2:00PM Water Cooler 7/6/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“The TPP May Not Be Completely Dead Yet” [The National Interest]. “The existing text needs creative adaptation rather than simple adoption. Any successor agreement should be between those members who wish to exploit the gains of well-managed globalisation for innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth. The TPP can be a valuable organ donor.” “[W]ell-managed globalisation” vs. “Kill it with fire.” Decisions, decisions….

The rebirth of the Trans-Pacific Partnership” [Japan Times]. “[A]s Columbia University’s Jagdish Bhagwati said to me, ‘the TPP was a bit like allowing people to play golf in a club, but only if they also attended a particular church over the weekend.’ The deal’s signatories were in it for the golf — that is, the expanded trade and investment flows. But they couldn’t avoid the obligation to accept rules that would benefit the U.S., in the hope that the liturgy might help to constrain China’s behavior. The U.S. is unique in this scenario, because it had a strong national interest in both the golf and the church.” And it’s not like golf is a class marker, or anything.


Health Care

UPDATE “The US spends more on medical care, per person and as a percentage of gross domestic product, than any other nation: costs are expected to hit 18% of American GDP next year, compared to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nation average of around 11%. Despite this enormous expenditure, roughly 10% of American adults have no health insurance and millions more are underinsured, with medical debt the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Nor is American healthcare yielding especially impressive results on a national scale, with life expectancy and infant mortality rates markedly worse than in peer nations” [Le Monde Diplomatique]. In other words, the American health care system perfectly embodies both the simple rules of neoliberalism. Ka-ching!

“The life of Charlie Gard” [Chicago Tribune]. So that’s why Trump tweeted on this. A “baby ventilator” story is the conservative attack on single payer, not so coincidentally coming at the same time as the liberal diversion into waonkish policy weeds; they are reacting to single payer gaining traction. Left out: The continuing crapification of the NHS, as engineered by neolibera policy, encouraged by UK conservatives, and allowed by UK liberals. (The framing at a more inflammatory winger site: “In the UK, Socialized Medicine Yanks Baby’s Life Support.” So, death panels again…


“Cory Booker on 2020: ‘I don’t know what the future’s going to bring'” [CNN]. Oh, really?


Liberal Democrat Design Bake-Off:

“I mean, have you seen the other guys?” Now there’s a hill to die on…

By contrast:

“Back to the Center, Democrats” [Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, New York Times]. “But the last few years of the Obama administration and the 2016 primary season once again created a rush to the left. Identity politics, class warfare and big government all made comebacks. Candidates inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and a host of well-funded groups have embraced sharply leftist ideas. But the results at the voting booth have been anything but positive: Democrats lost over 1,000 legislative seats across the country and control of both houses of Congress during the Obama years. And in special elections for Congress this year, they failed to take back any seats held by Republicans.” Ingenious! Takes positioning the Blame Cannons to a whole new level.

“The Remaking of Donald Trump” [BusinessWeek]. “In the multicultural days of The Apprentice, he rose to a level of popularity with minorities that the GOP could only dream of. Then he torched it all to prepare for a hard-right run at the presidency.” So, Trump took Penn and Stein’s advice. As a Republican….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Give Directly To Good Democrats” [Mike the Mad Biologist]. Disintermediate the Democratic strategists and the consultants, the paid losers who forced Perez down our throats.

“Newspapers rip Trump voter fraud panel in July Fourth editorials” [The Hill]. A good wrap-up; sadly, USA Today succumbers to Putin Derangement Syndrome.

“According to a roster updated daily by the National Association of Secretaries of State, 18 states declined as of Wednesday to provide voter data sought by Pence and commissioners, who are operating under the leadership of vice chair Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state” [RealClearPolitics]. “Twenty-four states agreed as of Wednesday to provide at least some of the publicly available data the Pence panel requested, in some cases following receipt of fees required for the transaction.” Kobach, of course, has made it his life’s work to throw PoC off the voter rolls by using algorithms designed to produce false positives (exactly the technique used by Jebbie in 2000 to purge the Florida lists in 2000, and about which the Democrats very naturally did squat).

“The White House is pushing back against reports that states are overwhelmingly rejecting its voter-fraud panel’s information request” [Business Insider]. “States that refused to provide the data span the political spectrum, from Alabama to California. Maryland’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, said the commission’s request was ‘designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.’ And Kentucky’s secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, said, ‘There’s not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible.'” Again, Democrats are silent on CrossCheck. Why?

* **

And then there’s this:

I don’t know what to make of this, but it’s an indication that elite reaction to Trump isn’t necessarily universal…

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers’ Services Index, June 2017: “Service-sector strength improved in June, to 54.2 vs the mid-month flash of 53.0 and May’s final reading of 53.6. Gains for new orders, the best since January, are behind the strength as is hiring which is the best since February. Another positive is a rise in confidence in future activity” [Econoday]. “This report is solidly positive and points to quarter-end momentum for the economy in general.”

