2:00PM Water Cooler 11/21/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“Democrats Should Aim To Replace An Even 100 GOP Congressmembers” [Down with Tyranny]. “Now, if Pelosi would just tell the DCCC to stop recruiting more Blue Dogs and New Dems, things will be a lot less complicated for the party going forward. But that isn’t going to happen. Of the 11 candidates for 2018 that the DCCC has thus far officially endorsed, at least 8 are from the Republican wing of the party– gun freak and New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Blue Dog Brendan Kelly (IL), Blue Dog Paul Davis (KS), New Dem Elissa Slotkin (MI), New Dem Angie Craig (MN), Blue Dog Dan McCready (NC) and Blue Dog Anthony Brindisi (NY). And, although neither Jason Crow (CO) nor Susie Lee (NV) has been officially endorsed by either the New Dems nor Blue Dogs yet, I know that stink of Republicanism emanating from both of them.”


“[Alabama’s] top election official Monday said he is lowering his prediction for turnout in Alabama’s December 12 special election, a potential measure of how sexual misconduct allegations have roiled the Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones” [NBC]. “In an interview with NBC News, Secretary of State John Merrill also said his office has just sent local election officials more detailed guidance for processing write-in votes, a result he said of a higher volume of inquiries than his office normally receives from voters across the state.” Low rural turnout was a factor in Virginia was well (though AFAIK, nobody has provided a reason for it). More: “Merrill cautioned that his prediction of a lower turnout or a possible surge in write-in votes were not evidence of any shifting advantage in a contest where the Republican candidate has a naturally large advantage. Moore’s political base has shown to be highly committed while Democrats have a limited political infrastructure in the deeply red state. And, he said, there’s been no sign of an “organized campaign” to write in a new candidate’s name.”

“The DSCC has descended on Alabama to help Doug Jones fight Roy Moore” [Vice]. “National Democrats have had staff on the ground in Alabama supporting Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones for months, multiple Democratic sources tell VICE News, complicating Jones’ efforts to keep his race against scandal-marred Republican Roy Moore focused on local issues.”

“In the Alabama Senate special election next month, the national political parties are either a punching bag or an anvil” [RealClearPolitics]. “Alabama Republicans have, for the most part, stuck by the embattled candidate. The state party steering committee chose to back him last week; Kay Ivey, the governor, said she believes Moore’s accusers, but said she would vote for him anyway, citing his eventual votes for Supreme Court justices and other appointments.” So, “but the Supreme Court!!” isn’t something only Democrats say…

Realignment and Legitimacy

Very good tweet storm on parallels between the second term of the Bush administration and the first term of the Trump administration:

(Extending the analogy as Nyhan does not do, that would make Clinton Kerry: A wooden candidate picked by the establishment after an insurgency from the left — Bernie Sanders; Howard Dean — who lost a winnable campaign. More on the same idea from Vox–

“The best analogy to Donald Trump in 2017 is George W. Bush in 2005” [Vox]. “Then, like now, the winner had no clear policy mandate, and quickly suffered massive legislative defeat (Social Security privatization for Bush, Obamacare repeal for Trump). Then, like now, the president watched his favorability ratings tumble into the 30s, and appeared to be headed for a severe backlash in the midterms.” Klein, of course, then goes on to add the appeal to suburban Republicans: “I would take the analogy yet further. Trump’s callousness and indiscipline has left many liberals yearning for Bush’s more dignified and decent bearing.” Dear Lord. Was Klein even born in 2005? I well remember what Democrats were saying about Bush then, and “dignified and decent” didn’t figure largely in it (“Now watch this drive.”) And now the kicker:

If Trump’s presidency continues to flail — to say nothing of if there’s a recession or a poorly managed foreign crisis — it’s easy to imagine a Democrat beating him in 2020 and entering office with massive congressional majorities, setting up, again, a period of sweeping progressive governance.

Whatever the Obama administration was, it was not “sweeping progressive governance.” ObamaCare, not Medicare for All. A handshake deal with Boehner on a Grand Bargain. An utterly flaccid and enfeebled response to the crash, including no prosecution of any bank CEOs, the HAMP debacle, and the inadequate stimulus package. And of course, the continued wars, including Obama whacking a US citizen on his kill list disposition matrix without due process. One could go on, but if the Nyhan/Klein analogy holds, we can expect a squandered 2018 and 2020, just as we got a squandered 2006 and 2008. Perhaps including the long-awaited rehabilitation of the Republican party as a reasonable interlocutor, as the “fever” breaks? Of course, there’s one difference between 2005 and today that Nyhan and Klein carefully airbrush away: The existence of a functional, though tiny, left. It may be too much to ask that the left prevent the Democrats from squandering 2018 and 2020, but that’s where we are. That’s what we’ve got.

“Democratic Socialists of America Win Big for a Small Party” [Truthdig]. Sarah Jaffe interviews David Duhalde, DSA’s deputy director:

[DUHALDE]: We ultimately endorsed six candidates nationally — some of whom were running against Democrats, like Ginger Jentzen, who was in Socialist Alternative. Others, like Jabari Brisport, who is a Green, ran against the machine Democrats. Most of them were Democrats themselves and were running either in primaries like Khader Al-Yateem in Brooklyn and Tristan Rader who won, as well, in Lakewood, Ohio.

Six is, of course, a tiny number. On the other hand, it’s not zero. It remains to be seen how the DSA’s endorsement strategy — as opposed to running on their own ballot line — works out; Our Revolution seems to have adopted the same strategy. (Bypassing the ballot line seems to have first been proposed by Seth Ackerman in this Jacobin article, at least that’s where I first read about it.)

