2:00PM Water Cooler 6/22/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

From my desk in my weedy garden in Maine. The honeysuckle is blooming. Not unpleasant!

* * *


“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday there was no deadline for completing NAFTA trade talks between the United States, Canada and Mexico even as lawmakers warned that U.S. business would be hurt by prolonged negotiations” [Reuters].

“Any potential vote in Congress on a NAFTA 2.0 isn’t going to divide Republicans and Democrats, if [U.S. Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer gets his way. The veteran trade attorney, who also has a fair bit of Capitol Hill experience under his belt, made clear on Wednesday at the Senate Finance Committee hearing that one of the primary goals for the renegotiation of NAFTA is to come away with a model trade agreement that lawmakers from both parties are comfortable getting behind” [Politico]. “‘I just want to assure you that I’m very focused on the fact that when you bring something back it has to pass, and that there’s almost no margin for error,’ the top U.S. trade official said in response to a question from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘My hope, to be honest, is that we’ll end up with a model agreement that has a substantial number of Democrats as well as Republicans.’ To that end, Lighthizer toed a careful line throughout the hearing in an attempt to appease Democrats pushing for a high-standard trade agreement while avoiding making promises that he could not keep.”



“Why the White House Is Reading Greek History” [Politico]. This is Graham Allison’s schtick paradigm, the Thucyides Trap, which casts America (Sparta) as the dominant power, and Athens (China) as the rising power, urging that conflicts between two such powers are not inevitable, but common. I need to study up on my Greek history, but my impression is that matters weren’t quite so simple (and I well remember how the Kagans popularized a similar narrative as a means of getting us into the Iraq War).

Health Care

Steven Brill: “[The AHCA] doesn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act. [Brill] told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle that what the anticipated bill instead does is strip out Medicaid funding to deliver tax cuts” [MarketWatch]. “As to the “replace” component, Brill has been every bit as dismissive…. Back in January, also as a guest on MSNBC, Brill had said he was willing to be that 10 years after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, there would still be no replacement — in large part because Obamacare was a Republican-style plan at its inception, rendering redundant any Republican replacement.” As I’ve been saying…

“Discussion Draft” of the Senate Bill [www.budget.senate.gov].

UPDATE “Meet the 13 Senators Deciding on Your Health Care Behind Closed Doors” [Time]. Not only the Senators, but their contributors.

Ossoff Loss


UPDATE What she said:

UPDATE “Many consultants told me that the Ossoff campaign left much of the black-turnout work to outside groups and third parties, which is status quo in a regular election, but that’s not the game-changing strategy you need in the most expensive congressional race in American history” [The Root]. “Democrat Archie Parnell lost to Republican Ralph Norman by a mere 4 percentage points, 51 to 47 percent, in a district that went for Trump by 20 percentage points in November. What was the difference? Consistent and creative African-American turnout efforts by the Democratic candidate throughout the entire campaign led to—wait for it—incredible jumps in turnout! Politics can be a simple game when you actually target your own voters instead of someone else’s.”

UPDATE Department of Schadenfreude:

“Pelosi to critics: ‘I think I’m worth the trouble'” [The Hill]. “‘When it comes to personal ambition and having fun on TV, have your fun,’ Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol, referring to her detractors making the cable news rounds.” Pelosi:

I love the fray. I’m not disrespectful of people’s views. I respect any positive things that people want to say or even negative, as long as it’s constructive. But when it’s blatantly self-serving and beyond the normal competition that the press so enjoys focusing on, instead of, wouldn’t it better if all the press were focusing on the Senate heartless, mean-spirited bill?

Note the word salad; I’ve helpfully underlined the slips. And asking for focus on health care is pretty rich when (a) the Democrat leadership has been consumed by Putin Derangement Syndrome, and (b) Pelosi vehemently opposed #MedicareForAll. So who’s “heartless”?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“A Call to Revive America’s Political Center” [Morton Kondrake, RealClearPolitics]. “The center—it’s weak, but it does exist—has to be bolstered by our national heavyweights. Accomplished and respected people such former Secretaries of State James Baker, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and George Shultz; former Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta, and Robert Gates; business leaders like Kenneth Chenault of American Express, Ellen Kullman of DuPont, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Jeff Immelt of GE, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. Retired top military figures like Adms. Mike Mullen, James Stavridis and Bill McRaven and Gens. Stanley McChrystal, James Jones and David Petraeus. Plus, ought-to-have-been presidential candidates Mitch Daniels and Michael Bloomberg. This is just an examples list and it’s incomplete. The point is that Americans of this caliber must come together—and I mean meet face-to-face—and resolve to act jointly in service to their country.” Yes, it would be wonderfully clarifying if a number of oligarchs came together and decided to rule openly.

* * *

Lambert here. Speaking for myself, my cold take on the “Russian hacking” story: (1) I want to see evidence, not claims about evidence. That evidence would include (a) solid attribution, always an issue, (b) which systems were affected, and (c) how the vote was affected (for example, how online bots affected particular precincts; so far, I have seen no anecdotal evidence of this, which I would expect). So far as I can tell, we got nuthin’ on (a) or (b) — a good start, at least on email hacking, would be for the DNC to hand over its server for independent examination — and all sides agree (c) never happened. (2) The claims about evidence are made by intelligence officials from the NSA (lied about mass surveillance), CIA (tortured, and lied about that), and the FBI (regularly entrapped — under Hero of the Republic Mueller — many “terrorist” schlubs as agent provocateurs). In my view, everything intelligence officials assert, unless it’s against interest, should be discarded as completely tendentious, absent independent confirmation. That also goes for all claims made by partisans of both parties, especially office holders. There’s not much to the story — very much unlike Watergate — when you do that. In strong form, the claims made both by the intelligence community and the Democrats amount to charges that: (1) the 2016 election was not legitimate, and (2) an elected President is a Russian dupe or stooge. (Certainly the Clintonite faction believes, and says, these things.) These are extraordinary claims, and demand extraordinary evidence, but what we have, so far as I can tell, is a ginormous argument from authority made by officials who, at least in the CIA and the NSA, would long ago have been prosecuted for crimes by a functional political class, and who are deeply interested in the political outcomes of the claims they make. To put this another way, if anybody can show me there’s more to this story than, at the very worse, “games great powers play,” I’ll become much more interested. And please don’t try to get me excited about bots on Facebook; they’re certainly not a casus belli. Until then, my advice to the political class would be to “man up” (or “woman up,” as the case may be).

“Yes, it’s clear Russia (with Vladimir Putin’s full approval) orchestrated cyberattacks designed to influence the 2016 contest, and also pushed fake news” [New York Post]. “But the hack, and release via WikiLeaks, etc., of Democratic emails produced nothing game-changing. The biggest impact was to confirm the obvious: The Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton from the start. And fake news mainly feeds people’s existing prejudices — which serves Putin’s goal of undermining our democracy, but fails to flip votes from one party to the other. Johnson also made it plain that Democrats didn’t take the problem too seriously: ‘The FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other months before about the intrusion, and the DNC did not feel it needed DHS’s assistance at that time.'” I dunno. DHS is domestic. How does Johnson know? (Presumably the answer is in the hearing transcript.)

“Election Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say” [Time]. “‘The integrity of the entire system is in question,’ says [the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar], ‘So you need the system to push back and find out what happened and why, so it never happens again.'” As far as the vote goes, the answer isn’t some daft DHS high-budget program to protect electronic voting machines (which is doubtless a DHS empire-building institutional imperative in this story). The answer is hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public.

Stats Watch

Leading Indicators, May 2017: “The index of leading economic indicators started the year off fast but has been slowing the last two reports” [Econoday]. “Most components have been showing strength with the exception of building permits, which have been down, and manufacturing hours which have been flat. The latest results point to steady but no more than moderate economic growth.” But: “The rate of growth may be improving on this index. Because of the significant backward revisions, I do not trust this index” [Econintersect].

