2:00PM Water Cooler 9/14/2017

★★★TOMORROW★★★ Bangor, Maine Meetup: There will be a Bangor NC Meetup on Friday, September 15, 6:00pm, at Giacomo’s with me, Lambert; I will be wearing a grey hoodie, a purple shirt, and will carry a black computer shoulder bag, or have it near me. (I realize I’m “outing” myself to any locals who haven’t made the connection, but at this point my online identity is sufficiently gauzy — certainly to a professional — that it probably doesn’t matter much anyhow.) If anybody wishes to contact me, here’s my email: lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.) Looking forward!

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is considering putting on the table during the next round of NAFTA negotiations a so-called sunset proposal, or a provision that would effectively implement an automatic termination of the deal after five years unless all three parties agree before then to renew it, sources told Morning Trade” [Politico]. “[A]t least two agencies — the Agriculture and State departments — voiced heavy opposition to the idea.”

“Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested Wednesday that the Trump administration is willing to cut off trade with China in an effort to put pressure on North Korea” [FOX]. “‘I’ve worked on an executive order that’s ready if the president wants to use it,’ Mnuchin said in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. ‘We can stop trade with any country that does business with North Korea.'”

“NAFTA Parties Pursue “Accelerated” Timeframe, Gear Up for Third Round of Talks” [International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development]. “What a revamped NAFTA might look like still remains unclear. The three sides have detailed their respective negotiating objectives in recent months, and within those statements some key differences have already begun to emerge, including on whether and how to keep dispute settlement provisions involving trade remedies and how to address rules of origin requirements.”

“New NAFTA must terminate corporate kangaroo courts” [The Hill]. “As networks representing thousands of responsible business owners, we have advocated strongly that any NAFTA renegotiations must remove the pact’s controversial provisions that incentivize job offshoring and empower foreign corporations to challenge sovereign U.S. laws…. It’s hard to believe this Orwellian power grab is real, but it is. Multinational corporations already have pocketed $392 million from North American taxpayers under NAFTA ISDS attacks on toxic bans, environmental and public health policies and more. Tens of billions of dollars are pending in ongoing NAFTA cases. … [W]hy would U.S. small businesses want to give foreign multinational corporations exclusive access to biased panels of lawyers, while exposing important local, state and federal policies to challenge?” I’d speculate that most small business owners, although of the right, support these sentiments; and I’d also speculate that they have a disproportionate impact on economic survey data.


2016 Post Mortem

“Clinton Already Working On Follow-Up Book Casting Blame For Failures Of First” [The Onion].

“Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened” [Guardian]. “The book’s publisher at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, told the Associated Press: “It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful.'”


“SCOTUS Stays Court Orders Against TX Congressional, State Legislative District Maps” [Ballotpedia]. “On August 28, 2017, Associate Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court of the United States stayed the district court’s August 15 ruling on Texas’ congressional district plan pending further review by the high court. On August 31, 2017, Alito issued a similar order on the district court’s August 24 ruling on Texas’ state House district plan. On September 12, 2017, the high court voted 5-4 to implement a full stay against both rulings pending progression of the state’s appeal. According to The New York Times, the high court’s order “made it more likely that the 2018 election will be held” using the existing district plans.”

Trump Transition

“Trump: ‘The wall will come later'” [Axios]. This seems like a reasonable summary of the yelling and screaming. (The combination of all sides being what they are, plus the tendency of the press to misquote Trump, makes coverage difficult):

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement responding to President Trump’s morning tweets surrounding DACA, agreeing that there was “no final deal” but rather general agreement on the following terms:

  • Trump will encourage the House and Senate to enshrine protections granted by DACA into law.
  • There will be a bipartisan border security package that still needs to be negotiated — but it will not include the wall, which Trump plans to continue to advocate at a later date.

Confirmation from POTUS: Leaving the White House for Florida this morning, Trump told the pool that “the wall will come later,” adding that a deal is “fairly close” with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell both on board, but both sides have to “get past the border security.”

First, it’s not clear to me what Trump gets out of this (presumptive) deal, which has his base in an uproar. Tax reform? Pelosi + Schumer + Trump getting together to [family blog] the left on #MedicareForAll with some mild ACA reform that keeps relationships with the insurance industry sweet? Second, Pelosi and Schumer having dinner with Trump is a lot like — if the framing of the Clintonite wing is to be believed — a lot like Mother Theresa dining with Satan, with the scooped-out skulls of the saints as an hors d’ouerve. This, again, suggests to me that the post-Ossoff power of the Clintons in the party — as opposed to whatever grift the Clintons are working on their base — is being diminished, since if the famously vengeful Clintonites knew these deals were in the works, they would have tried to sabotage them. (Of course, the Clintonites can still wreak vengeance by sabotaging Medicare for All, but that’s a different set of players.)

Health Care

See also “Health Care,” below.

“Politically, single payer — the idea of having the government pay for health care rather than private insurers — can help rally the left much like the prospect of repealing the ACA rallied the right. But it could also help Republicans, who own the problems in health care now, switch the target to the Democrats and their sweeping new health reform plan” [Axios]. Defense wins championships. In football. But politics ain’t football.

“Why Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All Plan Is Good Politics” [The New Republic]. “The most obvious function of Sanders’s Medicare for All bill is that it is being used to excite the Democratic base as we head into the 2018 midterm elections. A highly cited survey by Kaiser Health Foundation shows that a slim majority of Americans, 53 percent, favor single-payer, including 63 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents. Setting up Medicare for All as a goal is a way to activate movement politics, to give people a reason to go to the polls and make phone calls. We have already seen the fruits of those efforts: that 16 senators have signed on to the plan is due more to sustained grassroots organizing than anything else.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How Much Can the Youth Vote Actually Help Democrats?” [New York Time]. Probably not a lot, if the Democrat estabishment keeps activitly repelling them (although, at the state and local level, it’s possible that DSA/Our Revolution support will do some attracting to counteract the repulsion, a word I use quite advisedly).