Stats Watch

Chicago Fed National Activity Index, October 2017: “The national activity index shot to a far higher-than-expected 0.65 in October with the 3-month average moving from flat to 0.28. The latest level is an expansion high and the 3-month average is near one, both pointing to economic growth that is significantly stronger than average” [Econoday]. ” Industrial production fell sharply in August then rebounded in September and then rebounded very strongly in October. The report’s three other components are steady with both employment and sales, orders & inventories making slightly smaller contributions and with personal consumption & housing pulling down growth slightly more. Putting production aside, this report continues to run at a modest pace. But indications from the factory sector have been increasingly promising and do hint at production-driven acceleration for fourth-quarter growth.” Snap-back from the hurricanes, but with a little extra snap. But: “The single month index which is not used for economic forecasting which unfortunately is what the CFNAI headlines. Economic predictions are based on the 3 month moving average. The single month index historically is very noisy and the 3 month moving average would be the way to view this index in any event” [Econintersect]. “There was significant upward revision to the last 3 months of data…. [S}ee the three month rolling average for the last 6 months – it now shows an improving economy.”

Existing Home Sales, October 2017: Stronger than expected [Econoday]. “The pending home sales index, which tracks initial resale signings, has been flat to negative which adds to the positive surprise of today’s report. Housing data struggled through most of the year and the lack of supply will continue to hold back resales, but recent reports have been good and do point to a year-end contribution from the sector.” And: “sales were above the consensus view. For existing home sales, a key number is inventory – and inventory is still low” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Up a touch more than expected, but still down year over year” [Mosler Economics].

Energy: “Energy producers are running out of places to send all the natural gas that’s gushing out of West Texas. Pipelines running from the region’s Permian Basin to Gulf Coast chemical plants, cities and export terminals are essentially full…, leaving a growing gas glut that is already weighing on regional prices” [Wall Street Journal]. “The oversupply is part of the fast changing energy business in the U.S., where readily available natural gas has slashed prices at electricity plants while making it tougher for oil and gas operators to match production to pricing.”

Manufacturing: “India’s automotive supply chain is starting to reach into the U.S. Mumbai-based manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. plans to build rugged off-road vehicles at a small factory north of Detroit…, a potential step toward a bigger goal of selling cars in the U.S. The move marks the latest action by non-U.S. auto makers and suppliers to scale up their presence in the country” [Wall Street Journal]. “Mahindra will be building rugged utility vehicles aimed at the specialized market for work equipment, but the Auburn Hills, Mich., site will give the company a stake in a recovering U.S. factory sector and a new base to consider the future of its auto making.”

Shipping: “‘Despite a brighter economic outlook, the industry is still weighed down by excess capacity, poor profitability and high levels of debt and many owners are struggling to survive. Poor financial returns have kept the pressure on costs and we expect this to remain the case for the foreseeable future,’ Drewry noted in a release” [Splash 247].

Supply Chain: “Apple’s iPhone X assembled by illegal student labour” [Financial Times]. “Apple’s main supplier in Asia has been employing students illegally working overtime to assemble the iPhone X, as it struggles to catch up with demand after production delays. Six high school students told the Financial Times they routinely work 11-hour days assembling the iPhone X at a factory in Zhengzhou, China, which constitutes illegal overtime for student interns under Chinese law.”

The Bezzle: “Volvo Promises Uber Fleet of Self-Driving Taxis by 2019” [Wall Street Journal]. “The deal between Volvo, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., and Uber was disclosed Monday as a framework agreement without financial terms.” So it’s a “promise,” but not a deal?

The Bezzle: “This ex-trucker has some questions about the Tesla Semi” [AutoBlog]. Very important. Here’s a taste:

[T]he Semi seems most impressive to those who don’t know what it’s like to be a truck driver…. I only have space here to address a few issues, so we’ll start with the central seating position. I don’t see how that helps a trucker. I already get “a commanding view of the road” in a traditional truck because I sit six feet above traffic. What I need is a commanding view of my own truck, which the central seating position compromises. The worst blind spot in a tractor is next to the doors; in the Tesla Semi, I can’t lean over to see if there’s a Toyota Corolla camped out beside me. The central seating position hampers my commanding view when I need that view most: when I back up. For any backing maneuver, I watch both sides of the trailer in my mirrors to make sure I don’t clobber anything, or I lean out of the truck to watch the trailer as I back. Being able to physically watch the trailer – not camera images on screens – can be the difference between making a clean back-up or making an insurance claim.

I believe we have some drivers in the readership. Perhaps they can expand on this?

The Bezzle: “Tesla mass firings could show impact down the road” [Mercury News]. “More than a dozen current and former employees interviewed said their dismissals came with little or no warning and were unrelated to performance. Some said they were fired weeks before stock options vested. Many added that morale suffered at the plant, as workers were unsure of their job status. The company has also angered outgoing employees by requiring them to sign a broad non-disparagement clause as part of their separation package. The separation agreements ban ex-employees from bad-mouthing the company, its executives, investors, affiliated companies, and contractors and products. Fired employees are prohibited from specifically criticizing Musk, in return for two weeks severance pay.”

The Bezzle: “U.K. ruling on Uber drivers may lead SEC to re-examine company’s revenue approach” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “A recent U.K appeals court decision that gives Uber drivers the right to be paid the national minimum wage and other benefits may prompt the Securities and Exchange Commission to take another look at Uber’s recent decision to leave driver revenue and costs out of its financial filings…. [Professor Gia Chevis] told MarketWatch that even if Uber files its S-1 paperwork to go public before any final decision is made, the SEC will likely expect a risk disclosure from the company that outlines what might happen if it is forced to comply with a U.K ruling that compels the company to record expenses for minimum wages and other benefits for drivers as workers.”

