2:00PM Water Cooler 11/3/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“U.S., Canadian and Mexican negotiators have added two additional days of meetings onto their fifth round of NAFTA talks, a source close to the negotiations told Morning Trade. The round, now slated to begin Nov. 15 in Mexico City, was delayed by nearly a month after deep fissures were exposed between the parties during round four. The fourth set of meetings, which were held outside of Washington in October, were also extended to give negotiators more time to try to reach consensus on various proposals” [Politico].

“Japanese government and business officials weren’t shy about extending an invitation to the United States to consider rejoining the TPP on the eve of Trump’s visit to Japan” [Politico].

“Asia Trip Spotlights Chasm Between Trump Campaign Rhetoric on Trade and Action, Raising Political Stakes for Meaningful Deliverables” [Public Citizen]. “Trump pledged to make U.S. trade policy ‘a lot better’ for working people, starting with day-one action to reverse the China deficit, renegotiating or ending the ‘job-killing‘ Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and reducing the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. But so far, beyond formally burying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a pact widely acknowledged as already dead for a lack of majority congressional support – Trump has accomplished nothing on the Asia trade front. The lack of action is especially problematic because many of Trump’s trade critiques – including those raised by Democrats for decades – are correct. Since his election, the situation is getting worse and whether Trump can deliver on his pledges to bring down the trade deficit and create American manufacturing jobs will be measurable via monthly government trade and jobs data.”


2016 Post Mortem

“So far, neither Clinton nor her former campaign apparatus has responded to Brazile’s assessment of the primary” [Politico]. No dooubt the Clintonite hive mind is having some trouble with this, since their goto moves are “Russian meddilng,” “Bernie Bros!,” racism, and sexism, and it’s hard to see where to fit Brazile in those categories. However, “divisive” seems to be coming up on the charts; perhaps that will work.

“Trump and Clinton spent $81M on US election Facebook ads, Russian agency $46K” [TechCrunch]. Check my math here, readers: 46,000.00 / 81,000,000 = 0.000568.” I supppose, though, that only goes to show that Russian targeting was devilishly sophisticated. Or that Democratic strategists are more incompetent (and expensive) than anyone would have believed possible.

“The DNC owes Bernie Sanders and all Dems an apology” [Brent Budowsky, The Hill]. “The DNC should bring in a major new player with a proven record of party building, such as former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, to lead a powerful march to the 2018 midterms. It is immaterial whether anyone currently at the DNC stays or leaves.” No. Not Hoho. If it’s Hoho, please kill me now.


“Virginia Governor – Gillespie vs. Northam” [RealClearPolitics]. The average of all polls: Northam 3.5% (Yesterday: 3.3%). New from The Polling Company. Northam has never trailed, since September.

“Longtime Arlington Elections Guru Predicts Near-“Presidential” Turnout, Strong Night for Virginia Dems Next Tuesday” [Blue Virginia].


“For years, the best tool to predict which party will gain House seats in any given election has been the so-called “generic ballot test.” The “generic” is a poll question that asks voters which party they’d support in the upcoming congressional election. While it can’t tell us exactly how many seats one party or the other should expect to gain/lose, it does give us a good idea of the range we can expect. And, right now, Democrats should be very happy about what they are seeing” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “The conventional wisdom, which was supported by most pollsters I spoke with this week, says that the generic ballot isn’t meaningful until at least the summer of the election year. Others say we should only really start to pay attention to the generic as a predictor of seats gained/lost around Labor Day of the election year.” And: “Finally, what is the “magic number” Democrats need to hit in the generic ballot? My colleague David Wasserman thinks Democrats need to win the national House vote by seven to eight points in order to flip the 24 seats they need to take control of Congress. Given that FiveThirtyEight’s Enten notes that the “true margin of error for generic ballot polls is about +/- 5 percentage points, even for those done at the end of the campaign,” Democrats will want to see a generic ballot advantage of nine to twelve points to feel confident that they can hit seven points on election day.”

Puerto Rico

“The Puerto Rico Contract’s Lack Of Transparency? It’s Not Unusual” [International Business Times]. “The issue was summed up in a March report from the General Services Administration Inspector General, which found that, of 45 contracts sampled, 44 were awarded without a price analysis.”

“Meet the Legal Theorists Behind the Financial Takeover of Puerto Rico” [The Nation]. Hoping they got this one right…

Trump Transition

“How the GOP tax bill will impact you differently if you’re middle-class or rich” [MarketWatch]. Summarizes of all the brackets from a taxpayer perspective.

Infrastructure: “Canada Eyes Billions in Northern Road-Rail Corridors To Gain Resource Access” [Engineering News Record]. “The infrastructure project would link the country’s far north with the rest of the country via a 4,349-mile-long, three-mile-wide corridor that could be used for roads, rail tracks pipelines and utility lines. The [Association of Consulting Engineering Companies] hopes to make the case for the ambitious project to Minister of Natural Resources James Carr and other government attendees.” Sure, it’s not passed, but at least the ACEC can get it together to push a project. If the Canadians can do this, why can’t The Greatest Country On Earth?

“One fundamental flaw, however, is that it ignores why Washington collects taxes in the first place, which is to cover the cost of the services the federal government delivers. Financed in part with budget gimmicks, the GOP plan is likely to raise the federal deficit more than its supporters acknowledge, with predictable and unwelcome results” [Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times]. Sigh.

“Five Big Sticking Points in the Republican Tax Plan” [Bloomberg]. “The ink was barely dry on the first draft when at least four [House]. Republicans declared they would vote against the bill in its current form. While the early opponents represent high-tax states that would get slammed by the plan’s elimination of state and local income-tax deductions, several other areas began to emerge as points of contention as Republicans sifted through the 429-page bill.”

