2:00PM Water Cooler 12/18/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Net Neutrality

“Koch Brothers Are Cities’ New Obstacle to Building Broadband” [WIRED]. “At the end of the day, the Koch-funded campaign backfired. It helped fire up some council members who might not have understood the importance of city fiber; once they knew the Koch brothers were against it, the city’s plan got their attention. … If the Koch brothers were willing to throw money at opposing an incremental, cheap effort to string fiber alongside an existing state network plan, just imagine what they’ll be capable of around more ambitious local efforts. There is a major onslaught looming.”

“Despite improvements in recent years, rural libraries tend to spend more per capita for fewer services and fewer open hours, according to a report from the American Library Association (ALA)” [The Daily Yonder]. “Technology challenges, access to high speed internet, and funding to pay for staff and facilities are the main challenges facing rural community libraries, the report says.”

“”There will be a [Senate] vote” to reinstate net neutrality, Schumer says” [Ars Technica]. “‘It’s in our power to do that and that’s the beauty of the [Congressional Review Act (CRA)] rule,’ Schumer said. ‘Sometimes we don’t like them, when they used it to repeal some of the pro-environmental regulations, but now we can use the CRA to our benefit, and we intend to.'”

“Internal FCC Report Shows Republican Net Neutrality Narrative Is False” [Vice]. “President Obama led a government takeover of the internet, and Obama illegally bullied the independent Federal Communications Commission into adopting the rules. In this version of the story, Ajit Pai’s rollback of those rules Thursday is a return to the good old days, before the FCC was forced to adopt rules it never wanted in the first place…. But internal FCC documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information Act request show that the independent, nonpartisan FCC Office of Inspector General—acting on orders from Congressional Republicans—investigated the claim that Obama interfered with the FCC’s net neutrality process and found it was nonsense.”


“An unreleased White House document offers the strongest hint yet that the Trump administration is preparing to slap emergency safeguard tariffs on Chinese-made solar power equipment in response to a petition filed by American manufacturers. The paper argues that cheap solar imports allow China to unfairly profit from Americans’ use of renewable power and gain influence in the developing world’s energy infrastructure. Trump is expected to make a decision on solar duties in January, after receiving final input from USTR” [Politico].

“A longtime reader offered an upbeat and somewhat contrarian view of the results from the World Trade Organization’s 11th Ministerial Conference last week in Buenos Aires. ‘I have to say I’m surprised that headlines are so negative coming out of the WTO ministerial,’ National Foreign Trade Council Vice President for Global Trade Issues Jake Colvin told Morning Trade. ‘There was pretty widespread anxiety going into the ministerial about the role the United States might play, but my impression is they showed up sincere about sending signals about their readiness to work with like-minded countries at the WTO. In particular, I thought the e-commerce statement was a real breakthrough and something that was not certain by any means just a couple of weeks ago,” Colvin said in an email” [Politico].



“Maciej’s List of Candidates” [Pinboard]. “These are the people I’ve identified so far, starting with the most likely to win, who are running effective races in districts receiving no DNC support, and constrained by fundraising.” No DNC means they’re certainly worth a look! Thread:

NC readers will recall Maciej Cegłowski’s post: “Notes From an Emergency: Tech Feudalism.”


“But will they respect me in the morning?” (1): “Jones promises he will consider voting Republican in the Senate” [The Hill].

“But will they respect me in the morning?” (2): “Democrat Doug Jones: Trump shouldn’t resign over sexual misconduct claims” [Guardian]. “Believe All Women” (restrictions apply).

“But will they respect me in the morning?” (3): “Franken urged to reverse his resignation” [Politico]. Moore having lost, the “moral high ground” can now immediately be abandoned.

“But will they respect me in the morning?” (4): “Virginia’s governor-elect angers Democrats by saying he won’t push for Medicaid expansion” [Salon].

Perspective on Moore v. Jones: “Despite what the party would eventually become, the Readjusters in mid-19th-century Virginia initially formed because of one issue: financing debt owed to Northern banks after the Civil War…. Frustrated, [William] Mahone set out to put together a political machine that could challenge the Conservatives. This movement would bring together newly-freed slaves and poor white farmers in Southside Virginia, as well as mountain Republicans in the Shenandoah Valley. They would be united by their desire to “readjust” the debt so that the Commonwealth paid as it could, but also to repeal the poll tax and tax the wealthy to fund the rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed during the war and public education” [The South Lawn]. “The Readjuster Party did all of this and more in the decade that they were a major force in Virginia politics…” The post considers the present, as well, but this Yankee presents this nugget as a reminder that the history of the South is rich and various. Well worth a read. And I like the name, “The Readjuster Party.” There’s a lot of things I’d like to adjust.

“Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election, 2018” [Ballotpedia]. March 13. “The Republican Party held a special convention on November 11, 2017, to choose a nominee, selecting state Rep. Rick Saccone. The Democratic Party selected former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb at their nominating convention on November 19, 2017.”

2016 Post Mortem

The headline: “The past year of research has made it very clear: Trump won because of racial resentment” [Vox]. The deck: “Another study produces the same findings we’ve seen over and over again.” One more monocausal explanation. Given that — all other things being equal — Clinton would not have lost had Obama voters not flipped to Trump, it’s hard to take the headline seriously. After all, those Trump voters voted for a black President once, and in many cases, twice. Of course, they could still be prey to racist thinking, because who among us, etc., but at least they were able to overcome it in the voting booth.

Tax “Reform”

The state of play:

“Tax Bill: Bob Corker Demands Answers From Chairman Orrin Hatch About Last-Minute Tax Provision” [David Sirota, Business Insider]. “Facing a firestorm of criticism, Republican Sen. Bob Corker (TN) sent a letter Sunday night to Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asking how the final tax bill ended up including a special tax cut provision experts say would particularly benefit investors in real-estate related LLCs. The letter follows an International Business Times investigative series showing that Corker, President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and a handful of key GOP lawmakers overseeing the tax bill have multimillion-dollar ownership stakes in such LLCs, meaning they could be personally enriched by the provision, which was added to the final tax legislation released on Friday.”

Oh, the humanity!

New Cold War

“Why Republicans Launched the GSA Email Attack Now” [emptywheel]. Obviously, the Trump Transition Team should have used a private email server, and then wiped half the mail off it before turning it over to the Mueller investigation. “Worse than a crime: A blunder.” –Talleyrand.

Trump Transition

“One particular focus of the [Administrations national security] strategy, which will be released this morning ahead of the speech, is protecting the U.S. ‘national security innovation base.’ That’s a term coined by the Trump administration to capture a broad list of activities it believes the United States needs to protect and promote to make sure the nation can continue to innovate and maintain its technological lead” [Politico]. Oh gawd. “Innovation” was already a bullshit tell. Gawd knows what it will turn into now that the administration has its hands on it.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Warren and Sanders: Who Is Congress Really Serving?” MR SUBLIMINAL It’s a cookbook! [Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, New York Times]. “The task in front of Congress over the coming week boils down to a basic question: Does Washington work for all of us or just for those at the top? Congress has a chance, right now, to take steps that will make life a bit better for millions of working people immediately and in the years to come.” Very true, but the key words are “a bit better.” This is a retreat even from the demands of the agreed platform at the 2016 Democrat national convention.

