2:00PM Water Cooler 9/22/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“US Trade Rep Outlines Expectations for NAFTA, WTO, EU Ties” [International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development]. “Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday 18 September, Lighthizer then answered questions on a host of topics, while repeatedly referring to the Trump Administration’s interest in negotiating bilateral trade deals, ensuring reciprocity in trading relationships, and addressing trade deficits…. He suggested that not only would it be more straightforward to clinch deals bilaterally, but that it would also be simpler to enforce their terms – while noting that the administration is still determining which countries to pursue such agreements which. ‘Usually in multilateral or plurilateral agreements it’s difficult to enforce the agreements because you’re disrupting too many things,’ he said… Lighthizer flagged the US’ trading relationship with China as one in need of repair, suggesting that the WTO system was “not designed to successfully manage mercantilism on this scale” and saying that the US would be pursuing new options for ensuring its partners compete on a level playing field.”

“The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA), which aims to boost goods and services trade and investment flows, entered into force provisionally on Thursday” [EU Business]. “CETA will be fully implemented once all EU Member States ratify the deal according to their respective constitutional requirements. At the time CETA will take full effect, a new and improved Investment Court System will replace the current investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that exists in many bilateral trade agreements negotiated in the past by EU Member States’ governments.”

“As NAFTA negotiations move into the third round this weekend, labor groups are growing worried that President Donald Trump and his administration will fail to meet his pledge to get fully enforceable labor provisions into a new agreement by turning a blind eye to a precedent-setting case the U.S. brought — and lost — against Guatemala last year” [Politico]. Heck, what are the odds? More: “The great unknown: It remains unclear how much weight, if any, the Trump administration is giving to the [Guatemala] ruling as its negotiators sit down with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Ottawa. The AFL-CIO has called for creation of an independent body to decide when labor consultations have failed and a dispute settlement should be initiated. But [Celeste Drake, trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO] said she’s not overly optimistic the Trump administration will embrace that idea.”

“Even if the three [NAFTA] countries do manage to reach an agreement and pass it through their respective legislatures, it could still fail if businesses simply choose to ignore terms that they consider unfavorable or harmful, former U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said” [Politico]. “‘If it’s going to require, for example, through new rules of origin, a fundamental reorganization of supply chains across the border, one of two things is going to happen,’ Froman said at the University of California event. ‘Either it’s going to be a long, drawn-out negotiation, or the business community will simply ignore it — will simply ignore NAFTA” (!!).


New Cold War

Well, we hope it’s cold:

“Bernie Sanders Just Gave the Progressive Foreign-Policy Speech We’ve Been Waiting For” [The Nation] (transcript). Even Sanders, who secured an F-35 base for his home state of Vermont, is being pulled left. More: “Sanders rightly connects the dots between an exploding Pentagon budget and Republican attempts to take health care away from tens of millions of Americans in the name of fiscal responsibility.’ Hmm. But this!

Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And he also reminded us that; “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway….”

In other words, it’s the allocation of real resources — “the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists” — that’s the problem, not the fershuggeneh budget deficit. We’ll make an MMTer of Sanders yet.

“Sanders Speaks on Foreign Policy” [The American Conservative]. “During the 2016 campaign, I thought Sanders could and should have said more about foreign policy. I still think the Democratic Party and the country would have benefited if he had done that, but fortunately he is doing it now. He should be commended for giving a thoughtful, important speech that should open up new debates on foreign policy on the left and perhaps across the political spectrum.”

2016 Post Mortem

“The television rights to the upcoming Bill Clinton-James Patterson novel ‘The President Is Missing’ have been acquired by Showtime with plans to adapt it into a series, the network announced Friday” [Variety]. Wishful thinking? More: “Set to be published in 2018, the book tells the story of a sitting U.S. president’s disappearance, with the level of detail that only someone who has held the office can know. Clinton and Patterson’s collaboration on the novel marks the first time an American President has ever co-authored a thriller.” Oh, great. Dignity of the office and all that. And now they’ll both be shilling their books. When will Chelsea’s come out? 2019?

Health Care

“Sanders and Klobuchar book CNN debate with Cassidy and Graham” [WaPo]]. Hoo boy. “The chief sponsors of the GOP’s 11th-hour effort to curtail the Affordable Care Act will debate two of their Senate opponents, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), on Monday night — an arrangement that surprised some of Sanders’s Democratic colleagues, who learned about the debate when host network CNN blasted out a news release… According to Sanders spokesman Josh Miller-Lewis, CNN came to the senator with the idea earlier in the week, and Sanders signed on without hesitation.”

Democrat strategists weigh in:

And by “weigh in,” I mean “roll on their backs, put all four paws in the air, and widdle themselves.” Dear Lord.

An alternative perspective:

“How Graham-Cassidy Stacks Up, in One Chart” [Roll Call]. It’s ugly.