Coincident Indicators: “generally the coincident indices [The Philadelphia Fed’s Coincident Index, the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti business conditions index, Conference Board Coincident Index, ECRI’s Coincident Index, and the Chicago Fed National Activity Index] are showing weak growth except for the CFNAI which is showing stronger than average growth (however the CFNAI is subject to significant backward revision)” [Econintersect].

Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index, June 2017: “Solid” but “masks however trouble for orders” [Econoday]. “New orders slowed 5 points in the month to 4 which is the lowest reading since August last year. And backlog orders fell into contraction, to minus 6 from May’s plus 12 for the lowest reading since November last year.” And but: “The data overall will maintain confidence in the outlook, although there will be fresh doubts surrounding pricing trends with the evidence suggesting that manufacturers are unable to pass-on price increases” [Economic Calendar]. And: “The Kansas City region was hit hard by the sharp decline in oil prices, but activity has been expanding as oil prices increased. It is too early to tell if the recent decline in oil prices will impact the Kansas City region again” [Calculated Risk].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of June 18, 2016: “eased 6 tenths” but still “very strong” [Econoday].

FHFA House Price Index, April 2017: “Sales may be uneven but home prices are on the rise” [Econoday]. “The housing sector may have fumbled into the Spring selling season but home prices nevertheless are one of high points of the nation’s economic data and are a major positive for household wealth.” My house isn’t an ATM, and if it were, that still wouldn’t make it wealth. And: “The data is likely to maintain expectations that financial conditions are still relatively loose which would underpin the case for a continued policy normalisation over the next few months” [Economic Calendar].

Jobless Claims, week of June 17, 2016: “little changed” [Econoday]. And: “The overall market impact was very limited with near-term inflation developments likely to have a more important impact on Federal Reserve tightening plans with the Fed remaining very confident in the overall labour-market outlook” [Econintersect].

Retail: “Amazon.com Inc. is reaching deeper into the supplier world in its bid to carve more business away from retailers. The e-commerce giant has a new deal with Nike Inc. to sell some of the sporting apparel maker’s products” [Wall Street Journal]. “[W}ith traffic to traditional stores falling, Nike has been ramping up efforts to sell directly to consumers, especially its own e-commerce efforts. The supplier needs the outlets: the Sports Authority chain collapsed last year under the online competition, and moves by suppliers including Adidas and Under Armour Inc. to Amazon have added to the pressure on sporting goods retailers, stress that will only grow as Nike follows the same path.”

Commodities: “How China, Not Obama, Waged The War On Coal” [Forbes]. “Chinese coal production has declined for three consecutive years, coinciding with the slowing of industrial growth, but according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2017, released this week, it has never declined more than it did in 2016. At the beginning of 2016 China enacted a series of policies designed to reduce a supply glut, including closing 1,000 mines and restricting mining days to improve the profitability of the ones that remained open. ‘The impact of these measures was really stark,’ [BP Group Chief Economist Spencer Dale] said, calling it a “magnificent policy.'”

Concentration: “[Wal-Mart] is telling some technology companies they can’t run applications for the company on Amazon’s cloud-computing service if they want to do business with Wal-Mart… [Wall Street Journal]. “Wal-Mart says it simply doesn’t want ‘our most sensitive data’ on a competitor’s platform. Some technology vendors say other large retailers also have requested that service providers move away from Amazon Web Services. That push highlights the potential conflicts that are rising as Amazon spreads beyond the nuts-and-bolts of retailing, a growing question in the logistics field as the e-commerce giants builds shipping infrastructure that provides both business and competition to truckers and other operators. For Wal-Mart, there’s no doubt AWS provides troubling competition, bringing Amazon big profits that help offset tight retail margins.” So it would seem natural to break up Google into a search company, a data center company, and an e-commerce company (and throw away the vanity projects). Even those three businesses would be behemoths. And I’m so old I remember when Google search didn’t suck!

Shipping: “Capacity cuts still key to restoring container shipping equilibrium, says Fitch” [Lloyd’s List]. That, and concentration!

Shipping: “Southern U.S. ports breaking cargo records thanks to new Panama Canal” [WorkBoat]. “The expansion also coincided with a population boom that has made the south home to 10 of the 15 fastest growing cities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, meaning there is a growing market for goods being imported. At the same time, manufacturing growth throughout the south means shipping lines also can pick up American-made exports to transport abroad.”

Shipping: “Supply chain strategies for the Asian century” [Lloyd’s List]. “By 2030 Asia will represent 66% of the global middle-class population, compared to 28% in 2009…. There are huge opportunities in Asia as the middle classes grow exponentially, driving increasing demand for consumer products, especially throughout the region’s third and fourth-tier cities…. To address Asia’s geographic, economic, and political complexities, supply chain strategies need to embrace and address the developing regulatory environments, evolving infrastructure networks and up-and-coming talent pool.”

Supply Chain: “A report in Fast Company had a very interesting take on the Amazon-Whole Foods deal as it relates to the supply chain” [Logistics Management]. “‘Just as it has built an operating system for e-commerce, Amazon is now poised to create one for our food supply chain. It would allow [Amazon CEO and Founder] Bezos to offer the highest-quality, safest, freshest, and cheapest groceries anywhere on the planet,’ the report states. ‘The supply chain and distribution challenges that Amazon is already mastering are part of what landed Whole Foods in a position to be acquired in the first place.'” Not sure how that fits with local food sovereignty. And it would seem to reinforce every bad tendency in America’s already horrible diet. And it’s clear, for example, that Amazon can’t even get stuff like genuine Apple power supplies right — I know, because some of mine burnt out. Or the Egyptian cotton that’s not the advertised thread count, and is mixed with polyester. So will Amazon really be able to cope with adulterated food?

Shipping: “Small, lightweight shipments handled through traditional conveyance systems have dominated e-commerce’s early days. But the broadening of online inventories now gives consumers and businesses access to goods of all shapes, weights, and sizes. These include so-called large-format items that weigh more than 150 pounds and usually require two people to deliver and perhaps install, as well as relatively light but bulky products that are incompatible with conveyors. These could be skis, mattresses, treadmills, or desks. Or they could be furniture items ordered on Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest e-tailer, which recently announced it would enter the space” [DC Velocity]. “[T]hose getting into the market must adapt to a new world. Not only are drivers entering a customer’s most private environment, but they are usually delivering a high-cost product that, in many cases, must also be assembled. Unlike ‘traditional’ e-commerce shipments, which can be returned with relatively little inconvenience to the customer and cost to the retailer, a late delivery of a large-format item, damage to the item during delivery, improper installation, or just plain buyer’s remorse ratchets up the cost to the retailer as well as the provider. If any of those scenarios occurs, the driver must then go into ‘save the sale’ mode, according to Stoffel of Werner. ‘It’s a very different business when you are interacting with the customer in their home,’ said O’Shea, who has been doing last-mile for years. ‘For drivers, it’s not what they’re used to. They bump docks.'” Fascinating, since robots are unlikely to be able to do this…

Shipping: “Manufacturers and retailers bracing for FedEx Corp. to follow rival UPS Inc. in imposing a peak shipping-season per-package surcharge will have to brace themselves a little while longer” [DC Velocity]. “FedEx danced around analysts’ questions about a possible surcharge during its conference call late yesterday to discuss its fiscal 2017 fourth-quarter results.”

The Bezzle: “The current value of all the bitcoin in the world is worth about $41 billion, according to [HowMuch.net]” [MarketWatch]. “That is undoubtedly more money than most Americans will ever see in their lifetime. But when it comes to bragging rights, bitcoin really is the poor relation.”

