2:00PM Water Cooler 3/16/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“In Chile, countries are all in on TPP: Despite Trump’s efforts to kill what he considers to be a “horrible” deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will live on without the United States” [Politico]. “The work now begins on how to preserve the trade deal’s innovations, which included new rules on digital trade, disciplines for state-owned companies and what have been touted as the toughest labor and environment protections of any modern trade agreement. The innovations also include new market access that countries negotiated on everything from milk powder to insurance services.”


Health Care

“Trump should kill the Republican proposal for ‘ObamaCare 2.0′” [Twila Brase, The Hill]. Brase (Citizens Council for Health Freedom) is far to the right of Ryan, but I have a soft spot for her because she doesn’t make sh*t up. Her critique:

So why is GOP leadership offering a non-repeal replacement bill that looks and feels like ObamaCare?

The AHCA repeals most of the ObamaCare taxes and doubles contributions to Health Savings Accounts, but it restructures several other provisions, keeps much of ObamaCare intact, and maintains federal control over health care.

For example, the ACA’s individual mandate and penalties will be zeroed out but the GOP adds a new federal “continuous coverage” mandate with a 12-month, 30 percent penalty paid to insurers. The 40 percent federal “Cadillac” tax will stay in place with an 8-year delay. ObamaCare’s premium subsidies will be replaced by federal AHCA subsidies (refundable tax credits). The federally controlled ObamaCare exchanges, which have cost $9 billion, are kept in place. Three federal redistribution programs that led to insurer lawsuits and bailout attempts by the Obama administration (risk-adjustment, risk corridors, reinsurance) will stay in statute. The ‘guaranteed issue’ mandate for people with preexisting conditions is retained along with a $100 billion federal program to pay insurers for their care.

And the more than 40,000 pages of burdensome federal ACA regulations and guidance documents are not repealed.

The AHCA is a recipe for disaster. Republicans won’t be able to say they repealed the law and Americans will know they didn’t. The GOP will own the replacement plan and everything that goes wrong because of it.

To answer Brase’s question: “Because ObamaCare is a Republican plan!”

“The only play right now is to get this bill through the House. The Senate is going to drastically change the legislation — some think it will never get through the other chamber. So Ryan and the White House’s focus at this point is how to get it through the House. The White House legislative liaison team — which works out of an office next to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s first-floor suite — is crawling through the Capitol, monitoring committee markups and making sure members are taken care of. Whatever passes the House is almost certainly never going to become law. This bill will be changed” [Politico].

“Pelosi Says Democrats Have A Responsibility To Look For Common Ground On Health Law” [NPR]. Nonsense. They have a responsibilty to support Medicare for All and get it passed. And then there’s this:

Understand this about Republicans, and then you’ll understand part of what our challenge is here: They always are gearing whatever they do to benefit the high end. This is the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of our country, in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars going into the pockets of the top 1 percent of the people in our country, at the expense of the good health of our middle class and those who aspire to the middle class.

Isn’t that precious? To multi-millionaire Pelosi, there is no working class. There are only those who “aspire” to be “middle class.” Personally, I don’t consider thoughts of becoming a rent-extracting broker, or a bloated union-busting university administrator, or a scrip doctor as aspirational, but maybe that’s just me. Will no-one think of the aspirational Brooklyn artisanal pickle makers?

New Cold War

“Maintaining “plausible deniability” is likely key to any possible ties between Russia and WikiLeaks. But this deniability is also built into the organization” [Moscow Times]. Recommended by Mark Ames. “Both supporters and critics of Wikileaks told The Moscow Times that WikiLeaks’ means of receiving leaks can often make it very difficult to trace their origins — or confirm their veracity. The organization accepts anonymous, encrypted submissions online.”

Our Famously Free Press

You’ll have to be subtle to get anyone who calls Rachel Maddow “Rachel” to watch this parody of Maddow’s “scoop” on Trump’s tax returns:

Trump Transition

“The legal limit on how much the United States government can borrow returns on Thursday, potentially setting up an intense political battle in Congress” [The Hill].

“Debt Ceiling Primer” [Across the Curve]. Useful, and read the whole thing for detail on “extraordinary measures”: “Here’s how it works: a law is passed that says the debt ceiling is suspended until a certain date. The last such legislation established March 15 as the deadline, so here we are. Republicans in Congress did not trust the Democratic Administration to avoid playing games with this new approach, so the legislation also stipulates that Treasury has to get the cash balance down to a specific level (otherwise, Treasury could manipulate the debt ceiling up by borrowing more than necessary). That level happens to be $23 billion…. Federal government cash flows are quite seasonal, and the biggest inflow of cash all year happens to be coming up (April 15 tax date). So, once we get over that hump, inflows will carry the Treasury for quite a while, probably through the summer and into the fall based on current estimates. Thus, from a market perspective, nothing happens today. Then, starting tomorrow, bill supply will begin to normalize and the cash balance will rise. And then, nothing for several months until the extraordinary measures near exhaustion. And then the political war over raising the debt ceiling kicks in and the Treasury market starts to get nervous.”

“Trump’s education budget boosts school choice and charter schools—and slashes everything else” [Quartz]. Too bad Obama worked so hard to reinforce Bush’s work on charters, though to be fair, Teach for America scabs did yeoman work when it came time for Democrats to decapitate #BlackLivesMatter.

“President Donald Trump is calling for privatizing the nation’s air traffic control operations in his budget proposal, a top priority of the airline industry” [CNBC]. “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents the FAA’s 14,000 controllers, is also backing privatization. Union officials have complained that the FAA has been unable to resolve chronic controller understaffing at some of the nation’s busiest control facilities, and they say they’ve become discouraged by the modernization effort’s slow progress.”

“Apple, Google, Facebook skip legal challenge to new travel ban” [Reuters]. Hmm.


I’ve lost all will to live:

“Why I’m Moving Home” [J.D. Vance, New York Times]. “But there were practical reasons to move: I’m founding an organization to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic. We chose Columbus because I travel a lot, and I need to be centrally located in the state and close to an airport. And the truth is that not every motivation is rational: Part of me loves Ohio simply because it’s home.” Watch out for this guy; he’s the Daniel Patrick Moynihan of the “white working class.”


“Last year, voters elected 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats to the House. Since then, vacancies have reduced the House to a 237-193 Republican advantage. Assuming the incumbent party holds all five of the vacancies (more on that below), Democrats would need to net 24 seats to take a House majority” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Overall, though, voters’ perceptions of Trump and congressional Republicans will loom large next year — or at least history suggests those factors will be important. If perceptions are neutral or broadly positive, the GOP should have little trouble keeping the House. If they are negative, the House will be in play, and some of those Likely Republican districts — the districts that truly will make or break the GOP House majority — might start to slip away.”

2016 Post Mortem

“What [David Cay] Johnston narrates, in almost nauseating detail, is how Trump’s ascension to wealth and fame and power—long before he makes his 2016 run for the presidency—is dependent not on the weaknesses of the political system but on the systemic corruption of a rentier economy” [Corey Robin]. “At every step, Trump benefits, almost haplessly (it seems to require very little art), from the built-in advantages to wealth and the wealthy in our society: whether those advantages are in the tax system, the regulatory system, or the courts. (Trump actually spoke of this quite often during his campaign.) And in the same way that Hitler preyed upon his opponents’ cluelessness in the face of his political rise, so does Trump profit from his opponents’ cluelessness in the face of his economic rise. At every moment when Trump might have been stopped, when he might have been forced into bankruptcy, had his credit denied, had his loans called in, his licenses revoked, at every juncture where he might have been convicted of a crime or sent to jail—and, again, this is well before he makes his successful bid for the White House—some unplanned and unintended conspiracy of economic reason and political lowlifery mobilizes to protect him. (And it really is unplanned and unintended. The genius of the American system is how the Invisible Hand works to produce systemic vice rather than incidental virtue.)”

“Barack Obama to spend a month in French Polynesia” [France24].”Barack Obama arrived in French Polynesia where he will spend a month at a luxury resort frequented by Hollywood stars, according to local TV channel Tahiti Nui TV.” Ka-ching.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How the GOP Crackup Happens” [Rich Lowry, Politico]. Editor of the National Review, but: “Less than two weeks after the unveiling of the GOP Obamacare replacement, the party is already staring into the abyss…. This is a product of how the Republican sweep of 2016 was won on separate tracks. Trump tore up many Republican orthodoxies and went out and found a different way to unlock the electoral map, winning in the industrial Midwest. Congressional Republicans more or less stuck with the usual script, kept Trump at arm’s length, and held their majorities in the House and the Senate.” Interestingly: “There’s almost no question that Trump would win any blame game. He would have the larger megaphone, the more intense supporters and much sharper elbows. He could instantly define Paul Ryan as a creature of the Washington swamp and decide to triangulate away from the GOP Congress rather than work with it. This would mean Trump would be a president not without a party necessarily, but without a Congress.”