“Help, I Can’t Stop Hooking Up With Trump Supporters” [Glamour]. Transgressive!

“An Open Letter to ESPN About President Trump and Jemele Hill” [Nina Illingworth].

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, August 2017: “For the first time since February, core consumer prices did not come in below expectations, hitting the consensus with a modest but useful 0.2 percent gain” [Econoday]. “Energy costs, in part reflecting month-end pressure from Hurricane Harvey, jumped 2.8 percent with gasoline up 6.3 percent. Food was not a factor in August showing a 0.1 percent rise. Year-on-year rates are mixed with overall prices up 2 tenths to 1.9 percent but the core holding flat at a subpar 1.7 percent. Despite lack of progress in the core, August results are not a disappointment.” And but: “Given that recent dollar weakness will feed through into higher prices across a wide spectrum of items, overall confidence in inflation reaching the 2% target should increase to some extent” [Economic Calendar].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of September 10, 2017: Still “very strong” despite Harvey and Irma [Econoday].

Jobless Claims, week of September 9, 2017: “Volatility in jobless claims data is assured in the coming weeks as the effects of Hurricane Harvey and Irma play out at unemployment offices in Texas and Florida as well as surrounding states” [Econoday].

Shipping: “The August month-over-month import container counts are still suggesting an improving USA economy, but exports suggest a sluggish global economy” [Econintersect]. “Looking at the three month rolling averages this month shows improvement in imports which would indicate improving growth – with exports not only contracting YoY but also getting worse. As imports are growing much faster than exports, the trade balance should worsen.” And: “Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported – and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation’s container port traffic” [Calculated Risk]. “In general imports have been increasing, and exports are mostly moving sideways to down recently.”

Shipping: “At 1,200’x152’x55′, the Roosevelt has a container capacity of 14,414 TEU, the largest yet to call at the New Jersey cargo terminals. To get it there, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and its public agency partners needed billions of investment dollars to deepen the harbor channels to 50′, and raised the Bayonne Bridge by 64.'” [Workboat]. “”Without the bridge being raised, meeting the growth requirements of the region would have been a challenge,” said Bourdon. New York-New Jersey takes in 56% of the trade volume for the U.S. East Coast, so it is a “cornerstone of any service deployment, particularly from Asia…. It’s not going to be at the expense of the West Coast. The market is growing,” he said. That same week officials at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., said pretty much the same. Imports there jumped 10% in August over the year before, the third-highest monthly total in the 106-year history of the port. It was the second-busiest August ever and the third-highest container volume for any month, said port officials, who consumer demand and retailer optimism over coming holiday sales. ‘The modest economic growth we’ve seen since the Great Recession has been replaced this year by robust gains, at least when measured by goods coming into the United States,’ said Mario Cordero, the [Port of Long Beach’s] executive director.”

Shipping: “In the annals of predictions that don’t come true, TV meteorologists hold the top spot, followed by political pollsters and the cover of Sports Illustrated. Rounding out the top five are the long string of technology pundits who confidently predicted that supply chain RFID tracking would conquer and re-shape the global logistics industry” [Supply Chain 247]. “Ironically, the supply chain holy grail that RFID was supposed to deliver is now within reach – though RFID isn’t necessarily part of the technology that is making it possible.” Interesting bits of history but degenerates into a pitch for the author’s white paper.

Shipping: “Malware spreading fast through the merchant fleet” [Splash 247]. “A [Futurenautics] survey of 2,500 seafarers has revealed that 40% of officers have sailed on a vessel, which has become infected with a computer virus or malware. The ongoing crew connectivity survey, carried out by British firm Futurenautics, also found that 87% of those surveyed have had no cyber security training. The organisers of the poll expect the final number of participating seafarers to double to 5,000… Cyber security has come in to sharp focus for the shipping industry in the wake of June’s NotPetya attack, which hit a number of lines, most notably Maersk, which saw up to $300m in revenues wiped from its books..Commenting on the survey, Phil Tinsley, head of maritime security at global shipowning body, Bimco, told Splash: ‘This statistic is no surprise.'”

Retail: “Criteo Helps Brands Boost Conversions Via ‘Deep Learning'” [Women’s Wear Daily]. “[Jonathan Opdyke, president of brand solutions at Criteo] said the process is to develop ‘deep learning on people that have affinities for various types of styles, clothing and colors, which they tend to buy together or in sequences. So when a campaign goes out from a retailer, they’re taking advantage of that broad based knowledge and showing a much more relevant product to a much more likely to buy customer.’ The results are clear, Opdyke said. In a case study of Revolve Clothing, deploying Criteo’s platform increased conversions by 16 percent and bolstered return on advertising spend by 36 percent.” Interesting if true.

Retail: “Diners who are more averse to uncertainty than the average Joe – or, to put it in academic terms, have a “need for cognitive closure” — don’t like restaurant menus to have the authentic names of their meals. Instead, they prefer the English-language version, according to a study by Stephanie Liu, an assistant professor of hospitality management and consumer sciences at the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University” [MarketWatch]. “It’s a delicate balance. Having some authentically-named items can give a restaurant a certain gravitas, too. Another study of foreign languages on menus from a student at the Auckland University of Technology found having the authentic language on a menu increased the customers’ perception of the authenticity of the restaurant and its food — which could increase customers’ expectations of the meals they’ll receive…. But the preference for easy-to-understand menu names could be on the wane. Younger restaurant-goers are more likely to embrace foreign languages on their menus.”

