2:00PM Water Cooler 12/20/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Net Neutrality

“Where Were Netflix and Google in the Net-Neutrality Fight?” [The Atlantic]. “The reality is that Netflix and other large tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have grown so dominant that net neutrality has become a nonissue for them. They’re aware that their extensive, loyal user bases can protect them from any unfavorable deals that internet-service providers (ISPs) might devise—there’s leverage to be gained from becoming a platform that broadband customers expect ready access to. And unlike smaller businesses, which lack that leverage, big tech companies have the political clout to fight policies they don’t want—should they choose to.”

“The opposition by many teenagers [to the abolition of net neutrality] is rooted in how they are among the most avid users of the internet and smartphones. Virtually all youth between ages 13 and 17 own or have access to a smartphone and 94 percent use social media, according to an April 2017 study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Many are gaining access to devices at younger ages, with 98 percent of children from newborn to 8 years old accessing a mobile device at home, compared with 52 percent in 2011” [New York Times]. “The repeal of net neutrality has gotten many of these teens politically engaged for the first time, with fears that the dismantling of rules could open the door for broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast to distort the experience of accessing anything online with equal ease.”

“[F}ew media outlets or internet users seem to understand that the net neutrality repeal is just one small part of a massive, larger plan to eliminate nearly all meaningful federal and state oversight of some of the least-liked and least-competitive companies in America” [Motherboard], “There’s another angle to the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” proceeding that should be even more worrying. A big part of the FCC’s plan involves rolling back the FCC’s tailor-made authority over broadband providers, then shoveling all remaining government oversight to an FTC ill-equipped to handle it. Why is that a problem? The FTC has no rule-making ability, and can only move to protect consumers after a violation has occurred.”

“Who will be hit hardest by net neutrality? Marginalised America” [Guardian]. “There are 69 million people in the United States living without home-based internet services. Some rural and low-income communities go without because they don’t have access to broadband services, but a study shows that most people go without home broadband because they simply can’t afford it. Affordability of broadband creates and exacerbates gaps in financial and educational opportunities between the broadband ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.'”

“Net neutrality’s impact on free porn could be significant, experts say” [FOX]. “It’s hard to overstate just how much porn is consumed online. Last year, Pornhub viewers alone watched over 91 billion videos and there were a total of 44,000 visits to the site per hour. But now that internet service providers will be able to control what users can access and charge a range of prices based on the type of content, that could change.” Since porn has always been an early adopter of new media, it will be interesting to see how it adapts.


“A Senate committee’s rejection of Scott Garrett, President Donald Trump’s pick to run the agency, highlights a rift among Republicans over the direction of the bank… and leaves in limbo a financing operation critical to many exporters. The vote against the former New Jersey congressman is a setback for the White House and a victory for large manufacturers such as General Electric Co. and Boeing Co. that opposed the nomination. The Ex-Im Bank has long split the GOP’s business-friendly faction and those who criticize the agency as inappropriate government interference in the market” [Wall Street Journal].

“Nearly a dozen lawmakers are calling on Trump to take ‘strong and effective’ action to protect the U.S. solar industry against foreign competition that they said could undermine U.S. energy independence” [Politico]. “‘n order to ensure electrical grid security, the U.S. cannot afford to become dependent on imports from China and other countries for cutting-edge CSPV [crystalline photovoltaic] solar cell and module technology,’ Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a letter to Trump. A bipartisan group of eight House lawmakers recently sent the president a nearly identical letter making the same argument.”



“It’s a New Day for Democrats” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. ” The odds of [Republicans] losing the House are now at least 50-50 and the Senate is in real doubt… With Democrats picking up the Alabama seat, they need a net gain of two seats instead of three. They have two open-seat opportunities that they didn’t have three months ago: one in Arizona, where Republican Jeff Flake is retiring, and the other in Tennessee, where Republican Bob Corker is also retiring…. The bottom line: The Democrats have to win two of those three races while holding all of their own seats. If they lose one of their own, they would need to sweep all three. It’s a narrow path to a majority, and the odds are less than 50-50 even with a strong tailwind. But it’s a discernible path nonetheless, which is more than they could hope for as recently as last summer.” What’s the word I’m looking for here…. “Squander.” That’s the word. “Squander.”

“Republicans’ Tax Bill Worsens Their 2018 Suburban Crisis” [Talking Points Memo] and Rebelling Republican Suburbs Offer Democrats Path to House Control [New York Times]. It’s amazing to watch the Democrat hive mind concluding that the path to victory in 2018 (and 2020) lies through Clinton’s 2016 post-Convention strategy to kick the left and appeal to suburban Republicans, especially women, just without Clinton. (I should say that my notion of “suburban” is pretty sloppy; that which is not rural (with farms) and not urban (tall buildings, lots of ’em) and is pedestrian-hostile and is optimized for the automobile. I should probably clarify this mentally for the coming political onslaught…

* * *

“Exclusive: GOP Engages Political Ground Game to Defend Tax Overhaul in 2018” [Morning Consult]. “For several months, state Republican Party affiliates have been pushing the GOP tax bill through a quiet “ground game” initiative targeting voters in states that are emerging as potential 2018 battlegrounds — even before the final contours and details of the package were set by GOP negotiators on Capitol Hill. In total, according to Republican National Committee data provided exclusively to Morning Consult, GOP volunteers and operatives have knocked on over 364,000 doors and made over 145,000 phone calls in 18 states from the first week of September through Dec. 14.”

On tax “reform”:


“In Virginia, a 11,608-to-11,607 Lesson in the Power of a Single Vote” [New York Times]. “Ms. Simonds’s win means a 50-50 split in the State House…. Republicans have controlled the House for 17 years.

Thread on how that 50-50 split is going to work (or not):

Do we have any Virginia readers who want to chime in?

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“What if Al Franken unresigns?” [The Week]. “Some of the same senators who demanded Franken’s resignation have suddenly found a little more tolerance than zero, at least when it comes to their allies. Two other senators told Politico — without revealing their identities — that they now feel they ‘acted prematurely, before we had all the facts.'” A cynic would say they didn’t defenestrate Franken prematurally at all; they did so before election day in Alabama. Of course, the cynic would be wrong: Liberal Democrats would never cheapen serious issues like sexism (or racism) by using them as mere political cudgels, picked up to bash an opponent, and dropped when their purpose is served.

Obama Legacy


Tax “Reform”

“Why Democrats failed to tank tax reform” [Politico], “While stripping people of health insurance strikes at a visceral human need, a debate over taxes tends to bog down voters in wonky details. Meanwhile, Democrats struggled to break through a media environment crowded with an [1] intensifying Russia investigation, a wave of [2] sexual harassment scandals and a [3] fight over young undocumented immigrants. And while liberal grass-roots activists sought to bring pressure to bear on GOP swing votes, the Republican Party held together this time, desperate for a major legislative victory after a year in total control of Washington.”