“Progress you can believe in will make us the great we’ve never not been” [Diary von Davidly]. “Question: Can whoever is elected after this guy leaves undo this crap he has done?” In answer, an excellent series of rhetorical questions. Fun, but warning: Horrid formatting.

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Elevator pitch for Alien IV: The aliens land, but the locals are so busy gaslighting themselves they don’t notice:

* * *

Concrete material benefits:

Stats Watch

Housing Market Index, December 2017: “New home sales began to surge back in September and are now giving a significant lift to home builder sentiment” [Econoday]. “Today’s report points to strength for tomorrow’s housing starts and permits report.” And: “This was above the consensus forecast, and a strong reading” [Calculated Risk].

Rapture Index: Closes the week unchanged. [Rapture Ready]. Record high, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 187.

Retail: “Inflation is spreading through supermarkets, but it’s not reaching consumers. Instead, it appears that higher food costs are at the heart of a growing battle for leverage between grocers and their suppliers as a multiyear glut of many staples disappears and companies look to hand off the impact in an increasingly competitive grocery business” [Wall Street Journal]. “The spread between producer and retail prices is the widest in more than three years, a sign of the tensions across supply chains.”

Shipping: “Package-delivery companies are bracing for their busiest week of the holiday season with less room than ever for error. FedEx Corp., United Parcel Service Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service all expect to handle a record number of packages this peak season… One added wrinkle this year: Christmas falls on a Monday, putting even more pressure on shippers and delivery companies to get e-commerce orders delivered two days before the holiday” [Wall Street Journal]. “Operators say the boom in home deliveries has strained many systems since they are more time-consuming and demand more care than big shipments heading to stores. Reports of jammed systems even have some shippers cutting back delivery guarantees, meaning Christmas may come early this year when it comes to online ordering.”

Shipping: “Trucking’s electronic logging era begins this week with the questions around the costs and complications of the driver-tracking devices still under heated debate” [Wall Street Journal]. “Smaller truckers warns shipping costs will rise as strict rules pull trucks off the road, and the rule is taking effect as prices already are rising thanks to growing demand. The impact may take months to figure out, however, since federal regulators will phase in enforcement over time, with the toughest oversight starting next April.” Hmm. “Strict rules” like how many hours drivers really work?

Shipping: “Facing up to the reality of a much smarter marine future” [Splash 247]. “In August, in cooperation with our customer Gulfmark Offshore, we successfully tested the remote controlling of the ‘Highland Chieftain’, an 80-metre long platform supply vessel owned by Gulfmark Offshore. This was carried out by satellite from a distance of 8000 kilometres using standard bandwidth, and without the use of any land-based technology for communications between the vessel and the remote operator work station. Remarkably, the vessel was sailing off the east coast of Scotland, while it was being remotely operated from Wärtsilä premises in San Diego, California.”

Shipping: “Shipping lines turn to WWII-era tech to foil hackers” [DC Velocity]. “Out of concern that hackers could jam the global positioning system (GPS) signals used by cargo ships to navigate, several nations are considering replacing modern satellite-based systems with legacy World War II-era radio technology… The technology in question is an earthbound navigation system known as eLoran, a descendant of the LORAN (long-range navigation) technology used during World War II, and which scientists say is relatively impervious to hacking. While hostile programmers can disrupt distant satellite signals with inexpensive jamming devices, they would need large antennas and powerful electricity sources to defeat eLoran’s local radio signals.” Dumb phones for boats!

Shipping: “Blockchain ePODs ‘can help eliminate supply chain cashflow bottlenecks'” [The LoadStar]. “OpenPort’s solution is ‘an immutable’ electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) providing an indisputable record of the freight’s history, linked to a blockchain-created digital agreement, or ‘smart contract.'” Uh oh. When you hear the word “smart,” pat your wallet (or, alternatively clutch your purse).

The Bezzle: “Analysis of Wells Fargo Shareholder Litigation” [The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation]. “Plaintiffs brought a shareholder derivative action against Wells Fargo & Company’s officers, directors, and senior management… The complaint alleges that the Director Defendants knew about the alleged fraudulent activity because, among other things, they were aware of (1) letters explaining that the company’s “Gr-Eight initiative” created a high-pressure sales culture fostering fraudulent practices; (2) complaints made through Wells Fargo’s “EthicsLine”; (3) a whistleblower lawsuit by an employee related to the creation of fake accounts; (4) several wrongful termination and employment discrimination lawsuits; (5) investigations and inquiries by government agencies; and (6) a Los Angeles Times article that examined the fraudulent account creation scheme and the company’s internal policies and pressure that allegedly fueled it.”

The Bezzle: “CME Group launched it bitcoin futures contract Sunday evening, opening at $20,650. The contract, designated BTC, follows by one week the introduction of CBOE’s futures contract, XBT” [247 Wall Street]. “The exchanges also open the door to institutional investors previously unable to invest in bitcoin because they are forbidden from holding an unregulated asset in their portfolios. A futures contract is something tangible and has the added advantage of not forcing these big investors to hold the physical asset. That eliminates custody issues and reduces counterparty risk. Neither CME nor CBOE is taking a big chance on a sudden drop in bitcoin prices. Neither are banks and brokers. The Chicago Tribune reported that Goldman Sachs is demanding that some clients collateralize their purchases with a 100% margin requirement. Interactive Brokers Group requires a 50% margin on long contracts and around 240% on shorts. The huge margin on shorts reflects the fact that there is no limit to how much an investor can lose. A word to the wise.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 Greed (previous close: 68, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 18 at 1:21pm.

Police State Watch

“Man says cops ordered him to cut off his dog’s head or go to jail” [Macon Telegraph].

Class Warfare

“Two billion dollars in stolen wages were recovered for workers in 2015 and 2016—and that’s just a drop in the bucket” [Economic Policy Institute]. “In 2015 and 2016, a total of $2 billion in stolen wages ($880.3 million in 2015; $1.1 billion in 2016) were recovered for workers by the U.S. Department of Labor ($246.8 million in 2015; $266.6 million in 2016); by state departments of labor and attorneys general in 39 states ($170.0 million in 2015; $147.5 million in 2016); and through class action settlements ($463.6 million in 2015; $695.5 million in 2016)…. [T]hese recovery numbers likely dramatically underrepresent the pervasiveness of wage theft—it has been estimated that low-wage workers lose more than $50 billion annually to wage theft. Regardless of what share of actual wage theft the recovery numbers represent, these data are one more reminder that wage theft is not isolated to a few bad employers, but affects workers much more broadly.”

News of the Wired

“Microbial Murder Mystery Solved” [Harvard Medical School]. “Now, for the first time, researchers have caught killer cells red-handed in the act of microbial murder, observing them as they systematically killed three strains of microbes: E. coli and the bacteria responsible for causing Listeria infection and tuberculosis. The process inflicts bacterial cell death regardless of whether the environment contains oxygen. The team’s findings, published Nov. 16 in Cell, reveal that killer cells act methodically, shooting deadly enzymes into bacteria to program a complete internal breakdown and cell death.”

“The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future” [The Atlantic]. ” if Second Life promised a future in which people would spend hours each day inhabiting their online identity, haven’t we found ourselves inside it? Only it’s come to pass on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter instead. As I learned more about Second Life, and spent more time exploring it, it started to seem less like an obsolete relic and more like a distorted mirror reflecting the world many of us live in.”