Trump Transition

“Peter Thiel is being considered to chair Trump’s intelligence advisory board” [TechCrunch]. “Thiel might be controversial, but he’s a logical fit for the key intelligence advisory role. His data mining company Palantir is probably most famous for its contracts with government intelligence agencies, and he’s a longtime Trump ally who has never wavered in response to the kind of controversial choices by the Trump administration that provoke outspoken backlash from most corners of Silicon Valley. Under a normal presidency, his investment in companies with active government contracts might stir up conflict of interest questions with the PIAB role, but it’s hard to imagine that being a hurdle under a president who actively promotes his family business from the highest office in the land.” Shorter: Revealing real power relationships can make people uncomfortable. That’s why liberal Democrats prefer to work through straws and cutouts.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“In Trump’s America, is the Supreme Court still seen as legitimate?” [The Conversation]. Survey says: “Only a few Americans would want to eliminate the Supreme Court altogether. About 20 percent would endorse narrowing the scope of the court by limiting the types of cases it is able to decide. And about 32 percent felt that even if the court made unpopular decisions, we should leave it alone. The margin of error for these results was ± 4.2 percent. The largest group of respondents – 44 percent – endorsed the idea that justices should be periodically reappointed rather than serving life terms.” Lambert here: I deprecate the phrase “Trump’s America,” which is all over everything like kudzu these days. For one thing, it obscures the continuities between the Trump administration and previous administrations. For another, it reinforces the slow slide toward civil war; if there is a “Trump’s America,” it surely does not include, well, “Obama’s America.” And as far as the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, it’s arguable — though apparently it doesn’t show up in this survey — that the Court hasn’t been legitimate since the first post-Bush v. Gore judge ascended to the bench, if you believe that Scalia wrote that opinion to select a President who would appoint judges of Scalia’s ideological and partisan bent.

“Greater Internet use is not associated with faster growth in political polarization among US demographic groups” [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]. “We combine eight previously proposed measures to construct an index of political polarization among US adults. We find that polarization has increased the most among the demographic groups least likely to use the Internet and social media. Our overall index and all but one of the individual measures show greater increases for those older than 65 than for those aged 18–39. A linear model estimated at the age-group level implies that the Internet explains a small share of the recent growth in polarization.” Look! Over there! Facebook!

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers’ Index Composite Flash, September 2017: “Hurricane Harvey and Irma had little effect on Markit Economics’ manufacturing sample as the September flash rose slightly to 53.0 to signal moderate month-to-month growth” [Econoday]. “The services sample, however, did slow slightly to 55.1 which, however, signals strong growth for this sector. The composite edged lower to a 54.6 level that is consistent with solid growth for the bulk of the economy…. Today’s report suggests no major impact from Harvey and Irma and points to steady economic growth for the remainder of the year.”

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, September 2017: “Business expectations for inflation show no effects from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma” [Econoday].

Housing: “The value of real estate, as a percent of GDP, was up in Q2, and is above the average of the last 30 years (excluding bubble). However, mortgage debt as a percent of GDP, continues to decline” [Calculated Risk].

Commodities: “Copper futures trading on the Comex market in New York turned lower again on Thursday after indications that top consumer China will be well supplied with concentrate going in the the fourth quarter” [Mining.com]. “In a sign that primary copper supply is far from tight, Chinese smelters just hiked their treatment and refining charges by as much as 10%.”

Supply Chain: “For now, the one major advantage India, Vietnam and Indonesia have is cheaper labour, but that’s pretty much it. I say for now, at least for another 10 years, stick with China. Chinese manufacturers by now have extensive experience of working in an international business arena, they know how to deal with foreigners, and they are experienced, simply put most of the issues you might face have already presented themselves in the past and were dealt with and resolved in China” [Shipping & Freight Resource]. “Manufacturing community in China has been formed for years, and all the factories have their Guan Xi (close business/friendly relationships and contacts) and know where and how to get anything that you need.” Quite possibly, but interesting that the question would even be raised. Ten years is not long.

The Bezzle: “‘[Transport for London (TfL)] has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license,” the TfL said in a statement. ‘Private hire operators must meet rigorous regulations, and demonstrate to TfL that they do so, in order to operate'” [MarketWatch]. “Transport for London, or TfL, the body that is responsible for Greater London transport, said a review of the service found Uber demonstrated a lack of corporate responsibility on a number of issues, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offenses.”

The Bezzle: “The overhaul of Whole Foods’ relationships with its suppliers is taking shape. The grocery chain under new Amazon.com Inc. ownership is changing the way companies can sell and market goods in stores, part of a drive to centralize decisions on products and streamline the company’s supply chains. It’s the latest step in a series of moves to remake the business that include lowering prices… while also making the stores operate more like conventional supermarkets. Amazon is hoping to boost sales, in part by standardizing operations and prices” [Wall Street Journal]. So if Amazon wants to become Kroger, why not spin off AWS? Am I missing something here? Synergies, maybe?

Regulation: “The SEC Got Hacked, Took A Year To Learn People Might’ve Traded On It, Disclosed These Facts Parenthetically In A Bizarre Statement, And Wants Companies To Do None Of These Things” [DealBreakers]. Love DealBreaker’s Daily Mail-like headlines!

Honey for the Bears: “Deloitte’s third-quarter CFO Signals Survey, a quarterly poll of companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico with more than $1 billion in revenue… found net optimism in their own companies tumbled to 29% in the third quarter from 44% in the second quarter. ” [MarketWatch]. “‘In the manufacturing sector, the decline was steeper, falling to 22% from 52% in the prior quarter, while the energy sector saw a decline to 19% from 48%…. “It is difficult to say what is behind these declining expectations, but CFOs’ list of most worrisome external risks seems to indicate that U.S. political turmoil and geopolitical risks are weighing even more than they did last quarter,” said the report.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 73, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 77 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 22 at 12:00pm. Oh well.

