2:00PM Water Cooler 11/17/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I’m still catching up from my email debacle, and I also had to put on my yellow waders to deal with a Clinton interview, so I’ll add more on The Bezzle and 2017 shortly. –Lambert UPDATE 2:41PM All done, though I still left plenty on the cutting room floor. Things are very dynamic right now!


“Talks on redrawing North America’s trade map are resuming under a cloud of pessimism” [Wall Street Journal]. “Mexico and Canada are still digesting contentious U.S. proposals like stricter rules for the proportion of a vehicle’s components that must originate in North America and in the U.S. to avoid tariffs. Freight transport concerns also are reaching the table, with the U.S. looking to pull back a Nafta provision that allows Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S. The American Trucking Associations has asked the Trump administration to maintain the program, but the Teamsters union opposes it. The countries have said they want to complete talks by March, but delays deeper into next year could make an agreement less likely.”

“Hopes of a major breakthrough on NAFTA’s labor provisions during this current round of talks are not high. And labor and public interest groups are questioning whether the Trump administration, despite prior promises, will make any effort to press Mexico to increase its labor and wage standards” [Politico]. Nobody could have predicted…. More: “[Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.)], who was instrumental in writing the first bipartisan agreement for tightening labor protections in trade deals, said the “crux” of addressing this administration’s overarching goal of reducing the trade deficit with Mexico is inextricably linked to improving its wage and labor standards to prevent the offshoring of manufacturing and related jobs. It’ll also be key for getting any Democrats to support the deal, he added.”

“Next Round of NAFTA Talks May Bring Renegotiation to an Inflection Point if Canada and Mexico Refuse to Engage on U.S. Proposals” [Lori Wallach, Public Citizen]. “The administration has made clear that the choice facing Canada, Mexico and the corporate lobby is either a new approach or no NAFTA. Ironically, the corporate lobby’s strategy increases the likelihood of a no-NAFTA future. The corporate lobby’s response to the administration’s proposals to eliminate NAFTA job outsourcing incentives suggests that the new reality of a different NAFTA or no NAFTA is being dismissed as a bluff, or that the corporate lobby prefers no NAFTA. Whether a case of magical thinking or ideological rigidity after years of corporate interests dictating U.S. trade policy, the fifth NAFTA renegotiating round will reveal whether the corporate lobby has persuaded the governments of Canada and Mexico to join a game of high-stakes poker that increases the odds of the no NAFTA outcome.”

“Because no U.S. president has used the provision in U.S. trade pacts that provides for withdrawal after a six-month notice, President Donald Trump’s threat to do so has led various commentators to opine about his authority to act without congressional authorization [for example, in Politico yesterday. –lambert]. The claim made by some NAFTA proponents that a president does not have such authority is premised on three major errors, all of which relate to the peculiarities of trade pacts and their implementation under U.S. law” (PDF) [Lori Wallach, Public Citizen]. “It is correct that Article I-8 gives Congress exclusive authority over tariffs. But it is also true that starting in 1974, Congress expressly delegated to the president blanket authority to proclaim changes to tariffs if any U.S. trade agreement is terminated or the United States withdraws from any agreement. This provision automatically reverts tariff levels back to the WTO MFN rate one year after an agreement is terminated or the U.S. withdraws. However, it also provides a president with delegated authority to proclaim such tariff changes immediately. Delegations of Fast Track authority since 1974 have explicitly applied this authority to agreements entered into under subsequent Fast Track grants. Notably, in the NAFTA implementing legislation Congress explicitly delegated its tariff authority to the president, who was empowered to proclaim tariffs changes with respect to Mexico and Canada to implement NAFTA tariff rates. The NAFTA implementing legislation did not include specific NAFTA tariff levels that Congress approved by passing that bill.”



UPDATE “How Doug Jones could pull off a stunner in Alabama” [Politico]. “[Jones] does have a path. Here’s how it looks, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Democrats within and near Jones’ team since Moore was hit with accusations of pursuing — and in two cases abusing — teenage girls. First, create a permission structure for alienated Republicans who are skeptical of Moore — primarily those who voted against him in the GOP primary — to cross the aisle. At the same time invigorate the base, especially African-Americans, who make up over a quarter of registered voters, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. And finally, keep the national Democratic Party and its despised brand as far out of the picture as possible, while still benefiting from its money.”

UPDATE “Ballotpedia has had good coverage of the swing districts situation” [bears2267, Reddit] (original). Figures as of November 15: “Currently they have it 49-48 D with 3 races too close to call, officially it sits at 51-49 R with election results certified or ready to be certified. The Virginia Democratic Party is challenging 55 ballots in District 28 (and a potential challenge of 668 votes intended for the 28th that might have been mistakenly cast in the 88th instead). Once those challenges are figured out in the courts, the state board will certify the results and then recounts can begin and the 3 Democrats in the 3 swing districts have all indicted they were request their allowed recount. So a couple of weeks still until we know the final results.”

UPDATE “Latest 28th District fight focused on Fredericksburg precincts” [Inside NOVA]. “Now that all the votes have been counted, Democrat Josh Cole fell 82 votes short of beating Republican Bob Thomas in the 28th District race to replace retiring House Speaker Bill Howell. Since then, Democrats have been raising challenges to the results, including a pending federal lawsuit, in the hopes of flipping the race and forcing a tie in the House — Republicans are still clinging to a 51-49 majority following a wave election for Democrats on Nov. 7.”

UPDATE “Rural white voters didn’t show up for Virginia’s election” [Vox]. “What fueled Democrats’ victories on Tuesday? A quick analysis from the New York Times suggests this was a “suburban rebellion,” with moderates shifting from Donald Trump to Democrats. A look at the Virginia vote, however, suggests that votes in the most rural, conservative counties may hold the real story.” Readers will have noticed the “suburban rebellion” strategy pre-positioned by Democrats for whom that is the preferred 2018 and 2020 strategy, so this article is a useful corrective. More: “The analysis above suggests that Democrats did well because white, conservative, rural Republicans, — those who gave Trump his victory last year — simply didn’t show up this time.” So, why would that be?

UPDATE “Independent upset: Dems crush everywhere—except Charlottesville” [Cville]. “The unprecedented evening continued in Charlottesville, where Nikuyah Walker bucked the Democratic groundswell and became the first independent to win a seat on City Council since 1948. Also unprecedented: It’s the first time two African Americans will serve on council when she joins Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy on the dais in January…. Walker’s win ‘breaks up the total Democratic control on council,’ says UVA Center for Politics’ Geoffrey Skelley. “It’s meaningful in the aftermath of all the terrible things that happened in Charlottesville” with the monument debate and neo-Nazi invasion, which some put at the feet of City Council. ‘Walker was offering something different,’ he says. ‘It’s a reaction locally when Democrats were crushing it everywhere else. It’s a reaction to local issues that have become national issues.'”

2016 Post Mortem

“Hillary Clinton on Trump’s Election: ‘There Are Lots of Questions About Its Legitimacy'” [Mother Jones]. “In an exclusive interview with Mother Jones, Clinton says Russian interference and GOP voter suppression efforts may have cost her the presidency.” Remember when liberal Democrats were fomenting a moral panic that Trump wouldn’t accept the election results? Good times. Anyhow, I read the piece — nice get, Clara, thank you for your service — so you don’t have to (though I didn’t have time to listen to the video). Here is the key paragraph (not Clinton, but exposition):

The impact of Russian interference in the election can be measured in a few tangible ways. Operatives in Russia published about 80,000 Facebook posts that reached 126 million Americans, as Russia-linked Facebook ads targeted swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin. More than 36,000 Russia-linked Twitter accounts generated 1.4 million tweets about the election that had 288 million impressions. The constant drumbeat of stories based on Clinton campaign and Democratic Party emails [said by the intelligence community and Democrat vendors to have been –lambert] obtained by Russian-backed hackers is one reason that then-FBI Director James Comey’s 11th-hour letter hurt Clinton so much.