The Bezzle: “As Apple prepares to show off new features for the iPhone and other devices at its developer conference on Monday, the company is grappling with an uncomfortable issue: Many of its existing features are already too complicated for many users to figure out” [New York Times]. No Human Interface Guidelines, one reason iOS will forever remain inferior to OS X. Just a steaming pile of random hacks.

IT: “2017 Data Breaches Nearly 30% Higher Than 2016’s Record Pace” [247 Wall Street]. “The business sector leads them all in the number of records compromised so far in 2017, with more than 7.5 million exposed records in 420 incidents. That represents 55.4% of the incidents and nearly 64% of the exposed records so far this year.” Don’t worry. When cash is digital, this problem will go away. Oh, wait…

Five Horsemen: “Amazin’ and Alphabet are vying neck & neck for the lead, as the big AAPL languishes” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jun22

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 51 Neutral (previous close: 42, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jun 22 at 1:41pm.


“TVs, dishwashers and fridge freezers have been found to guzzle up to twice as much energy as advertised on their energy labels, in a wide-ranging EU product survey” [Guardian]. “When tested under real-world conditions, the €400,000, 18-month investigation found widespread overshooting of the goods’ colour-coded A-G energy classes, due to the outmoded and selective test formats on which these have been based…. In an echo of past ‘defeat device’ scandals, another TV set increased its energy consumption by 47% when tested in a cycle based on real-world viewing, instead of the European standard measurement.”

“Many U.S. underground natural gas storage wells at risk for leaks” [Harvard School of Public Health]. “More than one in five of the 15,000 active underground natural gas storage wells in the U.S. appear to be at risk for serious leaks due to obsolete well designs, according to a study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers. The wells are similar in design to that of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility in California that leaked for about four months in 2015-16 and is considered the largest single accidental release of greenhouse gases in U.S. history.”

“The Company Behind the Dakota Pipeline Is Spilling Toxic Fluid in Ohio” [Bloomberg].

Health Care

“Op-Ed Single-payer healthcare for California is, in fact, very doable” [Los Angeles Times]. “How would California cover this $331-billion bill? For the most part, much the same way it covers healthcare spending right now. Roughly 70% of the state’s current spending is paid for through public programs, including Medicare and MediCal. This funding — totaling about $225 billion — would continue, as is required by law. It would simply flow through Healthy California rather than existing programs. The state would still need to raise about $106 billion a year to cover the cost of replacing private insurance. This could be done with two new taxes…. Relative to their current healthcare costs, most Californian families will end up spending less, even with these new taxes, and some will even enjoy large gains.” This is a hard argument to make. But it must be made.

“Analysis indicates that insurance expansion improves access to care, health, and survival” [Harvard School of Public Health]. Really? I would have thought it was health care that did that. Anyhow: “The Harvard Chan researchers synthesized the most rigorous evidence from the past decade, drawing on findings from more than 40 papers, including major studies of their own. The body of evidence showed that coverage expansions have produced significantly higher rates of being able to afford needed care, and having access to preventive services, primary care, chronic illness treatment, medications, and surgical care. In turn, these changes have led to a wide range of improvements in health.”

Class Warfare

“L.A. County foster care agency botched many more payments than initially reported” [Los Angeles Times].

News of the Wired

“Jean E. Sammet, an early software engineer and a designer of COBOL, a programming language that brought computing into the business mainstream, died on May 20 in Maryland. She was 89” [New York Times]. Missed this one. “Grace Hopper, a computer pioneer at Sperry Rand in the late 1950s, led the effort to bring computer makers together to collaborate on the new programming language. Ms. Hopper is often called the “mother of COBOL,” but she was not one of the six people, including Ms. Sammet, who designed the language — a fact Ms. Sammet rarely failed to point out. ”

* * *

And here’s today’s plant (Meeps):

Meeps writes:

A white Columbine in dappled morning light.

And Ossoff lost! Hooray!

I love Columbines

* * *

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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. toolate

    funny isnt it that at the end of the day maintaining the gift that is Obamacare to the large insurance companies was the most important thing. (witness the insurers market action to see the real tell!)
    Who could have guessed?
    Anything but Medicare for all. Anything.
    Is it time to open a pitchfork business yet?

    1. RabidGandhi

      Noooo! It’s the kiss of death. In 2015 Ali literally cracked open a bottle of champagne on his show to toast SYRIZA’s victory. Heaven help us from such allies.

      1. hemeantwell

        Your crystal ball was apparently better polished back then than Ali’s was.
        If Ali continued with the drinking past July of that year, that’s another story.

        1. JohnnyGL

          I missed the episode RG is talking about, but I like Ali as he does good interviews.

          Leo Panitch did some interviews on the realnews and was almost as good as Yves was on Syriza.

          My favorite description I saw about that situation was that Syriza planned to “bring a latte to a gunfight” with the EU. Ahhh…here’s the link….http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/07/greece-brought-a-latte-to-a-gunfight.html

          Anyway, I recall seeing interview(s) where Ali seemed to have removed his rose-tinted glasses pretty quickly. He’s quite clear about what the EU is all about.

        2. RabidGandhi

          To be honest, I was thrilled when Syriza won, until I saw the toast by Tariq Ali (whom I have always enjoyed as a political commentator). Chalk it up to my eternal pessimism, but whenever I see the left celebrating, my immediate gut response is to brace for disaster.

          I was especially surprised to see such premature jubilation from Ali of all people, who has certainly been around the block a few times.

          1. justanotherprogressive

            I was glad when they won, but not so glad when they sold out to more austerity….

  2. DJG

    I have a feeling that the White House peeps consider U S of A to be the Athenians. They would highlight our inheritance from Athens, and the quick decline of Sparta into obscurity, except for a lot of guys running around in black underpants in the movie 300. Yet these Christian redemptionists don’t get the religious ethos of the Greeks. The Greeks simply didn’t believe in salvation and the rest of the Christian baggage. So Thucydides likely would have found Bannon’s ethics somewhat crude. (See Plutarch and his pagan high-mindedness, as a priest of Delphi.) And not so ironically, the Melian dialogue, highly unfortunately, is all too applicable to current U.S. policy, considering what U.S. policy has led to in Iraq, Libya, and Syria: We destroyed things because we could do so. That’s the hubris in the Athenians’ argument as they massacred the Melians. And Thucydides knows what comes from hubris.

    1. Pat

      Then they aren’t listening to Graham, he is very clear that the rising new power is China. And that we are the ones who will have to not react in traditional ways if we want to avoid a war.

      1. craazyboy

        Well, his brain is set to explode then, when he finds out Russia, China, and their ME and African buds are working to become Allies where their interests overlap.

      2. hemeantwell

        At this stage of the game I’m glad to hear anyone talking for any reason, flaky historical parallels aside, about how war is not inevitable. I would betcha that there are aircraft carrier loads of bozos in the Pentagon and among the neocons who see a Big War as inevitable and are in a “get them now while we have strategic superiority” mode. People often talk about WWI as having resulted from a cascade of entanglements and such, but my impression is that one of the major drivers was that German elites, particularly the general staff, saw Germany as having a window of opportunity before Russia became more fully industrialized.

          1. Andrew Watts

            Tuchman’s book The March of Folly covers that kind of hubris displayed by clueless ruling classes throughout history and is perhaps one of the best military history books written in the last thirty years.

            She’s an honorary war nerd. In The First Salute she wrote that the American rebels during the revolution were receiving over 90% of their war materials from one Caribbean port.

            Ya gotta cut those supply lines, bros.

          2. The Rev Kev

            To answer your question, here is a direct quote from Madeleine Albright screaming at Colin Powel “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
            Stuff like that never change. And the dead never complain.