That is a very odd paragraph. Note lack of agency in “struggled to break through a media environment crowded with” items [1], [2], and [3]. If you look at the items, you see two moral panics engineered or exploited by Democrats, and a policy issue beloved of Democrats. Given the influence that Democrats have over the press, especially the Beltway press, as shown in the Podesta emails, the obvious conclusion is that had the Democrats wished the media environment to be dominated by tax “reform,” it would have been. And one might conclude from that the Democrats are probably fine, just fine with the Republican bill. They will run against it in 2018, and if they regain the House and/or the Senate, they will tinker round the edges and change it very little. After all, the Democrat Party has its own squillionaire donor class to service, and who wants class warfare?

“Tax Reform Means Your Paycheck Will Grow” [Paul Ryan, Wall Street Journal] vs. “The Republican tax bill is an insidious way to fail working Americans” [Ron Wyden, NBC]. Paul Ryan is a detestable little scut I’m not a fan of Paul Ryan, but who has the better framing?

“How will we know if the Republican tax cuts are working?” [Caroline Baum, MarketWatch]. “What about the effect of tax cuts in retrospect? Yes, economists and politicians will tout the success, or failure, of similar initiatives in the past. But the fact remains that there is no definitive way to isolate the effect of past tax changes on the overall economy because there are too many moving parts…. It’s impossible to hold everything else constant in a $19.5 trillion economy to test the contribution of a single variable…. Try as it might, the federal government has been unable to snag a larger share of gross domestic product by adjusting income tax rates. Revenue has been surprisingly stable, averaging around 17% of GDP in the post-World War II era. And that’s with fluctuations in the top tax rate from 92% in the 1950s to 28% in the 1980s.” So it’s not just a “fool in the shower” problem, it’s that the shower taps aren’t actually connected to anything?

“Republican Senator Susan Collins ripped news coverage of her decision to vote for the GOP tax-cut bill as “unbelievably sexist’ on Tuesday.” [Bloomberg]. “‘They’ve ignored everything that I’ve gotten, and there have been stories after stories about how I’ve been duped,’ [Collins] said. ‘How are you duped when all of your amendments get accepted? And when the majority leader — and I confirmed it again today with him — will be offering the two insurance bills that I care about as well as the provision waiving the automatic cut in Medicare that could be triggered by this bill?'” Ripping a page from the Hillary Clinton playbook?

“The Great Republican Tax Heist of 2017” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “The tax bill is not just a massive payout to corporations and the idle rich. It is now a direct, personal bribe of Republican members of Congress and the Republican president, executed through the tax code. Cornyn straight-up admitted that the point of his provision was to round up votes. In terms of democratic ethics, it is no different from border guards who jack up passing travelers for bribes — just spread out over the whole population.” Refreshingly open!

New Cold War

“Russian trolls went on attack during key election moments” [NBC News]. “Thinking about this in a binary of ‘did it cause someone to change their vote?’ is overly narrow,” said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. ‘It’s about influence over time.'” The “Alliance for Securing Democracy” are the ones who came up with that nutball dashboard. More: “NBC News compiled its database by cross-referencing the list of [the list of Russian troll accounts identified by Twitter and released by Congress] against data held by three sources familiar with Twitter’s API, an online system that allows software developers to work with the data underlying users’ tweets. The sources asked that their names be withheld to avoid being identified as possibly violating Twitter’s developer policy.” So we don’t really know where the data came from, then?

Trump Transition

“Is Trump Making the Economy Great Again? Kind Of” [Bloomberg]. Notably, the two “Wrong Direction” indicators are the budget deficit, and the trade deficit. Not a lot of red meat for Democrats there, although (see below) Frank Bruni seems to think so.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Democrats Are the New Republicans” [Frank Bruni, New York Times]. “Try this on for size: Democrats are the party of family values because they promote the creation of more families. They did precisely that with their advocacy of marriage equality, which didn’t tug the country away from convention but toward it, by encouraging gay and lesbian Americans to live in the sorts of arrangements that conservatives in fact extol…. Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility because they don’t pretend that they can afford grand government commitments — whether distant wars or domestic programs — without collecting the revenue for them…. Democrats are the party of patriotism, because they’re doing something infinitely more urgent and substantive than berating football players who kneel during the national anthem. They’re recognizing that a hostile foreign power tried to change the course of an American presidential election.” Oh, Frank…

“A leading contender in the race for Illinois attorney general has received $100,000 in donations in recent weeks from companies controlled by a tobacco mogul, companies that are directly regulated by the attorney general’s office under the national tobacco master settlement agreement” [Crains Chicago Business]. “Campaign disclosure records indicate that state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago, who has been endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Organization in the race to succeed retiring Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has received 10 contributions of $10,000 each from companies operated by Don Levin. Levin’s Top Tobacco is one of the parties to the national pact that Madigan enforces and oversees here in Illinois.”

“Chesco Dems celebrate ‘unbelievable’ victory” [Daily Local News]. “‘The easy answer is the Trump wave, the anti-Trump wave,’ said another Republican, who spoke with anonymity so as to directly confront the reasons behind the Democrats’ startling success. ‘Feelings are still very strong in southeastern Pennsylvania. The wave hit Bucks County, and Delaware County, and now the wave has come to Chester County, with a significant impact.'” Via Advance Guy Notes, who comments: “Those who know PA, know this is a tea leaf.”

Stats Watch

Existing Home Sales, November 2017: “Housing data are now all in place, showing strong acceleration going into year end” [Econoday]. “This report follows two months of similarly strong results on the hew home side of the market and, because of the acceleration, raises the question whether expected tax changes for next year are at play. But the National Association of Realtors, citing client comments, says the tax bill did not influence November’s buying decisions and it further noted that the ‘great majority’ of homeowners will qualify for mortgage interest and property tax deductions. Still, it will be interesting to see whether tax changes begin to affect home sales next year.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of December 15, 2017: “Mortgage activity slowed notably in the December 15 week, with purchase applications for home mortgages falling by a seasonally adjusted 6 percent from the prior week” [Econoday]. And: “Mortgage interest rates moved higher this week, and you might think that was related to the Republican tax bill that is about to become law. You would be wrong, according to Matthew Graham of Mortgage News Daily: ‘The move in rates is it’s own animal, having to do with the year-end trading environment in bond markets and other esoteric motivations not related to any headline events.'” [247 Wall Street].

Retail: “New shopping patterns in Midwestern, middle-class communities suggest that there’s life after e-commerce for store-owning retailers. That’s evident in the former timber hub of Wausau, Wis., which is seeing its big shopping mall once packed with chain stores wither in the face of online sales even as business prospers at the town’s compact downtown shopping district. …Wausau is thriving economically as residents shop online for mass-market goods and then head downtown to storefronts that offer hyper-local goods and a thoroughly different shopping experience. The result: online sales in the region are rising faster than the rest of the country even though sales at local stores are rising and the town’s shopping district is packed” [Wall Street Journal]. Something of the sort is trying to happen in Bangor, which was stupidly brutalized by urban renewal, and ended up with lots of parking lots and banks. Do other readers have experience like Wausau’s?

