scab workers

      Perfectly plausible, but got a link to the NPR thing?

      And thank you!

    3. Allegorio

      Likewise the PBS tribute to “Hamilton” featuring “Barry Obama”. What a guy, that Hamilton, inventing Wall Street and debt slavery, getting the Continental Congress to bail out bond holders with the threat of military insurrection. Then there was the Whiskey Rebellion, which Hamilton put down. You see there are good insurrections, like the ones that bailed out the .01% and bad insurrections that help everyone else. Elitism 101, there it is in the Harvard curriculum. How things change yet remain the same.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m not so sure that zeroing out the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be such a bad thing. It’s been a long time since Big Bird, and their coverage of Sanders was as vile as the rest of the mainstream.

  3. voxhumana

    Here a hack, there a hack, everywhere a hack hack…

    It seems our “intelligence” and “justice” departments were neither intelligent enough to stop the hacking, nor interested enough in any justice that might have resulted from examining the actual contents of the hacks, however illegal they might have been.

    and now the Russians have been busted, apparently, for the Yahoo hack : http://news.sky.com/story/russian-spies-to-be-charged-over-hacks-on-us-media-giant-yahoo-10802930

    Who knew?

    … but I regret to inform my MSM masters that this does not change my response to their batsh*#^ crazy russians-are-coming hysteria regarding the election of President Cheetoh nor does it diminish my concern for the cold-war-turning-hotter reality and the increasingly bellicose rhetoric flying around through it all ( yes, I am a fan of Stephen Cohen). Now that everyone’s hair is sufficiently on fire, is it appropriate to ask why it took so long to unearth this latest bit of hacking news?.. I believe all these hacks took place before the current comb-over presidency…

    1. different clue

      This is all to paint a picture of hacky Russian hackers. I still see no sign of any concern whatsoever on the part of the DC FedRegime about the Chinese hack of all the personnel files of all the people working for FedGov and mentioned in the Office of Personnel Management.

      1. Peter Pan

        It was my impression from watching RT this morning that at least one (maybe two; wasn’t clear) of these FSB agents was arrested in Russia a few months ago for treason.

    1. jrs

      Yes it’s good for cost cutting, since congress is good money after bad rubbish at this point. However they are all millionaires, so they can afford plans regardless. They aren’t going to be hurting. Non-millionaires not so much so. Should have been a corrupt politician, if you aren’t even willing to be corrupt to attain riches, then you really don’t even want to succeed, and better go die.

  4. LT

    Re: Alphabet/Google and NYTimes…

    It’s about manufacturing consent AND legitimacy (where none has been earned).
    I could also imagine them letting campaigns of the duopoly have some sort of “pre-approval.”
    Both parties are fringe, each barely able to capture close to 30% of registered voters in a good year (and we’re not even talking about how they suck if you look at the entire voting age population). They have to manufacture legitimacy at this point.

  5. dontknowitall

    “Democrats in Congress have long argued that the ongoing intelligence committee investigations into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and the Trump campaign’s ties to the Kremlin are unlikely to get to the bottom of the issue.” says the Wapoo… What a load malarkey…If by long they mean from March 9 because before then (from December) they were sounding utterly persuaded the evidence would be easy to get. Once the investigators started reporting that the evidence was just not there or thin we start seeing Buzzfeed and others backtracking on the impeachment race.

    So now they are going to invent a new bipartisan committee (both sides of the money party) with magical superpowers to create what doesn’t exist… sort of like Governor General Kerr got rid of the pugnacious Australian prime minister by using his queenly superpowers.


  6. LT

    “Obamacare: Share Your Story” [WhiteHouse.org]. Trump shamelessly steals another Democrat trope (and how come they’re so easy to steal, eh?)

    It’s called a duopoly for a reason…

    The Democrats and Republicans are not working against each other. They have different ways of serving the same masters.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The Democrats and Republicans are not working against each other. They have different ways of serving the same masters.

      Servants fight all the time; they hate each other sometimes, too. Once on a long-haul flight I watched Downton Abbey right after watching Game of Thrones. They were pretty similar!