“The Deep State” [RealClearWorld]. “The deep state is, in fact, a very real thing. It is, however, neither a secret nor nearly as glamorous as the concept might indicate. It has been in place since 1871 and continues to represent the real mechanism beneath the federal government, controlling and frequently reshaping elected officials’ policies. This entity is called the civil service, and it was created to limit the power of the president.” I invite advocates of the “deep state” concept to debate whether this definition is compatible with (the many) other definitions, or not.

Stats Watch

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, March 2017: “Robust is a modest description of activity right now in the Mid-Atlantic manufacturing sector, at least based on the Philly Fed index” [Econoday]. “All this is very positive for employment of course which is up more than 6 points to 17.5 for the best rate of hiring since November 2014. This report, followed by Empire State, have been signaling breakout acceleration for the nation’s factory sector. A breakout, however, that has yet to be confirmed by definitive economic data out of Washington.” Today’s reports are larded with qualifications like this. I’ve never seen so many!

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, March 2017 (Wednesday): “Manufacturers in New York state, like their colleagues in the Mid-Atlantic, are having their hands full with exceptionally strong activity” [Econoday]. “New orders are up nearly 8 points this month to a 21.3 level that was last exceeded in April 2010. Unfilled orders jumped 6 points to 14.2 which is the highest reading since way back in March 2006. Delivery times, at 10.6 for a 3.5 point gain, show the most month-to-month slowing since May 2004. Slowing delivery times are the signal that activity may be getting too hot… This report had been lagging the Philly Fed in strength but not any more. The strength of these reports are inflationary, pointing to the risk of supply dislocations. Yet anecdotal reports have not panned out much at all to actual strength in the real economy, a disconnect that appears very likely, given the enormous strength of these regional reports, to resolve itself with outsized strength for the industrial production and factory order reports.”

Retail Sales, February 2017 (Wednesday): “February and January have to be averaged but together they confirm strength in the consumer. Retail spending could manage only a 0.1 percent gain in February but January, which was already solid, is now revised 2 tenths higher to 0.6 percent” [Econoday]. “these headline gains, though less than astonishing, were made despite weakness in the motor vehicle component…. [R]etail sales, though solid, are far from the astonishingly strong readings underway in consumer confidence, a mismatch that will play out in the months ahead.”

Housing Market Index. March 2017 (Wednesday): “Strong optimism is the theme of so many reports including the housing market index which is up a very sharp 6 points in March to 71 for the best reading of the economic cycle” [Econoday]. ” But optimism doesn’t always translate into immediate strength for hard economic data and it’s important to remember that new home sales have been struggling in recent months.” And but: “Trumped up expectations” [Mosler Economics].

Housing Starts, February 2017: “Strength in single-family permits leads a mostly favorable housing starts report for February where however the headlines are mixed” [Econoday]. And: “The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month to month so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series – and it shows permits slowing, and completions also slowing. The strength this month is single family permits” [Econintersect]. “Looking at residential construction employment, the year-over-year growth of employment is now slightly above the growth of housing starts.”

Business Inventories, March 2017 (Wednesday): “Inventory growth looks moderate and stable… The inventory-to-sales ratio is unchanged” [Econoday]. But: “Still high and still coming down and thereby weakening output and gdp. Auto inventories are particularly bloated due to lower sales” (charts) [Mosler Economics]. The “unchanged” ratio is high.

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of March 10, 2017 (Wednesday): “Sharply higher financing rates did not hold back home buyers or refinancing homeowners much” [Econoday]. But: “Depressed and moving sideways for over a year” (charts) [Mosler Economics].

Jobless Claims, week of March 11, 2017: “Conditions in the labor market remain strong and stable as initial jobless claims are holding at trend…. Continuing claims are also very favorable” [Econoday].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of March 12, 2017: “Continues to press to highs for the economic cycle” [Econoday].

JOLTS, January 2017: “[S]howing new acceleration is hiring which rose 2.6 percent in the month to 5.440 million for one of the best readings of the economic cycle” [Econoday]. Can’t have that! And: “The BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) can be used as a predictor of future jobs growth, and the predictive elements show that the year-over-year growth rate of unadjusted private non-farm job openings again were again insignificantly changed from last month” [Econintersect].

Consumer Price Index, February 2017 (Wednesday): “Consumer prices are inching ahead while the key year-on-year tally is getting a special lift from an easy 2016 comparison” [Econoday]. “By themselves, consumer prices are not pointing to an inflationary flashpoint though energy prices are a concern. What is a greater concern for the inflationary picture is the risk that wage gains, against full employment, will begin to kick in. This is the concern that will get attention at today’s FOMC meeting.”

Shipping: “Brokers are reporting good news for embattled containership owners this week in the container charter market, with a big rise in enquiries and improving daily hire rates” [The Loadstar]. “According to one broker source, a combination of aggressive scrapping, with some owners taking advantage of a surge in demolition rates, as well as a demand cascade from the larger sizes, has seen daily hire rates for classic panamax ships jump from a rock bottom $4,000 a day to $7,000-$8,000 for young vessels. Indeed, one London broker told The Loadstar this week: ‘For the first time in months, owners have the upper hand.'” NC on the human cost of “aggressive scrapping” (and which humans pay it).

Shipping: The eastbound capacity crunch hitting shippers to Asia is not temporary, but the beginning of a more permanent shift in trading patterns, Maersk Line told The Loadstar today” [The Loadstar]. “The current capacity crunch on the Europe-Asia backhaul leg was originally attributed to a severe cull of westbound sailings during the Chinese new year holiday, but there has also been a big spike in demand, according to Maersk. Many shippers in North Europe are being refused space by ocean carriers – and even when bookings are accepted, they are seeing their containers rolled over and shipments split. Some believe they are ‘being held to ransom’ by carriers demanding more money to ship boxes already on the quayside. Shipping consultant Drewry said the situation was ‘highly unusual’ on the backhaul, where utilisation levels of less than 70% were common and slots used in the repositioning of empty equipment to Asia.”

Search: “More than half of all travelers—specifically 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers—begin their journey to booking a trip on a search engine, according to the experts at Google” [Hotel News Notes]. Interestingly, “only 4% start by searching for a hotel brand.”

The Bezzle: “Skip the Dishes co-founder defends government subsidy” [CBC (Lee)]. “‘It takes a village to raise a startup,’ says CEO Josh Simair.”

The Bezzle: “I’ve discovered first-hand that more and more Uber drivers are calling ahead to ask for your destination to see if it’s ‘worth it’ to pick you up” [Angelina Travels]. “Now let’s talk about some new shadiness: Uber drivers aggressively hustling for a tip.” Meet the new taxi business, same as the old taxi business. Except that the driver works in a corporate hellscape and has to sleep in their car, of course.

IT: “Delaware Blockchain Initiative: Transforming the Foundational Infrastructure of Corporate Finance” [The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation]. “The foundation for much of American corporate finance is Delaware corporate law. Later this year, a small change to Delaware corporate law, if enacted, could facilitate a major simplification of the plumbing of the financial system built on top of that foundation. The change is part of the Delaware Blockchain Initiative (DBI), which then-Governor Jack Markell introduced in May 2016. The initiative will allow for the application of distributed ledger technology to many of the private sector’s most basic and critical legal documents, which companies currently file with the Delaware Division of Corporations”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 53, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Mar 16 at 11:50am. Trump euphoria wearing off?

Guillotine Watch

UPDATE “On the [Royal Caribbean] 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 [Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, CEO of Celebrity Cruises]. It will help us personalize your cruise as we’ve never been able to do before'” [gCaptain (Hana M)]. Well, I’ve never considered food poisoning a “pain point,” but then I’m not a CEO…

Class Warfare

“McDonald’s Tweet Blasts President Trump, And Is Quickly Deleted” [NPR]. That was the set-up–

Not quickly enough, it appears:

“No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism” [Vox]. Note the URL, sexed down by a Vox editor to look wonky and not tendentious: bernie-trump-corbyn-left-wing-populism. Some responses:

“For Beauchamp, politics is either about economics or it’s about immigration and racism. He misses the possibility that these things intersect in complicated ways. The right splits working class whites off from the left by portraying left wing economic policies as racially favoring people of color, but it only gets away with this because for several decades left [liberal] wing parties have done little to protect the interests of the white working class, aiding and abetting the erosion of the systems which defended them in the 50s and 60s” [Benjamin Studebaker]. The white working class is nostalgic for the 50s and 60s because that’s when New Deal and Great Society programs ensured they had a chance. But the far right misleads them about why that chance has diminished, blaming the left for giving the benefits of these programs away to minority groups. In reality the left has [liberals have] helped the right erode these programs for everyone, even people of color–the black percentage of white median income isn’t higher now than it was in the early 90s, and it declined under Barack Obama.”

