2:00PM Water Cooler 9/5/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, this is a travel day for me, so I will have written this post late Monday night, and I need to get up early, so it will be shorter than usual. I’ve got a pantry clearout of business news — moar bezzle! — and yet more gobsmacking news on politics. I’ll be doing light posting throughout the week. –lambert

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“Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will lead Democrats to 2020 victory” [The Hill]. “[M]ost important trait that could launch a Harris or Gillibrand candidacy straight into the White House, is their unique ability to inspire. Much like with President Obama’s quick ascent during the George W. Bush years, America is desperately in need of an inspirational figure.”

“Obama team’s 2020 signals spark chatter among Dems” [The Hill]. “‘A lot of people in our world see Deval as the one who will carry the Obama legacy. Kamala has labeled herself as the female Obama, but Deval was Obama before Obama was Obama,’ the [top Obama] fundraiser said.” How true! I mean, Deval Patrick already works for Bain Capital; none of this “community organizer” smokescreening.

“7 Weird Secrets You Learn Doing Makeup For US Politicians” [Cracked]. “Usually, the politicians that I do, they are used to it. But Bernie Sanders, I did his makeup, it was his first time running for a major office and I don’t know how much TV he did before. But he was appreciative of it, y’know, and you do their hair too. He can look a little disheveled [(!!)] if you’re not careful.”

2016 Post Mortem

On Verrit (the third person perfect of verrō, meaning “drag” in Latin):

“Just eight days before the release of Hillary Clinton’s tell-all memoirs of the 2016 campaign, the former Secretary of State has taken time out from her busy schedule to endorse a little-known media startup, called Verrit” [The Next Web]. “Verrit essentially packages factoids – but not just facts, quotes too – into sharable little images you can blast your Facebook and Twitter with. These come with an authentication code, allowing you to ostensibly check the veracity of the text, in case it’s been doctored.”

“Hillary Clinton promoted a news website ‘for the 65.8 million’ — here’s what its founder says it’s all about” [Business Insider]. Grifters gotta grift:

In an interview Monday, Verrit founder and CEO Peter Daou told Business Insider what he hopes to accomplish with the site.

“We’re in a time now where you just no longer trust anything that you’re reading,” Daou said. “Facts are now in question. Reality is now in question.”

“So we want to do something where we rigorously vet these facts and we actually stand by our research and put an authentication code on every fact that we put up,” he added.

Leaving aside the issue of why a Clinton operative like Daou should be put in charge of “rigorously vetting” the facts about the 2016 Clinton campaign, what’s Verrit’s value proposition? Don’t we already have Media Matters? And don’t the Podesta mails show the Clintonites working the press like nobody’s business? And how about Shattered? Will facts from that book also appear on Verrit? (The interview with Daou is noticeably light on who is doing the actual fact-checking, and what their methodology is.) Daou, in the interview, claims that he and his wife, Leela, are funding the site, so I went looking for confirmation; it seems odd to me that a “made man” (or couple) in HillaryLand would have to self-fund. Here’s the About page:

Nothing there. Naturally, I registered with Verrit’s mailing list at once, and MailChimp informed me of their address, so I Googled for it:

A UPS store in White Plains? Not reassuring, although sufficient for CAN-SPAM. (I also ran a whois on “www.verrit.com,” and got nothing, although the IP address is hosted by CloudFlare. So that rules out Clinton’s basement.)

Just for grins, I thought I’d find out whether Daou thinks the Russian story is important enough to put up right away:

Nope. Sanders? Of course. So I guess we know who the Clintonites really consider a threat.

Of course, the parodies — including that famous “authentication code” — have already begun:

I mean, I think this is ironic… Another one:

And in another part of the forest, Clinton’s book on the 2016 campaign, What Happened? is coming out. Deploy the blame cannons:

Oh, “basically the same thing, but bigger” like #MedicareForAll? Like tuition-free college? Chutzpah! And how foolish anybody who believed all that “unity” crapola, when all the liberal Democrat insiders on the planet must have known this garbage scow was chugging downstream… Oh, and what a coincidence that Daou’s Verrit meme generator comes out just in time to metastasize clips from Hillary’s book!

Here too the parodies have begun:

Robbie Mook is why we can’t have nice things.

Realignment and Legitimacy

The liberal Democrat fever swamp:

Relying on Norman Ornstein’s “Rewriting the Rules of Presidential Succession,” Tribe proceeeds to tweet a scenario for electing a new President and Vice President, bypassing the electoral college, if Trump and Pence resign or are removed. I think this is demented; if Trump and Pence are removed — at least on any evidence I’ve seen — there aren’t going to be elections, at least not nationally. In essence, Tribe and his fellow members of the political class think they have authority they no longer possess. So did the Bourbons. And the Romanovs.