  7. JustAnObserver

    Re: Endgadget on used cars.

    There is one absolute rule about *anything* that’s part of the “smart”, “connected” crapivers.

    As the key statement at the bottom of the article (which should be the headline in 140pt bold) says: Once an IoT(S) company has your $$$ their concern for what happens next is 0, nada, nothing, zilch, nichts, rien, …

    Doesn’t matter whether its a car, a child’s toy, or that essential of modern life: The web-connected dildo.

    1. Peter Pan

      Will this problem with used cars also apply to rental cars?

      I’d suggest for the time being that if you rent a car that you should never ever connect your smartphone to that rented car. Oh, and be prepared for the previous renter(s) to take over the controls of that rented car.

  8. hemeantwell

    “Wrenching works like this. There is a ruling set with certain nefarious structural interests

    I’d love to see someone familiar with British colonial history apply this to an analysis of their strategic inventory. Better, compare Brit colonial policy with that of other conquerors. The Brits appeal since we’re having to live with so many outcomes of their dividing, in a fit of absence of mind, subject populations into mutually homicidal communal groups.

    I imagine that development of the technique accelerated as ruling elites increasingly had to deal with electorally empowered, sorta, subject populations. It’s likely that social media, with its firestorm generating capabilities, is going to greatly increase the potential for wrenching. Microaggressions, anyone?

    1. Ivy

      Wrenching seems to me like a self-driving concept that was hijacked into someone else’s choice of intersection. That darned internet of everything!

    2. David

      Well, since you ask, ruling powers since time immemorial have practiced divide and rule, by playing identity groups off against each other, often inventing (or at least solidifying) groups for the purpose. Thus, for example “tribalism” in Africa, which was essentially a political question, became an ethnic question because colonial powers believed in genetic differences between peoples and acted as if that were true. The legacy lives on today.
      But that’s only part of the game. The next trick is to identify a particular group for favourite treatment. This could be a marginalized group (like the Acholi in Uganda) from which the police and military would be drawn, or an elite group, like the Muslim tribes from the area north of Khartoum who still provide the Sudanese elites today. Such groups were Europeanized, taught colonial languages, and their leaders sent for education and training abroad. Both groups tended to identify with the colonial power more than their fellow Africans. On independence, you therefore had political elites speaking English, French or Portuguese, all ready to take over.
      But of course you could do the same thing at home. The British aristocracy was able to hold on to power as long as it did by a carefully judged process of peeling off layers of the rising middle classes and giving them honors, status, and finally admission to the aristocracy itself. The French Crown couldn’t pull the same trick, because the political structure of the country was entirely different, and there was a quite well-known violent conclusion in 1789.
      Nothing much changes. As long as you can convince people who are being objectively exploited that they are actually exploiting each other, and cream off a few to provide the illusion of success, then you can stay in power forever. If you can convince a woman stocking shelves at a supermarket that her husband, doing the same job for the same pay, is the real oppressor, then you’ve got a population capable of disciplining itself. I can hear Foucault laughing from here.

      1. Steve H.


        “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

        : Pynchon

      2. PhilM

        I like your comment and think it is enormously apropos, and it is so gratifying to see Foucault mentioned with approbation, so please don’t take this wrong. I don’t want to come off as that guy, “You said this you’re wrong nyah nyah nyah.” But I think for 1789, you might be selling the French short in their mechanisms of social mobility. There were many routes to nobility for the rich third estaters before the revolution. Where the thing fell apart, many historians think, among other reasons, was the inefficiency of the farmed tax system, and in the suspicion of central banks after John Law in 1720, both of which crippled the finances of the state. Not to mention the amount of capital dedicated to the Church’s regular orders, which had never been dissolved, as they had been in Protestant lands.

        Anyway, if Louis had had a central bank, he’d be alive today. LOL.