Institute For Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, June 2017: “ISM’s non-manufacturing sample continues to report extending strength” [Econoday]. “The strength in this report continues to be impressive but has yet to pan out to similar strength in government data.”

ADP Employment Report, June 2017: “ADP sees June private payrolls rising 158,000 which misses Econoday’s ADP consensus of 180,000” [Econoday]. “Estimates this year from ADP have been hit and miss with a wild upside miss in May.”

Challenger Job-Cut Report, June 2017: “In a positive indication for tomorrow’s employment report and in confirmation that employers are holding onto their employees, Challenger’s layoff count for June is the lowest total since October last year” [Econoday]. ” One industry where layoffs have been heavy, however, has been retail”

Jobless Claims, week of July 1, 2017: “In results clouded by estimates, initial jobless claims rose 4,000 in the July 1 week to 248,000 which nevertheless is steady and safely within Econoday’s consensus range” [Econoday].

Gallup Good Jobs Rate, June 2017: “The June good jobs rate rose to 46.3 percent, up from 45.4 in May. The workforce participation rate reached a record-high 68.6 percent. Unemployment and underemployment rates remained steady” [Econoday].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of July 2, 2017: “Edged” one point lower [Econoday].

International Trade, May 2017: “The nation’s trade gap came in very near expectations in May” [Econoday]. “The strength in exports is centered once again in services where the surplus rose 1.0 percent to $64.8 billion. Demand for U.S. services is tied to the nation’s technical and managerial skills.”

Shipping: “Airfreight continues multi-month roll in May with global double-digit growth” [DC Velocity]. “No one knows how long it will last, but the international airfreight industry is partying like it’s 1999…. Present-day demand growth is following the recovery in global economies, with the pace of new export orders nearing a six-year high in May. Industry executives expect demand to grow by 8 percent during the third quarter, IATA said.”

Retail: “In interviews with Business Insider, half a dozen [Sears] employees described signs of decay in the stores they work in. These include a rat problem, collapsing ceilings, empty shelves, and a lack of working toilets for weeks on end” [Business Insider]. As I’ve said, the Sears in the Bangor Mall is one of the most depressing built environments I’ve ever been in; I wanted to take a shower when I left.

ETFs: “[Bank of American] says the massive popularity of ETFs may be leading us on a road to a liquidity problem. The note issued by Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Research department warns ‘the actual shares available, or true float for S&P 500 stocks, may be grossly overestimated'” [CNBC]. “That could lead stocks and the overall market to fluctuate more violently, especially to the downside, due to a future event affecting either a single stock, a sector or the market at large.”

The Bezzle: “Much has already been written about Blue Apron’s financials. The company is on pace to generate around $1 billion of revenue this year, but marketing costs are exploding, revenue per customer is in decline, and the company is burning cash at an accelerating rate. The financials alone are reason enough to avoid Blue Apron stock like the plague. Blue Apron posted a net loss of $52 million during the first quarter, nearly as much as it lost during the whole of 2016” [Business Insider]. “If you still find yourself tempted by this trendy company drowning in red ink, there’s another reason to stay away from the stock. The business model, mailing ingredients and recipes to customers, just doesn’t make much sense.” Wait, that seems like a familiar story… More: “Blue Apron customers placed just 4.1 orders on average during the first quarter, down from 4.5 during the first quarter of 2016. A customer who orders every week would place around 12 orders each quarter, so this number is shockingly low. Blue Apron doesn’t disclose customer churn rates, but the only conclusion from the data we do have is that customers aren’t sticking around very long.”

The Bezzle: “On a website with more than 100 million active daily users, there are plenty of ways to game the system” [Vulture]. “Even Spotify is reportedly gaming the system by paying producers to produce songs that are then placed on the service’s massively popular playlists under the names of unknown, nonexistent artists. This upfront payment saves the company from writing fat streaming checks that come with that plum playlist placement, but tricks listeners into thinking the artists actually exist and limits the opportunities for real music-makers to make money.” So it’s like Spotify is selling own-label product. Just without the label. Seems legit. (This topic seems to be what’s getting this article tweeted, but it’s well worth a read to understand the streaming business.)

Concentration: “Film studio profits have been suffering in recent years, and the ‘desperation level in Hollywood’ has reached new highs, according to a new research note from Morgan Stanley” [Business Insider]. “Hard times and thin margins could result in a major push toward a service called ‘premium video on demand’ — streaming newly released movies at home for a higher fee in lieu of visiting the cinema — that may boost profits at studios but would likely harm movie theater operators, according to the bank. Just how bad is it for film studios right now? Despite the gaudy, billion-dollar global box office figures, most of Hollywood isn’t earning huge profits, thanks in part to the onslaught of streamable, high-quality TV content.” More on streaming….

