2:00PM Water Cooler 11/16/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I got wrapped around the axle writing an original post that decided to turn out differently from how I had planned it, and so I’m going to finish it up, and then return here. So please return in a bit! –lambert UPDATE 4:13PM All done.

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“It’s a question that every major law firm and think tank in town is trying to answer: Just how much legal authority does President Donald Trump have in terms of scrapping NAFTA? The growing consensus is that while Trump could steamroll Congress when it comes to pulling the trigger on withdrawing the U.S. from the deal, his power over raising tariffs could be far more limited” [Politico]. “U.S. duties on all but a few Mexican and Canadian goods are currently zero under NAFTA. Under the deal’s implementing act, those duties would likely stay the same for a year if Trump withdraws from the pact. After that, they would rise to World Trade Organization levels in the case of Mexico. In the case of Canada, a U.S. withdrawal would cause tariffs to revert to levels under the 1989 U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement. Trump could potentially speed up raising tariffs on Mexico under Section 125 of the 1974 Trade Act, and it’s possible he could also decide to withdraw from the U.S.-Canada pact in addition to NAFTA. But the Constitution clearly gives Congress jurisdiction over tariffs, even if the White House shares some powers on trade, so Trump would be out of bounds if he tried to raise tariffs above the WTO levels, John Veroneau, a partner at Covington and Burling, said during a panel discussion Wednesday hosted by the Washington International Trade Association.”



“Democrat pulls off special election victory for Senate seat in west Tulsa County” [Tulsa World]. Here’s how:

[Allison] Ikley-Freeman, a mental health counselor, said she and her campaign team worked hard at targeting voters they knew would turn out for her in a low-volume election.

“When we were knocking on doors, so many people said, ‘Thank you. We didn’t know there was an election,” Ikley-Freeman said.

Her campaign was managed by Sarah Baker, who was behind Tulsa County’s other big upset this year, state Rep. Karen Gaddis’ victory in House District 75.

She asked for their votes! Wotta concept. (And I think we’ll be hearing more from Sarah Baker, as well.) Sadly, Ikley-Freeman doesn’t support #MedicareForAll, though she’s not against it, either.

“LESBIAN DEMOCRAT PULLS OFF ELECTION VICTORY IN CONSERVATIVE OKLAHOMA” [WMGT]. (I’m betting the hyphen in “Ikley-Freeman,” which after all appeared on the ballot, was also a barrier to overcome.) Here’s how, again:

“That voter-to-voter contact really made a difference,” she said, adding that she and her campaign team even mailed out handwritten postcards to people in the district.

She asked for their votes!!!

“How Not to Write a Demand Letter, Roy Moore-Style” [Law.com]. Hilarity ensues.


“A Wave Is a Comin'” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “My colleague David Wasserman has been digging into the question of just how big of a wave Democrats need to get in order to surf into the majority. The short answer: they need to see a generic ballot advantage of +8 or more, which roughly translates to getting at least 54 percent or more of the national House vote in 2018. The last time Democrats enjoyed a margin of +8 or more in a mid-term year was 2006.” I remember that “wave” quite well. The Democrats promptly squandered it. IMNSHO, Bush should have been impeached or at the very least pilloried for his program of warrantless surveillance which involved multiple felonies. Pelosi instantly took impeachment off the table, and [genuflects] Obama proceeded to rationalize and consolidate the program.

“DCCC Names First 11 Candidates in ‘Red to Blue’ Program” [Roll Call]. Not a word about policy, but the contributions of the donor class are amply detailed.

“Ethics Committee Should Review Franken Allegations, McConnell Says” [Roll Call]. “A Los Angeles morning radio news host accused Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her in an open letter on her station’s website.”

“Franken calls for ethics probe into charge he harassed actress” [MarketWatch].

Trump Transition


But one category is now missing…

Realignment and Legitimacy

On Weinstein et al:

“Weaponized sanctimony.” That’s a keeper. (It’s worth noting that the Franken allegation isn’t weaponized at all. Nor Louis CK.)

“America has allowed a culture of sexual abuse and harassment to flourish, and all of our industries and political parties exist within that culture. This is a systemic rot, not merely a few bad apples” [Ezra Klein, Vox]. “I have been reflecting of late on why the Harvey Weinstein revelations kicked off this revolution, and one theory I have is that Weinstein was a powerful Democratic donor, and that was actually important. After Trump, Democrats were primed to take allegations of sexual abuse seriously. And since Weinstein was a Democrat, Republicans didn’t respond by rallying around him or trying to change the subject. Thus, the Weinstein affair broke the normal forces of polarization and made this something more than red versus blue…. [I]t’s worth remembering that the president of the United States has more than a dozen well-documented, on-the-record allegations of sexual assault against him. The fact that those allegations are known doesn’t make them less serious, and the fact that he won the Electoral College despite them does not absolve him.”