        1. David

          Yes, I was a bit too glib with my reference to 1789. You’re basically right. My point (basing myself on Ertman’s “Building Leviathan” ) was that the British system, with its alternative centres of power and parliamentary control over expenditure, was much more flexible, and produced a ruling class with its own ability to transform and adapt, without depending on royal favour all the time. I think the tax-farming system, which was probably all that was feasible in an absolutist-patrimonial state, certainly had a lot to do with the decline of the monarchy – it made financing wars very difficult, for example.

      3. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

        Divide and Rule and other related issues

        Same as it ever was,
        Same as tt ever was,
        Same as it ever was.
        – Once In A Lifetime – Talking Heads (And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack)

        Same same but different.
        – Sales patter in Thai english

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Europeanized, taught colonial languages, and their leaders sent for education and training abroad

        Rather like J.D. Vance…

        > he British aristocracy was able to hold on to power as long as it did by a carefully judged process of peeling off layers of the rising middle classes and giving them honors, status, and finally admission to the aristocracy itself. The French Crown couldn’t pull the same trick, because the political structure of the country was entirely different, and there was a quite well-known violent conclusion in 1789.

        IIRC, it was possible for the French bourgeoisie to purchase a title (and there were tax advantages to doing to, aside from the cachet). Nobody could have predicted that honors for sale are not honors! Paradoxically, then, the more indirect, not market-oriented approach in the UK was more successful and much more long-lived.

        1. David

          In pre-Revolutionary France just about everything was for sale, including state offices, and of course titles, because of the desperate need to raise money. The British, on the other hand, recognised that there were things that people would do for social status that they would never do for money, and acted accordingly. Interestingly, the technique hasn’t entirely died out. In the 1980s, during the worst years of the Thatcher Recession, there was often a mutinous mood among Tory MPs. Whenever this happened, the whips would do the rounds, muttering about how the next round of Knighthoods for politicians was even then being worked on. It never failed to shut the dissidents up. One period, where honors were being withheld for disciplinary reasons was rather wittily dubbed “Knight starvation.”

  9. shinola

    From the Politico article ‘Trump takes on the Blob’:

    “Everything I’ve worked for for two decades is being destroyed,” a senior Republican told me”

    Well, that’s kinda the point.


  10. Alex Morfesis

    Karl Rove to the courtesy phone, the Netherlands needs your magic…purportedly five minutes after the polls close a survey or polling of voters is presented…seem a bit late…maybe gene wilders cousin nailed it…although even if his party pulls 30%, he has almost zero chance to obtain coalition partners to even have a voice in parliament…

    Although, the dutch seem to have fun with their elections…and convenient..drive thru voting…voting while on vacation…polling places in desolate locations to attract the fun loving…the dutch seem to make voting fun…vote from where you are at it seems…

    1. Alex Morfesis

      Updated…wilder and his krewe look to not even replicate 2010 showing…down below 13%…and now back to our regularly scheduled programming

      1. Foppe

        a lot of mid-sized center-right parties now, though. So I don’t see things changing much for the have-nots, but who knows.

  11. allan

    Influential House member plans to rekindle debate over NSF policies [Science]

    The last bill that President Barack Obama signed before leaving office ended a 4-year battle over the future of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in a way that largely preserved current practices at the $7.5 billion research agency.

    Or so most scientists thought. They had vigorously fought bill language drafted by Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chair of the House of Representatives science committee, that would have altered NSF’s well-regarded system of peer review and its commitment to a balanced research portfolio. And Smith had generally acceded to his Senate counterparts in negotiating the final version of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), enacted on 6 January.

    But last week Smith made clear at a hearing of the science committee that he’s gearing up for a new fight. And his comments suggest he’s intent on covering much of the same ground, starting with his view that NSF’s charge to support research “in the national interest” means it should fund less social science and environmental research. …

    Smith made clear in his opening statement that everything NSF does is back on the table. …

    Strangely, it’s only Democrats who proclaim that something is off the table.

  12. Proof

    My 12 year old recently discovered Calvin and Hobbes, so I’ve been revisiting those books lately, and I 100% agree witht he article’s assertion that they are great literature.

  13. allan

    Experts worry ObamaCare repeal plan puts Medicare trust fund at risk [The Hill]

    A little noticed element of the Republican plan for repealing and replacing ObamaCare could put the Medicare trust fund at risk, experts worry.