“Liberals and diversity” [Matt Bruenig]. “The argument, offered by this text and some nice graphics in the piece, is that diversity leads to racism, which leads to lower support for the welfare state, and thus creates widespread economic immiseration at the bottom of society. Beauchamp does not explain why exactly he thinks this is, but other liberal commentators, such as Ned Resnikoff, have attributed it to the ‘ancient, tribal section of the human brain’…. When I was coming up back in the day, this was not the liberal view on diversity, at least not the one I saw. The view then was that racism is a historical development, not an impenetrable feature of the tribal human brain.”

“Before I start this post I should make one thing abundantly clear: I strongly support the idea of a Jobs Guarantee (JG) program. I think that the benefits it might bring to society so far outweigh its potential drawbacks that implementing it should be a no-brainer not simply for anyone with progressive tendencies, but for anyone who believes that people should have the right to be independent and earn a living for themselves and their families” [Philip Pilkington, Econintersect].

“California is a high cost of living state. … [T]he level of affordability oscillates up and down with the whims of the bubble economy. As of today the state faces a rental Armageddon trend where many families simply cannot afford to purchase a gorgeous, sturdy, and well-designed home (just kidding, most can’t buy a 700 square foot funky looking crap shack). Whenever people even hint at the expensive nature of California the yelling begins with “then move out!” or “buying always makes sense!” which seems interesting since the housing market really got out of control in many metro areas starting in the late 1990s as Wall Street injected its casino antics into the industry. And many of those that protest the loudest are usually Taco Tuesday baby boomers living in granite countertop paradise that wouldn’t have a chance affording their home today if they had to pay current prices. But in reality, many are moving out. From 2000 to 2015 more people left California than moved in from other states. The biggest destination is Texas” [Dr. Housing Bubble].

“Now, thanks in part to work led by Fargher’s mentor Richard Blanton, an anthropologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Tlaxcallan is one of several premodern societies around the world that archaeologists believe were organized collectively, where rulers shared power and commoners had a say in the government that presided over their lives” [Science]. “These societies were not necessarily full democracies in which citizens cast votes, but they were radically different from the autocratic, inherited rule found—or assumed—in most early societies. Building on Blanton’s originally theoretical ideas, archaeologists now say these “collective societies” left telltale traces in their material culture, such as repetitive architecture, an emphasis on public space over palaces, reliance on local production over exotic trade goods, and a narrowing of wealth gaps between elites and commoners.”

News of the Wired

“Scrolling on the web: A primer” [Windows]. I hate to link to a Windows source, but this is really interesting (if this is the sort of thing that interests you).

Boeing 737 assembly line:

* * *

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 (via):


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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. Altandmain

    Is it just me, or do you find the senior leadership of Silicon Valley really arrogant?

    I’ve been thinking about Uber and how they think they can just “disrupt” the marketplace of whatever they enter.

    There seems to be no appreciation of the difficulties in capital costs, operating costs, and technical difficulties.

    – Elon Musk and his “let’s build a Hyperloop (unproven technology) versus high speed rail (proven technology)
    – Google and its efforts at fibre (while it’s good to break up the monopolies, they probably underestimated the cars)
    – Quite a few companies have tried to go into cars. Apple for example. Granted, Musk has been more successful here, but it remains to be seen if his technology will scale.

    I think that they seem to not realize that there are reasons why the industries are the way they are. I mean it’s not like technology is low cost. Building a semiconductor fab for example is a very expensive, very knowledge intensive, and risky undertaking for example.

    They seem to think that they are better than everyone else.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Some are rich.

      These guys are rich and smart.

      And if they happen to be good looking, they’d be all triple-crown winners. Most bourgeois kids dream about become one.

      To be rich and/or good looking is intuitive enough and obvious to see, if one wants to steer clear of them.

      The earnest seeker is more easily seduced by the desire to be smart.
      Takes some neuron-disconnection to desire for poverty, wisdom and just plain looking.

      1. LT

        “The earnest seeker is more easily seduced by the desire to be smart…”

        Depends on how smart is being defined.

        1. Marina Bart

          I was just about to type something similar.

          Trust me, these guys don’t actually want to be smart, as in having a significantly greater cognitive capacity and processing speed. People like that are brutally punished in this society.

          They do like to be called smart, though. Sort of like how all those establishment Democrats like to pretend they’re “on the left.” In both cases, they mean “ever so slightly to one side of the center point, so we can have a arbitrage advantage against our opponents, yet reap all the benefits of fitting in with the majority.”

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It indeed is subjective.

            The battlefield is setup, by our media, such that they are perceived such smart.

            Everyday, they work hard to make sure we believe that.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I should add that while having great cognitive capacity and processing speed is smart, but it has nothing to do wisdom.

            1. Marina Bart

              Yes. But the word “smart” has been so abused (rather like the word “progressive”) that I try to be careful in my usage. Extremely high, outlier levels of cognitive performance does not make you wise OR rich. But that little fact gets elided a lot by mediocre minds housed in privileged bodies, who want to pretend their success, status and luxury is not a structural function of corruption and injustice.

      2. LT

        And looks are subjective, too. But the US culture at large has promoted money as a looks enhancer.

        So looks and smarts are subjective and wealth, well, that’s relative to what you think the people around you have.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          They seem to think that they are better than everyone else.

          – Altandmain

          Being better is in and of itself relative.

          Arrogance in Silicon Valley? Surely you jest!

          – Vatch

          Arrogance comes from their own subjective minds imagining.

          Here, when we say, they are rich (or smart) after Altandmain’s and Vatch’s comments, is that they and their friends in the media think they are rich (or smart).

      3. Michael Laughlin

        Wise, not smart, is the word you are looking for. We are all smart in our own ways.

    2. JohnnyGL

      And let’s be honest, the downside is pretty limited for them. They can usually get state subsidies for whatever saw-it-on-star-trek-and-want-it idea they choose to chase after.

    3. Sandler

      Who cares? What is your point? I’d rather an arrogant man pile money into experimenting with electric cars or hyerloop than a humble man piling money into rent seeking (housing, REITs, Wall St casino games, etc).

      1. Marina Bart

        You seem to have missed the part where electric cars, hyperloop and the other “disruption” games disrupt primarily via rent-seeking on a massive scale.

          1. Altandmain

            See here:

            His ingenuity is totally based on government subsidies:


            In the case of the Hyperloop, Elon Musk said that he wanted it built “instead” of a proven technology.

            In other words, he wanted the taxpayers of California and the Federal Government to build his unproven technology. There’s a huge opportunity cost. If the technical barriers of Hyperloop prove insurmountable (and yes, there are many not addressed in Musk’s white paper), then that leaves the taxpayers with nothing and Musk having risked nothing. But they will have spent money that could have spent elsewhere productively.

            Maybe we could see a revolutionary transportation system someday, but that takes years of R&D.

            Basically this is like pharmaceuticals. Taxpayers fund most of the R&D. The big pharma companies get the profits.

            In the case of Uber, their business model is the most blatant:
            – Temporarily lower prices to bankrupt existing players
            – Then when they are a monopoly, profit

            That is more or less Microsoft’s “embrace, extend, and extinguish” model.

            I’d be interested in Musk had a hidden agenda.

            I’m not against government spending money on revolutionary technology for R&D, but society as a whole rather than a few wealthy people should get the benefits. If it’s all public money, why not insist on having the public own a large chunk of the equity, if not an outright crown company?

            1. Jack Parsons

              Right. But if it does work, then a US/California company owns the next kind of passenger train.

              As to Musk & public subsidies, it would be bad if he bribed the Fed & State govts for this. That is now what happened. The Feds, and Cali state, said “hey, anybody, we really really want there to be electric cars!”. Musk and the big auto people are claiming the reward. This is an investment by the govt. and I’m all for it.

              As to the funding model, yes, if govt. puts up money it deserves to get some back. This does have its own problems: how do you trust the govt’s share voters not to self-deal? The Norwegian answer for oil money is that they can’t invest it in Norwegian companies or assets, it all has to be overseas.

    4. different clue

      They think they can because they have shown that they can. Uber can indeed show up and disrupt any marketplace it wants to. That will remain the case unless and until a Unified World can exterminate Uber from existence and wipe Uber off the face of the earth.
      Unless a Unified World can do that, Uber will win and urban humanity will lose and the arrogance of Silicon Valley will once again be revealed as Reality-Based.

      If you dislike the arrogance, you have to Ex! Ter! Mi! Nate! the physical and economic sources of that arrogance.

    5. sgt_doom

      I believe, if Silicon Valley were to respond as a single entity, they would say:

      “It’s just you, you bastard!”

  2. Donald

    Colbert’s piece mocking Maddow wasn’t all that funny, but mainly because it was painfully accurate and Maddow isn’t that funny to watch. She really can be that irritating.