“Thinking Intersectionally About Race and Class in the Trump Era” [Law and Political Economy]. “Intersectionality, though, teaches us that class, gender, or race often are not “independent” influences in this way. For example, if class were independent of race, then class differences among people of color should operate like class differences among whites. But these data show that working class people of color turned out overwhelmingly for Clinton. Indeed, they supported Clinton at slightly higher rates (76%) than those with college degrees (72%), a ‘class’ effect in the opposite direction than for whites. This simple analytical point shows that class did not operate independently of race. It recalls Stuart Hall’s insight that “race is the modality in which class is lived.'” Watch those definite articles, tho.

“State lawmakers intervene: Popular Upstate NY snowmobile trail will be open” [Syracuse.com (Bob)]. The story is buried seven paragraphs down.

Stats Watch

Industrial Production, October 2017: “The last piece has fallen into place. The manufacturing component of the industrial production has not been confirming the enormous strength of regional and private surveys nor recent acceleration in factory orders data, that is not until October’s 1.3 percent surge and a 3 tenths upward revision to September which is now at 0.4 percent” [Econintersect]. “The yearly gain for manufacturing is still moderate at 2.5 percent but all the indications from the factory sector are pointing to acceleration going into year end, an upward pivot that should give a special boost to fourth-quarter GDP.” And: “This is 21.8% above the recession low, and just above the pre-recession peak” [Calculated Risk]. And: “There was significant upward revision to the existing data over the last 6 months – so even though the data was better than last month, it is even better when compared to the upward backward revisions. The best way to view this is the 3 month rolling averages which improved. Industrial production is in a long term upward trend” [Econintersect]. “Manufacturing employment growth remains flat year-over-year.” So what’s in it for me, then?

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, November 2017: “A little less heat is a welcome thing when it comes to the Philly Fed manufacturing report” [Econoday]. “This report continues to show some of the most impressive strength on record though actual government data on the factory sector have shown much less momentum.” And: “Consider this a stronger report than last month because of the improvement of the key internals” [Econintersect].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of November 11, 2017: “Full employment, the rally in the stock market, and solid home-price appreciation are all important pluses for confidence measures” [Econoday].

Jobless Claims, week of November 11, 2017: “Jobless claims rose 10,000 but it’s not due to Puerto Rico where the worst evidently is over” [Econoday]. “Despite the bump higher in the latest week for initial claims, the data point to very tight conditions in the labor market.”

Housing Market Index, November 2017: “Home builders are reporting acceleration going into year-end” [Econoday]. “Strength in this report has not translated this year to strength in actual housing data.”

Architectural Billings: “After a stand-alone month of contracting demand for design services, there was a modest uptick in the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for October. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending” [American Institute of Architects].

Import and Export Prices, October 2017: “Cross-border price pressures are flat like other inflation readings” [Econoday]. “[P]rices for finished goods, whether on the import or export side, remain stubbornly flat… There have been glimmers of wage pressures in recent months but this week’s inflation readings re-establish the expansion’s anomaly — that full employment is not triggering any inflation. And excluding petroleum which swung sharply higher in the month, import prices rose only 0.1 percent. The year-on-year rate for ex-petroleum import prices is only 1.4 percent” And: “The elephant in this month’s changes were fuel / oil commodities” [Econintersect].

Shipping: “This was the 2nd highest level of imports ever for the month of October [at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach] – following record imports in July, August and September – suggesting the retailers are optimistic about the Christmas Holiday shopping season” [Calculated Risk].

Shipping: “Investigation finds China’s top ports have been ripping off shipping lines for years” [Splash 247]. “China’s National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) has recently concluded an anti-monopoly investigation into major ports in the country. According to the NDRC, the two-month investigation uncovered a series of irregularities in several major ports including Shanghai, Tianjin, Ningbo-Zhoushan and Qingdao. The investigation found that shipping companies have been forced to use towage services provided by port affiliate companies with no alternatives offered, cargo handling fees have regularly been overpriced, and many unreasonable terms have been added into contracts with shipping lines. Following the investigation, NDRC has ordered the ports to open their towage markets and abolish unfair contract terms. As a result, top ports will lower container handling fees by anywhere from 10% to 20% from 2018.”

Shipping: “By matching owners of excess warehouse space with users, or retail shippers, that need it temporarily, [warehousing on-demand] provides a way for both parties to ‘easily match both sides of the transaction…with greater transparency and fewer transaction costs to the process'” [Logistics Management]. “David Egan, CBRE head of industrial and logistics research in the Americas, likened the pop-up warehouse to the natural cousin of the gig economy and its better-known players such as Uber and Airbnb in terms of how they also match demand to capacity,”

Retail: “Overall, seasonal retail hiring has fallen each year since 2013. Last year’s gains of 641,000 fell almost 10 percent from the previous year, when 708,800 jobs were added in retail” [Econintersect].

