2:00PM Water Cooler 12/15/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Net Neutrality

“Ajit Pai just handed Republicans a bag of sh*t” [The Verge]. “Threading the needle between massive telecom lobbying dollars and what the people of America actually want without a clear policy message or strong intellectual foundation is going to be extremely tough, especially against a huge field of energized Democrats who can already smell blood and can seize on net neutrality as an instant rallying cry.” Maybe. We’ll have to see.

“Ajit Pai Thinks You’re Stupid Enough to Buy This Cr*p [Update: One of the 7 Things Is Dancing With a Pizzagater]” [Gizmodo].

Trade

“‘You have to imagine what is the worst-case scenario,’ said John Masswohl, director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association” [CBC]. “‘Mr. Trump has said that he intends to withdraw from the NAFTA if he doesn’t get what he wants, and so far we haven’t seen anything to indicate that that’s a bluff. We have to take that seriously.'”

Politics

2020

“Joe Biden to Anita Hill: ‘I Owe Her an Apology'” [Teen Vogue]. Nothing about making student loans non-dischargeable through bankruptcy, eh Joe?

2018

“The fight next year essentially comes down to the question of which will be more important—the prevailing political winds, assuming they continue in the direction and with the velocity we see today; or the political geography, encompassing which seats are up where, the political terrain in each specific state or district, the types of voters in each place, and voting behavior in each one” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “Republicans could hardly face tougher headwinds, nor could Democrats face a tougher map.”

2017

The World Jones Made:

“Trump urges Moore to concede Alabama Senate race” [Reuters]. That’s gotta sting.

“Despite his focus in speeches and interviews on across-the-aisle “kitchen-table issues” like jobs, education, and health care, Jones catered heavily to white voters in his advertising. He ran ads featuring testimonials from crossover Republicans; quotes from Ivanka Trump, who said she believed Moore’s accusers, and a revisionist Civil War lesson from Jones himself in a spot that called for political compromise over hostility and division. For Black voters, though, the campaign sent mailers featuring photos of the four Black girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church and a flyer featuring a young Black guy giving the side-eye with a single question: “Think if a Black man went after high school girls anyone would try to make him a senator?” The backlash was immediate—”The flyer is reductive in its oversimplification of the Black mind as only caring about Black issues,” Michael Harriot wrote in The Root—and pointed to the party’s bigger problem: the ongoing exploitation of Black voters” [Scalawag]. Oh, and money: “A huge amount of money has been funneled to Alabama through Highway 31, a Birmingham-based Super PAC that spent $4 million on advertisements for Jones, including a TV spot called “Shopping Mall” that explicitly called out Moore for soliciting sex from minors. Highway 31 also brought controversy: One of their ads was removed from Google for falsely claiming voting records would be public, and the group used a legal loophole to conceal their donors’ identities. On December 11, the Highway 31 Donors were revealed by Politico to be primarily two large Democratic SuperPACs: Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action (the main super PAC behind Hillary Clinton’s election campaign).”

Tax “Reform”

“‘[Tax reform is] a big deal,’ Mike Regan, president of TranzAct Technologies, which offers solutions to shippers of all modes with freight audit and payment services, told LM. ‘It’s not just the reduction in the corporate tax rate but the expensing of items that will accelerate capital purchases'” [Logistics Management].

“Letter to Sen. Collins” [Mount Desert Islander].

It’s important that you realize you have not pulled the wool over any of your constituents’ eyes. You’ve sold us out, bargained with the souls which we poured out to you, not just my group last week, but thousands of us, calling, texting, emailing, faxing, showing up at all your offices. We’re sharing our stories and the fears that keep us awake at night.

Don’t try and tell us you’ve gotten the same amount pressure from other Mainers to support the bill. We talk to your staffers more than you do. We know where the pressure has come from, and you have chosen party over people, donors over doers.

You are supporting your party’s desire for a segregated society where education and opportunity, even health care, are available only to the wealthy.

And see also “Puerto Rico,” below.

New Cold War

“How Secret Talks With Russia to Prevent Election Meddling Collapsed” [Buzzfeed]. “A second senior State Department official said any potential gains would come at too high a cost. ‘We would have to give up democracy promotion in Russia, which we’re not willing to do,’ said the official.”

“Months-worth of FBI employees’ texts dreading Trump victory released to Congress” [CNN]. “As the former No. 2 official in counterintelligence, Strzok helped lead the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and was involved in opening the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, but he was reassigned to the human resources division this summer.” Where’s the human resources division located? Siberia?

Authoritarian followers:

Realignment and Legitimacy

A few days ago, posting on the Alabama Senate race, I ran a tweet that asked the question: “[W]hat happened to the Precinct Captains of old”? An NC reader threw this episode of living history over the transom in response:

I think I may know the origin of the fascination with suburban Republican women. It is not just that Versailles Democrats are rich snobs and the donor class wants Democrats to campaign for Republican votes. I think it goes back to McLean Virginia and how it became Democratic.

McLean was run for years by the legendary LaVerne Taylor, a Quaker lady and long time Democratic activist. She taught precinct operations for years. She lived in Salona precinct, the same precinct as Kenneth Starr, Anthony Scalia and other Republican luminaries. LaVerne was relentless. She knocked on every door, phoned every household, and knew everyone in the precinct. She had index cards on every voter in the precinct and their children. By the time their children turned 18 LaVerne knew their politics and knew who to offer an absentee ballot application to and who to ignore. You can only do this in a place like McLean with limited turnover. In a renters neighborhood this would not be practical. One of the things LaVerne did was send Democratic mailers to the wives but not the husbands. She began to pick up on the fact that abortion was a key issue for some of these women. This had nothing to do with strategic messaging, it had to do with talking with her neighbors and making the appeal she knew would resonate.

The wealthy women of McLean do not care for fundamentalist preachers presuming to instruct them. What made the abortion issue truly resonate was the repeated bombing attacks on the Women’s Clinic in Falls Church Virginia. Falls Church is next to McLean, so not only were these anti-abortion types presuming to instruct their betters, but they were setting off bombs and threatening property values. This gave LaVerne all the opening she needed. So McLean, which is very wealthy, very white, and very Protestant, and should by all rights be very Republican, is reliably, if narrowly, Democratic.

Paul Begala moved to Salona precinct and LaVerne recruited him as a Democratic volunteer. Begala is the only big shot I know of who is willing to do the grunt work of door knocking and phone banking. In any case, I greatly suspect that Begala told all his friends that McLean had been put in the Democratic column on the abortion issue because of the women voters. Narrowly that is true; but it would be more accurate to say that McLean had been put into the Democratic column by years of diligent precinct work. But there is no money in precinct work, so that aspect of the matter probably escaped Begala’s notice.

“Paul Ryan Is More Than A Policy Wonk” [Cook Political Report]. I wish they’d stop calling Ryan a policy wonk; if he were, he would have had health legislation teed up and ready to pass when the time came. But n-o-o-o-o!! Anyhow; “Ryan has nonetheless built something of a shadow party to help defend and define House campaigns for 2018. His SuperPAC – Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) – spent more than $40 million in 2016. That is a little more than half of what the NRCC’s independent expenditure arm spent ($73 million) in the 2016 cycle…. There’s nothing all that unusual about a House Speaker or House leader being a prodigious fundraiser. It is a significant part of the job. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has retained her base of power, say many Democratic insiders, thanks to her fundraising prowess. However, we’ve never seen a Speaker this involved in the nuts and bolts of campaigning and messaging in ways that bypass the official party apparatus.”