Concentration: “How to keep Amazon from eating your business, too” [ReCode] “[Amazon Web Services] has been compared to a tax, ‘because it’s so widely used by every company that it’ll eventually turn into a fixed annual cost for most businesses.’ What is Amazon doing with that tax they collect on businesses rushing to the public cloud? Using those proceeds to compete with those very same businesses.” Seems legit.

Political Risk: “Yelp’s Six-Year Grudge Against Google” [New York Times]. More:

For example, say you searched for “steakhouse New York.” The first set of results, consuming the entire screen of a mobile phone, is a map and a set of restaurants from Google’s local offering. The results have information like hours, stars and customer reviews. Below that are links to reviews, articles and other sites. Like Yelp.

Yelp’s contention is that by putting its own results at the top, Google is giving itself an unfair advantage, because those results don’t have to jump through the same algorithmic hoops non-Google sites are subjected to. And since Yelp says few people go beyond the first or second result, companies like Yelp are made invisible.

Google disagrees. The company declined to comment beyond its official statement on the European fine, but it has repeatedly said that as smartphones displace desktop computers as the internet gateway, people just want the answer to their question — not a link to a site where they might have to repeat the query — and that Google’s results oblige.

Lambert here: Who could have known that combining immense computing power with a coarse-grained interface (fingertip vs. mouse) and a teensy amount of screen real estate would work to the benefit of ginormous monopolies? (Well, nobody, so far as I know, certainly not me, but readers?) Google’s News horrid new interface and algo now fill my laptop screen — and therefore a cellphone’s screen — with a single “card,” i.e., one story, which is presumably all most people will read. Compare that to the extravagant redundancy of TV news, where at they very least they announce the top stories, plural, at the start of the show. And compare that to the enormously effective payout of a newspaper front page. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Lords of Silicon Valley have devoted their immense technical and financial resources to making us more ignorant, more vulnerable to herd-like behavior, worse citizens. How did the smart phone get so dumb?

Concentration: “How to Disable AMP on WordPress” [Alex Kras]. (“The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that makes it easy for publishers to create mobile-friendly content,” sponsored by Google.) tl;dr: If you change your site to AMP, and then change back, AMP defaults to breaking all your links.” That’s not a bug. It’s a feature; AMP is a roach motel. (This does seem to be The Day of the Horrid Cellphone Story (see below); maybe something’s happening in the zeitgeist…

The Fed: “A Newly Frisky Janet Yellen Is Ready To Set The Banks Free” [DealBreaker]. “According to the the just-released minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s last meeting, Chair Janet Yellen and her cohorts spent much of their last meeting discussing why, exactly, investors have responded to the Fed’s interest rate hikes by pushing stocks and other risky markets to all-time highs. (They’ve taken away the punch bowl only to find that the party-goers brought their own flasks )… [I]t is no accident that the softened stance on Volcker and CCAR testing comes on the heels of the departure of former Fed Governor and supervision czar Daniel Tarullo, who, as was obvious by their seething and barely contained hatred of him, neither a product nor a tool of the money-center banks…. [Efforts by Neel Kashkari and Rep. Jeb Hensarling] appear to be policy footnotes to a much different agenda for now, however — as they will remain historical footnotes whenever the ascendant deregulatory agenda reaps the inevitable financial calamity Fed officials have bowed to sowing” (more on Tarullo at NC here).

Five Horsemen: “Three of the Fab Five have undershot the S&P 500 since late April, with Apple the worst laggard” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen July5

I’m gonna have to stop ranting about Apple; apparently, Mr. Market was listening over all!

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 57, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 47 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jul 6 at 12:08pm.

Health Care

Class Warfare

“Toward a Marxist Interpretation of the US Constitution” [Bertell Ollmann, Jacobin].

But it wasn’t until 1840, a half century after the Constitution was put into effect, with the posthumous surfacing of James Madison’s extensive notes, that the American people could finally read what had happened in those three crucial months in Philadelphia.

What was revealed was neither divine nor diabolical, but simply human, an all-too-human exercise in politics. Merchants, bankers, shipowners, planters, slave traders and slaveowners, land speculators, and lawyers, who made their money working for these groups, voiced their interests and fears in clear, uncluttered language; and, after settling a few, relatively minor disagreements, they drew up plans for a form of government they believed would serve these interests most effectively.

Film at 11? Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution is a good book on the sausage making between South Carolina slave owners, and the Connecticut shipbuilders who built ships for the Triangular Trade (“Southern slaves on Yankee bottoms,” as a saying I’ve filed away, which which seems to be apocryphal, goes.)

News of the Wired

“Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity” [Journal of the Association of Consumer Research].

In this research, we test the “brain drain” hypothesis that the mere presence of one’s own smartphone may occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance. Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. Moreover, these cognitive costs are highest for those highest in smartphone dependence.