“The Case for Bad Coffee” [Serious Eats]. “The best cup of coffee I ever had was the leftover swig of overly cream-and-sugared Taster’s Choice my father would always leave in his mug when he departed for work each morning (I would come downstairs in my pajamas and down it like a shot when I was just nine years old). It was the Folgers my father and I drank out of Styrofoam cups five years later while attending his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in a church basement off a suburban commercial strip.”

“Memory Matters: A special RAM edition of Dirty Coding Tricks” [GamaSutra]. I can almost understand this; it’s like a police procedural, but with code. Coders and techies, be sure to read the very last example.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, 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 (SV)

A touch of flare can be a good thing….

Readers, thanks for the latest batch of pictures. My anxieties are considerably eased when I have a good stockpile!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. foghorn longhorn

    The Koch Bros were heavily invested in laying fiber back in the early 00’s.
    One would have to assume they still are, hence the oppo to city fiber networks.

  2. Jim Haygood

    Infrastructure (or lack thereof):

    An Amtrak passenger train derailed Monday along Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington just south of Tacoma, with some train coaches toppling from an overpass onto the roadway below.

    Police reported at least three dead, while 77 people were transported to area hospitals, including four considered “level red” with the most severe injuries.

    Monday marked the addition of four more Cascades train routes, for boosted service between Seattle and Portland. The derailment occurred on the first day of train rerouting on new tracks between Tacoma and Olympia.


    This sounds like either a gross screw-up or sabotage.

    Modern railroads use track geometry inspection vehicles equipped with lasers, GPS and computer logging to record the condition of every inch of track and ensure it is within tolerances.

    A fatal accident on the first day of service is going to point the finger at someone pretty quickly. Stuff like this never happens in Japan.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      The speed limit (trains have them too) drops from 79mph to 40mph at that curve (into the bridge, over the interstate) which suggests the train was speeding…

      1. Big River Bandido

        40 MPH speed limit for a train. That illustrates one of the biggest failures of our rail infrastructure.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Going around a curve at 79 MPH (if I read the earlier comment correctly) would be really hi-tech, no?

          1. PlutoniumKun

            High speed trains use camber to allow them to take curves at speed. Although they can only do it one dimension at a time (in other words, they can’t turn and go down a slope, otherwise they might go airborne). This causes a problem if the track is for fast passenger trains and slow goods trains. A comfortable camber for a 140mph train might cause a poorly loaded goods carriage to keel right over. This is one reason why European and Japanese HSR tends to be dedicated to high speed only.

            There are also of course tilting trains for tracks with minimal or no camber.

            1. Fraibert

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but high speed rail track also should have very limited curvature . My understanding had been that one of the issues with the US getting higher speed rail is the cost, etc. of building that relatively straight track into/through urban areas, etc.

              With that said, I remember once (back in 2006) being on a TGV passing through the border between France and Italy, and it was going quite slowly through the mountains.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                Yes you are right. High speed trains need very straight lines, they simply don’t take corners very well. A typical transition curve (i.e. the total length of a turn) can be a third of a mile or more for just a few degrees change. And to make it even more difficult, they can’t take a vertical and horizontal transition at the same time. So if, for example, a key piece of infrastructure, say a bridge, has to be shifted a few metres horizontally and vertically, the impact on the line design might extend several miles in direction.

                This is the primary reason HSR is so expensive. There is no going around obstacles. There are, as I linked above, trains designed to operate on low speed lines, they can tilt into turns, but there is a limit to how far you can safely push the engineering.

                Ironically enough, the best and fastest lines are often the oldest. The first generation of rail lines, such as London to Bristol or Dublin to Belfast, are incredibly flat and straight – they had to be, as locomotives at the time had very little power. It was as steam locomotives got more powerful that engineers started cutting corners and taking the easy route when building railways. Its this second generation of lines that are a real problem for upgrading as they are basically designed for 19th Century steam engine speeds. This applies to most US lines so far as I know.

                1. John A

                  It was as steam locomotives got more powerful that engineers started cutting corners and taking the easy route when building railways.

                  Wasn’t that more a case of private sector developers cutting corners to maximise profits. One of the problems of the London to Hastings line built in the 19th century was that 2 track tunnels were specified but as the distance from London increased and further from the eyes of inspectors, private developers built single track tunnels (but charged for 2), which causes service frequency problems to this day.
                  The English canal network also suffered from the hands of profit first private developers.

                  1. PlutoniumKun

                    Yeah, it was essentially the victory of the project managers over the engineers. The early railways were engineering masterpieces, but most were financial catastrophes. The finance people learned that it was better to put a good project manager in charge rather than a Brunel. This was aided by rapid advances in locomotive design which meant that trains could go faster on substandard lines (i.e. with more vertical and horizontal transitions). So they built rail lines which went up and over or around difficult obstacles rather than bulldozing through.

                    It should also be said that standardisation had an impact. Beautiful arched bridges gave way to crude truss structures, etc.

                    There is a spot underneath Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham which illustrates this beautifully. In one place you can see 18th Century canal engineering (simple and immensely beautiful), early railway building (likewise), later 19th century (ugly truss structures), and of course, the motorway flyover (the less said the better).

                    Each level is more impressive in scale, but more depressing in design and finish. The canals are still perfect and need little maintenance, as do the early railway brick structures. The truss structures need constant painting. The 1960’s motorways are visibly falling apart, with a need for permanent work crews fixing concrete rot. So much for progress.

      2. blennylips

        Yes, it used to be speed limited. That is was the point of the project, starting in 2010 (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/20790BB4-7A4E-44AF-8791-F3A77186A764/0/PtDefiance_March2010.pdf):


        According to WSDOT, the train was running down a new bypass created to avoid slow curves and “single track tunnels on the BNSF Railway main line tracks near Point Defiance and along southern Puget Sound.”

        This was the first run after construction finished.

    2. cocomaan

      I vote for gross screw up. Amtrak has had a lot of those lately. That’s what a public private partnership model gets you sometimes.

    3. pnw_warriorwomyn

      ****Risk Management 101****

      Let’s see. I need to go to the way-back machine to read about the City of Lakewood, WA’s train tracks lawsuit (2013). The city claimed that the Washington State Department of Transportation’s environmental review of the project glossed over traffic and neighborhood impacts on Lakewood and, specifically, its isolated Tillicum neighborhood by using incorrect or insufficient information. Federal officials said, “Nah. No problem.” The environmental decision was crucial because it freed our state to seek reimbursement from $89 million in federal stimulus dollars budgeted for the project to complete its design and construction. They needed the $$ bigly.

      The City of Lakewood’s lawsuit (which they lost) concluded WSDOT violated state laws that required the review by reaching a decision “which was not based on sufficient or adequate information with respect to a number of impacts.”

      So now we have an accident and injury – on the first day of service no less. That means the state has a nice new fat liability problem with *fatalities*. I look forward to reading more about how our county’s state legislative group will tackle this problem on behalf of Pierce County residents.

    4. Altandmain

      I suspect that one major contributing factor is that this is the result of chronically underfunding Amtrak and infrastructure in general for many years.