The Bezzle: “Study Finds Sharp Drop in Time Spent on Facebook” [eMarketer]. (The original of this story in 247 Wall Street, “Users Spending 44% Less Time on Facebook.”) “According to the latest monthly data from the firm, Facebook users in the US spent more time with the platform than users of any other social network, 18 hours, 24 minutes. But that was a significant drop from the 32 hours, 43 minutes recorded by Verto Analytics a year ago.” However: “The dropoff seen in the Verto Analytics data is at odds with eMarketer’s latest estimates for time spent with Facebook. eMarketer expects adult US Facebook users to spend roughly 41 minutes per day on the platform in 2017, up one minute from 40 minutes in 2016.” 44% seems pretty big…

Mr. Market: “On Oct. 6 a note from Wells Fargo & Co.’s equity research department downgraded Facebook Inc. to sell, making it one of only three brokerages with such a dour rating. The analyst making the call was unusual, too. Its name is Aiera, or artificially intelligent equity research analyst” [Bloomberg]. Hmm…

Tech: “Facebook Prevails In Privacy Battle Over Tracking Via ‘Like’ Button” [Media Post]. “The ruling stemmed from a series of lawsuits dating to 2011, when a group of Web users accused Facebook of violating a host of federal and state laws, as well as its own privacy policy, by collecting data about people through its social widget. The consumers said Facebook gathered data about its users whenever they visited sites with a “Like” button, even if the users were logged out of Facebook at the time. In June, [U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila] dismissed the users’ wiretap claims with prejudice. At the time, he also threw out claims that Facebook violated its privacy policies, but allowed the users to revise those allegations and bring them again…. [Friday, Davila ruled] that the users could not proceed with allegations that Facebook violated its privacy promises. The dismissal was with prejudice, meaning that the users can’t attempt to revise their complaint and try again.”

UPDATE Tech: “Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled” [Quartz]. “Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?
Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.” Remember: It’s the phones that are smart. Not the users.

Tech: “Blockchains for Blockheads. I think I finally get it” [DC Velocity]. A simple explanation of the distributed public ledger (but leaves the energy costs of blockchain transactions out of fhe picture.)

The Fed: “A Key Indicator Points to a Strong 2018. That’s the Risk” [Bloomberg]. “If this year’s economy has been kind to you, signs are good for your 2018 as well…. This more optimistic picture is painted by the U.S. government bond yield curve – which is not so curvy these days…. Lately, the gap between the two has been narrowing. In market parlance, the curve has been flattening. Whenever this happens, it’s generally accompanied by predictions of a slowdown. But this time, there’s a backdrop of synchronized global growth, low unemployment and some capital spending by businesses…. The flattening yield curve doesn’t seem to be suggesting an imminent end. The most likely scenario is another strong year like this one… “If there is a risk apparent now, it’s that the Fed may need to tap the brakes – a good problem to have.”

Five Horsemen: “Our Fab Five romp higher in stocks’ customary pre-Thanksgiving rally” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood (who is off for the holidays)].

Five Horsemen Nov 21

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 56 Greed (previous close: 50, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Nov 21 at 12:20pm. The index now seems to be back to same day updates, thankfully.

Health Care

“Here’s a Path to Medicare for (Almost) All That Isn’t Doomed to Fail” [The Nation]. “It doesn’t fit neatly on a bumper sticker, but we could still capitalize on Medicare’s popularity and familiarity by calling it an alternative pathway to Medicare for All.” All the centrists and wonks want to hijack Medicare’s branding while strenuously avoiding Medicare for All. The exact same tactic was used in 2009, when the “public option” advocated by Jacob Hacker — actually quoted, non-ironically, in this article — was framed as Medicare-like, and dangled like an ever-shrinking shiny baubel before credulous progressives, before diminishing to nothing.


“Carbon Pricing: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance” (PDF) [Indigenous Environmental Network].

“Why Pipeline Opponents Cheered Monday’s Keystone XL Approval” [Ecowatch]. “That’s because the commission approved the “mainline alternative route,” and that’s not the route that the pipeline operator wants. It could take years before the project finally gets off the ground (if it ever does), as the alternative route includes 63 miles of new pipeline not yet approved by the federal government and plenty of landowners could stand in the way.”

“[C]ompanies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are working on high-tech versions of engine oil. They believe the new, thinner oils will help them squeeze more efficiency out of traditional engines, and remain relevant as new technologies gain traction” [Wall Street Journal]. “Most companies expect the combustion engine to remain dominant for decades, and the efficiency improvements are critical to keeping their energy supply chains moving.”

Class Warfare

“Here’s what happened to teachers after Wisconsin gutted its unions” [CNN]. “In the five years since Act 10 was passed, median salaries for teachers in the state have fallen by 2.6% and median benefits declined 18.6%, according to an analysis of state administrative data by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund…. In addition, 10.5% of public school teachers in Wisconsin left the profession after the 2010-2011 school year, up from 6.4% the year before. The exit rate remains elevated, at 8.8%…. That’s particularly difficult for rural districts, which can’t afford to pay more to retain good teachers. The report found that teachers in rural areas were the most likely to move districts, and the average level of experience among teachers in those areas had fallen the most: One out of four rural teachers had taught for fewer than five years in 2015-2016, up from 17.6% in the year before Act 10 passed.”

“The LA Times flirts with unionization, defying its history” [Columbia Journalism Review].

News of the Wired

“The Sad Legacy Of Copyright: Locking Up Scientific Knowledge And Impeding Progress” [TechDirt (CL)].

