2:00PM Water Cooler 4/26/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“TiSA and the Threat to Public Banks” [Transnational Institute (PDF)]. “TiSA is an attack on the future publicness of public banking around the world. Despite 30 years of privatisation, publicly owned banks remain active in most countries and communities. Yet the importance of TiSA to the future of public banks has yet to be raised as a fulcrum of resistance. This lack of attention is curious, and alarming, and shows how the secrecy of negotiations has not allowed the public to be meaningfully informed or engaged. We urgently need to turn the debate on TiSA to its negative impact on public banking, placing the defence of public banks at the heart of the global movement against TiSA.”

“While there are legitimate questions as to how China is now managing its currency (in the last year it has actually intervened to raise rather than lower its value relative to the dollar), Trump has essentially abandoned his commitment to force China to raise the value of its currency to make U.S. goods and services more competitive” [The Hill]. “Without a change in the value of China’s currency, it is very difficult to see how Trump could possibly make good on his promise to bring back the jobs we lost.”

“Despite the president having expansive executive authority to set procurement policy and past presidents using that authority to deliver on their policy commitments and goals, the Trump administration has failed to exclude offshoring firms from qualifying for billions of dollars in federal contracts” [Public Citizen (PDF)]. “In fact, United Technologies is still receiving contracts under his administration despite going ahead with plans to relocate more than 1,000 jobs to Mexico even after Trump’s intervention.”


New Cold War

“A Democratic group is pressuring a trio of House Republicans to support an independent inquiry into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia, launching radio ads in the lawmakers’ districts that feature the sound of a Russian voice laughing” [McClatchy]. “”That’s the sound of the Russians and Vladimir Putin laughing at us,’ a narrator says. ‘Because they’re getting away with undermining our democracy.'”

“Six months before Donald Trump won the United States election, Chinese-American blogger Xie Bin and seven others launched a WeChat page aimed at influencing Chinese-Americans to vote for Trump. They called it “The Chinese Voice of America” (CVA), and published several articles each week that drew from right-wing websites in English, as well as concerns people shared in Mandarin in WeChat groups” [BackChannel]. First I’ve seen on this. So, now we’re pivoting to Xi?

“Grassley takes methodical approach, follows the money to find source of ‘dodgy dossier” [Washington Times]. Interesting detail.


“Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women” [Axios]. “Under the radar: Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.” Fortunately, if there’s no quid pro quo, there’s no corruption, as we know from the Clinton Foundation, so move along people, move along, there’s no story here.

“Whether fair or not, it’s not difficult to look at Wall Street paying $400,000 to Obama as a reward for [not prosecuting anyone on Wall Street for the crash]. In that way, it’s tough on both precedent and Obama’s presidency” [WaPo].

“Out of office for about three months, Mr. Obama has begun the process of cashing in” [New York Times].

Trump Transition

“Trump will wrap up the 100th day of his presidency this weekend, and while he has begun to build up his administration, there’s a larger story in who is still missing. For 470 out of 556 key positions requiring Senate confirmation — or about 85 percent — Trump has yet to announce any nominee at all, according to a tracker compiled by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service. Less than two dozen have been confirmed, while 23 have been formally nominated and 40 are awaiting announcement of their formal nomination” [Politico].

Our Famously Free Press

Readers will remember Jon Ralston as the “reporter” who faked the story of the Sanders “chair-throwing” incident and never retracted it:

One hates to attribute motives, but…

Democrats in Disarray

“100 days of Democratic rage” [Politico]. “The DNC has yet to announce the hire of an executive director or senior staff in many prominent units of the building, and no plan to conduct any sort of autopsy or accounting of the 2016 election cycle has been circulated. It all adds up to a Democratic Party suddenly fueled by a massive outpouring of energy but without the established power structures to channel and amplify it.” Hmm. Who said the Democrat Establishment was about channeling and amplifying energy?


“Flying the American flag and heckling, Chelsea Clinton, the former US president’s daughter, has been waging her own campaign against peace protesters at Oxford University” [Guardian (November 9, 2001)]. “Eight days ago [Clinton] attended an anti-war rally at Oxford town hall with a group of friends. Not only did they hang an American flag across the wall, the group heckled from the floor, calling out: ‘How do you catch Osama, then?'” Her mother’s daughter…

“Chelsea Clinton Doesn’t Owe You Sh*t” [Marisa Kabas, Medium]. A fun read, and a writer with an interesting bio: “founder of RESISTABLE, a newsletter for the resistance.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A few days later he added in a speech: “One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.” Naturally, the party’s existing base, overwhelmingly female and multiracial, don’t like seeing their issues derided as ‘identity politics’ and shunned as distractions, lifestyle questions, or political correctness run amok, while the troubles of white downscale men are centered” [Joan Walsh, The Nation]. Walsh should stop lying about Sanders’s views. One more once, what Sanders actually said:

“It’s not good enough for somebody to say ‘hey I’m a Latina vote for me’ that is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country and is going to take on big money interests,” Sanders said.

Surely what Sanders says here is unexceptionable? Fortunately, voters haven’t been taken in by Walsh and her claque. I ran this yesterday, but it’s worth repeating:

The party’s base seems to have no problem with Sanders “deriding their issues” at all. Could it be that Walsh is out of touch with the base, and not Sanders?

“The Democrats’ hypocrisy fest: Disingenuous attacks on Bernie Sanders persist — and his popularity climbs” [Salon]. “[O]ne of the primary reasons for Sanders’ popularity is that he clearly places principles before party — so we can expect his popularity to keep on growing, even as the smears become more and more desperate.”

“Trump supporters are the most overrated force in American politics” [Matt Yglesias, Vox]. “The primary political question of 2018 and 2020 isn’t whether Trump’s voters will abandon him and the GOP, but whether Democrats will manage to field candidates and messages that inspire Trump’s critics to unite and vote for the same person. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s not a trivial one either.”

“Why a ‘decentralized swarm of resistance’ is the best way to contain Trump” [WaPo]. What’s Brock doing for his money, then?

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of April 21, 2017: “Purchase applications for home mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 1 percent in the April 21 week, but applications for refinancing rose 7 percent” [Econoday]. And: “Even with the increase in mortgage rates late last year, purchase activity is still up slightly year-over-year” [Calculated Risk].

Housing: “During the housing bust, the builders had to build smaller and less expensive homes to compete with all the distressed sales. When housing started to recovery – with limited finished lots in recovering areas – builders moved to higher price points to maximize profits” [Calculated Risk].

Shipping: “By the end of 2018, the top seven container lines will control 70% of global capacity, but this will still leave a fragmented market open to price wars and rate instability, warns Alphaliner analyst Hua Joo Tan” [Lloyd’s Loading List]. “The continued existence of the second-tier lines meant there would be little decrease in competition and the consolidation that had already taken place had had little measurable impact on rates, Mr Tan said at the TOC Asia conference.” Hmm.

Shipping: “The dry bulk market has been gradually moving towards a recovery, while encouraging signs from the commodities markets have added further confidence to the segment. The increase in freight rates, though, had put a temporary halt to scrapping activity” [Lloyd’s List].

Shipping: “Dry bulk vessel owners will have to start scrapping more vessels of higher deadweight tonnage in order to alleviate the overcapacity problem” [Lloyd’s List]. “”You cannot really scrap yourself to a better future, that’s the point. Shipowners can increase scrapping but it is not going to make a huge difference if you double the number of removals,” [Lloyd’s List Intelligence managing director of maritime insight Christopher Palsson] said. ‘You have to take them from the large sectors, the large vessels, you can do more there… if you start to increase scrapping of those.'”

Shipping: “Truck Scales have become an integral part of the freight industry” [Shipping and Freight Resource]. “Flawless weighing practices help freight forwarders reduce the variance between the shipping weight and the stated weight, prevent overloading and achieve optimal and safer loading of the vehicles. Moreover, you can also maximize your profits, elevate safety and provide reliable services.”

Rail: “Nearly 15 years and billions of dollars after launching an ambitious plan to tackle rail congestion at the freight crossroads…, Chicago is taking a new step in its program called Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency, or Create, by tackling the notorious 75th Street corridor, where freight trains, commuter lines and motorists converge at one overloaded intersection. But that plan is running headlong into changing patterns that are putting even more stress on a corridor that already sees 25% of the country’s freight rail traffic” [Wall Street Journal]. “Freight railroad Norfolk Southern Corp. is trying to expand its operations there to meet what it says is growing shipping demand, including goods from online retailers. The Create plan was supposed to prepare Chicago for the future when it was launched nearly 15 years ago, but new shipping patterns suggest it hasn’t been ambitious enough.”