“Kansas Dem Andrea Ramsey, accused of sexual harassment, will drop out of US House race” [Kansas City Star]. “Andrea Ramsey, a Democratic candidate for Congress, will drop out of the race after the Kansas City Star asked her about accusations in a 2005 lawsuit that she sexually harassed and retaliated against a male subordinate who said he had rejected her advances…. [Ramsey] was running with the endorsement of Emily’s List, a liberal women’s group that has raised more than a half-million dollars to help female candidates who support abortion rights.”

“To save the GOP, Republicans have to lose” [Michael Gerson, WaPo]. I was going to make a joke about this being true for Democrats, too, but looking at the behavior of the Democrat Establishment over the last year… Forget it.

Stats Watch

Industrial Production, November 2017: “A rise for mining offsets a dip for utilities making a modest 0.2 percent gain for manufacturing the story for November’s industrial economy. This report’s manufacturing component has been the only uneven indicator on the factory sector all year which limits the surprise of November’s results” [Econoday]. “Overall industrial production rose 0.2 percent while capacity utilization rose 1 tenth to a 77.1 percent rate that, in contrast to the slew of anecdotal readings on the factory sector, points to plenty of spare capacity remaining.” And: “Industrial production increased in November to 106.4. This is 22.2% above the recession low, and 1% above the pre-recession peak” [Calculated Risk]. And but: “Boring” [Mosler Economics]. And: “The reason for the significant growth in industrial production was due to mining” [Econintersect]. “Manufacturing employment rate of growth is accelerating year-over-year.”

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, December 2017: “[O]nly a slight hint of slack appearing in the Empire State index” [Econoday]. “Signs of easing in unfilled orders and employment aside, this report suggests that December’s factory activity will be near maximum strength.” But: “I am not a fan of surveys – and this survey jumps around erratically” [Econintersect].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, December 2017: “Inflation expectations remain low but are improving, up 1 tenth in December” [Econoday]. Still a “soft level.”

Retail: “Conflicting Signals About Whether Holiday Sales Are Strong” [247 Wall Street]. “The National Retail Federation keeps track of both brick-and-mortar and online sales. Its research is considered the industry’s gold standard. However, it is hard to tell from its most recent NRF data about the holidays whether the retail industry is doing well or not… Six percent [year-on-year] is strong when traditional retail, which has struggled mightily, is included. Online sales of just above 10% is nothing close to the year-over-year numbers usually posted by Amazon.com, which means the rest of the industry must have e-commerce growth in the single digits. That is not enough, in most cases, to match store sales erosion.”

Shipping: “Home delivery doesn’t have to be at a home as far as the parcel carriers are concerned. With online sales soaring this season, United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. are looking for more neighborhood sites where they can get customers to pick up goods rather than have them delivered to the consumers’ homes” [Wall Street Journal]. “The push… marks a clear economic calculation for the carriers: deliveries to homes are more costly and complicated than taking goods to business sites, and the e-commerce explosion is cutting into profit margins. It’s also become a growing concern for e-commerce retailers, which face high delivery costs and must cope along with consumers with having goods stolen from front porches. Getting customers to buy into neighborhood pickups has been difficult, however, because it’s still hard to beat the convenience of opening the front door to bring in your latest buy.”

Tech: “Facebook Gives In to Pre-Roll Advertising” [247 Wall Street]. “The pre-roll ads will be six seconds long and, for the time being, will not appear in Facebook’s News feed.”

Tech: “[T]he DOJ now expects companies to clearly instruct employees not to communicate about business matters using any type of email or messaging software that doesn’t properly store the relevant data. If a company fails to do so, it may not qualify for a declination or certain other benefits under the new DOJ [Corporate Enforcement] Policy — even if the company has an otherwise state-of-the-art compliance program and satisfies all other requirements for cooperation under the DOJ Policy” [FCPA Blog]. “Outside messaging apps, such as Snapchat and Wickr may automatically delete messages after a few seconds or days precisely so that users can keep their communications confidential.”

The Bezzle: “Justice Department confirms criminal probe in Uber case” [WaPo]. “The letter revealed that a former Uber security specialist had informed Justice Department investigators that the company had routinely used secret communications channels and devices that could help conceal the existence of any technology stolen from a rival.”

The Bezzle: “Car Dealers Are Using Electronic Loan Contracts To Scam Buyers Into Horrible Situations” [Jalopnik]. “Without a hard copy of the loan agreement to review, they say, dealers have an easier time slipping in extra fees and add-ons that unwitting consumers never agreed to in the first place. And it’s harder to prove a customer didn’t sign a contract when it’s electronic—as one attorney put it, they render handwriting experts useless in court.” Buying a three-figure airline ticket with an e-contract is one thing; buying a five-figure automobile has different incentives. Anybody remember robosigning? “Produce the note”?

The Bezzle: “Are driverless cars really the future?” [The Spectator]. “The hype is being driven by carmakers, desperate to lay claim to the future, and tech giants, who have all this footloose capital that they don’t know what to do with. So they imagine their next big thing will be driverless cars. In fact, most of the driverless-car experiments we read about are actually cars containing drivers who can take over in an emergency. It’s as much of a fantasy as the jet-powered backpacks that used to be in the Beano that I read in the 1960s.” Fun stuff!

Five Horsemen: “All four tech titans continue their healing from Tech Wreck II, as Amazon (a consumer discretionary stock) treads water” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Dec 15

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 69 Greed (previous close: 66, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 15 at 11:45am. The fabulous sixties….

Health Care

“Uber reduces ambulance usage across the country, study says” [Mercury-News].”Previous research, [study co-author Dr. Leon Moskatel] said, ‘suggests that a fair number of people are using ambulances to get to the hospital because they simply don’t have another way to get there’ — particularly those who live in areas with limited taxi service.”

“Freeze your credit after the Equifax hack? Get ready to face Healthcare.gov hurdles” [ZD Net (Flora)]. “[M]illions who want to enroll in plans under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for the coming year may be locked out of the Healthcare.gov website if they froze their credit history following the Equifax hack earlier in the year. That’s because Healthcare.gov, where Americans can choose their health insurance plans, uses your credit history to verify your identity…. Anyone who has frozen their credit history as a precautionary measure to prevent fraud following the Equifax data breach may face an error message that says, ‘Your identity wasn’t verified.'” Involving credit reporting firms in ObamaCare eligibility determination was the result of a policy decision by the Obama administration, as we wrote in 2013. Of course, the real problem is that eligibility determination is required at all.

Puerto Rico

“Puerto Rico Grid Fix Won’t Meet Governor’s Plan, Corps Says” [Blooomberg]. “Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, commanding general and chief engineer for the Corps, said in an interview Wednesday that he expects Puerto Rico’s electric grid to reach 75 percent of customers by the end of January. That should rise to 95 percent by the end of February, and 100 percent by the end of May, he said, more than eight months after Hurricane Maria hit.”