Retail: “Early seasonal hiring announcements indicate that the retail sector’s holiday job market will be stronger than last year, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas, specialists in outplacement and career transitions” [MarketWatch]. “So far, Target Corp. has announced plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers, up from 70,000 last year, along with 4,500 workers for distribution and fulfillment centers. Michaels Companies Inc. has announced plans to bring 15,000 workers on board for the season. Radial, a retail technology and operations company, says it will hire 27,000 seasonal workers, to help with fulfillment and customer care. That’s a year-over-year increase of 35%, according to the company. And 1-800-Flowers.Com Inc. says it will hire 8,000 workers for its portfolio of brands, including Harry & David and Cheryl’s Cookies.”

Retail: “NYFW Street Style: See the Photos” [Teen Vogue]. If Amazon really wants to get into the fashion business, it’s going to have to do a lot better. Especially fast fashion.

Five Horsemen: “Microsoft pips Apple; Facebook über alles” [Hat tip Jim Haygood]. A welcome return; Haygood was “reluctant to contribute content” while comments were off.

Five Horsemen Sep 14

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 67, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 38 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 14 at 1:23pm.

Health Care

“‘‘Medicare for All Act of 2017” (PDF) [Sanders.senate.gov]. With Executive Summary (PDF). The transition:

During the transition to universal health care, in the first year this legislation will immediately improve traditional Medicare for seniors and people with disabilities by covering dental, vision and hearing aids which are not covered under current law. The Medicare eligibility age will be reduced to 55 and Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D deductibles would be eliminated.

Moreover, during the first year, every child between the ages of 0-18 would become eligible to enroll in the Universal Medicare program.

A Medicare Transition plan would also be established during year one to provide affordable coverage for all Americans and to make sure that no one loses coverage.

During the second year of implementation, the Medicare eligibility age would be reduced to 45. During the third year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 35.

By the fourth year, every individual who is a resident of the United States will be entitled to benefits for comprehensive health care services and will get a Universal Medicare card that they can use to receive the health care they need.

Covering “every child between the ages of 0-18” in the first year is not only politically smart, it takes the ACA’s political smarts of putting young people on their parents’ policies to the next level.

“Recent reports are that Sanders’ bill falls far short of HR 676 in fundamental ways. In fact, Sanders’ bill is a multi-payer system not a single payer system. His bill reportedly would allow private insurers to compete with the public system, allow the wealthy to buy their way out of the public system and allow investor-owned health facilities to continue to profit while providing more expensive and lower quality health care” [Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance]. Note the qualifications. I need to verify this; early reports disagree.

“The Obamacare ‘Wonks’ Are Awfully Selective about Which Taxes and Costs They See” [emptywheel] (2016). Still true today!


I need to know more about the similarities and differences between the two bills. It’s also true that Conyers has been pushing single payer for years, with little credit. OTOH, Sanders is the one who blew open the door in 2016, so….

“How Single-Payer Health Care Could Trip Up Democrats” [Margaret Sanger-Katz, New York Times]. Market fundamentalist Sanger-Katz weighs in: “Like ‘repeal and replace,’ ‘single-payer’ is a broadly popular slogan that papers over intraparty disagreements and wrenching policy choices.” That’s very true. And the Democrats who oppose it need, IMNSHO, to be disembowelledempowered.

The vacuity of #SaveTheACA:

“How the Trump administration is reshaping health care — without Congress” [Politico]. The unflashy stuff that gets little attention is where the Trump administration is doing its real damage; it’s hard to gaslight without clickbait, which administrative measures do not easily afford.

“Trump is ‘open’ to ObamaCare fix, lawmakers say” [The Hill]. For some definition of “fix”! “President Trump was “open” to the idea of a bipartisan ObamaCare stabilization bill but did not make any commitments during a meeting Wednesday with a group of House lawmakers, attendees said. The bipartisan group of lawmakers, known as the Problem Solvers, pitched Trump on their plan to stabilize ObamaCare markets.” Democrat centrists working hard for the donor class.

“Democratic Holdouts On “Medicare For All” Have Received Twice As Much Insurance Industry Cash As Sponsors” [MapLight].


“Science and Culture: Arctic photographers bring climate change into focus” [PNAS]. “In 2009, a hunter shot a polar bear and carried it by dogsled about 750 meters to the town of Ittoqqortoormiit on the eastern coast of Greenland. Typically, the town’s hunters encounter polar bears on distant sea ice a couple of hours or even days from town. They skin their catches and leave behind the heavy bones. But as climate change melts more sea ice—the bear’s preferred hunting grounds—polar bear encounters closer to human settlements are becoming more common. When this hunter arrived with an entire bear in tow, the Danish photographer Carsten Egevang was there to capture the awe-struck reactions.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“In many ways (e.g. the physical surroundings) it certainly is, but this perception also varies by one’s standing in the economic and racial hierarchy, and to many people of color the verdict on Charlottesville is a more ambivalent one” [Contexts]. From a sociologist at the University of Virginia.

Class Warfare

“As the U.S. economy continues to expand at a sluggish pace, some sectors are seeing impressive growth. Luxury airlines, for example, and hyper-expensive New York City condos” [JSTOR Daily]. And:

As “luxury” became available to a wider swath of the population, intellectuals started to think that buying more stuff might actually be good for society. Prefiguring Adam Smith’s work later in the century, some writers argued that consumption spurred trade and led to economic growth. In 1705, Bernard de Mandeville wrote a “scandalous poem” titled “The Fable of the Bees,” arguing that even if rising consumption was spurred by individual selfishness and vanity, still helped increase employment and spread prosperity: “…Luxury/employed a million of the poor/and odious Pride a million more… Thus every part was full of Vice/Yet the whole Mass a Paradise.”