Believe it or not, readers, I encountered this link after my rant on screen real estate (supra). And this study — from the Great Sept of neoliberalism at the University of Chicago — reinforces my priors so much it’s hard to cope. Can readers comment on the methodology?

“A large satellite may be falling apart in geostationary orbit [Updated]” [Ars Technica]. “‘We have seen several pieces come off of it over the past several days,’ ExoAnalytic’s chief executive officer, Doug Hendrix, told Ars. ‘We are tracking at least one of the pieces. I would hesitate to say we know for sure what happened.'”

“Coding ethics into technology” [Hack & Craft].

“Redesigning Google News for everyone” [Google]. How Google came up with a site redesign for News that sucked up all the screen real estate on a laptop to present four stories.

“Data brokers and the new panopticon” [Medium].

“Is social graph portability workable?” [Digitopoly]. If you want to break up giant digital monopolies, you’ve got to think through issues like this. This will be difficult; culturally and as a matter of incentives, programmers always want to optimize their inputs and outputs for “their” program, and the idea that data might have its own integrity outside those bounds doesn’t figure largely in their thinking. And then there’s the lock-in effect.

“The hidden signs that can reveal a fake photo” [BBC]. News you can use!

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allegic to PayPal, and (d) 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 (Diptherio):

Diptherio writes:

Don’t know if the resolution on this is high enough to use. The camera on my fake blackberry isn’t the best. That’s Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja miniata, in the foreground, which I think you probably don’t see out East. It’s an interesting plant. From Wikipedia:

That’s Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja miniata, in the foreground, which I think you probably don’t see out East. It’s an interesting plant. From Wikipedia:
The flowers of Indian paintbrush are edible, and were consumed in moderation by various Native American tribes as a condiment with other fresh greens. These plants have a tendency to absorb and concentrate selenium in their tissues from the soils in which they grow, and can be potentially very toxic if the roots or green parts of the plant are consumed. Highly alkaline soils increase the selenium levels in the plants. Indian paintbrush has similar health benefits to consuming garlic if only the flowers are eaten in small amounts and in moderation.
The Ojibwe used a hairwash made from Indian paintbrush to make their hair glossy and full bodied, and as a treatment for rheumatism. The high selenium content of this plant has been cited as the reason for its effectiveness for these purposes. Nevada Indian tribes used the plant to treat sexually transmitted diseases and to enhance the immune system.

Happy Independence Day!

NOTE Readers, if you want your handle to appear as a credit, please put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. Thank you!

UPDATE Now that that the 2017 Water Cooler fundraiser post is launched, I can say that directions for sending a check will include a request to send me a parallel email so I can thank you. I was not able to thank all you sent me checks this year, because I was unable to connect physical mail identities to online identities. Apologies!

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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. Procopius

      I read a couple of days ago (don’t remember where) a summary of all the reactions of the 50 state secretaries of state. Most of them said they would provide the data that their privacy laws required them to provide to anyone. One I really liked said that the commission could buy the same data they were required to sell to the political parties. A couple said they hadn’t received the letter yet, and I think eight hadn’t responded by the time the story went to print. Apparently many public records laws make this data (name, address, party affiliation) available to the public, meaning anyone who asks for it. Most of the really offensive requests (last four social security number, history of felonies, voting record for last six years) are not even recorded, and won’t be provided.

  1. flora

    re: Liberal Democrat Design Bake-Off:

    “Persist, Resist”
    Every time I hear that slogan I think it’s advertising an antiperspirant.

    1. ChrisPacific

      It always made me think of constipation. The new stickers aren’t helping with that. (Are they actually real? They look like parodies to me).

  2. sleepy

    Charles Gard–

    The parents’ dilemma has nothing to do with insurance, private or public. The doctors concluded no effective medical treatment existed. The parents wanted the child to continue on life support. The hospital went to court to obtain an order removing the support which was granted, the court assuming the right to make those decisions rather than the parents on the basis that further intervention would cause undue suffering.

    Whether or not the court should make those decisions is an issue, yes, but not that there was treatment available which the NHS wouldn’t pay for.

    Some idiot on cable made the remark that if the parents had private insurance they would be free to travel to the US for experimental treatment. Not true. No private or public insurance pays for experimental treatments which are unproven and unsanctioned by the medical profession. Try to get blue cross to pay for laetrile treatments or orgone boxes.

    1. Art Eclectic

      The thing that bothers me the most about this situation is that nobody seems to be concerned for the suffering of that little baby. He’s more apparently more valuable as a political football.

      1. RUKidding

        Yes. This.

        Plus I haven’t seen conservatives so very concerned about doing anything for an already born baby/human, other than Terry Schiavo. Usually their humongous concern is reserved for the unborn fetus. Once the babe travels down the birth canal, you’re on your own.