      That said, we probably should not draw conclusions this early. Lets wait for the final report before drawing conclusions.

      Agree that Amtrak is subpar – a good railway system would be a good target for an MMT stimulus.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        A good railway system would have automatic train protection (ATP) systems installed at all significant speed transitions. Place the blame for the absence of these system, for the deaths in this derailment, on the austerians in Congress.

    5. VietnamVet

      This accident is a total FUBAR. This is not high-speed rail by any definition. It is a rebuild of the old line into Fort Lewis. The railroad, freeway and bridges were there before and after my tour in Vietnam. The first news reports had it exactly opposite from what happened. A brand-new Siemens Charger was on lead and landed on Southbound I-5 after failing to negotiate the curve. The first revenue run would seem to negate complacency. It seems strange that if going into a 30 mile an hour curve at 81 miles an hour that the brand-new rails aren’t broken. The Engine and following light weight Talgo cars just sailed off the tracks. Either there were major technical defects in the engine and/or rails or there were VIPs in the cab to provide a distraction. Like the Philadelphia crash there was no positive train control in effect to prevent the accident.

  3. allan

    It turns out that neither the Child Tax Credit nor the state and local taxes cap are indexed to inflation
    in the conference report. Surely an unintentional oversight by the noted policy wonks working
    hard behind closed doors last week.

  4. fresno dan

    The headline: “The past year of research has made it very clear: Trump won because of racial resentment” [Vox]. The deck: “Another study produces the same findings we’ve seen over and over again.”
    One more monocausal explanation. Given that — all other things being equal — Clinton would not have lost had Obama voters not flipped to Trump, it’s hard to take the headline seriously. After all, those Trump voters voted for a black President once, and in many cases, twice. Of course, they could still be prey to racist thinking, because who among us, etc., but at least they were able to overcome it in the voting booth.
    1. For the sake of argument, as a metal experiment, suppose that Vox is correct. So, Obama wins in 2008 and 2012. Whites (and therefore white racists) make up a bigger percentage of voters in 2016**??? I don’t think any reputable study of demographics would think that whites are increasing as a demographic – but if it were true, than the logical thing to do is move to Canada and accept that Trump gets re-elected and his offspring after that. OR….people of color are voting for white racists….???
    * 1A Hypothesis: Voting for a black president makes a person vote more racist in subsequent elections??? (I think the more logical explanation is that people were disappointed in Obama because of his policies, not his race….if they were such racits – why did they vote for him again???)

    2. People of all races or and/or white people are misogynist. Vox doesn’t consider this – why??? But the thesis implies don’t nominate women. Did the voters not like a woman being president or a Clinton being president – maybe both? Considering that a majority of voters are women, it does raise some uncomfortable questions for the proponents of that proposition about nominating women….

    3. Implied by Vox is the bizarre idea that if only the media would be clear that Trump voters are racist…what? The racist white voters who voted for Trump, once outed, will become progressive voters? Or, that many Trump voters sincerely don’t know or don’t think Trump is a racist, but once Vox informs them they will reverse course and not vote for Trump ever again? Or that Clinton racking up even more of the popular vote in Coastal states….negates the electoral college, and people in the “blue wall” would say, “Gosh, Clinton is winning by 4 million in the popular vote on the coast – I better not vote for Trump!”

    I imagine racists voted for Trump in overwhelming percentages….I imagine racists voted AGAINST Obama in overwhelming percentages. OK, now that we got that out of the way…how do you proceed that gets Trump not being re-elected?

    1. RMO

      “Implied by Vox is the bizarre idea that if only the media would be clear that Trump voters are racist…what? The racist white voters who voted for Trump, once outed, will become progressive voters? Or, that many Trump voters sincerely don’t know or don’t think Trump is a racist, but once Vox informs them they will reverse course and not vote for Trump ever again?”

      Good questions, and it shows how little sense the article makes – UNLESS – you consider that the article has nothing to do with winning elections in the future but a lot to do with coming up with reasons for the Democrats to stay the course with neoliberalism and to avoid a platform which would be beneficial to the vast majority of the U.S. population. They are desperately trying to keep the status quo which is great for the consultancy and donor class but disastrous for the world as a whole.

      1. Summer

        “Virginia’s governor-elect angers Democrats by saying he won’t push for Medicaid expansion” [Salon].
        “Virginia’s newly elected governor, Ralph Northam, hasn’t even been sworn into office, and he’s already angering the Democratic base that rallied to elect him last month.”

        The Democrats dog-whistle politics in the South.
        Also, note that in the article, they never put the “D” in front of Northam’s name.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Perhaps the traditional-Democratic voters of “the base” . . . even those who live in the South . . . might begin to think in terms of voting against non-Bernie Democrats every single time. The goal would be to make non-Bernie Democrats unelectable anywhere ever, and non-nominatable after that.

    2. JohnL

      Fewer people voted for Trump than Romney. And way fewer for Clinton than Obama (although still more than for Trump).

      More Obama voters sat this one out than Romney voters.

  5. Donald

    Insert all the usual caveats, probably a bizarre mirage, etc, but I think we humans are so afraid of ridicule a UFO would have to vaporize the White House before we would start to admit the subject might be worth serious discussion.

    We would then debate whether they should be welcomed as liberators.

    If it is a mirage the physicists and the military need to get together and discuss how to tell the difference between bizarre mirages that look like weird aircraft and actual weird aircraft. Then spread the knowledge around. It might be important for the North Koreans to be able to tell the difference.

    1. tony

      Serious people have been discussing them for a long time, just like they have been discussing remote viewing. There is potentially a lot of power there, why should they share it with the rubes?

    2. Summer

      I seriously think people have seen Unidentifed Flying Objects.
      Aliens that have the same interests as humans and think we’re so interesting? That’s the leap.

      1. ambrit

        Alien Xenoanthropologists. Studying us as we study “primitive” cultures here on earth. Which would explain why “they” never land in Kremlin Square and ask: “Take us to your jefe.” One of the first rules of anthropology is to severely limit interactions with the ‘studied’ group. That act introduces corrupting influences. Plus, in general, when two cultures meet, the ‘weaker’ almost always tries to imitate the ‘stronger.’ Why else do Amazonian jungle tribes-people wear Grateful Dead tee shirts? It is a puzzlement.

        1. Summer

          “one of the first rules of anthropology…”
          Rules developed because of the nature of the planet Earth and the way our minds were developed as a result. It’s a wild assumption to think that other intelligent life would think anything we do is “intelligent.”

          “Plus, in general, when two cultures meet, the ‘weaker’ almost always tries to imitate the ‘stronger.’ Why else do Amazonian jungle tribes-people wear Grateful Dead tee shirts?”

          Free clothes? They probably wonder why we sit in cubicles all day…It is a puzzlement.

          There aren’t aliens lurking around that happen to have the same type of scientific ideas that people here do.