“Because the fact is that in 2017, the Republican electorate is deeply, perhaps fatally, divided on a range of issues — and that very much includes taxes. A functioning party is supposed to channel public opinion into policy. But that’s not what the GOP has done with the bill released Thursday morning. It’s taken the priorities of the party’s donors and less than half of the party’s voters and championed them at the expense of the preferences of everyone else” [The Week]. “That’s the behavior of a broken party.” As readers know, I’m a big fan of gridlock. What if the tax bill turns out to be just like health care? The Republicans, out of power for eight years, turn out not to have a plan they can put to a vote, after Ryan tries (and fails), McConnell tries (and fails) and other bit players try (and fail). It would certainly be a strange world to live in if Republicans can’t manage to pass a bill that “cuts taxes,” but this is a strange world,

New Cold War

“Mueller grand jury investigating top DC lobbyists” [AP]. “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury is investigating a prominent Democratic lobbyist and a former GOP congressman for their involvement in an influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests tied to Paul Manafort, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation. At the center of the widening probe are Tony Podesta, a longtime Democratic operative, and Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman and leader of his own high-powered lobbying firm, Mercury LLC. The two men were hired as part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort directed by Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates. With the emphasis on the Ukrainian lobbying efforts, Mueller’s criminal probe is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and is aggressively pursuing people who worked as foreign agents without registering with the Justice Department. More witnesses are expected before the grand jury in coming weeks.” If the Mueller investigation must broaden its scope beyond “Russian meddling,” it would be nice if they, er, drained the swamp of influence peddling by both parties. But it’s very, very hard for me to believe that anything remotely like that is on offer. And Mueller’s no choir boy (careful of the sourcing on this one): His entrapment skills jibe nicely with Clapper’s skills in perjury and Brennan’s in torture.

“America is facing an epistemic crisis” [Vox]. “In short, an increasingly large chunk of Americans believes a whole bunch of crazy things, and it is warping our politics.” Like Federal taxes fund Federal spending, for example [guffaw]. “The primary source of this [epistemic] breach, to make a long story short, is the US conservative movement’s rejection of the mainstream institutions devoted to gathering and disseminating knowledge (journalism, science, the academy) — the ones society has appointed as referees in matters of factual dispute.” Garçon! Another round of epistemes!

Realignment and Legitimacy

Holy moley. How Facebook’s advertising sales department sees the political world (large version):

Does any of this look like anyone you know? This table looks like Mark Penn wrote it when he was drunk.

“Maine’s Legislature Is Blocking Ranked-Choice Voting. But Voters Have One Chance To Save It” [The Intercept]. “The campaigners who successfully convinced voters to support ranked-choice voting last year are not giving up. Four days after the legislature’s vote, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting Maine, or RCV Maine, submitted an application to the secretary of state to trigger what is called a ‘people’s veto.’ … The campaigners who successfully convinced voters to support ranked-choice voting last year are not giving up. Four days after the legislature’s vote, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting Maine, or RCV Maine, submitted an application to the secretary of state to trigger what is called ‘people’s veto.'” This may even be possible, assuming RCV Maine’s process is clean; they’ve done very well against implacable resistance by (most of) the political class.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, October 2017: “Wage inflation backed off but payroll growth bounced higher and the unemployment rate shrunk some more in what points to further tightening for the labor market” [Econoday]. “The unemployment rate edged 1 tenth lower to a new 17-year low at 4.1 percent. After spiking 0.5 percent in both July and September, average hourly earnings came in unchanged in October with the year-on-year rate falling back sharply to a very moderate 2.4 percent. Whether wages can stay moderate given the strong demand for labor is the puzzle of this report…. The pool of available workers shrunk sharply in the month, down 724,000 to 11.705 million which underscores the tight conditions. How long can employers dip into the pool without having to raise wages is the central question right now for policy makers. And the sharp dip in the labor participation rate, down 4 tenths to a much lower than expected 62.7 percent, suggests that discouraged workers, despite the high demand, may be drying up as a source of additional labor.” And but: “The headline jobs number was strong at 261 thousand – due to a bounce back from the hurricanes – but below expectations. However a key reason for the ‘disappointing’ headline number was that the previous two months were revised up by a combined 90 thousand jobs” [Calculated Risk]. And but: “All in all, this report would be considered weaker-than-expected on the headlines. That changes after you factor in the revisions for September and October, and then the trends still look better when comparing the large numbers to October of 2016” [247 Wall Street]. But, but, but: “This report was the bounce from the hurricane effected report from last month. The household and establishment surveys were extremely out of sync from each other. The unemployment rate cannot be believed as the household survey removed a lot of people from the workforce” [Econintersect].

International Trade, September 2017: “Exports rose 1.1 percent in the month to $196.8 billion but in a gain offset by a 1.2 percent rise for imports to $240.3 billion” [Econoday]. “Exports of industrial supplies jumped $1.9 billion in the month to $38.4 billion yet with most other components, including the key capital goods group, showing declines. A plus is exports of services which rose a solid 0.4 percent to $66.2 billion in the month. Imports of capital goods were especially strong in the month…” But: “The data in this series wobbles and the 3 month rolling averages are the best way to look at this series. The 3 month averages are declining” [Econintersect].

Purchasing Managers’ Service Index, October 2017: “Growth in the nation’s service sector remains solid based on Markit’s U.S. sample… unchanged from September though down 6 tenths from the mid-month flash” [Econoday]. “What stands out in this report is a lack of acceleration which points to a steady but still healthy fourth quarter for the bulk of the economy.”

Institute for Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, October 2017: “ISM’s non-manufacturing sample continues to report unusual strength” [Econoday]. And: “Both services surveys are in expansion. I would weight the Markit numbers higher which would indicate a slightly slowing service sector” [Econintersect].

Factory Orders, September 2017: “Today’s factory orders report, up 1.4 percent in September following a 1.2 percent rise in August, closes the book on what was a second straight strong month for manufacturing” [Econoday]. “The key to this report is core capital goods (nondefense ex-aircraft). This is a central reading for business investment and the gains are very impressive… The gains for core capital goods shipments are a boost for GDP as is a general inventory build underway, up 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent in the last two months. This build is very positive as manufacturers try to keep up with demand. The inventory-to-shipments ratio is unchanged at a very constructive 1.38… . [O]ne positive for the sector that has yet to appear, and that’s production volumes in the Federal Reserve’s industrial production report, look to bounce solidly higher based on hours data in this morning’s employment report.” But: “The data in this series is noisy so I would rely on the unadjusted 3 month rolling averages which continue to weaken. Remember the headline numbers are not inflation adjusted. Backlog of orders continues in expansion year-over-year” [Econintersect].

Commodities: “The world’s big grain processing companies are having a hard time digesting the global glut in agriculture commodities. Grain trading and processing giants Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd. are slashing hundreds of millions of dollars in spending and restructuring their operation” [Wall Street Journal]. “Several years of bumper crops in markets across the globe have kept grain prices low, upended traditional farm-sector dynamics and roiled supply chains. Farmers are storing grain rather than sell it to grain companies at low prices, and some food companies are placing fewer long-term orders since prices are expected to stay cheap.”

Retail: “Growing use of consumer data is helping drive bigger gains in online sales at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The Chinese e-commerce giant more than doubled its net profit to $2.7 billion in a blockbuster second quarter” [Wall Street Journal].