Once more: On Facebook and Twitter, the constantly repeated numbers seem impressive, but are tiny relative to total content on both platforms; and if the $50K Russian Facebook buy neutralized the $1.4 billion spent by the Clinton campaign, then Clinton (and Mook, and Podesta) owe us (and their donors) an explanation. None has been forthcoming. Moreover, I have yet to see any evidence, either in survey form or anecdotally from voters, showing that one single vote was affected, and I do try to keep track. Moreover, is such evidence did exist, I would expect the famously detail-oriented and knowledgeable Clinton to be able to cite it. (I suppose at some point it will have become necessary for a study to emerge, at which point it will be important to look at methodology and funding; testimony from million-dollar trolls on Twitter won’t be credible.) On the DNC and Podesta emails: In the real world of issues, supposing there to be such a thing, nobody, including Clinton in this interview, has ever successfully challenged their authenticity, and they portrait they paint of the snakepit of vicious mediocrities infesting the leadership of both institutions. And so what if voters were appalled? It’s certainly strange that a party calling itself “Democratic” depends on keeping voters ignorant for electoral success! As for the Comey connection, Sanders asks the right question: “It’s not a question of what happens in the last week. The question is that she should have won this election by 10 percentage points.”

More importantly, Clinton says that she regards Russian “election meddling” as a form of war. Remember Clinton wanted a no-fly zone in Syria, which was likely to provoke war with Russia (and, as Clinton herself said, kill a lot of Syrians).Perhaps I’m too cynical, but it looks to me like Clinton — along, one supposes, with her silent partners in the national security apparatus and the intelligence community — is using her failure in election 2016 to push the policy we already know she’s in favor of: War with Russia. After all, a great power faced with a casus belli that doesn’t respond is no longer a great power, no? Any stick to beat a dog.

Joy Reid says that Clinton was lying about TPP. Who knew?

Not to be overly snarky, but if Bernie Sanders can push Clinton around, how would Clinton have fared against Vladimir Putin?

Trump Transition

“Murkowski Tax Vote Contingent on Stabilizing Individual Health Insurance Market’ [Roll Call]. Murkowski: “If the Congress is going to move forward with repeal of the individual mandate, we absolutely must have the Alexander-Murray piece that is passed into law.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“When Does a Watershed Become a Sex Panic?” [The New Yorker]. “https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/when-does-a-watershed-become-a-sex-panic… The affirmative-consent and preponderance-of-the-evidence regimes shift the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused, eliminating the presumption of innocence. If the presumption of innocence is rooted in the idea that it is better to let ten guilty people go free than risk jailing one innocent person, then the policing of sex seems to assume that it’s better to have ten times less sex than to risk having a nonconsensual sexual experience. The problem is not just that this reduces the amount of sex people are likely to be having; it also serves to blur the boundaries between rape, nonviolent sexual coercion, and bad, fumbling, drunken sex. The effect is both to criminalize bad sex and trivialize rape.”

“‘O.K., ‘intended to be funny but wasn’t?’ Colbert said, quoting part of Franken’s apology. ‘No. Your movie Stuart Saves His Family was intended to be funny but wasn’t. That photo was intended to embarrass her — that’s why he did it while she was asleep. Nobody goes up to their buddy when he’s awake and says, ‘Hey, can I draw a penis on your forehead?'” [RealClearLife].

Why voter registration should be a 24/7/365 core party function:

Since the Democrat Party doesn’t do this, they don’t really want to expand their base, and don’t make the interests of those too marginalized to get proper ID a priority.

“Pittsburgh DSA Beats Democratic Machine & Knocks Off Two Key Incumbents As They Eye More” [Payday Report].

“Bernie Sanders’s Socialist Revolution Is Happening, Very Slowly” [Vice]. “Democrats won off-year elections across the country last week for many reasons, but let’s pause for a second and give Bernie Sanders some credit. Among the historic victories Democrats earned in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere were a handful of out-and-proud actual socialists who won local office. It could be a precursor to an upsurge in leftists scoring bigger wins in next year’s midterms, but it’s both a validation of Sanders and proof that the movement he built during the heated 2016 primaries isn’t going away anytime soon.” Then again, if Lee Carter — not to knock Carter’s amazing victory — is “the most powerful socialist in America” besides Sanders (for some definition of socialism) then the socialists have a ways to go.

Stats Watch

Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index, November 2017: “Regional report after regional report say the same thing: manufacturing is growing solidly” [Econoday]. “Inventories are building but at a slowing rate this month and delivery times are stabilizing, both indications of easing strains on the supply chain. This week’s factory news was highlighted by Thursday’s major gain for the manufacturing component of the industrial production report, results like this report which point to a strong and increasing contribution from manufacturing.”

Housing Starts, October 2017: “Housing starts and permits posted unexpectedly strong gains in October” [Econoday]. “Housing started the year off strongly and stumbled through a weak spring season and a flat summer. The year-on-year rates, held down by multi-units, tell the story with total starts down 2.9 percent and permits up only 0.9 percent. But today’s report does point to momentum for new home sales which surged to a 28-year high in the last report for September. Hurricane effects are limited in this report.” And: “The backward revisions this month were moderately upward.The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month to month (mostly due to weather) so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series – and it shows permits rate of growth improved, and completions rate of growth improved” [Econintersect]. “We consider this a much stronger report than last month.”

E-Commerce Retail Sales, Q3 2017: “Online shopping has been strong this year but did slow in the third quarter, up 3.6 percent quarter-to-quarter vs a revised 4.7 percent in the second quarter. As a percentage of total retail sales, e-commerce continues to gain ground, up 2 tenths to 9.1 percent” [Econoday].

Retail: “[Walmart, the] world’s biggest retailer posted its strongest quarterly U.S. sales growth in nearly a decade, picking up momentum for a strategy aimed at finding customers in both its brick-and-mortar stores and online” [Wall Street Journal]. “[E]-commerce sales at Wal-Mart, which has made a series of acquisitions in online retail, jumped 50% and are on track to reach $17.5 billion this year. That’s still a fraction of overall revenue, and analysts say Amazon’s sales are 10 times greater than Wal-Mart’s online business. But with Wal-Mart’s digital business growing and Amazon moving more deeply into physical stores, the companies increasingly look like they are competing on similar ground.”

Retail: “Whole Foods Offers Amazon Prime Members Thanksgiving Discounts. Here’s Why That’s Bad” [The Stranger]. Classic monopoly behavior. Amazon doesn’t have to make a profit, because capital buys its narrative. So it can undercut its competitors, who do. John D. Rockefeller would be proud.

Shipping: “Excess capacity hitting box freight rates hard” [Splash 247]. They just can’t help themselves! “Boxships are sailing not fully laden amid dangerously excessive capacity leading to fears of a slump in financial results for liners this quarter…. ‘2017 utilisation on the transpacific has only breached 90% in September 2017, and only marginally so, and with healthy demand growth the only logical explanation is excess capacity,’ SeaIntel noted in its latest weekly report.”

Energy: “The [power generation] companies [like Siemens and GE] have been caught off-guard by a rapid shift by governments and companies away from large, fossil fuel-powered plants to renewables. Siemens says demand for its biggest turbines has fallen dramatically and orders for large electrical motors for industries from mining to steel and shipbuilding are also tumbling. The declines are so big they suggest the industrial sector overall is being reset” [Wall Street Journal]. Could have filed this under Gaia, I suppose….

UPDATE The Bezzle: “California may limit liability of self-driving cars’ makers” [Los Angeles Times]. “Critics say regulations drafted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles could open a loophole for automakers to skirt responsibility for accidents, injuries and deaths caused by defective self-driving cars — for instance, if tires are slightly underinflated or if the oil hasn’t been changed as regularly as manufacturers suggest. The DMV wording drew from a GM recommendation intended to protect self-driving carmakers from lawsuits if a vehicle hasn’t been maintained according to manufacturer’s specifications. That’s a change from current liability laws governing cars driven by humans.” Typical tech thinking. If your algo doesn’t work, change the inputs ’til it does. And I love the idea of, in essence, making your insurance claim depend on whether you obeyed your EULA. Probably would work with health insurance, too!

The Bezzle: “Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk revealed the company’s first all-electric truck along with a new $200,000 super car late Thursday… , in his latest attempt to stir excitement for his vision to upend transportation” [Wall Street Journal]. “[H]is latest attempt to stir excitement” isn’t the sort of hagiography we’ve come to expect with Musk. More: “The Semi, due out in 2019, will join a highly ambitious automotive supply chain that has stumbled in its bid to ramp up mass-market production.” Nor is “highly ambitious.”

The Bezzle:

Much amused speculation on the thread on whether the “Founder’s Series” — “Founder” being one of those start-up words you know signals a scam — deposits will help with any cash flow problems Tesla might have: $250,000 * 1000 = $250,000,000, which isn’t chump change, but is pretty easy to burn through, too.