    The plan, which faces a vote before the House Budget Committee on Thursday, would slash revenue for the fund that pays for hospital benefits — a precedent-setting move if signed into law.

    It’s not the first time that fund has been threatened, but if the ObamaCare repeal plan is implemented, it would be the first time Congress took an action pushing it near the funding cliff.

    The cuts would bring the trust fund several years closer to running out of money, worrying Medicare advocates and budget hawks — and potentially leading to hospital reimbursement cuts. …

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Congressional Budget Office estimate the repeal would speed up the trust fund’s insolvency date from 2026 and 2028 under current law, to 2024 or 2025. …

    Fake news. Trump has repeatedly stated that Medicare won’t be cut*.

    * That depends on what the definition of “cut” is.

    1. different clue

      That sounds like something for Sanders to explain about in the Senate with his Trump’s Tweets posters and carefully selected bits of the Ryan Plan Bill’s language to the contrary ( to Trump’s Tweets).

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Of course, since the Democrats buy into the (false) ideas that (a) taxes fund Federal spending and (b) austerity (low or no deficits) is always good, they’re always in the loser’s corner, no matter what they do.

      If there’s one thing I wish Sanders would do that he isn’t doing (OK, the empire) it’s figure out how to explain MMT as only he could, and start barnstorming around it. What’d he hire Stephanie Kelton for?

  14. voteforno6

    Re: Unity commission another challenge for Democrats

    Interesting quote from Nomiki Konst at the end:

    “The problem we have is that we lost 1,000 seats in eight years. Where did the money go? We raised more money than ever and lost more seats than ever,” she said.

    She’s really poking the bear with that one.

    1. JustAnObserver

      Memo to Nomiki: We know the answer to both questions:

      PUTIN took them. All those state Reps, Sens, & Govs are really RUSSIANS.

      Just wait till there’s a sudden passion for retro-fitting state houses with onion domes, then we’ll know.

      The End.

      1. craazyboy

        Breaking News:

        Nancy Pelosi filmed live in Bay Area at Russian folk dancing lessons.


        Clandestine video filmed by geek using IoT Dildo with nano front facing camera. Security guards never expected it! The geek explained – “I just blended in when they strip searched us at the door!”

        Later, the dildo Hot Mike (TM), picked up Nancy saying to her friend, “Better Red than dead, right? The world changes and you have to stay limber in politics. I’ve got a clone body growing at my bio-tech startup and I intend on using it! Besides, I’m getting tired of tofu and kefir all the time. Caviar and Vodka for breakfast will be a welcome change, I think. They’ve been doing that for decades over in Oakland. Well, maybe not the caviar. Besides, Putin looks hot with his shirt off. Maybe he likes bi-sexual girls and we could have a little fun with him? He’s really not that bad of a guy. We made up most the bad stuff anyway. Hope he doesn’t carry a grudge.”

        1. Bugs Bunny

          She was slithering through the NPR studios today for an interview about ACA repeal, doing a great job avoiding questions but did emit this stunner: “We consider health care a right” and “the ACA was a private sector solution”. I spat out my detox water.

  15. BeliTsari

    While reiterating the need to stick with ERW warheads to liberate Iran’s Papaver bracteatum for Purdue Pharma, Gorka unwittingly informs Trump about Papaver somniferum https://theintercept.com/2017/03/15/trump-has-called-the-afghan-war-a-mess-his-generals-want-to-escalate-it/ https://secure.politico.com/story/2017/03/trump-white-house-paranoia-236069 https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/03/15/unsealed-court-documents-suggest-collusion-between-monsanto-epa-pollute-science BTW: Fracking brine makes really shitty road salt!

  16. Hana M

    Definitely one for the Guillotine Watch, though the Bezzel might need a cross reference.

    Mobile-Controlled Everything

    The last big innovation in cruising dealt with RFID-enabled wristbands that let you scan in and out of the ship at port or charge drinks to your room. But wearables are a thing of the past, said Lutoff-Perlo. On the Edge ships, you’ll be able to do everything on your phone, from checking in to unlocking your stateroom door or controlling your room’s temperature and lighting.