    2. RUKidding

      The story – at least in the USA – is being used as a cudgel for health insurance. I’ve seen similar lies about how this baby would’ve gotten more treatment (of what kind is left unsaid…. mainly because there simply is NO more treatment) if it had private health insurance here in the USA, where, as we all know, we have the BEST medical care in the world (that may be true but only if you can cough up the ready to pay for it).

      How this story actually really ties into the Republican Death Panel Insurance is beyond me. Because, as we know, should the Republican Death Panel Insurance legislation be passed, we are – one and all (except for the massively wealthy) – going to get worse and more crapified and waaaay more expensive health “care” via Republican Death Panel “health” insurance.

      1. a different chris

        It doesn’t have to tie into anything. The reason our right-wing radicals love the term “conservative” is that (unlike them!) most of us really are small-c conservative. So any FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) about any society-wide effort to do anything works to their favor, and thus they sow it mightily.

        Notice that they sell the RDPI as a reduction of government oversight — if you have FUD that is the trigger.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      From your link:

      When Sol Shipotow enrolled in a new Medicare Advantage health plan earlier this year, he expected to keep the doctor who treats his serious eye condition.

      “That turned out not to be so,” said Shipotow, 83, who lives in Bensalem, Pa.

      Shipotow said he had to scramble to get back on a health plan he could afford and that his longtime eye specialist would accept. “You have to really understand your policy,” he said. “I thought it was the same coverage.”

      The article does not say why, at age 83 and suffering from a “serious” eye condition, he decided to switch plans. I suspect the word “afford” had something to do with it. The article also does not say if he switched to Advantage from “traditional” Medicare or from a different Advantage Plan.
      For those who don’t know, the most comprehensive coverage through Medicare comes by paying the current monthly Medicare cost of $134, and buying a supplement (Medigap) Plan F. Plan F pays everything that Medicare doesn’t, anywhere that Medicare is accepted, and costs an additional approximately $200 per month, paid to a private insurance company. There are other less generous supplemental plans which are also less expensive than Plan F, and don’t cover costs to the same extent. Advantage plans are considerably less expensive, and involve networks and copays.

      Here is the problem. The most generous Plan F will no longer be offered as of 2019. If you are already a subscriber, you will be allowed to keep the plan and its benefits in perpetuity, if you continue to pay the premiums, which are not fixed. As those with Plan F die off, the pool becomes smaller, and those remaining will need to share the cost of the generous benefits among fewer subscribers, resulting in ever increasing premiums.

      I understand the antipathy of some here wrt Medicare Advantage as opposed to “traditional Medicare.” The problem is, as the goalposts keep moving, you really have to play defensive ball, or keep your powder dry or whatever metaphor suits you. The bottom line (Jeez, the cliches) is that, at this age, you can only do what you can do.

      1. ginnie nyc

        Katniss, are you saying that if someone signs up for Plan F before 2019 they can maintain it? To your knowledge, is there a deadline for doing so? Thanks in advance.

        1. Katniss Everdeen

          Yes. I’d imagine there’s a deadline but it’s to be determined. You will be “grandfathered in,” or that’s what they’re saying now, as long as you are a Plan F subscriber before it is no longer offered.

          You should ask an insurance agent to get the particulars.

          I have no idea whether the “High Deductible Plan F” is going away as well.

        2. sleepy

          The enrollment deadline is Dec. 31, 2019. If you are covered on that date you will be grandfathered in.

          Plan F covers your part B deductible which is currently c. $140/yr. Congress wanted seniors to have more skin in the game and to cough up the deductible thereby reducing doctor visits.

          Ultimately this is much ado about not too much. Plan G will still be available and it is exactly the same as Plan F except it does not cover the part B deductible. It is also a little bit cheaper. In my case about $10/month.

          1. katiebird

            I wonder how long before the deductible will dramatically rise? Sooner or later someone will decide monthly premiums + $134 isn’t enough skin in the game?

  3. EGrise

    Reading Umair Haque is a guilty(?) pleasure. I found his recent discussion of American societal collapse especially interesting:

    When I say “America’s collapsing”, I’d bet a lot of people think I mean: the Rapture, bunkers, apocalypse, zombies. I don’t. Collapse doesn’t mean you wake up tomorrow and the world has gone Mad Max.

    It means, in many ways, more perniciously, the very opposite. Life goes on — but the quality and quantity of it shrink, often invisibly, day by day, as a society goes from something to something.


    Collapse is multidimensional. In America’s case, it means political collapse: democracy becomes authoritarianism. Social collapse: an open, free society becomes a closed, stratified one, as the structure of society changes. And economic collapse: that prosperity becomes stagnation. Is any or all this real, happening, present?