The Bezzle: “A German regulator has banned the sale of smartwatches aimed at children, describing them as spying devices” [BBC]. “‘Via an app, parents can use such children’s watches to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment and they are to be regarded as an unauthorised transmitting system,’ said Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency. ‘According to our research, parents’ watches are also used to listen to teachers in the classroom.'” So it’s not they’re hackable. It’s that, intrinsically, they’re spying devices. Of course, the same goes for smartphones….

The Bezzle: “There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It” [Talking Points Memo]. “The big picture is that Problem #1 (too many publications) and Problem #2 (platform monopolies) have catalyzed together to create Problem #3 (investors realize they were investing in a mirage and don’t want to invest any more). Each is compounding each other and leading to something like the crash effect you see in other bubbles.”

Honey for the Bears: “The NY Fed reports household debt growth decelerated in q1, in line with the deceleration in bank lending” [Mosler Economics].

Five Horsemen: “The ‘Big Five’ Could Destroy the Tech Ecosystem” [Bloomberg]. “What’s forgotten as these companies seemingly gobble up the rest of the economy is they remain dependent upon customers who get value from their services. Companies advertise on Facebook and Google only if they’ve determined it’s more profitable than not doing so. Cloud revenue requires the existence of profitable businesses that need business software and services. Third-party vendors choose to sell on Amazon because it’s profitable for them to do so. In other words, for the most part, the big five tech companies exist at their current size and scale only because they serve a larger underlying economy of profitable companies. But the disruptive nature of the tech companies raises questions about how much they can grow. Because, in a sense, at some point they’ll only be able to grow by putting some of their customers out of business either directly or indirectly.”

Five Horsemen: “Death Star Amazon leads the pack” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Nov 17

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 36, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 54 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Nov 15 at 7:00pm. Enormous swing toward neutral from fear.

Retail: “Amazon’s Last Mile” [Gizmodo (HC)]. HC: “A long piece but interesting and nauseating in turn.”

Retail: “Consumers are holding off on buying smart-home gadgets thanks to security and privacy” fears [Business Insider]. Idea: Products people want? Idea: Wage hikes so people can afford to buy?


UPDATE “Keystone pipeline leaks 210K gallons of oil in South Dakota” [AP]. “Discovery of the leak comes just days before Nebraska regulators are scheduled to announce their decision Monday whether to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, an expansion that would boost the amount of oil TransCanada is now shipping through the existing line, which is known simply as Keystone.”

“US switches focus of its Bonn event from clean energy to fossil fuels” [Guardian]. “At [the Bonn climate talks], the US occupies a small locked room that often seems unoccupied. There is no pavilion, and Monday’s event on coal and nuclear power is the first public sign of the US government’s engagement, though the UN said US delegates were present at at least some of the many meetings taking place around the event.” IIRC, however, fracking boomed on Obama’s watch.

Militia Watch

“Ryan Bundy tells Las Vegas jury: ‘I am an innocent man'” [Las Vegas Review Journal]. “‘We were attacked, and our home was surrounded by 200-plus armed, what appeared to be mercenaries,’ he told the jury. ‘You should have seen all the guns pointed at us.'” Hmm.

Class Warfare
UPDATE “The Problem With Privilege and Divulging Sexual Assault” [Glamour]. “Famous monsters aren’t necessarily bigger monsters—they just fall more publicly. Harvey Weinstein operated out of luxury hotels, but similar scenes take place in the storerooms of big-box outlets, in the cubicles of stationery supply companies, in the teachers’ lounges at middle schools, on the floors of garment factories. And the nonfamous women being belittled, abused, and assaulted aren’t getting any relief.”

“Restaurant Sex Abuse: At Full Boil, but on Back Burner” [RealClearInvestigations]. “[E]xperts widely agree that harassment is rampant in less exalted sectors of the economy and especially in the hospitality industry, including restaurants, bars and hotels, where more than half the workers are female.” Then again: “A claim that 37 percent of all sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC come from restaurants has been widely reported in news media, including the New York Times and the Huffington Post. But the EEOC complaint form does not have a required field for employment sector, so it’s impossible to determine restaurant complaint totals or where the industry ranks compared with other sectors.” Oh well, They’re waitresses, not movie stars or comedians. So who cares?

UPDATE “Last week, the Federal Trade Commission voted 2-0 to join the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in an amicus brief to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with the Chamber of Commerce against the City of Seattle’s grant of collective bargaining rights to “independent contractors” working as drivers for Uber, Lyft, taxis, and other ride-sharing companies” [Roosevelt Institute]. “Figuring out how not to be bound by regulations that your competitors must abide by isn’t innovation, and yet, it appears to be the core contribution of the tech sector to the U.S. economy.” The headline terms the precariat “alt-labor.” I’d drop that term immediately, since there’s no reason to get labor issues involved in the alt-left/alt-right hairball of competing narratives.

“Bankrupt Toys “R” Us wants to pay $16 million in executive bonuses” [CNN]. “In the filing made with the court Wednesday the company argues the bonuses are necessary to get executives to perform at a high level during its bankruptcy.” The executives have no ethics or self-motivation at all, apparently. Surprising!

“Law School-Administered Financial Aid: The Good News and the Bad News” [SSRN]. “Financial aid administered by law schools was even the most rapidly rising cost factor for law schools collectively. At first glance this increase might seem like some good news for persons sharing my values and worldview. Historically financial aid has been associated with helping the financially needy, encouraging them and members of underrepresented identities to attend law school, and helping make it possible for students who want to devote their careers to low-paying, public-interest-oriented work to achieve their dreams. In fact, however, as the task force makes clear, almost all the increased financial aid is being awarded to applicants with high LSAT scores and high undergraduate GPAs — what is called ‘merit’ these days. Any correlation between the beneficiaries of increased financial aid and the kinds of students who traditionally benefited from law school-administered financial aid is purely coincidental.”

“Employee Reaction to CEO Pay Ratio Disclosure” [The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation]. The authors, from Willis Towers Watson, write: “The question of how to provide context for their CEO pay ratio proxy disclosure has been one companies have been turning to as they near completion of their calculation work. One perspective on this issue has come from a recent ISS Position Paper that recommends companies include in their disclosure a comparison to peer group disclosures. We would make the case that taking an approach that focuses solely on placing the pay ratio in context for shareholders is likely at odds with the message companies want to communicate to their employees, which they’ve expressed to be their biggest challenge regarding the pay ratio.” No doubt!

“Technocratic Vistas: The Long Con of Neoliberalism” [The Hedgehog Review]. “What many defenders of liberal democracy fail to realize is that they are no longer defending either liberalism or democracy; the forms of elite rule that provoke popular anger are merely the husk of liberal democracy. The once-vital discourse of liberal democracy has been hollowed out and transformed into a language of managerial technique—a technocratic jargon used to legitimate the spread of free-flowing capital. Within this discourse, freedom has been reduced to market behavior, citizenship to voting, efficiency for the public good to efficiency for profit. The rich civic culture that gave rise to popular American politics in the past—unions, churches, local party organizations—has been largely replaced, in both parties, by elites who have benefited from the technocratic turn.”

“Ban Prisons” [Splinter]

News of the Wired

UPDATE “Amazon Key flaw makes entering your home undetected a possibility” [Ars Technica]. “Rhino Labs discovered that a courier equipped with a simple program can use their laptop to fake a command from your Wi-Fi router to disconnect the Cloud Cam from your network. This causes the camera to stop functioning by freezing the image at the last frame. At that point, the courier could re-enter your home, do whatever it is that they want there, and then exit, reactivate the camera, and lock the door as usual. This re-entry would be undetectable by the resident, and it would appear like a normal delivery in Amazon’s data.”

“Google Has Picked an Answer for You—Too Bad It’s Often Wrong” [Wall Street Journal]. “For many queries, the internet giant is presenting itself as the authority on truth by promoting a single search result as the answer.” I’m not sure this is true; I tested the author’s question (“Does money buy happiness?”) and there’s no “featured snippet.” Of course, that could be Google optimizing for what it knows about me. Or it could be Google optmiizing for the WSJ story.

“Do civilisations collapse?” [Aeon]. “States collapsed, civilisations or cultures transformed; people lived through these times and employed their coping strategies – they selectively preserved aspects of their culture and rejected others. Archaeologists, historians and others have a duty to tell the stories of these people, even though the media might find them less satisfactory. And writers who appropriate history for moral purposes need to think carefully about what they are doing and what they are saying – they need to make an effort to get the history as right as possible, rather than dumbing it down to silver-bullet theories.”