    It all happens via a proprietary Celebrity app, which also puts the concierge, ship map, and daily event schedule in each guest’s pocket. “We’ll send you notifications for the things you’ve told us you’re interested in and use it to reduce pain points across the entire experience,” said Lutoff-Perlo. “It will help us personalize your cruise as we’ve never been able to do before.”


      1. visitor

        That revolution in cruising is designed to shatter your expectations by providing breathtaking experiences on the edge that allow you to connect with the sea around you.

        I mean, this is my summary of the video concocted out of statements from the voice-over.

        The vision of people secluded in an utterly artificial environment aboard a giant vessel travelling through space, oblivious to everything around them, is eerily reminiscent of somewhat dystopian Sci-Fi stories.

        The word “experience” is uttered with disquieting frequency in the video, barely belying the fact that passengers will above all experience being confined in completely sterile surroundings.

        1. RMO

          “use it to reduce pain points” They actually said that in public, on purpose. Amazing. I love that it brings to mind an image of one of their ships as some sort of immense floating torture chamber and that by deft use of smartphone technology the customers improve their chances of avoiding the rack or the thumbscrews.

    1. Optimader

      I had NHK onall evening yesterday (sumo wrestling tournament on at 11:00 )
      In anycase they aired a long “innovation” piece on a mobile phone app enabled toaster oven…lol
      The shark has been jumped

  17. c

    Dutch elections: Dijsselbloem’s (eurogroup chairman) party PvdA 38 seats reduced to 9
    VVD (Rutte) with 31 seats (-10) stays the biggest party. Wilders’s PVV from 15 to 19 seats.

    1. Alex Morfesis

      Hard to imagine diesel boom staying finance minister of the Netherlands with his party having been toasted…and thus he will no longer be head of the evil eurogroup…

      Yes we lived in interesting times…

      1. optimader

        I like to cultivate attendance to these events at Argonne and Fermi.

        Beyond the obvious reasons that they are interesting, since 911 it has been the equivalent of a tooth extraction for the lab directors to open these facilities up for public events/presentations again, so their efforts should be justified.
        This allows them, amongst other things, to showcase work on cool, arcane programs that have nothing to do with the MIC.

        A link for Fermi.

        Events at ANL are generally free, Fermi charges very nominal fees to support the program.

        Lambert, you can vicariously watch these now as they stream and archive them, I will often just listen to them like a podcast in the background when

  18. LT

    4. There's also the feeling, on many parts of the left, that Clintonian Dems are using Russian story to evade blame for failed election.

    — Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) March 14, 2017


    Jeet Heer‏Verified account @HeerJeet Mar 13

    11. You don’t like Trump’s kleptocratic tendencies. Well, his ties to Russian oligarchs is relevant.

    But the Corpo Democrats ties to oligarchs are irrelevant?
    Oligarchs love oligarchs the world over, not much daylight between them.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Jeet Heer

      Oddly, or not, he doesn’t seem to address the question of whether the “Trump is a Russian agent” (that’s how they say it, in strong form) is actually true.

    1. Alex Morfesis

      Is it possible to sue the voters of Arizona for misfeasance ?? Maybe mccain and graham can just finally move to key west and get elected senators together…can we sue roberta for having told johnny one too many times what a special little boy his is…was…

      Hopefully he has his father and grandfather’s genes and is nearing his sell by date…

      1. craazyboy

        The news came out a few days before election day that ObamaCare costs were set to double in AZ in 2017. It’s not our fault. Please don’t sue us. We’ll be broke anyway.

        1. craazyboy

          We needed a juicy decoy to divert attention from our World’s Largest Missile Plant here. Go for the head, the body will take care of itself.

  19. Massinissa

    From a quote in the Jacobin article, apparently Obama right out admitted that he made promises during his first election campaign he didn’t intend to keep.