Health Care

From 2016, but very useful today, sadly. Thread:


“Far away from any witnesses, my small town is being poisoned by fracking waste” [Guardian (Re Silc)]. “A forgotten byproduct of fracking is the waste. What goes into the ground must come out: a sludge of toxic chemicals and undrinkable water, which trucks ship across the country. Far from the drill pads, far from the cities that profit from fracking, far from any city at all, the leftover wastewater is injected into the ground – my county’s forgotten ground.” Well, heck. Who cares about the colonies?

“The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has described the illegal importation of genetically modified (GM) maize worth $9.8 million into Nigeria as alarming. The group expressed worry that this incident might just be a fraction of other undetected arrival of unauthorised foods into Nigeria, including those of the genetically modified varieties” [This Day].

“This weekend marks the 30th birthday of the Montreal Protocol, often dubbed the world’s most successful environmental agreement. The treaty, signed on September 16, 1987, is slowly but surely reversing the damage caused to the ozone layer by industrial gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)” [The Conversation]. “The most recent official assessment, released in 2014, predicted that it will take 30-40 years for the Antarctic ozone hole to shrink to the size it was in 1980.”

Guillotine Watch

This is good, clean fun. Thread:

Yes, he does get to the photo.

Class Warfare

“Our modeled ‘Joe Sixpack’ – who owns a house and has a job, and essentially no other asset – is better off than he was last quarter (and his growth rate of improvement improved)” [Econintersect]. “35% of Americans who own no home or have any other assets are no better off (living from paycheck to paycheck) – and consumption is based simply on income. The median household’s income is little better then it was 16 years ago.”

“‘If juggalos are a gang then why aren’t individual fraternities gangs?’ says writer Camille Dodero at the rally. ‘What’s the difference between those groups and juggalos? To me…the difference with those kids is that those kids’ parents have money'” [Nuvo].

“Social Animal House: The Economic and Academic Consequences of Fraternity Membership” [SSRN] (PDF). From the abstract: “We exploit changes in the residential and social environment on campus to identify the economic and academic consequences of fraternity membership at a small Northeastern college. Our estimates suggest that these consequences are large, with fraternity membership lowering student GPA by approximately 0.25 points on the traditional four-point scale, but raising future income by approximately 36%, for those students whose decision about membership is affected by changes in the environment. These results suggest that fraternity membership causally produces large gains in social capital, which more than outweigh its negative effects on human capital for potential members.”

“Like Doug Henwood, I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out why people—particularly liberals and pseudo-liberals in the chattering classes—hate teachers unions. One could of course take these people at their word—they care about the kids, they worry that strikes hurt the kids, and so on—but since we never hear a peep out of them about the fact that students have to swelter through 98-degree weather in jam-packed classes without air conditioning, I’m not so inclined” [Corey Robin]. “[W]hen I hear journalists and commentators, many of them fresh out of the Ivy League, talking to teachers as if they were servants trying to steal the family silver, that’s what I hear. It’s an ugly tone from ugly people.”

“It’s called ‘F*ck You Money’ for a reason” [Pando Daily]. “In recent weeks, Omidyar hasn’t just become a critic of the GOP and Trump… safe targets, after all, in most of his social circle. He has gone full-barrel after Facebook…. It’s particularly remarkable given the cozy social ties so many of these billionaires have. Let’s remember: It was Omidyar who played a large role in initially giving (Facebook board member and Trump supporter and rumored candidate for an Intelligence Post in the Trump Administration and a Pando investor) Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Reid Hoffman their fuck you money, when eBay bought PayPal. It was eBay that also bought (Facebook board member and Pando investor) Marc Andreessen’s second company for $1.5 billion, leading to Andreessen and Omidyar serving together on eBay’s board for several years. Attacking Trump is easy. Or… it should be. Attacking other members of this cozy billionaire class puts the admittedly conflict adverse Omidyar in the stunning and sudden role of most combative tech billionaire.”

This was fun:

News of the Wired

“EU Buried Its Own $400,000 Study Showing Unauthorized Downloads Have Almost No Effect On Sales” [TechDirt] (original). “In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films.”

“The Story Behind the Greatest Internet Recipe Comment of All Time” [New York Magazine].

About the iPhone launch:

“After months of work aligning Unicode 10.0 code points with new features in Emoji 5.0, the 2017 emoji list is now final” [Emojipedia]. “These include smileys, people, food, drink, flags, and for the first time: new fantasy characters such as a mermaid, genie, and vampire.” Globalization’s march to post-literacy continues…

* * *

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 (AM):

AM writes: “Flowers and grasses from my mother in law’s garden in Rehoboth, MA.”

* * *

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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. Carey

    I just watched, or tried to watch, Morgan Freeman’s “We were attacked. We are at war.” video, but couldn’t
    even get to the end. He is an actor, playing a role. So this is what it’s come to, hmm? Bleak.

    1. sgt_doom

      Actors as eternal idiots — wish they would just STFU for once!

      So, Russia and Facebook pose a serious threat to some imagined democracy — just where is this democracy at, anyhow?

      Questions: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chief advisor was from BlackRock, correct?

      President Obama did a deal on military pensions which benefitted his chief donor, BlackRock, correct?

      BlackRock is an offshoot of Blackstone Group (Blackstone . . . BlackRock, get it???), correct?

      Bill Clinton’s major donor, and the outfit his received all that free office space when he was first running for the presidency was the Blackstone Group, correct?

      Anyone not sure we are at war with BlackRock, per chance????

