2:00PM Water Cooler 5/19/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to make NAFTA ‘much better’ for working people. Today’s notice is markedly vague. But Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation plan that leaked in late March described just what the corporate lobby is demanding: using NAFTA talks to revive parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), like expanded investor incentives to offshore jobs that could make NAFTA even worse for working people” [Lori Wallach, Public CItizen]. “The obvious measure of whether NAFTA renegotiation is intended to benefit working people is if Trump makes clear he will eliminate NAFTA’s special investor rights that make it easier to offshore American jobs and attack our laws before tribunals of three corporate lawyers who can award the firms unlimited sums of taxpayer money. If corporate elites are allowed to dictate how NAFTA is renegotiated, the agreement could become more damaging for working families and the environment in the three countries. And modest tweaks will not stop NAFTA’s ongoing damage, much less deliver on Trump’s promises for a deal that will create American jobs and raise wages. Already the 500 corporate trade advisers who got us into the TPP have been consulted on NAFTA renegotiations, while the few labor advisers were shut out of that March meeting. And the public and Congress are being left in the dark about negotiating plans and goals.”

“Organizations representing grain, produce, dairy and livestock farmers said NAFTA is largely working for their industries, especially the integrated supply chains that allow goods to move freely across borders. Since NAFTA’s implementation in 1994, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have more than quadrupled, growing from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $38.6 billion in 2015, USDA data shows” [Politico]. I’m not sure what the Mexican farmers think about that, though.

“Fixing Trade Agreements In Five Simple Steps” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]. “Trade experts agree that without five simple fixes, Americans will continue to reject new trade deals….” No. This is all about process, specifically “transparency,” a favorite neoliberal panacea. Do the experts really think that people won’t reject a transparently bad deal?



“While President Trump and Administration officials have not made their intentions clear in regards to the United States remaining in the Paris Agreement, a large faction of well-known companies have made it very clear they want to remain part of it” [Logistics Management],


“Is John Kasich finishing the tour, or just getting started?” [Matt Bai, Yahoo News]. “An enthusiastic, born-again Christian, Kasich criticized an executive order, issued by President Trump the day before, that lifted some restrictions on politicking in places of worship. ‘I don’t believe these religious people ought to be endorsing candidates,’ he said. ”They ought to be figuring out how to clothe the homeless or feed the poor, not all of this political nonsense.'” Especially since government shouldn’t be doing that?


“Paula Swearengin, 42, is an accounting clerk and single mother of four from Coal City, West Virginia. On March 9, she announced that she would challenge Manchin in the Democratic primary. She is a newcomer to politics and an early beneficiary of Brand New Congress, a political action committee founded by former members of Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign” [The New Republic]. Interesting interview:

I don’t care if the DNC backs me or not. This is a people-funded campaign. The DNC has failed us in many ways here in West Virginia. They failed us when they nominated one of the biggest-polluting coal barons in West Virginia: Governor Jim Justice, who mines three miles from my house and puts silica dust in my children’s lungs. That’s a failure of the Democratic Party. I hope we rise up and realize that, Democratic or Republican, we all have the same set of values. We all want clean water for our children, clean air for them to breathe, and to not worry about our families getting buried miles deep in a coal mine and suffocating to death.


MT-AL: “In the race for Montana’s at-large House seat, Republican Greg Gianforte led Democratic Rob Quist by six points in a poll conducted by a Democratic super PAC late last month” [Roll Call]. FWIW…

MT-AL: “U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rally Saturday for Rob Quist has been moved to the Adams Center in Missoula, which holds up to 7,500 people” [The Missoulian]. “Quist, the Democratic candidate for Montana’s lone U.S. House seat, was originally set to appear with Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate, at the Wilma, which holds 1,400 people with standing-room only.”

Health Care

“Harkin: O-Care Should Have Been Single-Payer But ‘We Blew It'” [Talking Points Memo (2014)]. “”We had the votes in ’09. We had a huge majority in the House, we had 60 votes in the Senate,” Harkin told The Hill, saying that the first Congress of President Barack Obama’s administration should have passed ‘single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option (which) would have simplified a lot.'” So when you hear a Democrat loyalist say “We didn’t have the votes” on single payer, you can throw this in their face share this with them.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Change Dot Ugh: The Popular Petition Site Profits Off Progressivism” [Paste]. “But the truth is that when you fill out a Change petition, you’re giving your information to a company that sells it to the highest bidder. The popular petition site uses your well-intentioned activism to profile you and sell you sponsored content — and most of its 150 million reported users don’t realize it. Change isn’t interested in change. It’s interested in profit.Billy Penn (DB)].

Stats Watch

No Econoday stats today.

State Employment and Unemployment Summary: “Unemployment rates were lower in April in 10 states, higher in 1 state, and stable in 39 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Nineteen states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, and 31 states and the District had little or no change. The national unemployment rate, 4.4 percent, was little changed from March but was 0.6 percentage point lower than in April 2016” [Bureau of Labor Statistics].

Rail: If coal and grain are removed from the analysis, rail over the last 6 months been declining around 5% – but this week it IMPROVED 0.6 % (meaning that the predicitive economic elements improved year-over-year). Also consider rail movements are below 2015 levels – even though they are above 2016 levels” [Econintersect],

Retail: “While rivals like Target Corp. are reporting sagging sales and declining foot traffic, Wal-Mart’s same-store revenue rose 1.4% in the first quarter…. The gains complement a 63% surge in U.S. e-commerce sales, and indicate that the company’s strategy of investing both in store improvements and online operations is starting to pay off. Those efforts include a campaign to reduce inventory in stores that has placed additional pressures on suppliers. Wal-Mart is also blurring the lines between its e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses by encouraging customers to pick up online orders in stores. One problem Wal-Mart hasn’t cracked: how to boost sales without sacrificing margins” [Wall Street Journal].

Retail: “Why predictions of a ‘retail apocalypse’ are overblown” [CNBC]. “Brick-and-mortar is not in fact defunct. Instead, it is evolving, and successful retailers are embracing a shopping experience that blends a variety of platforms and that ultimately creates the engagement necessary for a brand’s success…. As shown by the renewed appeal for showrooming in the apparel retail industry, digital retailing and brick-and-mortar are complementary.”

Retail: “How a Lack of Liquidity is Tanking Retail—And Who’s to Blame” [Sourcing Journal]. “The common culprits blamed for the retail flame out are a shift in consumer shopping habits and the rise of e-commerce sales. And while both have done plenty of damage on their own, one additional factor is responsible for making store chains less able to weather the tempest: a glut of leveraged buyouts that too often have become a business distraction and a financial drain….”

Real Estate: “Blackstone Group LP, the world’s biggest private equity fund, told investors to dial back their expectations for property returns as the “great run” of the past five years becomes harder to replicate” [Bloomberg].

Shipping: “Uber Freight finally hits the road by launching brokerage services in Texas” [DC Velocity]. “It chose to formally start in Texas because of the state’s large volume of traffic, according to Eric Berdinis, Uber Freight’s senior product manager.” Really? Not regulatory arbitrage?

Shipping: “With Uber Freight, Travis Takes on Trucking” [Wired]. “Travis”? WTF, Wired? “Still, Uber holds an advantage when it comes to software and managing data. But, as in its campaign to topple the taxi industry, it all hinges on pricing. Existing brokerages typically take a 12 percent cut on deals they arrange, Petersen says; Uber isn’t revealing its rate, but it has the cash and expertise to do the same job for far less.” “Cash” is a delicate way of saying “squillionaires playing the ponies,” isn’t it?

Shipping: “[Uber] it appears happy to burn through its cash, a model which could allow it to take less than the typical 12% cut that truck brokerages take” [The LoadStar]. “[Uber] says it will determine pricing based on market conditions and experience.” And the cash. As you just said.

The Bezzle: “U.S. Startups Fail to Attract Expected Crowd of Small Investors” [Bloomberg]. “It’s been a year since U.S. rules went into effect enabling anyone — not just the ultra-wealthy — to buy a slice of a startup. Turns out, few are interested.” Maybe the marks small investors were’t as stupid as Obama and the investment community thought?

The Bezzle: “Riding Shotgun With Uber CEO Travis Kalanick” [Fortune]. Wretched excess in Uber’s new headquarters building. Too much stupid money sloshing about.