          1. ambrit

            It is a puzzlement to consider how “intelligence” develops.
            If what humans consider ‘logic’ does not work for aliens, that would suggest a different set of ground rules for perception applies ‘elsewhere.’
            Basically though, I always thought that the sign of “intelligence” was the ability to manipulate ones’ environment to ones’ advantage and survival. It follows that the environment that beings function in will determine their type of “intelligence.” Catecians may well be intelligent using this definition. However, most will append the need for toolmaking so as to extend ones’ ability to control the environment one exists in.
            The problem with the adoption of the accoutrements of a “higher” culture is the eventual arrival of “missionaries.” When “free clothes” eventually end up with the indigenes forgetting how to make their own clothing, the local culture begins to unravel. Then the urgeings of various unsavoury characters from ‘outside’ towards this or that, all of which benefit the outsiders at the locals expense, become both seductive and minatory. Soon, the locals are building their own renditions of ‘cubicles’ in order to propitiate the Gods. Their own gods obviously weren’t good enough, or how come those d–n outsiders can come in with impunity and take the yellow metal out of the sacred mountain?
            I actually like Jacques Vallees Interdimensional theory, so, I am projecting a humans attitude onto any ‘aliens’ that might indeed be lurking about. Probably, any ‘aliens’ don’t give a d–n about us. ‘They’ might consider the whales and dolphins to be the dominant species here on earth.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think the aliens periodically visit us to check whether the Galactic Quarantine should remain in place.

      Clearly, the answer this time was “Yes”*, as before.

      NOTE By which I mean, “Hell, yes!”

  6. Big River Bandido

    Doug Jones and Ralph Northam: Even as cynical as I am about the Democrats, I thought Jones might wait a little longer than 4 days. As for Northam, the only thing that surprises me is that he didn’t wait to make that statement until Dec. 26 when no one would be paying attention. At least he’ll be a lame duck the minute he’s sworn in.

    1. sleepy

      It seems like just yesterday when pols who disagreed with their party’s line would switch parties. No need for that nowadays. Rightwing dem like Jones or Northam can bask in the praise, heroism, and money that flows from the #resistance simply because they are not Trump nor sexual predators.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      If you want a preview of what will happen should the Democrat establishment (as currently configured) win in 2018 and/or 2020, you just have to look at what just happened with Jones and Northam.

      Yes, you’d think they could at least have waited until after the holidays to sh*tcan all the shibboleths liberal Democrats told us over and over again they were running on, but n-o-o-o-o-o-o….

  7. fresno dan

    “Warren and Sanders: Who Is Congress Really Serving?” MR SUBLIMINAL It’s a cookbook!

    LOL! You know, if your the guy on the space ship, its foolish not to eat – where are you gonna go?
    In light of yesterday’s post about wine glasses getting bigger, and today’s post about the world getting worse, I am filling them to the brim, and I am foregoing my foolish rule of not drinking before 5 am….

    Because there are so many young’uns who just may not get the reference (to serve man), here it is: in the Twilight Zone television series (1950’s and early 1960;s) aliens come to earth, ostensibly to help humans. They inadvertently leave a book behind – only the title can be translated by humans: To Serve Man – – People took the title to mean … to serve the interests of mankind.
    Only until further translation work, after humans have departed for the new alien world, reveals what the rest of the book says – its a cookbook!

    dems: man is best filleted served with risotto and a nice pinot
    repubs: man is best barbecued bone in and served with baked beans and budweiser

    1. ewmayer

      Ah yes, Lloyd Bochner as the victim and Richard Kiel (later ‘Jaws’ in the Roger Moore Bond films) as the towering telepathic alien. It’s funny to compare the wild techno-promises – all of which actually get implemented, mind you – Kiel’s character uses to seduce mankind to the kind of techno-vaporware being peddled by our latter-day colonizers from Silicon Valley. MeTV stills shows TZ every night, right after Perry Mason. I love those great shows from the golden age of television.

    2. Mark Pontin

      ‘To Serve Man’ was a story by writer Damon Knight before Serling & Co. did it for TV.

      Credit where credit is due.

  8. Terry Humphrey

    Maj. Gen. Wm. Mahone, a VMI grad and railroad builder in antebellum VA, fought the entire war and was instrumental in reversing the dire confederate position after the mine explosion at Petersburg. He wasn’t much liked as head of the Readjusters given it membership allowed Blacks. Seems he was successful in about all he did; engineer, soldier or politician.

    1. Tiberius Gracchus

      And he’s largely forgotten in VA. His grave is a modest mausoleum in Petersburg with a single letter M at the front

  9. fresno dan

    “Progress you can believe in will make us the great we’ve never not been” [Diary von Davidly]. “Question: Can whoever is elected after this guy leaves undo this crap he has done?” In answer, an excellent series of rhetorical questions. Fun, but warning: Horrid formatting.

    “Answer: Sure. Didn’t the last guy undo the unconstitutional expansions of the guy before him, dial back on the accretion of power to the executive branch, and do due diligence on the opposition’s chosen appointees while emboldening his party in the Houses to oppose with all due force those whose preferred policies, as they warned their constituencies, would be definitely detrimental?”
    Incredibly hard not to just paste the whole thing here.
    Fortunately, I won’t live to see it…but will eventually people say, like they say about Obama continuing Bush’s policies, and that’s why we got Trump, that whoever supplants Trump, that people will say Trump just continued Obama’s policies of endless war, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and that’s why we got the guy after Trump and than everyone saying, don’t you wish Trump were back???

  10. Geophrian

    Years ago an ex-girlfriend was stalking me. Constant phone calls, showing up at my door or even finding me when I was out with friends. The thing that creeped me out most was when I found out she’d made a Second Life version of me for her Second Life character to date. Even though I’d never played the game and only knew about it due to her obsession with it (she was unemployed and becoming socially isolated but her character had a great career, nice home, and lots of friends), it was knowing that she was still living a virtual life with me that for some reason I was really disturbed by.

    Personally, I prefer my first life. I feel like virtual lives prey in the same fears that make people so focused on after lives that they neglect the present reality, but with the added aspect of being able to reap the “benefits” of that Second life instead of merely longing for it.

    1. DonCoyote

      To me, Second Life seems like the “sandbox” mode of a game (i.e. a gaming engine with the competition/”win” conditions disabled). The linked article seemed sanitized: it played up Second Life permitting people to have a “better” life experience (in certain aspects) than their actual life. Not mentioned is what people do when you let them do anything: 1) gamble (which was banned in 2009; doing this halved the in-platform economy); and 2) “adult only” activities of all flavors.

      It doesn’t really matter to me whether you call it a game or not. Real world economics, it functions in a similar fashion to most MMPORGs, with an in-game currency necessary for many (not all) things (certainly all the things listed in the article though) that the company sells and won’t let you turn back into RL currency, and hosting on the company servers (Minecraft, for example, lacks both of these features).

      If I think of it as a game, then I can compare it to Zork, a computer game that sold more than a million copies back in the day. Zork was obviously neither social nor open-ended, but it was also different than Second Life in being text-only. So much of Second Life seems to be customizing your land/avatar/items, the visual aspects.

      I think it’s an interesting question as to why (per William Gibson/Neal Stephenson) we don’t interact with the internet in a primarily graphical fashion. It’s possible that we just haven’t gotten there yet (technology-wise, which is what Snow Crash seems to suggest). But the limited userbase of Second Life and the fact that the article’s author compared Facebook to Second Life makes me think that the visual aspect is of high importance only to a certain small subset of people versus the social aspect.

  11. D

    What ‘amuses’ me about the recent New York Times UFO pieces, and the commentary I’ve seen surrounding it, is the absence of memory regarding this 2010 episode.