    1. Tom

      Maddow gets paid about $28,000 per show for her mugging and chuckling act — that blows my mind. BTW, I’d like to see her tax return.

    2. Knot Galt

      It was poignant and the truth can hurt. IMNSHO,a large rarity in comedy that Mssrs. Colbert and Stewart often portray to perfection.

      Maddow should take a reality check. She is far up and into some very dark place. People can see and smell it.

    3. Schnormal

      What I liked best about the Colbert piece was that there was a person sitting under his desk holding a chicken the whole time <3

      But God Maddow is insufferable

    4. sgt_doom

      You mean the show where Maddow found Trump’s relatively innocuous tax returns in Jimmy Hoffa’s grave, located in the secret vault of Al Capone, tended by a fellow named D.B. Cooper?

      Most idiotic tripe I’ve ever witnessed . . .

    5. Marina Bart

      I didn’t click because I have sampled his CBS show several times and it was always bad. I know he got a new producer before the election who has improved things. I’m just meh. I know he was under a lot of pressure, but he sank into a Clintonian stupor way too easily.

      I presume this is his play to steal some of Rachel’s now disillusioned audience. I hope it works. She’s dreadful, in numerous ways.

      (Note: Yeah, I still call her Rachel, even now that I loathe her. Why not? Why should I dignify her with a formal title?)

    6. different clue

      When I get to a computer with video-clip-playback function, I will watch that Stephen Colbert parody.

      For now let me just say again what I said once before, that I tried watching Maddow a couple of times and couldn’t stand the boredom. She talks and talks and talks around and around a subject without saying very much at all. She must think she is verbally brilliant and wants to bathe us all in the golden showers of her prolixful verbositudinousity.

    7. Lambert Strether Post author

      When you’ve lost Stephen Colbert….

      The saner liberals are trying to explain to the “die in the last ditch” Clintonites that it’s over, the crowds have gone home, the shark has been jumped, etc. Sad.

      1. Marina Bart

        Oh, is that what’s happening? That’s a politically more interesting interpretation that mine.

        Isn’t “sane liberal” an oxymoron in some ways? I mean, if you’re an amateur…

  3. flora

    re Pelosi:

    Isn’t her comment is a repeat of what she said in 2009 after the Dems saved the crooked banks and bankers and threw homeowners under the bus?

    “Understand this about Republicans Democrats, and then you’ll understand part of what our challenge is here: They We always are gearing whatever they we do to benefit the high end. This is the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of our country, in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars going into the pockets of the top 1 percent of the people in our country, at the expense of the good health of our middle class and those who aspire to the middle class. ”

    re Chelsea Clinton running for office? Another Clinton? ‘History repeats, first time as tragedy, second time as farce.’ What’s the third time?

    re Colbert: Hilarious! Thanks.

    1. RUKidding

      Agree completely vis Pelosi, plus the quote revision. Ya beat me to it.

      Notice how “hard” the Big D crowd are fighting for the rights of the small fry… as in Same Old, Diff’rent Day, Not so Much.

      My thoughts about Trump’s Budget? Like any “good” Republican, Trump goes to the fight with a nuclear weapon. He starts with a Yuuuuuge Slash and Burn of many good programs. THEN, he can negotiate back from that stand. I don’t like what he’s proposed, but just pointing out his obvious Tactic. Compare that to how Obama “negotiated” by giving the R Team at least 3 quarters (or more) of what they wanted and negotiating “down” from there… to the point, where nearly everything, including ACA, was really just a Republican legislation. What will the D’s do with the Donald? Why cower in the corner and pretend that their hands are tied. Why? Because the Donald is giving THEM and their paymasters everything they’ve always wanted. Bank on it.

      Vis Chelsea: what do you call third time? Show me a brick wall, Stat! I will feel so much better after I slam my head into it repeatedly. Something like that??

      1. marym

        I see both Obama and Trump going to the fight with basically what they want. It took me a while to stop “hoping” Obama was secretly chess playing for something better; so maybe I’m wrong now in thinking Trump isn’t chess playing, but so far he seems to have no better intentions.

        1. Marina Bart

          I suspect you are right. It wouldn’t be surprising.

          I do think there was some possibility of Trump moving things a bit left. The soft coup was in part to force him back into the CIA’s and Ryan’s arms. He also doesn’t have the capacity to even think around all the Goldman guys telling him how things “have” to be. That would take both a knowledge skill set and moral passion I just don’t think he has. It’s a mistake to think he’s stupid. It’s also a mistake to think trying to change the operation of American government when you don’t understand much about how it works was ever going to be feasible for an amateur, which he is. I think he’s an overwhelmed, entitled, old man. I’m impressed he seems to have figured out how to stay in office, even as a figurehead. I don’t think making it from Election Day to now was a given. At all.

          1. ChrisPacific

            Agreed. Trump has already shown himself to be quite vulnerable to the usual strain of neoliberal aphorisms (which bear no relation to reality) that the Goldman guys are so good at using to manipulate policies and executive behaviors in their desired direction.

            I think the difference is that Obama knew it was going on and went along with it, while Trump doesn’t. I think that’s why Trump has been putting his foot in his mouth by talking about reining in Wall Street, a task that he has already rendered near-impossible simply by his choice of appointments.

            I am not sure whether he will stand between Wall Street and the pitchforks, as Obama did. He hates disloyalty and he holds grudges. If there is a crisis and he is forced to grant them massive bailouts and harm himself politically by screwing over his base (which he will be – they will threaten unspecified financial Armageddon, he lacks the knowledge to challenge them, and since everything happens very quickly in a crisis he won’t have the time to learn) then he will remember, and there will be consequences.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > I do think there was some possibility of Trump moving things a bit left.

            I would say open up space for the left. Even though there’s only one person in politics I can even imagine doing a 180° on health care policy, and that would be Trump.

            1. Marina Bart

              Staying out of the Russian war is left of the DC consensus. Cancelling the TPP is left of the DC consensus. Making any serious effort to end “free trade” and bring jobs back with our borders is left of the DC consensus. And I think left to his own devices, he probably would have left Medicare and Social Security alone.

              The fact that he’s not strong enough and clever enough to both evade the coup and and outwit all the forces against him — his own party, the other party, the CIA, Goldman, et al. — to deliver on these promises is really not on him, I think. The whole world wanted to help Barack Obama be a good president. He chose not to be. Trump is dealing with a situation that would have stymied a seasoned pol. A lot of what he wanted to do and was going to do was horrible. But a whole lotta force was applied to make sure he didn’t stray in these areas. And he still may keep out of the Russian land war, and he slowed down the TPP enough to buy us more time.

              I’m still thrilled it’s him and not Clinton. I know what you mean about the 180. But I just can’t imagine him doing it now. He needs the party to protect him, and it would take a level of courage and just raw energy that seems like a lot to expect from a pampered old man.

              It would sure make for an amazing show.

              1. Marina Bart

                Ugh. For the record, I did not mean to hammer on the word “left” quite that much.

          3. sierra7

            I really don’t believe DT wants to “be where he is” as President.
            His presidency is/was totally accidental, in my opinion.
            He was too far into his condemnations running before he realized that he is now President.
            No, he doesn’t want to be where he is.
            Americans should be asking themselves how they got themselves into this mess.
            It’s mostly the common folk’s problem; too much complacency and too much historical ignorance.
            Tens of millions of registered voters didn’t vote.
            That should tell the story.
            The next step will probably be the streets considering how many confrontational meet ups (“town halls) have occurred in the past few months.
            This is not going to have a good ending.
            And, it shouldn’t.
            Re: Rachel M. and Nancy Pelosi have both becomes real jokes and should just disappear.

  4. allan

    Improved estimates of ocean heat content from 1960 to 2015 [Science, subscr. req.]


    Earth’s energy imbalance (EEI) drives the ongoing global warming and can best be assessed across the historical record (that is, since 1960) from ocean heat content (OHC) changes. An accurate assessment of OHC is a challenge, mainly because of insufficient and irregular data coverage. We provide updated OHC estimates with the goal of minimizing associated sampling error. We performed a subsample test, in which subsets of data during the data-rich Argo era are colocated with locations of earlier ocean observations, to quantify this error. Our results provide a new OHC estimate with an unbiased mean sampling error and with variability on decadal and multidecadal time scales (signal) that can be reliably distinguished from sampling error (noise) with signal-to-noise ratios higher than 3. The inferred integrated EEI is greater than that reported in previous assessments and is consistent with a reconstruction of the radiative imbalance at the top of atmosphere starting in 1985. We found that changes in OHC are relatively small before about 1980; since then, OHC has increased fairly steadily and, since 1990, has increasingly involved deeper layers of the ocean. In addition, OHC changes in six major oceans are reliable on decadal time scales. All ocean basins examined have experienced significant warming since 1998, with the greatest warming in the southern oceans, the tropical/subtropical Pacific Ocean, and the tropical/subtropical Atlantic Ocean. This new look at OHC and EEI changes over time provides greater confidence than previously possible, and the data sets produced are a valuable resource for further study.