Supply Chain: “[A] total value of $1.3 trillion dollars and 8.5 percent of the total value of the United States economy revolves in some way around inventory fulfillment and distribution. At some point soon, we will be able to state that we have left a manufacturing economy behind and have begun a new fulfillment economy. The economic indicators certainly suggest that a fulfillment economy has already begun” [Logistics Management];

IT: “Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) added 9 million monthly active users in the first quarter of this year, shattering Wall Street estimates and helping to send the stock up more than 10% in early trading Wednesday” [CNN]. “Twitter credited the surprise uptick in new users to tweaks made to its news feed and notifications as well as marketing and some seasonality. Notably not mentioned in the earnings release: having a new president who just happens to love the platform.”

The Bezzle: “Airbus was plunged deeper into legal wrangling over past business dealings on Wednesday when Vienna prosecutors announced a fraud investigation into its chief executive in connection with a $2 billion fighter order over a decade ago” [Reuters]. “Austrian and German prosecutors have separately been investigating for years whether officials received bribes aimed at ensuring they chose Eurofighter jets over rival offers from Saab and Lockheed Martin. Allegations surfaced almost immediately after the purchase was agreed that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants and others via brokers for so-called offset deals accompanying the transaction. These deals, common in large arms purchases, are designed to provide work for local businesses in countries placing orders.” Let’s clean up the arms industry!

The Bezzle: “Half the number of online ad clicks are by mistake, says a Silicon Valley veteran” (Scott McNealyt) [CNBC]. Yes, but which half?

Concentration: “This is the company that effectively killed the big bookstores and then started opening big bookstores. They’re pissing on those grave sites to water the seedlings from the trees they chopped down. Ruthless. Brilliant. Amazon” [Medium].

Rapture Index: Closes down 1 on on crime rate (“Crime in several American cities has risen”) [Rapture Ready]. Record High: 189 (October 10, 2016). Current: 181. Typo?

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 49 Neutral (previous close: 46, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 30 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 26 at 12:21pm.

Dear Old Blighty

“Stomach-churning images of ‘fatberg’ clogging toilets in Cheltenham” [Express].

“Inside Corbyn’s Office” [Jacobin]. Corbyn’s former press secretary: “Some days I was getting eighty to a hundred calls or texts from journalists, mostly with stories that were leaked by people on our own side. Obviously that’s extremely frustrating.” Maybe they weren’t “on our own side”?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Why Isn’t ‘Ebony’ Paying Its Black Writers?” [The Establishment]. The background:

Ebony has existed as an institution within black culture since its founding in 1945, and is one of the last black-owned magazine companies in existence. For the last few years, it’s been recuperating from financial woes; in 2011, its publishing company was acquired by JP Morgan, and last year, it was purchased by a little-known private equity firm known as the Clear View Group.

The issue as stated:

Recently, the hashtag #EbonyOwes was started on Twitter to try and get Ebony to take notice and pay these people. Many of them feel they have a great professional relationship except for the fact that they haven’t been paid for their work.

Almost every black journalist has dreamed of seeing themselves in print on the pages of Ebony Magazine, which makes it that much harder to call out the publication. I am disheartened by the fact that a black-owned publication is exploiting young black talent. As a person of color, I cling to uplifting other businesses and successes from black people; it’s difficult when an obligation we feel to protect our culture comes into conflict with our own protection.

Remarkably, there’s not even a whisper of speculation that private equity might have anything to do with whether Ebony’s writers get paid or not…

Class Warfare

“Yale grad students go on hunger strike over union flap” [New Haven Register]. “The announcement of the fast by the four men and four women, who are part of graduate teachers’ union Local 33-Unite Here, came at the end of a silent march in the rain from College Street to the home of Yale President Peter Salovey on Hillhouse Avenue. Led by Mayor Toni Harp, local clergy and several members of the city’s Board of Alders, hundreds of graduate teachers and their supporters in rows of eight locked arms and began to march, the sound of raindrops and shoes hitting wet pavement the only sounds to be heard.”

“Why Poverty Is Like a Disease” [Nautilus]. “Now, new evidence is emerging suggesting the changes can go even deeper—to how our bodies assemble themselves, shifting the types of cells that they are made from, and maybe even how our genetic code is expressed, playing with it like a Rubik’s cube thrown into a running washing machine. If this science holds up, it means that poverty is more than just a socioeconomic condition. It is a collection of related symptoms that are preventable, treatable—and even inheritable. In other words, the effects of poverty begin to look very much like the symptoms of a disease.” I have long felt that epigenetics were one mechanism through which class is transmitted across generations (think lead, and generalize). Now somebody agrees!

“White Collar Crime Risk Zones” [The New Enquiry (AM)]. “White Collar Crime Risk Zones uses machine learning to predict where financial crimes will happen across the U.S. The system was trained on incidents of financial malfeasance from 1964 to the present day, collected from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a non-governmental organization that regulates financial firms. The system uses industry-standard predictive policing methodologies, including Risk Terrain Modeling and geospatial feature predictors, which enables the tool to predict financial crime at the city-block-level with an accuracy of 90.12%. Predictive policing apps are designed and deployed to target so-called “street” crime, reinforcing and accelerating destructive policing practices that disproportionately target impoverished communities of color. Unlike typical predictive policing apps which criminalize poverty, White Collar Crime Risk Zones criminalizes wealth.”

“Democratic leaders in Congress are expected to announce a proposal seeking to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the existing $7.25 an hour” [Wall Street Journal]. Another policy shift that would never have happened without Sanders — and never without #FightFor15, of course, which preceded the Sanders run.

News of the Wired

“Does your web browser have a unique fingerprint? If so your web browser could be tracked across websites without techniques such as tracking cookies. Additionally the anonymisation aspects of services such as Tor or VPNs could be negated if websites you visit track you using your browser fingerprint. This service is designed to test how unique your web browser’s fingerprint is, and hence how identifiable your browser is” [BrowserPrint].

* * *

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

And here’s today’s plant (pq):

pq writes:

Horsetails: When I saw these things coming up during my first spring in the Northwest 12 years ago, my immediate thought was that they were alien plants. NC readers in this part of the world will immediately recognize them as horsetails — so-called, because that’s what they look like when they mature. But in a way, they are alien; they are primitive, first detected in the fossil record more than 300 million years ago. Back then, they were trees that grew to nearly 100 feet tall. They’re actually pretty amazing plants.

* * *

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


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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. DH

    Re: Fatbergs

    In many cases, wet wipes are at the heart of these because they allow other stuff to glom onto them They also reinforce the mass as they have a fair amount of tensile strength and don’t break down. The end result behaves like reinforced concrete.

    Coffee grounds also add to the mass and are surprisingly immobile in a sewer. They are effectively a bulking agent.

    So wet wipes, tea bags, and coffee grounds should go in the trash. You can also use coffee grounds and organic tea bags in the garden.

    1. Oregoncharles

      You could even use coffee grounds and used tea leaves in potted plants. High-level fertilizer, especially the coffee. Or, they compost vigorously, including the tea bag.

      Alert: if you’re on a septic system, as we are, you have to be especially careful not to put grease down the drain. We’re very careful to pour it off into containers; a little is used in cooking. What do we do with the rest? It makes excellent fire starter.

      In general, putting food wastes down the drain is a bad idea, wasteful at best.

        1. ambrit

          Ah ha! The ultimate “green” product, recycled toilet paper!
          Talk about “tail risk!”

      1. Art Eclectic

        Only until they have a massive plumbing problem costing big bucks and and the plumber tells it to them straight up: No wipes. No feminine products.

        Just because the package says flushable does not mean it won’t sit in your sewer pipes and not break down until you have to call the plumber and pay big bucks. Most sewer pipes are not silky smooth and it’s easy for wipes and tampons to get caught and create blockages, next thing you you’re paying a $150 plumber bill.

          1. ambrit

            Sorry about that. I do my own “sewer” work, having some of the requisite tools left over from my full time working days.
            Well do I remember “sewer mice.” (Hint: they have long skinny tails.)