      The Big Four — the major four investment firms which are the majority shareholders in the majority of major corporations in North America and Europe (still unsure about Asia and the rest of the Americas): Vanguard Group, State Street, Fidelity and BlackRock.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Washington is just Hollywood for ugly people. David Frum hiding behind Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman is fitting especially when 43’s speech writer wasn’t embraced by the little people. After all, Hillary largely ran on her celebrity. Her cronies are often despised or completely unknown by Hillary voters.

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      Oh my, puts me in my place. Never thought he could do wrong being as he is a self-avowed atheist. That’ll teach me to make assumptions about classes of people (hey, wait, there’s a word for that…)

    3. Huey Long


      I took one for the team and made it through to the end of the video. It is absurd to say the least.

      My conclusion is that the CIR folks who produced this fine batch of Bernays Sauce must have a video of Morgan Freeman blowing a cub scout with which to blackmail him with.

      It’s either that or he has gambling/drug debts that need paying.

      1. polecat

        Yeah, whenever I and/or the mrs. polecat experience a dog of a flick .. we refer to such as a ‘mealticket’ movie, meaning that whoever had top billing just accepted the role cuz they were hard-up for the $$ !

    4. John Wright

      Maybe Freeman needs to view the movie “Sum of all fears” from 2002.

      In it the USA almost goes to war with Russia because a neo-Nazi billionaire blows up a nuclear weapon at a Baltimore football game.

      The neo-Nazi’s stated intent is to have the USA and Russia fight war so he can pick up the pieces.

      Jack Ryan saves the day, as CIA director William Cabot watches the USA ready to war with Russia.

      Maybe the William Cabot character (played by none other than Morgan Freeman) needs to find a new Jack Ryan to guide him in this case?

      It appears that Morgan Freeman is now being used by the neo-cons pulling the strings for war

      He should call Jack Ryan on his cell phone and do it quickly.

    5. Pavel

      I’m old enough to remember when the Dems and “liberals” were, um, anti-war and pro-dialogue with Russia and quaint things like that.

      Brian Lehrer of WNYC (whom I admired until he relentlessly shilled for HRC and ignored Bernie for the most part last year) breathlessly announced on his podcast that Hillary asked to be on his show to promote her book, so even though he usually takes off Rosh Hashanah he would make an exception this time. One of the first things she said was how it is all about “the Russians” interfering in our elections and threatening our democracy. Of course Lehrer (along with Maddow) has been pushing this meme for months with a regular “TrumpRussia” (or is it “Trussia”) series on his radio show.

      They are going insane with all this, and driving independent voters away from the Democrat party. And BTW I watched the Morgan Freeman video — it was almost frightening how “sincere” he sounded and said “We are at war”. Tucker Carlson rightly ranted at Rob Reiner about the advert and Reiner tried to defend it by saying “it is a cyberwar”. Rob, really, what happened to you?

      1. kgw

        Since the current Israeli government has, along with the U.S., basically “lost” their war against Syria due mainly to Russia, and Iran, the amen corner is fidgeting around…

  2. Tim

    Greater Internet use is not associated with faster growth in political polarization among US demographic groups”

    My experience is that time on the internet moderates people.

    You can try to exercise your confirmation bias all you want, but when a certain article title catches your eye and you read it, or you are sifting through comments and run across somebody with a different point of view it is really hard to retain your biases in the face of reading the truth. Sometimes you just know the truth when you see it and there is no turning back.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One possibility is that, more people become moderate, but the smaller number of people who do not become moderate, but remain extreme, their extremeness deepens, so that the total extremeness is the same, or more.

      1. dbk

        A very reasonable conclusion. I spend a significant portion of each very long reading day surveying major conservative websites. It helps me understand where “the other side” is coming from, and also helps me to view “my side” more critically. I highly recommend it as an antidote.

    2. VietnamVet

      $100,000 dollars of Facebook advertisements, blog comments or RT News can swing elections if it is the truth. $1.2 billion and the Democrat’s support by and for the top 10% percent only, did not win the 2016 election.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Apparently, iPhone 8 buyers are missing as well.

      Body snatchers or abductors from outer space?

      1. Clive

        I for one think it’s rather a cause for optimism that tech and its ability to beguile with glamour has perhaps reached a plateau. And I wonder how many dare be seen in public grasping that $1000 iPhone X…

        1. Arizona Slim

          I spent a tad more than 200 bucks on my phone — including the protective case that keeps the phone from falling victim to my klutziness, I felt like I’d spent a fortune.

          1. pricklyone

            I bought a $20 minutes refill and got the phone for free (small LG).
            Works like any other android phone.
            Of course I have a phone to make PHONE calls.

    2. fresno dan

      September 22, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      “The television rights to the upcoming Bill Clinton-James Patterson novel ‘The President Is Missing’ have been acquired by Showtime with plans to adapt it into a series, the network announced Friday” [Variety]. Wishful thinking? More: “Set to be published in 2018, the book tells the story of a sitting U.S. president’s disappearance, with the level of detail that only someone who has held the office can know.
      SPOILERS!!! Do not read if you intend to buy the book.

      The climax…… er, uh, is when the president is found getting a hummer in the secret room where Warren G. Harding got inebriated during prohibition, although to his credit, he banned the combo of Jim Beam and Old Crow called the Jim Crow that was the most popular drink mixture in the Wilson administration….