    Control study or it didn’t happen.

    1. Knot Galt

      Thank you for this link. But I do not quite follow your comment re: ‘Control Study’ and ‘or it didn’t happen’. The report goes into detail on sampling errors, inconsistencies, etc. that have made measuring unreliable IN THE PAST.

      The report continues with “Using this improved reconstruction, we derived an updated historical (1960–2015) ocean energy budget and contributions to Earth’s total energy budget.” And what the report determines, as you copied above, “(a)ll ocean basins examined have experienced significant warming since 1998, . . . (which) over time provides greater confidence than previously possible, and the data sets produced are a valuable resource for further study.”

      So it’s not that “it didn’t happen” but does, in the least, provide a basis for a control study to use in the future. But regardless of control study or not (unless you are assuming there is another Earth out there that you know about that we can compare it to), The amount of stored heat the oceans have absorbed between 1960, 1985, 1998, and now demonstrably provides another clarion call that our environment is heating up at unprecedented levels. THIS IS HAPPENING.

      1. allan

        “Control study or it didn’t happen” was snark, intended to mock climate change denialists who don’t want to be confused by the facts. A control study would involve Earth 2 without human industrial activity.

        1. different clue

          The closest we have to a “control study” is earth before the age of industriality and the Coal and Steam and Oil Revolution.

  5. LT

    “Apple, Google, Facebook skip legal challenge to new travel ban” [Reuters]. Hmm.

    A good number of the companies pausing on the revised ban are defense contractors.
    So it’s the “alleged” new economy showing how much it really is still the same old war economy.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Skipping legal challenge?

      As in going with illegal challenge…or undocumented challenge?

      1. LT

        As in their tech is part of the national security apparatus, and the ban is built on the premise of being in the interest of national security.

    1. Tom

      Yeah she persisted … like a rash or a bad case of poison ivy.

      Seriously though, the title I’m waiting for from her is, She Desisted.

      1. Katharine

        The generic “she” will desist when “she” does not encounter sexist discrimination and abuse from schooldays through work life.

        The book may turn out to be lousy, but unfortunately the message is still necessary, and the majority of subjects are well worth a child’s attention:

        The book will focus on Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Clara Lemlich, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey and Sonia Sotomayor.

        1. Marina Bart

          Chelsea Clinton has experienced none of those things. I am physically nauseated that she is going to be allowed to stick one of her well-manicured fingers near Tubman, Keller, Bly, Tallchief, Smith, Ride or Joyner’s legacies.

          I don’t know Colvin, Lemlich and Bridges. Winfrey, really? Sotomayor, really? What am I missing here. Why not assasinated environmental and indigenous rights leader Berta Cáceres? https://www.democracynow.org/2016/3/11/before_her_assassination_berta_caceres_singled Oh. Right.

          Also, “she persisted” as a meme rightly belongs to Warren, to the extent that anyone should get to burnish her electoral prospects with it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/us/politics/elizabeth-warren-republicans-facebook-twitter.html?_r=0

          So Chelsea is continuing her family’s fine record of appropriation and thievery.

          1. beth

            re: Chelsea
            She has been trained well. Associate yourself with people who actually did something. This will allow you to appropriate all of their qualities of these people to yourself.

            There is no need to actually do anything yourself. You are already a star for being the relative of other stars. It worked for mom. Oh-oh-oh, maybe not?

            All of that education wasted. Legacies take up spaces that could be better used by others.

    2. JustAnObserver

      Isn’t the most dangerous form of malware called an Advanced Persistent Threat aka an APT. They’re usually given a number so let’s allocate APT666 Ms. C. Clinton’s little “picture book” [Such a twee description. Identity politics for 4-year olds ?]

    3. sd

      Persistent cough
      Persistent itch
      Persistent discharge
      Persistent pain
      Persistent shortness of breath
      ‘Persistent’ is typically not a good thing.

      Tenacity on the other hand…

    4. different clue

      Sanderists should begin working NOW to organize their votes and activity for No More Clintons Ever! in New York State when the Clintobamacrat Party runs her for Congress or Senate. There is a real danger she will be elected unless an operation is engineered into place starting NOW to exterminate her budding career in politics.

  6. John

    Nancy Pelosi:
    “We’re capitalist and that is just the way it is.”
    “I’m rich and that is just the way it is.”
    “I’m rich and that is just the way it is.”
    “I’m gonna be rich and that is just the way it is”
    Following J.D. Vance’s recipe, they ate their bootstraps for breakfast every morning and that is just the way it is.
    Ain’t Freedumb Fries great!

  7. geoff

    Re: the Deep State. I disagree with the piece that the unelected civil servants who run the day to day of the federal government constitute the “Deep State”. We tinfoil hat wearers know that TDS is in fact composed of Eisenhower’s Military Industrial Complex (i.e. the Pentagon, private military contractors and weapons manufacturers), Big Intelligence (CIA, NSA, etc.), Wall St. and the TBTF banks, and big multinational (mostly but not all US-based) corporations, particularly oil companies. Oh, and don’t forget the CFR ; )

    1. Vatch

      The day-to-day routine civil service (Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Veterans Administration, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency) might be better described as the Surface State, because it’s the part of the government with which normal people are likely to interact. The Deep State, as you describe, is something else.

      1. geoff

        Also, presumably civil servants at HHS, HUD, the VA, DOE(d), and EPA, are interested in furthering things like health, housing, veteran’s rights and health, education, and the environment, which The Deep State clearly is not. Thanks, Vatch.

    2. different clue

      It is just silly to regard the Civil Service and Servants as a “deep state”. The Civil Service was not involved in CIA drug running, government overthrowing, Kennedy-King-Kennedy assassinating, etc. etc. etc. The Civil Service was CERtainly NOT involved in PLANNING these things.

  8. craazyboy

    I invite advocates of the “deep state” concept to debate whether this definition is compatible with (the many) other definitions, or not.

    I’ve decided to go with the term, “The Blob”. Reason is, blobs are squishy, amorphous things and being amorphous lack any structure or organization. All you need to know is Blobs are full of icky stuff, probably like pus, with white corpuscles fighting deadly, pathogenic germs, some dead, some half dead, and brand new spuds energetically taking up the battle and slaying white corpuscles and all the while dead ickyness piles up and expands the footprint of The Blob.

    Sometimes the Blob leaks and VPNs are used to encrypt the ickyness, then magically stamp a Romanian or Kremlin IP address on the document and send it to wikileaks, no matter where in the world the Blob leak may originate.*

    That’s all you need to know. Blobs are easy. As long as you don’t try poking around in one.

    * I can do that with my computer now to. Was thinking of changing my handle to craazyboyOfRomania and posting this comment from the other side of the world. But then I thought better of it.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’ve decided to go with the term, “The Blob”.

      There’s a category error lying in wait, though. I like “The Blob” because it names a faction with institutions and individuals I can identify who have interests and values (though different from mine). It’s concrete. The “Deep State,” on the other hand, is abstract. And considered as an abstraction, it’s a little bit of a blob itself: Squishy and amorphous. That’s why I keep putting up these different definitions of it.

  9. dcblogger

    I think I am the only one who does not care about tax returns. This started as a political gimmick in the aftermath of Watergate. Now everyone who runs for federal office is expected to show us their tax returns. But it has not stopped a rightward drift or cut down on the culture of corruption. On the contrary, it is far worse than it was in 1974. All it has done is produce generations of politicians who don’t understand why the rest of us want a little privacy.

    1. Marina Bart

      You are not the only one who doesn’t care about tax returns. Come join the actual left. The water’s fine.

      I don’t think the tax return electoral theater has much to do with surveillance, though. They’re surveilling us because they can, because there’s money in it, and because they know societal violence will get worse the longer and harder they beat the populace down. They have two choices: universal benefits, or more surveillance and police violence. Anybody either major party approves to run believes only the second option is acceptable.

      1. Art Eclectic

        Thirded. It’s just a distraction from the AHCA debacle. Pay no attention to the train wreck behind the curtain.

    2. Neil Harris

      I wouldn’t care very much if Trump didn’t seem so desperate to hide the returns. His 2005 returns hardly seem worth the effort to hide. It’s the same with all the Russia allegations. Everyone already knew he had business connections all over the world, and I think very few people would be shocked to learn Donald Trump had dealings with unsavory characters. That’s pretty all the Clinton Foundation does, too. Seems like he’s trying awfully hard to hide something. On the other hand, Russia has become a complete obsession for the Dems, towering over every other issue. Personally I do want to know of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, if there is any, but at the same time would like this done with some sanity and without a hysterical witch hunt. Don’t let the cure become worse than the alleged disease.

  10. timbers

    Obamacare – Who remembers all the Dailykos & Team Blue establishment folk telling us Obamacare would only be improved over time? I sure remember being ridiculed for predicting the opposite.