    The Next Stage of American Collapse: Reconstruction and Parallel Institutions

    1. polecat

      Well, then it’s high time to pull the barbed lash out of the drawer, rip thyne shirt from thyne’s back, and prepare to repent for thyne’s wayward American sins … before heading to the Monastery !

  4. Art Eclectic

    Spotify story. I was an enthusiastic paid subscriber up until March of 2017. Loved the platform, their Discover Weekly feature introduced me to tons of new artists and songs. Happy customer. Then their service stopped working on Roku (I stream through my TV to take advantage of the much better speakers). Weeks of complaints on their forums from hundreds of paid premium subscribers who had lost access through Smart TV’s and Roku. No response from Spotify. For weeks and weeks. Eventually somebody told us that the TV apps were being discontinued because the company couldn’t afford to keep a dedicated programmer on staff for those TV apps. So, most of us ended up cancelling. I went to Amazon Unlimited Music, which lacks that much loved Discover feature, but it at least works on my TV after buying a Fire TV stick.

    I think their business model is failing, which is not surprising. Freemium is really, really hard to get right and Spotify seems to have failed to clear the bar.

  5. Vatch

    “Give Directly To Good Democrats” [Mike the Mad Biologist]. Disintermediate the Democratic strategists and the consultants, the paid losers who forced Perez down our throats.

    Great article! I expressed the same opinion yesterday in a short comment. The article by Mike has a lot more information. Thank you!


    … Democrats who have some spare money for donations should donate directly to good candidates, and never to the DNC, DCCC, or to establishment Democrats, who often send some of their money on to one of those committees.

  6. Louis Fyne

    ..“Give Directly To Good Democrats” [Mike the Mad Biologist].

    Decentralized funding/control of the Democratic Party. Doubt that many Democrats will see the irony.

    PS, I’m not a Republican/conservative. But I am an old school Federalist who happens to be old school liberal.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      Let’s hear it for the 9th and 10th Amendments. Unfortunately, as the course of Federal jurisprudence has shown, they appear to have been written in vanishing ink. Neither Democrats, nor Republicans (despite their disingenuous cant on the matter) seem to have any interest in Federalism. It’s all about the implacable advance of centralized power to them, albeit the atmospherics of their power lust differ.

  7. a different chris

    > “[W]ell-managed globalisation” vs. “Kill it with fire.”

    And don’t forget “sustainable growth” vs. “unsustainable groaf”

    Oh, and backing up even farther — why do we need it to be “inclusive”? White middle aged Americans like me are more comfortable than the kings of old, and I am far from rich. So why do I need any more “growth”? Let alone the Waltons for chrissake.

    If we can have actual economic growth without frying the planet, it should all go to the needy. I don’t need included.

  8. Anonymous

    How about a “Pocahontas 2020!” , Dems? I’d consider putting that on my bumper.

  9. WobblyTelomeres

    Re: “A large satellite may be falling apart…”

    Glad to see the article gave passing reference to the Kessler Syndrome. If you start seeing several stories like this in a relatively short period and all in geosynchronous orbits, it would probably be wise to start shorting anything space related….

    1. Huey Long


      I’m also glad to hear Kessler mentioned, as it may someday have severe implications for coms, nav, spy, and other satellites up in geosynchronous orbits that our modern way of life relies upon.

      The only other recent discussion I can recall is when the Archdruid mentioned the Kessler Syndrome in his “Retrotopia” serial novel he published last summer.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        It was one of the architectural themes I used for a robotics academy project at NASA; build a swarm of robots that could collect space debris. They got as far as having 6 roombas performing synchronized dancing via wifi. Cool enough for one summer. :)

    2. mle detroit

      This was a background crisis in the Archdruid’s novel “Retropia” big threat to all tech-dependent economies. I recommend the book (John Michael Greer).

  10. clarky90

    The CNN meme war war is funny because CNN is self destructive and inept. But, CNN is utterly chilling in it’s intent. CNN is threatening the life, livelihood and social relationships of anybody who makes fun of them. How many of the NC Commentariat have been transgressors? This most unthinkable, hateful crime of “making fun of The Grand Poo-Bahs”!

    There are cats here;
    CNN Messed With The Wrong Part of The Internet- #CNNBlackMail


    CNN Threatens Reddit User For Exercising Free Speech | #CNNBlackmail, Stefan Molyneux


    1. skippy

      CNN cut its teeth on war and with that… spawned a whole cavalcade of journos that became commodities of that experience…..

        1. fred

          CNN stop doing the news in Ted Turner’s initial style at least decade ago. Trying to get news there now is like trying to find music video on MTV.

          1. Carolinian

            Yes but the whole idea of 24 hr cable news was Ted Turner’s after he failed to buy CBS. Once such a channel was launched–and competing channels with the same idea were started–then deterioration into a mindless gabfest was inevitable.