  2. Jim Haygood

    Housing Bubble Trouble in the Great White North:

    Home Capital Group Inc. plunged 60 percent after disclosing that it struck a deal for a C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) credit line to counter dwindling deposits, at terms that will leave the alternative mortgage lender unable to meet financial targets. Chart:


    The loan has an effective interest rate of 22.5 percent on the first C$1 billion, declining to 15 percent if fully utilized, according to a note from Jaeme Gloyn, an analyst at National Bank of Canada.

    High interest savings account balances fell about 25 percent to C$1.4 billion over the past month. Lenders such as Home Capital rely on deposits to fund their mortgage loans.


    Losing 25 percent of deposits in a month is a bank run. Since CDIC guarantees deposits only up to C$100,000 (that’s US $74,000, versus $250,000 of FDIC coverage in the US), six-digit depositors are running like hell.

    Question is whether the five-figure little people plan to hang around until the weekend (it’s always a weekend) that CDIC announces the bank is now under its administration, and all deposits under C$100K are safe.

    What happens to the Permanently High Plateau of Canadian housing, when the mortgage pushers lenders run out of fresh funds? :-0

    Stay tuned, folks — same Bat time, same Bat channel!

  3. Tim

    Remarkably, there’s not even a whisper of speculation that private equity might have anything to do with whether Ebony’s writers get paid or not…

    The real color of blacks oppressor is green not white. Judging by the Sander’s poll this is starting to get some traction within their community. Give it time.

    1. MLS

      PE might be the culprit for the writers at Ebony not getting paid, but it might not be. Clear View is a black-run PE firm, so presumably they are not interested in oppressing members of their own community. Or maybe they don’t care and profit is the only motive, I honestly don’t know, but I don’t think it’s completely cut-and dry.

      Also, the economics of print journalism is pretty terrible, and I can’t imagine they are any better for a publication that is more narrowly tailored towards ~11% of the population. Newspapers all over the country with larger circulation than Ebony have all sorts of financial problems, so it’s not hard to imagine Ebony is experiencing them even more acutely due to their size.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Clear View is a black-run PE firm, so presumably they are not interested in oppressing members of their own community.

        Hmm. Let’s reword that:

        Clear View is a black[any other color of your choice]-run PE firm, so presumably they are not interested in oppressing members of their own community.

        In any case, I found it remarkable that the question wasn’t even asked.

    2. Adamski

      April Harvard-Harris poll, Sanders’s net favourability with black ppl is 60 and Clinton’s is 63. He’s caught up, the firewall’s gone.

  4. Brindle

    re: Joan Walsh….

    I follow her on twitter and she is dedicated to promoting the lie that the Sanders wing of the Dem party are sorta 60’s George Wallace hold overs who maybe took acid once. Basically racist misogynists with a Ben & Jerry’s makeover. Unfortunately she is deemed “reasonable” inside the beltway.

  5. Tim

    , which enables the tool to predict financial crime at the city-block-level with an accuracy of 90.12%.
    Yeah, it draws a line around the city limits of New York City..

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      I have a similar tool that requires no electricity.

      I pull out a map, circle New York, Washington DC, and Silicon Valley.

    1. Indrid Cold

      Princess Ivanka is just part of a cosmopolitan global aristocracy. She can change her mind anytime she likes and what are you going to do about it? Zip. Same with the Lady Chelsea.

    2. RUKidding

      I don’t have a tv, so I missed that comment from Ivanka.

      Color me utterly unshocked. In fact, I predicted this very thing long ago. All of Trump’s whining – and the heckling of his fans to lock Hillary up, in part, bc of the Pay-to-Play “Foundation” – eminated from jealousy. Wherever do you think Ivanka got the idea from? No doubt, in her “sisterly” phone calls and swanning around with Chelsea at expensive NYC hotsy-totsy lunch spots, Ivanka took good and detailed notes on how Chelsea’s parents set up and ran their Grift, er, Foundation.

      I give props to Ivanka (after a fashion) bc I think she’s much smarter than her dad. No doubt, her “Foundation” will be an “improvement” on what the Clintons created… in that, Ivanka will ensure that she grubs even more money than the Clintons ever dared dream of.

      Just as I predicted: the Trump presidency is only about one thing: How much money can the Trump family GRIFT from this exhalted position?

      No doubt, the “deal” that Trump recently struck with Deep State (to save his neck by going full bore swamp creature) is that he and his spawn could do emoluments out the wahzoo.

      We ain’t seen nothing yet. This is just very tippy tip of the ice berg.

      Disclaimer: I very much disagreed with the Clinton Foundation. But whatever Ivanka does will be X 1,000,000. Wait and see.

      1. Pat

        I will have to wait and see if the Trump grift is anywhere near the Clintons, much less exponentially more. The Clintons and their foundation did so little in the areas they were supposed to be involved and in some cases did outright damage that they set a pretty high bar on that standard. The Trumps may, and I do mean may, be inspired to top them, but since they are clearly held to a tougher standard by the media than Bill, Hillary and Chelsea I’m betting it turns out their charities will do more than anything from the Clintons just because they have to in order for the media to indicate they do.

        Now anything the Obamas start, that will most certainly be on par or even more of a grift, but will be portrayed as the greatest thing ever.

        1. RUKidding

          We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

          I agree with you overall re the Clinton Foundation, but I don’t see the media holding Trump to a different standard.

          The Clinton’s and Trump’s move in the same mendacious, greedy circles. I find Trump more disgusting by a few degrees (eg, not much but more so).

          Time will tell who is greedier and gets the bigger Grift. My money’s on the Trumps.

          1. redleg

            IMO The media will hold Trump to a higher standard because:
            1. He overcame nearly unanimous media disapproval, so the narrative must be constructed to save face, and
            2. Trump isn’t responsible for the fortunes of the media owners. Clinton is, through the Telecommunication Act of 1996.

  6. Vatch

    The article about Amazon.com claims that although the large bookstore chains have been seriously injured (Borders was killed), the small independent bookstores are thriving. I’m very skeptical about that. Sure, some small independent stores are doing well, but a lot have gone out of business over the past few decades. In some local markets, there hasn’t been a bookstore for many years. I strongly suspect that many of the “thriving” bookstores are really hanging on by a thread, and that’s tragic.

    1. Ranger Rick

      A lot of them seem to have adopted the “bookstore and” strategy. Most of my local bookstores are also cafes and coffee shops.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Competition seems to have improved the original stuffy concept.

        Books and coffee just seem so natural…it helps to keep you awake reading them (speaking from my college experience).

        I think University of California should start selling coffee in their gigantic lecture halls as well.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I was a University of Michigan student when Borders was in its beginning years on State Street. Beautiful store in a great location. Near campus, but not right on top of it.

        I can’t help thinking that if Borders had become a regional, college town-focused chain, say, with stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, it would still be around.

        1. Carla

          You mean if Borders had become Barnes & Noble? Well, B&N is struggling, too.

          Just like Walmart, Amazon’s business model ELIMINATES the competition. In my view, every Amazon purchase is a rock thrown through the window of a local retailer, large or small. Personally, if I ever throw rocks, they’re going to be aimed bigger and better targets than that.

        2. Darius

          You decamped to warmer climes. I used to spend hours at Borders in the early 80s. It was like heaven. And see movies at the State Theater. All gone.

          1. Swamp Yankee

            It was on the corner of E. Liberty and State, if I recall correctly. Was there when it died. Very sad. Ann Arbor has become, as one friend says, “just another playground for the 1%.” I would amend that to 10% (being a poor kid there in grad school was really tough), but otherwise, yeah. The University and elite developers catering to many mid-Atlantic and other wealthy students have built up a series of quasi-skyscraper towers to Mammon. Thank God the Fleetwood’s still there, holding it down there on Main Street for all us sinners….

            The thing that used to enrage me the most about living among the Ann Arbor liberals (inter alia) was the ritual denunciation of Michigan by many for not being Manhattan or California. And this by people who had literally never left Ann Arbor, had never seen any of The Great Lakes, didn’t know that Sleeping Bear and Pictured Rocks and all the Upper Peninsula existed at all, nor Detroit nor Jackson nor Saginaw, or any number of places in the Great Lakes State.

            These were clarifying moments, as they say on this blog.

            1. crittermom

              “just another playground for the 1%.”
              So sad to hear. I spent the first 24 yrs of my life in Michigan but remember Ann Arbor as being filled with communal houses painted purple or other ‘wild’ colors and a great place to buy ‘recreational’ fun.
              In ’68 my band played the first annual Saugatuck Pop Festival where Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes headlined. (Ted claimed to be tripping on acid while sitting cross-legged on top of their van, yet today claims he never did drugs. Was he lying then to ‘be cool’, or is he lying now, I wonder?)