  3. allan

    Taking Stock of the Ties That Bind Harvard’s Kennedy School and the CIA [Chronicle of Higher Education]

    … a forthcoming book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities (Henry Holt), by Daniel Golden, argues that the Kennedy School has a cozy, longstanding relationship with the CIA that is kept largely under wraps, even in some cases from its own faculty members. The book contends that U.S. intelligence services have ensconced themselves in universities, particularly since September 11, 2001, and that their presence leads to a tension between national security and academic freedom. In a chapter titled “Hidden in the Ivy,” Golden unpacks an association between the Kennedy School and the CIA that goes back decades. …

    Elmendorf, the dean, declined an interview request, but a former dean, Joseph Nye, characterized Golden’s allegations as much ado about not much. “The Kennedy School and other schools of public service have active CIA agents in their classes all the time,” Nye said. The former dean said he thought Golden’s book was “trying to create some kind of scandal out of something that’s an openly declared program.” …

    … meaning that we’ve reached the `of course it’s true, everybody knows that’ stage of crisis management.

    1. Huey Long

      Elmendorf, the dean, declined an interview request, but a former dean, Joseph Nye, characterized Golden’s allegations as much ado about not much. “The Kennedy School and other schools of public service have active CIA agents in their classes all the time,” Nye said. The former dean said he thought Golden’s book was “trying to create some kind of scandal out of something that’s an openly declared program.” …

      I’m reminded of fictional spymaster George Smiley’s career as a professor of 17th century German Baroque literature. If I recall correctly, Smiley was a professor in Germany during the war and then afterwords was a professor at Oxford for a time where he recruited students into The Circus.

      At any rate, this story isn’t much of a scoop for those of us who’ve studied the CIA. They’ve always been there on various campuses, particularly Yale.


      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Well, I’ve always gathered that the founders of the OSS/CIA were a bunch of Ivy League longhairs?

        *I’m a civilian on the subject of spycraft–I figure there’s plenty of other’s sniffing around that area if I have a specific question. Which I suppose this is.

    2. Oregoncharles

      The CIA was founded by a bunch of Ivy Leaguers. They’ve been hand-in-glove with the elite schools all along – as is Wall St., of course. That’s why they’re elite.

  4. Jess

    Regarding the Supreme Court, this seems like a fitting time to drop a quote from the new book I’m working on:

    “Lest anyone doubt that the justices who currently comprise the Supreme Court represent only a narrow and exclusionary perspective, all nine attended either Harvard Law School or Yale Law School. Is that because Stanford, Duke, Notre Dame, Princeton, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and all the other law schools in the land, including those located in and around D.C., cannot produce lawyers qualified for the Supreme Court? Of course not. It’s because Harvard and Yale have become America’s Academic Axis of Evil, the choke point where the leaders of the established ruling elite insure that their offspring continue to lead the established ruling elite. “

    1. Mike

      Ah-ha, now you’ve bitten the apple! Let us also not forget that it was Harvard and Yale tapped to “advise” the Kremlin on its “transition” to capitalism, which was such a success that suicide rates skyrocketed, whole segments of the population starved, and crony capitalism’s rules were ingested by the nomenklatura, so that the drunkard Yeltsin and the KGB analyst Putin could take their besotted nation into the 21st century.

      Axis of Evil? Doesn’t go far enough. You can’t fight this sort of reality with a few Congress-critters and a pill for hope and change.

      Hope your book does well, and hope you stay well – that’s the extent of my hope.

    2. Huey Long

      Harvard and Yale have become America’s Academic Axis of Evil, the choke point where the leaders of the established ruling elite insure that their offspring continue to lead the established ruling elite. “

      Let’s not forget the role that private schools that serve as feeder schools for the Ivy League such as those in the ESA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Schools_Association) play in keeping the established ruling elite on top.

      Also, within each Ivy League school is some sort of club that separates the true elite from the striving proles. Yale has it’s senior secret societies, Harvard has final clubs, and Princeton has eating clubs for example.

      Anyway, to sum up the whole system I hereby defer to George Carlin:


      P.S. Good luck on your book! It sounds promising!

      1. Jess

        Thanks for the tip on ESA. Notice that Sidwell Friends did not make the list. Imagine that. (Maybe because it’s not a prep school as such?)

  5. Wukchumni

    When I was a kid, the automakers would try and get you to buy a new car every couple of years, but who does that anymore?

    Well, that’s the gig with smartphones now.

  6. Montanamaven

    I was going to post the Morgan Freeman/Rob Reiner commercial this morning, but had to work. Tucker Carlson had Rob Reiner on last night and set his trap and Reiner walked right into it. There are a lot of things Tucker gets wrong, but boy does he know how to make people look stupid. Watch as he asks Reiner about China. Hilarious.
    Tucker v. Meathead
    I love it when Reiner thinks he’s Oh so Smart by telling Tucker that Propaganda has been around since Leni Riefenstahl. No, modern propaganda has been around since Bernays and Lippmann sold WW I. And while Leni was working for the Reich, Hollywood was producing “Why We Fight” films.
    I saw Yasha’s tweet this morning too and agree that we are so [family blog] when a “Black American calls the US “a shining example” of democracy and joins Bush’s speech writer and other right wingers in calling for war.
    The Sputnik article was called “Driving Miss Crazy”.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I’m finally disappointed by Easy Reader. ‘We have always been at war with Reading Rainbow.’

      Google news tell me that Russia is ‘bashing’ Freeman.

    2. polecat

      “Sigh” …
      Another ‘glitterati’ at the top of his game … spewing falsehoods to the mopes .. for the D•N•C loge-$eating neoliberal elites !