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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 (LR):

LR writes: “I don’t remember seeing coloring like this before. The picture is from Sacramento California. I know that Sacramento had a very hot year this year, and then the fires. Could there be a connection, or is it usual to see this kind of coloring develop?”

Gorgeous picture, and good question. Readers?

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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. tinheart

    From your article above (“Bernie Sanders’s Socialist Revolution is Happening Very Slowly”)

    Other than Sanders himself, the most powerful socialist in America might now be a 30-year-old Marine vet named Lee Carter

    your comment: “Then again, if Lee Camp — not to knock Camp’s amazing victory — is “the most powerful socialist in America” besides Sanders (for some definition of socialism) then the socialists have a ways to go.” should probably change Camp’s name to Carter’s.

    (Not that I don’t like Lee Camp, who is great on RT.)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If most problems we have today are at root about power, then, we have ask ourselves if we want ‘powerful’ anything.

      Do we finally say, ‘We are all great*?”

      *Whatever that great is on the great-totally-not-great scale.

  2. Enquiring Mind

    You’re an actress?

    Which restaurant?

    Intersectionality meets cross-selling.

    Try the veal. Tip your waitress.

  3. diptherio

    Those leaves looks like they started turning and then gave up, or quit, part way through the process. Maybe they’re protesting the rampant sexual abuse in Hollywood…

    Those who are interested in permaculture and community organizing, this is an interesting watch/listen.


    Humans and our organizations are inextricably linked with local, regional, and global ecological systems. Sociocracy is whole systems design for how we organize ourselves and make decisions. Permaculture is whole systems design for re-integrating humans with the ecologies we depend on for our existence – for example water, food, fuel, shelter. Together they provide powerful design approaches that support resilient, adaptable, connected systems.

    What do these design systems have in common? In what ways do they complement each other? What can permaculture offer sociocracy that may enrich and evolve human self-governance? How can sociocracy support thriving permaculture organizations?

  4. Jim Haygood

    John Mauldin emailed a telling chart, credited to Murat Koprulu. It shows median [not average] household income for the US, adjusted for inflation. Unlike average income, median income is not distorted by the enormous gains of the one-percenters, which has made multibillionaires of the Tech Lords.


    For a household in the center of the US income distribution, 1999 was the best year ever. The housing bubble brought median household income almost back to its 1999 level in 2007, but not quite.

    Today, median household income (again, adjusted for inflation) is slightly lower than it was in 1989, in the first year of the George H.W. Bush administration.

    This is what imperial decay looks like to real people. Burn your seed corn on middle eastern windmill tilts, and pretty soon your middle class is dumpster diving for food.

    For the rest of the world, the US empire serves as a monumental example of incorrigible malinvestment directed by a corrupt, heedless, petrified political duopoly. #FAIL

    1. Gee

      That chart is about three years old. While I don’t generally disagree with where you are going on this, the recent data show a strong rebound. Of course, they ALSO changed the definition of income in 2013 or 14, so it’s not strictly comparable.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Thank you. I didn’t notice that the last entry was from 2013. Maybe Mauldin didn’t either. Here is the latest chart from FRED ending in 2016:


        All the values are shifted up by 6.3% compared to the 2013 chart, perhaps due to a change in base. And 2016’s value finally exceeded 1999’s.

        As the Mother of All Bubbles, Bubble III ought to produce record highs in everything. Now we can tick that box for real median household income — mission accomplished! :-)

        1. fresno dan

          Jim Haygood
          November 17, 2017 at 4:32 pm

          Just eyeballing it, it looks like the 2014 – 2016 interval is the steepest slope on the chart – funny, it didn’t seem like the last couple of years were a workers paradise….

        2. Christopher Fay

          I do remember the government economic statisticians reformatted how they derived income during the Obama years. Horrible to be so vague.

          1. UserFriendly

            The problem with using household income while making debt slaves out of millennials is that they don’t form new households; they move back in with mom and dad which messes up everything. Flat medium income would be much more informative.

    2. dearieme

      “For the rest of the world, the US empire serves as a monumental example of …[direction] by a corrupt, heedless, petrified political duopoly”: I’m struck by how many westerners outside the US had been decidedly pro-American during the Cold War but now view the US as a “rogue nation”.

      The rot set in, I suggest, when Clinton decided to ignore the understandings with the Russians that Bush the Elder and Baker had arrived at.

  5. Livius Drusus

    I am skeptical of the “social media won Trump the election” story. For one thing, Trump voters tended to be older which means that they likely spend relatively less time on social media than younger people. Also, as mentioned there is so much content on Facebook and Twitter and other big platforms that it is hard to even know what the impact of pro-Trump content was. So even if Russia used social media to help Trump I doubt it was decisive. Most people don’t even really follow politics that much on social media.

    Morris P. Fiorina (yes, I know, from the Hoover Institution) makes that point with regard to the Twitter effect on the 2016 election. See pages 15-17 of his essay on the 2016 election.


    1. Elizabeth Burton

      I find it interesting with regard to the whole “Russians on social media” thing that suddenly no one is mentioning the fact that the social media algorithms are set up to send you more of the stuff you regularly respond to. Also that Facebook got in trouble last year when it was revealed their ads were going to “Like Farms” overseas where hired help would respond to make the stats look a whole lot better than they actually were.

      In other words, those allegedly appalling numbers are basically worthless for anything except supporting a tottering propaganda program. They couldn’t find any proof “Russia affected the election” so Mark Warner had a Dutch Uncle talk with his buddy Zuck, and suddenly we had ads and whatnot. Ditto for Twitter.

      Not that it helps. The propaganda has worked beautifully, and the numbers who now believe anyone who disagrees with the narrative is a brainwashed Russian stooge-cum-Trump supporter are sad.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Why oh why are Americans so incredibly susceptible to hysteria, is it in the water or something? The SOR (Screechometer Of Ridiculousness) is already at 11 on Russia, now the media pushers and their junkies the general public are building steam on the latest hysteria-fest around sexual conduct in the public sphere, certainly there is bad conduct to be corrected but the overshoot is flabbergasting. Here’s a paragraph or two from an article that I thought made sense entitled “Did Mike Pence Buy a Dr. Pepper For A Woman Who Was Not His Wife?”

        I (for one, apparently) find it amusing that people are shocked to learn that sexual favors are swapped for career advancement in show business, where sheer narcissism buys more than Bitcoin. The remedy, I suppose, will be to put an end to show business – except its doing a pretty good job of accomplishing that itself, especially the art-form formerly known as the movies. But what about the gazillion other less-glamorous business activities out there: the actuarial suites, the dental offices, the WalMart middle management departments?

        I would begin with the recognition that human sexuality is a pretty potent and mischievous component of basic biology. In, say, the much maligned “cis” world of gender relations, people in the workplace surely feel a fairly constant cognitive tug of awareness that they are in the presence of the opposite sex. If nothing else, there is the pheromone thing: the involuntary wafting about of hormonal chemicals that signal sexual possibility, though not necessarily opportunity. It may be considered primitive and inconvenient, but it’s there anyway.

        That being so, one obvious question is: what happened to manners, the once-conventional device for managing impulse control.

        Narcissism does explain a lot, since that mental state prompts the treatment of other people as mere objects of utility rather than persons on a transect of mutual respect. But in the new sexual harassment workplace regime, a mere polite inquiry of romantic interest might provoke punishment, so that even an unmarried true gentleman asking a female co-worker out for a drink after work might be construed as a firing offense.

        Offendedness has gone viral in America these days.

        The rewards are a pretty sure thing for the offendee, ranging from simple brownie points to the offendedness powerball lottery of a $32 million payoff for getting seriously roughed up by a wealthy mug such as Bill O’Reilly. My guess is that the suppression of even gentlemanly approaches to women only pushes things to that darker and harsher edge of the gradient of male behavior, where the latent chimpanzee lurks.

        It’s inconceivable to me that we are going to eliminate sexual mischief on-the-job as long as men and women are mixed together in work that can be done by anybody. The situation would be less toxic if genuine misbehavior was reported to bosses or to the police directly, instead of waiting twenty years to call up MSNBC, and if asking for a date, or proffering a compliment, were not treated as vile and inexcusable.