              Two years later I attended the first Goose Lake Pop Festival, which was very much like Woodstock, but failed to get any press coverage because the promoters wouldn’t allow reporters backstage so they basically ‘black-listed’ any coverage of it.

              Ah, the good ol’ days when Ann Arbor was still a college town filled with hippies (and the Orange Julius I enjoyed).
              I guess it’s true you can never go home again.
              Apparently, from what you’re saying, no one can AFFORD to ‘go home’ there again.

              While I visited much of the state at that time, including the UP, I never made it to Isle Royale. Was sad to read the recent article about only two old wolves remaining now, while the moose population has exploded, destroying the foliage.
              I’ll never miss the humidity nor the swarms of mosquitoes, tho’.

              1. Swamp Yankee

                Yeah, my friends who were there in the late 60s/early 70s say it’s just a different town now. There are still stray co-ops around, and you can definitely get “recreation” relatively easily, but the spirit of rebellion, inquiry, experimentation — a lot of that seems gone.

                Saugatuck’s a beautiful spot, right along Lake Michigan there…. And too funny about Nugent (lying seems about par for the course for Ted). I just heard about Goose Lake quite recently; was blown away at its size. The media blackout story makes sense, now, of why I’d never heard of it.

                It took me a long time to get to Isle Royale, but I was lucky enough to get to do some camping up there a few years back. Truly a world apart. If you ever do get there, the views of Ontario from the northern side of the island are just spectacular. Saw some moose antlers, but no wolves, alas.

                I will note, though, that I did hear some wolves in the UP’s Sylvania Wilderness, right near the Wisconsin border. Also some of the largest stands of old growth in the Midwest. Very highly recommended.

                And you aren’t kidding with that summer heat and humidity; summer in Ann Arbor felt positively Virginian to this Gulf of Maine guy!

          1. Octopii

            B&N closed their Georgetown (DC) store a couple of years ago, IIRC right before the xmas season got started. It was an oasis on a side of town that would rather sell you a $500 pair of pants dotted with embroidered lobsters. The building was a nicely reclaimed three-floor warehouse space with coffee and lounging areas, and it had become a nice excuse to go into DC and hang out.

    2. jrs

      because noone can afford what a new (dead tree) book costs. I get everything used for a few bucks a book.

      1. Uahsenaa

        I’m not sure this is entirely true. Just as an example, a trade paperback I bought in 1998 for a cover price of $12.95 (Anne Carson’s Eros the bittersweet) now has a cover price of $13.95, only a dollar more. The BLS’s CPI calculator says the book should cost $19.54 in today’s dollars.

        That doesn’t strike me as unaffordable. It’s possible that if I went out and bought a copy of the book now, the printing might be worse, or the paper of a lower quality, but I cannot imagine it being much worse than the copy I already own.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          What does one do for interior decoration then…if you can only get 50 books at a time?

          1. Optimader

            A large format print of highbrow books on a rolleeshade to hide the shelves of low brow likker!

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I know of an online book site that will ship free for a book costing $3 or $4.

        Cost doesn’t include extra carbon emission, of course.

        Still, how does it make money?

    1. JohnnyGL

      I wonder if that means no child tax credit or child care tax credit. This may well be about as popular as the health care bill. What was the approval rating for that, like 17%? :)

      Trump managed to offload the blame for that one onto Paul Ryan, can he get away with it twice?

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Oligarchs be oligarchin’. Wonder what the #Resistance will gin up for this? Based on the last 3+ months, my guess is hand-wringing at best and cheering at such “fiscal responsibility” at worst. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. But send money so we can win Republican votes in G-06!

        Always remember the Democratic party prefers fascism to democratic socialism, and with good reason: The last time we elected a democratic socialist they had to pass term limits because he was so popular, and the Iron Heel’s plans were set back a bit before they ran Henry Wallace off the ticket in ’44 in favor of gangster Harry Truman in one of the lowest moments in American political history.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Exactly as rumored a week or two ago.

      The big deal is eliminating the federal deduction for state taxes, which cuts double-digit state income tax rates on high earners in Cali and NYC to 60 percent of their nominal level.

      Silicon Valley, Wall Street and Hollywood are in the crosshairs. Save the blue whales!

      1. Vatch

        The state and local tax deduction includes real estate taxes, which can be rather high in some areas. Real estate taxes aren’t based on a person’s income, so some people could find themselves unable to pay their taxes if this deduction is eliminated.

      2. hunkerdown

        That’s fun. Flat tax states like Michigan, with its sole 4.25% income tax bracket, get off easy.

    3. hunkerdown

      EFF runs a project called “Let’s Encrypt”. Might economic justice blogs and other interested get together and run a project called “Let’s Incorporate”?

    4. jrs

      other than the deductions you have to be wealthy to afford, with the average crap shack going for 3/4 of a million around here, yep you have to be rich.

      I guess IRAs are going away? But with an IRA it maybe takes 1k to open (probably less at a bank), not everyone can afford that but it’s not the top 20% only business that buying housing has become. Charity deductions are never worth itemizing if you aren’t taking other deductions.

      If they are going to eliminate all deductions I say eliminate ALL deductions. Enough favoring homeowners. In the current health care system health care expenses as a deduction are more sympathetic than housing as a deduction.

      1. Darius

        Santorum (I know) had one good idea and that was to double or triple the personal exemption and dependent exemptions. Most Republicans now want to get rid of it entirely.

    5. JustAnObserver

      So the original rationale for AMT disappears along with all the deductions so that kludge can go as well ?

      The tax code is now simple so we’ll no longer have to file a return … ala Sweden the IRS sends us a statement of how much we owe and we have the option of just signing it & paying the requested amount ?

    6. Vatch

      Are they going to eliminate the federal deductions for state and local taxes? Oooh, that should be popular! Also, deductions for medical, dental, and work expenses? Deductions for casualty and theft losses? The results will be higher individual income taxes for most, and lower corporate taxes. Yup, Steven The Forecloser Mnuchin is going to be quite popular with the general public!

      1. Fiery Hunt

        I hope Trump manages to get this tax reform thru…

        It would be the first federal “reform” that actually benefits me! Self-employed but unable to afford a house or health insurance…

        1. RENTER

          How would the elimination of these deductions that don’t benefit you now benefit you in the future?

            1. Yves Smith

              I know there is a lot of enthusiasm about this but the IRS limits how much an owner/operator can take out as profit versus salary. I don’t know how these standards apply to very high earners (they do get a lot of equity-linked pay), if you are a mere mortal small businessman, you are still gonna have to take a pretty big chunk out as salary.

              Of course, there are other possible games, like retaining earning and then giving principals low interest loans. And Mnuchin seems opposed to cute gimmicks to avoid paying taxes on bona fide wage income (as opposed to people who really are getting investment income):

              Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the following during a White House press briefing: “We will make sure that there are rules in place so that wealthy people can’t create pass-throughs and use that as a mechanism to avoid paying the tax rate they should be on the personal side.”


              In addition, the IRS is pretty non-partisan for a Federal agency, so it is not going to change its norms because Trump is president. And the rules are you look through the appearance of an economic transaction for the substance, and that determines the tax treatments.

              But this speculation is all premature until you see details and there are none. Trump has not advanced the ball from his original handwave. From the Financial Times:

              “If you take a look at what was proposed it doesn’t give much more than what we have seen before,” said Charlie Ripley, fixed-income strategist at Allianz Investment Management. “Trump trying to bring the tax rate down to 15 per cent seems like a far stretch and it is likely this will not go anywhere in Congress.”


              A buddy who is a top tax expert said “This is an opening bid.” At best.

      2. redleg

        What do they care? The rich don’t have huge incomes to tax. I’ll bet the capital gains rate gets slashed.

    7. Chris

      Fascinating. Frightening. Fascinightning? Frankenfurtering?

      I wonder if this is a way to permanently esconce a real estate and lending bubble in our country? If that’s one of the only ways to protect income, lots of people will be looking to use rental properties as investments. But it all seems too vague to understand how it would effect anyone from the summaries I saw today.

      Maybe this is just an opening gambit and they’re waiting for a counter offer?

    8. jawbone

      Anyone shuddering about the loss of medical expense deductions?

