By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Readers, I will be back after putting in a laundry with the stuff I just couldn’t get to! –lambert UPDATE 3:00PM All done!
“Net Neutrality isn’t the only thing the current FCC is screwing up” [TechCrunch]. “In mid-November, the Commission decided to ‘re-think‘ its Lifeline program, which provides subsidies for broadband internet subscriptions to low-income Americans in cities and tribal regions around the country.”
“Net Neutrality’s Holes in Europe May Offer Peek at Future in U.S.” [New York Times]. “Last spring, Swedes got a tantalizing offer: If they subscribed to Sweden’s biggest telecom provider, Telia Company AB, they could have unlimited access on their mobile phones to Facebook, Spotify, Instagram and other blockbuster apps.”
“Trump’s disdain casts unease over World Trade Organization summit” [Politico]. “President Donald Trump’s disdain for multilateral trade deals is casting a shadow over this year’s event. And nations who have long depended on the United States to drive the policy agenda and lead the battle to lower global trade barriers are looking to see who, if anyone, they might be able to count on to fill the leadership vacuum the U.S. has left.”
“Trump: Sanders would run for president ‘even if he’s in a wheelchair’: report” [The Hill (UserFriendly)]. We did pretty well with the last President in a wheelchair.
“Democrats go soul-searching in Iowa” [BBC]. Excellent reporting, with many quotes from Iowans. “Will the Democrats embrace ambitious, sweeping progressive big-government priorities such as universal healthcare, free college tuition, a $15 national minimum wage, gun control and a tax structure that reduces income inequality? Or will a winning political message focus on bipartisanship, problem-solving, economic growth and job-creation, offering a contrast to the perceived divisiveness and belligerence of the Trump era?”
“Open primaries? Democratic establishment bars anyone who challenges an incumbent from using the party’s Votebuilder database” [Boing Boing (flora)] Important. Combined with Obama defenestrating Ellison in favor of Perez, and Perez purging the Rules and Bylaws Committe of all Sanders supporters, and the Establishment doubling down on Clinton’s post-Convention pivot right with Ossoff, Jones, and others, it looks like the Clintonites — as well as those five (5) strategists who took the Party for a cool $700 million in 2016 — have tightened their death grip on the party. Fortunately, Sanders never gave them his list.
UPDATE Handy map:
— Tim Hanrahan (@TimJHanrahan) December 12, 2017
Watch those upscale Republicans (bottom right). That’s what makes this election like Ossoff, and like Clinton’s post-Convention pivot right. These are the highly educated, Thomas Frank-style voters the Democrat establishment wants to peel off (anything but the proles!).
This Luntz/Vice focus group on Roy Moore has it all pic.twitter.com/y9iRx2oeQ2
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) December 9, 2017
Former President Barack Obama has recorded an automated phone message for Mr Jones” [BBC]. “‘This one’s serious,’ Mr Obama said in his call. ‘You can’t sit it out.'”
“One fewer Republican vote in the Senate means less margin for error for Trump’s agenda in that chamber. And while this might not affect tax reform – if he wins, Jones probably wouldn’t be seated for at least a couple of weeks – it could disrupt all other item’s on Trump’s to-do list for 2018” [NBC]. “As Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said on ‘Meet the Press’ last Sunday, there would be an IMMEDIATE ethics investigation into Moore. ‘We’ll have a greater opportunity for us to look into all the issues, the allegations, and perhaps even talk with some of the folks who are witnesses. That will give us a clear picture.'” It would be a shame if Democrats ended up having thrown Al Franken under the bus for no (good, political) reason.
“[I]f Mr. Moore wins, and then further evidence emerges indicating he is simply not fit to serve, Republicans can force him out and Alabama’s governor, a Republican, can replace him with a Republican. Some Republicans may even vote for Mr. Moore, hoping he will be removed, but knowing that the seat will still be held by a Republican” [Washington Times]. Realpolitik! (And Alabama has straight ticket voting, so you can pull the level for the Republicans while not actually voting for Moore.)
“In an interview with CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not say if the GOP conference would welcome him into its weekly policy lunches or give him committee assignments” [CNN]. “Other top Republicans also punted when asked whether Moore would be named to any committee — a remarkably unusual move given that most senators tend to serve on four to five panels each.”