        Of course, once all the predators are cleaned out of the corporate C-suites, we’ll still be stuck with a spectacularly trashy contemporary culture, saturated with inducements for all kinds of theoretically decent people to behave badly. Mainly what’s being accomplished in the current hysteria is reinforcement of the idea that the weaker sex is just that, but with a raging denial that they require some kind of protection.

        1. ABasLesAristocrates

          It has long been my belief that the main opponents of affirmative consent are those who do not believe they can obtain it. As for the article, it starts out with victim blaming (painting Hollywood’s sexual harassment victims as people who traded sex for success), moves on to pseudoscience (there is no evidence that men simply cannot control themselves in the presence of pheromones), goes on to a straw man (nobody, or very nearly nobody, is going after men who ask their coworker nicely once – and only once – if they want to go for a drink after work), moves on to both a non-sequitur and a slippery slope (addressing men’s bad behavior will somehow make it worse), and concludes with an appeal to futility that refers back to the pseudoscience at the beginning (men simply cannot be expected to comport themselves properly in the presence of women, so the only possible solution to sexual harassment is keeping men and women separated). You could teach a whole class on logical fallacies with just this one article, which I must admit is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

          1. JBird

            Logical fallacies? That is being charitable. I have seen users, abusers, and fools getting, or being, burned by sex at work. But we’re not talking that. The recent cases range from seriously unprofessional actions that would have gotten me immediately fired at any job I’ve been at, to sex or ruination with Weinstein, to what, in Moore’s case, could be called child molestation.

            I usually don’t like the charges of sexual harassment or other things like racism, I usually think it is an excuse or maybe whining, but then you get these examples like with Weinstein, Moore, O’Riley, Trump, or Clinton. No, it’s just not okay. It’s people in power getting their jollies abusing others.

            I believe I am getting angry with partisans from both parties saying that their side’s jackasses should be protected because otherwise the other side wins. And I am going “say what?” No, no, no. If someone gets drunk and crass at a party and then makes an obnoxious pass at someone, even a teen, meh. But grooming someone for sexual assault or saying sex or unemployment is inexcusable.

          2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            No, nobody in Hollywood traded sex for success, they just waited 10 years to say or do anything about it because…um…because…
            And I wasn’t arguing that there are not many abuses that are overdue for correction. But like the Russia hysteria it’s a question of taking things waaaay beyond any rational reality-based questionning. So: Did Mike Pence once buy a Dr. Pepper for a woman who was not his wife? Did he ask for consent in advance? Should he have had the woman sign a consent form in advance of any potentially soft drink-fuelled dalliance? The anodyne unisex societal rules of engagement that we’re heading for are not only deadly dull denials of our very biology but are really just repressed Puritanical world views. Count me out, and vive la difference with all of its messy ambiguities.

    2. Sid Finster

      In a country with Citizens United, SuperPACs and SuperDelegates, the idea that a few FB ads ruined democracy is laughable.

    3. hemeantwell

      More importantly, Clinton says that she regards Russian “election meddling” as a form of war.

      An exceptional bit of American exceptionalism that has been in view long enough so that I’m sure this isn’t new, but if that was the case most any country with an electoral system would have cause to declare war with the US.

      In psychoanalysis there are some interesting case studies of patients suffering from “pseudostupidity,” with the most remarkable cases having to do with dumbing down in reaction to parental sexuality, either witnessed or imposed, that leads to a general inhibition of intellect. There’s a way in which propositions on foreign policy like Clinton’s are linked to similar effects, and rely on them. To play with the parallel, the US’ intercourse with other nations is only an enterprise of beneficence, of storks and angels, no one gets screwed, and don’t you dare try to see if this is so.

      1. ABasLesAristocrates

        I would be surprised if there was even one election since the end of World War II the US didn’t try to influence, either covertly or overtly. To say nothing of all the democratically-elected governments we just flat-out overthrew (or for that matter, are still in the process of overthrowing).

      2. redleg

        The single most disturbing thing about the “RUSSIA!!!!” thing how the Clinton/media are calling it an “act of war”, meaning that the Democrat political party and the United States are the same thing – the party is the State.
        And nobody is talking about that at all.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Except when their legal defense is that they’re a purely private entity.

          Footnote: at least in Oregon, political parties are legally non-profit organizations. That might depend a little on which party it is. An awful lot of money disappeared in the Clinton campaign with nothing to show for it.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      Both Facebook and the Democrats have a vested interest in Facebook and Facebook advertising being enormously effective. Of course, the figures are proprietary, so we have no way of knowing what they really are.

  6. Louis Fyne

    Excuses are easier to swallow than the truth—-the Dems ran a smug, presumptive campaign with a smug, presumptive candidate who was itching to go to war in Syria and replicate the blistering success in Libya.

  7. Tom

    RE: The 1.4 million Russian-linked Tweets that Mother Jones says helped sway the electorate toward Trump.

    Funny how 0.0000077% of the 180 billion tweets sent last year was enough to cloud the minds of voters.

    Those Ruskies sure knew how to get the most from 140 characters.

    We are clearly doomed now that Twitter has upped the limit to 280 characters

    1. The Rev Kev

      What is so exasperating about this whole The-Russians-Did-It theme is it is so insulting to the average person. They think that you are literally so stupid that when they say that $100,000 of Facebook & Twitter ads negated the billions that the Democrats put into the election, they think that the average person will say, ‘Yeah, I can totally believe that! The Russians put Trump in the White House!’
      Nope. Truth be told, it was the track record of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that put Trump in the White House. You have to give voters a reason to vote for you and HRC gave people zip. Didn’t even campaign in those area that literally cost her the elections. If she was that incompetent a candidate to lose to a Donald Trump, how good would she have done as a President?

      1. Tom

        When it comes to Clinton’s 2016 campaign, she was born on third and thought she hit a triple. (Also, she bribed the umpires, slipped a mickey into the opposing team’s water cooler, could turn out the stadium lights at will and provided the play-by-play announcer with a script.)

    2. Charlie

      “Saudi Arabia has the highest percent of internet users who are active on Twitter.”

      Well, I think we know where all those Clinton bots came from now.

    1. Jim Haygood

      If Fisker’s gambit works, I’m going to have another go at cold fusion in a jar.

      Corporate slogan: Free energy for life!

        1. Grebo

          Probably not. Not that I’m philosophically opposed to cold fusion, but call me when he has a repeat customer.

          Meanwhile, a hot fusion long-shot I have been following is currently fund raising. This one is interesting because it will use hydrogen-boron fuel which does not create neutrons (so little radioactive waste) and it will generate electricity directly without needing heat-exchangers and turbines.

          The Fisker’s article contains no information, except a claim that their battery pack will charge in 1 minute. This is less plausible than Andrea Rossi.

  8. Summer

    “Markets and the overall economy got in trouble by making a similar mistake about another sector — finance — a decade ago. Finance, like these tech companies, exists as a layer on top of an underlying economy. Markets became irrational about how profitable the financial sector could become relative to the underlying economy, and in response to these market pressures, finance came up with increasingly elaborate schemes to make money that weren’t sustainable.”

    Amazing. They put that irrational behavior by the finance sector in the PAST tense.

    Also, Bloomberg left out one big elephant in the room: the tech sector, especially its unicorns, are the babies of the short-term thinking financial sector. “Finance came up with increasingly elaborate schemes to make money that weren’t sustainable.” – schemes that they now fund in the tech sector:

    [Roosevelt Institute]. “Figuring out how not to be bound by regulations that your competitors must abide by isn’t innovation, and yet, it appears to be the core contribution of the tech sector to the U.S. economy.”

    That’s the financial sector funding the deregulation of the economy and maybe more for ideological reasons among the more deep pocketed investors.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      That’s certainly a plausible scenario.

      A more prosaic possibility is that the Techies are hustling the Banksters with the oncoming AI-ites ready to hustle them both.

      Ain’t life under Capitalism great? Layers of thieves sucking out the life from fellow humans and the Earth alike.


  9. Summer

    “Bankrupt Toys “R” Us wants to pay $16 million in executive bonuses” [CNN]. “In the filing made with the court Wednesday the company argues the bonuses are necessary to get executives to perform at a high level during its bankruptcy.”

    And they’ll tell you it’s the minimum wage that will destroy an economy…

    1. Toske

      What a bunch of hardworking guys! They only need to be paid a bazillion dollars per hour to not feel like slacking off, unlike those lazy takers at the bottom who diligently keep civilization running in exchange for literally less than they need to survive.