Shipping: “In 2012, the postal service expected to ship just 365 million packages during the holiday season. Despite the massive increase in holiday packages handled, the organization’s workforce actually shrunk by 20,000 full-time workers since 2012 to a total of 508,000 in 2016. Even including seasonal contract workers—the USPS expected to hire 35,000-40,000 last year—the growth rate of number of packages far outpaces postal manpower” [Quartz].

Shipping: “Upturn in shipping fortunes a bonus for container manufacturers” [The Loadstar]. “A resurgence in demand and new environmental regulations banning solvent-based paints have proved a double-whammy for container manufacturers. Singamas Holdings, the world’s second largest container manufacturer, today revealed that it expects a $100m turnaround in its financial fortunes as a result of a spike in demand for new equipment.”

The Bezzle: “Subprime Securitization Hits The Car Lot” [Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond]. “While it’s not obvious whether the increase in subprime auto lending is a significant departure from past cycles, it has raised eyebrows coming so soon after the mortgage crisis — especially as delinquencies have begun to rise. In addition, an increasing share of those loans have been securitized and spread through the financial system, much like mortgages before the housing bust. Still, even if the auto finance industry were poised for a fall, the effects on the financial system could be limited — although the auto industry itself might take a hit.”

The Bezzle: “Why a dot-com-style collapse in bitcoin won’t kill blockchain” [MarketWatch]. “The emerging technology today isn’t the internet, nor bitcoin itself, but blockchain, the decentralized ledger that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies run on. This is viewed as a truly transformational structure, one that could have an impact the way the internet did 20 years ago…. A crash in the cryptocurrency universe wouldn’t impact the way such blockchains functions, just as the end of Pets.com — a notorious dot-com failure — didn’t presage the end of the internet.”

The Bezzle: “Problems at two cryptocurrency exchanges raise security concerns” [Financial Times]. “Yapian, which operates the Youbit exchange in South Korea, suspended trading on Tuesday after it was hacked, causing it to lose 17 per cent of its assets, according to a statement from the company…. Youbit said investors could withdraw about 75 per cent of their digital coin, and that the remainder would be paid once the company completes the bankruptcy process.”

The Bezzle: “Globally, the total capitalization of all cryptocurrencies is now estimated to be about $600 billion, of which Bitcoin represents about two-thirds. Even if all of that turned out to be a bubble, it wouldn’t be a very big one — both the tech crash in 2000 and the housing crash in 2008 wiped out about $6 trillion of wealth in the U.S. alone” [Bloomberg]. “the time to worry about bitcoin will be if and when people and companies start either borrowing money to invest in cryptocurrency, or using bitcoin as collateral for loans. These worrying signs are just starting to appear.”

The Bezzle: “I am no longer buying the prima facie scarcity argument for Bitcoin’s rise” [The Reformed Broker]. “The ducks are quacking right now and the coin people, like their Wall Street investment banker predecessors, know that when the ducks are quacking, you must feed them. How many coins and tokens will it take to do that? At what point do all the current and coming options overcome the current demand? If you can invent more tokens and coins overnight, then the scarcity argument (there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in circulation and 4 million of them are already lost forever) goes right out the window. Bulls would say ‘No, Bitcoin is the only one that matters.’ Tell that to the Ethereum folks, they ain’t having it.”

The Bezzle: “A newly discovered piece of Android malware carries out a litany of malicious activities, including showing an almost unending series of ads, participating in distributed denial-of-service attacks, sending text messages to any number, and silently subscribing to paid services. Its biggest offense: a surreptitious cryptocurrency miner that’s so aggressive it can physically damage an infected phone.” [Ars Technica]. Not my dumb phone!

The Bezzle: “Coinbase to investigate insider trading claims after launch of bitcoin cash support” [CNBC]. “Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is investigating a price increase in bitcoin offshoot bitcoin cash that happened hours before it said it would launch support for the new digital currency.”

The Bezzle: “Uber suffers new blow as EU court rules it’s a taxi service” [Agence France Presse]. “‘The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport,’ said the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice. ‘Member states can therefore regulate the conditions for providing that service.’… The case was brought by a taxi drivers’ association in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where belief runs high that Uber is a taxi company that should be subject to rules governing such vehicles.”

Tech: “AI algorithms to prevent suicide gain traction” [Nature]. “A growing number of researchers and tech companies are beginning to mine social media for warning signs of suicidal thoughts. Their efforts build on emerging evidence that the language patterns of a person’s social-media posts, as well as the subconscious ways they interact with their smartphone can hint at psychiatric trouble.” What could go wrong?

The Fed: “Political Polarization in Consumer Expectations” [Federal Reserve Bank of New York]. “[W]hy did major partisan shifts in consumer confidence and expectations not translate into corresponding shifts in behavior? We hypothesize that the expectations consumers report in surveys may consist of two parts: true beliefs (on which they base their economic decisions) and some noise. If presidential election outcomes predominately affect the noisy component, we would expect polarization in reported expectations but no substantial divergence of behavior. Over the past twenty years, presidential elections have increasingly caused polarization in consumer expectations. This is clearly an important issue for political economists. But if such polarization in expectations does not cause polarization in economic behavior, then it may not be a major concern to macroeconomists and policymakers.” Does this even begin to be an explanation?

Mr. Market: “The Pessimist’s Guide to 2018” [Bloomberg]. I love the headline, but it’s mere clickbait for a few sentences gussied up with fancy coding. Do better, Bloomberg.

Five Horsemen: “No joy in Techville as the Santa Claus rally takes an awkward pause.” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Dec 20

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 71 Greed (previous close: 73, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 20 at 11:08am.

Health Care

“The sweeping Republican tax bill on the verge of final passage would repeal the individual mandate in 2019, potentially taking millions of people out of the health insurance market. On top of that, the Trump administration has killed some subsidies, halved the insurance enrollment period, gutted the Obamacare marketing campaign, and rolled out a regulatory red carpet for skimpy new health plans that will change the insurance landscape in ways that are harmful to former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law” [Politico]. “None of these individually represent a death blow. But in aggregate, the past year adds up to a slow, stealthy erosion of the law.” On the bright side, repealing the mandate is good for those on “the American Plan” (don’t get sick).

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

“120 Million American Households Exposed In ‘Massive’ ConsumerView Database Leak” [Forbes]. What, again? More: “Information on more than 120 million American households was sitting in a massive database found left exposed on the web earlier this month, Forbes has been told. It included an extraordinary range of personal details on residents, including addresses, ethnicity, interests and hobbies, income, right down to what kind of mortgage the house was under and how many children lived at the property. In total, there were 248 different data fields for each household, according to the researcher who uncovered the leak data this week…. As long as they knew the right URL to visit, an Amazon Web Services user could retrieve all the data, which was left online by marketing analytics company Alteryx. It was apparent that the firm had purchased the information from Experian, as part of a dataset called ConsumerView, on top of which Alteryx provides marketing and analytics services… [Chris Vickery, a cybersecurity researcher from UpGuard] thinks the data was part of a product – the Alteryx Designer With Data – that sells for around $38,995 per license.” Whoops.