“Why No One Knows What Will Happen in Alabama” [Nate Cohn, New York Times]. “There are two major ways that pollsters estimate the likely electorate, and neither is perfect. One common approach is to screen voters based on whether they say they will vote. … There’s a lot of evidence that vote history — whether someone voted in previous elections — is a better predictor than people’s self-reported turnout intention. But the vote-history approach struggles if there isn’t a comparable past election, or if there’s some other reason to think turnout patterns will be different than in the past…. it is entirely possible that a pollster that appears to ‘get it right’ might have only stumbled onto it by accident.” As indeed the Los Angeles Times “Daybreak” poll did in 2016, by over-estimating rural votes in its methodology (which turned out to be a good through accidental proxy for the actual electorate).
“[T]he question of how we remember men like Patton, Jefferson, and King — men whose greatness was known well before many of their sins were disclosed — is completely separate from the question of the day. That question is not whether the people of Alabama should vote for a great man with a serious flaw, but whether the people of Alabama should vote for a terrible man who lacks any redeeming virtue. In fact, Moore is so terrible that the most likely outcome of his elevation to the Senate is direct and important harm to the causes most Alabama Republicans claim to support” [National Review].
* * *
“Why progressives are being cautious over who should replace Al Franken” [Mic]. “While some are calling on Ellison to mount a campaign for the Senate seat Franken will vacate, many more progressive groups — including those who have been staunch Ellison backers in the past — are lying conspicuously low in what seems to be a largely unspoken view among Democrats that Franken’s seat should be filled by a woman.” Especially, no doubt, a neoliberal woman.
“Senate vacancy creates opportunity, complications galore” [Minnesota Public Radio (UserFriendly)]. “No matter what, the race will be a sprint by current standards. That means candidates must decide soon to start building backing within their parties and, more importantly, raising cash. With 47 weeks before the next election, the pressure to build up a campaign account will be intense. If the race costs each party nominee $15 million — a low number in recent times for competitive Senate races — that means raking in more than $300,000 a week for a candidate who starts now.”
2016 Post Mortem
“In the article, Ms. Dunham said she had warned two Clinton campaign officials against associating with Mr. Weinstein. ‘I just want you to know that Harvey’s a rapist and this is going to come out at some point,’ Ms. Dunham said she told the campaign. In reply to Ms. Dunham’s comments, Nick Merrill, the communications director for Mrs. Clinton, said, ‘As to claims about a warning, that’s something staff wouldn’t forget'” [New York Times]. Paraphrasing several commentators: “‘I should have listened to Lena Dunham’ isn’t something I ever thought I’d say.”
New Cold War
UPDATE “The FBI’s Perjury Trap of the Century” [David Stockman, Antiwar.com]. Case for the defense. Fun stuff: “[W]e couldn’t agree more…. that General Flynn is a very foolish man. He was not required to speak to the FBI when agents came to interview him on January 24. Moreover, as the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency he surely knew that the FBI would have been monitoring Kislyak and that the FBI had recordings of the conversations the agents wanted to ask him about. That he agreed to submit to the interview anyway, and then to lie, is surely one of the stupidest acts coming out of official Washington that we can recall from 47 years of observation. But perhaps it does explain why America’s legions of puffed-up generals have been such abysmal failures for onwards of a half-century now.” Ouch!
UPDATE “Do Republicans Have the Ammo to Take Down Robert Mueller?” [Vanity Fair]. “Despite the onslaught of criticism [over, e.g., Strzok], a number of Republicans continue to voice opposition to White House or Congressional interference in Mueller’s probe. ‘I can’t imagine him being terminated,” Senator Bob Corker, a vocal Trump critic, told the Post. “To me, that would be a step too far.’ But bipartisan efforts to protect Mueller’s job have stalled as Republicans argue that there appears to be no imminent threat to the special counsel.”
UPDATE “Logan Act Is Too Vague to Prosecute Flynn. Or Anyone” [Bloomberg]. From February, still germane: “[The Logan Act] is probably unconstitutional. Enacted by the Congress that brought you the Alien and Sedition acts, the law is too vague for enforcement. And it violates free-speech standards that are the law today but went unrecognized by the John Adams administration.”