UPDATE “‘Worse than Maria:’ Puerto Rican leaders make final push on tax bill” [Reuters (LS)]. “Initial versions of the tax bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate proposed taxing U.S. companies on foreign earnings. Puerto Rico – an American territory whose 3.4 million residents are American citizens – is considered a foreign jurisdiction for tax purposes. Without an exemption from the new foreign earnings tax, drug and medical device makers that are the mainstay of the island’s economy would likely leave the territory, taking away jobs and prompting more Puerto Ricans to leave for the mainland, [Luis Rivera Marin, Puerto Rico’s secretary of state] said.”

UPDATE “Congress should help Puerto Rico — not hurt it” [WaPo]. “The disgraceful treatment of Puerto Rico as an afterthought is evident in tax measures being proposed by the GOP in its overhaul of the tax code. Both House and Senate bills would impose new taxes on U.S. companies with operations in Puerto Rico, lumping the U.S. territory into the same category as foreign countries. The supposed goal is to protect and create American jobs, but, as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello told us, it would actually kill American jobs in Puerto Rico, devastating an already struggling economy.”

UPDATE “Federal law treats Puerto Rico arbitrarily, sometimes as a foreign entity and sometimes as a domestic one. For example, current rules allow manufacturing subsidiaries to be incorporated in Puerto Rico as foreign factories but their output to be sold as made in the United States. The parent company in the mainland imports the products from Puerto Rico and writes off the profits to its subsidiary, avoiding US income taxes and keeping the proceeds offshore” [Boston Globe]. Manufacturing companies that use this arrangement represent nearly half of the island’s economy. The pharmaceutical and medical-device industry alone account for a third of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product. That’s why the GOP’s proposed 20 percent excise rate on offshore transactions, while treating Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction, represents a potential economic calamity for the island.”

Class Warfare

“One way forward for college admissions, which I have suggested as a thought experiment in my book, ‘The Diversity Bargain,’ is to take all qualified students for a selective college and enter them into an admissions lottery. The lottery could have weights for desired characteristics the college deems important, such as social class, geographic diversity, race and intended major. This method would make clear the arbitrariness in the admissions process. It would also help students admitted — and those not admitted — understand that admission — and rejection — should not hold the strong social meaning in American society that it does today” [MarketWatch]. A meritocracy with random results isn’t a meritocracy, even if all the winners say it is.

“America’s Inequality Machine Is Sending the Dow Soaring” [Bloomberg]. “In the end, the trend toward inequality amounts to capitalist suicide, [William Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO] argues. Companies need demand, which requires rising wages so that workers can afford goods and services. ‘Businesses can’t create themselves, they respond to general growth in income,’ he said. ‘Inequality chokes off business development.'” And buried at the end: “Last week, the Office of Financial Research made its annual report to Congress on the vulnerabilities of the financial system. It was sanguine about most of them, from inflation and bank solvency to debt levels. But the agency, which color-codes its assessments, did see one major threat — from market risk. That gauge is at red alert.”

News of the Wired

“On the oth­er hand, we still lack a de­cent high-quality JSON Schema lan­guage” [Tim Bray]. Mission accomplished!

“Understanding blunt force trauma and violence in Neolithic Europe: the first experiments using a skin-skull-brain model and the Thames Beater” [Antiquity].

This Twitter thread has restored my faith in humanity:

Don’t worry, it transitions away from the original topic. Read on!. Also, the thread is an instance of a snowclone, and you can see random variation introduced! (For those who came in late, like me, Rick and Morty.)

* * *
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, pleas s e place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (dcrane):

On Mt. Studholme, South Island, New Zealand.

Readers, I’m still running a bit short on plants, although thanks for the photos you have sent so far. Buttoned-up gardens? Fall foliage? Forest fires?! First snow? Those happy snaps from the summer you never had time to look at? Thanks!

* * *

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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.

100 comments

  1. Marco

    Anyone following the back and forth between the two Matt’s (Bruenig and Yglesias) regarding the proposition of a US sovereign wealth fund (social wealth fund)? Curious about the official NC commentariat view. Personally a big fan of Bruenig but this seems odd as I see a multitude of problems with various industry factions gaming the formula for investment weightings. Would it extend to Silicon Valley spawned junk IPOs? Yikes. How differently would Repubs and Dems stack the commission overseeing all this

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      It would be interesting if they included actual sovereigns in a US sovereign wealth fund, but I think only Texas does that.

      Reply
      1. human

        I have some really nice sovereigns, including a backdated Bertie (the Mrs is an Anglophile). They are part of _our_ sovereign wealth fund ;-)

        Reply
    2. Altandmain

      Such a sovereign wealth fund would resemble what Norway has.

      Unlike other nations, the Norwegians wisely took their oil money and used it in a sovereign wealth fund.

      Reply
  2. nippersmom

    I can’t speak for Ms. Hill, of course, but my response to Joe Biden is “Way too little, way too late.”

    And, as Lambert noted, that doesn’t begin to address the rest of his horrendous policy positions.

    Reply
    1. flora

      Yep. Too little, too late. I’m sure Joe is sorry he couldn’t do more for all the people with unpayable and undischargable student loan debts, too. (Although, he’s certainly done enough to them.)

      Reply
        1. Procopius

          Never been able to figure out why there are people who wanted him to run for President in 2016 and want him to run for President in 2020. Aside from the fact he’s going to be old (so’s Hillary, and Bernie), there’s all this stuff he’s done that’s not good plus his son working for a shady Ukrainian oligarch that’s going to be brought up. Do these people not know his history? Also with the Crime Act of 1994, and implication (collusion?) in the Patriot Act.

          Reply
    2. Pat

      And done pretty much as a throw away, which means I believe he thinks that not at all.

      The fact that adds insult to injury is that this is only happening because flawed judgment bank toady Joe is running for President. Personally nothing short of his apologizing for a lifetime of stupid or corporate pandering as an elected official and vowing to leave public life forever taking his relatives with him would be enough.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        We need a “linguistic kill-shot” for Biden of the sort that Scott Adams praises Trashy Trump for being so good at coming up with to use against his opponents.

        Something like . . . that Last Hurrah nostalgia-trip loser, Hopeless Joe. Maybe others can make it more shorter and elegant.

        Reply
          1. flora

            Theme song: Mack the Knife

            “Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
            And it shows them pearly white
            Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
            And he keeps it, ah, out of sight …”

            Reply
    3. dk

      That is one weak apology. Hardly qualifies for the term.

      In the video below the article, Ashley Judd mentions patriarchy and being shut down. Joe’s apology sounds like he was shut down, too; he basically shut himself down. Which is an example of how the patriarchal pattern is internalized by men, to maintain male dominance on behalf of other males, effectively overriding conscience.

      This pattern is taught to boys in early childhood, often as a requirement for respect from older males. These same older males, in their roles as exemplars, present honor and toughness as unique and intrinsic to the male character and at least implicitly, often explicitly, absent from the female character. This becomes the basis for wholesale disrespect, reflexive suspicion, dismissal of women in any situation. Of course, the development of predatory sexuality follows easily from this context, as may also be suggested by the male exemplars. And in not a few cases, this extrapolates to “down low” homosexuality and other male-on-male predation (“it’s okay, we’re all men here”).