“How Monsanto’s GM cotton sowed trouble in Africa” [Reuters]. “While the bug-resistant genes produced more volume, the quality fell. Last season, the cotton farmers of Burkina Faso abandoned the GM varieties…. The Burkinabes knew from the start that American cotton varieties containing Monsanto’s gene could not deliver the quality of their home-grown crop, cotton company officials and researchers told Reuters. But they pressed on because Monsanto agreed to breed its pest-resistant genes into their native plants, which they hoped would protect the cotton and keep its premium value. That, they say, was a failure.”

“Let it go: The Arctic will never be frozen again” [Grist]. “In an accompanying annual report on the Arctic’s health — titled “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades” — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees all official U.S. research in the region, coined a term: ‘New Arctic.’… The loss of sea ice is already having profound changes all the way down at the base of the Arctic food web. As more sunlight hits darkly-colored open water, more heat energy is retained, and temperatures are rising further. That’s kicking off what Mathis, of NOAA’s Arctic Program characterizes as ‘an almost runaway effect,’ involving a lengthening of the growing season, a greening of the tundra, a surge in wildfires, and a boom in plankton growth.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

“Residents report nosebleeds and headaches after new leak at Aliso Canyon natural gas facility” [Los Angeles Times]. “The facility is the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history. Starting in 2015, a ruptured well spewed tens of thousands of tons of gas, forcing roughly 8,000 families in the northwest San Fernando Valley from their homes. Many complained of health issues that included cancer, nausea and nosebleeds.”

“A national resilience strategy can help prevent deaths from despair” [STAT]. At least somebody is thinking about this. However, this is an exclusively medicalized approach (which, to be fair, will render it more palatable to the credentialed 10%). For example:

Prioritize prevention, reduce risk factors, and promote resilience in children, families, and communities by limiting trauma and adverse experiences, which have the biggest long-term impact on later substance misuse, and promoting better mental health. Nurse home visiting programs have a return of $5.70 for every $1 invested, and early childhood education programs have a $4 to $12 return for every $1 invested.

Well and good, but what if the “adverse experience” was closing the mill and shipping the jobs off to China? Or, these days, closing the Walmart that replaced the mill, because e-commernce is eating the world?

Class Warfare


So, the working class people who clean toilets are an inferior order of being? Not “deplorables,” but — just spitballing here — “untouchables”?

News of the Wired

“This map shows the top immigrant population in each country” [MIning.com]. It’s not a very granular map. Interestingly, it’s from Western Union, which handles remittances.

“Shipwreck Is Everywhere” [Hudson Review]. Would be a lot better at a quarter the length. Still, I like the potted history of the Beaufort Scale.

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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 (Ekatarina Velika):

Ekatarina writes: “Taken in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in November, in front of the HQ of Slovenia’s biggest bank (nationalised with taxpayer funds during the crisis, of course).”

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. Arizona Slim

    Yesterday was quite the day. I got a fundraising e-mail from the Arizona Democratic Party. They must be getting desperate because I am an Independent.

    I temporarily re-registered as a D so I could vote for Bernie. In the wee hours of the morning after our stolen 2016 primary, I went online and switched my registration back to Independent.

    So, the Democrats are using information that is nearly two years old. And it’s not even close to being accurate.

    1. Altandmain

      See what Jimmy Dore has to say about this:

      They have resorted to fundraising mail that looks like a bill collection letter.

      It’s total disgrace, but it’s what they are doing. They are bought and paid for just like the GOP, but they seem to think that people haven’t woken up to the fact that the Democrats stink as much as the GOP does.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Maybe they should skip the bill collection letter approach, and make them look like Nigerian-letters.

        “My candidate promises me many profitable things, but he/she needs your money to sneak inside to get the bills passed. Donate some money now, and I will trickle the principal plus interest back down to you later, when I’m rich.”

      2. Rhondda

        These days it seems like if you want to elect Democrats you should just send your donation to the FBI…

        1. Procopius

          The old joke was, if all the FBI informants stopped paying their dues, the American Communist Party would be bankrupt.

  2. tinheart

    Regarding the long-held fever dream that the Democrats will somehow flip Republican suburbanites into the D column because those suburbanites will be so OUTRAGED that they’ll hold their nose and vote for [[insert generic Democrat name]], I’m regarded of this ESPN article:


    Long story short: NBA Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levinson wrote an e-mail to team operations which basically claims that the Hawks needed to appeal more strongly to white fans because white fans were reluctant to attend games with too many blacks. Privately, the Hawks marketing staff had a derisive name for this imaginary white guy – the “Alpharetta Unicorn” theory.

    “We call this the Alpharetta Unicorn,” said Koonin. “This is the 55-year-old guy who’s going to drive an hour from Alpharetta into the city with three buddies to go to the Hawks game. He doesn’t exist. And there is no music, no kiss cam, no cheerleaders, no shooting for a free car, no bobbleheads … nothing is going to change that.”

    Likewise, the Democrats are looking for that Alpharetta Unicorn. But people don’t just vote on a rational evaluation of how they or their community will benefit. They vote because their on “Team R” or “Team D” or because voting one party or other affirms their personal identity. Those “wealthier suburban enclaves” from the TPM article are going to vote Republican, same as always, and while the Democrats might think it’s easier/more lucrative to appeal to them, they will remain Republicans. The Dem’s Alpharetta Unicorn doesn’t exist.

    1. Arizona Slim

      During my growing up years, I lived outside of Philadelphia. Mind you, this was during the 1970s, and basketball already had an, ahem, “white problem.”

      I can remember seeing ads for the Philadelphia 76ers, and the pitch was to us suburbanites. Because we were certainly going to see the Flyers (who played in the same Spectrum where the 76ers played), but we were NOT going to see the 76ers.

      So, I guess we were unicorns too.

      1. tinheart

        Yep, I remember the “white problem” as it was called in basketball from back in the 1970s. I wonder if things have changed since then.

        And your remark about going to see the Flyers and the 76ers trying to reach a suburban audience brought up an old memory and an off-topic comment. I remember James Michener’s (yes, that one) “Sports in America” book and one excerpt has always stayed with me. He’s speaking to a Philadelphia sports fan around 1976.

        “Blacks comprise twelve percent of our population. Now you know, Michener, how I fought to help them gain their fair share of jobs and teaching positions and everything else. They’re entitled to twelve percent. But not to eighty percent, or one hundred percent, which is what they want in basketball. From here on out it’s their game, not mine.”