      Time to strike ANOTHER ONE off my viewing list six-gun !!

    3. Annotherone

      Thank you for the video link, Montanamaven.
      Reiner & Freeman – two more formerly respected names to add to my personal blacklist.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Careful, I’ve had Tucker on my ‘meh’ list since PBS got rid of Rukeyser et al. and went infotainment-with-validation. I agree with Mr. Strether that this is realignment time, so for me, everything’s a graylist.

        Why does everyone on cable news speak from their throat?


          Tucker says rather ordinary libertarian talking points like “If America is so bad, why are people trying to move here ?” (In discussing the Kaepernick deal about not saluting the flag.) But by and large he is one of the smarter TV hosts. Of course, that is not saying much.
          P.S. Here is an interesting exchange between Tucker and Philadelphia Eagles guy on the American Dream and what not standing for the Anthem means to BlackAmericans Tucker

          1. Mo's Bike Shop

            He has a dedication to forensic skills, and that’s why he stays in my don’t-have-a-tv head.

            But, he started off with a bow tie as his trademark. It’s a good thing he dropped it, because he had no idea what it meant.

  7. Carey

    Montanamaven, thanks for the Tucker v Meathead link. I’m not sure why this particular Blob action seems
    so disturbing, but it somehow does, maybe because the dissembling is so blatant? Dunno.

  8. MikeW_CA

    ” In Trump’s America, is the Supreme Court still seen as legitimate?”
    The Supreme Court is legitimate. The way Neil Gorsuch arrived on it is not.

    1. Darius

      Since he has an inoperable brain tumor, they got nothing either to offer him or threaten him with. So he’s in a perfect position to tell anyone he wants to go to hell. McCain has a lot to answer for. But here, he’s proving to be the Maverick of his legend.

      1. Arizona Slim

        And here in AZ, I’m not even hearing little tiny whispers about anyone who’s interested in replacing him.

        Heck, I even dropped the idea on one of my Democratic Party insider friends, who used to be in the AZ House. Her reply: She wants to run for the *Arizona* Senate.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Don’t brain tumors affect behavior? What is more likely?

        Besides, repeal would be a disaster for the GOP. The GOP can’t say their repeal promises were bs for years. McCain is simply protecting his party.

        1. John D.

          “McCain is simply protecting his party.”

          Agreed. Besides which, this little manoeuver allows him to him to (a.) stick a thumb in Trump’s eye, something he must be overjoyed at being able to do after the 2016 election, and more importantly (b.) it draws the maximum amount of attention to himself as is humanly possible in what little time he’s got left. I could almost respect (a.) but knowing McCain, I strongly suspect it’s the latter point that’s really motivating him.

  9. Mike

    I am both mildly amused and somewhat disturbed by the fact that Lambert thinks the F-35 supporter Sanders is now “dragged left”. As a matter of his face to the public, he has always been “left”. However, in the pantheon of leftist politics, he has also always been a mild social democrat, about on par with the Socialist Parties of Europe.

    While that makes him scandalous to the elites, it also make him compromise-able and willing to deal for some points at the cost of others as far as principle goes (leftist principle, that is, like Texas Gold in the Beverly Hillbillies). Is he just opening the way for deeper “discussion” (love that term – its popularity denies the brutal emotion and anger in this country that stops a simple “discussion”)? If so, we have a long way to go, and lots of hot air to release. The fact that he holds FDR a a hero should bother any “left” thinker. But maybe we’re happy with merely the mention of such policy in public.

    As for this policy speech, please see my comment under Links. I don’t hold out hope this means he is more “left” than before. It does mean he feels comfortable enough to state something he was reticent about before, as he feels his stance on Trump has more support, so he can venture into areas that would have qualified him for a firing squad before. Not so sure the squad is called off, as Trump is preparing the ground and is driving the stake – but then, the ground was being pre-prepared by Obama and his Democratic predecessors so well that it is no wonder Hillary took it for granted in her arguments against Sanders in the primary.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Trying I’m more Mallard than Gnome:

      1. No one else has gotten this far, Bernie makes Henry Wallace look like a piker.

      2. The only viable next step is redistributing the spoils of empire more equitably amongst the internal proletariat. Maybe, then, we’ll all start thinking about the implications of 5% of the world consuming ~20% of it’s resources.

      3. 2. is pure hopium.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          That was in my calculus when I dissed Wallace. To quote Heinlein (sorry, nerd): it is better still to be a live lion.

          He’s good though. I feel dangerous just listening to him on youtube.

  10. Jim

    Bernie, in his foreign policy speech, once again stands firmly with the agenda created by our national security state:

    “We saw the anti-democratic effort taking place in the 2016 election right here in the United States where we now know that the Russian government was engaged in a massive effort to undermine one of our greatest strengths.”

    Bernie then goes on to seemingly endorse the contemporary status quo structure of power (the multinational corporate form (rule-based) operating in cooperation with the muscle of the national security state)–when he states:

    “As the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, we have got to help lead the struggle to defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.”

    Whose rules are we talking about Bernie?–your statement sounds like an endorsement of a rule-based multinational corporate order enforced by the National Security State overseeing and controlling any real move for democracy on the nation-state level.

    Maybe Bernie is more of a power-player than I give him credit for. He may already be signaling that If he ever gets to be in charge that he, like Trump, is willing to make the necessary compromises with the National Security State foreign policy agenda.