A. Using Corporations as Tax Shelters
B. Pass-Through Eligibility Games
C. Restructuring State and Local Taxes (SALT) to Maintain Deductibility
D. International Games, Roadblocks, and Glitches
E. Arbitrage Money Machines: Gaming the Rates Differentials on Business Income
F. Other Glitches, Some of Which Would Haphazardly Penalize Taxpayers
And from the Executive Summary:
The complex rules proposed in the House and Senate bills will allow new tax games and planning opportunities for well-advised taxpayers, which will result in unanticipated consequences and costs. These costs may not currently be fully reflected in official estimates already showing the bills adding over $1 trillion to the deficit in the coming decade. Other proposed changes will encounter legal roadblocks, that will jeopardize critical elements of the legislation. Finally, in other cases, technical glitches in the legislation may improperly and haphazardly penalize or benefit individual and corporate taxpayers.
They don’t put a dollar figure on the costs, but it’s hard to see how they could have.
More like this please:
History grad students have started a teach-in at @RepTrey’s Greenwood office. Our first lesson was on the Guilded Age. We are now reviewing the 1935 fight around FDR’s wealth tax
— Hanukkah Roem (@JAMyerson) December 11, 2017
UPDATE “As the details of the GOP tax bill slowly became public, I realized that my lifelong fight for economic justice wasn’t just ideological. It was now personal. Already, I face agonizing questions like the ones faced by people I’ve spent my career advocating for: In the coming years, unless a miracle strikes, I will need a wheelchair and become dependent on others to keep me clean, fed and comfortable” [WaPo]. “The Republican tax bill could cut many people like me off from government services. It automatically triggers $400 billion in cuts to Medicare, and Mick Mulvaney, the head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, will have sole responsibility for deciding what programs to slash. Mulvaney opposes the Medicare disability program. If this tax bill passes, will I be able to get the ventilator I need to stay alive?” Embodiment…
In October, the senior Democrat in Washington, @SenSchumer, attacked Trump for not moving the US embassy to Jerusalem quickly enough & for being "indecisive" in recognizing it as Israel's capital https://t.co/6zvm3QHDIc #Resist (via @JAMyerson)
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 10, 2017
UPDATE “This is the White House wise man Trump’s detractors are counting on” [McClatchy]. “Hagin, deputy chief of staff for operations in the White House, is the rare, perhaps singular person in Trump’s orbit who commands near-universal respect and even gratitude from across the ideological spectrum. He is widely seen as a steadying hand in an administration that has struggled with investigations, inexperience and infighting, according to two dozen interviews with Trump, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administration officials and veterans of the Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns.”
UPDATE “Trump Takes Credit for Killing Hundreds of Regulations That Were Already Dead” [Bloomberg]. “Hundreds of the pending regulations had been effectively shelved before Trump took office. Others listed as withdrawn are actually still being developed by federal agencies. Still more were moot because the actions sought in a pending rule were already in effect.”
UPDATE “White House Opposes Push by Trump Accusers for Sexual-Misconduct Probe” [Wall Street Journal]. “The White House on Monday opposed fresh calls for Congress to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by President Donald Trump and demands from some Democratic lawmakers that he resign, saying any questions about Mr. Trump’s behavior were answered by last year’s election.”
Realignment and Legitimacy
Good question from Alabama, but with wide implications:
I’m wondering what happened to the Precinct Captains of old. These local Democrats had important people on each and every block to see that people were registered to vote, had a ride to the polls and were given a slate of candidates to study prior to Election Day
— Lillian Buchanan (@ladybuck44) December 9, 2017
“Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has put herself in the spotlight by calling on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to step down and saying President Clinton should have resigned during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.” [The Hill]. “‘All this reeks of is political opportunism and that’s what defines Kirsten Gillibrand’s career,’ one Democratic strategist* said. ‘Why wasn’t she talking about Bill Clinton when he was helping her during her various races for the House and Senate? And would she be talking about Bill Clinton today if Hillary Clinton was president? I think we all know the answer.'” NOTE * One of the Fab Five?
“Women in Florida politics fear #MeToo moment will backfire” [Tampa Bay Times]. “Female staffers and lobbyists who returned to the Capitol last week for pre-session meetings, discovered many male legislators will no longer meet with them privately.”
JOLTS, October 2017 (Monday): “Job openings fell back and hirings picked up to narrow a gap which is still large and still pointing to unusually tight conditions in the labor market” [Econoday]. “[O]penings have been ahead of hires for nearly 2 years as employers have had a difficult time filling positions in what underscores recent warnings out of the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book: that lack of skilled workers is holding down business expansion.” “Skills mismatch” will never die….
NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, Novermber 2017: “Optimism among small business owners is surging” [Econoday]. “The monthly jump in small business sentiment beat analysts’ forecasts with 8 out of the 10 components of the index rising, led by a 16-point gain in expected better business conditions to 48 and an increase of 13 points to 34 in sales expectations.” And: “the second highest reading in the 44-year history of the NFIB surveys (108.0 in July 1983)” [Econintersect]. And: “Small-business owners are elated by the business-friendly tone and tilt toward tax cuts in Washington, even though they acknowledge few concrete victories for the policies they crave” [MarketWatch].
Producer Price Index (Final Demand), November 2017: “Hints of inflation have been appearing in producer prices including the November report” [Econoday]. “Yet today’s report aside, inflation hasn’t been living up to expectations but with the economy at full employment, the Fed appears certain to raise rates at tomorrow’s FOMC.” And but: “This much gain in the Producer Price Index was not expected – and unless you are the twisted follower of the Fed – this increase is not good economically” [Econintersect]. “The PPI represents inflation pressure (or lack thereof) that migrates into consumer price.”
Retail: “A new distribution center meant to smooth out Mattel Inc.’s deliveries is instead contributing to the toy maker’s problems. The company issued a highly unusual and ominous warning on sales for the critical holiday season… and said weak demand along with its own logistics stumbles in a changing market were to blame” [Wall Street Journal]. “[S]hifts by consumers toward online sales and digital devices are battering the maker of big brands including Barbie, Fisher-Price and Hot Wheels, and undercutting its usual market channels. Mattel has sought to solve that partly by opening a Pennsylvania distribution center to serve the dense eastern U.S. The site has struggled to ramp up, howver, adding pressure to other facilities just when it was supposed to provide a solution.”
Commodities: “Electric vehicles may make up only a small share of traffic on roads but they’re having an overriding impact on commodities markets. Investors eager to get in early have doubled the price of lithium and cobalt in the past two years” [Wall Street Journal]. “For some investors, it’s a bet that the push to replace gasoline-powered vehicles will trigger the biggest shift in commodities demand since petroleum took over more than a century ago. The push may hit the dry-bulk shipping sector, opening new markets and potentially raising prices for transporting higher-value metals.”
Shipping; “The world’s largest container shipping line says international freight rates are reversing after climbing for most of this year, raising questions about the sustainability of the global trade recovery” [Bloomberg (Lysa)].
Shipping: “The most recent edition of the Port Tracker report issued today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates points to a healthy month for imports in a 2017 that has seen five of the seven highest-volume import months on record” [Logistics Management]. “Authors of the report explained that cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.”
Shipping: “Rail labor agreements are reached, says National Railway Labor Conference” [Logistics Management]. “The agreements, which cover more than 31,000 employees and are subject to membership ratification, have been reached with Brotherhood Railway Carmen (BRC), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the Transportation Communications Union (TCU).”
Debt: “Something happened about the time of the Presidential election that caused a sudden deceleration of bank lending, which had already been decelerating since the collapse of oil capex” (charts) [Mosler Economics]. “And still no signs of a recovery here, as consumers seem to be instead dipping into savings to sustain consumption as personal income growth decelerates as well.”
Debt: “Subprime Securitization Hits the Car Lot” [Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond]. “While it’s not obvious whether the increase in subprime auto lending is a significant departure from past cycles, it has raised eyebrows coming so soon after the mortgage crisis — especially as delinquencies have begun to rise. In addition, an increasing share of those loans have been securitized and spread through the financial system, much like mortgages before the housing bust. Still, even if the auto finance industry were poised for a fall, the effects on the financial system could be limited — although the auto industry itself might take a hit.”
Rapture Index: Closes up 3 on Tribulation Temple (+1), Israel (+2). “Trump announces that the United States now considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187. I wondered how much of a pop there would be. Reminder to Readers: “The higher the number, the faster we’re moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.”
Five Horsemen: “Seattle sluggers Amazon and Microsoft carry on dusting their Silicon Valley counterparts” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 62, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 12 at 11:47am.