For the most part, that’s the viewpoint that prevails today. But, as economic inequality grows and luxury shows signs of reverting to a distinct kind of goods for a tiny elite, it’s worth asking if that could change.

“GC: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!” Maybe not quite so funny, these days…

“Incomes Are Rising in Most States, Yet Inequality Isn’t Improving” [Governing]. “One major caveat to the income gains is that they have done little to improve inequality. As part of the ACS, the Census Bureau publishes a Gini index, where higher values represent greater income inequality. By this measure, most states saw little change last year. But over the longer term, income inequality has intensified across nearly all states. Since the 2006 ACS survey, the national Gini index has climbed 3.9 percent [Thanks, Obama!] States with the largest increases over the decade include Montana (9.6 percent), Rhode Island (8.1 percent) and Vermont (8.1 percent). Alaska was the only state where the Gini index declined.” Well, that’s because of Alaska’s socialist regime.

News of the Wired

“How EVE Players Pulled Off The Biggest Betrayal In Its History” [Kotaku]. “EVE Online is infamous for its scammers, pirates, and ne’er-do-wells, but this week all their scams were put to shame. A member of the game’s Council of Stellar Management and head diplomat of the Circle of Two alliance named The Judge stole all of the holdings of the 4,000-person alliance for himself. He took their money, took their ships, and sold their Death Star-esque space citadel to their most hated enemies.” Guys. It’s time for some game theory.

“How to Live Without Google” [Spread Privacy]. “Google trackers have been found on 75% of the top million websites. This means they are not only tracking what you search for, they’re also tracking which websites you visit, and using all your data for ads that follow you around the internet. Your personal data can also be subpoenaed by lawyers, including for civil cases like divorce. Google answered over 100,000 such data requests in 2016 alone!”

“Ethical hackers have turned this robot into a stabbing machine” [Wired]. “Alpha 2 is an adorable humanoid robot that can teach, be a personal assistant, or provide entertainment through its inbuilt speakers and flexible joints…. UBTECH’s Alpha 2 robot is shown repeatedly stabbing a tomato with a screwdriver. Nao and Pepper, made by Japan’s Softbank, can have their movements controlled and the researchers were able to view the onboard camera’s feed remotely. The researchers also hacked into the controls of a giant arm from Universal Robots that’s used on factory production lines.” Fortunately, the hackers weren’t unethical…

* * *

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 allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! 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. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant:

From the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, here is a third example of “painting with plants. Somehow, no matter where you walk or stand, the CMBG gardeners manage to create pleasing color and shape combinations with a foreground, a middle ground, and a background. I don’t know how they do this…

Readers: Do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, please click the hat!


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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. Jim Haygood

    In-your-face R party antipopulism:

    The House is moving toward approval of a spending bill that kills the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to use legislative means to stop the regulation.

    The House was set to vote on more than two dozen amendments to the appropriations measure Wednesday afternoon. The bill, along with the so-called rider on the DOL rule, is headed for certain approval by the end of the week.

    The DOL has proposed delaying until July 1, 2019, the enforcement mechanisms of the rule. But the legislative rider could take down the whole thing.


    Imposing a fiduciary obligation on stock and insurance brokers gives victims recourse against thieving dirtballs such as Wells Fargo’s little brother, SunTrust Bank:

    The SEC settled charges against the investment services subsidiary of SunTrust Banks on Thursday for charging clients more than $1.1 million in excessive fees for more expensive shares of mutual funds, when cheaper shares of the same funds were available.

    SunTrust breached its fiduciary duty to act in clients’ best interests by recommending the costlier mutual fund share classes that charge 12b-1 fees without telling investors that they were eligible for less costly shares.


    Killing the fiduciary rule is a vivid example of Wall Street nakedly buying Kongress Klowns for small change. What shocks the conscience is that solons sell their tushies cheaper than a ten-dollah crack ho in the back seat of an Escalade.

    1. skippy

      Understand your grievance Jim, except the bit about congress selling out. The dominate ideological perspective demand pull from decades of – reality shaping – makes individuals largely moot. Money in this transaction seems to be customary more than incentivizing, sorta like having to do a line at a BSD party…. puts everyone else at ease.

      Seems freedoms are more important than than evidence based approach.

    2. Arizona Slim

      All the more reason to learn how to be your own financial advisor. It isn’t terribly difficult.

      Read books like The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing and anything by Bill Bernstein, and you’ll be well on your way. I also recommend the Bogleheads online discussion forum.

      1. Anon

        I like the Bogleheads and their approach, but I don’t know how to reconcile the advice to buy broad market index funds with the fact that holding all companies means holding many companies I have ethical problems with. I want no part in those companies or their ill-gotten profits. “Socially responsible” funds are supposed to fix that, but are just another finance grift with ridiculous expense ratios and still holding such fine companies as Wells Fargo, Chase, Citi, Goldman, Comcast, and so on.

        I hope someday it’ll be possible for me as a small retail investor with an IRA to buy the 3000+ stocks (with fractional shares) of the Vanguard Total Stock Market fund, but exclude industries and companies I have ethical problems with. I don’t want to deviate from the market-cap weights or make active bets on what will or won’t perform well; I just don’t want any part in what I consider to be evil.

  2. ProNewerDeal

    I am pleasantly surprised by the status of the MedicareForAll bills in the House (majority of Ds support) & Senate (17? D Senators).

    I sincerely doubt this event would be occurring had HClinton “Single Payer is a fantasy that will never happen” (my paraphrase from memory). I doubt some of the current supporters, some of which are Corporate D Clinton Clones like Sens Harris & Booker, would contradict & defy the words of who would be the most powerful Corporate D politician a mere ~1 yr later.

    Perhaps Trump was the Lesser Evil than HClinton. Thoughts?