    And it is this agenda which controls the flow of revenue–and it is also this agenda which will make sure that National Security State pockets are not short-changed with any big ideas about making the lives of the average U.S. citizen better.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      “Maybe Bernie is more of a power-player than I give him credit for. He may already be signaling that If he ever gets to be in charge that he, like Trump, is willing to make the necessary compromises with the National Security State foreign policy agenda

      Sanders has been more of a power player, for a longer time, than most people to allow themselves to realize. Including the haute darlings of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, or the smirking*, rabid rightists of Trump’s Republican Party.

      How does anyone think an independent from VT managed to stay at Sanders’ level in the federal government for as long as he has? Cute and quirky alone do not cut it, not even in remote and rural Vermont. Sanders is focused on advancing social democracy within the U.S. He is not going to ‘take on’ the military industrial complex. He’s 75 and has only so many shots left at changing the way things work here. He’s good for that, and that makes him lightyears better than everyone else with his level of exposure.

      But, that is all it makes him. The man is not a saint, he’s merely a better-than-average political actor.

      *(There is something distinctively unpleasant about the smiles that always grace the faces of Mnuchin, Price, and Pruitt. Also Gorsuch. “Smirk” is the best word I have for them. Pence is a better politician in large part because he is much less likely to let his sneer peek out through the curve of his lips………. while in range of press cameras.)

      1. Spring Texan

        Thanks, Fluffy. Yep Sanders is what he is and he tries to be strategic and he’s trying to take his best shot. But he’s actually a good guy. Which makes him as you say lightyears better than those we are constantly told are “good” and that we should not “let the perfect be the enemy of the good” but should cheer loudly for Obama, Kerry, Clinton.

        There are some other good guys in politics too, who really do work very hard to help people. Lloyd Doggett is one, and he’s far less liberal than Sanders BUT anyone who TRULY works that hard and does so much on so many fronts and when people are watching and when people are not watching is someone I genuinely admire. I don’t have to agree with someone down the line for that to be true, and plenty of people I do agree with don’t do as much to help people and I’d vote for Doggett before them.

        We don’t need saints (remember when Aung San Suu Kyi was a saint?). We do need people who work as hard as Sanders and Doggett and as thoughtfully. And as they themselves would agree, it’s not about Sanders, Corbyn, or anyone, it’s about benefitting the many and pushing for better policies that will do that.

        1. Spring Texan

          And if you don’t reach for power and try to achieve it, you are just “virtue-signalling” and going to help no one. Politics is all about power.

          1. Jim

            “Politics is all about power.” Couldn’t agree more.

            That’s why its sad that Bernie isn’t apparently interested in devising or even discussing a strategy for taking on an entity which controls the flow of revenue in the United States (and that could dramatically influence any of his policies for combating economic inequality, including getting decent health care).

            Can you really be serious about gaining power without a discussion about how to dismantle the National Security State without getting yourself killed?


            1. Mac na Michomhairle

              How did Bernie Sanders get into office and stay in office, is he has not already sold out, someone asks.

              By working hard as mayor of Burlington to create and implement policies that help ordinary people and give them power; by doing the same thing in a neo-liberal and right-wing Congress when the powers that be will marginalize or destroy anyone who challenges them openly; by being always absolutely honest and forthright, and by speaking about issues in ten thousand community meetings in a way that makes sense to ordinary people, so that probably a majority of Vermonters who used to or still think of themselves as “conservative”, now support socialist policies and are not scared of socialism; by running for president with a strategy that expands the realm of the possible in politics and governance in America, speaking directly to issues that matter to a lot of people from a socialist perspective, while still not inviting obliteration from the powers that be; by not sitting in a purer-than-thou leftist box and damning everyone who actually does something as a capitalist tool.

              No, he does not declare war and call for the deconstruction of the power structure, or even directly challenge it, as such. That achieves absolutely nothing, except allowing oneself to sit alone at your computer feeling virtuous.

              1. Jim

                Could you please spell out your interpretation of how Bernie will gain national power and implement his policies taken the apparent fact that the National Security State is part of coalition now in power that would do what is necessary to stop him.

                Maybe then we can see more clearly what political forces are primarily engaged in virtue signaling.

                1. Mike

                  Jim, my advice is to not rile the Bernie-believers, since his hagiography is being written as we speak. Gradualism can do no wrong in a country taken over by right-wing wingnuts – we must be careful to lie to them while sneaking up on their program, because they won’t expect us, the Spanish Inquisition.

    2. sleepy

      defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.

      I think you’re probably right in your assessment. It’s difficult nowadays to be too cynical.

      OTOH, if he means what he says literally, I would prefer a world where the US follows international law, i.e., no wars of opportunity, no wars for regime change, than the present one. The rules are there; the US just thinks it’s exempt.

  11. katiebird

    I hate to miss today’s KC MeetUp. But I’m too pooped to go driving around. Have fun everyone! And if future MeetUps are planned, I would love to go. …

  12. kareninca

    A local election anecdote:

    I grew up in a small town in New England. My parents are still there; my dad has been involved in Democratic politics for many decades (however he and my mom no longer vote straight party ticket: Bernie voters). The Democrats are divided into Old Farmers and New Snobs (I think of the New Snobs as Clintonites). My parents bridge things somehow.