Retail: “New York City may not be a perfect test case, but lines there are often too long to wait in. Better to go to the local deli or coffee vendor. If this is a problem in many other high-traffic areas, Starbucks will have trouble building bigger stores” [247 Wall Street]. Good. Great!

Shipping: “Truckers are getting more confident than ever in the U.S. freight economy. Fleet owners ramped up orders for new heavy-duty trucks to the highest level in nearly three years [Wall Street Journal]. “Truckers are glowing over robust demand and stronger prices for shipping services to go along with it… The orders also provide a long-awaited boost to truck and engine makers that will pump up factory operations that were pulling back just a few months ago.”

Concentration: “Google boosted revenue by more than $5 billion in the third quarter, and while the core advertising business contributed the bulk of that new money, “other” businesses grew much faster” [MarketWatch]. “Though ads provide the bulk of the revenue, Google’s segment noted as “Other” grew twice as fast, adding 40% compared with the same period last year. The segment—which includes the Google Cloud Platform, hardware sales and revenue from the Google Play store—logged $3.41 billion of revenue, up from $2.43 billion a year ago. Alphabet does not disclose exact revenue figures for the different parts of that revenue segment, but on its earnings call, executives did list the divisions from greatest to least amount of revenue—cloud, apps, hardware.”

The Bezzle: “Blue Apron Holdings Inc. is having trouble fulfilling customer ordersand investor expectations. The meal-kit delivery company more than doubled its net loss in the third quarter to $87.2 million…, amid signs that the fulfillment operations at the heart of its business are growing costlier and slower” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company and competitors like HelloFresh and Plated have drawn consumer interest to a new business, but the results suggest they’re still working on a profitable logistics recipe.”

The Fed: “Donald Trump’s short time in office has been met with a barrage of criticism over more things than you can shake a stick at—and most of it is richly deserved. But his pick of Jerome Powell as the new Federal Reserve chair is not one of them. He has handled this very important task well and deserves praise for doing so” [MarketWatch]. “Powell, a former investment banker and member of the Fed’s board of governors since 2012—shares Trump’s view that one piece of conventional wisdom on the economy is wrong: namely that it’s not destined to grow at an anemic 2%, like it has for many years now. If they’re right, if we can grow at 3% or more on a sustained basis—and the last two quarters have put us there—it could possibly result in something that Trump haters (as much as two-thirds of the country) simply can’t stomach: a second term. I personally don’t see it, but anything’s possible in this topsy-turvy world…. What I do see—and this is unquestionably a contrarian view—is the steady-as-she-goes U.S. economy running into headwinds in the next year or two—and that’s why Powell may have trouble on his hands.”

The Fed: “Shocking: Trump Makes the Right Choice With Jerome Powell” [Steven Rattner, New York Times]. “Mr. Trump, more surprisingly, picked by far the better suited of his two semipublic finalists. That’s because Mr. Powell, a current member of the Federal Reserve Board, resides firmly in the camp of supporters of the Fed’s policy of maintaining its low interest policy as long as inflation stays muted and wage increases remain stubbornly small… Mr. Powell, a lawyer and, later, a partner at the investment firm Carlyle Group, has substantial amounts of [experience in Washington and in finance], including at the Treasury Department.”

The Fed: “Trump’s Fed pick is incredibly important. And he made a good call” [Editorial Board, WaPo]. “Mr. Powell is a lawyer, not an economist, but he served in the George H.W. Bush Treasury Department and has obtained extensive central-bank experience serving on the Fed’s Board of Governors. His appointment signals that the Fed’s recent approach probably will not change drastically. That is a good thing.”

Five Horsemen: “Apple gets a lift after its earnings report.” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Nov 3

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 69 Greed (previous close: 72, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 71 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Nov 1 at 8:00pm That’s what the update date is…

Our Famously Free Press

“Want to be a better online sleuth? Learn to read webpages like a fact-checker.” [Poynter Institute], “Instead of reading an entire web page from top to bottom, fact-checkers frequently scanned the page, jumping in and out of the browser tab to check the validity of a website. That ‘lateral reading’ style enabled them to quickly detect fake news sites at much higher rates than students and historians, who often fell for official-looking logos and domain names… The study casts doubt on the efficacy of current news literacy efforts at colleges and universities. One common feature are checklists like the CRAAP test that are aimed at helping students determine whether or not information should be trusted. Wineburg and co-author Sarah McGrew write in the article that those are unhelpful because they focus students’ attention on the most easily manipulated parts of a website, such as the logos and URLs.”

“When the Facebook Traffic Goes Away” [The Atlantic]. From Facebook’s perspective, the company has to be allowed to try out new versions of its software. It can’t be asked to keep its tools static because publishers have gotten used to them. And some tests might need to be disruptive to get to a future, better Facebook. This iterative process is, in fact, how Facebook has built the product that so many people use for an average of more than 50 minutes per day. But Facebook did not simply end up controlling news distribution in countries across the world. They strategically entered the market, much as any company would, as part of their own competitive battle with other internet companies. Some responsibility must come with the deliberate rerouting of the public sphere through Facebook’s servers and ad networks. Right?” And: “Are all the people in the test areas some tiny percentage of Facebook’s user base (say, 1 percent) who want to see more posts from their family and friends, or are they the citizens of six sovereign nations who have come to rely on Facebook as a crucial part of their news-distribution infrastructure?”

“Steve Brill — founder of American Lawyer, Court TV, Brill’s Content and the Yale Journalism Initiative — has almost finished raising $6 million to launch News Guard, which will rate news content so search and social-media platforms can help their users know what to trust” [Axios]. “Rating will be done by ‘qualified, accountable human beings,’ not algorithms. They’ll hire 40-60 journalists, who will be ‘well-paid.’ They expect to have a product for U.S. users by mid-2018.” Did we used to have news rooms that did this?

Health Care

ObamaCare open enrollment begins:

“Your perfect plan…” Have these people lost their minds?


“The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health” [The Lancet]. “The Lancet Countdown tracks progress on health and climate change and provides an independent assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement,1 and the health implications of these actions. It follows on from the work of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change,2 which concluded that anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health, and conversely, that a comprehensive response to climate change could be ‘the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”” Free log-in for the whole article; well worth a read.