      Real estate taxes? Here in NJ, OMG….

      Mnuchin clip tonight on evening news (don’t know which one, either PBS NewsHour or one of the broadcasts) showed him looking like the cat who swallowed the canary when he said that, well, couldn’t know yet bcz, oh, Congress, but probably middle class would see tax increase. Gotta pay for the One Percenters’ big tax cuts, aina hey, Steve?

      Remember when Obama had the opportunity to allow the Bush tax cuts to sunset? Bjt, nooooo, he just had to give the Repubs more of the same.

  7. McWatt

    Ever since Ebony’s founder died the business seems to have been run as a cash cow by the heirs. Now that the cash is gone, the building sold, the recently new rented offices vacated for smaller new rented offices, there isn’t much left. I am sure not paying the writers is the last thing on their list. Plus factor in the dramatic decline in magazine reading and you have a perfect storm. I hope they get back on their feet.

    1. justanotherprogressive

      I’ve always loved beargrass. Thank you for that beautiful picture. Brings back fond memories.

      1. diptherio

        You’re welcome. And since they only bloom once every four years, it’s always a little bit special to come across a field all in bloom…and so much pollen!

      1. 3.14e-9

        I didn’t know that about asparagus, so I looked it up. There was a major reclassification somewhere along the line (evidently still being debated), and the family Liliaceae was split up. Bear grass was removed from the lily family, and asparagus was given its own order, Asparagales, which now includes the genus Allium – garlic, onions, etc. Bear grass is still in the order Liliales, but no longer in the same family as lilies.

        In any case, while a field of bear grass in bloom is stunning, I don’t see anything particularly “alien” about it. Horsetails are … well, a horse of a different color. They don’t flower or produces seeds. Those dots on the head are spores. They belong to the only living genus in an assigned family, order, and class that, at least for the time being, is classified under the division of ferns. They are “living fossils.”

        While horsetails aren’t pretty and in some areas are considered invasive weeds, the shoots are edible, and other parts of the plant have medicinal purposes, some apparently quite powerful. I have no personal experience in that regard. Maybe one of NCs close-to-the-land readers does. I recall reading somewhere that they also can remove toxic metals from soil, but I’ll have to look it up. Their high silica content made them useful for cleaning, scouring pans, “sanding” furniture, and so forth.

        It’s like with humans: Sometimes the ones who aren’t much to look at are the most talented and wise.

        1. east

          “Maybe one of NCs close-to-the-land readers does” (have personal experience):
          Horsetail tea (2 cups a day) and tea plant made powder can stop hair shedding, especially when also using a mild baby shampoo.
          Also it stops nose bleeding very fast. You can also take too much powder and make your blood freeze (this is how it feels) – this is why it should be taken only for 20 days, with 10 days pause. Great stuff.

        2. Swamp Yankee

          Love the Equisetum as a whole. My botany professor was a big fan. She pointed out that the silica ridges not only work on pots and pans when camping, they also are a significant factor in wearing down the teeth (and thus limiting the lifespan) of deer and moose.

        3. Oregoncharles

          The blasted botanists just never give it a rest, do they? Granted, the changes may have been based on DNA analysis, but their habit of changing the scientific names drives gardeners and nurserymen nuts. I didn’t know they’d messed with the liliales.

          Horsetails are certainly invasive in the maritime NW; they have runners underground (black) and are nearly impossible to eradicate. OTOH, they’re remarkable survivors, growing where nothing else will. I’ve heard they have medicinal properties but can’t vouch for it, but it looks like someone did.

          1. 3.14e-9

            Charles, if you hadn’t mentioned it in your comment, I wouldn’t have looked it up, and I’d go to bed tonight confident that onions and garlic are lilies.

            At a memorable dinner nearly 25 years in Mendocino, the starter was the chef’s spontaneous creation, “Five Lily Soup.” It looked like clear onion soup, but was made from onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and shallots. Somehow “Five Amaryllis Soup” doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing. It’s like Pluto not being a planet anymore.

            The propensity for classifying and labeling may be one of the major defects of human “intelligence” that got us into the mess we’re in.

            As for horsetails being invasive, in my neighborhood, they’re competing with blackberry, English ivy, common tansy, sweet pea, and a few other invasive plants. I don’t know what native species they’re displacing, but at least they’re keeping each other in check.

  8. allan

    A Modest Tax Proposal [NYT, annotated]:

    … The Trump administration would double the standard deduction, essentially eliminating taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple’s earnings. It also called for the elimination of most itemized tax deductions [drop dead, NY, CA and IL] but would leave in place the popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, which Mr. Trump has railed against for years [because, as David Cay Johnston showed using DJT’s 2005 return, it does what it’s supposed to do], would be repealed under his plan. …

    The plan would include a special one-time tax [just kidding – GWB did the same thing, with predictable results that did not include a jobs boom] to entice companies to repatriate cash that they are parking overseas. …

    Mr. Trump also signaled support for changes to the tax code that would help families with child-care costs. His plan also would end the 3.8 percent tax on investment income [ka-ching!] that was imposed by the Affordable Care Act. …

    Beyond cutting the tax rate to 15 percent for large corporations, which now pay a rate of 35 percent, Mr. Trump also wants that rate for a broad range of firms known as pass-through entities — including hedge funds, real estate concerns like Mr. Trump’s and large partnerships [i.e., working stiffs] — that currently pay taxes at individual rates, which top off at 39.6 percent.

    Acknowledging concerns that such a move could potentially be used as a tax shelter, Mr. Mnuchin insisted on Wednesday that the administration’s plan would not be used as a loophole to allow people to pay less tax than they should be paying. [And you can take Mr. Mnuchin’s word to the bank. Just ask the customers victims of OneWest.]

    The concern would be that lawyers, doctors, consultants or other wealthy people in partnerships could structure much of their personal income as business income, effectively reducing their tax rate from 39.6 percent to 15 percent. [As could anybody else – just ask your employer to fire you and hire you back as a Chapter S corporation.] …

    1. Vatch

      The concern would be that lawyers, doctors, consultants or other wealthy people in partnerships could structure much of their personal income as business income, effectively reducing their tax rate from 39.6 percent to 15 percent.

      I’m confused. I thought that S corporations did not pay income taxes (they do pay FICA taxes for employees, etc.), because they pass through all profits to the individuals, trusts, or charities that own the corporation. The individuals then pay regular income tax at the individual tax rate, not the corporate rate. Have I misunderstood how this works?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You can’t spend business income like you can with your personal income.

        A bit tricky if you want to buy a fur coat, say.

    2. Fiery Hunt

      I’m a self-employed craftsman in CA. As it is, I pay an estimate 40% tax rate (income plus self-employment tax…) on a income a that should be closer to a 25% tax rate. No mortgage deduction, no kids, no health insurance.

      If you work for a corporation, have a house, kids, and benefits but the same gross pay, I’m paying much, much higher taxes than you are. Corporate drones have been subsidized their entire professional life by suckers like me.

      Let’s due away with the mortgage deduction, right?

      1. a different chris

        Right on! Note that despite the cheers and jeers from the “oh Trumps going to screw CA” section, since their house prices are so high the mortgage deduction will still remain relevant despite the raise in the std deduction. Doubt that’s so in, say, Michigan, except – and here’s a surprise – for the upper class.

        And that plus killing the AMT means, yup we get to even more heavily subsidize our betters!

        1. jrs

          it will just cause the housing market to get ever more ridiculous, that’s what keeping the mortgage deduction and removing all other deductions is likely to do when it’s the only tax shelter in town.

          1. Fiery Hunt

            Actually, because as Vatch (and Haygood, I think) pointed out, it’s the loss of the property tax deductions that will nail recent buyers and undermine the entire housing market in CA going forward. Prop 13 takes care of the old money, newbies get the bite.

            (As an aside, had a client this week who bought their house in the City SF in 1979 for $140,000…Now valued online between $2.2 and 3 million…and their property tax is less than $3,000 a year…amazing what info’s available online!)

            1. Jim Haygood

              Can’t claim credit for mentioning the property tax aspect. But yes, losing property tax deductions would double the pain in states with both high income taxes and high property taxes. This means almost everybody in NJ, NYC suburbs and CT.

              In Cali, as you say, it’s new buyers who get jacked up to full valuation property taxes who would be hit hard. It’s like Prop 13 on steroids, as an incentive to stay put instead of move.