The Bezzle: “Snap Inc. is being sued by a former employee who claims the company, parent to social media app, Snapchat, inflated growth metrics ahead of its March 2017 initial public offering. According to his complaint, which was initially filed in January in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Anthony Pompliano alleges that he was lured from Facebook in 2015 to Snapchat to focus on user growth and engagement and was fired after he refused to go along with inflated figures to make the company look better” [The Fashion Law].

The Bezzle: “We got one of Apple’s patented round pizza boxes” [The Outline]. “The box is thin and round… Like all Apple products, the proprietary standard of the box makes it incompatible with third-party products…. As Apple watcher John Gruber wrote when Steve Jobs resigned in 2011, ‘The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like ‘How should a computer work?’, ‘How should a phone work?’, ‘How should we buy music and apps in the digital age?’ he also brought to the most important question: ‘How should a company that creates such things function?'” Here’s what I know: Apple makes the Mac gets incrementally worse with every release. That goes for hardware (no more MagSafe connector, shitty MacBook Pros, stagnant desktops) and software. iOS is a mashed together botch of inconsistent affordances, and OS X gets more like iOS every release (in addition to not fixing long standing horrors, like Apple Store). Then again, to long on the bright side, go long dongles, at least for now.

The Bezzle: “Hedge fund-backed pharma company that fed opioid crisis now seeks to profit from treating it” [LittleSis]. Tha’s a neat trick!

Political Risk: “Watch These Corners of the Market to Gauge the Chances for Trump’s Agenda” [Bloomberg].

Five Horsemen: “Apple bounces best from yesterday’s smash” [Hat Tip Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May18

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 43, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated May 19 at 11:57am. Mr. Market’s angst reduced by special prosecutor?

Our Famously Free Press

“Facebook blocks Pulitzer-winning reporter over Malta government exposé” [Guardian]. Good thing Facebook’s blocking progress is formal and open, with an appeals process. Oh, wait…


“Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts” [Guardian]. “[T]he Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel…. ‘It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,’ said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.” Eesh.

“Songlin Fei, a forest ecologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and his colleagues tracked the shifting distributions of 86 types of trees using data collected by the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program during two periods: from 1980 to 1995 and between 2013 and 2015 for all states. They found more species heading west than north, probably partly because of changing precipitation patterns, the team reported on May 17 in Science Advances1. ‘That was a huge surprise for us,’ says Fei” [Scientific American]. “‘This study suggests that, in the near-term, trees are responding to changes in water availability more than to temperature changes,’ he says.”

Class Warfare

“Unemployment in the U.S. Is Falling, So Why Isn’t Pay Rising?” [Bloomberg],

News of the Wired

“Cooking in the Archives: Bringing Early Modern Manuscript Recipes into a Twenty-First-Century Kitche” [Archive Journal]. “Taste is the elusive element that we try to recreate when we cook these historical recipes. The recipes in this archive are dominated by strong tastes: fresh and dried herbs, fragrant spices, citrus, offal, cream, custard, distilled orange flower and rose waters, wine and sack. Many recipe books include recipes for preserving these very flavors, including flower waters, syrups of violets, rosemary tincture, homebrewed liquors, and preserved fruits and vegetables of all kinds. It’s an archive of intense flavors that capture each ingredient and each season in its prime.”

“DARPA’s Synthetic Biology Initiatives Could Militarize the Environment” [Slate]. “Among other initiatives, researchers at DARPA are attempting to engineer insects to deliver protective genes to plants; to transform bacteria and yeast into factories to produce on-demand chemicals and fuels; and to develop methods to reverse any threats posed by gene drives. (Gene drives are a mechanism, both natural and human-induced, that drives genetic traits through a population, in some instances to suppress a population.)” What could go wrong?

* * *

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: “The 4/26/2017 daily plant photo was taken on April 23, this one on May 17. I can’t swear they’re the same plants, because the entire shoulder along the guardrail has exploded into a jumble of horsetails, blackberry, tansy, and tall grasses. But it’s close enough.” That is the great thing about Spring!

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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. Pat

      I don’t even have to read the article to know there is nothing there that will convince the idiots who still think Obama was admirable. They will immediately go “alternative history”. I know because they still try to pull that one on me when I point out that the Public Option was in the House bill and could have been passed with Reconciliation same as the final version of ACA but Obama had already promised the Big Three that no such thing would happen regarding health care and insurance in America. They just get quiet when I start spouting facts and vote counts.

      1. katiebird

        Or insist on the lie that there were never 60 votes in the Senate.

        Or the lie that Obama was helpless without those 60 votes: Obama NEVER went to the Capital to twist arms — vote for HR 676 you MF or I’ll hold up every appropriation for your state/district till you change your mind — or something. The President has a lot of power. But as far as I know the only arm that got twisted was Dennis Kucinich’s

          1. ambrit

            That’s predicated on the illusion that the “O” man was a Democrat. (If he had channeled LBJ, he probably would have entered a fugue state and still be there today. I can hear the dissonant chords of the opening crescendo now; “Fugue in Dem. Minor.”)

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          People don’t mention Kucinich as often. He’s one of the very few to speak up against the current Russia hysteria, when other ‘progressives’ are either silent or falling for it.

            1. Annotherone

              Indeed! He’s too good for this nation! The people of the USA simply do not recognise a good thing when it’s right in front of them. He was ridiculed and denigrated, back in 2004 when campaigning for the presidency. I felt thoroughly disgusted by his treatment. Bernie, at least did better with the general public, if not the DNC.

            2. IowanX

              Kucinich got the Bernie treatment before we quite understood who the D’s really are. A canary in the coal mine, if you will. “A wonderfully clarifying election” ~ Lambert

        2. Arizona Slim

          If Obama had twisted arms like, say, LBJ, we’d be wrapping up our first decade under a single payer system.

          1. Mark Anderlik

            I think this is more wishful thinking than anything. It’s the public option that we might of had for the last decade. And those of us working for this on the ground hoped that the ACA with the public option would help set up the argument for single payer. Even without the public option, we are now seeing a much stronger movement for single payer health than there was before the ACA.

            1. marym

              It’s retroactive wishful thinking to imagine that not making the case and doing the political work for something good, supported by decades of polling, and sorely needed, is a good way to get it.

              It’s incredible that after all these years, the coming to pass of all the predicted ACA problems, and its vulnerability, that defenders are still making this excuse.

              1. Mark Anderlik

                I don’t know about you, but I have worked on organizing health care insurance reform since before Bill Clinton was President. I was advocating for single payer back then and do so (with just a few quibbles) today.

                Perhaps your memory of organizing for health care is different than mine, so I would appreciate hearing how single payer was close to becoming a political reality when Obama was elected.

                The campaigns for hc change we were organizing BEFORE Obama was first elected were difficult to say the least. As I recall most of the thousands of ordinary Montanans we spoke with then and until the ACA was passed were skeptical of government intervention and of the ability to make change in any way. The ACA was not our first choice(or even third choice), but the ineptitude of the Clinton Admin on health care and the campaigning of the hc industry, limited what was possible.

                Sorry for being so prickly but the work we on the organizing grassroots put in on the ACA clearly and intentionally laid the necessary foundation for single payer. Today I dare say single payer of some sort is a majority opinion in Montana. Or at least close.

                1. marym

                  I don’t know if it would have been politically possible. I argue that Obama and the Democratic establishment chose not to try, despite the many factors that put them in a strong position to make the case to the public, influence reluctant Congresspersons, and get the job done.

                  They made that choice not because they thought a rube -goldberg expensive, inefficient, inadequate contrivance was what people wanted; or because there’s any evidence on this planet that it’s a way to provide affordable, universal healthcare. They made the choice because it’s what their donors wanted and because they believed, and continue to believe, that a few crumbs dropped from the neoliberal banquet of grift are good enough.

                  It’s interesting that you cite Montanans as objecting to government intervention, as I thought one of the good things the ACA did was to provide Medicare to the people of Libby, Montana.

                  1. Mark Anderlik

                    I agree with your assessment by and large.

                    However whether or not a single payer plan could pass was a critically important question for the short run at the time. What is often overlooked is that there was a huge organized grassroots effort to make even the crumbs from the neoliberals possible. Congress and the president would not likely have even accomplished what they did without this movement.