      1. Huey Long

        To this day, one of my earliest childhood memories is gathering around the TV everynight to watch the first Gulf War on CNN. I remember we were all cheering every time we watched a DoD presser consisting of bomb cam footage and I can still clearly picture Peter Arnett in Baghdad broadcasting footage of the sky lit up with AAA fire.

        Little did we know that we were watching the dawn of PNAC, and the opening salvos of the neverending war that I would participate in that is still being fought today.

    2. HotFlash

      Apparently I have not been paying attention, but for Stefan M and the Truth Factory Cat, the retribution that the reddit poster is to be fearing is from (wait for it…) liberals! Did I totally miss something? I mean, if a civil or uncivil war breaks out, how will I know which side to be on?

  11. PKMKII

    Dem bake-off: Watered down appropriation of leftist ideology, desperately trying to keep failed third way politician relevant, lesser evilism, and inept attempt to copy a right-wing slogan. Par for the course!

    1. John k

      No, no.
      Give money to us. Then vote for us or it’s your fault that we lost. And if you did vote for us, it’s your fault we lost because you didn’t give us enough money.
      Give us more money.

  12. hemeantwell

    “Back to the Center, Democrats” [Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, New York Times]. “But the last few years of the Obama administration and the 2016 primary season once again created a rush to the left. Identity politics, class warfare and big government all made comebacks. Candidates inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and a host of well-funded groups have embraced sharply leftist ideas. But the results at the voting booth have been anything but positive: Democrats lost over 1,000 legislative seats across the country and control of both houses of Congress during the Obama years. And in special elections for Congress this year, they failed to take back any seats held by Republicans.” Ingenious! Takes positioning the Blame Cannons to a whole new level.

    I had to reread this twice to grasp that they are trying to blame Sanders/Warrenesque politics for the problems facing the Dems. Welllllllll now.

    There’s a genre of Extreme Center writing in the Times that seems intended to evoke homicidal responses that will result in either
    1. somatic complications leading to the death of the agitated reader, thereby decreasing by 1 the resistance to refloating the wreck of the SS Clinton or
    2. a self-outing as a candidate for a surveillance list.

    I guess I could clamp it off with “Kill Me [not Them]”, but I’m not sure that provides enough cover.

    At least I’ve dealt with option 1 for today.

    1. Procopius

      I am currently reading (slowly, painfully) Al From’s The NEW Democrats and the Return to Power. He describes his establishment of the Democratic Leadership Council and their subsequent success with Clinton. Oddly (or not) although the book is copyright 2013, and in the penultimate paragraph mentions that in 2011 he shut down the DLC and turned the remainder over to the Clinton Foundation, he doesn’t mention the loss of 1000 state legislature seats and multiple governorships. Instead, he says the DLC accomplished its purpose of remaking the Democratic Party.

  13. Anonymous

    Google news update = Piece of Family Blog

    The design is obviously about funneling people to ‘responsible’ choices, as decided by our betters. As Lincoln said, “if the wrong fake news can hurt then the right fake news can help.” (May have been Churchill said that, can’t remember. )

  14. Cujo359

    Democrats: 2018 I mean, have you seen the other guys?We suck less!

    There, fixed it for you. Come on, Democrats, wear your worthlessness with pride.

  15. g3

    The Chicago Trib story on healthcare triggered memory of a ridiculous piece during the healthcare debates in 2009-10. It was about a monkey/Orangutan/Chimpanzee which underwent a surgery in some hospital. Some newspaper (non-national) used that to do a hit job on why govt shouldn’t be in the healthcare business. IIRC, Dean Baker caught that one. Unable to locate the link now.

    Cuban healthcare system (Commies!) spends about 1/10th per person as Amerikkka and gets about the same result. People who have visited there told me for a supposedly 3rd world nation burdened by the embargo from the EMpire, Cubans look quite hale & healthy.

    1. a different chris

      I wonder if a good part of that embargo is our crappy “food.” Cheetos &etc. That would probably, even in our system, cut healthcare costs in half.

    2. JustAnObserver

      More even than that. Highly trained & experienced doctors were (are ?) a major Cuban export to the developing world (*). For a consolation prize the US got – some – of their baseball players.

      (*) IIRC that was the case for Ireland in times gone by.

  16. Plenue

    “Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution is a good book on the sausage making between South Carolina slave owners, and the Connecticut shipbuilders who built ships for the Triangular Trade”

    A reminder that before Hamilton was inflicted upon us, there was another, much better, musical about the American Revolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeuaTpH6Ck0 There’s more truth and honesty in that one song than in the entirety of Hamilton’s nearly three hour running time.

    Oh, and Lin-Manuel Miranda actually had the gall to directly reference 1776 in a song that was cut from the final version of Hamilton (the lyrics in question are “Sit down John, you fat motherf**ker!”. This is what Liberals consider the height of subversive, witty culture).