The Bezzle: “Big Pharma is taking advantage of patent law to keep OxyContin from ever dying” [Quartz]. “Feldman, together with Connie Wang, a law student at Stanford University, meticulously went through a decade’s worth of versions of the US Food and Drug Administration’s “Orange Book” and US Patent and Trademark Office website listings to investigate the relationship between patent filings, exclusivity extensions, and drug approvals. They found that of the 100 best-selling drugs from 2005 to 2015, about 80% (paywall) had a patent extension filed on them at least once. About 50% of these drugs had multiple extensions.”

UPDATE It’s been awhile since we visited Scarfolk:

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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 (Re Silc):

Re Silc writes: “Meadowsweet I can grow. My Vermont pasture earlier this year.”

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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. Synoia

    Of the 11 candidates for 2018 that the DCCC has thus far officially endorsed, at least 8 are from the Republican wing of the party

    Why would they want to win? With governing comes responsibility and blame. With “resistance,” combined with a policy of nothing material to upset rich donors come tranquility. Governing also does not include higher pay.

    We should not assume the democrats want to govern. We can believe they like their positions of back room influence and escape of all blame.

    My vision of Washington includes the people having drinks together in private, and laughing about their planed public positions in the schemes to milk us rubes.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m acquainted with one of Kirkpatrick’s opponents in the AZ CD2 race. Alas, the opponent’s campaign appears to be sinking like a stone. From where I sit, it looks like the AZ Dems have anointed Kirkpatrick as The One to Defeat Martha McSally.

      Similar thing happened in 2016. Kirkpatrick was *supposed* to defeat McCain. Who is still in Congress — for the time being.

  2. el_tel

    My main worry over a US health expansion is that single payer advocates don’t seem to have their memes ready. “Death panels” was a ridiculous misrepresentation of health care in us countries with it (in fact many of the most cost-effective interventions are things like joint replacements which benefit the elderly disproportionately). But of course you can’t trust the media to present the facts so like it or not memes matter.

    Simplifying the most common method of calculating a “health common denominator” – the time trade off- is not going to be easy. Perhaps with its greater resources the US will never need to implement it to the extent elsewhere – but the fact that elsewhere it is almost inextricably linked to single payer means death panel and other such memes will arise. Sanders et al will have to be ready if the movement gets into the serious mainstream. And I don’t think they’ve thought that far ahead.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Yeah, because the “death panel” bs wasn’t tossed around during ACA…oh wait.

      Its like the deficits. No one gives a damn about messaging. They care about message.

      1. el_tel

        Indeed the very labelling of the ACA as ObamaCare shows just how quickly the opposition to any kind of reform (whether it is likely to be effective or not *cough* ACA *cough*) shows reformers are going to have to have snappy labels etc that get shared etc and overcome stuff that is “legitimised” by usage in the MSM.

        *IF* the US gets as far as a real debate on single payer that stands a chance of becoming law, there is, unfortunately, a lot of mud that could be thrown at it, depending on how closely the US follows certain principles used in Canada, UK, Australasia etc. Memes that (in fact) *do* have some basis in reality could be thought up (depending on how clever/strategic the right-wingers are). As I said, the US has a lot more resources (monetary and real) than these other countries and it’s far from certain to what extent “cost-effectiveness thresholds” (aka rationing) would bite. In theory I suspect the amount these bite is “not that large”…..but of course in the real world with artificial monetary constraints from congress theory may be meaningless…..

  3. flora

    re: 2017 and 2018. Great notes today.

    re: DCCC endorsed candidates. I see Dem candidate Thompson running for KS-04 in 2018 isn’t on that list. Odd, or not.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      The DCCC/DSCC, as the good bloggers at Down With Tyranny! frequently point out, is not interested in progressive candidates, since their employers in the financial industry dislike those noisy leftists intensely. Indeed, the efforts of those two organizations to find and support former Republicans and self-funding millionaires to run as Democrats is a favorite theme there.

      Earlier this year, DWT revealed the DCCC was telling its chosen they must pretend to support Medicare for All to the extent they could get away with, as the popularity of that matter had clearly become a litmus. The subsequent strained efforts of those candidates was a sight to behold.

  4. Pat

    Along with Net Neutrality destruction as a gift to broadband providers, apparently there is a desire to end what little restrictions we have on media ownership to advance the select few, starting with the Sinclair Broadcast Group.


    Oh, and PBS just joined CBS in firing Charlie Rose.


    1. Arizona Slim

      I can’t help thinking that, if Net Neutrality goes bye-bye, people will start finding other, non-Internet things to do with their time. I see a clue in one of today’s links, the one about Faceborg time decreasing. ISTR that the Borg was one of the most heavily visited sites on the Internet.

    2. Byron the Light Bulb

      Roger that, Pat…
      November Charlie, this is Bravo Lima Bravo, radio check, over… November Charlie, this Bravo Lima Bravo, message follows: baffled by your radio silence over the FCC’s imminent immolation of net-neutrality. The policy fix is locked and loaded for the upcoming holiday. Today’s economic amphigory rings extra hollow. Authenticate credentials, over.

  5. Andrew Watts

    Our Revolution seems to have adopted the same strategy. (Bypassing the ballot line seems to have first been proposed by Seth Ackerman in this Jacobin article, at least that’s where I first read about it.)

    Fighting to gain/retain ballot access is a battle without end in our two party system. It’s been easier historically for populists, progressives, and socialists to run as dual candidates in a political election. The minor parties can always caucus together in any legislative body.

    1. edmondo


      The history of the Greenback and Populist Parties shows that their policy positions are only taken seriously and adopted by one of the other two major parties when the upstarts gain a few seats or hold the balance of power. Do you really think that the Dems wouldn’t go all in on Medicare for All if they started losing to the Rs in a bunch of 45-40-15 elections, where the 15% went to someone from DSA? Even Democrats can count.