      So it’s men defining their masculinity by their primary/sole loyalty to (all) other men, and studied disregard for (all) women.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        That is a very big brush to tar a little less than half the human population with.

        Fits comfortably in the hand, though, it would seem.

        But hey, men are on the run! Throw ’em an anvil! The Elite love the divide-and-conquer show. Ah — Did I not see a recent report that a woman politician is losing her standing as a result of propositioning and then harassing a subordinate male, and having to pay up in a settlement? And lots of other variations on the oppression theme? Who will gain from all this? Is there any plan or direction other than seeking some bit of advantage of the shaky and slippery moral high ground?

        People, it’s us, the 99 percent, against the very few. If we don’t all pull on the same end of the rope, in the same direction, they will continue to bleed and kill us.

        On the other hand, my little ex-male 13-year-old Italian greyhound mix developed an apparent pulmonary embolism today, and died in my arms at the emergency vet clinic. Only $730.00 in medical and cremation costs. What price unconditional love? So as to bigger issues of who gets larger slices of the 10 percent of the world domestic product the Elite have not yet looted, today, at least, I sort of don’t give a flying family blog. At not least tonight.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          Just amazing, how much of our heart dogs can capture. Our hearts go out to you.

          And on your main point: solidarity might be nice.

          Reply
        2. dk

          We’re all catching anvils thrown decades and generations ago, and struggling to understand what is happening and what can be done.

          Patriarchy is as bad for men, too, Biden’s self-compromise a case in point, and outcomes like seating a morally corrupt judge is bad for everybody of any gender. I did not mean to come of as saying that this is men’s fault, I can see that I did not put sufficient effort into this essential point.

          We men are not all compulsive predators, and we should not be shamed by such predators into thinking that we should or must be so. The goal in pointing out the malicious indoctrination of half the population to subjugate the whole population is to help all of us get out from under it, before its consequences kill us wholesale.

          Very sorry about the loss of your dog, JT.

          Reply
        3. Pat

          My deepest condolences. I would say the real price is the almost certain loss of those bundles of love, joy and consolation. No matter how long we get to share their lives and bask in that unconditional love, it is never long enough.
          Saying goodbye is damn hard. I am sorry today was that day for you and your sweet Greyhound mix.

          Reply
        4. mk

          Sorry for your loss, imo most vets are evil because of the prices they charge. It’s my main reason for not having a dog, chances of getting high vet bills are too risky.

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            Thanks to you, W, and Yves, and everyone else offering condolences and thoughts. I wish we all lived in the same realspace village. NC is necessary for many of us, but in the larger world, not quite sufficient…

            What vets charge, playing on our love and affections and even pride, is just part and parcel of the current manifestation of the Great Crapification.

            Peace ‘n love, all.

            Reply
            1. RMO

              That breaks my heart. We know when we take in a dog or cat that the odds are we will outlive them so that approaching sorrow is always there. The joy they bring to our lives and the joy we bring to them makes it worthwhile in a way few things in life are. A good vet is a treasure. My dog has always been nervous away from home and the first time we had to go for the annual checkup and shots I couldn’t get him into the office – our vet came out and did the job on the sidewalk for us. That’s the sort of vet who does it for a love of animals as well as for the pay.

              Reply
      2. Ed Miller

        I’m late to make comments but I don’t see much follow up on your comments which seem to broad-brush men in general. Although it is clear that men dominate the predator class (ruling elites) I don’t see this as a men-only problem (cough-cough-HRC-cough-Libya). Dominance is often expressed in sexual predation but it’s really about power. For some men there is nothing like the rush of power sensation in the rape act, but it really is about power over others – not far from treating others like slaves.

        There are so many men who are not like that at all, and I am insulted to be included. I personally am concerned about overly aggressive behavior by either sex. Sexual predation is cruel and dehumanizing, but I see a predator ruling class with no meaningful constraints as more dangerous to everyone outside the inner circle of power.

        Reply
        1. dk

          Absolutely agreed, and I didn’t put enough effort into the distinction between “blaming men” and showing that men are victims of this culture as well. There is a semantic problem because the predatory culture targets males as its vehicle, so the distinction between men as human individuals and a culture based on gender requires close reading. “Patriarchy” is a term which invokes gender, but it refers to a culture which is not rooted in masculinity, but in willful and self-indulgent irresponsibility, and cruelty and violence and oppression for its own sake, not just in sexual contexts but well beyond, completely pervading our societies (for generations). I am trying to point out the insult and its methods, not to cast it.

          The gender-role patterns are the earliest introduction to this artificial division of our species. Boys are the first victims of it, socially (and physically) coerced into assuming dysfunctional misogynistic behaviors to achieve/retain social status/approval. But these patterns are merely leveraging some aspects of male physiology (unconscious erection, testosterone effects) for the false rationalization that testosterone and an erection justify and even require unrestrained destructive and coercive behavior.

          There are also a generational factors. Misogynistic gender training was pervasive and aggressive in the 50’s/60’s/70’s, before anti-misogynisitc feminist thought had developed and began to change the cultural heritance. Biden, Trump, myself, we grew up in this prior context, and these are the generations I was talking about, though I failed to say so. (On a personal note, I suffered socially and physically for rejecting these gender concepts at an early age, no regrets).

          My son grew up in the 80’s/90’s and he was exposed to far less of this imprinting and role modeling. We were just discussing this, he told me that he learned most of the details of this culture in his late teens/early 20’s when he was working as a civilian in the military. The macho-male culture remains prevalent in that context, it is also visible in law enforcement, and other roles that have been and still remain largely fulfilled by men, for whatever traditional, incidental, or practical reasons. It is still passed along within families and communities, even as contemporary thought gradually increments beyond it.

          But his (and I assume, your) generations are still coming up, while my generations are now in the seats of power. That is why understanding the effects of the dying-but-not-yet-dead patriarchal tradition is so important at this time. I am arguing that the ruling class predation, completely independent of the predator’s gender, has significant roots in misogynistic male culture. That is no man’s fault, nor any woman’s; the responsibility, wherever it lies, is gender-independent.

          Dominance is often expressed in sexual predation but it’s really about power.

          One aspect of this culture is the insistence that the predator is justified and fulfilling a moral (and implicitly, metaphysical or divine) imperative. A moral imperative for aggression and cruelty defies logic, but produces emotional excitement, an in the sexual context, promises a reward of sexual release for the aggressor. Young people, still developing their personas and seeking their roles, are especially vulnerable to this kind of pattern.

          HRC’s hawkishness is a case in point. She willingly (sometimes it seems, enthusiastically, but I think/hope that’s mainly because it’s worked for her, career-wise, to a point) takes on these aggressive, predatory postures in order to compete and rise in a political/power context consumed with aggression, false posturing, and self-justification. The pattern can be acquired and invoked regardless of gender. These are not intrinsically male attributes; except that the culture asserts that they are.