        1. oho

          “… Big War as inevitable and are in a “get them now while we have strategic superiority” mode….”

          The US military ain’t superior to no one unless we literally nuke them. The US still can’t defeat a bunch of insurgent in tennis shoes in Afghanistan. The US hasn’t fought a true first world peer since 1945.

          And in any war with China, US aircraft carriers will be no way as close to the Chinese mainland as they need to be to fight effectively. Otherwise, the Pacific Ocean would get brand new $10 billion coral reefs.

          (and presumably Korea and Taiwan will both stay neutral—why have 60 years of industrialization destroy for John McCain’s personal agenda)

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Taiwan may want to stay neutral, but will get drawn in involuntarily, perhaps even voluntarily by those who want to fight for independence (to have a say at the deck at the battleship Missouri).

            The more likely scenario is it will be fought on the college/education/academic front.

            For those who say competition is good, they can look forward to cram schools and 10 to 12 hours a day devoted to studying for the kids, aiming to ace what is perceived to be important knowledge by the authority in charge (be it the education ministry, business or political world) – that’s the real source of the risk of authoritarianism (going not for the mighty dollar initially, but the mighty A+ grade). Here, we are not talking about standardized tests that teachers fight again. The SAT and the Achievement tests have been standardized for decades, and are what they aim for.

            Forget play time.

            The area of competition is and will be narrowly defined (nothing or little to do with wisdom or enlightenment) and for the dogmatic believers, they will go down shouting ‘competitive is good.’

  3. Pat

    Apparently Whole Foods regional directors and founder Mackey have been busily telling their ‘teams’ that no this doesn’t mean that there will be no cashiers, that this will enable them to further help their local suppliers expand, and this is a marriage made in heaven.

    Things that actually ring true: most of the stories in the press are speculation, AND they will be honoring their contract with Instacart (mostly because they were direct and adamant about that). Interesting nugget from the Amazon representatives at these meetings is that Amazon Go is still not open to the public ANYWHERE, and there are no immediate plans to move that technology to Whole Foods.

    So as they were calming the masses who won’t find out if they have been screwed until the deal is final, we find out that certain contracts were not able to be jettisoned AND that Amazon’s much vaunted reinvention of the brick and mortar store is not ready to be put to the test with real live contrary humans who don’t work for them.

  4. Quentin

    What a bunch of garbage the Thucydides trap is. What do ancient Athens and Sparta have to do with USA? Why don’t neocons with classical backgrounds try ancient Rome as a touchstone for the USA. Just look at the Capitol (get it, not the Acropolis) and all the Roman-inspired kitsch scattered around D.C. The strike me as pretentious twats.

    1. SufferinSuccotash

      According to Thucydides, it was the hatred and fear of
      Athens prevailing in much of the Greek world that was the major underlying cause of the Peloponnesian War. I wonder which major power in the world today most closely resembles Athens, which in fact was the foremost rising as well as dominant Greek state from the 470s up to the outbreak of the war..

      1. darthbobber

        I believe they were described as “incapable of living quietly themselves, or allowing their neighbors to do so.”

  5. Pat

    Re: Russia. Never forget we are still in the mess that many of those running our various intelligence community agencies helped bring about by lying about and/or concealing the real facts behind 9/11; AND flat out lying about the danger that Iraq posed for the US. Without real evidence that is not limited to ‘we say this is it and you must believe us’ presented by people with no reason (war expansion and its profits/clearing Clinton and the DNC of incompetence/stupidity/corruption) I will still say that Russia is not even in the top ten of the problems our representatives should be dealing with, does not deserve their outrage, and is a distraction from them NOT doing their actual job.

    1. JohnnyGL

      “…concealing the real facts behind 9/11”????? Whoa, whoa, what are you talking about?

      Just because 15 of the 19th hijackers were…Saudi.

      Osama Bid Laden himself was part of the Royal Family of….Saudi Arabia.

      Intel agent(s) made regular payments into the account(s) used by the hijackers came from….you guessed it! (check out those redacted 27 pages from 9/11 commission report)

      Oh, and don’t mind the fact that the co-chair of the 9/11 commission himself, former Senator Bob Graham, has spent years telling anyone who will listen that “IT WAS THE SAUDIS!!!!”

      But seriously, though, none of that matters because we got Saddam, Qaddafi, Osama, maybe Assad, and, we’ll soon move onto Iran and N. Korea next!!! And maybe Putin, too, but that’s longer term!!!

      So, you know, that means we’re winning!

    2. JC

      I know you’re using the everyday phrasing of these things, but I have to say that calling covert surveillance and espionage groups “intelligence community agencies” is doing them a favor they do not deserve.

  6. IsotopeC14

    Pelosi is horrible.

    Hopefully Stephen Jaffe will knock her out of her position. Most people would vote for a dead dog over her, and he’s actually strongly progressive on the issues.

    He’s already had interviews with Jimmy Dore and some of the other you-tube stars.

    He’s worth my $27

  7. ChiGal in Carolina

    What is happening right now in the Senate makes me feel so sad and helpless.

    All seems like a show – why bother to follow it, to advocate, vote one way or the other?

    They don’t care about the people, never have really. Going through their rituals in the hallowed chamber, Rs spouting bullshit, Ds making impassioned pleas – NONE OF IT MATTERS.

    I have called my senators but the legislative aide on health care is never available. HOW ARE WE THE PEOPLE GOING TO SAY, RIGHT NOW, ENOUGH!

    At long last sirs, have you no decency?

    1. Carla


      When we do, ChiGal, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

      I attended a “Save Medicaid” demonstration on Tues, in the parking lot of a local nursing home. The demonstrators were all in their 70s, 80s and 90s, most in wheelchairs, many with oxygen. Several of them spoke, and spoke well. The most eloquent had to have the microphone held for her. She was an 80 yr. old who was recently rendered quadriplegic after breaking her neck in a catastrophic fall.

      1. RUKidding

        Kudos to our elders who got out there and protested. I hate to sound cynical, but I doubt it’ll do one d*mn bit of difference. After all, these are Old People who’re gonna die soon anyway, so screw them. At least, that’s how our “elected” politicians – and their 1% & corporate overlords – appear to view the situation.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          Elderly protesters may not trouble the gelid hearts of the haves, but they will undermine the legitimacy of their political puppets and the soothing lies they weave into the self-serving narratives the whole rotten tottering mess is piled atop of.

    2. No Way Out

      It seems to me that someone said just that, “RIGHT NOW, ENOUGH!”, on a ball field in Baltimore last week. While it’s proper to condemn the language used, according to what I’ve read since, more than a few R’s did take that to be the message. And of course we must note the fact that the R’s also are calling shots on who lives and who dies in the language they use in the TrumpCare re-write. Somehow the news media always seems to miss including that point in their stories. The writers of TrumpCare are a Death Panel themselves. There is no moral high ground in selecting the poor to die faster than the rich. Not unless God is Money.

    3. perpetualWAR

      People who have been defending their homes for the last decade HAVE been doing something. But many of the former homeowners walked away silently.

      Just imagine if all 18.2 million of the foreclosed upon American homeowners (not counting the short sales!) would have risen up collectively!!!

      Instead, we anti-foreclosure warriors have literally been fighting the system ALONE. Where have you guys been??? We could still use help!

  8. philnc

    America is nor Sparta. It is Athens.

    Russia and every other boogeyman nation or transnational threat the neocons have cooked up since 1945 are the Persians.

    The Pelopponesian wars broke out when Athens, having acquired power and wealth by promoting itself as the Greek’s shield against the Persians, pushed its client states too far.