      2. Octopii

        Friend, you can be a corporation too :-) I had a useless accountant for the first two years of my small LLC, but then found one who elected us to be taxed as an S-corp. You don’t have to actually be an S-corp, you can be an LLC taxed as an S. Set yourself a reasonable salary that someone in your position would be making as an employee, and the rest is dividends. Your W-2 income (salary) pays fica and medicare, but the dividends don’t as they’re not salary.

        Oh, and now that you’re an LLC (you are an LLC, aren’t you? If not, get thee to a small business attorney). Anyway, now that you’re an LLC you can set up an Solo 401k, assuming you have no employees, where this year you can dump up to $54k of pre-tax money toward your retirement — that’s $18k from you as the employee and the rest from the company (your company). Not complicated to do it with E-Trade. If you have employees it gets a lot more complicated, so that’s an incentive not to grow the business to be aware of. Note the employee contribution does pay fica and medicare.

        It’s a pretty sweet deal provided your business is making some money, which it must be if you’re paying a 40% tax rate. The American system is set up for business, so take advantage of it… at least until Mr. T blows the whole thing up.

        Disclaimer: IINAA, see your local attorney and CPA for details on the strategy.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Sorry, Octopii, but I’ve looked into it…Neither accountant nor attorney thought it would be worth the effort. I’m a pass-through no matter how you slice it. The recession was brutal and I’m not making that much money (yet!)….just climbing out and unfortunately hitting the sweet spot of not enough to get ahead in the Bay Area but enough to get nailed on taxes…

          1. Octopii

            Yes, that was what I was told initially, “it’s not worth it, maybe when you start making some real money.” Turns out, it’s not hard to do and doesn’t cost very much, and it was quite worthwhile. If you’re making enough money to get nailed on taxes you’re making enough to need a tax strategy, and you never know when you’ll finally have a great year so it’s nice to be prepared. I’m still a pass-through entity btw, that’s what an S-Corp is. And I sleep better at night knowing that if something goes wrong and I end up on the hook for a screw-up, they can take my company’s assets but they’ll have to work a lot harder to get mine.

    3. Carla

      “double the standard deduction, essentially eliminating taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple’s earnings.”

      Now, if the first $24,000 of earnings were exempted from FICA, with those “earning” over $200,000 paying double FICA on everything over $24,000 just to keep Social Security well-funded and healthy, you might actually be talking about a stimulus for the economy. [I put “earning” in quotes because very, very few people could actually EARN more than $200 grand in a year.]

      But I doubt that’s what Mnuchin and company have in mind.

      1. Vatch

        Illinois does not have a high state income tax rate — for now. But it’s one of the states with severe budget problems, and that could mean a large tax increase is coming. There are probably some counties or towns with very high property taxes, too.

        1. allan

          The plan seems to drop deductions for property taxes, and in suburbs of Chicago those seem to run about 2% of true market value. On the income tax front, I stand corrected.

          On closer examination, it seems clear that the whole (one page) proposal is a joke.
          There is no there there in the administration on tax policy. From 2 days ago:

          Trump’s Treasury Department hasn’t filled any tax policy jobs [Vox]

          DJT opened his mouth at the end of last week about having a big announcement today on taxes.
          That sent his aides scrambling and this was the result.

          1. cnchal

            > On closer examination, it seems clear that the whole (one page) proposal is a joke.

            When I saw that, it reminded me of Hank Paulson’s napkin doodle demanding $800 billion for the banksters. Watching two guys that could pass for hitmen deliver the message added to the surreal unreality of it.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      And, naturally, Schumer is virtue signaling on ZOMG!!!! The Deficit!!!!, showing that the Democrat Establishment is just as intellectually bankrupt as the Republicans, and just as happy to lock themselves up in Austerity Jail and throw the key out through the bars.

      Of course, Sanders is associated with Stephanie Kelton, who actually understands and can explain how taxes work, but he hasn’t deployed her in that role. Sadly.

      1. Adamski

        I thought Kelton was an MMTer? I think if Sanders did, er, “deploy” her it would blow up in his face. MMT would be a much harder sell than plain vanilla fiscal stimulus and defending the decision to borrow. If the IMF and OECD can belatedly attack austerity then do need to bring MMT into it. “ZOMG the deficit!” becomes “monetary-financed stimulus? ZOMG hyperinflation around the corner!” Interestingly the deficit bogeyman doesn’t seem to have been used against Sanders, hardly at all. When Clinton brought it up, over single payer, in the debates no one cared. And that one is easy

  9. Linda

    News of the Wired.

    Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 29,948 tested so far.

    Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys 14.87 bits of identifying information.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author



      Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 31,767 tested so far.

      Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys 14.96 bits of identifying information.

  10. Altandmain

    Apparently the corporate interests don’t like California’s Healthcare Proposal:

    No surprise.

    If anyone wants to listen to a show with Thomas Frank:

    It’s a discussion about how the middle class in the US is ending and his book, Listen Liberal.

    Sanders and the Democratic Party support a bill to vote for 15 dollars an hour:

    Finally here is Warren on how the system is rigged in an interview with Vox:

  11. PlutoniumKun


    “Six months before Donald Trump won the United States election, Chinese-American blogger Xie Bin and seven others launched a WeChat page aimed at influencing Chinese-Americans to vote for Trump. They called it “The Chinese Voice of America” (CVA), and published several articles each week that drew from right-wing websites in English, as well as concerns people shared in Mandarin in WeChat groups” [BackChannel]. First I’ve seen on this. So, now we’re pivoting to Xi?

    WeChat groups are very powerful – I’ve a Chinese friend who continuously sends me links on all sorts of odd things (some nasty conspiracy stuff, some funny, some interesting) – I was asking where she got it, and its all WeChat groups – and she belongs to many of them. They do have an influence, but I think the impact of social media on politics can be exaggerated. I have four Chinese American friends on FB – before the November election two were vigorously pushing pro-HRC and anti-Trump memes to their friends. One of the other ones quietly told me she voted Trump, and so did her other friend. But she never mentioned this online because ‘she didn’t want to make the others angry’.

    There is this nice quote from the article – it does illustrate how thoroughly cynical most Chinese people are about mainstream media, and its mostly gained from watching American or British TV or newspapers writing about China:

    “There’s a phrase in Chinese,” Zhang Yilin told me in late November 2016, “that translates to, ‘To be a good person, don’t be too CNN.’ ” An Environmental Protection Agency employee from Pennsylvania, Zhang voted reluctantly for Clinton because of their shared viewpoints on climate change. She didn’t rely on TV news to make her decision, explaining that CNN had gained a reputation for being “fake” and inventing evidence through its critical coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

  12. WheresOurTeddy

    In defense of Obama making $400K while Clinton only made $225K…

    he was actually able to *GET ELECTED*.. She took all her bribes up front then lost to Trump with a 2-1 money advantage and the press completely in her pocket. Truly pathetic. He should get WAY more than 2x what she does. HE ACTUALLY DELIVERED SOMETHING TO HIS BENEFACTORS. If she had any shame — which she obviously doesn’t — she’d disappear forever. And we’d all be the better for it.

    Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea are three of the most embarrassing Americans to have ever lived. If you think I’m being too harsh, ask yourself why the (D) party they built for 30 years prefers fascism to democratic socialism.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m waiting to see Hillary show up on a Habitat for Humanity work site. Y’know, with the never-used tool belt and a hard hat that just doesn’t fit properly.

      And along comes former President Carter, who was raised on a farm and knows what hard work is. Hillary will turn to Jimmy and say, “I never realized that this kind of labor is so TOUGH!”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        And it would still be not nice for Jimmy to say: “But Hillary, you’re here to cook for us guys.”

    2. Marina Bart

      To be fair, though, those banks, corporations, and plutocrats owe both Clintons BIG. It was Bill’s presidency and the Clinton-led and managed DLC capture of the Democratic Party that enabled all of this repulsive grifting — including the Obama presidency.

      And Hillary was instrumental in this. If she hadn’t backed Bill in that 60 Minutes interview, we wouldn’t be here. If she had divorced him over the Oval Office blow job, we probably wouldn’t be here. If her pending presidency wasn’t hanging out on the time horizon, I suspect the Gore and Kerry campaigns and resultant election theft would have played out very differently. Obama got a lot of disaffected Democratic voters on his side early in the primary because he was opposing the Clinton machine in 2008.