          And to be clear, I am not trying to excuse anyone from a responsibility to continuously consider and evaluate their actions and conduct; a responsibility none of us can ever be free from. That is why the Weinstein et al disclosures, and the decades of effort to speak out about sexual predation and abuse of position against women cuts to the heart of the larger context of abuse of power throughout our societies.

          Please also see my response to JTMcFee, above. And thank you for your remarks and serious consideration, I agree with what you say and hope I have clarified my concept a bit.

          Reply
        2. Big River Bandido

          The Senate, where Joe Biden spent nearly all his adult life, is a microcosm of the way this type of dominance (dare I say “bullying”?) plays out at the highest levels of power, in which a handful of Big Pigs at the top coerce the less-senior into line. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest political bullies in the Senate the last 20 years is Dianne Feinstein. Since the retirements of Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus and the utter humiliation of Tom Daschle, she’s been the undisputed “leader” of the Democrats in the Senate.

          Reply
    4. Big River Bandido

      A Biden candidacy is a non-starter, and almost everyone recognizes this save for Biden himself, which makes him look pathetic. Besides all of his unforced political errors (Hill, student loans), his suspect political associations, his tendency and reputation as a trimmer, and his tendency to hang himself whenever he gets enough linguistic rope, his political moment is simply long gone. This was pretty much recognized in 2008, when Obama selected him as his running mate. Biden’s conduct toward Anita Hill probably destroyed any realistic possibility of him getting elected to the presidency, 26 years ago.

      Any natural constituency Biden may have had left for such a run has since been whittled away by demographic change, actuarial realities, and Obama’s political failures — namely, the collapse of the neoliberal political consensus. Other than the media, which is largely irrelevant, there is no natural constituency for a Biden candidacy.

      Reply
  3. JohnnySacks

    As much as I despise the lesser of two evils choice and wonder if the stealthy lesser evil is really any better or worse than the evil in plain sight, from that wonderful and damning Susan Collins letter:

    That black cashmere sweater of mine that was literally touching your baby blue wool jacket at our meeting last week? That was my mom’s. She was a lifelong Republican.

    Gee, Thanks Mom

    Reply
  4. Knifecatcher

    Re: Equifax credit freeze:

    I’ve had my accounts with all 3 bureaus frozen for years. It seemed to be much safer – not to mention cheaper – to just pay for a thaw every few years when I needed to apply for a new card, buy a car, etc.

    When I tried to unfreeze just after the Equifax hack the Transunion and Experian process went smoothly as usual but the Equifax site wouldn’t allow me to do it online. I had to send in a snail-mail request, which was bungled / ignored in truly impressive fashion, concluding in a mailed acknowledgement that yes, in fact, my credit was currently frozen. Sigh.

    A call to the CPFB turned up a phone number for customer support – but it was disconnected. I finally managed to dig up a phone number where after several hours I was able to get a live human on the phone and have them thaw my credit report.

    This took about 5 weeks. Now imagine I had waited until a few days before Obamacare enrollment was set to end…

    Reply
    1. Clive

      “The phone number for customer support at Equifax was disconnected” (paraphrasing)

      Ha! My irony-o-meter goes off the scale…

      Reply
      1. Synoia

        You are an Equfix customer? Really? You pay them money?

        I’m an unpaid Equifax supplier. I pay nothing and get nothing.

        Reply
        1. Jean

          You are overlooking the opportunity they present.
          If you ever see weird or fraudulent credit card charges, just tell the bill collector that it must be another Equifax by-product and to call them and let them sort it out with their superior computing power.

          Reply
    2. Franklin's Junto

      As someone who reserves expletives for the most extreme, disdainful circumstances, with regards to Equifax, where to begin with those f*ckers???

      In most cases, credit bureaus are able to provide a pin or some other code that would allow temporary or one-time use access to your credit history without having to unfreeze your records.

      Like yourself, I had placed a freeze with Equifax years ago. When a situation arose where I need to grant a service provider access to my credit history, I inquired what my pin was. Long story short, Equifax told me I had requested my freeze before a pin was available. In other words, I would have to unfreeze (fee charged) and then re-freeze (fee charged again) in order to obtain my pin, which I had technically already paid for. Talk about added insult to injury after numerous phone numbers that didn’t work, waiting hours to talk to one useless offshore human being after another who didn’t have the mental capacity to handle complexities that weren’t in their mindless scripts.

      All I have to say at this point is when are Americans going to wake up, smell the coffee and rise up? Seriously, are opinions posted on the Internet what we’ve all been reduced to? Voting, democratic processes, checks and balances, civil disobedience…all vast deserts of millennial, gen-x, baby-boomer punditry where oases of expertise are drowned in vacuous oceans of intellectual and spiritual dearth and left to die in what is now one big giant sham of wealth extraction and indebted penury.

      Reply
  5. Wukchumni

    On the first day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Lessened Social Security

    On the second day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the third day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the fourth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the fifth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the sixth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the seventh day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Seven debtly sums
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the eighth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Eight ways of milking me on internet access
    Seven debtly sums
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the ninth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Nine tax cuts for the rich
    Eight ways of milking me on internet access
    Seven debtly sums
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the tenth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Ten payday loans a leaping in interest
    Nine tax cuts for the rich
    Eight ways of milking me on internet access
    Seven debtly sums
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the eleventh day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Eleven Keystone pipelines a piping
    Ten payday loans a leaping in interest
    Nine tax cuts for the rich
    Eight ways of milking me on internet access
    Seven debtly sums
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    On the twelfth day of Christmas
    The 1% sent to me
    Twelve dumbed down democrats
    Eleven Keystone pipelines a piping
    Ten payday loans a leaping in interest
    Nine tax cuts for the rich
    Eight ways of milking me on internet access
    Seven debtly sums
    Six layers of obfuscation
    Five crooked deals
    Four galling words
    Three card monte
    Two chicken hawks
    And lessened Social Security

    Reply
    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Lol i recently went to a GOP TAX Protest calling Sen Kennedy, LA R, a Grinch and mocking him with xmas carols rewritten with a little Cajun flair.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Because the song only goes up to twelve.
        You’ll have to come up with rhymes for thirteen and fourteen as well.
        Thirteen lucky losers?
        Fourteen Rotten Burroughs! (Or boroughs, take your pick.)
        And a cartridge in an AR-15!

        Reply
    2. ambrit

      Er, a quibble if I may. Isn’t “dumbed down Democrats” a redundancy?
      Otherwise, a carol for the 99% this Christmess!

      Reply
  6. Don Midwest USA

    Glenn Greenwald for Pulitzer prize this year?

    This is probably the first time I have linked an article written by Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Senior Editor at the Weekly Standard

    Interesting that he writes this about Greenwald and Glenn’s coverage of the hysteria about Russian interference in US presidential election in 2016. Glenn wrote an article recently


    The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages and Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened

    A bombshell report that wikileaks secretively offered Trump the DNC emails. Glenn points out that the mainstream press didn’t own up to the journalistic failure.

    Here is the article by the author from Heritage and Weekly Standard

    Why Glenn Greenwald Deserves a Pulitzer Prize
    For his poignant and intrepid rebuke of the American media’s obsession with a false narrative

    ….All that actually matters is whether you use the tools of the trade to get the story right.