    2. Jen

      Funny how the c-suite requires million dollar bonuses to perform at a high level whilst the only incentive offered to the “help” is being allowed to keep their crappy low wage jobs for a bit longer.

      1. Tom

        $16 million in bonuses is ridiculous — guiding Toys “R” Us through bankruptcy should be child’s play!

    3. Oregoncharles

      So they’re paying huge bonuses to the very people that ran it into the ground. Why not just fire them?

      No wonder it’s bankrupt.

    4. LifelongLib

      You can tell your place in society by whether you’re offered more or less money to make you work harder.

    5. UserFriendly

      I think you mean the FE firm that bought Toys R Us…. They also bought WebMD (where my sister works) and laid off 10% of the staff.

  10. Eureka Springs

    I popped into Whole Foods for a cannoli earlier this week and noticed a turkey not much larger than a roasting chicken priced 50.00. So unless discounts for Primers are 70 plus percent I would worry about dumb consumers more than the monopolists on this one.

  11. DJG

    “In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.”

    ― Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

    Yes, yes, I am doing research on another project.

    Observations: As Tom notes above, the Russians are remarkably efficient at turning American minds into mashed potatoes. But what is particularly galling is that Hillary Clinton has turned herself into a professional victim and is one of the chief reasons that the many, many middle class and working-class women who have endured sex crimes are ignored. Instead, we are stuck in Clinton’s own panic for profit. And the cult that has arisen around her suffering: She’s giving the Blessed Mother a run for her money. (Well, not the Blessed Mother’s money, because she is mainly a rose fancier and hasn’t had money in years.)

    And as a man, I’m going to say this again: Women who want war are hereby invited to go to war. It won’t be an episode of Private Benjamin, but there’s always a Veterans Administration hospital afterwards. If there’s an afterwards.

    1. Quentin

      DJG – I just want to add that Hillary Clinton has played the victim her whole political life. That’s how she got where she is. There was the Right Wing Conspiracy and then along came the big whopper: the nasty scheming of Linda Trip and that Goldberg women to publicise her husbands sex life. To launch her career she got on national television coyly telling how she had to save her family and, implicitly, getting the public to feel sorry for her—poor little me. There you have it. And now she’s a victim again: she takes responsibility for her electoral loss but it wasn’t her fault, not because of what she did, just because of what everyone else did to her, especially the disgusting pervert of a he-man Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton and her husband, their whole faction, needs to go away—but they won’t, they’ve too much lucre and porridge in the game.

  12. ewmayer

    Looks I won’t be forwarding any more links from my Reuters daily news feed to Yves and Lambert – looked at 2 stories today using my normal browser setup, FF on my macbook, and for both of them all I saw was a mess of giant screen-filling camera/video/twitter/facebook icons. No way am I scrolling through literally 6-10 screens full of this garbage just to find some smidgen of content. F*cking mobile-and-social-sharing-ane-retweeting-everything crapification. Here an example, be curious if other NCers see the same thing I do:


  13. TarheelDem


    The destruction of net neutrality will destroy communication infrastructure (because Amazon, FedEx, and UPS will destroy the USPS through Congress).

    The onrushing horde of self-driving (sic) vehicles will destroy transportation as the airlines destroy themselves and Congress strips out AMTRAK.

    And the surveillance state rolls on with the help of Amazon Echo and Amazon Key.

    And nothing will move by freight because of the catastrophic behavior of self-driving trucks.

    We might soon long to be in Puerto Rico 2017.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Here is that sentence:

        “It ranged from a gorgeous personal secretary to Sen. Bob Taft (Senior) who was my first true love and we made love in the hayloft of her parent’s barn in Gallipolis and ended with a drop-dead gorgeous red head who was a senior adviser to Peter Lewis at Progressive Insurance in Cleveland.

        Better would be:

        “It ranged from Sen. Bob Taft (Senior)’s gorgeous personal secretary who was my first true love and we made love in the hayloft of her parent’s barn in Gallipolis and ended with a drop-dead gorgeous red head who was a senior adviser to Peter Lewis at Progressive Insurance in Cleveland.

        I’m leaving the run-ons (underlined) because they’re essential to the flavor.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Very interesting. Everybody reacted that he was demeaning women, but technically he didn’t – except by claiming there were 50 of them. I don’t see that as demeaning women; it more suggests he wasn’t that great a lover. I think the problem was his dismissive tone.

      The real mistake was bringing it up at all. I don’t think he’s going to be governor.

  14. allan

    Tyler Cowen econ-splains the tax cut bills to the little people:

    Yes, a Corporate Tax Cut Would Increase Investment
    Republicans have science on their side when it comes to this part of their tax plans. [actual subhead]

    Weirdly missing from the various scientific straw men scenarios that Cowen lays out are what in fact anyone with
    a functioning brain stem knows will happen: increased executive compensation, stock buybacks and mergers.

  15. g

    Re: the new yorker and sex panics: There’s been lots of panic over affirmative consent on campus, but I’ve never seen an analysis of outcomes, certainly not one that suggests it is causing problems. Given the massive advantage that perpetrators have in rape cases, over and above that in other crimes, I find it hard to get too concerned about this stuff. Everyone knows that the vision of affirmative consent as “Yes please touch my left arm, now touch my right arm, etc.” is an absurd strawman.

    1. Summer

      “Everyone knows that the vision of affirmative consent as “Yes please touch my left arm, now touch my right arm, etc.” is an absurd strawman…”

      Or a sex game or kinky song…

    2. Oregoncharles

      18 year olds “know” that? Not likely.

      What bothers me is that it’s so foreign to what people really do. It’s fantasy land, but academe often is.

      If your measures aren’t based on the real world, they’ll eventually either cause trouble or be largely ignored.

      The US specializes in sex panics, and one is well underway. Hopefully we’ll at least get better working conditions out of it.

    3. JTFaraday

      I think affirmative consent is a great idea, and not necessarily dampening of one’s enthusiasm at all. Frankly, there is only one reason I can think of for anyone to be objecting to it.

  16. MarkE

    “and if the $50K Russian Facebook buy neutralized the $1.4 billion spent by the Clinton campaign, then Clinton (and Mook, and Podesta) owe us (and their donors) an explanation.”

    This has been repeated too often. $1.4 Bn was Clinton’s entire spend for the campaign, including ~500 field offices, expensive TV time, ad agencies, staff, etc. The $50K or whatever cited for the Russians was their outlay on Facebook placements. It doesn’t include other media outlets or, far more importantly, the money spent inside Russia and elsewhere doing the research and hacking, spinning the stories and sneaking them out through various internet channels. Fancy Bear and other GRU or SVR outlets, and the services themselves, all have staffs and facilities that cost money. Clinton wasn’t running against the Russians, either – she was running against Trump, who spent about $950 Mn. The Russian effort was always going to be marginal in comparison, but some elections are decided at the margins.

    The Dems and the Russians were also doing very different things. Clinton’s spending was to build her campaign (such as it was), which was expensive. The Russian effort was to spread damaging rumors. It’s a lot easier to spread rumors. For one thing, you aren’t accountable for what gets said. All you have to do is create doubt and confusion. It’s the ultimate in asymmetric warfare, although “hostility” or “subversion” are better terms here than “war.”

    We’ll have a more complete idea of the scope of the Russian effort after reports are issued by the different investigations, so better to save the tampering denial until then. It’s pretty clear, however, that the Russians put on a major cyber campaign to subvert our election to help get the result they wanted, as they have done elsewhere. Donald Trump is the Kremlin’s wet dream. His own special blend of ignorance and arrogance has already done more to weaken the western alliance and lower U.S. standing than the KGB managed during the entire Cold War.

    That said, my view is that whatever the Russians did to Clinton wasn’t nearly as damaging as what she did to herself by neglecting middle and working class economic security issues in favor of identity issues.

    1. bob



      “The Russian effort was always going to be marginal in comparison, but some elections are decided at the margins.”

      …and some people prefer cucumbers better pickled. A lot of people seem to have a BIG FUCKING PROBLEM with our own – locally grown – fully organic – asshole billionaires.

      They are far from marginal, or at the margins. They run the fucking place.

      Less than 25% of the country voted for the current asshole come lately in the white house.

      “We’ll have a more complete idea of the scope of the Russian effort after reports are issued by the different investigations, so better to save the tampering denial until then.”