      So I think it’s more accurate to see Hillary’s speaking fees as both a down payment on the future and payment being rendered for excellent service.

    3. Big River Bandido

      The $225K Clinton made was only for a certain few speeches. Over several years the two Clintons took in, IIRC, around $30 million.

      1. John k

        Bill got over 100 mil as I remember.
        So why did she do those speeches for chicken feed? The same reason bill did what he did on that blue dress: because she could.
        Neither had any concept of personal limits. Hutzpah? World class.

        And finally big o begins to collect his well deserved rewards.

    1. Jim Haygood

      The simplest of the warnings is: “Don’t run. Get inside.”

      Sophisticated NC readers will recognize this as an edited stub of the full recommendation:

      Don’t run. Get inside. BTFD. [Buy The Fscking Dip]

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      He is not likely to get a hotel project in North Korea or Russia, ever, it would appear.

  13. crazzyboy

    “Eight days ago [Clinton] attended an anti-war rally at Oxford town hall with a group of friends. Not only did they hang an American flag across the wall, the group heckled from the floor, calling out: ‘How do you catch Osama, then?’” Her mother’s daughter…


    Wada deep pile of sheep dip and chips. Back in 97-98 our Prez was informed by the Saudis that they had captured bin Laden and did we want him? Prez BC said no!

  14. a different chris

    >he group heckled from the floor, calling out: ‘How do you catch Osama, then?

    Um, not by “war”, instead how about just like the way he was caught? Yeah it was SF but the whole thing was straight-forward police work except for the murder at the end.

    Bill is very bright, Hillary has an effective if not too broad sort of intelligence. Chelsea is amazingly stupid. Still think that intelligence is inherited?

    1. Marina Bart

      There’s no evidence that Hillary is more than base-level bright. There’s no reason to think Chelsea isn’t precisely as intelligent as her mother. The river Chelsea swims in babbles with exactly the kind of jargon she routinely spouts. She’s basically Baby Bush without an addiction problem. She’s never had to think or work hard, so she doesn’t.

  15. Jeff W


    Whether fair or not, it’s not difficult to look at Wall Street paying $400,000 to Obama as a reward for [not prosecuting anyone on Wall Street for the crash].

    Well, something that seems fairer, if not inarguable, is that if President Obama had prosecuted people on Wall Street, demanded Pecora investigation-style hearings, or, y’know, acted generally in the public interest, Wall Street would not be shelling out $400,000 to hear his views on anything. To view Obama during his presidency as not being constrained under those circumstances seems, to me, to be a kind of willful obliviousness.

  16. geoff

    “It all adds up to a Democratic Party suddenly fueled by a massive outpouring of energy but without the established power structures to channel and amplify it.”

    I thought the purpose of the Democratic Party was to blunt the momentum of and weaken actual leftist movements. So far, Mission Accomplished!

    1. Marina Bart

      I don’t know about that. Bernie got Patty Murray on board the $15/hr federal minimum wage bill. Even if they extended the time line A LOT to get her, it’s still a big leftist win, because it shows Bernie leading the Ds, and D leadership consenting to back legislation (most importantly, non-neoliberal legislation) that Hillary tried desperately to avoid.

      Overton window seems to be moving left on a daily basis now.

      1. John k

        Sure hope so, but even so, it’s got a long way to go just to get back to Nixon.
        Not just uni health care and the final stake thru the gold standard, but does anybody remember he ended a war far larger than the Iraq skirmish? And didn’t start any?

      2. Oregoncharles

        They’re out of power, so it’s all just kayfabe. The truth happens when they’re in power again, like 2006.

        1. Marina Bart

          I don’t think that’s true. I saw another comment with the same perspective earlier today that I didn’t respond to.

          I don’t think this is quite the same as the “rotating villains/vote yes when it doesn’t count, vote no when it does” strategy. The Democratic Party is working really, really hard to hold the line on messaging and legislation expectations. They banned signs promoting universal health care from the Unity Tour, for example.

          So while obviously they may be hoping this containment strategy works, and if they can maintain their hold on the party and accidentally gain a majority again, they’ll never bring this bill to the floor, I think this latest Bernie move is significant. How much harder will it be for Perez and the rest of the minions to claim that it’s impossible to push for $15/hr as a party principle when Murray, who is in leadership, has signed on? How much harder will it be to make in-roads with suburban Republican voters?

          Right now, even the kayfabe has meaning and power, up to a point. Bernie getting high level Dems on board for a a grassroots led, labor-focused, anti-neoliberal bill makes him look like the Ds leader. None of the rest of them are getting anything concrete done, are they? That encourages and energizes the left; enrages, shames, and discourages the centrist tribal Dems; and should be alarming to corporate and plutocratic donors. This is not what they want, at all. Even hesitancy on the part of Dem donors right now is a good thing. That puts more pressure on Dem leadership, and they have not been handling the existing new pressure well at all.

          We’re going to have to take a lot of beaches, hills, water towers and the like to eventually win this. Each one helps.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            It will, in fact, be a very good sign when a sleazy opportunist jumps on board the #MedicareForAll bandwagon, then to be followed by others. In fact, it will be impossible to pass a bill without them.

            Then, “What have you done for me lately?” and on to the next battle (including preventing the program from being sabotaged, infested by neoliberals, and so forth).

            It’s not a question of perfect but advantage, as John LeCarré said in another context.

            1. voteforno6

              Agreed. That’s why I’m not as down on Chuck Schumer as others are. Sure, he’s a tool of Wall Street, but he’s also a sleazy opportunist, who can be very useful if he sees an opportunity in backing programs such as Medicare-for-all. People like him are not all that ideological, which makes them rather pliable, if the right amount of pressure is applied.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        It’s not a win until legislation is passed and signed.

        However, I agree that an Overton Window in motion tends to stay in motion, and the Overton Window is moving left, despite the attempts of both liberals and conservatives to jam it, nail it in place, paint it shut, and so forth.

  17. allan

    VA limiting new hiring as it aims to widen private care [AP]

    Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector. …

    These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over a 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this month. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.

    Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.

    “It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters. …

    But surely the vets will benefit from having the tax rate on Chapter S corporation income capped at 15%.

    The problem with all these “reversals” is that, when confronted with evidence that you’ve been made a fool of,
    a basic human trait is to double down and lash out at those who have brought it to your attention,
    not at those who are betraying their promises to you. At some point this is going to get ugly.

    1. 3.14e-9

      Allan, thanks for that link.

      If it weren’t for the VA, I would have no healthcare at all. The ACA plan I had last year was totally worthless, for all the reasons Lambert and others have pointed out repeatedly.

      With a couple of notable exceptions, my experience with the VA has been excellent. That includes the “Choice” program, which was just extended in a bill signed by Trump last week. I’ve only used it twice, and while there were some glitches in payment for one of the visits, it eventually got worked out, with very little effort on my part.

      That said, I see exactly where the proponents of privatization are taking this thing, and it does not bode well, especially if cutting personnel at the VA is going to result in reduced oversight.

      Both times I used the Choice program, there were contacts at the VA who coordinated with the insurance company that did the billing, which in turn contacted me, set up the appointments, and sent me the paperwork I needed to take with me. In the case with the glitch, I had someone at the VA to call, and that person was able to find the cause of the problem and get it fixed.

      I’m also wondering what will happen with the VA pharmacy. Right now, it’s subcontracted out, and apparently there is a law that the VA has to buy its drugs from the lowest bidder. Privatizing that system is not going to help anyone but the insurance and drug companies. Those who stand to lose the most are the veterans, but taxpayers will get screwed, too – and as we know, only the little people pay taxes.

      I suspect that some of the current problems with the Choice program have to do with the location. It’s pretty good where I am, but there are some advantages here that don’t exist in the rest of the country. In fact, I’ve been contemplating moving back to the East Coast, and VA healthcare is a major factor in that decision. The area I’m considering has a new, expanded VA clinic, but depending on where I’m able to find affordable housing, distance could be an issue. An improved Choice program would make it less of one.

      However, if Congress starts tinkering with it, what are the chances that the “improvements” are going to benefit veterans? As we’ve learned from the whole Obamacare debacle, it’s the insurance companies who benefit and not the patients.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Both times I used the Choice program, there were contacts at the VA who coordinated with the insurance company that did the billing, which in turn contacted me, set up the appointments, and sent me the paperwork I needed to take with me. In the case with the glitch, I had someone at the VA to call, and that person was able to find the cause of the problem and get it fixed.