    “Politicians, Obama stressed, often make promises that they don’t keep. “My simple point is that you can’t assume that the language of campaigning matches up with the specifics of governing, legislation, regulations, and foreign policy,” Obama said. He continued: “I can’t guarantee that the president-elect won’t pursue some of the positions that he’s taken. But what I can guarantee is, is that reality will force him to adjust how he approaches many of these issues. That’s just the way this office works.””

    And he presents this as though its perfectly ok and natural. If politicians can make promises they don’t intend to keep, then how the hell is the populace supposed to know what theyre in store for when they elect someone?

    1. JustAnObserver

      This is such classic Obama. Using rhetorical skills to elide/obscure the huge difference between

      1. Don’t intend (never intended) to keep.


      2. Can’t keep because “Events, dear boy, events”.

    2. nobody

      Matt Stoller on Obama:

      His challenge was so outrageous – I dare you to call me on what a liar I am as I joke about how much I am lying to you right now – that he turned an obnoxious bluff into art… This is cynicism as art. It’s literally a Presidential candidate running on hope and change saying that campaign promises are a joke and a ruse.

      1. Carolinian

        Thanks for the wayback!

        Obama had risen to that level of duplicity, not a lie in the conventional sense of saying something that wasn’t true, but an entirely constructed false persona. He had polished the tools of the Presidency – the utter banality of PR, the constipated talking points, the routine abuse of power – and taken them to a new level with a self-aware sense of irony about his own narcissistic dishonesty. His challenge was so outrageous – I dare you to call me on what a liar I am as I joke about how much I am lying to you right now – that he turned an obnoxious bluff into art.

        Personally I blame it all on David Letterman, that pioneer of the everything is bullshit school of humor. By the time Obama came along the Age of Irony was in full swing with the Coen brothers as the era’s cinema poet laureates. Indeed we are so steeped in this particular zeitgeist that it’s no wonder that the very uncool Trump has provoked a reaction close to hysteria.

  20. Roger Smith

    Re: How used cars became a security nightmare

    Bug or feature? I am reminded of the video game industry where developers loathe the used sales market. They have tried several methods of control from locking away online features to the current crapified disarray of retailer preorder bonus content and unfinished products that require subscriptions for the “extra” content.

    Luckily the outrageous sticker price on vehicles should be a protection for consumers, as the industry would probably collapse if they siphoned used sales too aggressively. However, watch out for crapification in the future such as auto companies requiring thousand(s) dollar reactivation “keys”/services.

  21. Optimader

    Hey MLTBeef


    Anthony Bourdain in Lyon, France

    What school children eat for lunch in the gastronomic capital of the world. They have an onsite chef!! Meal cost per student, right around $1.50!!! In America we feed our kids trash and it costs about $2.75 per student. In Lyon they even have fruit for desert…

    1. Merasmus

      I wouldn’t say that Saker is fake news, because he mostly isn’t, but at this point I see no reason for anyone to read him. I first discovered him, and read his stuff daily, during the events in Ukraine in 2014. But that died down after several months, and he increasingly started writing about things other than battlefield updates and strategic analysis. Eventually I got to the point where I couldn’t tolerate his bigotry any more. The man is frankly a hate-filled asshole, and at times it bleeds into even his geopolitical writings. I got really tired of the ‘history’ lessons on the West’s centuries long hatred of Russia and Europeans inherent desire to eradicate Slavs (did you know that Napoleon was a Mason, and was commanded by the Satanic priests to destroy Russia? Such is the wisdom of The Saker), the frequent ranting about the ‘AngloZionists’ who are apparently behind virtually everything bad in the world (related to that is his belief that there is no such thing as a unique Jewish ethnicity or culture; he’s embraced the debunked Khazar hypothesis, beloved by antisemites the world over), and then the final straw was when I read his multiple, downright disgusting articles about homosexuals (whom he refuses to call ‘gay’, he calls them ‘sads’). Looking back to his writings before 2014 you can find this gem of stupidity:


      “So let’s sum it up.  “Gay rights” are neither about gaiety, nor about rights.  This is the organized political expression of a group of psychologically sick people who are seeking to impose their sexual dysfunctions and pathology as a norm on the rest of society and which do so with the utmost regression and intolerance.  History shows than these groups only prevailed in degenerating societies and that when they did achieve their objectives, the society which they submitted to their agenda rapidly collapsed.”