Retail: “Black Friday is dying” [Fast Company (CL)]. And not a moment too soon. Dare we hope that “Cyber Monday” suffers the same fate?

Retail: “Amazon Sellers Brood as States Come Calling for Taxes” [New York Times]. You’d think the software brainiacs at Amazon would have handled state taxes for vendors from the very beginning. I suppose there must have been some kinda business reason not to…

Supply Chain: “Workers stitched pleas for help into clothes sold by Zara” [CBC]. “Shoppers in Istanbul discovered notes in clothing saying workers had not been paid at the Bravo Tekstil factory in Turkey, according to widespread media reports this month…. Zara has said its so-called hardship fund would help the affected workers who, according to reports, are seeking 2,739,281 Turkish lira, which is about $900,000 Cdn.”

The Bezzle:


So, a portfolio manager (Conor Sen) and an anarcho-syndicalist and curmudgeon (Nina Illingworth) have arrived at more or less the same view of Silicon Valley. I think that’s remarkable.

The Bezzle: “Tesla Inc. first-ever pure corporate bonds are trading under water, boding ill for the Silicon Valley car maker’s next attempt to tap capital markets” [MarketWatch]. “But the weak performance of the bonds may be a sign that bond investors, at least, are starting to disbelieve Tesla’s growth story and will be looking for higher premiums to take on higher risk, said Trip Miller, a managing partner at hedge fund, Gullane Capital LLC. That higher cost of borrowing will have its own negative implications, he said.”

Concentration: “Missouri Opens Antitrust Investigation Into Google” [New York Times].

Mr. Market: “THE HINDENBURG MEETS THE TITANIC: Stocks are flashing an ominous signal not seen since the financial crisis” [Business Insider]. John Hussman. I suppose whether the Hindenberg “meets” the Titanic would depend on timing, eh?

Five Horsemen: “Amazon blows past Microsoft in morning trade to lead the Fab Five” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Nov 16

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Neutral (previous close: 49, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Nov 14 at 7:00pm. Hoo boy. Enormous swing toward fear. Tax reform is a goner, maybe?

News of the Wired

“Archaeologists say human-evolution study used stolen bone” [Nature]. Son of Piltdown Man!

“FCC plans to vote to overturn U.S. net neutrality rules in December: sources” [Reuters]. “[Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai ]asked in May for public comment on whether the FCC has authority or should keep any regulations limiting internet providers’ ability to block, throttle or offer ‘fast lanes’ to some websites, known as ‘paid prioritization.’ Several industry officials told Reuters they expect Pai to drop those specific legal requirements but retain some transparency requirements under the order.” Obviously, the Internet should be a lot more like cable.

“On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality” [The Hedgehog Review]. “‘What is the Midwest like?’ she asked. ‘Midwestern history, Midwestern customs, Midwestern cuisine?'” Worth a read, especially if you grew up in the Midwest, as I did.

“Apology after Japanese train departs 20 seconds early” [BBC]. “The mistake happened because staff had not checked the timetable, the company statement said.” So, Japanese timetables are to the second. Ouch.

“The Coin Flip: A Fundamentally Unfair Proposition?” [Coding the Wheel].

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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 (RP):

RP writes: “Took these in Inwood Hill Park (upper Manhattan) today. The yellows were eye-popping in person, not so much in these photos.”

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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. Andrew Watts

    Discussion of ‘Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS’ – Council on Foreign Relations

    I can’t recommend this video as there are some particularly nauseating moments during the course of it. Specifically the fawning over the former US Ambassador to Syria.

    The reason to view this happens at 32:07 when a man asked about Niger and what US troops are doing there. The response was priceless. The phrases “energy security”, “want to protect”, and “the French” were used before the rest of the panel interjected with “national security!W@!1$”. Any remaining doubt about why the US is in Niger should be dissipated by this remarkably candid statement.

    We’re increasingly involved in Niger because our French allies are losing control over their protection racket in their former colonies. Niger is an exporter of raw materials with uranium at the forefront. France is heavily reliant on nuclear energy to keep the lights on and trains running. If they ever lose access to uranium and other raw materials from Africa it’d probably be an existential crisis for it’s economy.

    I’m going to call my response to this situation a geopolitical BINGO!

    1. Carolinian

      America, nanny to the world. Or alternate explanation is that foreign interventions give CFR types something to talk about so they don’t have to go out and get real jobs.,

  2. Janie

    Re: dry farming tomatoes in Salem Oregon. This was our first year to try this method and we had the best crop we have ever had. I’m recommending this to you fellow gardeners. Three lanky Early Girl transplants 5 feet apart and left to sprawl had an enormous yield with no blossom end rott and no hornworms. You needs partial clay soil for this. Can’t find my original online article but there is lots of info online.