    But that sort of thing isn’t what matters to journalists anymore, or else they wouldn’t have spent the past year running pieces about Trump and Russia that are almost immediately falsified, then updated with clarifications, or corrected, or retracted, and then are vanished down the memory hole—with no institutional accountability or apparent concern for truth. This startling unconcern goes back at least as far as that big Washington Post “exclusive” in January about Russia hacking an electrical dam in Vermont—a story that was entirely false. Since then, it’s all been downhill.

    Moving on to right now we have terrifying news from CNN

    This story on Trump’s Russia paranoia is terrifying

    We learn that Trump is ignoring the Russian interference story and other places that they could bring up Russia like the cabinet.

    I wonder what this latest story will look like in a couple of days?

    Reply
    1. dcrane

      +1. Greenwald’s journalism has been consistently focused on the public interest through both R and D administrations. He does not pull punches on behalf of those one might consider to be his “friends” in political terms. I wish he could keep his emotive tone a bit more in check, but otherwise he’s one of the most important reporters out there.

      Reply
    2. Sid Finster

      Wait a minit.

      So now *not* looking for eeevil russkis under every rock and behind every hedge, tree and bush is a sign of paranoia now?

      Reply
  7. Summer

    The Bezzle: “Are driverless cars really the future?” [The Spectator]. “The hype is being driven by carmakers, desperate to lay claim to the future, and tech giants, who have all this footloose capital that they don’t know what to do with.

    The tech giants’ fascination with the car industry is its attachment to the finance industry. Cars require loans and we see all “fun” being had with loans bundled into this and that for more financial products.

    Reply
  8. DJG

    The article about Ajit Pai in Gizmodo, about his public misbehavior on video and on television. I read it and looked at the picture of him spewing the fake Sriracha sauce. Now you don’t have to.

    It keeps occurring to me that Ajit Pai is a cultural phenomenon, who might have gotten his butt handed to him if the Weinstein scandal hadn’t arisen to provide distraction. Yet the combination of true believer in Law&Economics, corporatist, faulty focus-grouped message (freedom?), and pure narcissicism makes me wonder if we are seeing a new kind of “civil servant.” Pai seems peculiarly devoid of ethics for someone running a government agency, where a diaphanous fabric of punctilio normally is used to cover up the class warfare.

    Yet the whole spectacle is tawdry. Sorry to use such a politically incorrect word, but Pai is tawdry indeed. And corrupt down to his designer underwear.

    Reply
    1. Mark P.

      … Pai is tawdry indeed. And corrupt down to his designer underwear.

      And those are his good points.

      His FCC repeal bill is deeply technologically stupid about how the Internet actually works and what it is. It effectively puts the ISPs, his masters, in the cross hairs of every other large corporate sector in America.

      Reply
        1. Fraibert

          When I saw the words “usurpation of power” in your comment, that got me thinking.

          It seems to me that a core feature of the modern administrative state in the US is that unelected officials appointed by the President have the power to make important decisions, even if these decisions are unpopular. In fact, one could argue that this is one of the purposes of having administrative agencies in the first place–to let policy implementation happen while insulating decisionmakers from direct public pressure in the form of the ballot box, on the theory that this will result in “experts” making the best available decisions. (Another practical reason for agencies these days is that Congress avoids direct responsibility for key policy decisions because it has handed them off to agencies.)

          I recognize this is a very technocratic approach to policy making. But it also strikes me as something that generally is treated as appealing to many people who view themselves as being on the left side of the political spectrum.

          The outcome here seems almost like the dark side of the whole administrative apparatus as it currently exists. In the efforts to shield policymaking from “too much” public participation and to avoid direct legislative responsibility, we’ve ended up in circumstances where huge policies can be enacted (or repealed in the present case) regardless of the general will.

          So…I suppose what I’m saying is that the repeal of the net neutrality rules isn’t a “usurpation of power,” because the public (whether directly or through its duly elected representatives) never had in practice any decision making power over these rules in the first place under the current system of government.

          Just some preliminary thoughts. I’m not sure they’re wholly clear.

          Reply
          1. Fraibert

            To be clear, there is some arrangements for public participation in agency actions (notice and comment under the Administrative Procedures Act, for example) and also for judicial review of a limited scope (also mostly under the APA). Congress could also pass a law directly overruling an agency decision if it disagrees with an agency.

            But in the end, administrative agencies have huge amounts of unelected power, and that’s kind of built into the system as it currently stands. I’m not really sure how to improve it.

            Reply
            1. JTMcPhee

              Ancient Chinese civil service as a model? Maybe not?

              Basic problem: humans are a failed species. At small scales and for short periods, decency and comity can manifest. Otherwise not.

              Reply
              1. Fraibert

                Ultimately, it’s the agency executive/commission that is the final decisionmaker over agency policy. The President appoints those people (with Senate approval) and Congress (in a broad sense) oversees agency actions.

                At the current level of social complexity, it seems to me likely that a large administrative apparatus is necessary–as a practical matter, Congress can’t oversee the fine grain details over all possible areas of legislation. As a result, I suppose the only “solution” within the current system (and one perhaps made impossible for the reasons you outline about human nature) is to ensure that the President and Congress are consistently virtuous (in the traditional sense of that word). Only then can the public be sure that agencies have publicly-minded leadership and that legislative course corrections to agency actions can be rapidly implemented if necessary.

                Reply
          2. DJG

            Fraibert: An interesting argument. I have two concerns. First, your ideas and how I would interpret them: The United States has been lucky in having a good bureaucracy, especially in the twentieth century from, ohhh, 1910 to about 1990: Think of the glory days of the Antitrust Division, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health. And there are older bureaucracies that have done us well: I’m thinking of the Post Office, Customs (which had a remarkable effect on NYC), and the Library of Congress. These agencies have had independence, have a strong sense of mission, and have served the public well. The fact is that even in the early Republic, politicians understood that the U S of A is too big to administer without bureaucrats. Hence the Post Office and the Customs Service.

            For most of their history, these agencies and their oversight boards were somewhat “faceless.” People will grouse that we don’t know the name of the woman who kept thalidomide out of the U.S., but her job wasn’t to have a public persona.

            Second, my reason for commenting. So Ajit Pai strikes me as something new and rather sinister: A highly ideological agency head advertising to his “clientele” that he is available for purchase and also is unwilling to take heed of the public. I’m getting a whiff of someone who would like eventually to be on the Supreme Court as the “brainy” one, Revised Antonin Scalia.

            In short, the modern state has to have a bureaucracy. Heck, so did the Persian Empire and the Venetian Republic, both long-lived states. But unless we want to end up like the court of Byzantium, we can’t afford many more like Pai. I think that we should be calling for his resignation for malfeasance.

            Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It does? Really?

        I hope you are correct. And if you are, I hope the “every other Corporate Sector in America” torture and terrorize the ISPs into begging Pai to reverse his decree.

        And if he won’t, I hope the “rest of Corporate America” together with internet warriors of all kinds can figure out how to create a whole different bunch of ISSPs ( Internet Specific Service Providers) and targeted ISP-underminers tasked with the mission of exterminating the ISPs from existence and wiping them all from off the face of the earth.