“How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.” [BBC]. “Once upon a time, says Sam [Kean], around 70,000 B.C., a volcano called Toba, on Sumatra, in Indonesia went off, blowing roughly 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. It is the largest volcanic eruption we know of, dwarfing everything else…. That eruption dropped roughly six centimeters of ash — the layer can still be seen on land — over all of South Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian and South China Sea….” So if Mother Nature wants to take care of any little problems…

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Now we know:

Class Warfare

“Saudi Arabia criticized for giving female robot citizenship, while it restricts women’s rights” [ABC].

“About that Great Moderation” [Yeah But… Thoughts on Economics]. “Financial fragility apart, the Great Moderation era has also generally been associated with prolonged periods of slack in the labor market. Note that the unemployment rate has been above NAIRU for the majority of this period compared with the previous era. Thus, stability in inflation may well have been purchased by keeping the labor market perennially weak, in which case the low overall GDP growth during this era must also be chalked to Great Moderation policies rather than other forces that apologists are wont to do.”

News of the Wired

“Documentary on the endangered art of hollerin’, possibly the earliest form of human communications” [Boing Boing]. A classic.

“USS McCain collision ultimately caused by UI confusion” [Ars Technica]. “[I]n the case of the USS McCain, the accident was in part caused by an error made in switching which control console on the ship’s bridge had steering control. While the report lays the blame on training, the user interface for the bridge’s central navigation control systems certainly played a role.” Fascinating piece: “In the course of 3 minutes of confusion in a high traffic sea channel, the McCain was in irreversible trouble.”

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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 (Oguk):

Also, it would be nice to have more pictures of people’s gardens buttoned up for the winter, for those of you for whom winter is coming. And fall foliage, ditto.

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the NC fundraiser. So do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click the hat!


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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. Altandmain

    Apparently, there is an article out that is claiming the Democratic Establishment purged Bernie Sanders supporters from the DNC to keep the budget a secret.


    Also, it is sad how little coverage thay the mainstream media has given to the extent of the DNC sabotaging of Sanders. We now know the truth. It is no surprise. The MSM is in the hands of the oligarchs.

    The same will happen when the fallout from the Clinton campaign dishonestly claiming making up how Russia caused Trump to win comes out.

      1. Sid Finster

        Hint: anyone who has ever dealt in high-end NYC or Miami residential real estate has dealt with shady Russians. It’s not just Trump.

        That said, the primary responsibility for money laundering compliance lies with the banks and title companies, not sellers. So when you sell your house, RESPA doesn’t make you responsible for verifying the source of the buyer’s funds.

        That said, I am 169% certain that if Mueller looks hard enough, he will find something. This is not because Trump is more (or less) corrupt than any other NYC real estate developer, but because the criminal laws are sufficiently broad and far reaching that an aggressive prosecutor can always find an excuse to go after anyone.

        This, BTW, is entirely by design.

        1. Ellery O'Farrell

          Per Cardinal Richelieu: If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

          Disputed, though not inapposite, quotation: something he may well have said.

          And that’s for honest men. NY real estate developers? Lobbyists? They’re sunk. *If* someone goes after them….

    1. Arizona Slim

      It’s already in the book, Shattered.

      Toward the end of that book, there’s a passage describing how the “Russia! Russia! Russia!” narrative came about. It was planned in a room that was littered with empty Shake Shack containers.

      Which reminds me, I need to keep working on building my Russian vocabulary. I’ve just about got the alphabet down, and I’m getting better at letter and word recognition.

      Learning the Russian language has turned into quite the project.

      1. Notorious P.A.T.

        Do you remember why they thought that Russia would want to keep Hillary from winning? If I recall, it was because she said something mean about Vladimir Putin.

        1. John Zelnicker

          @Notorious P.A.T. – I think one of the main reasons Putin didn’t want Hillary as president is that she had lobbied for and intended to implement a no-fly zone over Syria which would have been tantamount to a declaration of war on Russia as soon as we shot down their first plane.

          Whatever one thinks of Putin, I feel quite confident he does not want get into a shooting war with the US.

      2. audrey jr

        Cool, Arizona Slim. I am teaching myself Russian., too. My husband has some awesome Russian language textbooks from U of Illinois C/U where he did his undergrad and they are sooo helpful. My favorite letter of the Russian alphabet is shch. What a cool sound!
        My uncle is Fulbright scholar in linguistics and he did his post-doc at University of Kiev in the mid 70’s. He used to send us audiotapes instead of letters from there and I was always excited to see a postmark from Helsinki in the mail. He loved teaching and living there and his accounts of the Russian students he had were delightful.
        The kids there were very curious about life in the USA and devoured anything American, especially music and clothing.
        He’s never had a bad thing to say about his time there. I’ve been utterly fascinated by Russia through him and so it particularly galls me when I hear all of the Russia bashing going on.
        Wish we could get rid of this nonsensical cold war mentality. So counterproductive.

      3. Altandmain

        Yes it was covered in Shattered. The only thing we need is the final nail in the coffin about the big lie on Russia being the culprit.

        Let’s face it, admitting that Russia was not to blame would be tantamount for the Establishment Democrats to admit that the base and many swing voters have legitimate economic grievances against the Clintons.

      4. The Rev Kev

        I, for one, shall be welcoming our new Russian overlords when western society implodes of its own corruption.

    2. Oregoncharles

      I want some credit for my prediction, early last year, that the Dems would cheat to keep him out if they needed to – or even, really, if they didn’t, just to make sure. I feel that my laurels are very firmly affixed.

    3. Notorious P.A.T.

      Well, there’s always the alternative media. I bet DailyKos is all over this story…

      …hmm, no mention at all. Funny, that!

    4. Elizabeth Burton

      The MSM are going to ignore it because they were complicit in making sure the sabotage happened. They can’t really cover the Brazile “revelation” in any depth without exposing that. It’s why they jumped on the whole “Russia!” thing as fast as they could after the Wikileaks reveal. At least, that’s how I read it, based on personal media CYA experience.

      1. sleepy

        Actually, on the MSNBC morning Joe Scarborough show it was covered. I thought relatively fairly too. One guy kept saying it was all just divisive and did nothing but give Trump ammunition, but he was swatted down by others responding that the dems better clean up their act. It was also noted that some on the show had said 18 months ago that the DNC was corrupt and unfairly in the tank for Hillary.

          1. Octopii

            Comments on WaPo are furious about the divisiveness. I can’t figure out who those people are, so in love with the HRC Dems. Perhaps David Brock is still under contract?

      2. pretzelattack

        the guardian is still managing to ignore the story. they still manage to beg for contributions regularly, though.

        1. Tvc15

          Reminds me of the primaries when I stopped reading the Guardian because of the daily Hillary is the best candidate ever pieces.