    1. Samuel Conner

      Curious to know what your soil preparation procedure was. I had remarkable yield this summer from indeterminate grape tomato vines without irrigation, but only if the soil was dug/loosened really deep — 18″ or so and a yard in radius from the planting hole. Plants without the deep/wide digging were very disappointing.

      1. Janie

        Dug as deep as I could, drenched the holes three times, stripped leaves to the topknot and planted them. We put cardboard around them, not really solidly, then munched with whatever We had. Ooh, I love munched instead of mulch. We never watered them. We had 90 something days of no rain. Watering and rain just get the top inch or so and then crack, which leads to evaporation.

    2. Lost in Oregon

      Hi Janie,

      You are familiar, I hope, with these two authors with local roots.
      Carol Deppe who wrote “The Resilient Gardener” and Steve Solomon with “Gardening when it counts “. Both address dry land gardening in clay soils. They also discuss sustenance through the winter months.

      Excellent reading for these months of Oregon sunshine.

      Anybody out there interested in a Northwest Meetup?

      1. Janie

        Yes, thank you. Solomon, founder of Territorial Seed, is our guide. Carol Deppe is great also. YES, a meet up would be good. Salem might be centrally located and we have lots of space for tents, right by a creek. Only one spare bedroom though

    3. cocomaan

      I went and looked up dry farming and found out I’m a dry farmer through sheer laziness about watering. Sweet.

    1. Arizona Slim

      During the fall of 2015, one of my friends found out that her husband was having affair. She didn’t waste any time in taking action. Uh-uh. Not for a minute. She kicked that guy out for his birthday and gave him divorce papers for Christmas.

      I still don’t understand why Hillary stayed married to Bill.

      1. j84ustin

        Sexual predation is not the same as infidelity, though I’ve never been on the receiving end of either…

        Note: I am NOT saying Bill Clinton is not a sexual predator. He is.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        I always thought shes really into Bill or the idea of her and Bill. My first year college roommate’s girl friend abused him emotionally and cheated on him, but as it was said, my old roomie was whipped. In person, his girlfriend was pleasant enough. I lived with them with for almost two semesters and had a front row to a relationship that finally ended by our fourth year.

        For both my roommate and Hillary, I believe their perception of their relationship was too critical to their identity. Then of course, there are the conditions Hillary made going in. Duckduckgo tells me four years passed between meeting and their wedding.

        1. Massinissa

          Honestly, I disagree. Personally I think its pragmatism that has kept the two of them ‘together’, not some kind of emotional reason. What would Hillary have to gain, politically or financially, from them breaking up? They would need to fight over who owns the Clinton Foundation, for one. And most of Hillary’s career was mostly her hanging onto his political coattails.

          I think you’re reading too much into Hillary Clinton’s psyche. I honestly find it difficult to believe she’s really cared about Bill at all in years. Theyre together still because theres no real incentive to break up, IMO. As far as Hillary is concerned, Bill can have as many squeezes as he wants as long as he’s careful that they aren’t noticed by the public. After all, that would *further* humiliate Hillary publically.

          You could still be right, but I just don’t see much evidence for it. Hillary has never really been that emotional as far as I can tell. At least aside from hubris and self righteousness. Not sure if that counts as ’emotional’ though.

    2. bassmule

      Of which the longest-lasting appears to have been the irrevocable transformation of the Democratic Party into Republican Lite. From which sprang such horrors as Phil Gramm getting what he wanted in the CFMA, etc., etc.

  3. Code Name D

    To investigate Clinton, or not investigate Clinton; that is the question…

    I asked yesterday. I gave the impression that I though Trump investigating Clinton was a bad thing. While I didn’t actually say this in so many words, the push-back I got was correct in calling me out for it, because that was what I was thinking. Time to re-think that position.

    My problem with the Clinton investigations centered on two concerns. One, this would cripple any Democrats running for office at the time. Should the investigations come out now, it would likely stall the approaching democratic wave many think (hope) is coming. And two, that Trump wouldn’t stop with the Clintons, but would likely investigate (more like remove) all opposition politics, possibly even going after third party candidates with few or no connections to the Clintion-dems. Effectively turning USA into a single party state, like Mexico.

    But would this make a Clinton investigation itself a bad thing? Done get me wrong, I want justice to be done just as much as anyone else. But is this really a good idea?

    1. cocomaan

      I say investigate away if that’s what you’re worried about. Not a single one of these investigations in DC in the last ten years has resulted in anyone at the top being locked up. Not Fast and Furious, not Benghazi, not Russia.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Should the investigations come out now, it would likely stall the approaching democratic wave many think (hope) is coming

      If they do, it’s not a wave worth having.

      1. Deadl E Cheese

        I cannot strongly emphasize this enough.

        The Democratic Party is really hoping to retake power without having to change. And at this point, they’re going to ride that puppy to the abyss.