“Aurelius v. Puerto Rico’s Control Board: What’s the Game?” [Credit Slips]. “So, in a sense, I find myself in the bizarre position that while I am not rooting for Aurelius to win, I hope that their lawsuit ends up getting the Insular Cases condemned, once and for all, as an awful relic of an ugly past. That said, what puzzles me about this case though is its economics, particularly from the perspective of Aurelius. What do they get by undermining the Control Board?”
“Aurelius v. The Control Board: What is Going On? (Part II)” [Credit Slips]. Questions not answered: “How much is it going to cost Puerto Rico if Aurelius wins?” and “Isn’t it a high-risk strategy to base key parts of one’s argument (as some of the anti-Aurelius briefs do) on cases that are, for want of a better word, ‘odious’?” I wrote on the Aurelius cases here, but explicitly from a layperson’s perspective, so these more technical posts are good to read.
Report from the ground. Thread:
THREAD: It was pretty clear in the days after Hurricane Maria that people were getting sick and dying more than usual. I met people whose relatives ran out of oxygen and died, contracted bacteria from rat urine, or couldn't get dialysis.
— Frances Robles (@FrancesRobles) December 8, 2017
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“The Forgotten Rosa Parks” [Jacobin]. “Parks may be lionized for her defiance on the bus, but that episode doesn’t begin to do justice to her remarkable career as an organizer. As Brooklyn College political scientist Jeanne Theoharis notes in her recent biography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, ‘One of the greatest distortions of the Parks fable has been the ways it missed her lifetime of progressive politics.’ Another great distortion is the extent to which it ignores the collective nature of Parks’s ostensibly individual action.” Important!
“Complexity: Worlds hidden in plain sight” [Christian Science Monitor]. “On August 14, 2003, 50 million people across the American Northeast lost electrical power…. To summarize, a software network interacted with a physical cable network supported by a forest ecological network overseen by a stressed human social network. The failure was not ‘disciplinary’ or ‘departmental’; it was complex. A full understanding of one critical infrastructure, the power grid, requires an understanding of a multitude of overlapping networks.”
Our Famously Free Press
“All Politics is Local” [The Baffler]. On (the horrid) Sinclair.
“The Silver Screen and Authoritarianism: How Popular Films Activate Latent Personality Dispositions and Affect American Political Attitudes” [Sage Journals].
Dear Old Blighty
“The new age of the train” [The New Statesman]. “It is time to reverse the damage done by Richard Beeching….” Damn straight!
“A record number of universities paid their Presidents $1 million or more in 2015” [Bloomberg].
“Former Uber employees have gone into debt to hang onto shares they still can’t sell” [Quartz]. That is very sad.
The Bezzle: “Oculus Grift” [The Baffler]. “We used to think of “capital” as physical goods or infrastructure—something we could wrap our minds around. But as all the main features of this system for extracting surplus value from workers and rentier fees from service networks have become duly digitized, capital itself has become a form of AI. We do not have any control over this system and it is impossible to conceive of unplugging ourselves from it. Isn’t that the trope we most fear about AI from science fiction—that it will reach a point where we cannot imagine life independent of it?”
“The Two Souls of Socialism” [Hal Draper]. 1966, still germane.
“Charles Koch Gave $50 Million To Higher Ed In 2016. What Did He Buy?” [International Business Times]. “More than 240 colleges and universities, almost all in the U.S., got donations from Koch family foundations in 2016, up from 218 the previous year.”
News of the Wired
“Maker vs. Manager: How Your Schedule Can Make or Break You” [Farnham Street]. “[D]ifferent types of work require different types of schedules.”
“Storify will no longer be available after May 16, 2018” [Storify]. As usual, if your business depends on a platform, your business is already dead, even if you don’t know it.
“The Impossible Mathematics of the Real World” [Nautilus]. “Near misses live in the murky boundary between idealistic, unyielding mathematics and our indulgent, practical senses. They invert the logic of approximation. Normally the real world is an imperfect shadow of the Platonic realm. The perfection of the underlying mathematics is lost under realizable conditions. But with near misses, the real world is the perfect shadow of an imperfect realm. An approximation is ‘a not-right estimate of a right answer,’ Kaplan says, whereas ‘a near-miss is an exact representation of an almost-right answer.'” OK, why isn’t the Platonic Realm an imperfect shadow of the Real World?
Readers, I’m running a bit short on plants. Buttoned-up gardens? Fall foliage? Forest fires?! First snow? Those photos from the summer you never had time to look at? Thanks!
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