      3. Enquiring Minds

        Journolist seems like a faded postcard from a distant country. What has changed in the intervening years and what new software platforms may get venture funding to support current incarnations? ;p

  2. Tooearly

    Speaking of Clinton, I had never noticed how well loved our former president is over at Twitter routinely garnering more likes than carrot top . It makes me feel I must either live in the wrong country or that there are ways of skewing these results…

  3. Jim Haygood

    From the 13F form which the Swiss National Bank is obliged to file with the SEC, we know that the gnomes of Zurich now hold a startling $88 billion of US stocks.

    And their top five holdings? You guessed it — the Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse charted above. Here are the SNB’s ranked share holdings in a bar chart:


    SNB’s next 15 stocks are mostly straight out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, trading at a fresh record as we speak.

    Rampant ramping from check-kiting buyers who can operate (if need be) with negative net worth: this does not end well.

    But it makes for a great show while the central planners’ fireworks are still painting the darkening sky with incandescent streaks of peach and pink.

    1. kristiina

      Mmmm… I aporeciate the poetical way you express the 13F. There is somethig like sweet-and-sour feel in it. Whatever may come out of this, beauty is always valuable. Thank you!

  4. allan

    Changes Made to Inflation Calculations in Tax Bill [WSJ]

    House Republicans made a change in their tax bill Friday, changing the method for calculating inflation adjustments in the tax code.

    The switch to using the so-called chained consumer price index instead of the regular consumer price index would now occur in 2018, instead of 2023. That change should reduce the size of the tax cuts, especially in future years.

    Starting that inflation change earlier compounds over time. In the first version of the plan, the switch to chained CPI raised $39.2 billion over a decade. The new version raises $128.2 billion, according to an estimate released Friday by the Joint Committee on Taxation. …

    $89 billion here, $89 billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real class warfare.
    And you thought that only Dems would use chained CPI to grift the little people …

    For the record, I’m a Formerly Youthful Politically Engaged Great Outdoors Traveling Post Grad Nest Emptier,
    although sadly I’m not on Facebook.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Whereas if R’s had half a brain, they’d index inflation adjustments to Congressional salaries.

      The more we make, the more y’all save!

        1. ambrit

          Really go for the jugular; chain the inflation metric to the average net worth of the top political contributors.

    2. Ellery O'Farrell

      AFAIK, it means that if you used to buy steak, but can’t afford it (or hamburger) any more and substitute beef cat food, the CPI would measure the cost of your cat food consumption. Because it’s what you’re buying instead. Corrections, anyone?

  5. DonCoyote

    The average of all polls: Northam 3.5% (Yesterday: 3.3%). New from The Polling Company. Northam has never trailed, since September.

    So, based on the accuracy of political polls over the last two years, the fact that Dems have poured a lot of money into the race, and the lack of progressive positions, Gillespie then?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > So, based on the accuracy of political polls over the last two years, the fact that Dems have poured a lot of money into the race, and the lack of progressive positions, Gillespie then?

      Thinking back to 2016, the margin was dynamic; Trump would collapse, then pull even, multiple times, suggesting (as proved to be the case) that the electorate was volatile.

      Nothing like that pattern here.

    2. Octopii

      Re Virginia:
      We are being bombarded with TV ads. Gillespie’s are good – he comes across as a sensible, firm, levelheaded guy who wants to do well by Virginians. Northam’s ads are oddly soft – he comes across as a gentle, slow-moving country boy without much drive. Republican AG candidate John Adams started out looking like a silly dork but in recent ads he looks solid and hits Dem Mark Herring hard on a gender pay equity lawsuit. Repub LG candidate Jill Vogel comes across great – humane but sensible, almost unlike a typical Republican. She supports de-gerrymandering congressional districts. But friends of a friend know her and say she’s crazy – not sure exactly what that means. LG candidate Justin Fairfax (D) is also known by friends of friends and is supposedly a nice guy, but I have seen zero ads featuring him on TV. There was a short-lived mini scandal when he was left off a Dem doorhanger because the sponsor of the doorhanger supported Northam and Herring but not Fairfax (who is black).

      I’ve been following Gillespie for years and he’s a conservative nut bag who would probably green light offshore drilling and come up with another bathroom bill. There’s a lot of support for him outside of Northern Virginia. Northam seems to have a solid background but I’m having trouble reconciling it with the way he comes across on camera. In any case I suppose he’d be better for the state. Virginia historically alternates terms between Dem and Repub, and it’s the Repubs’ turn.

  6. DJG

    “Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman and leader of his own high-powered lobbying firm, Mercury LLC.”

    Acolyte of Gingrich?
    Involved in the congressional check-kiting scandal?
    Revolving door?
    Ethically challenged?

    That Vin Weber? Things are getting interesting indeed.

    1. Pavel

      Yes indeed, when I saw Vin Weber’s name I recalled some of the earlier scandals of his. Though IIRC that didn’t stop him from being interviewed on NPR or PBS at times. He is one of the many consummate DC politico-insider-lobbyists.

      I ranted and raved at my father earlier; he was angry with the Trump scandal du jour but I pointed out that *John Podesta* was WJC chief of staff and then founded one of DC’s biggest lobbying firms (clients including that paragon of human rights and progressivism, Saudi Arabia) with his brother Tony, and then went on to head HRC’s campaign. Can DC politics and lobbying be any more incestuous?

      The great thing is seeing Tony (and perhaps John) Podesta sucked into the Russia “scandal”… a pox on all their houses! And if Vin Weber falls as well all the better.

  7. Big River Bandido

    The Brent Budowsky editorial at The Hill contains a laughable error from someone who is supposed to be in the know:

    What matters is that someone like Dean, who was a superb chair of the DNC committed to party building in all 50 states, essentially becomes the DNC czar and is tasked with winning control of the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms.

    The national party committee — the DNC — is tasked with presidential elections only. The House and Senate races are, respectively, the purview of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC). Given how corrupt and ineffective the DNC, DCCC and DSCC are — controlled as they are by the same lobbyists and loser consultants who have blown countless elections for decades — that it’s easy to confuse them and conflate their roles in the debacle. But writers for publications like The Hill ought to have their basic facts straight.

    No wonder the general public is so “misinformed” about politics.

  8. Jim Haygood

    Lambert has joked about steam-powered mainframes. But coal-fired Bitcoin mines are real:

    Alex De Vries has come up with some estimates by diving into data made available on a coal-powered Bitcoin mine in Mongolia.