        Since the best we can hope for is mutual destruction of both parties, it’s very good when the Democratic Party continues to perish taking bullets for scumheads like Franken and Clinton.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think you have to investigate, maybe ensnaring a few Republicans along the way.

      Maybe someone like Mueller (if he goes after some on the D side, like he is thought to do soon), or even more independent.

    4. John D.

      Trump isn’t exactly a typical GOP President, and he holds grudges, even against people who are ostensibly on his side. If said investigation uncovered certain Republican politicians as sexual predators, I’m not so sure he’d be unwilling to throw them under the bus.

    5. Elizabeth Burton

      I’m with Lambert. This would only be a bad thing if the only Dems running are the same corporate shills of the sort we already have too many of. As far as I can tell, the bulk of the newbies running as progressives aren’t from the Liberal Class.

      Of course, it would likely be up to alternative media to keep said investigation in the public eye and ensure the information gets beyond the doors of the Hall of Iniquity. Assuming any of them survive the coming purge.

    6. John k

      Would cripple any dem…
      I believe it would not affect candidates promising real benefits for the middle class, such as Medicare for all, 15/ hr now (not far off in the future), free college, at least two years, bankruptcy for student debt, etc.
      It follows that an investigation taking down pols of either party accelerates the ascendancy of progressives, and should be encouraged.
      IMO, Trump winning in 2016 is worthwhile if it hastens progressives taking power… certainly if hill were in office those views would be crushed.

  4. clarky90

    Close to 50% of us will get cancer. All of us are affected (friends, family, neighbors).

    “Did Cancer Evolve to Protect Us?”


    “…cancer is the re-expression of an ancient “pre-programmed” trait that has been lying dormant….

    The team’s hypothesis is that when faced with an environmental threat to the health of a cell—radiation, say, or a lifestyle factor—cells can revert to a “pre-programmed safe mode.” In so doing, the cells jettison higher functionality and switch their dormant ability to proliferate back on, in a misguided attempt to survive. “Cancer is a fail-safe,” Davies remarks. “Once the subroutine is triggered, it implements its program ruthlessly.””

    1. dcrane

      Maybe I need to read the original article, but what came across in the SciAm was vague at best. What exactly is “boot into safe mode” supposed to mean? Also, some of the predictions sounded like the sorts of patterns that might be predicted by other basic theories of cancer and developmental biology, such as cancer being related to the expression of “ancient” genes.

      Many hundreds of millions of years is an awfully long time for a “pre-programmed” trait to hang around “dormant” despite strong natural selection to eliminate it.

      1. Moocao

        There is no gene elimination if the individuals passed on their genes. Which is likely btw if the individuals have survived beyond 14 (nowadays 18). Cancer should not prevent most gene propagation: most cancers hit late in age.

        1. el_tel

          Indeed. Human evolution worked so that conditions that affect young people were eradicated/reduced, due to natural selection – affected individuals never lived long enough to procreate.

          Cancer, as you say (along with many cardiovascular diseases) is something that primarily affects older people, who have already procreated. Thus there is much more limited “natural selection” to eradicate it. Thus, an ageing population invariably experiences huge increases in these conditions.

    1. Mr. Vandalay

      I was able to access the article on Yahoo news via putting the title in a search engine. Suffice to say, the letter is a stunning combination of legal incompetence and incomprehensibly bad grammar. It truly sounds like it was written by someone who learned English as a 9th language, while they were out of their mind on drugs. But not entirely surprising that troglodyte Roy Moore would rely on a complete [family blog] idiot as his lawyer. He feels more comfortable with his own kind.

      I hope OK under forum rules that I criticized Roy Moore and his lawyer.

  5. DJG

    Hedgehog Review, Phil Christman, on being midwestern: Much of the article is well written and well observed. Yet Christman doesn’t deal with a basic distinction. You have the Great Lakes States, the six quarrelsome sisters, each of which is distinguished with regard to industry, farming, water, and literature (except Indiana, of course).

    He barely even touches on other states considered “midwestern,” except for Iowa, which kept popping up. For good reason: There isn’t one midwest that stretches from Pittsburgh to the Black Hills.

    So back to the eccentric, tricksy Great Lakes States: His great observation is the weirdness of the diversity in this part of the country, its weird recalcitrance and plain mulishness in accepting its immigrant past: At one time, stories go, a majority of people in Illinois may have spoken German. Now, no one does.

    At the same time, I recently read an eye-opening book about the Ojibwe peoples. The Great Lakes States are the world of the Ojibwe, and if you turn the map so that the outlet of this world is the Saint Lawrence River, which drains the Great Lakes, you have a different view of life.