    1. cybrestrike

      I remember those days. I was one of the ones being hiderated and ridiculed for telling the truth–that the ACA was never going to work. The best plans are simple–single payer. The worst are too complicated and have too many moving parts–like the ACA.

      And now those selfsame idiots over at Daily Kos have probably doubled down in defending the ACA. I wouldn’t know though…I left after Markos Moulitsas told me and many others that the Left doesn’t belong over there anymore.

      1. RUKidding

        Ditto on all you say including never visiting the Great Orange in years. Always knew ACA sucked. Always knew that the only changes made would be for the worse.

        Sadly sometimes it sucks to be right.

      2. Benedict@Large

        Let’s see. I walk into a doctor’s office, and he asks what is wrong. I tell him, and he helps me out.

        “Give your name to the front desk,” he says, “so I can bill Uncle Sam.”

        Very simple. People like simple things.

        Now tell me Paul Ryan and his crowd would stand chance trying to repeal something like that.

        1. knowbuddhau

          That was almost exactly my experience when I was on Washington state’s Apple Health (Medicaid expansion). Only difference being there was an insurance company involved: AmeriGroup. Never understood what benefit they brought.

          I loved it. I think it’s the kind of program we all should have.

          And far from making me overuse services, I felt a responsibility to use them wisely. Society at large was making it possible for me to preserve what health I have so as, at the very minimum, not to become disabled or at the very least, unable to work, and a further burden. So I owed it to society at large to do everything I can to minimize my need for this great act of promoting the general welfare.

          That great feeling: of being part of a society that truly cares for its members, had to have been a plus for my health.

          Then a terrible thing happened: a fourth job went from 4h/week to 30. So the Great Algo in the Sky decided that now I can afford to throw nearly $300/month out the window for insurance I can’t actually afford to use. When I contacted an exchange “navigator,” he was nearly as frustrated with it as I.

          I was truly shocked to learn that the GAS (genuflects) doesn’t include such luxuries as food in its calculations. How the hell can it say I can afford 300/month for nothing without including all my actual costs of living?!

          So much for trading my 32-year old Toyota pickup for a used Prius. Or going in with a buddy on buying and developing a piece of property for us to live on. Forget about renting a decent apartment.

          Now I have the opposite feeling: I’m just a resource to be exploited to the max. Michael Hudson is right to call it parasitical. And they’re not even smart about it!

          This is no way to run a country.

    2. Jeff W

      Oh, gosh, I remember those days at OpenLeft with that dopey argument. Obamacare would be the “first step” toward some Medicare-for-All expansion. The party line, from Democratic strategist Paul Begala—that FDR’s original Social Security Act excluded lots of groups or didn’t have such-and-such benefit it now has and wasn’t “perfect” and that therefore (somehow) Obamacare was acceptable—appeared one day and that got parroted a zillion times. No one could ever explain how a system that entrenched private insurance companies in the basic health care system would lead to one where private insurance did not play a role.

      1. Kokuanani

        How could you forget “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”?

        Another bit of their fantastic [as in “fantasy”] reasoning and arguing.

    3. LT

      I wish I could go back and find my old HuffPo posts (I stopped posting there when they put up their Fakebook requirement to post).

      I said something to the effect that it was designed to made worse.

      They kept talking about how much would be saved based on CBO numbers. I said the CBO is talking about the GOV saving money, not you!

  11. Goyo Marquez

    Re: California population
    “From 2000 to 2015 more people left California than moved in from other states. The biggest destination is Texas”

    Not sure of the significance of this number.

    St. Louis Fed chart of California population from 2000-2016:
    From 34 million to 39 million+ that averages increase of over 312,000 per year.

  12. cybrestrike

    With regards to the Rachel Maddow clown show…hopefully this stops the Democratic Party’s ineffective Red Scare tactics in favor of actual policy alternatives to Trump, but we’ll see. Clue for the Crowd: Flyover Country does not care about Russia–they care about jobs, jobs, jobs.

    Russia doesn’t make jobs…because the natural progression of thinking they had directly (I said, DIRECTLY–like stuffing ballot boxes and hacking polling machines, which is empirically impossible) affected the 2016 election means that we have to go to war with them. And that means nuclear weapons, which means the planet won’t be habitable anymore.

    The Russians may have affected the election through indirect media means and “fake news”, but the United States has done as much as Russia (and worse) when it comes to INDIRECT manipulation of an electorate.

    But elections don’t happen in a vacuum. Hilary Clinton ran a terrible campaign. Trump played on public resentment of the neoliberal status quo and took great advantage of it.

    In closing, the Russians are peripheral. Trump’s hardcore right wing assault on the American way of life is the current field of battle, and should have always been.

    Also, why the hell are we having to deal with Chelsea Clinton? It’s like the Neoliberal Borg Queen’s hive mind consciousness just slipped into another drone to create a new Borg Queen. I’ve had it–the Villagers have got to stop their nonsense already. The hell has Chelsea done except be born in the “right” family and married wealthy with the “right” connections? Ugh.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      If the Clinton arent secretly great, did their mega donors who are the crooks simply throw their money away? I believe Politico quoted an anonymous donor lamenting why she had not simply given money to the Boys and Girls Club over recent years instead of the Democrats.

      They need Chelsea to justify their waste. Even the little Clintonistas who aren’t lined up at the trough need Chelsea as she is the only one who can offer absolution to their support for Hillary this go around as Hillary is possibly the worst non sacrificial lamb candidate for President offered by a major party, emails aside.

    2. Benedict@Large

      The only ones interfering in US elections are the Clintons. Their record for losing them and hollowing out the entire Democratic Party must be understood for what it is. No one could get it that wrong so many time against such a fetid opponent as the GOP without it being intentional. It’s not like the Dems are selling snake oil. They’re selling “Let’s be nice to each other”, and they don’t win. Really?

      Give me a good team of pissed off prosecutors and some sedition charges. And throw Chelsea in as an accomplice.

    3. Marina Bart

      Chelsea’s current visibility can be easily explained with a simple increase or redirection in her family’s PR contract. Couldn’t be easier. In fact, this would be so easy to do, given her family’s relationships with the owners of major media companies, that even Chelsea could do it.

      But I’m sure she didn’t. She has help for that.

      It doesn’t mean that the rest of the insiders are happy about this. They probably are, though. They’re that stupid.

        1. John k

          You mean maybe a reasonable 100k/month where she doesn’t have to do anything? Or is that unreasonably low?

          1. none

            She’s a hedge fund bride–isn’t she supposed to live in luxury making an occasional poolside phone call to bring in those millions?

            1. Marina Bart

              Actually, it’s reversed. The Clintons bought her a husband. He’s just as useless and inept as she is. (His father was a congressman convicted of felony fraud who actually went to prison. The Clintons were careful to make sure no pesky morality or ethics got mixed into their gene pool.) So Bill and Hill had Goldman set him up with a hedge fund to keep those crazy kids out of trouble. He used Clintonian thinking about the EU/Greece situation to guide his investment strategies.

              He lost everything.

        2. Grumpy Engineer

          Find her a job? Good luck with that. She’s already so wealthy that she couldn’t bring herself “to care about money on some fundamental level“.

          She’s already hopeless detached from the struggles that 99% of us go through, i.e., having to work for a living. What’s left to do but embark upon a “quest for authenticity” or relevance or whatever? And when all of her role models have continually sought the public’s eye? We’re stuck with her whether we like it or not.

    4. uncle tungsten

      Chelsea is a DIRECTOR of the the Clinton Family Foundation and the Clinton Foundation (at least) a position she shares with other people with a “track record of achievement”.

      She is qualified in more ways than one to join her like-minded smart people in a political career.

      But she has done absolutely nothing to demonstrate she has the capacity, integrity or tenacity to play any political role, in fact by her associations, she would be a dud if ever elected. Mind you, I think those two foundations might be in for a tawdry time over the next few years.

  13. tgs

    Re: Mark Ames, Wikileaks and Russia

    I am surprised that Ames is impressed with this article. It begins by asserting that the Vault 7 links were on behalf of Russia:

    While it is unclear who leaked the documents [Vault 7], the information seemed calculated to undermine faith in the hacking allegations against Russia and, possibly, to support Trump.

    It did? Security expert types have been saying for months that all the advanced intelligence services have the wherewithal to spoof others. So, the Vault 7 release is not exactly headline news. Next, the article only deals obliquely with Assange’s insistence that the DNC trove via a leak not a hack. Craig Murray is not mentioned at all. The other sources named and unnamed resort to various ad hominen attacks on Assange himself.

    Could Russia have been the source of the DNC dump? Yes, it is logically possible. But this article has not made that claim any more probable. Yasha Levine’s From Russia, with Panic remains the best take on the entire issue.

    1. cm

      Correct. We don’t know (given publicially available evidence) who is behind this.