        The chasm has widened. In 1974 I went to a 76er basketball game and what I saw depressed me…. It was a sparse crowd, if you want to call 1,385 spectators a crowd, with many blacks in the audience. But when the Flyers hockey team played in the same arena a few nights later, ther was hardly breathing room with 17,007 in attendance, and I saw not one black spectator.”

        1. a different chris

          Sigh. What they – ugh, “they”, but I guess that’s unfortunately the right word in this context- want is really colorblindness when it comes to earning a living. We can all have, and I think should have, different cultures at the end of the day. Makes life much richer in a way that Levinson and his ilk would never understand. BTW, I see that white ppl are actually doing much better in basketball over the last few years.

          And “they” don’t need whitey me to speak for them, but hopefully this shows I’m listening.

        2. WheresOurTeddy

          As a sports fan, I’m surprised they could get 1300 to watch a 1973-74 76ers team that featured luminous stars like Doug Collins and Fred Carter while smashing through the league with a 25-57 record. Anyone have attendance numbers for the 1983 championship team with Dr J and Moses Malone? FO FO FO. And white people love Love LOVE Charles Barkley (more now than then, but still, Round Mound of Rebound is one of the best nicknames ever).

          The wiki for the 76ers literally refers to 1967-1976 as the “Fall of The 76ers”. Obviously a certain kind of white person has an issue with the league looking more like Dr J than Jerry West. But sometimes fans don’t come out because the team sucks.

        3. neo-realist

          The Flyers won back to back Stanley Cups–73/74 and 74/75—which certainly accounted for their popularity back then.

          You should go to the arena they play in now to check out not only the size of the crowds, but the number of POC attending each sport. I’m sure that you will find more POC attending hockey games than you did 40 years ago. More of them are going to see hockey as well as playing the game.

          1. Wukchumni

            My dad was really into hockey, so I went to about 100 games in the early 70’s, and the Fabulous Forum held 16,005, but the Kings lacked pawns, 4,000-6,000 would be the attendance on most any night.

            Angelenos had a few ways into Inglewood, and getting off the 110 Harbor freeway on Manchester Blvd was the route for East L.A. and OC. You’d go north on Manchester for I want to say about 10 miles until the Forum shows up on your left, and along the way were 17 fried chicken chain stores, one of which might be where we had dinner some nights, and on the fringes of South Central.

            Flash forward to post 1992 L.A. Riots, around the turn of the century or so, and nobody went on Manchester anymore so much, as the Staples Center had stolen South Central’s thunder, and I decided to take a drive down Manchester for old times sake, and on a good many former retail establishments on the street & intersections, there were empty lots still, even on intersections, where I saw as many as 3 out of 4, gone. Victims of the circumstances of fire and being fired, as an important auto artery.

    2. nippersmom

      Interestingly, that Alpharetta unicorn is one of the self-same mythical beasts the Democrats are stalking, as Alpharetta is a predominantly Republican suburb.

    3. Robert McGregor

      > “Those “wealthier suburban enclaves” from the TPM article are going to vote Republican, same as always, and while the Democrats might think it’s easier/more lucrative to appeal to them, they will remain Republicans. The Dem’s Alpharetta Unicorn doesn’t exist.”

      But in the Doug Jones election, the Dems appeared to flip the Repubs in Alabama. I think there is some question what happened there. It doesn’t seem rational that Trump would win Alabama by 24%, and then Roy Moore would lose it just because of a little sexual flim flam (“trigger warning”). I have a friend who lives in a largely rural area near Red Bay, AL, and he says the word is out that there was large-scale fraud in place to give the election to Jones. But what does my friend know? He still supports Trump!

      1. dcblogger

        It doesn’t seem rational that Trump would win Alabama by 24%, and then Roy Moore would lose it just because of a little sexual flim flam (“trigger warning”).

        a casual analysis of turnout figures shows that Republican areas stayed home. Numerically, Jones got slightly fewer votes than Clinton, but More got way fewer than Trump. As Yves observed during her stay in Birmingham, More supporters were too ashamed to put out yard signs, while Jones supporters were proud. So, what you call sexual flim flam others call criminal child molest.
        Word is out that unsupported allegations constitute conspiracy theory.

        1. sleepy

          Roy Moore was not a particularly well-liked politician in Alabama even before the sex crimes came out. He lost two primaries for governor, and he most likely would have lost to Strange were it not for the fact that Strange as attorney general was investigating the then governor over some impeachable offenses. Lo and behold, Strange dropped the impeachment investigation and the governor subsequently appointed him to the senate position. He would have lost in the primary to any repub without that baggage.

          Lots of factors other than sex crimes that allowed Jones to win, factors which likely won’t exist anywhere else.

      2. WheresOurTeddy

        So the Democratic strategy of appealing to wealthy R suburbs DOES work, you just have to get the opponents to run a child molester. Got it.

        P.S. your casualness about “sexual flim flam” as you put it is disturbing.

  3. dk

    I think it is, and will be, important to point out that the tax cuts people (in the middle earning ranges) realize come at the cost of protective oversight and regulation, EPA, FCC, DOJ, etc. If these dots aren’t clearly connected, Trump will have a clear path in 2020.

    Hear a conservative host speaking earlier today, paraphrasing:

    “This is the dawn of a new age in America, time to start that new business you’ve always dreamed about, now that the Establishment is being destroyed by President Trump!”

    “Establishment” being a proxy for oversight/regulation.

    1. jrs

      and how will you have health care if you start that new business? Oh right worse than ever.

      The tax cuts come at the price of a lot of things 1) ACA never great getting much worse 2) tax cuts themselves are temporary on the middle class 3) potential attacks on Medicare and SS.

      But I kind of agree many people are dumb and don’t think beyond the next second.

  4. allan

    A shocker. Completely out of left field.

    Sahil Kapur‏ @sahilkapur

    Less than 12 hours after voting for the final tax bill, Susan Collins concedes she won’t get her wish of passing Alexander-Murray this year.

    With screenshot of dog ate my homework statement from Collins and Alexander.

  5. Lee

    Net Neutrality (or not)

    For some reason, the strike through function is acting up. It is meant to be used on the word “porn” alone.

    Given the high demand for porn erotica, might not that industry enjoy the same leverage over ISPs that large content providers such as Netflix et al are assumed to have? Sex, like life, will find a way.

  6. dcblogger

    DC NC readers – some insight into DC’s homeless problem:
    “Many voters are OK with the working poor being gentrified out of a city that they can’t afford to live in anymore — despite the fact that the poor worker’s job and family may still be in that city and they might have lived there for many years before being priced out. Such thinking implies that it’s fine for a few landlords and developers — the primary funders of DC’s mayoral campaigns — to disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of Washingtonians by simply raising rents. It also implies that, if someone becomes homeless while continuing to work in the city, then this person who wasn’t morally delinquent before their eviction has suddenly developed some moral delinquency, being as they’re now homeless.”