                    And now there is a new constituency to maintain and expand the ACA. Many people who are fed the neoliberal crumbs now are more confident that there is more bread on the table.

                    As for Libby, in Montana as elsewhere I suspect, there is a profound contradiction in attitudes about government action. The government is viewed with suspicion and disdain, until it comes with money. It is reflected in the attitude that I actually heard a woman say “keep the government hands off of my Medicare”

        3. Kim Kaufman

          Kucinich sold out. In return for his vote, the famous arm-twisting from Obama on Air Force 1, his wife got to sit on Michele Obama’s garden commission and some similar trifles.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Can we find any politicians who voted against Omabacare, but are speaking up against the current Russia hysteria?

          2. different clue

            Purists with no knowledge of political power and how it is exercised are quick to accuse whomever of selling out. How do we know what Kucinich was threatened with on that plane ride?

            ” Nice wife and daughters you got there Kucinich. Such a shame if something was to happen to them.”

            I wonder if
            somebody put
            a horse’s head
            in Dennis’s bed.

            1. Kim Kaufman

              I didn’t say he was threatened. I said he changed his vote but got nothing of substance – for us the people – in exchange for it. I forgot the few things he got for himself and his wife now but I was told on very good authority.

        4. Procopius

          I can agree that the claim “there were never 60 votes in the Senate” is uncertain, it certainly is not a lie. The Democrats never had but 58 party members in the Senate, and that was after Franken was finally certified and before Ted Kennedy died. In normal times they should have been able to count on picking up at least one or two Republican votes to make up for the uncertainty of the vindictive, corrupt, loathsome Weepin’ Joe Lieberman, but the Republicans established a unity never before seen in history. Remember that through the whole process there were a number of Democrats who claimed they would not vote for it “unless …” Louisiana Purchase, anyone? I wish Obama had ignored Rahm Emanuel and tried for it, but he decided the risk was too great, and I think he had a better idea of where the votes were than Tom Harkin. Obama did a number of bad things, and I still think he’s the last moderate Republican, but I can’t be sure he was wrong on finally deciding to drop the Public Option.

      2. RUKidding

        Same experience here. The usual excuse I get is that the “Obama tried, but Republicans wouldn’t let it happen.” No, in fact, that’s not the case. It’s entirely possible that the Public Option would not have passed, although I think it stood a chance. That said, Obama went behind closed doors and made a deal (for himself) with the Big Three BigInsurance, and ACA is what we got stuck with.

        I’m really tired of Democratic voters diefying Obama and making excuses for him. At least try to live in reality most of the time, please.

        Please note: I used to be a Democrat, but I pretty much gave that up after Bill Clinton and the third way b.s., which basically means: We call ourselves “Democrats” (using their fingers as scare quotes), but we run things Just. Like. Republicans…. except we are a teensy tiny bit more liberalish.

      3. RepubAnon

        One of those 60 “Democratic Party” votes was Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman personally spiked Medicare for All out of spite.

        1. Pat

          You mean McCain supporter Lieberman. There were pressure points that could have been put on him, like ousting him completely from various committees, including those he chaired. The Democratic leadership, *cough* Obama, chose not to do so.

    2. Darius

      Democrats like to whine that the Senate filibuster prevented them from passing better health legislation, conveniently omitting that Bush never got 60 Senate votes for his tax cuts. Republicans know to use budget reconciliation to get around the filibuster. They need only 50 votes plus Pence if they ever can agree on O-care repeal. Democrats act like they never heard of reconciliation to justify their inaction and strengthen their embrace of victimhood at the hands of the evil Republicans.

      1. RepubAnon

        There’s rules to the reconciliation process. The big one is it must be revenue neutral, or reduce the deficit. Easy for folks who want to fund tax cuts by gutting the social safety net… but a bit harder for Democrats.

        1. Pat

          And those tax cuts were revenue neutral, not. So put up some bull level numbers of some cuts that will be immediately reinstated and do what the Republicans have done – game that rule.

          If the owners had wanted it, even the Dems would have figured out a temporary revenue neutral… Oh wait they did with ACA as well.

    3. Carolinian

      My parents, country Baptists, were imperfect people but I can’t recall either of them ever telling a lie. Lying was considered a sin. While I’m not religious myself I do wonder if changes in the country’s religious landscape have had some effect on its ethics. It may be that an irrational or, if you will, faith based fear of doing wrong is necessary to counter our deep evolutionary instincts to be selfish and greedy and to say whatever is necessary to further those aims.

      Or not. But all the scoffing at organized religion–much of it justified–tends to ignore the degree to which religion once formed the basis for most of our citizens’ ethics. To be caught out in a lie was considered a disgrace. Now nobody seems to care unless, of course, your name is Trump and most of his supporters don’t care when he does it either.

      1. local to oakland

        Thanks for this. In addition to what you wrote, here is a thought. I don’t know whether it matters whether the ethic be rational or faith based, but there may be a developmental window in a child’s life in which it is important to teach and reinforce practical ethical norms to get responsible ethical adult citizens. In the US, public school and church both, I believe, worked at reinforcing such faith based norms until we became aggressively secular. Also too, so did the competing forms of religious schools created by Roman Catholics and Jews.

        Freedom from religious conformism at school is I think an important development in our tradition of constitutional rights. However, public schools in my limited experience do not treat ethics at all either theoretically or practically. If they do it comes from the initiative of individual teacher or principals. School rules are functional at best, arbitrary at worst, not touching any larger values. So school can become a Lord of the Flies type environment. And unless fortunate in their parental and other influences, many students graduate with an ad hoc ethic with large aspects of either go along to get along, or success at all costs. It seems to me that one part of child development includes a child absorbing ethical norms from their environment much as they do language. I don’t believe the public schools we have today have been designed or implemented with this in mind.

        Speaking more generally, as you probably already know, such concerns and complaints about declining traditional morals can also be found in Roman literature as the latin speaking elite struggled with the challenges inherent in becoming a polyglot, multicultural empire and bemoaned the lack of traditional virtue and pietas in their children. I wonder whether certain aspects of these challenges of multiculturalism and moral decline are inherent in the process of becoming a large and powerful empire. Both having power and lacking the experience of hardship or struggle shape character in ways that seem to make the development of virtue more difficult. Also, the personal encounter with competing forms of religion and ethics while broadening and fostering tolerance can also create doubt as to the truth, and the importance of any traditional form of religion, whatever it might happen to be.

        In short, I agree and I think this is an important issue.

        1. Carolinian

          Of course religion has formed the basis for endless misbehavior throughout history and as our society has changed so has religion (“prosperity gospel”). But as you say, teaching children to have a sense of right and wrong is not an arbitrary choice but is, in fact, an entirely rational activity for societies to pursue. Perhaps one reason our white collar crime laws are so weak is that it used to be assumed that wealthy people with a reputation to protect would avoid behavior that might lead to disgrace or accusations of dishonesty. Now it’s let the lawyers sort it out. Those who work the system may even boast about their cleverness.

          1. mk

            Think of the children attending Catholic churches and schools who are taught right and wrong and then are molested, raped, beaten by their teachers/priests/nuns.

            Not just Catholics, but they are a very good example.

            And this is not something that started happening recently, it’s been going on for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Not much change for this religion.

        2. Mo's Bike Shop

          Until sixth grade, I enjoyed a small village education where every teacher was thoroughly aware that you could be a Selectman in less that twenty years. Every suburban school I was in afterwards had heh-heh bullies totally gaming the system.

      2. Sue

        Believe me. I know many politicians at all levels who go to church every Sunday and a few hold a theology major. The more they have to win, the bigger their lies

        1. clarky90

          I have learned to judge people by their actions, rather than what they say or their demeanor. When I worked in a wool scour (factory to wash the lanolin and poop out of the raw wool), we had a foreman who was an unfriendly, bossy prick (His nickname was “Little Stalin”). BUT, when things broke down or if we needed help, “Little Stalin” would dive right in and help us. We never had to ask.

          Forget about what a person says. How do they live?? How big (GINORMOUS or tiny?) is their carbon footprint? How well do they take care of their friends and family? How have their kids turned out? Are they kind to animals? Are they trustworthy? Do they practice what they preach (their life makes internal sense)? Do they take advantage of the weak? Do they wear a mask (fake)?