      I love it when you talk dirty!

      Nice closing feign at some sorta, kinda, *Balance®* while also doing your best to build the brand. Gold Star.

      Are you hoping for a job with Clinton 3.0?

    2. Paul Cardan

      Russia-gate enthusiasts need to establish authorship, intent, cause, and harm. Russians are not the same as Russia, intending that FB users view ads is not the same as intending to subvert our election, intending to subvert our election is not the same as causing that to happen, and revealing embarrassing yet accurate and relevant information about one of the candidates is not the same as causing harm to the electorate. I’m especially hung up on the cause issue. Enthusiasts need to provide at least one clear cut example of a voter in a swing state changing her or his mind because of tweets, posts, leaks, etc. Of course, one vote does not an election subvert, so they need to come up with more than that, thousands more, actually. But one clear-cut case would be a start. Also, the idea that causing confusion somehow throws the election to Trump is presumptuous. It presumes that confusion favored Trump, as the clear-headed voter could only have gone with Clinton.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Enthusiasts need to provide at least one clear cut example of a voter in a swing state changing her or his mind because of tweets, posts, leaks, etc.

        Rest assured, one will be produced when required, at which point we’ll have to evaluate. What is amazing to me is that this has not happened already; apparently, the members of the political class only find it necessary to persuade each other (after consulting with the intelligence community and their own vendors, of course). Not the voters…

        > revealing embarrassing yet accurate and relevant information about one of the candidates is not the same as causing harm to the electorate

        Key point. Whether the Podesta mail was a leak or a hack, whoever did it also did voters a favor (unless you think it’s important in a democracy for voters to remain ignorant of how parties operate).

    3. ABasLesAristocrates

      “We’ll have a more complete idea of the scope of the Russian effort after reports are issued by the different investigations”

      I believe the word you were looking for there was “fabricated”. I trust the agencies investigating the Russians about as much as I trust the Russians. Possibly less. But I’m sure after lying to us about (off the top of my head) MK ULTRA, Iran-Contra, Iraqi WMDs, and Syrian chemical weapons, the security state is overdue to tell the truth about something. That’s how it works, right?

    4. m

      Maybe Putin was doing his part to help with the Pied Piper Strategy. Clinton & the Dems had mainstream media locked up with 24/7 Trump, so Russia used facebook & twit.

    5. Darthbobber

      And are numerous “outside” efforts, like Brock’s army of troll warriors dispatched to the FB and Twitter trenches to harass Sanders supporters part of that 1.4 billion or not? And was the “institutional support” of the NYT, Bezos Post and most of the broadcast media other than Fox for Clinton really swamped by the efforts of the not-that-watched RT?

      There’s been quite the shift of narrative this past year. I remember the “huge” revelation about Putin “ordering” the commencement of an operation in the summer of ’16. But when such evidence as exists started coming in it seemed that whatever “the Russians” were doing had been going on pretty much the same since 2015 and that nothing at all changed after the hypothetical Putin order (except for the fact that all of the major damaging leaks had already happened before the claimed order.) Then for months the emphasis was all on a coordinated campaign to promote Trump/oppose Clinton, but then when they got the twitter/Google’Facebook info it wasn’t easy to square with that version (most of the stuff was neutral as to candidate, and seemed focused on taking positions on culture wars issues that basically duplicated what the actual Americans on facebook were doing, so it shifted to the current “My God how clever they are. Playing both sides and turning us against each other (because we had, to that point, being happily singing kumbayah in unison, I suppose.)” The much-ballyhooed Facebook activity also shows no change of tone or crescendo in any particular direction as election day becomes closer. So fiendishly clever its almost impossible to see it as being strategically designed at all. (Though if you were just trying to show “penetration” to justify outlays, you might do something like this and hope your customer wasn’t all that bright. If you were just running a clickbait moneymaker, you might also go about it this way.)

      I’m inclined to agree with a Guardian piece about the new “blame the Russkies for Brexit” ploy, when they suggest that the mendacity and hysteria being clearly engaged in by those in the UK was such that the Russian efforts, such as they were, were more like pouring a glass of water into the ocean than pouring gasoline on a fire.

    6. Lambert Strether Post author

      > some elections are decided at the margins

      For which, as I point out, there is not one iota of proof as far as 2017 goes. (I would imagine at some point a voter will be dug up, but at this point I’d trust that story as far as I’d throw a grand piano). Nothing contemporaneous, and I tried to track down all the voter interviews I could find, both for posts and because I didn’t trust the polling.)

      > This has been repeated too often. $1.4 Bn was Clinton’s entire spend for the campaign, including ~500 field offices, expensive TV time, ad agencies, staff, etc. The $50K or whatever cited for the Russians was their outlay on Facebook placements. It doesn’t include other media outlets or, far more importantly, the money spent inside Russia and elsewhere doing the research and hacking, spinning the stories and sneaking them out through various internet channels. Fancy Bear and other GRU or SVR outlets, and the services themselves, all have staffs and facilities that cost money.

      First, I don’t see a number. Second, I don’t know what “other media outlets” means. Examples, besides the Twitter? Third, assuming this vast apparatus actually exists in the form you describe — AFAIK, all the information about it comes from the “intelligence community” and contractors paid by the Democrats or in their camp, all of whom are deeply interested in threat inflation, ka-ching — you need to back out all the overhead and everything that wasn’t (putatively) devoted to the Clinton campaign. When you have done that, I predict that the bottom line will be vastly smaller than the $1.4 billion that the Clinton campaign lit on fire and threw into the air. Making, again, Sanders entirely correct: “The question is that she should have won this election by 10 percentage points.”

      My suggestion to those who are gaslighting “Russian meddling” is to grow a pair. The United States is an imperial hegemon, and we interfere with elections all over the world, have been for years (Obama endorsed Macron, for pity’s sake.) If there’s blowback, then that’s to be expected, and we should suck it up and give consideration to avoiding actions that create the blowback.* A confident and competent great power ruling class (i.e., a war-winning one) wouldn’t be stiffing and blinding the way ours is. The whole thing reminds me of an elephant trumpeting and stamping and panicking at the sight of a mouse, or a dog barking at its own reflection.

      * One advantage of Democrats, in particular, sucking it up is that they could then, to mix metaphors, look in the mirror and do some serious thinking on why 2016 was the debacle for them that it was. Of course, one of the reasons “Russian meddling” is so very, very useful is that it allows liberal Democrats to keep their bubble of epistemic closure intact, such that they never, ever, take responsibility for anything. Plus ça change…

  17. The Rev Kev

    “Hillary Clinton on Trump’s Election: ‘There Are Lots of Questions About Its Legitimacy’”

    Seems a bit of a stretch to complain about GOP voter suppression now with the election long done and dusted. The Republicans have been doing this for decades and the first I read about it was in Florida in 2000 so this is nothing new. Voter suppression in the United States even has its own Wikipedia entry! You would reckon that as most of these voters suppressed were democrats, that the party would be fighting tooth and nail to fight this. I mean, how basic is the right to vote? From what I have seen though, the Democratic party has been fine with all this and almost seem to cooperate with the GOP here but why?
    Remember when Chuck Schumer said “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”? I think that this idea gives you a clue. The voters suppressed have been mostly been blue collars, blacks, latinos, etc. These are precisely the people that the Democratic party use to represent but since the 1990s the party wants now to represent a more upscale part of the population -professionals, upper-middle class, business people, techies, billionaires plus a bunch of minorities such as lbgt to swell the numbers.
    I am saying that maybe voter suppression is what the democrats wanted so that the party would become a party of the professionals, by the professionals and for the professionals. They do not want to be bothered with working class people, neither in elections or especially in the party itself. It only wants voters that it wants and if that means kicking out progressives from the party as well then that is just fine and dandy. That makes the Democrats sort of like an exclusive country club that can blackball new members and discipline or banish ‘misbehaving’ members. And that is why America has Trump now.

    1. John k

      Yes. A country club for the 20%.
      But that is exactly the rep’s country club, too.
      So each club gets half the professionals, but to win they need non pros, blue collar types, those that are not normally allowed into the club.
      Reps are used to pretending to like evangelicals plus tea party types. Dems can’t stand those that used to be their base… did obama give a damn about blacks? Hispanics? Did Hillary? She spent all her time courting big donors, no time at all courting ethnics or blue collar.
      Why should they vote for her? ‘Because trump’ is a bigger reason for college grads than those with less ed.