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      I know Zizek said to support Trump as it would bring about the change the world needs but it is difficult to agree whilst watching what is happening to the EPA and the Dept. of the Interior and …

      Still, it is NOT difficult to agree that the Clintons and their New Left (Right) have been a cancer.

      1. jrs

        the EPA etc. also has the virtue of being REAL policy, whereas support for Medicare for all is definitely not policy yet (and may not be anytime soon, it might be opportunistic on the Dems part of course, but also it might face pushback from say all the courts Trump is filling with trainwrecks etc.).

        Playing some long game by making things objectively worse in the present is a very risky game indeed. And what about all the other issues that matter to working people that aren’t Medicare for all, like expanded overtime laws which have been thrown out under Trump. This matters a lot to a lot of working people, it is the money and the time they need to live. So yea only if one wants to view the world through the lens of one single issue (that isn’t even real policy yet mind you) is Trump the lesser evil …

        1. Ian

          The problem though is that the issue is where Trump was quite plausibly the lesser evil and that can still be debated coherently on either side (though rarely is). That our political elite forced this scenario shows that there really was no real alternative that they would allow and that they were quite happy to keep the unsustainable and brutal reality that currently exists going without regard for the rest of us. I do not fault anyone who voted for Trump or Hillary, I would have voted neither.

    2. LarryB

      Well, after 4, or 8, years of status quo Wall Street Hillary, we could have very easily gotten a competent fascist, rather than the rather buffoonish caricature we have now. Of course, this doesn’t mean we still couldn’t get one. It depends on the Democrats getting their act together, and I’m not holding my breath waiting for that.

    3. Isotope_C14

      I think Jimmy Dore sums it best up below:


      It’s nothing more than a group of 2020 wanna-be presidential candidates who realize it’s political suicide to ignore the popularity of a single-payer plan, and/or Bernie, the most popular politician in the US.

      Everyone knows full-well that this will be torpedoed by the GOP, and of course D’s that don’t have a primary challenger threat or that don’t care. Pelosi in particular probably has no worries about Stephen Jaffe, as he’s not taking in the kind of bucks she is. I suspect that the level of election fraud in California is pretty high, I find it a bit unbelievable that Stein got less than 2% there. Not only was it a safe state, but there were plenty of campaign signs and stickers around for the Greens.

      By the way, I’ve had a successful defection from Trumpistan and that has resulted in yet another scientist leaving the US. Now in Berlin doing medical research. Un/under-employed in the US for over 5 years because “markets”.

      Been working almost 2 weeks. I would have to be forced to return to a place where 50% of my taxes go to eternal war.

      1. Anon

        Pelosi’s congressional district is quite compact, physically. It won’t take lots of radio/tv airtime. Boots on the ground (modest amount of volunteers) can be quite effective in convincing voter’s it’s time for Pelosi to go (retire).

    4. yamahog

      Trump was absolutely the lesser evil. The media is much more apt to criticize him so it’s easier for people to keep him in check, he’s not highly competent so a lot of his agenda has been discarded, I bet the things that he will be able to accomplish are things that are broadly agreeable (e.g getting rid of Y2k regulations in the government), he won’t be able to move the country very rightward, and he’s an easy target for 2020. And he seems reluctant to enter more ME quagmires.

      It’s easy to imagine that Clinton would be able to do more with less scrutiny and it’s easy to imagine she’d try to settle some personal scores with foreign leaders which are sure to lead to more entanglements.

      Now, I think Trump is more likely to mishandle North Korea forcefully but I also think that Clinton would have just bought them off and liberating North Korea might be one of the biggest humanitarian wins available so I’d rather roll the dice on military action than fund a regime that has active concentration camps which isn’t the most utilitarian but I’m biased towards a world with less state-sanctioned violence.

      1. Procopius

        … mishandle North Korea forcefully …

        Hmmm. I was stationed in South Korea in 1956. I have some idea of the devastation a new war with North Korea would bring. If the North was attacked they would surely respond with hundreds or thousands of tons of Sarin gas on Seoul, a city of ten million people. There is no way the civilian population of Seoul could be evacuated. It’s pretty sure hundreds of thousands would die the first couple of days. Curtis LeMay bragged that in the Korean Police Action we killed 20% of the population of North Korea.

        I also think that Clinton would have just bought them off and liberating North Korea might be one of the biggest humanitarian wins available so I’d rather roll the dice on military action than fund a regime that has active concentration camps

        I suspect you have never served in the Army, and probably have never traveled to another country.

    5. cocomaan

      I think the outcome would have been the same, more or less, just different people being marginalized. The impeachment hearings would have been about HRC instead of Trump’s folks. Republicans would have continued to do nothing.

      The entire society is paralyzed at this point. Any change to any law anywhere appears to result in huge disruptions to the status quo. Want to legalize marijuana? Prepare to put all the counselors, prison guards, and other parasites on welfare. Want to have Medicare for All? Prepare to watch the insurance industry fall apart. Want to stop wars in Afghanistan? Military contractors howl.

      We’ve created a perfect storm where everyone desperately wants change but nothing can change without major problems.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > We’ve created a perfect storm where everyone desperately wants change but nothing can change without major problems.

        In a crisis things, correlate… (So Yeats was wrong, wasn’t he?)

  3. fresno dan

    “Clinton Already Working On Follow-Up Book Casting Blame For Failures Of First” [The Onion].

    CHAPPAQUA, NY—Saying it would provide a candid account of her experiences writing an unsuccessful tell-all, sources confirmed Thursday that Hillary Clinton is already working on a follow-up book casting blame for the failures of her previous memoir What Happened. “From my agent negotiating that underwhelming deal with Simon & Schuster, to the graphic designer’s lackluster cover art, to my so-called supporters who couldn’t be bothered to drop $17.99 for the hardcover copy—everyone had a hand in undermining my last book’s success,”
    I blame the schools (deplorable illiterates) as well as all the innovative and compelling TV on…uh, TV…..