    Who is Sparta? That’s to be determined. Maybe no one, or maybe something that’s already come and gone, like Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan (which would mean the 5th century Greek model of conflict gets upended). An autocratic, militaristic, highly stratified society ruled by elites whose wealth is built on the backs of slaves (the helots). Sounds a lot like what the attendees at Davos would set up, if they were into nation building.

    China? More like Thebes as far as I can see. You know, the polis that crushed Sparta much more thoroughly than Sparta did Athens.

  9. ProNewerDeal

    Is there a nonfiction book or long article that thoroughly details how the 2016 D Primary was rigged/stolen, on par with W/Jeb Bush/SCOTUS rigging of the 2000 Florida General election? It should include the Podesta Wikileaks revelations, and the statistically astronomically improbable contrast between exit poll results & official election results, which by the US State Department’s own methodology of certifying “emerging” nation elections, would claim the majority of D Primary states as invalid unfair unfree elections.

    The H1llaryB0ts, Establishment, & even some Sanders-voter-yet-still-on-D-reservation pundits like Sam Seder/Majority Report are willfully ignorant like this 2016 D Primary rigging didn’t occur. I would love to reference such a document & enumerate say 5 key points of the rigging when confronting such Hillary Election-Rigging Deniers.

    PS TrumpB0ts & HillaryB0ts, both are anti-science Deniers. ConManD0nB0ts are anti-climatology Climate Change Deniers. HillaryB0ts are Innumerate & anti-Stats 101 Hillary Election-Rigging Deniers, specifically inferential statistics (political election polling being an application of inferential statistics).

  10. marku52

    Just finished watching “America’s War on Drugs” on the History channel. It is astonishing how the CIA is behind pretty much every wave of new drug problem that has plagued the US. Particularly, the Contra funding via crack cocaine that led to massive incarcerations of the black population. The guy that broke that story, Gary Webb, got fired, lost his career, and committed suicide.

    Too bad he was entirely correct.

    In a sane country, the CIA would be burnt to the ground and the ashes scattered. They are a rogue hazard to the country, and have been ever since their inception.

    1. Huey Long

      In a sane country, the CIA would be burnt to the ground and the ashes scattered. They are a rogue hazard to the country, and have been ever since their inception.

      Yet nearly all of our media outlets and the Democratic party are lauding the CIA as a bulwark against the evil Rooskies instead of making household names of Frank Church and Otis Pike.

      Looks like Mockingbird is alive and well fellow members of the commenteriat.

  11. Carolinian

    Speaking of Walmart I noticed today that our one and only Walmart grocery store now allows online grocery shopping with curbside pickup at the store. Apparently this program has been available in other parts of the country for some time. And you don’t even have to get out of your car.

    When the order is complete, the customer pays online, then sets their pickup time frame. When that time arrives, they drive to their local Walmart store and park in a designated space reserved for online grocery shoppers located either in the front or side of the store. After parking, they call the store at a number provided both via their original confirmation email, and again through a reminder call a few minutes ahead of their pickup time.

    A store associate will then bring out a cart filled with their groceries, including the fresh and frozen items which had been picked and stored separately in coolers and freezers in the back of the store in advance of the customer’s arrival.


    More pointless e-commerce churn? However it’s not just Walmart. When I was out west I saw that Fry’s, a division of Kroger, was also doing this.

    1. David J.

      Kroger bought the Harris-Teeter chain a few years ago. Not merely because it wanted to perform better in that market, but also because of H-T’s online capabilities. That part has lead to ClickList which is Kroger’s version of online ordering/store pickup. It is pretty successful thus far and does, in a way, address the “last mile” challenge (and costs) of delivery of online orders. I’m waiting to see how the Amazon-Whole Foods deal approaches this kind of solution.

    2. IHateBanks

      I am a proponent of curbside grocery pickups. I have been using them for years, for no other reason than they curb impulse buying, which can save quite a bit of money in my household.

      Plus, you don’t have to wear pants, if you have a nice bathrobe.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      Sounds like a great way for Wal-Mart to get rid of their about-to-be-spoiled items on the lazy.

    4. Quaint Service

      This is actually old-fashioned. In the olden days, a person would go to the store and the clerk would gather the items and put them in the customers basket, or an employee would deliver them to the house. In some stores the goods were behind the counter and not accessible and you could drop off a list, they would deliver to the house and the customer could check the goods and pay. Stores first forced the customer to push a cart and gather their own items, second forced them to bag and then third to serve as the cashier.

      I have always wanted local stores with pickup. Hopefully even chain stores will one day serve as a intermediary for local CSAs for produce.

      1. marieann

        The olden days????

        When I started work I was a clerk in a store and the goods were behind the counter????

        I am only 67…..olden days indeed!!!

  12. TK421

    which casts America (Sparta) as the dominant power, and Athens (China) as the rising power

    And how did the conflict between Sparta and Athens work out for them, long-term?

      1. jo6pac

        Not Persia they were the real winners between Sparta and Athens. 4000+yrs and still kicking;-)

        Yes long enough time line and history repeats self, sadly.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          ….they were the real winners between Sparta and Athens

          Maybe for about 60 years or so before Alexander dealt them a little setback, shortly before he got his own comeuppance.

          If the beltway kids really want to learn something about foreign policy, they might try Into the Land of Bones which describes Alexander’s campaign in Bactria (modern day Afghanistan).

          One interesting anecdote. The Greeks were aghast at finding that the Bactrians allowed their dead to be consumed by packs of dogs roaming the streets and the propaganda of the day labeled said natives as barbarians in need of civilizing (speaking of history repeating). Alexander then showed the Greeks’ ‘civilization’ by committing large scale genocide.

  13. fresno dan

    “Yes, it’s clear Russia (with Vladimir Putin’s full approval) orchestrated cyberattacks designed to influence the 2016 contest, and also pushed fake news” [New York Post]. “But the hack, and release via WikiLeaks, etc., of Democratic emails produced nothing game-changing. The biggest impact was to confirm the obvious: The Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton from the start. And fake news mainly feeds people’s existing prejudices — which serves Putin’s goal of undermining our democracy, but fails to flip votes from one party to the other.
    One point: Is Putin’s goal to UNDERMINE America (democracy) or was it to help Trump?
    There is the insinuation that Trump being elected would undermine America – and on the issue of “undermining” America I would say Trump doesn’t undermine the country anymore/less than Clinton or any other repub would have (they all seem in lockstep to screw anyone who isn’t rich and destroying the middle class which is to me the great undermining).

    IF on the other hand, Trump’s election were to make for better relations between Putin and Trump/America, than one can hardly say that Putin is “undermining” America. Unless one accepts that Russia is evil and an implacable foe of the virtuous US no matter how US policy changes. Has Russia interfered in elections….has the US interfered in elections?

    So if there is some BIG Putin conspiracy to “undermine” America, and it involves electing Trump, wouldn’t logically the second part than be that Putin himself orders the Russian conspiracy*** exposed to foment a constitutional crisis in the removal of Trump???

    Remember Rosenstein’s rather odd warning about anonymous sources – – when we don’t even know for sure the COUNTRY of origin.
    “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,” Rosenstein said. “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

    ***doesn’t need a REAL conspiracy exposed….a fake one will do nicely….
    11th dimensional chess…

    1. Synoia

      One point: Is Putin’s goal to UNDERMINE America (democracy) or was it to help Trump

      American Democracy? Nice idea.

      If it does exist it’s undermining itself. It needs no help from outside.

    2. clarky90

      My take on the “Russian hacking” story:

      I call the present situation, “The 2017 Washington Show Trials”.

      The Neo-Stalinists (Repubs and Demos) are fabricating ludicrous charges against anyone they “need” to purge from politics. This is a simple, brutal power struggle. (The Bilderbergers are freaking out!)