          The older I get, the less weight I place on what is said……

          If a notice orders you to, “Report to the town square with 10 kg of luggage. You, and your family are being transported “To the East (Poland) for a beneficial resettlement”,

          or “To the North (Siberia), for a beneficial resettlement”.

          And the notice is in the Main Stream Media, or from a Government Office,

          do you believe and comply? Or not?

          How do you judge?

          1. clinical wasteman

            Saying — and writing — are types of doing. Sometimes worthless, but unlike, say, real estate brokerage or rugby, not always.

      3. Massinissa

        The problem IMO, is that most of the people today who say they are extremely devout are just as prone to lying or whatever other thing as anyone else. If they were to lead by example maybe atheism wouldn’t be quite so prominent today.

        1. local to oakland

          Certainly. There are a number of traditional proverbs, never mind scripture texts, that my grandparents would have known by heart, re difference between talk and action, re the relative trustworthiness of silent vs chattering people. By their fruits shall ye know them would be one biblical example. Still waters run deep would be another cultural teaching that is partially relevant to your point. I’m not remembering a more precise example.

          Simply adding a large dose of traditional folk proverbs, possibly from all influential US cultures, would be one positive step toward adding practical wisdom to the US school curriculum.

          Anyway, thanks everyone for indulging my rant.

          1. JTMcPhee

            “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (sadomasochists excepted). There’s a fairly universal prescription for us.

      4. WeakendSquire

        It’s got to be more complex than that. Religion has changed, too, with the rise of mega churches and charismatic pastors with slimy ethics. Not to mention the outright hypocrisy of many Roman Catholic priests. In this environment I’m not sure it would make any difference if secular humanists suddenly got religion. ALL institutions are suffering from a legitimacy crisis, which is why they are resorting to more and more authoritarian measures to retain control over people who do not trust them.

        1. IowanX

          This is an interesting conversation, and I actually think it’s more important than people know. I’m going to hoist a link from this morning.

          I’ve run downtown-focused nonprofits for more years than I want to remember, in wealthy cities, poor cities, and small towns. I DO understand how culture has changed, but the causal arrows are hard to aim. As an Iowan, I know how much the Maytag family gave back to Newton, until they got bought out and Fred Maytag III started making beer in San Francisco instead of washers in Iowa.

          You can’t really participate in “Associations” if you don’t know if you can come to a meeting (or bowling night, or pool league, or book club, or Kiwanis, or prayer group, or whatever) on Tuesday evenings. Precariat employment prevents predictability, (and disposable cash). Predictability (availability to participate) and disposable cash (I can buy a round) is necessary for associations to form, build and grow. TBTB WANT us to be alienated from ANY kind of group action, (even if pool league is harmless fun).

          Ya can’t tell the good guys with pool cues from the bad guys with pool cues? Just a guess.

        2. Art Eclectic

          Religion is just another profit center and has been for hundreds of years. Ever been to the Vatican? It rivals Trump Tower for expensive display of garish wealth.

          Jesus would be appalled but he doesn’t live there anymore.

        3. JTFaraday

          A lot of it has also degenerated into tribal identification. And that’s about it.

          Sociologist Jonathan Haidt has been busy turning this into a(n evolutionary) virtue. But said virtue is basically competitive and hostile to outsiders, which doesn’t do much to keep the collective peace.

      5. HotFlash

        Odd, I was thinking this morning that if, say, Hillary actually believed in God and God’s justice, she would be a much different person. Ditto Obama.

        OK, perhaps what I really mean is not God’s justice, but God’s punishment, everlasting in Hell. Which I don’t believe in — I think we have the whole enchilada right here, and that is why we have to Do It Right This Time.

        But I wonder how some people who say they are Godly can behave so wickedly. God’s work?

        I am reminded of Robertson Davies‘ conclusion, “God is not the only answerer of prayer.”

      6. Huey Long

        Excellent post, hat tip to you Carolinian!

        I’ve been having thoughts on the demise of religion and its effects on society for quite some time now as well.

        I’ve come to the conclusion that religion has been supplanted by the mass media and modern scientific propaganda techniques as a means for social control.

        The first nail in the coffin for religion was the invention of the printing press. Folks were finally able to purchase and read the bible in their own language and no longer had to just take the priest’s word for it on Sunday. 200 years and many devastating wars later, the Catholic Church’s monopoly on God was but a memory.

        The second nail in the coffin was the industrial revolution. All the scientific advances that allowed this event to take place slowly eroded the credibility over time of the church, both Protestant and Catholic. The bible’s stories of creation, once widely regarded as fact were revealed to be nothing more than made up stories. Epidemics were no longer understood to be the wrath of God, but rather the wrath of tiny microbes and curable not by prayer but by man himself.

        The third and final nail in the coffin was the advent of mass media and Bernaysian propaganda. The invention of radio and television allowed governments and corporations to beam their message into every home in the land every day of the week.

        The Church, already divided into a thousand pieces and with its credibility in the dumpster never stood a chance; they only had their audience’s ear once a week on Sunday and were stuck with the same ancient propaganda messages written down long ago in the bible.

        On the other hand, the propagandists crafting the messages broadcast over radio and television had no such restrictions. Their slick, focus grouped propaganda was (and still is) free to appeal the most primal and brutal parts of human nature, and I think that’s where we lost our values.

        You can see these changes manifest in the relationship between governments and the church now vs the pre-printing press era. Prior to the advent of the printing press, the Church was a high ranking partner of the government that owned vast amounts of land, levied taxes, and even waged war on occasion.

        Nowadays, government-church collusion is forbidden in the west, and it is the mass media that is government’s social control handmaiden. Proto-propaganda in the form of pamphlets, posters, and whatnot had existed since the dawn of printing, however the mass media really “made their bones” so to speak during WW1 with Eddy Bernays’ Committee on Public Information.

        1. different clue

          If a religion-based ethic is necessary for long-term social survival, perhaps the general ethic behind the various different-in-detail Indian Nation religions should be studied? It led all its various practitioners to conduct an eco-positive onward-and-upward bio-friendly terraforming project over the milleniums on their lands up to the age of Western Intrusion.

          My working-operational world-view lives in the gray zone between these two Credal Poles.

          1: The God of Selection is a Callous God and Its first
          true prophet was Darwin.

          2: If Mama Corn ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

        2. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

          Heuy Long & belief:

          Your analysis is good as far as I can see.

          Christian religion relied/relies on the devil as a tool to scare the lumpen bleepless. Now that the power-media has take over the role as scarer-in-chief, it seems to me that in the US at least, socialism is the great Devilish bogey-man.

          For me this is fascinating, as in my view money – especially fiat money, is first-order socialism. If people stop believing in money collectively (and even the Commies believe in money), capitalism as we know it is dead. No velocity of circulation, nada. I have come to wonder whether most elected representatives understand what money is. Seems one side of the ethical aisle is trying its best to kill money off – in ignorance* – by gaming the rules to the nth degree, and claiming that any brake on their activities is socialism.

          On the topic of gaming: the interesting things about the game Monopoly is that for it to function, and to get a winner, all of the players have to have some money. On monopoly being achieved, market collapse and Game-Over – circulation finished! But then, wowsers probably aren’t allowed to play Monopoly.

          Bleep Bleep! (formerly Pip Pip!)

          *I am not ruling out some arcane conspiracy, but I’m not putting any money on it. Ignorance is so much more plausible.

      7. XMidway

        Don’t know that lying was less prevalent in the past. Perhaps it was just easier to get away with than it has been for the last couple of decades. Interestingly, there is no “Thou shalt not Lie” commandment. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” is as close as they come.

        You’re wrong, of course, that nobody seems to care … I’m nobody and I care.

      8. JTFaraday

        I think it does. I have no idea what formal institutional force exists today that will categorically tell young people X and Y are wrong. Do this, don’t do that, etc. I do see some efforts to encourage empathy, etc. But that’s mushy, subjective, and ideologically optional. (Akin to Adam Smith’s moral sentiments, perhaps, which I don’t find entirely convincing).

        The one ideology they are all socialized to, in common, is job prep and careerism.

        Help me.

    4. PhilM

      It is all lies. Everything.