    And midwestern cookery? A testament to the Great Lakes States and its weird diversity. Everything from exquisite pies and county-fair cakes, butter sculptures, white wine from the Leelanau Peninsula, and giant breakfasts in Wisconsin (not so long ago I indulged in one that included wild-rice-and-cranberry bread) to
    quivery jello molds with cream cheese to
    “Chicago pizza,” that cheesy volcano of indigestion,
    and, lo, to
    fried-bologna sandwiches (our guiltiest pleasure).

  6. anonymous

    California state employees, any recommendations for Calpers Member-at-Large Runoff Election candidate?

    no time to research this


    1. RUKidding

      My Q as well. I’m thinking we should vote for Margaret Brown, and not for Michael Bilbrey. But I’m hoping Yves or someone else can weigh in on this.


  7. RUKidding

    America has allowed a culture of sexual abuse and harassment to flourish, and all of our industries and political parties exist within that culture. This is a systemic rot, not merely a few bad apples” [Ezra Klein, Vox].

    As the scales fall from a portion of the citizenry’s eyes (the other portion already had the scales removed), it is blindingly obvious that sexual harassment and abuse exists nearly everywhere, in every type of work and social situation, in every type of club or organization, in every religious house of worship and organization, all of the time.

    Some women (and men) have been brave enough to come forward, but it has taken until now – 2017 – for things to finally get this amount of traction. But will it last? One hopes so, but who knows?

    Klein posits that Weinstein was the tipping point because “…the Weinstein affair broke the normal forces of polarization and made this something more than red versus blue.” That’s perhaps true, in part, but I would also argue that it’s because Weinstein was a Democrat and Democratic voter, and for all of their many and numerous flaws – and with some very notable exceptions – many of the Democrats who’ve been “busted” for egregious sexual behaviors of various sorts have been held at least somewhat accountable and have had to face the consequences. I’m not saying it’s 100%, but Democratic voters, at least (again not every time), seem to me to be more likely to – however reluctantly – not accept these types of behaviors based on tribalism. Ok, I’ll name the big name: Clinton! Yeah, the Big Dawg mostly got away with it. Many of us disagreed, but our opinions/feelings/whatever didn’t “count” in that case. But I digress.

    Al Franken, apparently, was quick to stand up and say that an Ethics investigation should take place. I read somewhere that his first “apology” was less than stellar (I didn’t read it), but apparently he did go back and make more amends. If the Ethics investigation indicates that Franken should stand down, then I would endorse it. Franken isn’t my most favorite anyway, but that’s neither here nor there.

    That’s a world of difference from what we often see on the right, particularly in this instance with Moore, where he’s got a host of defenders. Defending, imo, the completely indefensible, but there you have it.

    Don’t get me wrong. Read my posts. I’m not some super huge Big-D defender and supporter. But I do see a big difference usually (but not always) between how the so-called “right” and the putative “left” respond to these issues. Weinstein is a Democrat. Ergo, the usual rightwing sources went after him tooth and nail (in this case somewhat appropriately, but then they also had to drag in political tribalism, which isn’t the point, imo). Because Weinstein was affiliated with the D Party, the whole shebang was taken more seriously. I posit that had Weinsten instead been a big R supporter, we would’ve witnessed a lotta of obfuscation, excuses, whatever just like we saw with Ailes and O’Reilly, albeit both of them did ultimately pay a price (while still living in the lap of luxury).

    So I posit it took a big name D to get the ball rolling because that’s how it works in this country.

    So be it. It’s about time. I hope that this isn’t all a flash in the pan that dwindles away so that we can go back to SNAFU again.

    1. Lynne

      Al Franken has a documented history of joking about rape and sexual assault with himself as the perp. When that has been raised in the past, nobody cared. I doubt they do now. Witness the quickness of the line that it’s systemic / everybody does it, and note that this started popping up when somebody started mentioning Al Franken again.

        1. Massinissa

          Theres even a PICTURE of him doing it. None of the other people accused of these things recently have an extant picture of them doing it. Franken is beyond toast.

          1. Carolinian

            I’m no fan of Al Franken but after reading the account of the accuser these particular allegations strike me as rather thin stuff. That’s probably why he doesn’t seem that worried.

            I think we have to make a distinction between garden variety male chauvinism and someone like Weinstein who could very well wind up in prison.

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              I think he is toast because

              if Doug Jones wins the Alabama special election, the GOP margin in the Senate becomes razor thin. To combat that, McConnell will pull out all the stops to get the tax bill through along with every piece of [family blog]-ery he can stuff into it. First up will be Franken.

              I remember Leann Tweeden from when she dated Ben Bostrom, a long time ago. Quite the looker, even then. Franken should have known not to do what he did, especially, ESPECIALLY, with a Fox Sports “weather girl”.

            2. Tooearly

              Can someone really grab breasts through a flak jacket?
              Just asking…

              Not that that excuses his behavior…

              1. Darthbobber

                He clearly wasnt touching her. Look. I think it was a staaged shot. And if so we’ll know soon. Because there were plenty of witnesses.