      IMO, this will end badly for most of them. If the Neo-Stalinists are remotely like their antecedents, the process will become a self-devouring, chain reaction; eventually destroying most of the Accusers, as well as the Accused.

      Stop This Now, You foolish, hateful “no-it-alls”!!!! (My opinion)

      Case of the Anti-Soviet “Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites”

      The 1936-1938 Moscow Show Trials , during the “Reign of Terror”


      “They were all proclaimed members of the “right Trotskyist bloc” that intended to overthrow socialism…..

      …….committing the following crimes:

      Murdering Sergey Kirov, Valerian Kuybyshev, State Political Directorate (OGPU) chair Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, and writer Maxim Gorky and his son
      unsuccessfully trying to assassinate Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Yakov Sverdlov in 1918

      Plotting to assassinate Yakov Sverdlov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Kliment Voroshilov and Stalin

      Conspiring to wreck the economy by sabotaging mines, derailing trains, killing cattle, putting nails and broken glass in butter, and sabotaging the country’s military power

      Spying for British, French, Japanese, and German intelligence agencies
      making secret agreements with Germany and Japan. Promising to surrender Belarus, Ukraine, Central Asia and the Russian Far East to foreign powers

      All of the defendants confessed to these charges during the show trial with a few…. exceptions.

      Eighteen of the twenty-one were found guilty “of having committed extremely grave state offenses….and were sentenced to the supreme penalty—to be shot”. And they were. They died within days.

      This self destructive depravity seemed a crazy, historical episode from before my birth, in a far off land (Moscow).

      However, I hear incomprehensible reports, from the land of my birth. Opioid epidemics; lawless banks; confiscations of homes; bulging prisons all over the countryside; militarized police; snitches and spies everywhere (my frikking TV!); an ALL-POWERFUL, above the Law, Intelligence Organizations (the Neo-NKVD?)……

      I honestly, never thought I would live to see this………

      1. clarky90

        The Not-Innovative New York Times (scorpion) just being itself again.

        “….. but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so“.

        Harold Denny, “18 Russians to Die for Treason Plot; Rakovsky Spared,” The New York Times,
        March 13, 1938, p. 30.

        Harold Denny, “Trotsky is Called Real Conspirator in Anti-Soviet Plot,” The New York Times,
        Aug. 21, 1936, p. 1.

        Walter Duranty, “Plot With Reich and Japan Confessed at Soviet Trial,” The New York Times,
        Jan. 24, 1937, p. 1.

        Stalin’s Apologist: Walter Duranty: The New York Times’s Man in Moscow


        “A witty, engaging, impish character with a flamboyant life-style, he was a Pulitzer Prize winner….”

  14. Altandmain

    Apparently the GOP healthcare bill is getting protested:


    Democrats still haven’t learned from Sanders:

    Caitlin Johnstone: For The Record, Jill Stein Would Have Made A Great President


    1. JaaaaayCeeeee

      Thank you for posting that short diagnosis of what is wrong with the Democratic Party that includes Bernie Sanders wise words about it – I would not normally have caught it since it’s in the New York Observer. It’s concise and eloquent and as true today as it was during the 2016 primary.

      It’s good enough for the links section of Naked Capitalism for others to appreciate (and to perhaps eventually help party leadership to realize these problems are much more important for the party to solve, than continuing to do what Dem leadership continues to do).

  15. pebird

    Lambert “Politics can be a simple game when you actually target your own voters instead of someone else’s.”

    My guess is that Ossoff did target his own voters – most of them decided to vote Republican.

    1. Stooksbury

      Ossoff got less votes than Rodney Stooksbury got last year in Georgia’s 6th district. Stooksbury spent less money, 0 to be exact and ran no campaign.

      (Although, somewhat hilariously, Stooksbury actually got more total votes than Ossoff, 124,917 to Ossoff’s 124,893. Granted, special elections have lower turnout, but good grief.)


      Read about the ‘ghost candidate’ that did better than Ossoff. It’s humorous if you’re not a D.

      From the article: If the title character from Weekend at Bernies can win Democrats 40% of the vote, we are not necessarily talking about an impossibly red district. We are certainly not talking about the kind of place that ought to just be instantly written off and abandoned.

      1. Harold

        Isn’t there something rather fraudulent about soliciting contributions for candidates who may not exist?

  16. Goyo Marquez

    Re: Obamacare the Republican plan.

    So what Obama did with Obamacare is promote a plan that was easily doable because it was the Republican plan, then sell it to credulous Democrats as a great healthcare reform.

    He gets all of the credit for reforming healthcare with none of political risks or hard work. The man is a political genius.

    1. jrs

      why is it easily doable because it’s a Republican plan when no Republicans voted for it? Nor it seems did Republican voters like it all that much at least initially. I’m not sure how it helped him at all, except with bluedog/conservative Dems maybe (technically not Republicans at all), so maybe he avoided the effort of winning over conservative Dems?

    2. darthbobber

      Well, except for the minor risk of forfeiting the ability to implement much of anything else after contesting an election on this plan plus “summer of recovery.”

    3. Goyo Marquez

      I’m guessing it helped his reputation, which may have been all he was interested in.

  17. Heraclitus

    It’s true that the SC 5th District race was close, but this was not because of Archie Parnell’s wonderful organizing efforts, but because Republicans were suffering from a combination of election fatigue–this was the third time they’d been out to vote, versus twice for the Democrats–and overconfidence.

    Norman received approximately thirty five thousand votes–two hundred more than his opponent–in the Republican runoff. Twenty-five thousand of the voters who showed up for the loser, Tommy Pope, did not show up to vote for Norman in the general election. Ralph got approximately 45,000 votes. It’s not that there was bad blood between the Republicans. There were few differences between them, although Ralph Norman is arguably more of a Tea Party guy. It was a case of overconfidence and election fatigue.

    Next time there’s a general election, the Republicans will show up in force.

    1. JaaaaayCeeeee

      Thanks for that perspective which is very different from the spin of team Dem loyalists who are calling it another moral victory for being close and how well Parnell turned out the black vote, which he did accomplish, but the numbers put it into context.

  18. Oregoncharles

    “(1) the 2016 election was not legitimate” –
    true in so many ways, but they aren’t admitting to those.

    1. john k

      No, they’re always talking about how bernie was cheated out of the nom, and woulda shoulda won…
      Actually, job 1 was making sure no progressive gets to power because donors. Mission accomplished!
      Next job, winning elections… Vote for Trump’s noms! Plus, Russia! Russia! Russia! We’ve got a plan…

  19. darthbobber

    That RCP “reviving the political center? alt-center? Whatever?
    I did not know Morton Kondrake was still arguably alive. Still recall his hagiography of American revolutionary Jack Kemp.

    1. Jeff W

      Morton Kondrake carries on the tradition of Higher Broderism where “centrism” reigns supreme—if the parties can’t be “centrist,” the oligarchs have to be.

      Never mind that what is “centrism” for Kondrake is pretty well right in the rest of the advanced world. (Bernie Sanders’ positions would be center-right in Europe.) Never mind that majorities of Americans, including pluralities of self-identified Republicans, support things like single payer health care or are concerned about global warming. “Centrism” for Kondrake, if it means anything at all, as far as I can make out, is the center of élite opinion, the consensus on which there is no Washington Consensus yet. (The stuff that is the Washington Consensus is simply not debated—it’s just assumed.)

      At least he gives a favorable mention to groups that are trying to “counter gerrymandering, promote open primaries and rank-order voting systems and limit the influence of big money in politics”—if any of that happened, maybe we wouldn’t have to rely on “Americans of this caliber” pushing a rarified “centrism” rather than, y’know, voters actually getting policies they want.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Morton’s Overton window…it’s insidious. Apparently being “centrist” now means I have to be for unlimited Permanent War, zero jail for billionaire bank criminals, total suspension of all civil liberties and privacy, and a “pay more to die sooner” healthcare system.