    1. JerryB

      I was reading the Seattle Times yesterday to get some updates on the train derailment and came across an article about the city of Seattle spending $100 million on affordable housing including housing for low income seniors.

      Considering that Seattle’s image is of a liberal city and home to the Socialist Alternative darling, Kshama Sawant, the comments on the article were surprising. A lot of NIMBY and why don”t “they” move to the suburbs,etc.

      1. neo-realist

        The Seattle Times comments section is neocon central. The commenters there generally oppose any kind of social spending of any kind. That being said, the more affluent North Seattle neighborhoods that are primarily zoned for single family housing are very much in the NIMBY camp and support low income housing as long as it’s in somebody else’s neighborhood; they usually couch their excuses for their hatred of the poor in terms of “it will change the character of the community” or it should be “done more thoughtfully.”


  7. Hana M

    “Tax Reform Means Your Paycheck Will Grow” [Paul Ryan, Wall Street Journal] vs. “The Republican tax bill is an insidious way to fail working Americans” [Ron Wyden, NBC]. Paul Ryan is a detestable little scut I’m not a fan of Paul Ryan, but who has the better framing?

    Lambert Strether, on the other hand, is a National Treasure.

  8. kurtismayfield

    You can start businesses left and right, but if there is no increase in consumer demand what is the point? How does this tax bill get money to people that spend it?? And how does this not get offset by just more increases in Health insurance??

    I don’t see this tax cut doing much for main street.

    1. Pat

      It wasn’t intended to do anything for Main Street. What little it does do for anyone outside the ultra high income and investment classes is all designed to expire in a few years leaving the have nots worse off then they are today. Nothing says bait and switch better than something like that.

    2. jrs

      Oh it does get offset. So after many years Social Security got a raise this year. Woohoo for the old folks right? Well no, that raise was over 60% eaten up by the Medicare increases. And that’s Medicare, the rest of us under 65 in ever crappening ACA land are of course in even more hurt.

        1. Homina

          Mine went up from $109 to $134. My monthly benefit amount went up by $29.

          So, net gain is $4 a month. Maybe I can save and afford to go to two movies next year, if I skip on the large soda and popcorn bundle.

          Or be a bit more able to eat at the end of a month. $4 is a couple palatable michilena frozen things. 600+ calories….

          Not sure where you’re getting your facts btw. Maybe yours didn’t change, but others did. Whether it changes end-of-month calorie calculations is up to vendors of foodstuff. Whether you have any idea about what balancing dollars and foodstuffs in order to have enough calories to survive…well I don’t want to presume….

          1. ronnie mitcell

            I got two important letters recently the first one told me on Jan.1st my monthly SS check would increase $15.00, the second letter was from the State of Wa. telling me that due to my “change in income” level starting Jan.1st my food stamps will be reduced by $14.00 a month.
            Oh what to do with that dollar? Frame it?

        2. Elizabeth Burton

          Likewise. Benefit went up 2% and was instantly swallowed by the Part B premium increase. On the plus side, I’m still getting next year what I got this year. Yea, me.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Brazile, who was the manager of Al Gore’s losing 2000 presidential campaign”

      DWS’s faults aside, former DNC Chair Timmy Kaine who oversaw the 2010 disaster doesn’t merit a mention. I guess the hacks will try to blame DWS alone.

      1. Pat

        Can’t get it too close to the still popular Obama. Pointing out that Timmy gutted the DNC presumably on orders from Barry could still have consequences. Brazile has already bet the farm that the Clintons are toast, she isn’t ready to bet everything she has on people figuring out how much they were played. And as many people in the Beltway believe, you rarely lose betting on people being stupid.

  9. fresno dan

    “Net neutrality’s impact on free porn could be significant, experts say” [FOX]. “It’s hard to overstate just how much porn is consumed online. Last year, Pornhub viewers alone watched over 91 billion videos and there were a total of 44,000 visits to the site per hour. But now that internet service providers will be able to control what users can access and charge a range of prices based on the type of content, that could change.” Since porn has always been an early adopter of new media, it will be interesting to see how it adapts.
    NOT the PORN! anything but that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Last year, Pornhub viewer(s) alone watched over 91 billion videos
    Uh…er….um….I don’t want this to come…across as bragging or anything like that…just credit or scorn where credit or scorn is due, setting the record straight, I mean factual – but yeah, 90 billion, 478 million, 893 thousand and some odd views were….me…
    probably should cut down a little…

    1. Robert McGregor

      @fresno dan, You should cut back. What with all your hours of Porn PLUS your hours of Naked Capitalism–I think you need more sun and fresh air . . . or fresh something .

  10. Wukchumni

    For the benefit of money hiding
    There will be a bubbly time on financial trampoline

    The Winklevoss will be there
    Late of being an olympic rowing pair-what a scene!

    Over reason and value, hype and doubters
    Lastly through in lieu of real F.I.R.E.!
    In this way cryptocurrency will challenge the world!

    The celebrated money charade.
    Performs the feat online at this date

    The investors will dance and sing
    As 0’s & 1’s fly through the cloud don’t be late

    Cryptocaves assure the public
    Their mining production is second to none
    And of course Satoshi Nakomoto dances the waltz!

    The price began at a few bucks-5 or 6
    When Mr. Nakomoto. performed his tricks without a sound

    And then the market will demonstrate
    Ten martingales it’ll undertake to confound & astound!

    Having been some years in preparation
    A bubble time is guaranteed for all
    And for now bitcoin is an invisible thrill


  11. Oregoncharles

    “Thread on how that 50-50 split is going to work (or not):”

    Oregon had a similar even-up split in 2010. It was a blessing, in that redistricting was done on a non-partisan basis. Among other things, they got rid of the bizarre gerrymander that zig-zagged through Corvallis. Made campaigning really tricky, and the elections office hated it.

    Overall, there was remarkably little sturm and drang over it. Can’t say how Virginia will behave.

  12. Charlie

    You know, after seeing this, I must say I am beginning to have a hard time being minimally civil to Clintonites or their journos.

    “Stein: Keith Olbermann, who says it’s largely your fault, you imbecile. That is Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty. I didn’t know I was that powerful, that that’s my responsibility. Kurt Eichenwald, saying he had to restrain himself from punching somebody out in the airport who he learned had voted for me.”

    Bring it on, Kurt. Bring it on.


    1. jrs

      People working for the media collecting their millionaire paychecks covering Trump vastly more than any other candidate and thus pretty much electing him, then blame Jill Stein who got less than 2% of the vote. Sounds reasonable.

      1. Charlie

        Wanting to punch someone out for voting for her is what irks me. Those millionaire family bloggers really believe they could get away with something like that.

        I never once thought anyone who voted for a personality deserved to be punched. People, in the end, do tend to vote their hearts, even if it is misguided.

        Kurt should best restrain. His squillions won’t protect him from everyone.