  6. fledermaus

    “Volvo Promises Uber Fleet of Self-Driving Taxis by 2019” [Wall Street Journal]. “The deal between Volvo, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., and Uber was disclosed Monday as a framework agreement without financial terms.”

    What propaganda. The gullibility of business reporters never fails to amaze me.

    1. Synoia

      Promising a mountain of working, well tested and proven code in 24 months, is rather aggressive. Especially when the test timeline is probably over 12 of those months.

      For those willing to read about the measurement process I recommend “Software Engineering Economics” by Barry Bohem. It is 30 years old, and a hard read.

      Another good old book is “The Mythical Man Month,” which contains the immortal concept “Adding programmers to a project which is late, makes it later”.

  7. Livius Drusus

    I am going to take some flak for this but sometimes the Democrats have to run Blue Dogs in certain areas. I honestly don’t think an across-the-board progressive could win in a place like West Virginia. Hence why we have a guy like Joe Manchin in the Senate. Yeah yeah I know Bernie Sanders won the primary against Hillary Clinton in West Virginia but that doesn’t really mean anything. Most of those folks would have probably voted for Trump in the general election even if Sanders was the general election candidate. Also, not all Blue Dogs are created equal. Manchin is actually pretty good on trade and labor issues. He opposed the TPP and has worked on behalf of retired UMWA members to help save their pensions.

    The problem is when the Democrats run New Dems/Blue Dogs in places where an across-the-board progressive could win. That is inexcusable and just plain bad from a strategic point of view.

    1. Fred1

      Actually a candidate who runs on both demand side economic policies with social conservative positions will do very well in West Virginia. Anyone who has lived there for any length of time knows exactly who has their foit on their throat.

      1. Livius Drusus

        Yes that is what I am thinking of. But those politicians are often labelled “Blue Dogs” which is a vague term that can mean anything from Clintonite neoliberal to socially conservative populist. That is what I meant when I wrote that “not all Blue Dogs are created equal.” Some are conservative on social issues because of their state/district but liberal or fairly liberal on economic issues. Others are basically Republican-lite on everything but if I am not mistaken most of those Blue Dogs were defeated during the Obama years by actual Republicans. Then you have the New Dems who are liberal on social issues but more conservative on economics which is another ball of wax.

        1. Darius

          I can’t think of a single politician anywhere who is progressive on economics and socially conservative. It’s like social issues and identity are the bright shiny things and the economics that actually determine elections are too hard for everyone to see.

          1. Steely Glint

            I have a family member who claims to be socially liberal, but economically conservative. Seems socially liberal is limited to race, sexuality, and abortion. When I ask if health care, education, housing, a living wage, etc. is part of the social contract, the answer is no. Seems a clear definition of the public sphere is needed,

        2. Daryl

          Are any Blue Dogs actually economically left though? My understanding is that all those guys were swept out of office many years ago.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The non-branded ones are gone. What separates Obama from a Blue Dog? Hillary? The Congressional Leadership? Tim Kaine? Biden?

          2. Oregoncharles

            At least one in Oregon, Kurt Schrader. We faithfully run someone against him, but haven’t taken him out yet. It’s considered a “swing” district, around Salem, but has been represented by Dems for a long time.

    2. Sid Finster

      Same in North Dakota. North Dakota is close to a one-party Team R state, but it has also had some progressive laws (state bank, laws on health insurance for pre-existing conditions, etc.).

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think the focus is too much on winning races as opposed to winning national power (and I think this emphasis comes at least in part from the consultants who control the DNC budget process, since they are paid to win races.) To put this another way, if the Democrats want to — let’s not use Medicare for All, let’s pick a litmus test that’s blazingly obvious — pass Social Security, it would make sense to throw run on that platform even in districts they’d lose, for the sake of the vastly greater majority of districts who’d support it, nationally.* And to put that another way, do we really believe that the way to pass Social Security would be to run candidates who are opposed to it, and optimizing the platform for their lowest common denominator.

      To win national power, I think a 50-state strategy plus a simple platform of universal concrete material benefits (especially for the working class) is the way to go. (The reverse is the Ossoff’s of this world: Didn’t stand for a thing, lost to the real thing, but a means whereby the donor class enriched the consultant class, and to their mutual benefit).

      * A functional party would be able to “take care of” candidates who took one for the team.

  8. XXYY

    (Bypassing the ballot line seems to have first been proposed by Seth Ackerman in this Jacobin article, at least that’s where I first read about it.)

    I thought this article was extremely profound when I first read it, giving us a plausible way of breaking out of our stifling two party deadlock without first having to overcome the huge legislative hurdles that make it so difficult for 3rd parties to get on the ballot in the US (which eventually makes many conclude that a 3rd party is not viable in the country).

    Ackerman should have won awards or been carried around the country on peoples’ shoulders for this important and original contribution. Everyone working on electoral campaigns should read it and think of how to put the ideas to use.

    And thanks to Lambert for reminding us about it.

  9. Dermot

    Here is a tinfoil hat Gedankenexperiment. Would this sexual misconduct/assault purge be happening if HRC had won? (Meaning though of course that the sexual predator Trump would not have been elected) I get the distinct impression that no, it would not have been after following this thread for longer than is healthy. (writer for NYMag) https://twitter.com/rtraister/status/932742954816548864. Takes tinfoil hat off.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Careful with such tinfoil hat speculation – you’re liable to be swept up in the Inquisition with the inappropriate pass makers and other mistaken winkers.

      Prepare your auto da fé before it’s too late.

    2. Annotherone

      Interesting question! The Weinstein accusations began the flow – if those hadn’t happened when they did, perhaps the rest would not have come to light – yet. We can’t be sure whether the Weinstein stuff would have come to light with Clinton as president. But….I do think it was well past time for this “abscess” to burst and drain – and it’s one something for which to feel thankful this season.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The GOP would have pushed it. The hypocrisy of “Hillary as every women” while associating with Bill and Harvey would have been too glaring especially in light of the GOP elites trying to distant themselves from Trump during the campaign.