      Every 13-year-old should hear this little talk. “All your life you have been told the importance of telling the truth. Like everything else you have been taught, except arithmetic, that was a lie, to influence your behavior for the convenience of your parents and teachers. As you grow older, you will see that telling the truth serves others; that is why they tell you to do it. If you observe what they do, not what they say, you will see that everyone around you is lying. And not just in the human world: all animal communication is merely a signal designed to influence behavior; each communication must be considered a manipulation, one to your disadvantage until proven otherwise. The sooner you learn to lie persuasively, the better off you will be.”

      But every child probably knows this already because they grew up with the internet. I come from a generation and a class where truth was thoroughly indoctrinated, to my enormous disadvantage in life.

      1. Gaianne

        And yet truth is required for the making of agreements.

        As truth evaporates from the West, Americans become not-agreement-capable, as the Russians put it.

        This is not quite the happy utopia you imagine.


    5. Jeff W

      It is a remarkable thing how much lying pervades every single thing in the US

      Benjamin Studebaker on “A Hierarchy of Lies and Falsehood” here.

      I used to say to my dad, who tells me what he heard on this cable news show or that talk radio that week, that it was really difficult to unravel and unpack the lies pervasive in the mainstream discourse but, actually, Ben Studebaker’s typology makes it a bit less difficult. (It’s still not easy.)

  1. Huey Long

    RE: Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

    Via Wikipedia:

    Spitsbergen was considered ideal because it lacked tectonic activity and had permafrost, which aids preservation. Its being 130 metres (430 ft) above sea level will keep the site dry even if the ice caps melt.[9] Locally mined coal provides power for refrigeration units that further cool the seeds to the internationally recommended standard of −18 °C (−0.4 °F).[11] If the equipment fails, at least several weeks will elapse before the facility rises to the surrounding sandstone bedrock’s temperature of −3 °C (27 °F).[4″

    How’s that saying about plans and divine laughter go again?

    1. jrs

      there is no technocratic solution .. maybe seeds should be preserved by actually growing them like the slow food people say.

    2. Randy

      Over the years I have had the best luck and longevity(viability) of my stored seeds by storing them in my basement at ~50*F/30% humidity. I have tried storing in the freezer at 0*F with poor results. I successfully started 8 year old tomato seeds this year, 10 year old radish seeds last year. 30 years ago 3 year old frozen “beans” would not sprout but a friend started an 18 year old basement stored “bean” last year.

      Pea seeds seem to be the least amenable to storage.

      Anybody else have experience/observations to share about seed storage?

      1. Shane

        I’m an avid food gardener and I think the attitude that you can just freeze it all for now and worry about what to do with it later is a terrible strategy, as shown by the arctic vault flooding. Likewise the attitude that we can grow millions of acres of the same strain of a crop and stuff what little remains of the genetic diversity that used to exist into vaults and pull it out later if we need it.

        Crops need to be grown regularly to maintain not just the health of the crop, but also the volume of seed needed to grow it on a meaningful scale, and the skills required to handle each strain’s peculiarities. Putting all your eggs in one freezer is a recipe for failure. Modern crops are bred to be hyper-responsive to fertiliser and often irrigation, making them relatively indifferent to local geology and climate. If/when industrial agriculture fails the lack of access to locally adapted land-race staple crops is likely to make a return to subsistence agriculture an even more difficult process that it would otherwise be.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        I’ve found peas to be relatively easy to save too and will be trying some Marfax beans that I saved from last season this year.

        And a side note: evidently saving the seeds in the ground works too. I had tried planting some lettuce in one patch last year that would not grow no matter how many times I re-seeded it. We had very dry weather and by the end of the summer the patch was pretty much dust, despite repeatedly watering it. Did some edging around that patch yesterday to get the garden ready for planting and noticed little lettuce plants coming up all over the place.

        Sometimes it seems like all the work I put into my tiny garden is completely wasted and I’d be better off just throwing a bunch of seeds around the yard and see what comes up!

      3. different clue

        There must be a million gardeners in the US. Maybe 100,000 thousand of them are good gardeners. What if each one of those good gardeners each adopted ONE SPECIFIC temperate-zone variety of something to save? That would assure One Hundred Thousand varieties being saved and maintained.

        What’s another way to keep as many varieties saved and maintained as possible? Buying valuable and useful true-variety seed from seed companies qualified to maintain it for real and at quality year after year after year. And paying more to buy shinola food from shinola growers who pay more to shinola companies for shinola varieties of seed.

        Both approaches would help.

        1. ratefink

          well, Baker Heirloom has had some really fun and delicious ones that I’ve planted, and I’m really not much of a gardener. Also, they are always looking for locally preserved strains.

        2. Shane

          This is a good idea but has a couple of complications. Firstly many crops are outcrossing (cucurbits, most grains) so each strain needs to be isolated from others to prevent unwanted crossing, plus require large populations to select next years seed from to maintain quality. Traditionally this was achieved by many neighboring farms growing the same basic strain each year, with crossing happening between farms. Most suburban farmers would struggle to grow a hundred pumpkin plants or influence what their neighbors grow. Secondly even for self pollinating crops (most legumes and solanums) accessing the genetic diversity that remains in the seed vaults is difficult. More difficult is figuring out which variety they should be ideally growing in their location. Even with seed vaults lots of genetic diversity has been lost, and just as importantly the know how about how to grow which crop where is also lost. If the industrialised nations ever had to return to subsistence agriculture it would be a rocky road for these reasons.

    3. different clue

      “locally mined coal” . . .

      That’s one for the Department of Irony Department.

    4. Optimader

      Hope they put it all up in argon filled balljars!

      Scourge 2 will be the feast of the Arctic Mouse

  2. Huey Long

    Real Estate: “Blackstone Group LP, the world’s biggest private equity fund, told investors to dial back their expectations for property returns as the “great run” of the past five years becomes harder to replicate”

    I guess they’re running out of retail chains with extensive real estate holdings to loot.

    1. loblolly

      I guess they’re running out of retail chains with extensive real estate holdings to loot.

      I thought they followed this up with property-less shell retail chains? Maybe manufacturers are tired of being left holding the bag.

      Now there is no one left to rent their abandoned big box sites.

  3. Elizabeth Burton

    Ah, yes, we here in Austin will now once again be treated to the joy of having Uber and Lyft lie about the taxi industry now that the anti–big-government state legislature has passed a law that prohibits cities from demanding ride-sharing companies comply with the rules everyone else has to follow. Fortunately, my cab-driver husband’s taxi is a Dodge Caravan, so there’s room for us to live in it when he can no longer earn enough for the rent. I’ll just have to find a Starbuck’s to stake out to spend the day, I suppose.

    As for Paula Swearingen, Blue America, which rants on and on about how the DCCC and DSCC refuse to support progressive candidates, has refused to support her on the grounds that even if she beats Manchin she can’t beat a Republican. So, they’re going to raise money for the sure bets, and Ms. Paula will just have to do the best she can. They were also the ones who screamed “anti-abortion” when Bernie endorsed Heath Mello when, in fact, the man has done all he can, given his circumstances, to mitigate anti-abortion legislation.

    I’ve started telling people to ignore anything that looks like, sounds like, walks like or smells like a PAC and just give money directly to candidates.

  4. Huey Long

    RE: Famously Free Press

    Commentariat, I propose we give the faceborg censors a Soviet nickname. I looked up “Censorship in the Soviet Union” and here’s what popped up:

    “Censorship in the Soviet Union was pervasive and strictly enforced.
    Censorship was performed in two main directions:

    State secrets were handled by the General Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press (also known as Glavlit), which was in charge of censoring all publications and broadcasting for state secrets.

    Censorship, in accordance with the official ideology and politics of the Communist Party was performed by several organizations:

    Goskomizdat censored all printed matter: fiction, poetry, etc.

    Goskino, in charge of cinema

    Gosteleradio, in charge of radio and television broadcasting

    The First Department in many agencies and institutions, such as the State Statistical Committee (Goskomstat), was responsible for assuring that state secrets and other sensitive information only reached authorized hands.”

    I vote for either Glavit, or Gosrunet, a portmanteau of Gos_____ and runet which is a popular term for the Russophone internet.

    1. HotFlash

      I’m thinking Goskomizdat, since by def, fake news is fiction. It may, on occassion, rise to poetry. Plus the word sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball.

      1. IowanX

        I never do this (comment much) but ya gotta use the GOS “portmanteau”…GOS also stands for “Great Orange Satan”–a nickname for Daily Kos.