    09/27/10 Aliens have deactivated British and US nuclear missiles, say US military pilots – Aliens have landed, infiltrated British nuclear missile sites and deactivated the weapons, according to US military pilots.

    The beings have repeated their efforts in the US and have been active since 1948, the men said, and accused the respective governments of trying to keep the information secret.

    The unlikely claims were compiled by six former US airmen and another member of the military who interviewed or researched the evidence of 120 ex-military personnel.

    The information they have collected suggests that aliens could have landed on Earth as recently as seven years ago.

    The men’s aim is to press the two governments to recognise the long-standing extra-terrestrial visits as fact.

    They are to be presented on Monday 27 September at a meeting in Washington.

    One of the men, Capt Robert Salas, said: “The US Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it.”


    For the record, if their are aliens here, my thought is that they’re the Dark Skies version. Maybe Gates, Ellison, Thiel, Musk, Bezos, Brin, Page, Schmidt, Zuckerberg, are part of that Dark Skies group (only half joking) or perhaps there are more than one sort from different galaxies, the outnumbered group being benevolent.

    Anyway, off to get a lobotomy, I wish my memory was that short (half bleakly joking), maybe it would alleviate the likely PTSD I now have after witnessing first hand how utterly corrupted the US CorpGovernment is and how many lies have been told.

    (Hilarious L’il Billy Gates Spelling Bee Wizards don’t acknowledge PTSD.)

    1. JeffC

      When you hear of individuals convinced they have irrefutable evidence of alien visits, do recall that roughly 1% of any large population is schizophrenic and at least occasionally suffering from delusions. One percent is a pretty large number. That would mean, for example, over three million schizophrenics in the US. It would not be surprising that a few would take an interest in alien matters.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I’ll keep my mind open here for a simple fact. When Australia was first opened up, the people on the ground here described an animal that was a egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal called a platypus. The scientist back home refused to believe these reports.
        So the people here sent back a pelt and a description but the scientists thought that somebody had sewn a duck’s beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal. One scientist even took a pair of scissors to the dried skin to check for stitches. It took a while for them to accept the reality.
        Just because you don’t acknowledge something that is beyond your experience does not mean that it does not exist. In any case schizophrenic illusions to not appear on gun camera film and there are many instances on record of these.

      2. fajensen

        The “medical explanation” bothers me. If that is universally true, we have nuclear silos and high perfomance fighters manned by schizophrenics!?

        The fighters I can kinda live with … the nukes …. I think I much prefer the Aliens to exist, even the “probing” kind.

        The universe is a quite strange place. Reality seems to “glitch” and it almost seems playful – in that once someone cooks up some really heady maths describing some very strange aspect of an obscure reality, within a bizarre field, say, Quantum Information Theory, it is almost like the universe “helps” by making the experiment run as the math says. Like Magick.

        I have seen (and heard) some ghosts and even a vampire over the years. I think that is mostly caused by how our (my) minds work in general, but, it would not surprise me if some research project discovers that multiverses exist right next to ours and sometimes “things” do leak over and we see them.

        This would be a “Level II” multiverse, http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/crazy.html

  12. Byron the Light Bulb

    Conspiracy Debunked! = UFO lore driven by US Air Force counter-intelligence to steer gazes toward skies where classified experimental demonstration aircraft ARE NOT being flown. Pentagon creates office to consolidate sensor recordings and unbiased observations under field conditions to evaluate the ol’ Skunkworks.

    Conspiracy Rebunked! = Alien biologics are scooting around our troposphere. “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!”

    Conspiracy De-Rebunked! = Look, we don’t have enough pilots to go to war with N Korea plus one. The economy is picking up…and the cannabis…We need more clean-living tushes in ejector seats. Pentagon headshrinkers think X-Files is a good trope factory. Yeah…Top Gun was a little too Tom of Finland even for the Band of Bros crowd. The Danger Zone featured more beach volley ball and locker room towel displays than dogfights.

  13. Swamp Yankee

    In re: Readjusters. To this American historian’s mind, the term “Readjuster” likely descends from the 18th century Regulators, up and down the colonies/states, who through crowd action sought to regulate the shape and nature of the social contract. Thus, the Shays Rebels in Massachusetts, as well as similar movements in other states, called themselves the Regulators. Likewise, in the 1760s Carolina backcountry, another Regulator movement sought to meet problems of pervasive public disorder and banditry. These movements themselves have antecedents in early modern and medieval European traditions of chariviari and Rough Music, as described by E.P. Thompson, Georges Rude, and Charles Tilly.

  14. Jim Haygood

    Delusion! cries the good Dr Hussman in his latest missive. He enumerates paper wealth, a booming economy and Bitcoin as three of them:


    All well-researched; and all will matter someday. Meanwhile, Dr H is sticking to his line that ‘We’ve already observed deterioration in our key measures of market internals, but I would still characterize that deterioration as “early.” ‘

    All well and good. But when the market rises relentlessly, day after day, there comes a point where “early” is simply “wrong.”

    The Dow Industrials, Dow Transports [throwing off another Dow Theory buy signal], S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite and Russell 2000 all hit record highs today.

    With under one percent to go, Dow 25K by Dec 25th has risen to about a 40% probability.

    1. John k

      I like his articles, the last more than most.
      You can be wrong, and lose an opportunity to participate, whether bubble or otherwise.
      You can be wrong and lose everything.
      Imagine there is a crash…
      If you get out it means you sold to somebody that else bears the loss… as he says, somebody owns each security.
      The result is not just paper losses for many, but also real and disastrous for some.

      Like him, I didn’t recognize we have belts and suspenders today not in place in 1929.
      Will continue missing opportunities for profits and losses as I hold my long bonds…

  15. L

    According to the Guardian Trump is planning a speech today/tonight to outline his new National Security strategy. Part of that strategy will be laying out a vision where exploitation of fossil fuels is essential to our national security.

    It may be paranoia on my part but that would seem to lay the groundwork for the FBI to finally take the gloves off with environmentalists and water protectors. It would also add a new justification for pipeline owners to seize private property and national lands for “essential” exploitation.

  16. Pavel

    Re: Feinstein’s tax tweet: Given all the homeless and poor in California (and elsewhere), if the average house price is $750K then perhaps the tax relief should indeed be capped and some of the resulting taxes be spent on those who don’t have $750K plus homes? [NOTE: not that that would happen in Trump’s universe, or even HRC’s.]

    This may sound like sacrilege… I don’t know. One of my issues is that Americans tend to live in oversized houses compared to families in Europe (let alone Japan!). All those McMansions for a household of 4 or perhaps 5 people. Private tennis courts and pools. Three-car garages. All a bit obscene. Just my two cents.

    1. John k

      Most one million dollar homes here are not mansions… for that you need millions.
      Never ending interest deduction drives up prices, out of reach of the young.
      Why not limit deduction to first home? Prices will decline towards what used to be normal price/income.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The senator should help California workers so they can afford those same median/average price homes – and the bubble-free way is for the prices to come down.