    [He] estimates that with prices the way they are now, it would be profitable for Bitcoin miners to burn through over 24 terawatt-hours of electricity annually as they compete to solve increasingly difficult cryptographic puzzles to mine more Bitcoins.

    This averages out to a shocking 215 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of juice used by miners for each Bitcoin transaction — enough energy to run a comfortable house, and everything in it, for nearly a week.

    I asked de Vries whether it was possible for Bitcoin to scale its way out of this problem.

    “Blockchain is inefficient tech by design, as we create trust by building a system based on distrust. If you only trust yourself and a set of rules (the software), then you have to validate everything that happens against these rules yourself. That is the life of a blockchain node,” he said via direct message.


    Just as tulips starred in the Dutch mania of 1634 and Internet stocks were the rage when we partied like 1999, with its monstrous, orders-of-magnitude runup Bitcoin is the indelible poster child of Bubble III.

    Though as is often the case, Internet stocks which got top billing in Bubble I are enjoying an echo bubble now, even as new kid Bitcoin blazes the trail to the chimerical stars and beyond.

    Black coal … Bitcoin tea.

    1. jsn

      Crypto currencies are “commodity money” where the commodity is a long calculation.

      The long calculation burns energy for no purpose but back a money.

      The power used to calculate coins into existence produces pollution and other ecologically destructive waste products.

      That ecological degradation destroys life, mostly other species through extinction but lots and lots of people too, particularly in Asia.

      Crypto currencies are money backed by death.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      How do the BTUs from bitcoin, which are considerable, compare to ‘the cloud’.

      All new energy sinks. Perhaps a solution to demand destruction?

  9. hemeantwell

    No dooubt the Clintonite hive mind is having some trouble with this, since their goto moves are “Russian meddilng,” “Bernie Bros!,

    Exactly! There was nothing in the Times about it this morning, nor in the Guardian. Hunch: they realize that if they make too little of it the pretense of being a source of Notfakenews will even more jeopardized than it already is.

    1. Massinissa

      Its getting to the point where if one wants to see mainstream media coverage of the bad stuff the Dems are doing, you have to watch Fox News, because much of the mainstream media is apparently not interested in those stories..

      1. The Rev Kev

        When you think about it, these as well as other mentions of non-reporting made by other commentators are quite valuable as data points. You could frame the question as ‘which news sources censor their own news feeds because some stories show who they support to be corrupt and vile’.
        The story is not so much that the Democrats are a FUBAR operation but that ALL Americans were cheated out of who they may or may not have wanted to vote for last year. The competitions were rigged before they were even held and the American people were expected to shut up and take it.
        So, from some points mentioned from commentators here, we have involved Facebook, the Guardian, the Daily Kos, the Times and shall we say a host of MSM others? And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Yves has made such a smashing success out of her Naked Capitalism site as shown by over one million comments made since its inception.

  10. Jim Haygood

    Yesterday Venezuela declared a debt restructuring:

    President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised speech Thursday that Venezuela and its state-run oil company, PDVSA, will seek to restructure their debt payments.

    The oil company made a $1.1 billion payment on Thursday, he said, a sizable amount for a country with only $10 billion left in the bank. “But after this payment, starting today, I decree a refinancing and a restructuring of the external debt,” Maduro told the country.

    [Maduro’s] top negotiator has a problem: he can’t do business in the U.S.

    Maduro has appointed Vice President Tareck El Aissami to lead the debt restructuring efforts. In February, the U.S. Treasury Department accused El Aissami of drug trafficking and froze his assets in the U.S. El Aissami denies the accusations.


    Bond rating agencies treat forced restructuring as a default. Standard & Poor’s credit rating for Venezuela stands at CCC- with negative outlook. Moody’s credit rating for Venezuela was last set at CC. Fitch’s credit rating for Venezuela was last reported at CCC. These are “deep junk” ratings. A D rating means default.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe one could suggest a similar action for Puerto Rico? And maybe a yuuge cooperative consortium of student debtors? Rip the F-ing bandaids ™ off quick, not peel ’em back slowly, excruciatingly extracting one hurting hair at a time….

      1. Jim Haygood

        excruciatingly extracting one hurting hair at a time….

        Economic torture is most effectively administered with high inflation.

        In May of 2017 we began to collect prices in Venezuela with a group of volunteers who visit stores every week in different cities and collect prices through our mobile application for Android phones.”


        In the five months since the experiment began, prices recorded by volunteer surveyors in Venezuela have more than doubled (index value of 207.82 on 26 Oct 2017 vs 100.00 on 22 May 2017).

    2. Jim Haygood

      Venezuelan bond prices were pummeled today in the wake of Maduro’s restructuring comments. A couple of benchmark issues fell from prices in the mid to high 40s to the low 30s. Chart:


      Venezuela and state-owned companies (primarily oil company PDVSA) have $49 billion in bonds governed by New York law, says a Reuters article.

      It’s like Argentina deja vu. U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa is tanned, rested and ready to interpret how New York law applies to Venezuela. ;-)

  11. Lil’D

    “Your perfect plan”

    “The appropriate sh*t sandwich“

    Menu includes
    The Merde: with that certain je ne se quois
    The scheisse: includes sauerkraut

  12. Big River Bandido

    Re: the Vox article on “epistemic crisis”. This is rich:

    In short, an increasingly large chunk of Americans believes a whole bunch of crazy things…

    Two sentences later:

    As Ezra Klein laid out, there is enough on the record now to make it at the very least highly probable that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia…

    I don’t think the writers were intending to be ironic, were they?

    1. Synoia

      there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia

      It’s a typo

      there was a collision between the Trump campaign and Russia

  13. D

    Re: the Want to be a better online sleuth, Poynter piece,

    Too bad they didn’t give any detail on who those Professional Fact Checkers™, noted in the Stanford study, were. I’ve never heard of that profession, though I think it fits (at least it should, yet increasingly, …) Non-Fiction Authors; Journalists; Lawyers; and ‘Law Enforcers’. And, as we’ve all seen, increasingly, way too many of those professions utterly – way too many times, deliberately, for their own profit and awards – drop the ball in a sometimes utterly deadly fashion.

    Nor was there further detail on what those checkers considered the validity of a website. If it was a blogger, with few followers, reiterating a personal experience, was it immediately considered as FALSE information, versus contacting the person to substantiate?

    In other words, it would have been nice to read the details of what those checkers deemed invalid.