    2. funemployed

      I’m all for reviving the political center. Based on policy polling data, it appears the true political center in this country roughly aligns with Bernie’s platform.

  20. hemeantwell

    Re the Kondracke call for a gathering of oligarchs…. What a confession of political bankruptcy! A groveling attempt to generate collective charisma from a bunch of people whose opinion no one cares about. Kondracke should add his name to the list. He’s hoping that his Golem of notables will be able to stare down anyone or any group advocating the leftish policy consensus that is now taking shape. I await a special issue of People magazine announcing their coalition. gah.

    1. flora

      there’s a ‘pride of lions’, a ‘murder of crows’, a ‘convocation of eagles’, a ‘slither of snakes’ ….

      what is a gathering of oligarchs called?

      1. integer

        Target practice… Just kidding.

        Lots of good suggestions, however I’ll go with: an encumbrance of oligarchs.

        1. witters

          Spokesperson for the spew of oligarchs argued that – going forward – “A rising tide lifts all bloats.”

    2. Mike Mc

      Used to watch The McLaughlin Group long ago (when they still had interesting panelists).

      Cannot read a single word about Kondracke without hearing the late John McLaughlin saying “MOR-ton!” in his stentorian East Coast accent.

      Kondracke still a hopeless hack as his list of ‘notables’ illustrates so well. MOR-ton!

    3. darthbobber

      Looking at that silly laundry list of names, I apply a question I frequently find useful, namely:
      “If this is supposed to be the answer, then what was the question?”(in the answerers mind)

  21. flora

    “IT: “2017 Data Breaches Nearly 30% Higher Than 2016’s Record Pace” [247 Wall Street]. “The business sector leads them all in the number of records compromised so far in 2017, with more than 7.5 million exposed records in 420 incidents. That represents 55.4% of the incidents and nearly 64% of the exposed records so far this year.” Don’t worry. When cash is digital, this problem will go away. Oh, wait… ”

    Moving all your business data to the cloud will improve your business by requiring ever higher costs for data/network security.

  22. voteforno6

    Wow, that Ossoff ad was terrible. It essentially confirmed every annoying Millennial stereotype. That’s the kind of person that the people in his district would want to send to Congress?

    1. Huey Long

      Yeah, that ad made me laugh so hard it nearly gave me a hernia! Talk about a belly laugh!

      I can’t believe they ran that ad in a race for Newt’s old district. Eddy Bernays is rolling over in his grave.

    2. oho

      Each Ossoff TV advert look like the start of a 1990’s Sat. Night Live skit.

      Your DNC at work for you! If only Ossoff spent $10 million more, surely victory would’ve happened :)

  23. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Russian hacking

    I caught some of Johnson’s testimony on C-SPAN yesterday. When I say ‘caught’ I mean sort of half listened to it for about 15 minutes before turning it off in disgust, so take the following with a grain of salt.

    Pretty sure Johnson said at one point “I am not a cyber expert”, which admission from the former head of the DHS made my jaw hit the floor. Then despite not being an expert, he later proceeded to talk about how various systems had been compromised. That’s about the time I decided life was too short to listen to such nonsense any longer.

    Can anyone else who may have paid more attention than me corroborate that?

  24. voteforno6

    Re: Russian Hacking

    Even if the DNC handed its servers over for independent inspection, attribution would still be extremely difficult. Source IP addresses wouldn’t be sufficient – any half-decent hacker would’ve masked those. From what I understand, based on the report released in January (I think), a not-insignificant number of those IPs were Tor nodes. In order to trace the attacks, someone would need to have a concurrent log from the source IP of the hack, especially if it was being used as a proxy. Unless they have those records (and no one has suggested that they do), it would be extremely difficult to pin this on anyone specific, with any degree of certainty.

    1. Skip Intro

      Handing over the servers would at least help determine independently whether there was any hack at all, or whether the emails came from an internal leaker, and a DNC contractor (CrowdStrike) was called in to make it look like a hack by recycling their (since retracted) claims about Russian hacking of Ukrainian artillery. Nothing like claiming the leak was a Russian hack to convert poor security into the perception of being under attack by foreign enemies, and distract from the content of the leaks while marking WikiLeaks as an accessory.

  25. Goyo Marquez

    From the department of, “Lions, tigers and inflation, Oh my!” This was pretty good. Here’s a quote:
    “The 1970s have a bad reputation amongst pundits and policy makers, but for most working people they were pretty good. Inflation-adjusted wages went up more in the 1970s than they have any decade since. For rich people, however, the 1970s were terrible. The stock market tanked, the bond market was even worse, corporate profitability collapsed, and, with inflation higher than interest rates, putting money into the bank only confiscated wealth.”


    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Was in a discussion (airplane, in the exit row, so we were stuck with each other) with my dear representative, Mo Brooks, where I was arguing for a platinum coin solution to the national debt. “Gawd, if it bothers you guys so much, let’s pay it off tomorrow.” Of course, he objected, saying such would cause runaway inflation. To which, I replied, “The man with nothing cares nothing about inflation.” Well, those weren’t the exact words, but this is a family blog.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Indeed. When all the Koch brothers’ fortune can only buy a stale loaf of bread, that’s when inflation begins to trouble me. I’m kidding, that wouldn’t trouble me at all.

    2. Huey Long

      Unfortunately rich guys write the history books, or at least control the politicians/mandarins who decide what goes in the history curriculum and what stays out.

  26. JTMcPhee

    In case there’s anyone reading here who is not sufficiently despondent yet, here’s something completely different:

    The technicians’ improvised photo-op, an internal Energy Department report concluded later, revealed the staff had become “de-sensitized” to the risk of a serious accident. Other reports have described flimsy workplace safety policies that repeatedly left workers uninformed of proper procedures and left plutonium packed hundreds of times into dangerously close quarters or without appropriate shielding to prevent a serious accident.

    Workplace safety, many of the reports say, has frequently taken a back seat to profit-seeking at the Los Alamos, New Mexico, lab — which is run by a group of three private firms and the University of California — as managers there chase lucrative government bonuses tied to accomplishing specific goals for producing and recycling the plutonium parts of nuclear weapons.


    1. Huey Long

      Workplace safety, many of the reports say, has frequently taken a back seat to profit-seeking at the Los Alamos, New Mexico, lab — which is run by a group of three private firms and the University of California — as managers there chase lucrative government bonuses tied to accomplishing specific goals for producing and recycling the plutonium parts of nuclear weapons.

      Fantastic, we’ve put MBAs and profit seeking university administrators in charge of nuclear weapon core manufacturing. What could go wrong?

      JT, thanks for the despondency trigger warning at the top of the post ;-).

    2. Mark P.

      Dear Lord. That’s staggering stupidity and arrogance — even stupider in its way than the people who played with the Chernobyl reactor. How is it possible to locate and recruit so many morons, then put them together in one ‘organization’?

      Thanks for the educational link, I guess. Not much surprises me anymore, but that did.

      1. RWood

        Yes, but ‘no usable warhead production for four years’!
        Maybe even six years!
        Hopium halflife.
        As we hope the twittering yam will also not slide the wrong buttons for the nonce.
        Downstream from the brigands.