    1. Scott

      I don’t think I’ll be reading Clinton’s book; however, based upon the reviews, it unintentionally appears to reveal why she lost. She quite simply didn’t understand the mood of the American people, what we wanted or why we were upset with the status quo. Had she been able to understand them, she, not Trump would be President.

      The New Republic review covers much of this.


      She also appears incapable of genuine self-reflection, blaming outside factors (Sanders, emails) rather than herself. This lack of self-awareness was a major enabler of the bubble that she has ensconced herself in.

      1. Jeff W

        That’s an interesting review. Thank you.

        What I always find striking about Hillary Clinton is not how completely unaware she is but how unaware she is of being unaware. Not only does she not get the mood of the American people—she has no idea that she is not getting it. She’s blindsided by everything and can’t imagine that it has anything to do with her.

        I have no interest in reading her book and I really wouldn’t want to. Seeing someone thinking they’re explaining something and, all the while, they have no idea that what they can’t see explains far more—that level of unawareness, of inadvertent disclosure, makes for uncomfortable reading, I think.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      People don’t read (much) anymore.

      That’s the sad truth. And she can sell it as a more believable blame.

      “I am running to make Americans read again.” – her slogan in 2020…to make Americans read her memoir.

  4. Zilog Instantaneously Mojo

    “Ethical hackers have turned this robot into a stabbing machine”

    To call a Universal Robot a ‘giant arm’ is a bit of a stretch. Sure, the UR10 model is starting to get up there, but it is still a heck of a long way from something like the Kuka Titan, which really *is* a giant robot arm.

    As for the ability to ‘hack’ into a UR robot, well duh. The UR series of robots are widely used in teaching and research precisely because of how easy they are to dig into and control. Anyone with a passing knowledge of URScript (the robot’s native language) or ROS (the robot operating system) can program a UR robot to do pretty-much whatever they like. Pointing out that a UR robot can be easily hacked is like pointing out that a can of cola is easy for an able-bodied person to open. Of course it is – that is the whole idea!

  5. skippy

    Ref – EVE

    “Guys. It’s time for some game theory.”

    I would suggest its the results of and not a time for application, massive Scotts box playing out in real time.

  6. fresno dan

    “GC: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!” Maybe not quite so funny, these days…

    I dreamed of eating a handful of hot gravel…..all I had to eat was radioactive botulism, and scarcely enough to fill a quarter of a flea’s belly…..and I had to PAY the mill a tuppence a second, and when I got home I was boiled in acid, cut in half, with half going to alligators, and the other half to sharks, and than thrown in an active volcano, and that was on Christmas – most days weren’t nearly so idyllic….

    1. Clive

      And cold showers in the morning followed by daily beatings. It toughened us up, though. Best years of my life.

      1. skippy

        I always have fond memory’s of family gatherings in the rgr bear pit….

        disheveled…. Survival of the Fittest starts at the hearth….

  7. Enquiring Mind

    The Glamour link was sad. In a prior millennium, I had the pleasure of meeting several Glamour Top Ten College Women. They were uniformly dismayed at the subsequent degradation of the magazine into a variant of Cosmo, and what that message sent to their readers. Once upon a time, more people revered smart, thoughtful, accomplished, decent young women. The world is somewhat coarser since the change.

    1. jgordon

      In a similar vein, around the late 90s and early 2000s I used to read magazines like Omini, Discovery, and PC Accelerator. Then within a short couple of years all were either discontinued or had been dumbed down to infantile drivel. I vividly recall buying an issue of Discovery back then and being intensely offended at how awful it had become as compared to even the previous month’s issue.

      About Glamour, like all the other media distributors they surely realized that the key to commercial success is marketing to the lowest common denominator, and since the number of women wanting to read about smart, thoughtful, accomplished, and decent young women is vanishingly small (let’s be realistic here), there is really no point in catering to that audience.

      With regards to the content of the article itself, it speaks to some all-pervasive archetypal ideation burried deep in the female mind: the dangerous and exhilarating lure of a disagreeable badboy ashole. I will verify from personal and anecdotal experience that bragging about being a Trump supporter does garner positive attention from women, especially angry lefty women. I’ve taken to matching a MAGA hat with My Little Brony T-shirts on nights out. It’s a hillariously effective combination, especially near college campuses, for attracting female interest and getting conversations started.

    1. Ned

      No. I use Firefox, ad blocker Plus and configured my browser to delete all history and cookies, but not bookmarks, once a day.
      It’s not perfect but it prevents delivering yourself to them on a platten.

      Yes, I mail checks or cash to my favorite website owners like N.C. or OfTwoMinds.

      All my important emailing is done through Protonmail and even they can’t read what’s on their own servers.

      Google is evil. Learn about them, sabotage them and use them while you dictate the terms of how you employ them. Don’t forget duckduckgo, the alternate search engine.

  8. Synoia

    Retail: “Diners who are more averse to uncertainty than the average Joe…But the preference for easy-to-understand menu names could be on the wane. Younger restaurant-goers are more likely to embrace foreign languages on their menus.


    Properly rename “Hot Dogs” offal?

  9. epynonymous

    I was just about to post that Kotaku link.

    I’m not up on the EVE online scene, but it does represent a massive investment of time and money worth study. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now.

    EVE has been reported as a bi-polar world, which is an unstable alignment. In the real world, nuclear weapons have kept the tension from turning into larger conflicts. Similarly, this conflict was settled in the shadows. Quickly and quietly reminiscent of the collapse of the Soviet system.

    The EVE system is similar to a class system in that older players have more (un-losable) skill points (equivavlent to social status,) while currency comes and goes as ships and stations are destroyed or resource points shift from one alliances control to another.