                1. Lynne

                  As I said, plenty of excuses as always for establishment Democrats. This was not an isolated incident, and the powers that be are following the old playbook: delay, delay, delay, and then complain that it’s old news and we need to move on.

    2. perpetualWAR

      When the whole Weinstein story exploded, I was talking with a friend (R) who was disgusted with the behavior. I said, “Do you know how many women have had to run around the desk from their boss? Plenty.” I went on to tell him I had to do so with two ex-employers. He was literally stunned. It is hard for me to believe men don’t know that the workplace has not been an easy place for women in America.

      1. Spring Texan

        The best defense against sexual harassment is a strong labor union. Period. Not that that’s being mentioned nowadays. Then they CAN’T fire you for complaining.

        1. JTFaraday

          In my experience, union employees and shop stewards are chock full of all the same negative qualities as everyone else, including being not at all interested in their jobs and elected positions.

          I would even go so far as to say that some shop stewards become the locus in the hierarchy at which employee complaints go to die. That they function like a good secretary protecting management, and that they use this in their own career advancement at the company.

          You wouldn’t think becoming a union rep would be a good career move vis a vis company management, but it all depends on what you actually do with that position.

          Okay, so now back to that sexual harassment issue, (or any other issue).

      1. sleepy

        I knew it! Not really, I thought I was just being snarky.

        Russian bots pushing Franken story, courtesy of DK:

        They’re currently poisoning our national discourse by trying to make the discussion about Al Franken’s abhorrent behavior as toxic as possible. From what I’ve observed, it’s mostly comments about how the left is defending Franken, while sending in counter-bots to actually defend Franken.


    3. Lee

      I’m waiting for these celebrity revelations and comeuppances to result in laws and enforcement mechanisms that have positive material and psychological benefits for those working in the fields, factories and offices. Sexual violations have been an issue for quite some time on college campuses and I don’t have a clear idea on what progress has been made there. But, as noted, I think we need to hear from those who have their shoulders to the wheels of production.

    4. djrichard

      My read is more cynical. Let’s flip it around. If Moore wins the election in Alabama, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the media. Sure they’ll point fingers at Alabama as being beyond redemption. But more critically, it will expose that media’s power in the redemption business is beyond its expiration date. Let’s not pretend: media’s redemption business is not a message of love; the message is: either you are with us (on the side of right) or you are against us (on the side of evil). As the twitter posted commented, it’s weaponized.

      The media isn’t building up their moral bonafides (and throwing their own under the bus) simply for the Alabama election. Though I do wonder at the timing. This is for all the whole banana. It’s their path to victory. If anything, Alabama will be their pilot program to see how effective the strategy is.

      I think Baudrillard would see it as a farce that it is. How do our moral failings on the personal sphere compare with the moral failings of capitalism which are institutionalized and more damaging? Media’s pretense is not to know the answer to that. In the mean time, focusing on the personal sphere makes for a good show as the royal court gets exposed to the “light” of media, a lesson to the rest of us to remain unsullied so as not be unfriended by media. It’s such a good show, why look at intractable things like the moral failings of capitalism? That’s just a downer.

      N.B. if Moore loses in Alabama, then the media knows they have the people on a string. In which case, expect more establishment of moral groundwork going forward.

  8. sleepy

    “Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai”

    The man was appointed by Obama to the FCC chair position, and reappointed by Trump. I pointed this out once on DK and the responses were along the lines of “but Obama only appointed him on the request of McConnell!” smh

    1. allan

      Slight correction: Obama appointed Ajit Pai to the FCC as a member of the board,
      giving Pai the legitimacy for Trump to later appoint him as chairman five years later.
      Pai is beyond horrible. Just one example:

      Prison inmate telephone calling costs

      Pai argued against[34] adoption of the FCC 2013 analysis[35] and proposed rulemaking regarding the high cost of inmate telephone calls, referred to as Inmate Calling Service (ICS) by the FCC. He submitted his written dissent in which he argued that the nature of the exclusive single carrier contract between private ICS providers and prison administrators, meant inmates cannot “count on market competition to keep prices for inmate calling services just and reasonable.”[36] (ICS has become a $1.2 billion telecommunications industry and the two largest providers in the United States were private equity-backed companies).[37][38]:23 Prior to the FCC’s imposition of rate caps on interstate prison and jail phone calls in February 2014, the largest ICS provider Global Tel-Link (GTL) – which has been profitably bought and sold by private equity firms such as American Securities and Veritas Capital – charged some of the highest rates in the US – up to $17.30 for a 15-minute call.[39] The 2013 FCC analysis,[35] described how, in some cases, long-distance calls are charged six times the rate on the outside.[34]

      Acting Chairwoman Clyburn concurred with her order and both Jessica Rosenworcel and Pai dissented and issued statements. Pai opposed the FCC imposition of “safe harbor” of 12 cents with a cap of 21 cents on private ICS providers like GTL and CenturyLink Public Communications, arguing instead for a “simple proposal to cap interstate rates, with one rate for jails and a lower rate for prisons” that are cost-based to protect providers and ensure “some return on investment.” Pai also argued that the FCC was not well-equipped to micromanage rates at each and every prison.[36][40]

      In 2015, Pai opposed rate caps on intrastate inmate calls over which courts have ruled the FCC has no jurisdiction,[41] notwithstanding rates as high as $54 per minute.[42] He raised concerns about the increased use of contraband cell phones in prisons.