    Both parties are having trouble getting someone to run for a particular important office. But – one Democrat was willing to run for it – a very competent and reputable middle-aged guy, with plenty of political experience, who knows the town inside out, whose father had actually held the office at one time. He would win, no problem, and do a great job. But the New Snobs discussed him in a public meeting (thank god he wasn’t there), and decided he wouldn’t do, since he didn’t have a college education. So they are running an Independent instead, who won’t win. The winner will be the guy the Republicans are fielding, someone whose debits are so astounding that I don’t dare put them in print, even quasi-anonymously.

    What does this seem to be a metaphor for?

    1. Spring Texan

      Oh my god that’s a HORRIFYING story. So disgusting, but yes emblematic.

      One thing that typifies decent politicos is they actually have respect for people — not contingent on a college education.

    2. Huey Long

      He would win, no problem, and do a great job. But the New Snobs discussed him in a public meeting (thank god he wasn’t there), and decided he wouldn’t do, since he didn’t have a college education.

      First you win the elections, then you dole out the patronage, then you get the power.

      It sounds like the Snobby Dems in your area aren’t terribly concerned about achieving much as not much can be achieved politically without power.

      1. kareninca

        No, they aren’t concerned about achieving much. It is a town of just 5,000, and any patronage money would be trivial to them since they are rich. They care about presiding over a caste system, and humiliating those beneath them.

    3. JBird4049

      So Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry S. Truman were bad at their job, I take it.

      Just what do they think of the half of the country that doesn’t have a college degree? That these uneducated losers are just deplorable?

      No wonder I’m not a straight Democratic ticket voter anymore.

      1. kareninca

        The guy the Republicans are running just has a high school degree. He has real problems; he is not their first choice. But they are not snobs (or if they are they keep it to themselves) or idiots.

    4. The Rev Kev

      That’s the US Democratic Party for you. Always ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As long as it is with the “right people”. No plebs need apply.

  13. ewmayer

    “Housing: “The value of real estate, as a percent of GDP, was up in Q2, and is above the average of the last 30 years (excluding bubble). However, mortgage debt as a percent of GDP, continues to decline” [Calculated Risk].”

    Normally I would cheer such developments, but I can’t help wondering in this instance how much of the trend is being driven by deep-pocketed Bezzle-corps like Blackstone cash-buying huge numbers of homes, and the mopes simply being priced out of the market even with interest rates still near long-term record lows.

  14. DonCoyote

    let me add my encouragement to Lambert’s to read the twitter Call Congress thread. Especially liked the following:

    if you need a team of economists, Vox, and two hundred men wearing lanyards to explain how you’re helping the poor, maybe you aren’t

    b/c for the poor, in the case of Obamacare the test came when they went to the doc for the first time & it was still hellish & unaffordable

    Oh yes, indeed. Widdle away, corporate democrats, we the unwashed deplorable masses are slowly wising up to the dogfood you’ve been shoveling our way.

  15. audrey jr

    The problem with healthcare in the U.S. is literally flying over my head right now – and has been for two days. In my neck of the woods it manifests itself as an incredibly loud and annoying series of hot dogging flyovers by the pilots at N.A.S. Miramar. The noise emitting from these jets is a new one for our neighborhood – these don’t sound like the jets of yore. Could it be that we have taken delivery of the new F35? Wish you all could hear this noise. It’s horrifying. Now I have some little idea of what those living in war zones listen to all day every day, minus the dropping and explosions of bombs not to mention the running and ducking for cover. What criminals we have runnin’ this joint. We could probably give healthcare to the many carrying around hepatitis A here n S.D. for the price of just a few of those annoying flyovers emanating from the Naval Air Station. As you may know we have an epidemic of Hep A here in America’s Finest City.

    1. Wukchumni

      “As you may know we have an epidemic of Hep A here in America’s Finest City.”

      Didn’t SD bestow that title upon themselves after the GOP decided they weren’t worthy of holding the Republican Convention there, and moved it to Miami in 1972?

    2. knowbuddhau

      You have my sympathies, audrey jr. Maybe they’re the same outrageously loud jets as here on the outskirts of NAS Whidbey Island, EA-18G Growlers. I mean, literally, they often train there.

      Know what you mean only too well. Stupendously loud, house-shaking loud, so loud they cancel all other sounds. Literally cannot hear yourself yell when they’re flying overhead.

      The noise levels are health hazards. Not just to hearing. Heart disease, hypertension, other problems too. An independent study confirmed they exceed the Navy’s own standards. But this isn’t about facts, it’s about dominance. You can watch local poobahs form up around the base commander like iron filings around a magnet.

      Some years ago there used to be a sign on the edge of town put up by the Navy that said, “Please pardon our noise, it’s the sound of Freedom.” A solid 9.9 on the Orwell Scale, amirite?

      Fun fact: the first combat use of the Growler was the redeployment of 5 of them from Iraq to Libya in 2011, according to this.

      Spoiling for a fight one night, I commented on the local paper’s Facebook page, wading into a vigorous thread defending the addition of 36 more of the damn things with your usual jingoisms by asking how bombing Libya back to the Stone Age, creating a refugee crisis and a terrorist Wonderland all at once, advanced our freedom or liberty here at home whatsoever. Got 0 (zero) replies. Hope I hit a lot of nerves.

    3. begob

      Wish you all could hear this noise. It’s horrifying. Now I have some little idea of what those living in war zones listen to all day every day, minus the dropping and explosions of bombs

      We used to have the same experience with the eurofighter at our local airshow in the UK. Goes right into the bones – an oppressive, demonic roar that spans the horizon. I like to think the display was discontinued after complaints from the parents of upset children who only came for the twirly patterns of the Red Arrows.

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