“How the DSA Screwed Up with Danny Fetonte” [Paste]. “After Charlottesville, and Heather Heyer’s murder by a Nazi motorist, we discovered CLEAT is pushing to make it nearly impossible to prosecute someone for such a crime. CLEAT has also come out against the Sandra Bland Act, named for the woman who was found hanged in a Waller County, TX jail cell three days after she was arrested at a traffic stop, which aims to curb racial profiling. And, while Fetonte was working with CLEAT, a cop raped a handcuffed woman in the back of a cop car. The officer’s CLEAT local blew $1 million to protect him and succeeded. This is disgraceful and disgusting. Could work for such an organization be so hard to completely disavow? For him, yes…. The DSA has swollen in size. It is no longer the same organization it was last year. Filling its ranks are younger people with a different experience of America than their older counterparts. We don’t remember the post-war boom or the promise of the American dream. We remember the fallacious brutality of our war in Iraq, Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, and the crackdown on Occupy. And more importantly for Fetonte and his supporters, we remember Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Garner, and all those who’ve been murdered by cops without redress. And we remember watching cops decked out in military hardware roll down the streets of Ferguson after Michael Brown’s murder.”

“Statement by DSA Members of Color on the NPC’s Fetonte Decision” [Google Docs (sigh)]. “[W]e support the NPC’s decision not to remove him for malfeasance. In a pluralistic, democratic organization, the NPC should only remove one of its own members for flagrant acts of intentional rule breaking while on the NPC. We condemn his omissions and much of his behavior during the past few weeks, but we agree with the NPC that he has not done anything that counts as malfeasance. It is clear from what many of those supporting his immediate removal have said, including the statement by the minority of the NPC, that the main reason they want Fetonte removed is that they do not want someone who used to be a police union organizer to be in DSA’s elected leadership. We sympathize with this feeling, but it is a political grounds for expulsion, not malfeasance. It would violate DSA’s democratic processes and set a dangerous precedent if the NPC voted to remove one of its members not for rule breaking but for political reasons. We are not a democratic centralist organization where a central committee can easily remove people from elected seats. The NPC wisely set a precedent to maintain DSA as a multi-tendency organization with genuine socialist values.” Importantly: “If a member of an allied organization expresses concern about whether pro-police politics have influence in DSA, our response is simple: Fetonte has politically isolated himself within the NPC and in the organization as a whole. His past work does not represent DSA’s politics. Fetonte sitting on our NPC does not mean that DSA has affiliation with CLEAT or that DSA has taken a soft stance against police unions. If our chapters are out on the street across the country demanding an end to mass incarceration, sitting-in at county jails, and shutting down ICE raids, who will really let their view of our organization’s work be overshadowed by the work history of just one member of our NPC? We will prove our meaningful opposition to the police state and white supremacy through real, on-the-ground organizing across the country, not through a symbolic expulsion of a single individual from our leadership.”

“The Women Of Democratic Socialism Prove The Movement Isn’t Just A Bunch Of Sexist White Guys” [Bustle]. “There is no official data on how many women have joined DSA chapters in recent years, as the organization doesn’t collect demographic information, but Svart notes that the overall membership is ‘majority men.’ That said, 40 percent of delegates at the DSA National Convention, which was held in Chicago in August, were women, and leadership of the San Francisco DSA is all women, including two women of color.”

“What Heather Heyer Knew” [Gail Sheehy, The Cut]. “Justin Marks, one of Heather’s best friends, said that the videos [of the Friday night torchlight march] scared Heather, and that after watching them they both decided not to participate in the planned counterprotest of Saturday’s much larger Unite the Right rally. ‘We thought it would be even more dangerous than the first night,’ he said. A soft-spoken gay man, Justin stuck to his decision. But later Friday night, Heather texted him: ‘I feel compelled to go, to show solidarity.'”

“It is an absolute certainty that, with sufficient thought, a new mechanism may someday be designed, capable of integrating thousands of talented individuals and existing organizations into a sort of parallel civic ecosystem, growing ever more refined in its functioning while perpetually expanding its user base on an invitation basis, and in such a way as to maintain a high average level of competence. If one were to start with a sufficiently resourceful group of initial participants with broad agreement on keystone issues—opposition to the drug war, police state, and mass surveillance, for instance, with these issues chosen in order to establish a reasoned polity sharing common values, if not ideological unanimity—one could expect such a system to quickly expand into a vast and formidable new force in world affairs, capable of advancing reform and confronting criminalized institutions across the globe” [Barrett Brown, Motherboard]. I’m not so sure there’s a substitute for good old-fashioned face-to-face organizing.