    2. different clue

      Well . . . one would want to integrate the name Facebook into your Soviesque terminology . . . to make it memorable and viralizable.

      Maybe try words and names like this:

      and . . .
      The Faced Department.

  5. LT

    Dispatches from The Bubble:


    Boston’s “third annual Content Marketing Conference, a sold-out, $1,250/ticket, four-day powwow for 300 marketing professionals flown in from San Fran and Toronto and other prosperous North American cities. They will sleep at the conference hotel in $349/night rooms with swanky waterfront views.”

    WiFi password “Superhero” – (not kidding!!)

    Some zingers:
    “Plastic cases on the chair seats contain hagiographic baseball cards for each Superhero speaker. Their faces are in Superhero green, Superhero names and Superpowers are on the back. The Digital Dynamo and Killer Content Girl both fight against a common enemy, Captain Crappy Content…”

    How did it get to this point?

    “Consumers and users are eager to be trained and educated, Handley tells the crowd. By creating content stories that fill this void, marketers are practicing “what I call pathological empathy. Which is next-level empathy. Not just ‘we understand you, we get you,’ but ‘we really get you.’” Handley pauses to let this sink in. “We’re not just walking around in your shoes—we’re walking around in your skin.”
    The S.W. considers that the void Handley speaks of is in part the result of journalism’s collapse. In the absence of stories told by humans to communicate about being human, companies tell people stories about being consumers. Readers consume the information made available to them in this way because they are unable to turn off the human impulse to understand the world…”

      1. LT

        Yes, indeed.
        But speaking of movies, I’m reminded of a flick from a few years ago “Sex Tape.”

        Most people thought the sexual innuendo was the point of the movie, but in between the lines of that premise was a couple, both with “new media content” types of jobs (the wife a blogger, the husband a type of music curator). But as they go around trying to keep their image from being tainted, it’s revealed how little they understand about “the internet of things.”

      2. jrs

        yes he’s not even on the right level of abstraction in thinking of journalism as “stories told by humans to communicate about being human”. Because it’s not really the human condition anyone wants to understand from journalism but rather social conditions (ok and journalism isn’t nor has it ever been sufficient all by itself for that really).

      3. craazyboy

        But apparently not The Whoopie Cushion. Hooray For The Whoopie Cushions!

        Truth, Justice, and the America Way…

        pfft, and you jump out a mirrored glass window, waving bye, bye to your Peter Pan Super Person image.

    1. Huey Long

      Wow, I’m REALLY glad I didn’t grow up to become a marketer. Those zingers are vomit worthy.

  6. clinical wasteman

    Complete agreement re Apple products, especially the ever more tabletty Macbooks and downgrades — sorry, “up-” — of OSX towards the dismal condition of iOS. At least as far as people trapped into using those things tell me.
    But for the same reason I wish (without much hope) long life to the “stagnation” of the desktop hardware, specifically in the sense of accommodating “old” but not quite ancient operating systems and relatively insult/injury-free versions of the software running on them.

    1. PKMKII

      What, you don’t enjoy them porting over from iOS to the macbooks the feature of the device going into low battery auto-shutoff even though there’s more than 20% battery left?

    2. Big River Bandido

      As a musician and 25-year Mac user, I am sweating the future. My livelihood is dependent upon high-quality software, and powerful gear to run it.

      1. DJPS

        Build yourself a Hackintosh!

        I followed the instructions exactly as shown on tonymacx86.com and built a windows/hackintosh for $1k that apple wanted $8k for. They have Amazon prime links on tontmacx86 to the exact items you need to buy, so you could get it all tomorrow!

        A little daunting at first, but it just took a few hours in the end. It wasn’t that difficult to do in retrospect.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          That looks pretty simple. Not much different at all from any old roll-your-own PC. Bookmarked if for friends that I can’t convince to run Linux.

      2. Gaianne

        It is time to point out the strategic difference between Linux and and the five horsemen of the technocalypse:

        Linux has no strategic interest in forcing you to upgrade, nor a strategic interest in crapifying their software.

        In contrast, if you stay with Apple or Microsoft, whatever you are doing will be obsolete in five years, and their offerings to migrate to will be even less functional.

        Personal story: A friend who does recording (in a small way) just got locked out of his Pro-Tools sound studio. They want more money! I never read his terms-of-service, so I don’t know if they had a sleeper clause, or what. What I do know is that my own work is safely on a CD and it does not matter if the computer files are lost forever.

        And I also know that anything you depend on you want to own free and clear.

  7. RabidGandhi

    O Globo Calls For Michel Temer to Resign

    This newspaper has supported from the first moment the reformist project of President Michel Temer. It believed then and it believes now that, more than any other, his plan is the right one for Brazilians, because only it will make Brazil find the path to growth, which is crucial for the well-being of all Brazilians. Reforms are essential to lead the country towards political stability, social peace and the normal functioning of our institutions.

    Resignation is a unilateral decision by the president. I.e., not what is best for him, but for the country, this should be the decision that Michel Temer eventually makes. This is what good citizens expect of him.

    For those just tuning in, O Globo is Brazil’s major media monopoly (imagine CNN, Fox and MSNBC all rolled into one excremental package), and it was Globo that was the major driving force behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the installation of Temer in her place.

    The question here has never been whether Temer is corrupt; it is whether he has the oligarchy’s support. With this editorial, Kingmaker O Globo indicates that that support is now gone.


    Curious to see how Swearengin does. It was largely dismissed by the punditry as irrelevant and inescapable, but Gore failing to win WV in 2000 (and every Democratic candidate since) struck me at the time that something was wrong. That was solid, union member, working class Democrat country. Dems losing it meant the voters stopped seeing them as for the unions and working class. Hope she can bring back the working class politics there.

    1. WeakendSquire

      Given that she seems to be basically anti-coal mining, she will not break 20%.

      Attacking Jim Justice–the most popular man in the state? His coal mines and other businesses provide jobs for working people. What is it about “progressives” that they can’t understand that? The Brand New Congress people are nearly as tone deaf as the DNC when it comes to working people.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        Those who live in coal country would be perfectly happy doing something else than workin’ in the coal mine. The problem is not the loss of those jobs. It’s the loss of those jobs that were then never replaced with anything else. Furthermore, they aren’t stupid enough not to know the coal industry is dying, a few hardcore unicorn-riders notwithstanding.

        Dismissing Swearingen, as I noted earlier, is as hypocritical as those tone-deaf Democrats in the DNC, because doing so plays right into their hands. This is why so many good candidates lose—because people who aren’t on the ground where they are decide they aren’t viable and voice that opinion loudly where it can do the most damage.

        Gerrymandering “works” because the party in power creates the districts so as to encompass as many people who voted for them in the last election in one bunch. However, that assumes there aren’t more than enough people able to vote who didn’t because they had no one to vote for. Or voted for the party in power because they heard over and over there was no point in doing otherwise.

        We have to stop chopping ourselves off at the knees before we even get to the starting line. That kind of defeatism, especially when flavored with elitist cynicism, is what got us where we are in the first place. We can convince people who’ve given up any hope of having control over what happens to them they can get that control back if our only message is “there’s no hope.”

          1. jawbone

            I really like the “Repeal and Replace Congress” slogan and the t-shirts.

            Also, “Reset Democracy” is good.

            And the purple color choice.

            Now, if only I had the money to purchase and donate as I would like to….

        1. Jeff W

          I agree completely.

          And, whether or not she is “anti-coal mining,” Paula Swearingen seems very much pro-coal miner.

          Here’s a bit of her stump speech:

          PAULA SWEARINGEN: I was born in West Virginia, and I was born a coal minert’s daughter, grand-daughter… and in West Virginia, you are told to live, breathe, eat, literally coal. We’re told that coal defines us. So as a little girl I was proud of my coal heritage. I was proud to be the coal miner’s daughter.

          But as I watched the progression of what coal did to my family, I wasn’t so proud any more.

          My grandfather spent 45 years in the coal mines, and I watched him suffocate to death. My father served in the military in Korea, and he was a coal miner, and he had cancer and I watched him suffocate. My step father has heart disease. He’s had open heart surgery. And he gets up every morning and he suffers.

          But that was only the beginning of what I learned about the suffering in Appalachia…

          Is there any coal mining family that won’t relate to that?