    2. Jen

      My cousin’s 750K home (800K actually, as of last appraisal) is what would be considered a crappy little ranch anywhere outside of her wealthy LA neighborhood. She bought it in the 60’s on a school teacher’s salary. If/when she sells it, the buyer will undoubtedly tear it down and replace it with some ghastly 10000 square foot monstrosity that covers every inch of the property, as has happened to every other home around her as her neighbors moved out or died off.

  17. L

    This is an interesting point:

    “the Readjusters in mid-19th-century Virginia initially formed because of one issue: financing debt owed to Northern banks after the Civil War…. “

    While most people ignore it this same post-war debt was also a major driver of Shay’s Rebellion which so terrified the moneyed classes that they backed the idea of stronger government on the grounds that the articles of confederation were “A rope of sand” (James Madison). This seems to be our thing, financiers backing “freedom” (of commerce) until it all crashes and then suddenly discovering their inner Hamilton.

  18. Carolinian

    Re marine navigation–we C.S.Forester fans know there used to be this quaint item called a sextant–didn’t use batteries. You wonder when was the last time anyone in our high tech merchant marine went out at noon and “shot the sun.”

    US Navy could use some of those antiquated skills as well since they keep running into other ships.

    1. subgenius

      Except in when there is fog, cloud cover, or swells/waves that destabilize your viewing platform..(last not frequent with military or civilian cargo or cruise vessels.. admittedly..)…then it’s dead reckoning (so-called due to the propensity to end up dead due to reckoning you know where you are and that the chart is the territory…)

      Visibility of the heavens can be problematic for quite extended periods…on the West coast I have lost it on clearing the slot from SF Bay and only regained it around Malibu several days later, for example. the North Sea is much, much worse.

      I have long coveted a Weams & Plath…

      1. fajensen

        If money is no object, they Navy can still see the stars. In the 1960’s they developed “star cameras” able to see through clouds or daylight to fix stars used for setting the inertial navigation systems of the nukes.

        Inertial navigation integrates every movement and acceleration that the missile does and corrects so the missile runs along a pre-set parabolic path in the sky. One had to know the exact starting point to get to Moscow in time.

        1. subgenius

          Not convinced by the “see through clouds” argument, ballistic missiles fly well above..

          Plus light scattering as it travels through atmospheric vapour forming clouds makes physics say extremely unlikely.

          Any references?

  19. Charlie

    Feinstien tweet:

    So let me see, there a provision to raise taxes on wealthy homeowners via the mortgage interest deduction cap, and she complains about that while the rest of the bill is about tax cuts for the rich? Nothing about the hedge fund cut?

    That’s rich.

  20. Dita

    Ah SecondLife. I was really into it for about year, it was great fun,met people from all over the world. And then I moved on. The Atlantic piece didn’t jibe with my own experience of it, but it’s been many years since I visited.

  21. Annotherone

    Re “The Case for Bad Coffee” – What a lovely piece of writing that is – thank you for the link. I guess similar sentiments could be expressed if writing about “bad wine”, “bad Scotch”, “bad…” anything that has a rather elitist snobby side to it. The fact is brought home that it really isn’t the coffee, wine, Scotch, whatever, that is truly important but the life and memories unfolding and recording as they are partaken of. If we allow ourselves to become a bit precious, or overly elitist about appreciating and insisting on the finer versions of such things, it probably would mean that we’d be in danger of missing the finer sides of, well, being alive.

    1. The Rev Kev

      A book I read on advertising once told how coffee was once a decent, strong drink. Then, sometime after WW2, the coffee industry decided to slightly dilute the strength of the coffee that they were importing into America and pocket the price difference. The change was only very small so most people never noticed the difference. This was repeated again and again as people were ‘trained’ to accept a much weaker coffee that what they had once enjoyed but the coffee industry were making out like bandits. You wouldn’t notice it from week to week but if you went away for a long time and came back to try a cup it would be very noticeable.
      Being an avid coffee drinker myself (yeah, I know that it is only flavoured water) I have sometimes wondered whether the boutique coffee fetching such high prices today is actually the same as an old ‘cup of Joe’ from pre-WW2 America. I can see a mechanism at work her. Take something that people use that is cheap and plentiful, seize control of it and gradually crapify the hell out of it, then offer the original product at boutique prices that only the right people can afford (or affectionados) while the plebs have to be satisfied with whatever they can afford. See? You can use this method in all sorts of industries.

      1. Bean drinker

        I smell not coffee but paid advertising from kraft heinz. Kraft Heinz is the producer of Maxwell house produce both instant coffee (a type of coffee that should be punishable throughout the full market chain: from production to consumption) and ordinary coffee.
        Sounds very plausible with the dilution theory.

        The best coffee there is is the armenian version.

        200 ml water + 3-4 brimful teaspoons of coffee ground to turkish fineness
        Stir every now and then while bringing the coffee to boiling point. Rake a spoonful of the powder froth and put on bottom of cup. If you need a bigger caffeine kick, just let boil for a few more minutes. Pour the coffee in the cup. The froth on top of the coffee is a sign of love. Serve and enjoy. Cardamom can be added too when having coffee with sweets.

      2. Annotherone

        Sounds like a plan, and is pretty recognisable to spot when given a bit of thought! Coffee – I love the scent, but have not yet drunk a cup of coffee that tastes anything akin to that scent. Since husband had to give up caffeine a few years ago, I’ve resorted to instant – a habit I had for 60+ years in the UK anyway.

  22. RMO

    You know what sticks with me from that Second Life article? The woman with MS who was A: prevented from building a ramp on her front stairs by the homeowner’s association, thus pretty much trapping her in her house and B: then had to move to Tennessee because her lifetime disability payments maxed out. The fact that either of those things could happen at all is enraging. BOTH of them happening to the same person makes me want to weep.

  23. Altandmain

    Decent article:

    Democrats Are Still In Denial

    Not much about how they screwed over the Sanders wing though.

    What they still deny though is how the Establishment is neoliberal and really not worth fighting for. Trump is awful, but he’s the result of the mismanagement of Establishment Democrats.

    Had Obama followed in the footsteps of Roosevelt … he’d be considered the best President since Roosevelt, and likely would have left a generation of Democratic voters in Generation Y.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      ” How could the Democratic Party allow itself to be tagged as the party of Wall Street?”

      Because that is what the Democratic Party leadership turned it into and that is what the Democratic Party leadership remain committed to keeping it being. The party of Wall Street.

      Sometimes the donkey is exactly where the tail needs to be pinned.

      What the Democratic Party needs is a purging and a berning.

  24. sleepy

    The senate intelligence committee is now asking for documents from the Stein campaign.

    When asked Monday what the committee was looking for from the Stein campaign, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, responded, “collusion with the Russians.”


    Apparently all because of Stein’s appearances on RT as well as a documentary on Occupy Wall Street produced by her campaign manager which aired on RT, and according to US intelligence assessments “fueled discontent” in the US.

    Twitter says prominent liberal dems are eating this up.

  25. D

    JeffC, re:

    When you hear of individuals convinced they have irrefutable evidence of alien visits, do recall that roughly 1% of any large population is schizophrenic and at least occasionally suffering from delusions. One percent is a pretty large number. ….

    While I do understand the ‘logic’ of your sentiment, there is a horrid slippery slope there, one that has historically been used by amoral (malevolent to my mind) monsters.