Stats Watch

The Bezzle: “A first-time author unwittingly exposed the house of cards beneath ‘bestseller’ books” (via “best seller” paranormal romance novel Handbook for Mortals) [Quartz]. “But this skirmish over the Times’ list reveals how little we know about book sales; how flawed the book rankings are; how opaque the Times’ list is; how a book without genuine national interest can top one of the most widely known bestseller lists; and how, with enough insider information, the entire system could indeed be gamed.”

The Bezzle:

Let the games begin!

The Bezzle:

On the bright side, it’s buzzword-compliant.

The Bezzle: “But industry experts and salespeople paint a glowing picture of a future home in which an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered butler will cater to consumers’ every need via networked appliances” [MSN]. I suppose when we’re all wearing our virtual reality headsets we won’t be able simply to flick switches any more…

Tech: “Windows is doomed” [The Week]. “[B]oth Amazon and Microsoft’s voice assistants are dwarfed in usage by Google and Apple because those companies have their own massive smartphone platforms that literally put their assistants in people’s hands. For Microsoft in particular, this deal is an attempt to make up for the fact that, without a real smartphone base of its own, its assistant is limited to Windows PCs — a category that is diminishing in importance. And that simple fact signals a bigger trend at Microsoft: that while the company may continue to survive and even thrive, once-unassailable Windows is likely doomed.

Media: “As Facebook gets serious about video, the social giant’s ambitions for live streaming were on display on Monday in India where it put a bid north of $600 million to win the digital streaming rights of IPL, one of the most popular cricket tournaments in the country” [Gadgets 360]. “However, it lost the auction to Star India, which won worldwide digital and TV rights with a bid of … roughly $2.5 billion), superseding all bids for individual markets, including that of Facebook.”

Retail: “[Heist Studios, the] London-based bodywear brand launched The Nude Project this past month, an initiative aimed at creating ‘a totally inclusive’ nude palette” [The Fashion Law]. “[The project] started with a simple inquiry: If cosmetic brands offer more than forty shades of foundation, then why are there so few shades of ‘nude’ in fashion? This question spawned The Nude Project, in which van der Wyck and his team have set out to create a palette based on participants’ photographs of themselves submitted as part of project (per Heist, the photos are not stored).”

Health Care

“Frustration mounts over premiums for individual health plans” [ABC]. “Millions of people who buy individual health insurance policies and get no financial help from the Affordable Care Act are bracing for another year of double-digit premium increases, and their frustration is boiling over.”

Guillotine Watch

“‘We don’t have anything’: landlords demand rent on flooded Houston homes” [Guardian]. “More than half a million people have applied for Fema help, with $33.6m already approved for housing assistance, which includes rent subsidies. Nearly 15,000 survivors have been put up by Fema in hotels and motels. A contractor has been asked by Fema to produce at least 4,500 pre-fabricated houses for displaced families.”

Class Warfare

“‘Liking and Sharing’ the Stigmatization of Poverty and Social Welfare: Representations of Poverty and Welfare through Internet Memes on Social Media” [Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society]. A little dense…

“Patterns of Commoning: Converting Proprietary Software into a Commons: The LibreOffice Story” [P2P Foundation]. “LibreOffice has clearly won the hearts and minds of the free and open source community by making it as easy as possible for anyone to contribute – and impossible for any one entity to seize control the project’s governance. As a result, LibreOffice’s features, user interface and interoperability with Microsoft‘s quasi-proprietary formats have improved greatly since the fork. This has put it in a better competitive position relative to Microsoft Office than any of its predecessors enjoyed. Its popularity has also been fueled by large-scale adoptions such as the City of Munich, Germany, and other municipalities.”

“Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world” [Guardian]. “In short, ‘neoliberalism’ is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.”

“In Retrospect, I Guess We Might Have Resorted To Cannibalism A Bit Early” [The Onion] (1998). I’m so old I remember when The Onion was funny…

News of the Wired

“You Are Making Scrambled Eggs All Wrong” [Bloomberg]. There will always be more eggs in the world…

“Mario Is No Longer a Plumber, Nintendo Reveals” [Comic Book Resources].

“The Legacy of Super Mario Bros.” [AI and Games] (2015). Video on design principles in Super Mario Brothers.

The spectrum of probabilities (data):

Where’s “highly confident”?

“How to Be Passive Aggressive When Collaborating in Google Docs” [The Cooper Review]. I’m not sure all of these suggestions are passive…

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NOTE Some readers have expressed a desire for a small meetup in the Bangor area. My dance card for September is pretty full, but Friday, September 15 would work for me. (I realize I’d be “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 on this topic, here’s my email: lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.

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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 (Peter):

Peter writes: “Wild iris. Redmond, WA.”

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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, do feel free to click the hat!

Query: I got a note from reader J in Massachusetts to which I responded, but AOL bounced it. Can reader J contact me with an address that won’t do that, so I do not seem discourteous? Thank you!


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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.