  10. ChiGal in Carolina

    Sorry, no time right now to post links, but Bernie’s bill is indeed VERY different from HR 676.

    If you read the text of the actual bill which was posted here yesterday, in effect there will be a buy-in or public option as the mechanism of expanding Medicare.

    Further, since the expansion does NOT cover long-term care, Medicaid will continue to do so.

    Much of the detail in the financing that has been put out heretofore (HR 676 followed PNHP proposal and they and Flowers have done most of the ground work on this) counted on eliminating multiple bureaucracies as a huge source of savings. That would not be the case with Bernie’s plan, at least not right away.

    The Flowers article you link above is from last week; now that the details have come out if you Google her she has made a video welcoming the move but identifying those areas where the single-payer advocates will need to continue pressuring Bernie on the plan.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks very much. I’ll be posting on this over the weekend, but first I need to do a lot more reading.

      On the one hand, it’s great that Sanders got the co-sponsors he did. On the other, we need to know what he needed to do to get them. Sanders is both a politician, and a good one, which is the sort of person you want playing your inside game.

      1. Heraclitus

        Lambert, I beg to differ about Sander’s political skills. He’s never gotten anythng substantive through the Senate, and he only had one Democratic Senator (Ron Wyden, D-OR) endorse him in the primaries. You’d think a guy who has been in the Senate as long as Sanders has would have more friends, and more chits to call in.

        All these Medicare for all co-sponsors are essentially disqualifying themselves to run for President. Trump will take their Medicare for all endorsement and beat them senseless one by one.

    2. Darn

      The point in the post about it reportedly allowing private insurance was incorrect, as employer or individual duplicating the services under the Act would be prohibited once it fully enters force after 4 yrs. I agree with Flowers that it would be best to introduce it overnight to make it politically harder to stop as with the original Medicare. Perhaps Sanders thinks the chunk of the population covered in each annual step is big enough to have the same effect (after all, Medicare only covered elderly people).

  11. dcblogger

    Readers who live in Nancy Pelosi’s district should know that she has a challenger in the Democratic primary
    How to Live Without Google

  12. dcblogger

    Obama wants to defeat Medicare for All AT LEAST as much as the Clintons, and he has far more power w/in the Democratic party. Look to him to undermine any and all pro-single payer candidates running in 2018.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I agree 100%.

      I also think Obama saw this moment coming, and that’s why he defenestrated Ellison. It will be interesting to see how Obama tries to sabotage #MedicareForAll while still appearing high-minded, and how the left will react. 2008 is, after all, a long time ago.

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        I’m finding more and more people amenable to actually reviewing Obama’s record when it’s presented to them in a non-confrontational manner. As with everything else to do with the situation, most get their “information” from the corporate media, many if not most have spent their lives trusting said media, and the brainwashing in some runs deep. Also, the human habit of personalizing everything (“Yes, but it saved my life!”) tends to get in the way.

        I have friends who have no financial issues buying their ACA insurance but who are finding it increasingly difficult to find a plan that provides what they need, as they have chronic health conditions that are expensive if they lack the proper support. The decreasing number of insurance providers coupled with the declining number of medical professionals they can access, which in many cases forces them to leave doctors they’ve had for years, is starting to bring home the problems with ACA.

        And, of course, one never hears in the mainstream about all the people who have insurance and can’t use it because by the time they pay the premiums they can’t afford the co-pays and deductibles. I’m finding more and more of those people are speaking up in discussions of Medicare-for-All—they’re very much in favor.

      2. Cynthia

        I also suspect that Obama is working behind the scenes to undermine Medicare-for-All. After all, if Medicare-for-All were put on the table and under the spotlight for everyone to see and mull over, it would expose the fact that ObamaCare has been nothing but a massive giveaway to corporate healthcare, insurers and providers alike, at an enormous expense to both taxpayers and unsubsidized insurees. And it’s always been the case that whatever Obama does, he does for himself, and his corporate sponsors of course. Doing anything good for the country as a whole has never been one of his motives.

        Very gullible Obama-bots have been fooled by this, but all of their foolishness will quickly evaporate once they finally figure out that ObamaCare is a super crappy piece of legislation that has only caused costs to spike and care to tank. And what better way to unfool these fools than to show them that Medicare-for-All is far superior to ObamaCare in terms of costs as well as care. Many understand that ObamaCare has done nothing to control healthcare costs, but very few understand that care has suffered big time under ObamaCare. That’s largely because the huge regulatory burden of ObamaCare has caused administrative and back-office costs to skyrocket, leaving a severely shrunken supply of dollars to provide care for patients.

    2. domare

      Maybe not. I think we will see most Democratic candidates in 2018 supporting single-payer. But it will be like Hillary’s support against TPP — only words. Even Obama did something similar in 2008, publicly rebuking the financial industry while giving private talks where he said he would protect them.

      Kamala Harris has come out in support of single-payer. I think the left needs to pressure her to faithfully lobby in support of the CA state single-payer movement, and withdraw support from her 2018 bid if she is unable to deliver a bill in CA.

        1. skippy

          Concur… state level seems to be a hiving off risk – arms length approach to drowning the baby in the bath thingy…

          disheveled…. strangely or not… this is juxtaposed by the amount of moeny about to be created to fix decades of ideologically driven market behavior in both Texas and Florida… contra to all evidence based observations… barf

  13. GF

    The Chelsea Manning post in links today:


    is frightening. We are not paying attention to what is going on around us.