      In November 2016, the ICS providers won a halt on the unlawful regulations. Pai criticized Democrats for appealing.[43] Shortly after his January 23 confirmation as chairman, Pai withdrew support for the FCC case involving GTL and CenturyLink set for February 6, 2017, which had called for establishing FCC jurisdiction over rates set by states.[27][44]

      Thanks, Obama!

    2. Vatch

      Although Obama nominated him, Pai was one of the designated Republicans on the FCC. Obama habitually betrayed his supporters, but in the case of Ajit Pai, I don’t think Obama can be blamed. The designated Republicans were guaranteed to be bad. As Allan points out, Obama did not name Pai the chairman. Obama’s chairman was Tom Wheeler.


      The FCC is directed by five commissioners appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate for five-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The U.S. President designates one of the commissioners to serve as chairman. Only three commissioners may be members of the same political party. None of them may have a financial interest in any FCC-related business.

      I included the last sentence of the quote for the sake of irony. We can be sure that Pai will have an enormous interest in FCC related business when his term expires. He’s gonna make millions, just like Eric “Place” Holder.

  9. Lynne

    Apologies if this has been posted elsewhere. I see Richard Cordray has announced he is leaving the CFPB, with rumors he is preparing a bid for Ohio governor. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-who-held-big-banks-accountable-announces-resignation-cfpb

    I find amusing the claims that this is a terrible blow for consumers because Cordray held big banks accountable. Perhaps that is why there is a such an increase in competition among escrow providers and a surge in community banks and credit unions? Oh, wait….

  10. Jim Haygood

    The good Dr Hussman, who has changed his former weekly commentary to a monthly format, just couldn’t resist posting a foaming-at-the-mouth bearish update on Tuesday titled “The Hindenburg Meets the Titanic.”

    So of course, today the Nasdaq exploded to a record high.

    Maynard Keynes’ grim prognosis has come into play for the dogged doctor: “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.

    Spend enough years hedging away any capital gains with puts whose time decay eats up your portfolio at 12 percent annually, and your equity inexorably approaches an asymptote of zero.

    Another good doctor, the late Martin Zweig, offered this pithy advice to those imagine themselves smarter than the market: “1) Don’t fight the Fed. 2) Don’t fight the tape.

  11. Spring Texan

    On the 2006 “wave,” yes that was extremely sad. It was a real opportunity as the wave was grassroots and VERY anti-war. Instead the Democrats did not press for less war and let Bush get away with his “surge” plans.

    Why are people so disgusted about voting? Dems gave them a BIG reason in 2006.

  12. Jim Haygood

    Today the ISDA (International Swaps & Derivatives Association) declared both Venezuelan sovereign debt and the debt of state oil company PDVSA in default, triggering payoffs on credit default swaps.

    This kicks off the messiest sovereign default in history, with Venezuela not a formal member of the IMF and with US sanctions blocking a debt exchange despite some of the debt being subject to New York law (bringing back fond memories of Argentina’s legal tangles with US district judge Thomas Griesa).

    Likely Maduro will use the cash flow freed up by not servicing debt on food imports, then ask the voters to re-elect him. But if creditors start seizing oil cargoes in foreign ports, this plan may fail. Vultures will be eyeing these jewels:

    PDVSA-owned CITGO owns and operates three refineries located in Lake Charles, La. (425,000 barrels per day [bpd]), Lemont, Ill.(167,000 bpd) and Corpus Christi, Texas (157,000 bpd). Their aggregate capacity of 749,000 bpd positions CITGO as one of the largest refiners in the nation. The company owns or operates 48 petroleum product terminals, one of the largest networks in the country.

  13. drumlin woodchuckles

    Would Trump, or any other Trade Patriot President, have the unilateral right to withdraw America from the WTO? After all, apparently Bush the Younger had the unilateral authority to withdraw America from the anti-ABM Treaty. Would a President’s hands be more tied on the WTO than on the Anti-ABM Treaty? If so, why?

    And if not, and if a Trade Patriot President were to withdraw America from the WTO; wouldn’t that automatically mean that every single thing, Tariff or otherwise, which America accepted when America accepted the WTO would be automatically rejected by the act of withdrawing from the WTO? If so, then Congress would have no say. If not, why not?

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