        Its far too easy. They could call it tough on crime. Put up Nikki Hailey in 2020, a neocon darling, and Hillary might lose 45 states. Capito. Ersnt. Ayotte. They are idiots and lunatics, like all Republicans, but Democrats lose to the GOP all the time. They are the right ages and telegenic and like their male colleagues, completely without scruples.

        The role of Hollywood matters too. Its become so politically aligned with Democrats in recent years and yet has remained relatively small and isolated versus its media reach its an easy target. For a smaller company such as the Weinstein studio, the GOP won’t pull punches if they thought it served them (see the steroids investigation; a bipartisan affair altogether).

      2. Yves Smith

        Weinstein revelations were due to his brother trying to stage a coup and take over the company. That move instead blew up the company. So it had nada to do with Clinton.

        I think we would have seen really hard to stomach female triumphalism had Clinton won, which would make it super awkward not to deal with sexual harassment allegations.

        1. Oregoncharles

          The countervailing consideration: Hillary as president would have induced a lot of complacency, as Obama did over race – though BLM started then.

          Too much speculation, really. I prefer the theory that we crossed a threshold. Might actually have something to do with the Women’s March, etc. But it’s been more than 40 years since Women’s Liberation took off; it’s about time.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Its not tinfoil hat territory. There are a number of factors from both the obvious of a Trump Presidency and the way Sanders supporters were treated by the Clinton campaign. Weinstein was a prominent supporter who cooked up the idea to say Bernie caused Sandy Hook.

      In the case of Weinstein specifically, these stories went around some years ago (at least twice). He wasn’t named specifically, but it was speculated about. When he was named, it became confirmation of rumors. Ashley Judd and Gwenneth Paltrow had both told stories. The specifics of their stories led back to Harvey for different reasons. I’m reminded of Cosby. There were accusations made against him, and certainly jokes were made by Tina Fey over the years. BUT, this is a big one, there was a second set of accusations or a second set that made news, and the rumors or the suspicious by victims he drugged went from rumor and suspicion to a story people could relate.

      Then of course, this wasn’t an isolated incident or one person. Its a series of people. Weinstein and Cosby were predators, and both were past their peak celebrity or their importance to their underlings who covered all these years.

      The last two key parts are Ronan Farrow and Rose McGowan roles. Farrow didn’t write the big NYT article that set everything off, but his story about his own investigation demonstrated the results of the NYT article were to easy to find. McGowan put herself out there and gave people in other situations real courage to come forward with their own stories.

      The genesis of the NYT story is important too. Why were they investigating the Boss at New Line(?) ? Is there going to be another Hobbit movie? Or did someone come forward on their own accord with the goods or a list of people to contact? Remember this guy was hiring ex-Mossad agents to stalk people.

      I note George Allen’s fall from grace in 2006. He had his verbal gaffe, and on its own, it meant nothing. He couldn’t remember the word “mohawk” because the guy taking the video had a stupid hair cut. Here was the problem. It wasn’t an isolated event in the saga of George Allen. There were stories about the man that went around for years. I’ve heard stuff I wouldn’t say out loud in addition to the stories from 2006. The point is those stories were whispered about Allen for years by people we would classically call “respectable” by every measure. When Allen’s “gaffe” occurred, all the stories about George’s history of less than stellar race relations came out. This event is what is occurring in light of Trump and Moore and the victims who aren’t famous and don’t have famous attackers.

      One last bit. There is a perception (an accurate one) the rich and powerful get away with everything. People are sick of it, and Obama and Hillary, the sacred cows, are off the scene.

      1. Yves Smith

        No, no, no. It was Weinstein’s brother who did the outing, in particular all the settlements and the crazy agreement Harvey had to sign re his conduct going forward. Various women piling on quickly followed. And some of the actresses were foreign, so outside the US political machine (one Australian actress gave a particularly lurid account of being brought to Weinstein’s room with a bunch of men, having the men disappear, having Weinstein have some lame excuse for having her stay, like he wanted her to look at a script, having him disappear and then reappear nude. She was trapped because she stupidly had no $ on her, I guess she had depended on her fellow partiers to drive her home. She fled into the bathroom. He banged on the door. She yelled at him “You naughty boy!” She somehow got the nerve to leave the bathroom and he was crying, saying she found him to be ugly. You cannot make shit like this up).

    4. Oregoncharles

      I don’t actually think so. As Annotherone reminds us, it started with the Weinstein exposes. Once that predation reached a critical mass, the whole thing was bound to come down.

      However, I’ll predict there will be some serious glitches – accusations that don’t pan out, that sort of thing. We have a gigantic ball of wax rolling. It isn’t simple justice; there are already elements of mob psychology. We seem unable to correct injustices without going too far.

      As I said before, this should have happened in the 70s. I rather thought it had – I’m actually shocked at the prevalence of offensive behavior. Perhaps there was some backsliding. But I think we’ve crossed a threshold that will make it difficult to go back. It will always be a struggle, though; there’s some pretty deep-rooted psychology going on here, as well as personal faults.

      Were the pussy hats an inspiration? Very likely.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        It looks to me like it’s 10% vs 10%, especially in the political class and the closely related media class. At the 1% level, for example, we don’t see anybody going after, say, Eric Schmidt. And at the 99% level, we see the occasional story about abusive workplaces, but nothing more, and certainly no moral panic.