    For my own purposes, when I come upon a new news site, I always check: the About Page; The Demographics of the: Staff; BOD, Advisors, Investors, and Affiliates Pages; the Resources Page; the Contacts Page (if there is no phone number, yet teeming with the resources and employees able to provide one, I give it a big fat X for utterly excluding unacknowledged millions who have: now lost, still do not have (nor particularly want in many instances) internet access outside of a library; ditto for GMail [GMen?] addresses, what about Google scanning a persons private correspondences, don’t people get?); Their twits (which can be read, even if not on twitter); A referral to a Facebook Page vs. a separate blog (a big fat MINUS, particularly for entities which are well known – like the ACLU and EFF – and needn’t have a Facebook Page); Demanding that Cookies™ be allowed; Way too many PODCASTS, which I can no longer access, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, in the same vein of access blocking of the poverty ridden who are growing exponentially, despite college degrees, etcetera.

    Sorry got to log off, every time I think about the details of the BIG FIVE [PLUS] TECH and their Mentors – yes, I do have Stanford Issues having lived and toiled in Silicon Valley for decades – I get more morose. I’m absolutely positive many considered invalid in the areas surrounding Cambridge Massachusetts have MIT issues, and many considered invalid in Pittsburgh, PA, have CMU issues, mostly centering around so called Alien Intelligence™, it should be renamed: EI, for Elite Intelligence™.

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      Look, I get it. A lot of people here hate social media because they have no use for it. However, speaking as someone who does have use for it, avoiding a source of information because they choose to have a Facebook page, where they have the opportunity to literally interface with billions, instead of a blog that only those who like reading blogs is going to read, is shortsighted at best.

      Facebook is a tool. It’s a flawed tool, and subject to being stolen for reasons beyond one’s control; but there is ample statistical evidence it is one of the best tools for communication with large numbers of people. Nor does one need to have it constantly in one’s face. I have Messenger on one of my phones solely because I encourage people who need to get hold of me on short notice to use it if they’re on Facebook. I don’t have the Facebook app on either phone. I refuse to allow notifications. So, I only have to interact with Facebook when I choose. Likewise with Twitter.

      I know all the arguments against being involved with Google et al., and I do avoid them as much as possible. However, cutting off my nose to spite my face strikes me as unnecessarily painful, so I use the tool with the understanding the tool is also using me. And that works for me. It has also made it possible for me to wean at least a few people off the Russia-gate teat, so I’ll consider that a win.

      1. Yves Smith

        I hate to tell you, the idea that you are influencing anyone, let alone “billions” is a myth the likes of Google foster to get you to give them free content. There is no evidence that people are swayed by anything they see on social media. People are very wedded to their priors. Aside from truly social purposes (talking about your life), people either select “friends” that align with their views (recall the mass unfriending that occurred by Dem loyalists if you revealed you’d voted for someone other than Hillary? People lost real world friends over that) or trolling, harassing people with the “wrong” views. Do you think that works there with any more success than it does on NC?

        See these posts:



        Your best shot of changing someone’s mind is on on one in the real world. That’s why it happens so rarely.

        1. David, by the lake

          “Your best shot of changing someone’s mind is one on one in the real world”

          Amen to that. Real reality is woefully underrated these days, as are open and respectful conversations with other actual human beings with whom we might have differences of value or perspective.

      2. Daryl

        Personally, I wouldn’t deny a Facebook page can be a good source of information. (Certainly for a lot of the bands that I like, social media is the *only* place to get information). I just think that, on the balance, it’s not beneficial to me to have that information at the cost of using Facebook.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        I don’t think you are really in contact with billions. If you want to propagate your post beyond your own small circle, you have to pay. Twitter (bless its heart) is not like that. Nor is the Internet, not being a walled garden.

      4. skippy

        Yeah must be why FB wanted a drivers license for me to continue to debate economic and political subjects….

        Don’t miss it and can say it does have lingering side effects…. sorta like contestants in a reality TV show…

        Disheveled… please do take me to task as I have worked with and been a willing participant in on line behavioral studies… make my day…

        1. cnchal

          . . . must be why FB wanted a drivers license for me to continue to debate economic and political subjects….

          Why not a passport or some officially collected DNA? Why would Farcebook even relate the “government” permission to operate a vehicle with your ability to verbally skewer debate opponents? What are they afraid of, your printed words on a screen?

          1. skippy

            It was just about the time that I took some old compatriots to task over their opinions on Hillary Clinton. People that once took Austrians and neoclassicals to task just lost the plot when it came to any unsavory facts about her.

            At the end of the day their intellectual rigor went right out the window, became the very thing they once decried, blind followers….

        2. ambrit

          I’m late to this, but, aren’t all online activities basically ‘behavioural studies?’ If everything online is analyzed for some fell purpose now, that would constitute a study, no?
          The purpose of said studies now, that would be a point of contention.
          I’m more and more relieved that I did not fall prey to the ‘glamour’ of Facebook.
          As an example of the ‘other’ reality floating about, I’m watching an anole lizard scuttle about the leaves of an indoor plant in the window next to the computer desk. Little things like that help me focus on worthwhile subjects.

  14. Lee

    Re Republican tax proposal:

    I did the calculation. If I lose the state and local tax deduction my federal taxes increase by about 20%. My mortgage interest deduction is right at the cap. I’m assuming there are millions in more or less the same boat as me here in high tax, high housing cost CA. Not only do blue states already get back less in federal taxes than we pay, now we won’t even be able to deduct our higher state taxes. I wonder how the typical Trump supporter will fare? Income, race and age put me in his key demographic but I live in a state he will never win.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      I live in a state he did win, and one represented by 5 Rep. congress-oids inc Paul Ryan, and my math is comparable, though it’s hard to know the impact of the “lower” tax rates. I haven’t seen the cut-off points where rates change.

  15. Jeff W

    However, “divisive” seems to be coming up on the charts; perhaps that will work.

    I’d place my money on “Nothing to see here” based on this near-complete paragraph from Donna Brazile herself:

    I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any in party affairs or among the staff. I had gone department by department, investigating individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions, and I was happy to see that I had found none.

    That leaves out the last line “Then I found this agreement” (i.e., the actual agreement itself, the Joint Fundraising Agreement), under which Clinton and her campaign would “control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised…[have] the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, …make final decisions on all the other staff [and have to be consulted] about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.” None of that means anything, of course. The Clinton campaign was able to exert control in all those things, sure, but did it, in fact, act improperly? Nothing to see here. Move along.

    1. sd

      Elephant in the room: Why did Brazile steal the debate questions and give them to Clinton?