      2. JTMcPhee

        More nuke idiocy surprises, all around, it one is driven to look–

        Let us remember that many of the people who staff the corp that processes and repairs and maintains all those thousands of “US” nuclear weapons, at a place called “Pantex” in Amarillo, TX, are fundamentalist Xtians who really truly believe in the Rapture, that as the nukes they put in play every work day fly off down-range and the Foolish reply of more flights of nukes comes back over the horizon, all they will have to do is step outside, and YHWH (they prefer the God of the Old Testament, though hope they are among the Elect that will be “raptured” up to the Heavenly Starship by their hair, like Sikhs are said to believe… See this, from the NYT, back in the day (1986) — “The Rapture and the Bomb,” http://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/08/books/the-rapture-and-the-bomb.html

        BLESSED ASSURANCE At Home With the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas. By A. G. Mojtabai. 255 pp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $16.95. ”Y

        OU know,” Ronald Reagan told a pro-Israeli lobbyist in 1983, ”I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that’s going to see that come about, I don’t know if you’ve noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through.”

        The President’s interest in Armageddon – reflected in several remarks over recent years – became an issue in the 1984 campaign, leading some critics to wonder whether Mr. Reagan wasn’t predisposed toward nuclear apocalypse as the ultimate showdown between good and evil.

        Now the novelist (her books include ”The 400 Eels of Sigmund Freud” and ”Autumn”) A. G. Mojtabai has pushed this question one step further, asking in an audacious journalistic essay whether many Americans’ religious vision isn’t somehow related to their perception of nuclear reality. Her method is beguiling: a close examination of one American community – Amarillo, Tex. -which is home both to the final assembly plant for all United States nuclear weapons and to an impressive array of fundamentalist sects that share a fascination with Armageddon.

        And it works. In the brief compass of 255 pages, ”Blessed Assurance” cuts closer to the nub of the nuclear dilemma than many more ponderous treatises on the subject. Amarillo (population 158,000) is a perfect backdrop for this deft dissection of the national conscience. Few communities are so American as this city on the dusty plains of the Texas Panhandle that was bred on cattle, raised on oil and gas and now, in its industrial maturity, feeds, in part, off preparations for nuclear war.

        Other Texas municipalities are home to a lot of the other sites that are deeply involved in Slim Pickens-type preparations for, and supply-chain participation in, that Armageddon thing… From a 2005 official Texas report, “State of Texas Aerospace and Defense Cluster Assessment:”

        1 – Executive Summary and Recommendations
        1.1 – Overview of Cluster Assessment Report

        In Senate Bill 275, the 78th Texas Legislature initiated the development of a detailed assessment of the aerospace and defense industry in Texas, along with five other clusters:
        Advanced Technologies and Manufacturing, Energy, Information and Computer Technology, Biotechnology and Life Science, and Petroleum Refining and Chemical Products. Currently, Texas is experiencing growth in aviation, space and defense activities that is creating companies, funding research initiatives and launching programs that create jobs, knowledge and technologically advanced products.

        Not only does Texas have a strong foothold in aerospace and defense, but the state also is well positioned to profit from investment and market expansion in this cluster. Recent federal funding trends and commitment to projects at the federal level, indicate opportunities to secure funded programs that invest in research, product commercialization, workforce training in space, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology, defense and biodefense, and composite aircraft to name a few. The Texas Industry Cluster Initiative aims to engage and represent statewide stakeholders and outline key recommendations for state leadership to best allocate state resources, foster growth in the clusters and develop a strategic economic development plan for
        the state.

        Clusters rely on the continual advancement and investment of companies, infrastructure and technology to maintain a competitive advantage. The Aerospace and Defense Cluster is no exception. This assessment explored sources of economic activity, regional assets including support services and infrastructure, threats to economic growth and the future workforce pipeline
        required to meet the needs of industry as the cluster grows.

        Leading industry representatives, entrepreneurs, workforce and economic development, business associations, support industry and academia created a detailed profile of the cluster. Through the examination of qualitative and quantitative data, the Aerospace and Defense Cluster team identified technology and market-driven opportunities to stimulate sustained economic growth.

        As the information was analyzed, the following themes emerged:
        1) Workforce and Education
        2) Capital and Commercialization
        3) Collaboration and Strategic Partnerships
        4) Business Climate

        This team also identified several important activities and policy issues that resulted in recommendations. The aerospace industry, especially the manufacturing and design sectors, is labor intensive and depends upon a highly skilled and highly compensated workforce. From research and comments that have been collected, the state must recognize these factors if
        it wishes to attract, expand and retain these industries that form the cluster. Training skilled workers for the line must be complemented by development of specialized programs for the jobs of the future and enhanced by job training or retraining programs underpinned by state support. Broadened availability of post-graduate engineering and design programs must be increased through cooperative efforts between this industry and higher education. In addition, as the state may begin to rely upon payroll or compensation factors as part of its state tax base, recognition that the aerospace is a high wage, labor-intensive, specialized industry must be continually evaluated. The design of such a tax system must consider the impact of national and global competition on this important sector of the Texas economy.

        The state of Texas is in an excellent opportunity to leverage business opportunities in homeland and cyber security, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), space program and industry commercialization, as well as composite aircraft. Adopting new technologies and improved processes for manufacturing will advance the aerospace and defense industries in Texas…. [There’s lots more, but I leave it to the masochists among us to read through it. ]

        Seems to me, there you have it, all lumped together in one succinct Executive Summary — One might archly call it a Cluster-fokk, or subtitle it “What’s Wrong With Practically Everything, And Why It’s Not Going To Get Any Better.” Short of another Noah’s Flood, and/or the Pantexers getting their topknots jerked up to the Starship, while the rest of us wail and burn…

        It’s all “just good business,” I guess…But hey, that’s just this old man mumbling…

      3. Skip Intro

        It is a different type of critical mass. When enough clueless greedheads are placed together a chain-reaction can occur causing runaway idiocy.

  27. Knot Galt

    Remember when Clinton said in the debates that “she would honor the results of the election”?

    Ahh, the good ‘ol days.

      1. Splashoil

        Thank the Super Delegates in the Primary. More votes in the General Election but not where they would have made a difference. The ’08-’12 Obama voters who went for Trump did not help. Chelsea/Ossoff in 2020 anyone?

  28. Huey Long

    U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes – “By, With And Through Allies”


    Apparently the US is yet again involved in a torture scandal, this time in Yemen and aboard US naval vessels off the coast. I suppose ISIS/Al-Queda is having trouble recruiting so their masters in Langley are once again having to turn to torture media leaks to bolster their numbers.

  29. JCC

    I was always taught that one of Grace Hopper’s many claims to fame was not helping to put together the COBOL computer language but instead that she led the design of the first computer language compiler which then directly led to the design of the COBOL Language.

    I never read that she was directly involved in writing the COBOL language except in publications that were not technical publications or IT textbooks ,i.e., People, Time, NYTimes, etc.

    Computer Programming history buffs may feel free to correct my understanding.

  30. crittermom

    RE: Dakota Access Pipeline/Energy Transfer Partners LP

    I was horrified to read what has been destroyed already in their other projects. Especially pristine wetlands.
    “…they found 2,500 square feet of wetlands filled with drilling fluid.”
    “Whatever lived in the wetland was suffocated beneath a foot or more of bentonite clay mud and subsequently suctioned up by vacuum trucks,” said Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee.

    And another: “…119,000 barrels of drilling fluid had disappeared…they found about 40 percent of it. It had settled on 500,000 acres of pristine wetland.”

    Farmers suffered, as well. As an atty representing 200 landowners stated, ‘The tight timeline meant that paying for damage was preferable to preventing it.’
    As with the TBTJ banks, the fines are but the cost of doing business.

    The new business model sickens me.
    No doubt there will be much more destruction to come as profits come first and all else be damned.

  31. Enrico Malatesta

    Hey Morton Kondrake, maybe your centrist argument would make sense if the ‘center’ was in its real place. The Elite State has jacked the Overton Window and shoved it hard to the Right!

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