  13. Pelham

    It’s no revelation to anyone that Democrats serve their donor class. So I’m not so certain that they’re likely to actually “squander” a chance at winning the House and Senate. Granted, they may prefer winning. But big donors and consultants come first, and as a party Dems appear quite comfortable with losing as long as the deep pockets remain open. Priorities, priorities!

    In fact, I’d go so far to suggest that at some leadership level they may actually prefer losing. This allows greater license for virtue posturing and hurling weapons of sanctimonious destruction — certainly more fun than trying to advocate for and defend the picayune, parsimonious or predatory policies they’d attempt to implement in a bipartisan spirit if entrusted with power.

    1. Pat

      I beg to differ with you. I think the leadership is scared that if they remain the rump party the deep pockets will not remain open. (Why pay them to get anything when it doesn’t depend on them for the most part – including standing in the other party’s way?!?)

      No, I think there will be a serious run at winning either the House or the Senate, or maybe both. With an opposition President they can have both Houses and still be ineffectual except at the things donors want. It is unlikely they will get either one, but they really need to be able to be a spanner in the works to have something to offer to donors, including just not getting in the way.

      And if Schumer and Pelosi and whoever is really running Perez haven’t realized this yet…well they really are stupider than I ever thought possible. They aren’t sending out those demanding letters and emails and calls practically every hour on the hour because they are in good shape financially.

      1. hunkerdown

        Surely you don’t think deep pockets would pay a proper labor party to win in labor’s interests? The deep pockets pay losing Democrats to drive the cost of political presence up and, indeed, to get in the way of labor, labor representation, and labor interests.

      2. John

        As I was present at the unveiling of “A Better Deal” by Chuck, Nancy and the Gang this past summer in Berryville, Virginia, I would be shocked if they got much together for 2018. That was a sad dreary little spectacle.
        This is what living in a dying empire is…interior rot until the whole thing collapses.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          I was going to yell “we deserve better than this!” but then I asked myself whether that was actually true.

          “The Tree of Liberty must from time to time be watered with blood”

          And (unlike Kent State and the Demo Convention in 1968) there don’t seem to be any willing donors about these days.

          1. witters

            ‘I was going to yell “we deserve better than this!” but then I asked myself whether that was actually true.’

            You had to ask?

          2. Elizabeth Burton

            On the other hand, local law enforcement weren’t equipped like armies back then, either, so any violent public protest needs to be considered with that in mind. Even then, the new method is to just arrest everyone, throw them at the judicial wall, and hope enough stick to set precedent, cf. the J20 prosecution.

            The real problem is the Catch-22 that despite ongoing labor by various progressive groups to find and support candidates not beholden to the donor class, the bulk of people aren’t aware of their efforts because the media carefully ignores it. And that may be the only reason they haven’t yet had massive pushback.

            The Virginia election was a case in point, as the fact many if not most of the winners were progressives—one a self-acknowledged Democratic Socialist—yet to see the news reports it was a victory for “the Democrats.” Which, with the exception of Northrup, it wasn’t.

  14. Wukchumni

    Virtually all youth between ages 13 and 17 own or have access to a smartphone and 94 percent use social media

    A rebellion without rebels.

    1. ambrit

      Two thoughts about this.
      First, where are these childrens’ parents? Raising kids means often having to be the ‘baddie’ and denying your child a source of endless distraction. I and Phyl don’t use ‘smart’ phones for various reasons. One reason being that “connectivity” can be a time and attention sink, and a pernicious slave driver of ones’ life. So, have parents relinquished their responsibilities to, first, the school system, and now, Facebook etc? This is the commercialization of community.
      Second, electronic media are at best second hand experiences. One can ‘hang up’ on someone being obnoxious, or bullying. In “real” life, face to face encounters generate an entirely different, and vastly more ‘informed’ experience of existence. Courage in the face of even small scale evil is vastly more difficult to achieve than ‘hanging up’ the phone. “Hanging up” is actually a form of avoidance. Almost nothing is learned or practiced. Besides, real face to face contact is the original High Definition.
      Compare relaxing in a hot springs in real life versus Sims.

      1. Wukchumni

        Do kids tell each other jokes anymore?

        Half of the beauty in the telling was the timing, or mannerisms, and it was dangerous at times, as you could butcher perfectly good humor by getting ahead of yourself, or forgetting a detail.

        It allowed you to learn to speak extemporaneously in public, by riddle, not ritalin.

        1. ambrit

          Oh my. My joke telling ability is abysmal. I am the Marianna Trench of shaggy dogs. That’s why I try the patience of readers here with puns of punishing pungency. The Edit function is my ReMuse.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        Take a deep breath and pause to think about that statement. “Virtually all” teenagers own a smart phone? Really? Even the ones whose parents are working three jobs to just keep body and soul together and a roof over both?

        May I suggest there is a serious class bias in that particular study?

        1. ambrit

          I don’t have figures but, from personal observation, I see twentysomethings from all walks and financial cohorts of life absorbed in their tiny screens. Some have said that they are in debt because of the phone bills. Yet none so far has agreed that putting the screen down is a viable option. Social interactions seem to be defined through phone to phone contacts, primary and secondary.
          iPhone socializing takes the concept of being “other oriented” to a whole new level.

  15. Pat

    “Thinking about this in a binary of ‘did it cause someone to change their vote?’ is overly narrow,” said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. ‘It’s about influence over time.’”

    Funny how that applies only to nebulous hacking by possible Russian hackers, maybe even employed by the Russian government where their biggest weapon was using the actual writings of the hacked candidate and her advisors against her by showing she was lying through her teeth. Meanwhile the “influence over time” of massive donations, speaking fees, and after retirement lobbying jobs can never be viewed at more than one vote at time. I’d almost give the Democrats their bogus Russia caused Hillary to lose if we got to view corruption of elections through the prism ‘over time’ inclusive of large donations, fund raisers, etc. But since that will never happen, no Ms. Rosenberger, it IS all about ‘did it cause someone to change their vote’ – because that is the only corruption of a system is allowed to be viewed elsewhere.

  16. Samuel Conner

    A better anti-Ryan framing would have been

    “Tax reform means your paycheck will grow … more slowly than if we had used the $ 1Trillion additional deficit we built into the law to increase employment directly through Federal investment in public goods”

    But, sadly, a lot of Ds don’t like deficits, even for the purpose of increasing employment directly through Federal investment in public goods.

  17. Summer

    “And one might conclude from that the Democrats are probably fine, just fine with the Republican bill. They will run against it in 2018, and if they regain the House and/or the Senate, they will tinker round the edges and change it very little. After all, the Democrat Party has its own squillionaire donor class to service, and who wants class warfare?”

    Indeed. They will fundraise off giving back tax cuts to those with high end homes – that will be the main edge that they tinker round. Their “reform” will be returning to the “status quo” of today, but with many of the cuts to services remaining (any increase won’t be a return to previous levels before the cuts). It will be “bi-partisan”. The kind of economic, incremental back-stepping they have mastered.