      There is no good answer to that question:
      Brazile’s lack of faith in Clinton’s debate skills
      Clinton’s lack of faith in her own debate skills
      Brazile owed Clinton
      Brazile sucking up to Clinton

  16. The Rev Kev

    Re How Human Beings Almost Vanished From Earth In 70,000 B.C.
    This is really a much bigger deal than that article gives justice for. First, a bit of perspective. If you could crowd all seven billion humans alive today into a crowd with the standard 4 people per square meter, that works out to be about 1,750 square kilometers which is about the size of a very small island (like Stewart Island off New Zealand) so yeah, maybe our numbers are not that impressive after all. However, after Toba exploded, you could fit all the remaining survivors into a standard house block. This is frightening. As a race we came right to the edge and nearly went over.
    This explained why there is not so much genetic differences in a race that actually goes back a few million years. Without Toba, there would have been a much richer variety of genetic differences in humans nowadays. I am not saying that we would have tolerated it as a people but being human would mean something much more different than what we regard nowadays. Toba to us is an example of a genetic bottleneck but to the people at the time it would have been the hell of a nuclear winter with tens of thousands of people dying by the numbers of starvation and everywhere covered in ash.

    1. VietnamVet

      Once there were 40 breeding pairs of homo sapiens, 70,000 years ago. I can’t think of two more wasteful expenditures of energy than bitcoins and flaring natural gas at oil fields. If there are any breeding pairs left trying to live off the sunshine falling each day on the earth; will they wonder at the greed and wastefulness of their ancestors. This almost reaches the insanity of killing each other due to the color of our skin that is a result of how close to the equator the offspring of the 40 pairs lived.

      1. ambrit

        “The Sheep Look Up” is as good, as is “The Shockwave Rider.” Also fun, Fritz Leibers “A Spectre is Haunting Texas.”

    2. moocao

      Genesis 3:24.

      “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life”

      Toba is that you??

  17. D

    Elizabeth, re:

    A lot of people here hate social media because they have no use for it.

    It goes much, much further than having no use for it, Elizabeth. There is: privacy violation; 24/7 surveillance; profiting off of one’s intimate personal data; psychological profiling; and the revolving door between a corrupted DC and Facebook, Google, Amazon, etcetera, being key reasons.

    One generally does not have to deal with any of the above when they communicate in person, or on a landline phone. Further, given the amount of photos “shared” on Facebook, and given Facebook’s obsession with Facial Recognition, it is horrifying for certain persons whose photos are being shared on Facebook, with no informed consent. Those who are being stalked, bullied, or may have protest arrests, come to mind immediately.

    At the very least, you should add those who have good reason to remain private but are sucked onto Facebook pages and databanks– with no informed consent – by Facebookers who are not in their shoes, as yet another reason why some hate Facebook, etc.. Honestly, Zuckerberg’s own horrid quotes, and the whole bit about hoovering up people’s cellphone contact lists should have horrified everyone who knew away from using it.

    As to Messenger, I’ve not a clue what you’re referring too, since I’ve never used Facebook. Despite once having a profession (which turned out to be utterly corrupted) and having been quite adept with useful software ‘tools,’ not at all that long ago, I can now only afford a landline and a cheap cellphone without any bells and whistles (I actually don’t want any, it was supposed to be a phone, after all) which is needed since all of the phone booths disappeared.

    (my apologies, due to my shoestring internet access on Dial Up, I’m unable to ‘nest’ comments.)

  18. Indrid Cold

    re: Volcanos. Famously, there’ve been more serious extinctions. And ones humans probably wouldn’t get past. Dinosaurs made it past the KT event and reptile made it past the Permian extinction (which no one yet agrees on a cause/s for – , &c. I can’t see us managing something like that. Raccoon…maybe.

    re: USS McCain – Is that ship named for the senator’s father Admiral McCain? I found it ironic that famously bad pilot John McCain would have a ship named after him that crashed. Heh.

    1. MichaelSF

      Named after both his admiral father AND grandfather.

      My b-i-l is an Annapolis grad, and he says that everyone knew that the only thing that kept McCain from being bounced (for more than one reason) from the academy was the status of his father and grandfather.

    2. redleg

      Permian extinction has been linked to the Siberian flood basalts. There was a recent study that I read in the GSA newsletter about that.

  19. Cancyn

    “Want to be a better online sleuth? Learn to read webpages like a fact-checker.”

    As a community college librarian, I have taught many students to evaluate websites using CRAAP (currency, relevance, authority, acuaracy and purpose). None of those are about logos or URLs. CRAAP is about understanding the who (who is responsible for this site, what ( what is it really about) why (why does it exist – to sell, to entertain, to inform) when (when was it created) and so what (is the info really pertinent to my information need) of a website or page. A student using the CRAAP evaluation thoroughly can decide if the info on a website is BS, or good enough to settle a bar bet or indeed credible enough to use as a source in an essay. They have to check other sources, read more about the creator, etc. It is about critical thinking. And sadly, in my experience, few students have the curiousity needed to do such deep dives into the resources they’re using for their school work.

    1. moocao

      And why should students take such an effort to do so, when authoritative sources such as New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, etc also fails in that regard?

      Critical thinking fostering aside, there is no more waste of time then trying to find out if someone is lying to you theough those pages when doing homework.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks! (One would expect Poynter, of all people, to be right about this).

      Poynter reached out to the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico — where the CRAAP test was created — but had not received comment as of publication.

      So I guess we have the response….

    3. CanCyn

      Lambert – you’re welcome.

      Moocoa – discerning BS from good information is something that everyone should be able to do. I don’t know why you think that students are wasting their time doing so. We do talk about ‘fake news’ in classes too.
      If there is any kind of silver lining in the dark cloud of the last few years it is that people are talking about and seeming to understand just how much they’ve been lied to over the last few years. Learning that there are other sources of news and how much the media cowtow to their corporate owners is great for students wouldn’t you say?

  20. skippy

    “Saudi Arabia criticized for giving female robot citizenship, while it restricts women’s rights”

    Ahem… file under programmable – rights – Stepford wives are afforded…

    disheveled… freedom from choice thingy….

  21. Victoria

    The Facebook political segmentation fiasco is certainly the result of their mis-use of “indexes,” which are a statistical tool that shows whether a group rates above average on some specific characteristic (average is 100, so anything above 100 is “indexing high”). The problem with indexes is that a group can “index high” on some particular characteristic while still having a very low actual percentage of people with that characteristic. So for example if “multicultural millenials” index at 120 for “Kardashians”, that could still represent just 10% of the group as long as the average across all groups is low, say 2%. Sorry to bore you but mis-use of indexes to characterize segments is one of my pet peeves.

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