          Sen. Sanders won all 55 of West Virginia’s counties in the Democratic primary. At that town hall in March in McDowell County, West Virginia, he was cheered by an audience of almost all Trump voters. I would not rule out Paula Swearingen, who is more closely aligned policy-wise with Sanders than with the establishment Democrats,

      2. different clue

        The Swearingen experiment deserves to be run. If certain side-effects of coal mining . . . the disease, the broadacre land destruction, the water destruction . . . are not popular with people who suffer from them, then Swearingen might get some votes from people affected by those certain side-effects of coal mining.

  9. Carla

    “That was solid, union member, working class Democrat country. Dems losing it meant the voters stopped seeing them as for the unions and working class.”

    The failure was not on the part of voters. Here, let me fix the second sentence for you:
    “Dems losing it meant voters realized the party had abandoned unions and the working class.”

    That’s what happened. Why not say so?

    1. PKMKII

      Because whether they are or aren’t is irrelevant in elections; voter perception is everything.

  10. Kim Kaufman

    Lifted from facebook friend:

    “Special counsel Robert Mueller was working at a law firm (Wilmer Hale) which represents Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, as well as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

    So, despite Mueller’s credibility as well as the fact that he just resigned his law firm position to accept the appointment, doesn’t this STILL seem like a partisan Trump political appointment…. AND don’t we STILL need a truly independent investigation into any Trump campaign ties to the Russians?”

    The same conflicts of interest will be brought up with Lieberman’s present employer Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman but everyone’s mum on Mueller.

    Not a great article but details some of the unsavory cases Kasowitz has handled for Trump:



    1. lyman alpha blob

      Interesting tidbit on Mueller but it doesn’t necessarily follow that he’s in the bag for Trump. My assumption would be quite the opposite.

      And regarding this –

      …AND don’t we STILL need a truly independent investigation into any Trump campaign ties to the Russians?

      Tell your friend that no, we don’t. Multiple intelligence sources have stated on the record that there’s really nothing to see here and no evidence of illegality. It’s all the off the record spooks spreading rumors and insinuations. If they had anything on him, we’d have heard about it by now.

      Know what I want to know? Whatever happened to all those women who brought accusations of sexual impropriety against Trump just before the election?!!??!?!?!? You’d think all the pussy hats would be screaming about that but it’s been crickets since election day. Makes one wonder if that was all just more Clinton-fabricated bul**hit too.

      1. Kim Kaufman

        read the link:

        “Later that month, Marc Kasowitz, a partner in the firm, wrote a threatening letter to the NYT demanding it retract an article about two women who claimed Trump touched them “inappropriately.”

    2. Kim Kaufman

      More from Marcy Wheeler:


      “Trump may well think Flynn is a nice man that deserves his loyalty. More likely, though, Trump knows that Flynn could sink his son-in-law. I believe that’s why Trump had to fire Comey in an effort to undercut the Flynn investigation.

      And Rod Rosenstein, the survivor, just picked a partner from the firm of Kushner and Ivanka’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick, Robert Mueller, to take over the investigation into Flynn.

      Update: Sure enough, Reuters is reporting that Mueller, by design, may not be able to investigate Kushner or Paul Manafort.

      Within hours of Mueller’s appointment on Wednesday, the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring, the sources said.

      An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years.

      Mueller’s former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.

      Legal experts said the ethics rule can be waived by the Justice Department, which appointed Mueller. He did not represent Kushner or Manafort directly at his former law firm.

      If the department did not grant a waiver, Mueller would be barred from investigating Kushner or Manafort, and this could greatly diminish the scope of the probe, experts said.”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        What is the significance of that meeting with a Russian bank executive (presumably not tied to Putin, otherwise, that would have been a major omission by the author)?

        Because Russian? Or Because bank executive?

        1. Kim Kaufman

          I think it’s about the omission of disclosing it, for one thing. Otherwise who knows where this is going and where it will wind up.

    3. gepay

      Since the Russian ties are a bogus proposition it doesn’t matter what Mueller does in that regard. what matters is who is he really working for? What section of the powers that be? The ones who got Trump elected or the ones who want him out and Pence in.The part of the military that regularly breaches international law in Syria (the bombing of Syrian troops in Der Ezoir to sabotage a cease fire and once again this past week) or those against regime change for Israel’s benefit). The neocons who are sad that Hillary lost and think about first strike feasibility or those in the powers that be that think detente with Russia is preferable. He definitely will do whatever the section he works for wants.

    1. different clue

      Well . . . somewhat new that the security guards of some God Damned Foreigner would do such a thing. Normally it is American security guards or police doing such a thing here in America.

      But it is not entirely unprecedented. I believe Chinese security guards have sometimes beaten up American protesters on behalf of their Chinese government.

      And the Pinochet Chile-gov arranged the bomb-assassination of Orlando Letelier in this country.

      So it has happened from time to time.

      1. JTMcPhee

        And of course the Israelites make a practice of flouting other nations’ sovereignty and forging documents like passports to give their assasination teams “legends’ and cover to “reach out and touch” people they don;t like. And apparently can do it with impunity. And it’s an old story, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/feb/18/british-government-dubai-mossad, that gets renewed regularly…

        And ask a “Philistine” in Gaza or the West Bank, or any Israeli citizens that go against the flux of the Likudnik corruptniks who “apartheid” it over all, how and why there is no protection against Israelite state violence, or recompense for those who suffer it. “Getting away with murder,” I believe it is called, like US cops who shoot kids and crazy people and other “citizens” — and of course what the Israelites do is typical of what the rest of the Owners do, here and everywhere. Ask native populations or land-reformers in Mexico and the rest of the “little nations” of Monroedoctrinia, or Africa…

        And what are the Owned here in the Empire going to do about all that? “Trans” bathrooms? Women in combat roles? “Petitions” to the legislature and executive to “please do better?” Grains of sand, resisting the advance of the tide, rolled and buffeted with each wave so the sharp corners and edges are eroded away…

  11. Altandmain

    Re: The Bloomberg article on wages not rising

    Has anyone else realized how Orwellian the claims about the “job shortage” are? I just got rejected for another job after a phone interview … sigh, and I”m thinking there’s no shortage of people – there’s a huge oversupply of people and a shortage of jobs. If there were a shortage of people, employers could not just reject anyone at will. The situation would look like the Golden Age of capitalism or the tech sector in the 1990s where they would have to pay more and take people on even without as much experience as they liked.

    Employers want a person with years of experience, low ball them, and give them insecure employment. That’s what this is about. I’d be interested to see the decline in job quality in the US and Canada.

    Is anyone else reading NC struggling to find work? One other note, the jobs are paying significantly less than the jobs that existed before the recession. Real wages appear to be in decline and even nominal wages may be in decline in many sectors.

    Noticeably absent in the discussion is that the very rich are waging class warfare on the rest of the world. They are trying to enrich themselves at the expense of literally anyone else.

    The rich are really playing with fire here. The reason why such anti-immigration sentiment exists is because they keep demanding more immigration, when there are job shortages in the existing market.

    Oh and the Democrats are trying to ride it out.

    Oh and Nancy Pelosi opposes universal healthcare.

    This is just plain messed up.

    1. cocomaan

      Hang in there, friend. You’ll find something.

      Every single institution I encounter these days seems to have no money. My state? Can’t balance the budget, is cutting all over the place. My workplace? No guarantee of a cost of living adjustment this year. My wife’s institution? Same thing. My brother’s healthcare institution? Riding completely by the seat of their pants.

      There’s a great big hole in the economy through which all our money is flowing. Marx talked about it:

      Finally, in the same measure in which the capitalists are compelled, by the movement described above, to exploit the already existing gigantic means of production on an ever-increasing scale, and for this purpose to set in motion all the mainsprings of credit, in the same measure do they increase the industrial earthquakes, in the midst of which the commercial world can preserve itself only by sacrificing a portion of its wealth, its products, and even its forces of production, to the gods of the lower world – in short, the crises increase. They become more frequent and more violent, if for no other reason, than for this alone, that in the same measure in which the mass of products grows, and therefore the needs for extensive markets, in the same measure does the world market shrink ever more, and ever fewer markets remain to be exploited, since every previous crisis has subjected to the commerce of the world a hitherto unconquered or but superficially exploited market.

      1. Altandmain

        Thanks for the words of encouragement. Agree with the problem of every institution having no money these days.