      Not only does he have that common conservative obliviousness to the concept of informed consent, but he has a bizarre illiteracy in regards to history, something he frequently writes about. And of course all the while he’s spewing his bile he’s insisting he has no beef with homos, I mean he thinks they’re a bunch of depressed, broken, sinful sexual freaks who don’t deserve equal protection under the law, but he doesn’t really have a problem with them, just so long as they shut up, stay in the closet about their freakish deviance, and don’t offend him with their existence. Incidentally, would you like to hear about Eastern Orthodox Jesus and his boundless love, and how he’s the bedrock of a proper civilization? Did you know that Tsar Nicholas II is a Saint and a glorious defender of Slavs? What’s that, he wasn’t willing to fight for Bosnia, and was a repressive monster who loathed his people and had thousands of them executed by his secret murder police? No! says The Saker, he was a Saint because the Orthodox Church says was a Saint.

      Not unrelated, after reading enough Saker I started to get the distinct impression that the only reason he claims to hate fascists is because they once invaded Russia. Had the Germans never invaded, or had the invaders not been fascists, I seriously wonder if he would profess such a hatred of them. If fascism came wrapped in a Russian tricolor and carrying a Greek Orthodox Bible I suspect he would welcome it. He certainly seems to share a lot of their ideas. These days he’s a contributor to The Unz Review, which among many other things hosts white supremacist writings that really can’t be called anything other than Nazi. Fitting company.

  22. Geof

    Some noticed a ginormous increase of Hillbottery in Times comments post-Democrat National Convention. Assuming — and there’s every reason to, given that the Times has, in essence, adopted the business model of Daily Kos — that comment moderation enabled or even skewed those numbers

    I conducted an scholarly study of Times comments on the story revealing Snowden as the NSA leaker. My evidence suggests that comment editors deliberately shaped discussion through their selection of “staff picks” (which heavily influenced comment ratings and visibility).

    Of the 50 comments with the highest ratings (most likes), 30 supported Snowden, while 12 were critical of him. But of staff picks among the top 50, the split was almost even: 11 to 9 (thus of non-staff picks, the split was a lopsided 19 to 3). A random sample of 50 comments found an even split, 15 to 14.

    My analysis suggests that staff picks are chosen from top-rated comments (which then posts those comments’ ratings more); they are not reflective of overall sentiment. If these numbers are significant (they might not be; they are small), it seems that editors were attempting to balance opposing views.

    This wouldn’t be surprising: balance between two opposing sides is a core tenet of journalistic objectivity, for better and for worse (as climate change “debate” demonstrated). I suspect that this was the motivation. On the one hand, this would mean that top comments did not reflect reader views. On the other, discussion can benefit from disagreement, as it encourages more vigorous discussion. (On the Guardian, where virtually everyone supported Snowden, comments were short and lacked substance. What they demonstrated instead was solidarity.)

    Alternatively, it is possible that the picks reflected editor bias. I doubt that they did so consciously, but given that they were already engaged in shaping discussion it is possible that bias crept in.

    Regardless, the comments were an important corrective to a terrible article. The text of the article was all about political gamesmanship (he embarrassed Booz Allen Hamilton!): it basically ignored the substantive democratic questions the leaks raised (though I presume those were dealt with in other articles). Commenters, in contrast, couldn’t care less about the game: they cared about spying on Americans what it meant for American democracy.

    I found a similar pattern in my study of the article about Aaron Swartz’s death. Top-rated comments focused on the injustice (or not) of the government prosecution and debated Swartz’s cause (freedom of knowledge; Times commenters were more critical of Swartz than were those on other sites I looked at). The article itself, however, avoided criticism of government by presenting Swartz as a Troubled Genius – a one-off tragedy, not an instance of a system gone wrong. For both Snowden and Swartz, the comments were an important corrective.

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