    Consider, for just one among countless multitudes of examples, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (and yeah, ….weep) between 1932 and 1972 [….] rural African-American men in Alabama under the guise of receiving free health care from the United States government were deliberately unwittingly injected with syphilis, via the U.S. Public Health Service.

    They were way under one percent of the US population; can you even imagine how they were responded to by not only White people, but their own loved ones when they came to realize/suspect – and spoke to – that their incurable (at that stage) disease was deliberately injected into them by the U.S. Public Health Service ™ . Unspeakably foul …

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      My memory is that they were not deliberately injected with syphilis. Rather, men with syphilis were recruited into a long-term study with promises of a cure and then deliberately not treated. The study was to see what would happen if syphilis was left untreated long enough while lying to the patients about “receiving treatment”.

      But if my memory is wrong, I am sure somebody will correct me.

      1. The Rev Kev

        No, you got it right. It was called the Tuskegee syphilis experiment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment) and it went on for about four, freakin’ decades. The program was expanded into Guatemala (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala_syphilis_experiment) after WW2 where the doctors deliberately infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients with syphilis without telling them what they were doing! If this had been done on a foreign population during wartime, it would be known as a War Crime! On the bright side, they did say sorry when it all came out.

  26. ChrisPacific

    That ‘Memory Matters’ article was fun. The most remarkable one for me was the RAM/Crash anecdote (not least because this was a game I played a lot in my younger days). Sometimes it’s possible to be too clever. Non-deterministic search algorithms to optimize storage for large binaries! (An NP-complete problem, no less). Why not?

    As horrific as it sounds, it’s a compile time hack rather than a run time hack, so it shouldn’t impact game stability if it succeeds (the challenge would be getting the damn thing to build reliably and repeatably in the first place). And indeed I remember it as an incredibly polished game that pushed the boundaries of the platform and never (or rarely) crashed.

    Yes, the last one was scary, but it’s just a dodgy hack on a dodgy platform for a game I never heard of, while Crash was a huge bestseller and one of the defining games of the PS1 generation.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I loved the crudity of the last example. “What if… we just inserted more zeroes?”

      Of course, the software that’s running the Internet of Things isn’t anything like this. Or robot cars. Or “smart contracts”…. Because the institutional and financial drivers are completely different. Oh, wait…

  27. D

    drumlin woodchuckles, re:

    My memory is that they were not deliberately injected with syphilis. Rather, men with syphilis were recruited into a long-term study with promises of a cure and then deliberately not treated.

    yes, but Occam’s Razor, they may as well have been deliberately injected with it, and who is to say that hasn’t happened, … when it’s been verified that plutonium has been injected into unwitting victims, under the Manhattan [Nuclear] Project?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles


      That is a fair point, in that the motive was the same either way. So why be a stickler for the pickiest little points of fact? Because the enemy lies in wait to seize upon any and every little deviation from the actual factual in the smallest degree in order to discredit and dismiss the whole argument and hide the larger point.
      It is better to give the enemy the very fewest such openings possible.

  28. allan

    PennWharton goes medieval on the TCJA:

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as Reported by Conference Committee (12/15/17): Static and Dynamic Effects on the Budget and the Economy


    This brief reports Penn Wharton Budget Model’s (PWBM) static and dynamic analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), reported by the conference committee on December 15, 2017. The TCJA increases debt by between $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion over the next decade.

    Key Points

    •By 2027, under our standard economics assumptions, we project that GDP is between 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent larger, relative to no tax changes. Debt increases between $1.9 trillion and $2.2 trillion, inclusive of economic growth.

    •By 2040, we project that GDP is between 0.7 percent and 1.6 percent larger under our baseline assumptions, and debt increases by $2.2 to $3.5 trillion. …

    Modeling Sunsets in the Dynamic Model

    To maintain consistency with budget reconciliation requirements, the TCJA involves numerous major expiry of provisions (sunsets). However, in making those amendments, the bill’s creators announced that they expect that sunsetting provisions would eventually be extended. We, therefore, model the dynamic (economic) effects of the amended bill as households and investors expecting no sunsets prior to the sunset dates. However, to be consistent with the actual bill, the sunsets then unexpectedly expire as scheduled. This modeling approach is generally more favorable for generating positive growth relative to alternatives.

    It’s a good thing that $2.2 trillion is less than $1.5 trillion.
    Otherwise the GOP would need 60 votes in the Senate.

  29. fresno dan

    Whoo Hoo – I got my official laminated …registration as a California Department of Aging HICAP counselor today …well, its not a badge, not nearly as fancy as my FDA credentials….its a laminated card. I’m surprised CA actually laminated it. It also says it was issued on November 2, 2017. So I just got it today???
    Of course, my very first two cases on my own threw me for a loop. The Share of Cost (this bizarre rule is that to get free Medi-Cal health care benefits when you are low income, you have to buy more health insurance) was for a 35 year old disabled guy. And, even though he had dental insurance already….the wacko rules, to get him on Medi-Cal meant that the cheapest way for him to do that was to buy….3 more dental plans…REALLY. He has a brain injury…not cavities….

    And irony….the next guy was an Indian guy who wanted to end his Medicare Advantage plan (i.e., a medicare HMO) because the dental plan it included was essentially useless and he needed surgery on his jaw cause his teeth were so bad. He simply didn’t understand that dental insurance, health insurance, medicare, and medicare advantage are all different things. And that we could only withdraw him from his current insurance plan by enrolling him into a Part D drug plan because Medi-Cal does not pay for his prescription drugs – it helps pay the insurance premiums for whatever health care plan he belongs too….we cannot contact his insurance company for him.

    I still think instead of saying I’m “registered” it should say I’m certifiably…nuts

    1. roady

      Congrats, fresno dan! Keep fighting the good fight for those in need of help. May you always land sunny-side up.

  30. Edward E

    I’m exhausted… Thanks FMCSA we’ve got a bad moon over the trucking industry. I’m hearing there was a mad dash by small fleets to install ELD’s and a third or more of the drivers at some just quit. Parked trucks means they’re not moving freight and that makes it harder for the drivers still running. Christmas away from home means maybe soon even more parked rigs. It may take less than a month to see the impact.

  31. D

    You’re right, of course, drumlin wood chuckles, re:


    That is a fair point, in that the motive was the same either way. So why be a stickler for the pickiest little points of fact? Because the enemy lies in wait to seize upon any and every little deviation from the actual factual in the smallest degree in order to discredit and dismiss the whole argument and hide the larger point.

    It is better to give the enemy the very fewest such openings possible.

    Actually, I had read years ago that the injections were made in the US also (let alone Guatemala, which Rev Kev has linked to above) but those notes are somewhere on an old flash drive that I didn’t want to dig up and search, so I lazily linked to Wiki – which supports your initial comment – and stupidly didn’t fully read before linking to Wiki.

    Given that John Charles Cutler (of the infamous Guatemala ‘experiment’ and others) was also involved as a primary ‘researcher,’ in latter years, with the Tuskegee experiment (which, oddly, Wiki doesn’t – at least currently – note on its Tuskegee page, but does acknowledge on its John Charles Cutler page), and given that he wasn’t apt to admit in writing secretly infecting a US citizen, since that was way to close to home, I don’t doubt that he, and even others, might have deliberately infected Tuskegee victims.

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