        Reply
  9. Jim Haygood

    Stocks busted out huge today, with the S&P 500, Dow Industrials, Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100 all setting records.

    On average, December and January are the strongest up months for stocks. This year’s rampant romp is no exception.

    How about Dow 25K for Dec 25th? It being but 1.4% away with five trading days to go, the probability of reaching the next round number is about one in three, in my estimation.

    Stocks, comrades: don’t short them till Dr Hussman backs up the truck.

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      For my retirement and general investment, I have some interest in stocks.

      For every $1 dollar I gain, though, the billionaires probably are $1,000,000 richer.

      Relatively speaking, I am actually worse off.

      And if stocks go down, I am also worse off, on absolute terms.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And if the billionaires fill your air with cancer gas, fill your water with cancer juice, and sprinkle your food with cancer dust; then in absolute terms you will be even more worser off-er.

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That’s correct.

          The distinction between that and stocks is that

          1. With the latter, many people, at least here, are aware of it and are against them.

          2. With the former, most people (including a lot investing for retirement) while uneasy about the all-too-frequent bubbles, cheer, like (or do not oppose) stocks going up, at least at reasonable or sustainable rates. We can ask this; how many oppose non-bubble bull markets? And yet, that is how wealth inequality is exacerbated.

          Reply
          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That is, it’s more than just absolute vs. relative, it’s also (and more importantly), getting people to buy into your *that is, billionaires’) wealth concentration, to enable that, to cheer for the indices to go up.

            It’s not as easy or as obvious to think twice about it.

            Reply
  10. John Zelnicker

    On Wednesday I made a comment about contacting the local (Mobile, AL) chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and promised updates.

    Today I met with the local organizer, a programmer in a large firm. My purpose was to discuss the possibility of holding a tax clinic to help working people fill out new W-4 forms for their employers if and when Congress passes the new tax scam.

    Mobile only has a very small DSA chapter at the moment with about 10-15 members and maybe as many other progressives who are supportive. Of course this limits their capabilities. Michael, the organizer, talked about a desire to run the brake light repair clinic that other chapters have found so successful. They are also working with other progressive organizations like the NAACP and certain churches to get signatures on petitions supporting Medicare-for-All using the framework and literature provided by Health Care Now out of Boston. HCN is mounting a national campaign to support the Medicare-for-All bill by Bernie Sanders.

    We made no decisions, this was mostly a get-to-know-you meeting.

    I expect Congress to pass and the president to sign a tax scam that is every bit as bad as the various details we have heard about alrerady, once the conference committee has tweaked it to garner enough votes. Soon after, I will have the necessary guidance on how best to help my clients and working people in general to navigate the new rules. Literally everyone working for wages will have to reconsider their income tax withholding.

    I will continue to provide updates on local DSA activities and will link back through these comments for those who want to follow along.

    Finally, if there are any other NC readers in LA (Lower Alabama) who would like to get in touch and/or participate, I can be found on Linked-In. (I hope our hosts don’t mind my reaching out like this.)

    Reply
    1. allan

      Please keep us updated. One concern I have about the brake light clinics, etc., is that (especially if they are successful) the local PTB will not be happy and might use state and local licensing and permit requirements to crack down on them. Motor vehicle repair shops are presumably highly regulated.
      Changing a light bulb is of course a far cry from full blown car repair, but one can easily imagine towns that are losing revenues (waves to Ferguson) enforcing the permitting laws to the max.

      Helping fill out a W-4 seems less likely to be an issue,
      unless the local tax preparation services have a lot of clout.

      Reply
      1. John Zelnicker

        @allan – Actually, car repair shops are only regulated for waste disposal of oil and gas, tires, batteries, and some other environmental contaminants. There is no other regulation or permitting required beyond the normal business licenses.

        The tax prep services have little clout here. I worked for H&R Block for 7 years, and corp HQ mostly neglected the local offices.

        I will continue to post as we move forward, most likely in Lambert’s 2:00 pm Water Cooler.

        Reply
    2. ambrit

      You’re a light in the South Mr. Zelnicker.
      We’re busy with the wifes’ cancer and all, but you are not forgot.
      Happy and Progressive Holidays!

      Reply
      1. John Zelnicker

        @ambrit – Thank you, that’s very kind. I haven’t been politically motivated to action since the anti-Vietnam War movement, but the combination of a truly progressive political party like the DSA and the desperation of the times compels me.

        I am so sorry to hear about your battle with your wife’s cancer. I hope the treatment is tolerable and the results positive. Y’all will be in my thoughts and prayers.

        I also wish you and yours the best for the holidays.

        Reply
    3. Elizabeth Burton

      The chapter here in Austin is larger, and apparently growing; but it works with the other progressive groups like Our Revolution for political matters. Last Sunday they held a M4A rally, and have held a couple of the taillight clinics to good effect. There are progressive challengers for many of the current Congressional incumbents who are (quelle surprise) being not only ignored by the state Dems but being actively challenged by same with standard cookie-cutter New Dems.

      My DSA dues are up for renewal, and I’ll be paying because they’re actually stirring the pot and getting things done.

      Reply
  11. fresno dan

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ex-obama-official-takes-blame-for-trump-feud-with-cia/article/2643159

    President Trump has understandable reasons for distrusting the U.S. intelligence community, according to a former CIA official who led the agency under former President Barack Obama.

    Mike Morell, who served as acting director of the CIA from 2012-2013, took some of the blame for Trump’s feud with the CIA. Morell lamented that he failed to consider how Trump would consider his endorsement* for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, especially when paired with other officials’ criticisms and a series of unflattering leaks.

    “And [Trump] could rightfully have said, ‘Huh, what’s going on with these intelligence guys?’ Right?” Morell told Politico’s Susan Glasser. “So, I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political in that moment.*** So, if I could have thought of that, would I have ended up in a different place? I don’t know. But it’s something I didn’t think about.”
    =====================================================
    I just came upon this – I have to say I was gobsmacked considering Morell was a fixture on MSNBC and Charile Rose pushing the Russian conspiracy theory so hard….

    * I guess having high intelligence is not a prerequisite to BEING in intelligence…
    *** ya think?

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Is he saying Trump is right to want to set up his own network of spies? The ones we have are not to be trusted?

      And given the criticism of the FBI (justified or not, you decide), is the president also going to set up a counterpart to that?

      Reply
      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Is it possible that he is being skillfully manipulated by Erik Prince? I mean, the arguments lead straight to his wheelhouse.

        Reply
  12. Carey

    Between the (nominally) GOP tax bill and Pai’s FCC rollback of net neutrality, I’m not only getting the feeling
    that the few are not worried about the tumbrels coming for them, but that they are actively trolling the many
    (thinking in particular of Pai’s recent performances).

    Reply
  13. Carolinian

    Great McLean story. Too bad the Dems as a brand may no longer be capable of generating that kind of enthusiasm. Also if I lived there I’m not sure I would like having such a nosy neighbor. It just goes to show that “knowing your neighbor” didn’t start with Google and Facebook. In the classic Hollywood version the local old maid stays glued to the party line so she can share all the latest gossip. Our techie giants have automated the process with bots.