      Recall the Sony hack, where I believe this was an inside job. Instead, the blame was on the North Koreans, who of course are at the forefront of technology. /s (this also calls into question Sony’s competence if the Norks are able to penetrate).

      More damning is the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack, where literally millions of Americans with security clearances had their intimate details leaked (presumably to the Chinese) with absolutely no accountability. People should have gone to jail over this (that is, those in charge of OPM security), but instead we have crickets.

  14. LT

    Re: Corey Robin parallel between Hitler and Trump

    Don’t totally agree. While I see some of the parallels, the little Hitler troll started out as a pauper and had to be a bit more clever than trust fund baby Trump.

    But the final line is sooooo on point:
    “…this man’s (Trump) rise to power has been predicated on all the most basic institutions and features of our economy.”

    And the reference to Johnston’s point is also a moment for applause:
    “What [David Cay] Johnston narrates, in almost nauseating detail, is how Trump’s ascension to wealth and fame and power—long before he makes his 2016 run for the presidency—is dependent not on the weaknesses of the political system but on the systemic corruption of a rentier economy”

    1. Benedict@Large

      It’s a good article, but the reference to Hitler in the title was pure click-bait. The things Corey points out are hardly things given to Trump along the way. They are the planned advantages given to all of the very rich that make it so easy for them to both keep and expand their wealth, while all of us around them have such a hard time doing the same.

  15. cocomaan

    Aspiration isn’t just for lungs anymore, Nancy Pelosi.

    I’m not a slave to global capital, I am aspiring to perspire!

  16. Timmy

    Search: “More than half of all travelers—specifically 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers—begin their journey to booking a trip on a search engine

    I wonder how many people realize that many travel search engines look at the cookies on your computer and if there are cookies from discount travel websites, the offers you receive will often NOT have the deepest discounts because you are considered to be a generally unprofitable customer that they don’t want to cultivate.

  17. Kurt Sperry

    “Barack Obama to spend a month in French Polynesia”

    What do you wanna bet we never see St. Barack building homes for low income people alongside Jimmy Carter?

    1. RUKidding

      Not taking you up on that bet cuz I’d lose. The Obamas took that job to get rich rich rich. And now they’ve blown this pop stand to live the high flying lifestyle that they fervently believe that they so richly deserve.

      Great to be the lying Obamas. Sucks to a peon in the USA.

  18. allan

    In Dissent, Gorsuch Was Tough on Regulators and Skeptical of Legislative History [National Law Journal]
    (Google the title to get access)

    In a decade of dissents, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch revealed a similarity to the late Antonin Scalia, sharing the justice’s skepticism of federal labor regulations, his zeal for individual privacy and his disdain for legislative history. …

    In TransAM Trucking v. Administrative Review Board, the majority accused Gorsuch of taking a too narrow view of the word “operate” in the whistleblower provisions of the federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The story: A trucker waited more than three hours in freezing temperatures in an unheated truck for employer assistance after the brakes failed on his trailer. He was fired after disconnecting the trailer and driving off; he said his feet and legs were going numb. His employer had instructed him to drive the truck while pulling the trailer with the failed brakes.

    “But that statute only forbids employers from firing employees who ‘refuse[] to operate a vehicle’ out of safety concerns,” Gorsuch wrote. “And, of course, nothing like that happened here. The trucker in this case wasn’t fired for refusing to operate his vehicle. … The trucker was fired only after he declined the statutorily protected option (refuse to operate) and chose instead to operate his vehicle in a manner he thought wise but his employer did not. And there’s simply no law anyone has pointed us to giving employees the right to operate their vehicles in ways their employers forbid.” …

    Definitely a solid for the working class. Calling balls and strikes, just like John Roberts.

    1. Paid Minion

      What an idiot. It’s called a “tractor-trailer”. There would be no need for the “tractor” without the “trailer”. Therefore, the trailer is part of the “Vehicle”. When the trailer fails, the tractor is the ejection seat.

      The idiots bitching about “too much regulation” need to look in the mirror for the reasons. Its because of legal “picking fly s##t out of the pepper” rulings like this.

      Business calls it “excessive regulation” I call it “closing the loopholes the crooks have found”.

    2. justanotherprogressive

      How bizarre! Gorsuch didn’t know that it was against the law for the driver to “operate” a trailer without brakes? This wasn’t a case of the driver choosing “instead to operate his vehicle in a manner he thought wise but his employer did not.”; this was a case where the employer was ordering a driver to disobey the law. But I guess none of that matters, huh?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I certainly don’t want to infer that you are intellectually dishonest.

        I’m sure you weren’t deploying paralipsis. Right? Comment threads are a lot of work to keep up with. Let’s not assign tasks or imply anything; simply informing the commenter and other readers of where the additional material can be found is enough.

  19. LT

    They’re calling the Trump budget the “Hannibal Lector” budget.
    Thing is, the Beltway GOP doesn’t find it cannibalistic enough.
    They want that thing loaded up with cuts and know they will get more than they expected, if not all, by doubling down. That’s because they have NO REAL OPPOSITION in the Congress/Senate. The last time they had real opposition to any real extent was the 1930s/1940s and a couple of years in the 1960s, but seeing where we are now, that was all lightweight (but at least it existed).

    1. Edward E

      A half million veterans rely on meals on wheels. Most disturbing, disgusting and inhumane budget in our lifetime. Wiping out their voter base seems not a concern, maybe there’s a future elections cancellation plan coming coming from the looters?

  20. Paid Minion

    ATC privatization:

    I’m getting daily e-mails from the NBAA (National Business Aircraft Association…….I’m a member), telling us to call Congress and fight the “Privatize ATC” movement.

    Currently, the airlines pay most of the taxes to run they system. If privatized, they would hold the majority of the seats on the “Board of Directors”. Their view is that a 6-8 seat bizjet occupies the same amount of time and ATC controlled airspace as a A380, and therefore should be paying the same ATC bill as an A380. Plus limiting or denying slots to bizjets at busy airports, so the airlines can have them.

    (A cynic would point out that a single engine bug beater flying in the New York terminal area on an IFR flight also occupies the same spot in the system……in fact, they occupy it longer, since they are so much slower. But that isn’t the airline’s target. They want to nail the bizjets, because they are the competition, and that’s “where the money is”)

    The bizjet guys (say they) believe that ATC is a “public good”, therefore the costs of ATC should be paid for by the airlines and Joe Q Public, because even non-flyers “benefit from public ATC”

    (As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, the movers and shakers/bizjet owners LOVE privatization and outsourcing, as long as they can make money off of it. OTOH, if it means they have to start more checks for stuff they are currently getting for free/cheap……….it becomes a “public good”. Ahhh, hypocricy)

    We fly in/through Canada and the EU occasionally. To do so, you have to set up an account with ATC in EVERY COUNTRY. Afterwards, you get a bill from every country. A few hundred dollers here, a few thousand there…….it adds up. Frequently, the bill is wrong/mis-billed. I don’t know why anybody bitches about our civil servants. The Euros have “bureacracy” fine tuned to an art form.

    Like in: “You are obviously in error, when you say your airplane wasn’t in the EU on that date. My computer says it was. So pay up, then we’ll discuss it some more……..” Or (trying to) tax/charge you for the FULL LENGTH of the trip, no matter where it begins.

    Currently, much of the funding comes from airline ticket taxes, and fuel taxes. Personally, the fuel tax is the “fairest” IMO. “X” cents/per gallon. The bug beaters burn less than the turboprops, who burn less than the bizjets, who burn less than the airliners. Plus the private airplanes are usually out and back/two flights a day, vs. the numerous legs the airliners fly per day.

    In a zero “Growth” world, this is how you increase your profitability. Shift the costs onto someone else.

    The “modernization the ATC controllers are bitching about? Currently, the “Nextgen”/GPS based ATC system will be crammed down everyone’s throat on January 1, 2020. The airline guys already have the equipment on board for the most part, because they wear out their airplanes a lot faster, and get new ones with the stuff factory installed. For everyone else, it’s a major equipment upgrade (expense……in our case, about $200K), And effective 1/01/2020, you won’t even be able to lift off the runway without it. A bunch of money for something that does nothing to increase the performance or usefulness of the airplane.

    Any “delays” in implementation are due to the fact that 1) the Nextgen equipment costs more than many airplanes are worth. 2) some owners don’t have the money 3) other owners don’t believe that the FAA will ground them if they don’t have the equipment 4) the Nextgen OEM equipment makers won’t build the boxes without a firm order, and 5) there are not enough available avionics technicians (another “shortage of skilled personnel” problem), or maintenance slots in the shops to do all of the airplanes that need to be done.

    IOW (per “Full Metal Jacket”) ‘……a big s##t sandwich, and we’re all going to have to take a bite”.

  21. RabidGandhi

    I got a real kick out of the stats reports that don’t say what they are supposed to.