        If the scope of this “gigantic ball of wax” is limited as I intuit that it is, I’m pleased that professionals and the aspirational will have less abusive workplaces; that’s a very good thing (and people like Weinstein et al are vile and loathsome, and the whistleblowers deserve kudos for their courage). However, assuming that scope, there would be are important power relations that this “gigantic ball of wax” doesn’t include at all. Of course, maybe people in the 99% “at the bottom” will organize themselves on this issue and follow the example set for them, and that just hasn’t happened yet. On the other hand, they might have different priorities, and if that is the case, we might ask ourselves why that is and what to do.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Most of the examples we hear about are in the media or politics – that is, people in the public eye anyway. That’s what gets reported. It’s a matter of where the attention is.

          Of course, poor people might consider harassment a minor problem compared to getting enough to eat, and would be even more sensitive to retaliation. But the 90% also should be better covered by standard workplace regulation; people like Weinstein and Toback were taking advantage of the peculiar conditions of show business – and much the same is true of politicians.

          We shall see; I’m relatively optimistic about it, as long as the overshoot isn’t too bad.

  10. Summer

    UPDATE Tech: “Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled..”

    Noticed this. I don’t use Wi-Fi, and disable location, yet I’ve noticed on occasions where it has been mysteriously turned on.

    1. Adam Eran

      My experience too. It makes sense that, even turned off, the wifi scans for signal every few minutes.

  11. XXYY

    I believe we have some drivers in the readership. Perhaps they can expand on this?

    Not a trucker, but I did spend 10 years working on the in-cab Qualcomm unit mentioned in the article, and during this time I gained a tremendous respect for people who drive trucks for a living. It’s difficult and demanding work, and there are great dangers in driving an 80,000 lb vehicle in heavy traffic, rain, snow, and city streets. The pay is low, the stress high, and long-haul drivers are frequently away from home for weeks at a time. Despite all this, the truckers I met had tremendous professionalism and pride in their work, and saw themselves as part of a collective effort to get everyone (not just their own load) where they are going quickly and safely.

    Something being constantly discussed by Musk and others is autonomous trucks.

    Even knowing what little I do, it’s obvious that somehow getting rid of the truck driver is absurd. Driving a truck is much harder, and much more dangerous to everyone on the road, than driving a car. More importantly, the driver does not just drive the truck, they are also the vehicle manager (doing constant inspection and repair of the truck along the route and making sure everything is safe) and the load manager (loading and unloading cargo, maintaining the manifests, making sure every piece of cargo gets where it’s supposed to go, and working with and maintaining good relations with customers). I guess Musk’s idea is that the robot truck will just pull up at the destination at 4am and stop, then the customer will unload everything, compare against the manifest, and then send the truck on its way! Really childish and idiotic.

    It’s also worth mentioning, in the context of autonomous trucks, that the driver also serves as security guard for the load. Hijacking of trucks *with* drivers is a huge problem in many parts of the world; trucks *without* drivers are going to be sitting ducks everywhere, esp. since their AI piloting systems will force them to come to a stop and stay stopped when faced with any kind of road obstacle.

  12. JBird

    I have not done much reading on the recent national Democratic leadership stupidity, but I am not surprised; they better hope that they lose the power struggle even if it is to the DSA supported insurgents or, realistically unlikely as it is, the Democratic Party could fade away like the Whigs.

    1. Darius

      Already happening. Democrats have no rationale other than “Trump! Trump! Trump!” And that former president with the cool guy brand. Buh bye.

  13. Jeff N

    Regarding trucking,
    Backing up (at a 90 degree angle, which is all that some docks have room for) can be done in 2 possible directions: normal and blindly (normal is when the truck bends in such a way that the driver side can more easily watch his rear, and blind is the passenger side)

  14. Oregoncharles

    ” It remains to be seen how the DSA’s endorsement strategy — as opposed to running on their own ballot line — works out; Our Revolution seems to have adopted the same strategy. ”

    It’s really the same strategy that Working Families Party has used, except that WFP maintains a ballot line for the purpose. It’s most useful in states like NY and, now, Oregon that allow co-nominations.

    1. Pat

      That ballot line in NY was important enough to them for them to slice and dice their platform in order to keep Cuomo on their line. (They didn’t think they would get enough votes to guarantee their position on the ballot for the next election. Or at least that was the reason they gave for throwing out long-standing liberal positions.) The sleaze and stench was unmistakable.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          Here in Wisconsin, WFP and OR Wisconsin are both voluntary dues paying organizations. And they are basically run by the same people (people I would describe as “left entrepreneurs” – yes that is an oxymoron), though OR Wisconsin seems to have a somewhat broader base that includes more old-time lefties.

  15. Steely Glint

    Re: Facebook Likes
    After Angie’s list automatically renewed and charged me for a years subscription without notice, I googled them to find out their contact adress so I could complain and cancell the renewal. The next day on me FB page was a like for Angie’s List!! Disgusting & downright creepy, totally untrue, and nothing I could do about reporting it.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Facebook is notorious for linking people up with “groups” and other stuff its algorithms decide are right up one’s alley. I found this out when I kept getting stuff on my newsfeed that was dreadful clickbait, and when I said I wanted to stop seeing anything from the source was informed I was “no longer following” said clickbait source.

      Suspect you were treated to that same thing.

    2. Carla

      Nextdoor.com does the same shit. You can post a negative review or comment about a business and they claim you “recommended” it.

  16. Darius

    Regarding Ezra’s wishful thinking, Obama’s profound flaw was embracing austerity. Starting with the stimulus half measure through the Grand Bargain and beyond, Obama’s austerity ensured the economic stagnation that lost Democrats the Congress and the states and eventually handed Trump the White House.

    Democrats don’t or won’t see this, setting themselves up for more failure. Medicare for All is critical but jobs for all is the only thing that will bring Democrats success. I don’t see them embracing that.