  17. dcblogger

    Just want to say that I luv water cooler, especially the coverage of health care and trade. and bezzel. I luv bezzel.

    1. clarky90

      Hi DCB
      Here is Healthcare, plus some Bezzel! Lying by ommission

      Drug Companies Latched on to Evidence That Wasn’t


      “In the years to come, this letter to the editor (most letters do not undergo any kind of peer-review) became an oft-cited piece of evidence used by drug companies and pain specialists alike. In all, it’s been cited more than 600 times since its publication, serving as the basis of misleading and inaccurate statements such as: “[P]ain population with no abuse history is literally at no risk for addiction,” and “There have been studies suggesting that addiction rarely evolves in the setting of painful conditions.”

      A remarkable 80 percent of the articles citing Jick’s letter failed to include the facts that his data pertained specifically to hospitalized patients receiving the drugs on a short-term basis…”

    2. Procopius

      Yeah, bezzle is great and so are Stats. Lambert, I hope you really, really enjoy collecting the data in Stats and never give it up. I don’t know of any other place where I can find this stuff. I also love how contradictory and murky it can be. That’s the real world, not massaged and cleaned up to be pretty and “easy to understand.” That’s what I need to keep from succumbing to dementia.

    1. winstonsmith


      He argued that rampant drift unfairly influences the choices of non-GMO farmers, estimating that half of the region’s acreage planted in dicamba-resistant crops this year was done by farmers solely aiming to protect themselves from damage. “I feel that the need to plant a technology to protect your crop from off-target movement is tantamount to extortion,” Burnham wrote.

  18. Eureka Springs

    So I breezed by an airport magazine stand this week. Thin weekday copy of NYT 2.50 !!! I laughed out loud enough to draw a few zooms from the cameras no doubt. Never saw one person anywhere reading a newspaper. That’s hope. Let Penn and Stein waste ink on letters to themselves.

    1. Eureka Springs

      If min wage rose with NYT inflation it would be about 30.00.

      And liberals call us deplorable.

    2. curlydan

      Lucky you didn’t buy a New Yorker. Current newsstand price: $8.99.

      Newsstand pricing may be a great price elasticity study in the future. Kind of the opposite of the long distance phone wars of the late 90s/early 00s.

  19. Jim Haygood

    Illinois has adopted this new thing … it’s called a “budget” —

    The state’s House of Representatives, led by Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan, voted Thursday to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes of revenue and spending measures the chamber passed Sunday.

    Mr. Madigan achieved “yes” votes from 10 Republican lawmakers, many of whom represent districts with struggling universities or beleaguered state facilities reliant on state funding.

    The new budget funds a more than $36 billion spending proposal with a roughly $5 billion income tax increase. The state brings in roughly $32 billion a year.

    The plan also includes a provision that would allow Illinois to borrow billions of dollars through the sale of state bonds. Those funds would go toward paying down the $14.6 billion in unpaid bills the state has accrued since 2015.

    The roughly $5 billion generated from tax increases funds a spending bill that includes a 5% cut to government agencies and reduces state higher education funding by 10%.

    Moody’s Investors Service announced Wednesday it was officially placing Illinois’s rating on review for a possible downgrade, even after factoring in the House’s likely override of the governor’s vetoes.

    Illinois must also address its roughly $126.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities—an evaluation from the state based on more optimistic investment assumptions. Moody’s estimates the actual pension shortfall to be roughly $250 billion.


    Tax hikes, spending cuts, more borrowing, and STILL a $250 billion pension shortfall.

    Are they screwed, or what?

    1. Alex Morfesis

      Joyzee budget getting “fixed” by a quiet slight of hand three card monty move by having the entire state lottery system handed off to the pension system as a giant purported “one off”…

      that didn’t “just” get figured out and decided in a few hours or days…

      that Christie “whale on the beach” moment was to distract…

      wonder what GASB(FASB) statement number covers this little whirlwind…

  20. flora

    re: Trade, TPP etc.

    The pols and media in DC clamoring to halt detente and provoke Russia, in the name of national sovereignty and patriotism, are the same people clamoring to enact trade deals that would destroy US sovereignty, in large measure, with secret court systems.

    It’s odd.

  21. VietnamVet

    “Rise like lions. We are many, they are few.” I’ve been so isolated, atomized and identified; this is a powerful new call to unify. Stop the destruction of democracy, end the wars and save the environment. No wonder the media moguls hate Jeremy Corbyn with a passion. Scapegoating Russia and demonizing Donald Trump is the Democrat’s method of hiding their corruption and complete failure to be the people’s party.

  22. Big River Bandido

    …streaming newly released movies at home for a higher fee in lieu of visiting the cinema … may boost profits at studios.

    Hollywood is just like the Democrats. Blame cannons pointed in all directions, except the one thing that truly matters: content.

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