    Reply
  14. The Rev Kev

    What happened to the Precinct Captains of old?

    This seems to be a dying art in America. I first read about how politics use to be done in a book called “Alistair Cooke’s America” (which I still have) and within its pages is mentioned one George Washington Plunkitt. He was a Tammany district ward boss and I found a page that has extracts of his diary at http://www2.ohlone.edu/people/shanna/PlunkittDiary.htm (very much worth reading) but there are many sources on his career and his talks on “honest graft”.
    The point is whatever or however we feel about his methods, the parties back then actually got down into the weeds and actually did good work on behalf of their constituents in exchange for their votes. Any here who would decry such actions should note that the modern method is to ignore the “hicks”, hold political fund-raisers for the wealthy to collect their checks and their promises of future employment when they come out of political life. Now ask yourself which system does the most good for the most people. Alistair Cook noted that at a time of mass emigration into America that this system bred Americans out of foreigners.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Seems that in an era of identity politics the melting pot is no longer fashionable. Plus the country is not nearly the nation of immigrants it was in the early 20th cent. The children of all those immigrants may not feel quite the same allegiance to the country that took them in much less any sort of class solidarity.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        It’s funny that you say that. I ran across a lot of Americans when I was traveling through Europe in the early 80s. What struck me as weird was how they would describe themselves as Polish or Lithuanian or whatever simply because of ancestry. This was of course during conversations where Americans were talking between each other. It was strange as an outsider to listen to.
        When I think back, I can’t recall regional pride as in “I’m Californian” or something along those lines. Of course these Americans were either college kids on break or American service people on leave so probably not an average sampling. Here and now, I am wondering if here were the seeds of identity politics coming into play as Americans sought another more narrow sense of identity rather than just saying “I am an American”.

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          Perhaps the country’s WASPy core fell into a bit of disrepute after the Civil Rights era and people weren’t so eager to melt into it. But this may have simply given an opening to the country’s true field of battle, rich vs poor. At our best we are about freedom–enough so to stir cynics like yours truly–but we are also so very much about money. Could be the US needs to be less rich to get back to that melting pot ideal.

          Reply
  15. allan

    Marco Rubio determined to strike in US:

    Jim Tankersley‏ @jimtankersley

    The Rubio CTC changes, all told, actually slightly *reduce* value of CTC increase in the bill, per JCT

    Folding like a cheap pocket Constitution.

    Reply
    1. allan

      It turns out St. Corker isn’t so saintly, either:


      Donald Trump And GOP Leaders Could Be Enriched By Last Minute Tax Break Inserted Into Final Bill
      [IBT]

      Republican congressional leaders and real estate moguls could be personally enriched by a real-estate-related provision GOP lawmakers slipped into the final tax bill released Friday evening, according to experts interviewed by International Business Times. The legislative language was not part of previous versions of the bill and was added despite ongoing conflict-of-interest questions about the intertwining real estate interests and governmental responsibilities of President Donald Trump — the bill’s chief proponent. …

      The new tax provision would specifically allow owners of large real estate holdings through LLCs to deduct a percentage of their “pass through” income from their taxes, according to experts. Although Trump, who became famous for his real estate holdings, has transitioned into branding in recent years, federal records show Trump has ownership stakes in myriad LLCs. …

      Sen. Bob Corker, who was considered a potential “no” vote on the bill, abruptly switched his position upon the release of the final legislation. Federal records reviewed by IBT show that Corker has millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate related LLCs that could also benefit. …

      Reply
  16. Carolinian

    M of A suggests Nikki Haley’s latest blast is factually challenged. Seems hard to believe….

    Haley pointed to one alleged part of the missile debris that bore a logo of an Iranian company. She neglected to point out that the UN panel also found U.S. made hardware as part of the missiles. Neither proves where the missile came from.

    The Zionist lobby wants the U.S. to wage war on Iran and Nikki Haley is in their pocket. The extremely rich, ultraright Zionist Sheldon Adelson was the biggest sponsor of her political career.

    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/12/haley-fails-to-make-case-about-yemeni-missiles-ignores-saudi-war-crimes.html

    Dunno if I’ve shared but shortly after becoming SC governor Haley declared that all state workers would have to answer their phones by saying “it’s a great day in South Carolina.” This served her dual purpose of projecting a kind of fake Mayberry folksiness while at the same time pissing off the state bureaucrats she disliked in her role as Tea Party rightwinger. Apparently she was so pleased with herself that she named her political pac Great Day.

    Haley does seem to have an authenticity problem. Not so much Mayberry as Mayberry Machiavelli?

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      She sounds as if she’s from the “Triangulation Triangle” just to the north of her demesne. All Techno with a bit of Trance thrown in to rock the House. She just hopes that she’s music to our ears. The Dub Deb is more like it.

      Reply
  17. Oregoncharles

    ““Kansas Dem Andrea Ramsey, accused of sexual harassment, will drop out of US House race” ”

    That didn’t take long.

    This is national news – Gnews had it from the LA Times. I just sent it to Blogger, a day late it appears.

    Come to think, this happened to me in a very small way: Many years ago, when I was a very good darkroom technician, I turned down a job offer partly because of the tone and comments of the woman who owned the place. (I know – maybe I was imagining it. But I don’t think so.) That wasn’t the only factor; I had options. But it might not be a good idea with someone you want to hire.

    Reply
  18. Oregoncharles

    Why isn’t Puerto Rico a major source of tropical crops in the US? Is it too rugged for effective farming? (Tree crops do not require level ground.) It’s closer than Hawaii or even California to the East Coast, but manufacturing is “half the economy”? Seems strange.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      I was in Hawaii at the time Dole announced it would no longer grow any tropical fruits in Hawaii, they’d all come from Central America. It was clear the issue was labor cost, not transportation. Continental US hasn’t gotten meaningful amounts of tropical fruit from Hawaii since the early 1990s.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        I see some at the Co-op, but they aren’t Dole.

        Next question: how do wages in Puerto Rico compare? I assume they’re paid in dollars, so there’s no exchange discount.

        Reply
      2. ChrisPacific

        And in fact even the mangoes and pineapples you see in Hawaii supermarkets now are Central American, at least if you go to one of the big chains.

        Reply
  19. djrichard

    “How Secret Talks With Russia to Prevent Election Meddling Collapsed” [Buzzfeed]. “A second senior State Department official said any potential gains would come at too high a cost. ‘We would have to give up democracy promotion in Russia, which we’re not willing to do,’ said the official.”

    So we were unwilling to give up on democracy promotion. I wonder if Russia calls what they’re doing as perestroika promotion.

    Reply
    1. John k

      Regime change is always about bringing democracy to the locals.
      I’d like to promote regime change at dnc for the same reason.

      Reply
  20. mk

    “Joe Biden to Anita Hill: ‘I Owe Her an Apology’” [Teen Vogue]. Nothing about making student loans non-dischargeable through bankruptcy, eh Joe?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    no doubt Biden will apologize for that 20-30 years from now, if he lives that long

    Reply

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