    1. Discouragedinwi

      Obama spent years at the University of Chicago – why wouldn’t he have absorbed their economic viewpoints? It’s not as if he’s an expert economist, so he probably believed what Chicago economists said (many of whom won Nobel prizes for ideas which have ultimately proved significantly flawed in the real world.)

  17. Marco

    Terry Gross was breathlessly pumping the Steele dossier today on “Fresh Air” (not so fresh anymore) with some journalist from the Guardian. I guess I’m left with RT for all my mainstream news consumption. Do they have a radio station?

  18. neo-realist

    Re Howard Dean’s winnable nomination in 2004, I believe he had a good shot at winning the nomination, however, I believe he wouldn’t have done as well as Kerry in the general: Considering the war fever, and the support the president, support the troops jingoism that was prevalent in the country at that time, Dean would have been framed by the Bush/Cheney campaign as some sort of Eugene McCarthy peacenik, an Al-Queda appeaser. Which would have been echoed to large effect on right wing radio media 24-7 much like the Kerry swift boating. Kerry, while a wooden candidate, garnered enough respect from some moderates for his service to the country to make it a close enough race to come down to Ohio.

    If anything—the Bush Cheney feared Edwards candidacy the most—charismatic and populist southern democrat who spoke to economic issues and had the potential to possibly some red states in the general.

  19. rjs

    re: Energy: “Energy producers are running out of places to send all the natural gas that’s gushing out of West Texas. Pipelines running from the region’s Permian Basin to Gulf Coast chemical plants, cities and export terminals are essentially full…, leaving a growing gas glut that is already weighing on regional prices” [Wall Street Journal].

    some facts:
    US gas production in 2016 was below that of 2015, and it appears 2017 will be below that (scroll down):
    and our imports, mostly from Canada, have been greater than our exports:
    US exports: https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9130us2m.htm
    US imports: https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9100us2m.htm
    and our gas in storage is below normal for this time of year:

    now, go read the journal and try to figure out what they’re up to…

  20. autoagri

    Re: the Tesla Semi’s center seating

    Being able to physically watch the trailer – not camera images on screens – can be the difference between making a clean back-up or making an insurance claim.

    This is sensible and true… as of now, when no drivers generally have zero experience relying on screens to back up tractor-trailers. Doesn’t mean though that drivers won’t adapt to using the twin 15″ screens that flank the wheel in a Tesla Semi.

    Back-up cameras in passenger vehicles are an inadequate analog, because they’re only used to gauge 1 or sometimes 2 dimensions in a straight vehicle, whereas truck drivers are often dealing with 2 or even 3 in an articulated vehicle. But at the same time, unlike most passenger-car drivers, truck drivers are professionals, who are likely capable of learning to rely on large-screen video to back up slowly and safely. Finally, any worry at all along these lines is only valid until back-ups/docking are automated; that capability has been demonstrated in test environments but probably won’t be commercial for a couple-few years.

    So yes, the center seating would be — as Lambert notes — “[v]ery important” to a driver who today is plopped in the cab of a Tesla Semi and told to go about his or her business, but I believe it’s not an important safety issue provided some training and/or further advancement in truck automation.

  21. bob

    “Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled..”

    Android was developed to know where the device running it is. Knowing the location of the device is NUMBER 1. Before it does anything else, it knows where it is.

    Google, apple, etc are all getting very good at pretending that they don’t do this. They collect the information, they just don’t show you the information they are collecting. In many cases, they actively obfuscate the information shared with the user, in order to appear less creepy.

    1. ewmayer

      I especially enjoyed Google’s lawyerly parsing of its own “we do not use your location data” language (bolds mine):

      While Google says it doesn’t use the location data it collects using this service, it does allow advertisers to target consumers using location data, an approach that has obvious commercial value. The company can tell using precise location tracking, for example, whether an individual with an Android phone or running Google apps has set foot in a specific store, and use that to target the advertising a user subsequently sees.

      IOW, “We respect your privacy, even if the legions of advertisers we sell your data to do not.”

  22. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    The Nola Mayors race was a missed opportunity for us. I know that my group, the Louisiana Socialist Network, is looking forward to replacing our lone Dem US Representative Cedric Richmond next year on the 300th year of New Orleans birth!

    Im sure the Nola DSA chapter is doing the same…

  23. Edward E

    I thought that those were some excellent questions about the Tesla semi truck. Some docks are easy to back into and the cameras would be fine for those. But a large number of docks are extremely challenging to back into. Lighting at night causes glare and cameras would have trouble with that, even with mirrors you occasionally have trouble. Really difficult docks are the covered ones where you must back into a dark building from the sunny outdoors and hit a dock while narrowly missing poles, walls and doors. The only way to see anything is to get out and look and then stick your head out the window and look straight back while backing in. The Tesla appears useless for that. Warehouses in underground caves are especially difficult in this regard and you may have to back up quite a distance around obstacles like rock pillars. I could tell you some stories about long distance backing a semi, sometimes I do it from the highway up a half mile of twisting County road to my driveway.

    Windshield and side windows can fog up so fast I’ve actually had to hang my head out the window to keep from crashing big time. Like when cruising along in Texas and dropping down into a river valley, whoosh everything fogs up inside and out! Those defrosters take a while to work.

    If you want to get into the heavy duty wrecker business this is probably the best time to do it. A lot of old and new equipment breaks down frequently these days because they’re not at all built simple like in the old days. Then you have thousands of inexperienced newbies let loose in new convoluted equipment with winter weather coming on and the jams they are prone to getting into, stuck and accidents. Then after April all trucks caught without ELD’s get impounded and towed away. I was just thinking a heavy duty tow truck could make a lot of money for years to come right now.

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