        So, cool, we have the Feds handling the parasite’s paperwork. I’d call that a win-win!

      1. Oregoncharles

        It’s a bargaining ploy. It’ll be a while before we know what’s really going on.

    1. jawbone

      Just a reminder that, for Trump, signing a contract never ever meant that was the end of HIS negotiating. Ask any number of NJ small to medium he short changed or worse, put the into bankruptcy.

      He believes that a “savvy businessman” will always try to not make the final payments to those who have completed the work. He will say the work is not to spec, and every other evasion in the book. Then he will tell them they will take what he’s willing to pay or his attorneys will destroy them financially.

      Does he think he can just do that same kind of thing as president?

      Does he have the same control over Congress, the courts? So far, no. But he will have many opportunities to fill empty federal judgeships which the R’s would not let Obama fill, and I imagine he will pick judges who are willing to assist his style of governance.

      BTW, why did Obama wait so very long to begin filling Fed judgeships?? Hhmmm. And why did he leave so many regulations to so very late in his last term?

  18. allan

    The Pentagon Will Now Get To Decide How Many Troops To Send To Fight ISIS [Buzzfeed]

    … by delegating the designation of such an important number to the department, it could limit input from other parts of government about the secondary effects of troop deployments, beyond military operations. Troop deployments often affect the internal politics of Iraq, other allies in a region, or even ongoing US efforts in other parts of government. …

    File under The Buck Stops Over There.

    1. RUKidding

      No kidding. Not surprised, though. There’s abso-effen-lutely no way that Trump can be counted on to figure any of this out, much less sit still and read/listen to experts ‘splainng “stuff” so that Trump can make an “educated” decision. Not gonna happen.

      So Trump has delegated… which means he’s deflected the blame if/when the shite hits the fan… as it is likely to do so. Plus then he can shrug his shoulders to his still loyal fans, and say: Eh? I didn’t want to send in the troops, but the Generals made me do it. Not my fault! They’ll continue to clap and cheer for him.

  19. JTMcPhee

    Have to say, I suddenly realized why these huge buildings are called “fulfillment centers,” because I feel so FULFILLED when those large Amazon Swoosh boxes, packed by desperately producing and depressed “associates,” boxes that are 100 or 500X the volume of the “product” are delivered to my very doorstep with those carefully researched and selected Chinese treasure bits inside. Delivered by the postman, whom I chat with and who tells me what a racket that whole thing is and how it is taking the USPS down.

    But STUFF, man~! I can get STUFF, often the same day I fire up the ol’ PAYPAL and click that most powerful of boxes, PLACE YOUR ORDER! To go with all the STUFF I am trying to figure out how to package up and dump on the mopes who work at Salvation Army and Goodwill. At least those big empty boxes are useful for that. Keeps the whole system going!

    And I also think I get it, per the items about scrapping ships recently built to render Trade ever more efficient and cost-effective — I recall one grad student in an Econ course with a bit of a cynical take on his chosen field, noting that digging ditches, and fillling them in, adds to the GDP — as does taking in each others’ laundry! Speaking of circularity and the velocity of money and the futility of it all…

    Yaas, let us work ever harder on casting away despair… when even the miraculous new “sustainable intentional communities” turn out to be more bezzle that betterness, more con than comity…

      1. JTMcPhee

        Thank you so much! Insanity placed in context, with a beat! Gotta love Weird Al. And Tom Lehrer, and George Carlin, and Will Rogers, who was of another kinder and much gentler and even wiser sort (though unsurprisingly ineffective in changing the outcomes “we” get from “our” political economy…)

        Anyone know if the piecework algos at Amazon reward and encourage the desperate workers by counting the number of boxes packed, or maybe by the volume of boxes shipped? I note the boxes have codes for size — does the Great Algo Generator tell the schlubs which box to use? Or do they have the Workspace Freedom ™ to pick their own?

        1. 3.14e-9

          Weird Al is a genius. His lyrics are intelligent and always relate back to the original. His ability to take on different characters is also amazing, especially considering that he’s in his late fifties (he started writing parodies in 1976).

          As far as I know, he never did a video for the eBay song. The one above is a fan-made piece. His own videos are brilliant. One of my all-time favorites is “Word Crimes,” the immensely gratifying antidote to the utterly stupid and misogynistic “Blurred Lines” (song and video).

          While I was looking for the eBay link, I found a couple of other videos I’d never seen, “The Saga Begins,” and “Foil.” The first one is a takeoff on Star Wars, to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” The second is a parody of “Royals.” I didn’t recognize that tune and had to look it up (I’m a little behind the times in pop music). I won’t spoil the punch line for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

    1. Marina Bart

      I’m so excited about this. I’m trying to find out from the Berniecrat network in the north what they know about him.

      1. nippersdad

        Tell us what you hear if you get a chance, please. The House of Nipper has a couple of twenty seven dollar checks needing an address.

        1. Marina Bart

          Will do. I’ve got a couple of leads on people who might be able to vet him from the campaign based on firsthand experience.

          Also, a really sharp political blogger at Caucus 99 is apparently in Pelosi’s district, and interested in this guy. So he may be a great source of information.

  20. Jeff W

    From this article in the Washington Post:

    Obama senior advisor Eric Schultz:

    As we announced months ago, President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision and his record.

    [Emphasis added.]

    Can’t argue with that.

    1. JTMcPhee

      …ghost-written written by the same lawyers that authored that “report” on the Wells Fargo boys-will-be-boys shenanigans? Read the fine print, and always read between the lines, and if we can manage it, try to remember the lies of September… But there are so many, and my personal synapses fire ever more slowly… Thank you, Lord, for search engines, the old man’s link to a fading past…

  21. Big River Bandido

    “Democratic leaders in Congress are expected to announce a proposal seeking to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour”.

    Another policy shift that would never have happened without Sanders — and never without #FightFor15, of course…

    Does anyone remember Obama’s 2008 promises on card check, immigration reform and a climate bill, and what happened to them once Democrats controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue? Does anyone remember in 2007 when Nancy Pelosi promised the Democrats were going to open up a new political offensive on contraception? And does anyone remember how, back in 1995, Bill Clinton suddenly proposed an increase in the minimum wage — immediately after the Republicans took over Congress so that no such bill would ever get passed? Isn’t it funny how Clinton never proposed such an increase *before* the 1994 election, when he could have gotten it through a Democratic Congress?

    With a Republican majority in Congress, *proposing* an increase in the minimum wage is a no-brainer. Just like putting the idea down the memory hole if Democrats were to actually win back the majority. This isn’t by any means a “policy shift”. It’s just another grift for campaign contributions. Trying to bask in Bernie Sanders’ glow without actually doing anything meaningful.

  22. Art Eclectic

    Obama can win back my respect by donating all the proceeds from his speaking engagements to Planned Parenthood.

    1. Marina Bart

      To help pay for Cecil’s million dollar salary, or to redistribute to another anti-choice politician like Clinton?

      Modern philanthropy is a scam. But if we’re going to play the “what good could Obama do with that fee?” I’d vote for something that won’t enrich neoliberal affiliate organizations.

      He could donate it here. Or give it to Erica Garner to distribute as she sees fit. Lori Wallach seems like she’d be able to use that money effectively to fight TISA. And there’s always ACLU. What else?

  23. Chauncey Gardiner

    Appreciate the continued coverage of the so called “trade agreements”, including TiSA. Agree with the comment regarding the prospective negative impact of legislation approving these agreements, should they be passed into law, on present or future public banks. Will add that I am also concerned about the effect these agreements would have on limiting regulation of banks and other systemically important financial intermediaries in order to reduce the risk of another financial collapse such as we saw in 2008; as well as on new legislation to require additional capital, limit speculation in derivatives and other securities, and restore the Glass-Steagall Act in order to reduce such risk. Trillions of dollars in bailout funds, Fed loans and asset purchases, and US government subsidies were required to save the financial system in the last instance. I would rather see that money spent on other public purposes.

  24. ChrisAtRU

    French Elections

    Good read on how a half dozen Mélenchonistes intend to vote … ;-) (in French, I used Google Translate; fairly decent)

  25. hunkerdown

    The 3-D printing bezzle gets maybe a little less bezzly with an analogue of the multi-function scanner/copier/printer for “only” USD2500. There are still a few teething troubles to deal with, of course, but there aren’t that many more steps between here and the casual copying of physical objects.

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