    Reaction to Chelsea’s Harvard appointment: (I know it’s Fox News but it has a good Chelsea response)


  14. Huey Long

    “As the U.S. economy continues to expand at a sluggish pace, some sectors are seeing impressive growth. Luxury airlines, for example, and hyper-expensive New York City condos” [JSTOR Daily]. And:

    A well placed source tells me that some of these “hyper-expensive New York City condos” don’t like to pay their people any overtime and that the maintenance guys are having trouble getting money for spare parts. As a consequence, they’re losing their top guys who can get better jobs and only retaining the guys who can’t.

    Why are so many rich folks penny-wise and pound foolish? Buildings fall apart without an adequate maintenance budget and a crew of maintenance guys that give a darn and have a clue.

    1. Synoia

      Because they can always move to another of their dwellings, and buy a new one

      Bit like Windsor Castle burning down band and the Queen in distress had to linger longer at Buckingham Palace!

      Repairs are for the little people!

  15. Tomonthebeach

    Regarding what Trump gets out of his deal with the Dems, I think Guardian’s Dan McAdams nailed it today: “It’s an alpha male thing.” Who would have thought that ethology would have relevance to contemporary political science?

  16. Stephen Gardner

    Is there anyone here who can explain to me why Mnuchin and others in the Trump administration keep talking about stopping trade with China? That is so impossible that it doesn’t even make sense as a cynical posture for the base. What is going on?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think this is an example of the Borg nature of Washington. There are two main forces: preventing Eurasian integration and the false promises of competitive advantage for the U.S. in the era of globalization.

      China’s soft power is increasingly seen as a viable alternative for smaller countries to enter into trade agreements, undermining U.S. power.

      The other side is the Free Trade types promised the U.S. would export tech, defense, and legal advice and dominate finance when the factories were being closed and moved. The problem is the technological advantage would never last and the idea of exporting lawyers never made any sense. The financial sector can be moved any time. Of course, the various stories about hideous defense projects do get around. China is a viable alternative for all of these industries except the legal one which still doesn’t make sense. What have been the growth industries in recent years? Defense and finance.

      This goes back to Obama’s pivot to Asia and the TPP which was largely designed to install a permanent trade arrangement with China cut out of the Pacific Rim countries. If China or Russia start winning contracts to sell weapons and technical expertise to smaller countries which can’t maintain every industry or create trading system that doesn’t require New York or London, what happens is the local populations in the U.S. become cranky and demand reforms as the promise of making it big dies out. Companies that once dominated certain markets now have to compete with burgeoning Chinese interests. Its no different than the appliance and consumer market, but its now moved from F-35s competing with S-400s. What is a better purchase for a country not interested in conquest?

      China represents a threat to U.S. dominance, and the sickness of “American exceptionalism” has led to the idea we are at the end of history where the U.S. rules the world in its proper, natural state. American decision makers believe they can still control the world as they are “exceptional Americans” with divine right. Mnuchin is loathsome, but he isn’t alone in his sick attitudes about the super power of America. Rationale thought isn’t part of what is occurring because its based on faith in the imperial state.

      1. Synoia

        and the idea of exporting lawyers never made any sense

        Really? Maybe we should be deporting lawyers not exporting them.

      2. Propertius

        Re: ‘the sickness of “American exceptionalism”’

        I continue to be baffled by American conservatives’ fondness for an expression that was coined by Joseph Stalin. However, I feel I must point out that the United States is far from the only country characterized by “faith in the imperial state”.

  17. NotTimothyGeithner


    “ESPN originally tried to keep Hill off the air on Wednesday evening, but Smith refused to do the show without her, the sources said. Both sources also said that producers reached out to two other black ESPN hosts, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to ask them to serve as fill-ins for the show — but Eaves and Duncan did not agree to take the place of Hill and Smith, either.”

  18. savedbyirony

    re: Jemele Hill and ESPN
    Because i often work from home and love sports, i often have ESPN on to listen to during the day. They talk a lot of politics on that station fairly freely from mid morning to early afternoon covering the more and more athletes becoming publicly political and organized. I have heard these pundits support Kap, praise the NBA players union, sing out for JJ Watt, analyze and support the College team that threatened to strike a few years ago, etc.; and now i wanted to see if they would back up one of their own. Well – https://thinkprogress.org/jemele-hill-espn-off-air-53f2a4baf1af/ Good for them! especially Mike Smith. And i wonder if the ESPN execs would have received “no’s” if they had approached any white announcers to replace her/them, and were actually afraid to do so because they believed they were likely to be turned down by them as well.

      1. todde

        my reply got lost in moderation.

        they hate the establishment more than they hate Mexicans is the short answer

  19. makedoanmend

    That Botanical Garden photo is just stunning.

    …whilst one cannot help but admire the beauty of untouched nature…when the human species so desires, s/he can add human artfully to produce splendour using nature’s palette….our human nature being natural in its fullest…if only this was our species’s legacy….

    (And towns and cities can be quite useful too)

  20. Emorej a Hong Kong

    Re: “New NAFTA must terminate corporate kangaroo courts” [The Hill]
    Buried lede:
    “are we really expected to believe that the chamber [US Chamber of Commerce] wants to keep this provision in NAFTA for the benefit of small businesses?”
    Fran Teplitz is director of Green America’s Green Business Network, comprised of 3,000 businesses that promote environmental best practices. Richard Eidlin is vice president and cofounder of the American Sustainable Business Council

  21. XXYY

    Covering “every child between the ages of 0-18” in the first year is not only politically smart, it takes the ACA’s political smarts of putting young people on their parents’ policies to the next level.

    The ACA has a provision that allows parents to keep their children on the parents’ plan until the children are 26. Under Sanders’ plan, children ages 19-26 will not be covered by Medicare until year 4. Does this not seem like a giant step backwards for these children (and their parents, who will need to buy private sector insurance policies for these frequently unemployed children for 3 years)?

    I realize there will be losers in any phased rollout, but it’s bad to see Sanders’ plan initially making things worse for some groups.

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