        Apart from the rich, who often pay a lower effective tax rate, fewer people have taxable income these days that governments can raise. By extension there’s no money for everything else funded by taxes.

        Businesses feel the pinch with the decline in demand. Those collapses in the restaurant industry, auto industry, retail, etc I think are all caused by a fall in aggregate demand. The neoliberal order is its own worst enemy.

        Even for those who don’t agree with Marx’s solutions, I think that his criticisms of capitalism have a very good point. An Eastern European fellow once noted that only after the collapse of the Soviet Union did they realize that Marx had valid criticisms of capitalism.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think you can only build so man mansions along the California coast, so, the rich will always have to extra more to become richer, lest they lose their breath-the-ocean-air, watch-the-sun-set spots.

    3. Huey Long

      I’m on the same page as you here. I think these stories are complete mularky because of how the labor force is defined.

      From BLS (https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm):

      What are the basic concepts of employment and unemployment?
      The basic concepts involved in identifying the employed and unemployed are quite simple:

      People with jobs are employed.

      People who are jobless, looking for a job, and available for work are unemployed.

      The labor force is made up of the employed and the unemployed.

      People who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force.

      The labor force only consists of people with jobs or actively looking. We may have a low unemployment rate according to this metric, but it fails to describe the huge reserve army of labor that exists in this country:

      Just think of all the housewives and househusbands who are filling those roles because they either can’t get a job or can’t get a job that pays good enough to offset the cost of daycare?

      Or how about the people out in flyover who had the town factory close down who aren’t on a payroll or looking for a formal job but do some odd jobs for cash to make ends meet?

      Or the legions of petty drug dealers who are eeking out a living selling dime bags and 20 sacks? They’re not in the labor force either but the minute retail pay exceeds petty drug dealer pay (not much: http://articles.latimes.com/2005/apr/24/opinion/oe-dubner24) they’ll be looking for jobs too?

      The bottom line is there is no shortage of warm bodies available to work and I think that is definitely a factor in what’s keeping salaries in the toilet and enabling crapification.

      Furthermore, I think crapification serves to keep the labor force metric artificially small as it encourages folks to say “eff it, I’m done. I’d rather do some handyman crap and sell some pot on the side to pay my rent rather than suffer in the Tesla factory for slightly more $$$.”

      As of right now I don’t think the squillionaires have anything to fear from a civil disturbance so long as the lights are on, the people are fed, they control the major propaganda organs and the state security apparatus remains loyal.

      As for the future, things can go very wrong for team squillionaire if they fail in any of these areas, as in 1989-1991 USSR very wrong.

      1. Altandmain

        I think that Trump’s election is a sign that the elite are starting to finally and at long last lose legitimacy.

        They have very much earned it, but the problem is that many of the post-Soviet states were dominated by corrupt oligarchs who looted everything.

    4. cat's paw

      Yeah, I am. Oversupply of applicants and shortage of decent jobs is my impression too. Working class and poor are already well screwed. Seems we’ve moved into territory where many professionals and the highly educated are also disposable; say like the post Soviet Russia era where looting became a genuine art form.

    5. Octopii

      Three men in my immediate family are unemployed and have not been able to find work for an extended period of time. Six months for my brother, over a year for my brother in law, and my father in law gave up and retired after several years of looking. All these guys are 40+ and they blame ageism. Their wives are employed and are carrying the family load, working long hours, two out of three in positions that pay much less than the men had earned. BIL is working part time retail selling bikes while he tries to start his own business (with no capital, yes, that should end well). Nobody except the oldest guy was able to save much of a cushion, and those cushions are long gone.

      On the other hand, everyone I know here in DC is working, busting their tail and doing pretty well. I myself just got hired quite easily for a great job and and am shutting the doors on my small business. Cause of death is benefits costs, pure and simple, meaning healthcare. I’m also getting worried about general stability and ageism, and am sacrificing some freedom to get in with a large employer now, hoping to get more current with some of the changes in my industry so as to stay employable. DC still seems to have a robust job market despite what’s going on elsewhere. For now.

      1. Altandmain

        Maybe I should consider moving to DC at that rate.

        There doesn’t seem to be anywhere in Canada doing very well.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      We have to many generals, and we need a better tax system to prevent the temptation for hooker and blow money. Outright banning is not necessarily a good idea.

    2. tony

      Personally I’m quite happy the MIC gets their money without needing to start any more wars.

  12. Blurtman

    “We didn’t have the votes” on single payer, you can throw this in their face share this with them.”

    What about the Blue Dog Democrats? They would not have voted for singe payer.

    1. different clue

      They should have been forced to vote against Single Payer in open view, before God AND C-SPAN.

    2. katiebird

      We only needed 51 votes and Obama was wildly popular in 2009 among Democrats. If he wanted Single Payer to pass, it would have passed. He could have done it by April 2009.

      Obama didn’t want it, then or now.

      1. mk

        I think of Obama as pimp daddy now, just a guy trying to pimp you out who will tell you anything he thinks you want to hear so he can get over on you. That’s Pimp Daddy Obama. Traitor. But he got his, didn’t he?! He’s a rich man now.

        1. polecat

          He be kickin it with his uber-rich homie Branson … and others like him, and got quite the grill … don’t he.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Its actually simple.

      Obama flies to their district, holds a rally, and introduces his friend, some random state senator, ignoring the Blue Dog.

      Obama flies to the district, holds a rally, and publicly thanks the Blue Dog for taking the lead on support Single Payer in front of the 100,000 person crowd.

  13. ewmayer

    “With Uber Freight, Travis Takes on Trucking” [Wired]. “Travis”? WTF, Wired? — Well after all, that *is* how techBros talk to each other, yes?

  14. marym

    AHIP, AHA, et al. sternly worded letter to Senate

    As providers of healthcare and coverage to hundreds of millions of Americans, we are writing again to you as leaders in Congress to express our serious concerns about the continued uncertainty around funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. There now is clear evidence that this uncertainty is undermining the individual insurance market for 2018 and stands to negatively impact millions of people…

    PDF for full letter

  15. Adam Eran

    Wondering how the Mexicans profited from NAFTA?

    1. A $20 billion loan from the U.S. to deal with capital flight, and not incidentally, rehearse the bailout of American banks by bailing out those in trouble in Mexico.

    2. A 34% decline in real income (Source: Ravi Batra’s “Greenspan’s Fraud”). This is saying something in a country where half the population gets by on $4 or less a day. The only comparable decline in the U.S. was in the Great Depression. Of course nobody migrated then….oh wait!

    One might figure that shipping a bunch of subsidized corn down south would put lots of Mexican subsistence corn farmers out of business. After all, corn is only arguably the most important food crop in the world, and they were keeping the diversity of the corn genome alive, but they weren’t making any money for Monsanto!

    NAFTA was so unpopular in Mexico that the Harvard-educated Mexican president who proposed it–Carlos Salinas Gotari–retired to Ireland for a few years so the furor would die down, and presumably to be safe from the pitchforks and tar.

  16. Emorej a Hong Kong

    Contrary to the snarky comment, there is value and importance EFF’s contribution here:
    “Fixing Trade Agreements In Five Simple Steps” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]. “Trade experts agree that without five simple fixes, Americans will continue to reject new trade deals….”

    Reasons, this comprehensive agenda for transparency and big-circle consultation:
    1. rebuts the allegation that anti-TPP means “anti-trade” and “anti-modernity”.
    2. would involve workers, consumers and voters.
    3. would change the content of proposals, negotiations and final agreements.

  17. witters

    ”They ought to be figuring out how to clothe the homeless or feed the poor, not all of this political nonsense.’

    Politics has nothing to do with food and shelter?

    What a place you guys have!

  18. tony

    Some old recipes don’t work with modern groceries. For example, meat is full of water these days, and has a different fatty acid composition. So is does not cook the same or taste the same.

  19. stonecutter

    We few, we happy few,
    we band of Americans;
    For he or she today that votes for me
    Shall be my sibling; be they ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle their social class;
    And people in blue states now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their privileges cheap whiles any speaks
    That voted for Trump upon Election day.

  20. Bob Haugen

    Wow, what a long comment thread! But still, I must add more:
    > I’m not sure what the Mexican farmers think about that, though.

    Those that might have objected are gone.

Comments are closed.