    [R]etail sales, though solid, are far from the astonishingly strong readings underway in consumer confidence

    anecdotal reports have not panned out much at all

    A breakout, however, that has yet to be confirmed by definitive economic data out of Washington

    Here’s a good parallel: in 2015, the usual neoliberal snake oil peddlers in Argentina had been saying for 12 years that the country was in deep crisis due to the Kirchner governments not following the Washington Consensus pillaging recipe. Yet in spite of their constant caterwauling, employment and median net wealth continued to reach historic highs, poverty was more than halved, and investment and industrialisation hit new records for the country. So La Nación (“Argentina’s NYT”) came up with a novel diagnosis: it was an “asymptomatic crisis” Where the “problems are there, it’s just that practically no one can see them”. Sure, most people are doing much better than they were ten years prior, but there was some nebulous crisis that had “yet to be confirmed by definitive economic data”. (The La Nación op-ed then went on to place the blame for this non-existent crisis on a non-existent deficit problem, with the solution naturally being austerity).

    In the US, the situation is reversed: there is a mythical recovery that is just not borne out by the data, but just as in Argentina, the Serious People understand that the thesis is more important than what the data actually say. So any real data that do not confirm the story the PTB want, are just ignored or poo-pooed.

    But the Argentina case should be a cursory example for where this mystical thinking leads: much of the populace believed the MSM’s fairy tale of an “asymptomatic crisis”, and elected a new government that promptly turned the asymptomatic crisis into a symptomatic one. In a crónica de una muerte [económica] anunciada, all of the symptoms that they claimed existed covertly in 2015, were purposefully brought to fruition with Macri’s policies in 2016. They claimed poverty was lurking in 2015, and in 2016 they ensured it would increase drastically by cutting wages and hiking prices. In 2015 they claimed there was a 7% budget deficit (it was actually 2.5%) and in 2016 they made sure it existed by slashing taxes for the wealthiest landowners while cutting median income. In 2016 they claimed there was social security crisis, and in 2016 they guaranteed there would be a crisis by selling off the assets in the retirement guarantee fund.

    But in both cases, both the media and the education system play off of public ignorance of actual economics. By their constant misuse of real data to serve their ends, most people– through no fault of their own– have no idea how to interpret when a country is in crisis, when there is a recovery, when there is a recession… And since the media and academia always manipulate the actual economic situation, it becomes a matter of heads neoliberalism wins, tails the rest of us lose.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think we also have a business class (especially small business) who respond to surveys based on Trump euphoria about politics they believe will come true (in other words, Trump is the Confidence Fairy).

      In other words, it’s one thing to respond to a survey, and it’s quite another to actually reach into your pocket and spend money.

      It does seem that “stuff” is moving. But even that (too lazy to find the link, but I posted it a couple of days ago) can be (to a degree) accounted for by bringing shipping arrangements forward on the theory that Trump tarriffs will make shipping more expensive it the future. (We might call that the Malevolence Fairy theory.)

  22. justanotherprogressive

    There have been some exciting new work being done in anthropology/archeology. For far too long, archeology, in particular, has been the study of the rich and powerful dead of a period, and then attempting to apply that information to all the people of that time. It is no wonder that so many of us believe in “The Selfish Gene”.

    I attended a lecture not long ago by an archeologist who is studying the workers and farmers of those civilizations. This is a fairly new area of study, with the first works being published around 2010. These archeologists are finding that with the exceptions of the rich and powerful, those societies were far more egalitarian and cooperative than formerly believed. For instance the early pyramid builders were not slaves – rather their work was voluntary and they got paid for it (The first strike happened circa 1170 BC), they were literate, they did eat meat, women had rights, including the right to the same pay for the same job, and they received the same medical care as the rich and powerful. And we seem to think these are brilliant new socially liberal ideas that we’ve come up with…..

    And for those that insist on an link, here’s one that points to the direction some archeologists are trending towards (there are others!)

    1. LT

      Yeah, it’s getting more clear that if early man had consistently (key word: consistently) believed what is force fed to us today, humans wouldn’t be around today.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think he would trade in some of that favorability ratings for a chance to insert Single Payer into the replacing-Obamacare discussion.

      Go shake hands with Trump and see if he can get the president on board, even if the ratings might go down a bit (“I like him a little less now for wasting time doing that.”)

      1. Marina Bart

        The problem is that Trump is more popular than the Dems, including “popular vote winner” Hillary. They’re his opposition. And they’re doing their job of marginalizing Bernie and keeping him from a path to governing power. So other than “wanting to do the right thing by his voters,” there is no reason for Trump to work with Bernie.

        And I think it’s pretty clear at this point that for whatever reason, Trump doesn’t care enough about his voters to fight for them. He’s sending them to the same charnel house Clinton intended for them, although perhaps in slightly fewer numbers.

        1. John k

          Maybe not in fewer numbers, though hard to tell. Confront Russia vs leaving Obamacare intact… either way fewer or somewhat more. And is a really big number.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Try to get a meeting, and either get him to see the picture, come out united, or to let Trump reject Single Payer right out, and leave a line drawn in the sand.

          Put those favorability ratings to use.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Picket in front of the White House if Trump refuses.

            I don’t think he can’t turn it down.

            Time to debate Single Payer. This is the exact time.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Huntington Post…bernie-sanders-fake-news-russia_us

      What is their aim by publishing fake news about Russia directed at disaffected Bernie supporters?

      Fake news about Russia makes Trump less appealing to them. Do we deduct then, that the aim is to distance disaffected Bernie supporters from Trump? Like they wouldn’t, if left on their own? Like they are with Trump?

    2. voxhumana

      the article is premised on the assumption that disaffected Bernie voters believed, or even read, the absurdly fake stories highlighted, implying a credulousness the writer can not demonstrate. I came across a lot of fake news during the campaign – usually in the NY Times and Washington Post – and had little problem separating the wheat from the chaff. I rarely came across such “news” (I don’t do Facebook) and if I did I had no problem ignoring it. Hillary had plenty of real baggage already. Huffpo wants us to believe these ridiculous stories had and continue to have a pernicious effect on the “leftwing” just because they are posted on FB.

      “People are deliberately seeding misinformation into the left-wing conversation.” uh, no… not into the leftwing conversation I’m having.

      ““It’s wildly distressing that we were played,” Mattes said.”

      Well, maybe you were, Mr. Mattes, but if so you might rethink admitting that in public…

    3. Nippersdad

      what was most interesting to me was the poll, the answers to which were supposed to have come out last Sunday. To date I have not seen that come out. If their responses were anything like the comments I have read elsewhere about that column, it should come as no surprise that the results have yet to be published.

  23. Ed

    Has anyone else noticed that the Google Rewards app has stopped giving out money and started asking a lot more questions all at the same time?

    I think this is another sign of the end of Western civilization and the overweening greed and arrogance of the corporate plutocracy that is literally driving the entire planet into hell.

    Maybe I am the only schlub on the site who uses such an app.

    1. KurtisMayfield

      Heck Google has been asking me questions about everywhere I go when I use the map app.. I just ignore them. But they expect people to give them information and take pictures for free so that they can use it for profit. Not a big fan of it.

  24. flora

    re: 2018

    ” If perceptions are neutral or broadly positive, the GOP should have little trouble keeping the House. If they are negative, the House will be in play, and some of those Likely Republican districts — the districts that truly will make or break the GOP House majority — might start to slip away.”

    Thus, the GOP congress determination to alienate seniors via an even more crapified Obamacare package serves to rehabilitate the deplorable Dem estab. Well, I suppose the GOP estab owes the Dem estab a favor after the Dems rehabilitated the GOP in 2009 by blocking single payer health care and protecting the TBTF bankers as well as the TBTF banks.

    ” But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”

    “ ‘My administration,’ the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

    And it worked. It rehabilitated the GOP in time for the 2010 midterms. This increased pain and crapification of Obamacare returns the favor, this time from the GOP estab to the Dem estab.

    1. Jagger

      If you have nuclear weapons and the world believes you are willing to use them, no one is going to invade you. Thus you don’t really need much of a traditional military beyond a purely defensive force as a deterrence trip wire. It is a totally different story if you actually intend to use your military to attack other countries.

  25. David Carl Grimes

    Speaking of the Clintons and their associates. I wonder what happened to the likes of Doug Band and Teneo now that their “connect” to the powers that be is no longer there. Are these guys getting any business? Or are they folding up?

  26. LifelongLib

    Re the “tribal human brain”, living in Hawaii I see young children of all colors playing together, with no more regard for color of skin than color of hair or eyes. If there was some tribal aspect to the human brain they’d be frightened of each other. They’re not. Whatever distinctions they make later are learned, not inborn.

    1. Jack Parsons

      It’s both. Babies are inherently racist, and you have to show them people of other colors regularly to imprint them as not racist. This is settled science.

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