  18. Andrew Watts

    More importantly, Clinton says that she regards Russian “election meddling” as a form of war. Remember Clinton wanted a no-fly zone in Syria, which was likely to provoke war with Russia (and, as Clinton herself said, kill a lot of Syrians).Perhaps I’m too cynical, but it looks to me like Clinton — along, one supposes, with her silent partners in the national security apparatus and the intelligence community — is using her failure in election 2016 to push the policy we already know she’s in favor of: War with Russia.

    I’ve never believed that the US or Russia would risk a nuclear war over Syria. It wasn’t even that gonzo crazy during the bad days with the Soviet Union. The Cold War was a predictable setup where each side knew the boundaries and the full extent of where they ended. The no-fly zone was used as a pretext to conduct regime change in Libya. It’d be no different in Syria. The Russians wern’t militarily involved in that country until late 2015 so the US had a few opportunities to initiate it without their interference.

    There’s something bizarre about the fact that the emergence and success of the Islamic State during the Syrian Civil War might’ve prevented yet another American-led regime change operation in the Middle East. The US had it’s hands full while IS was marauding around the Middle East in 2014 to worry about Assad. After the battle of Kobani it seemed like Washington was confident that IS was contained but their offensive continued on multiple fronts and ended with the capture of Palmyra and al-Tanf in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq.

    Of course this means is that neither Hillary or the other dip—- imperialists in Washington learned any lessons. But that’s a familiar sight in any dying empire.

  19. Andrew Watts

    RE: Do civilisations collapse?

    “It has even been claimed by some that climate change has been the major driver of collapse, and by others, such as Diamond, that deforestation and environmental damage have very often been to blame.”

    It isn’t merely a claim. Ancient Chinese historians have mentioned how climate change played a role in the collapse that happened in Central Asia during the 8th century CE. Neither the Tibetan Empire or the Ulghurs recovered from that.* The inability to find materials translated in english regarding this subject matter is a huge barrier in understanding how the histories of peoples, the rise and fall of empires, and collapse of civilizations is governed by climate change and to what extent.

    *The Tibetan Empire and it’s allies seemed to have the upper hand against the Tang dynasty before and after the Battle of Talas, but Chinese influence increased nonetheless. Subsequently, China recovered quickly from the age of collapse that affected Asia during that time.

    1. JBird

      Well, the volcanic explosion at Thera probably caused the collapse of the Minoan Civilization and the Hyksos’ conquest of Egypt. The later Collapse of the Bronze Age is likely as result of climate disruption like drought which lead to a system’s collapse as one disaster caused another and another although no really knows for sure. It was so total that all records of that time as well as writing just stopped.

      When I want to worry myself I think about a Civilization lasting thousands of years with individual kingdoms lasting centuries just disappearing so completely over fifty years that the art of writing does too.

  20. ABasLesAristocrates

    “The executives have no ethics or self-motivation at all…” This is a tautology.

    Re: executive compensation, my company trotted out this strategy around the time of Occupy. Our executives’ compensation is “in line with the compensation of other executives in the industry,” something like that. They do not, of course, deign to go into why those other overpaid bastards deserve their salaries, nor why we should be content that our executives are only as overpaid as the rest.

    Re: sex panic, this is a straw man. Listen And Believe is not about convicting people without evidence. It is about the fact that unlike with sexual assault, when a person’s house is burglarized the first response of the police, journalists, and the public is not to investigate the victim.

    1. Oregoncharles

      The first suspect in an arson investigation is the owner of the property, at least if it was insured. In burglary, there is stuff missing that can be found on the culprit.

      “Listen And Believe is not about convicting people without evidence.” It certainly would be if taken literally. The big problem in prosecuting rape is that it tends to be one person’s word against another’s. That isn’t the level of proof required to throw someone in prison. That’s why rape kits are so important: they establish physical evidence that a crime occurred, and may identify the culprit.

      That’s also the reason a single report of harassment is treated with caution, but multiple reports approach proof. That’s hard on someone who was singled out, but I don’t see a good way around it, unless there were witnesses – which there often were. And there is rarely only one victim.

      Besides the tone, “sex panic” refers to two potential problems:

      The first is false accusations because of a grudge – or delusions. Not common, but certainly part of human potential, and there have been a few cases. The current ability to destroy someone’s career (you wait: it’ll hit women, too) overnight is dangerous; and the whole legal system is set up to prevent this kind of thing. For the time being, it’s salutary; it may even improve working conditions in some fields – though long term, that would require changes in the power structure.

      The second is impingement on normal courtship behavior. Reference to “unsolicited’ or “unwanted” approaches are an example; women do not normally explicitly solicit or request approaches. The system depends on men taking the initiative, women accepting or rejecting it. (Full disclosure: I was never comfortable with that role, and I know at least one man who can’t do it at all. That’s a lonely existence.) Yes, women do initiate, but normally in ways just ambiguous enough that they avoid any explicit rejection. Unfortunately, there are men who aren’t good at reading those signals, and women who aren’t good at sending them; the upshot is that you don’t really know unless you ask – and that really applies both ways.

      Obviously, if he’s already asked and been turned down, he knows it isn’t welcome. The usual procedure is to test the waters in various ways – which are very close to what’s being called harassment. The subtleties are legion. Realistically, most of us know what’s acceptable and try to comply; but nobody’s perfect, and the ground seems to be shifting under our feet. If men get the idea that they shouldn’t ask, the whole system breaks down. that might lead to a more equal system, in our dreams, but the transition wouldn’t be pretty.

      My real concern is not so much that injustices will be done, but that our whole society will become yet more lonely and alienating. It’s bad enough.

      Afterthought: we’ve never really gotten over our Puritan roots.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I remember both the UVa and the Duke lacrosse incidents. In both cases I “believed the woman” because of my priors, since I live in a university town. In both cases I was wrong.

        Sidebar: As far as parties go, if “believe the woman” meant anything to liberal Democrats, Bill Clinton wouldn’t have addressed Emily’s List.

        I wish there were some better alternative than “he said/she said” and “believe the woman.”

        Do mail offenders tend to be serial?

        1. JBird

          We all make mistakes in judgement, and we all have biases; it is when people refuse to look at, or distort, the evidence to what they want to believe, or is just convenient to them, that is the problem.

  21. Oregoncharles

    ” or is it usual to see this kind of coloring develop?” – on the oak leaves.

    Guessing: the pattern reminds me of chlorosis, where the veins are the only green on a yellow leaf. It’s caused by iron deficiency – anemia, in an animal – often because the soil is the wrong pH. Adjusting that for a full grown oak tree would be quite a challenge.

    But foliage color depends a lot on heat and its timing, so the guess about the hot summer might have a lot to do with it. Sacramento seems a bit out of the usual range for red oaks.

    1. Jfree

      I’ve seen similar in autumn leaves – though more in maple country not oak – ie Sep/Oct not Nov. Usually when there is a sharp cold snap – followed by a quick warmup back to normal – a bit earlier than normal in fall – and more likely when the growing season was stressed. The cold snap breaks down the chlorophyll faster – esp further from the leaf vein where the temp varies more – what’s left is natural non-chlorophyll leaf color. That temp diff is really what does produce the brighter foliage in ‘foliage country’. Places with steadier seasonal slowdowns – leaves just turn dingy yellow or brown

  22. VietnamVet

    “The Long Con of Neoliberalism” is deregulation, tax cuts, privatization and lawlessness. The first visible outbreaks were Enron’s rolling blackouts in California and the start of the endless war against Muslims in 2001. This resulted in the obscene inequality between Masters of the Universe and the plebes. Five men own almost as much wealth as half the world’s population. “The discontent with top-down governance by managerial elites has become impossible to ignore.” The under classes are reverting to their tribal beliefs and polarization is rising against others. Corporations are free to do anything they want; damn the consequences. Monsanto marketed its GMO seeds with dicamba resistance without receiving government approval of its low volatile formulation of the herbicide. The resulting illegal dicamba use damaged 3.6 million acres of soybeans.

    The gilded age destroyed itself in World War I, a 100 years ago. The neo-aristocracy is rushing into a war with Iran, Russia or North Korea which will destroy the world this time. The only alternative is the return to democracy and collapse of the corporate controlled meritocracy. This requires government jobs programs, public education, free health service and militia to secure borders. Above all, a restoration of the rule of law; government by and for the people.

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