    War? They’ll make sure that’s covered, too.

  18. Jim Haygood

    From Reuters:

    U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favor of a draft United Nations resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

    “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

    The 193-member U.N. General Assembly will hold a rare emergency special session on Thursday – at the request of Arab and Muslim countries – to vote on a draft resolution, which was vetoed by the United States on Monday in the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

    The remaining 14 Security Council members voted in favor of the Egyptian-drafted resolution, which did not specifically mention the United States or Trump but which expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.”


    The largest savings on foreign aid would be cutting off America’s nearly $4 billion a year in tribute to rich Israel, a fellow OECD rich country which doesn’t need the money but never stops whingeing for more, more, more …

    To paraphrase Trump:

    “Israel takes hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they snub our diplomats and expand their illegal settlements with our money.”

    1. Jim Haygood


      “The first name that she should write down is Bolivia,” Bolivia’s U.N. Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz said of Haley’s message. “We regret the arrogance and disrespect to the sovereign decision of member states and to multilateralism.”

      Bolivia may be poor. But it isn’t going to take dictation from an uppity, ignorant yanqui like Nikki Haley.

  19. Synoia

    “What if Al Franken unresigns?” [The Week]. “Some of the same senators who demanded Franken’s resignation have suddenly found a little more tolerance than zero, at least when it comes to their allies.

    With friends like that, who needs enemies?

    1. RUKidding

      So much B.S. So little time to track it all.

      Sheesh. So many of us protested this inordinate rush to get rid of Franken.

      Disclaimer: never a huge fan of Franken, but the way this situation was handled was shameful and inexcusable.

      I am So. Sick. of the effen D Party. Worse than useless. A menace to society.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        They keep teasing people.

        ‘We have changed. A third party or real second party is just not practical.”

  20. Paul Cardan

    “Thinking about this in a binary of ‘did it cause someone to change their vote?’ is overly narrow,” said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. ‘It’s about influence over time.’”

    Fine. Operationalize ‘influence over time.’ That is, tell us what to do in order to establish that there is such a thing (or that there is not). Feel free to rely on as much backgrounded theory as you like. We can discuss that later. Since influence ordinarily comes in degrees, tell us how to measure it. This requires a metric. Then explain why it matters. Apparently, it can matter without having been the cause of a single vote changing. Alright then. Surely it must matter in some way. Explain. Was it the kind of thing that, by itself, changes nothing but suddenly proves decisive when combined with a host of contingently related additional factors ? And how would you know? Explain.

    Of course, no such explanations will ever be offered, partly because the person making these claims is not a social scientist, not even remotely. Here’s who she is (according to the ASD Staff page):

    “Laura Rosenberger is the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Before she joined GMF, she was foreign policy advisor for Hillary for America, where she coordinated development of the campaign’s national security policies, messaging, and strategy. Prior to that, she served in a range of positions at the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council (NSC). As chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and as later, then-Deputy National Security Advisor Blinken’s senior advisor, she counseled on the full range of national security policy. In her role at the NSC, she also managed the interagency Deputies Committee, the U.S. government’s senior-level interagency decision-making forum on our country’s most pressing national security issues.”

    NSC staffer and Clinton adviser, on foreign relations, of all things.

  21. Livius Drusus

    Dean Baker has been on point lately criticizing some divide-and-conquer articles in the press.

    First, Baker takes apart David Brooks’ article on the “problem with men” dropping out of the labor force.


    Second, Baker critiques Vox’s piece bashing Baby Boomers for supposedly running up government debt and having the nerve to want to collect Social Security and Medicare.


    Thank God for people like Dean Baker who are pushing against all of these attempts by media and political figures to divert our attention away from class issues into things like gender and generational warfare. Divide and conquer is alive and well in the United States.

  22. Hana M

    “Wausau is thriving economically as residents shop online for mass-market goods and then head downtown to storefronts that offer hyper-local goods…”

    I’ll add my Brookline MA experience where things are going in the opposite direction. Brookline is a sort of city-suburb independent of Boston, that literally surrounds it. When I first moved here about 15 years ago it was a really fun place to live, fairly affordable (compared to NYC) and very walkable. Within a mile of my apartment were dozens of stores with stuff that’s hard to find, or with services that are ever so helpful for those running a home business: a local produce store; a kosher butcher with incredible fresh baked rye bread; three amazing Russian grocery stores; five shoe stores with lots of good shoes for (you guessed it) walking or running; several fun clothing stores, including an Indian place that had nice clothes for women who do not weigh 95 pounds; three bookstores; a frame-maker who did custom design work for the Gardiner Museum; a store with great stationery, luggage, leather goods; a fabulous housewares store where I probably spent far too much money. And then there were the everyday useful copy centers and business supply stores (three); pharmacies (four, including one that would do individually compounded medicines–for example hormone therapy without peanut oil); a veterinary pharmacy that also did specialty compounding (anyone who has tried to dose a recalcitrant cat will understand the utility); two pet stores; two hardware stores and two major grocery chains (Star and Stop &Shop).

    Alas, the hardware stores and the grocery chain stores are among the few survivors. More than half of the storefronts in my area are vacant. Brookline has reinvented itself as a sort of 1% nursery. Most of the city budget goes to the ‘public’ school system–a way to live in the Boston area but avoid sending your kids to Boston’s integrated and often disgracefully bad public schools. Rents and real estate prices are going through the roof. Ditto store-front rental prices. What’s surviving? Banks; day-care centers for the burgeoning hopeful progeny (Harvard or Bust!); restaurants (Who has time to cook?); Verizon and other telecom stores for the super-connected. That’s about it. Meanwhile the township is contemplating using eminent domain to confiscate land from a community college to build a NINTH elementary school.

    But, hey, revenues from property taxes are booming. So there’s that. /rant

  23. Daryl

    > “Where Were Netflix and Google in the Net-Neutrality Fight?”

    One thing I noted about this particular issue was the lack of big red text all over the internet. A fair amount of my tech-oriented sites had various sorts of protests going on, but it wasn’t like SOPA where I recall half the internet by traffic being covered in various kinds of protests. Of course, this could just be my perception.


  24. RUKidding

    Feinstein Slams Republican Tax Increase Bill, Ramps Up Russia Probe

    So I get an email in my Inbox just now with this as Subject Line.

    Yeah, right, DiFi: that’s JUST the ticket. Let’s “Ramp Up” the phoney-baloney Russia probe as a giant sucking distraction by how utterly terrible and worse than useless the Big D party is, most especially how venal, greedy and craven you are, personally.

    Bah Humbug.

  25. D

    Re: AI algorithms to prevent suicide gain traction -[Facebook is one of several companies exploring ways to detect online behaviours that have been linked to self-harm], and Lambert’s addendum:

    What could go wrong?

    Given the duplicity involved (my opinion, informed by living in Silicon Valley for decades, and over a decade of tracking informed criticism of Zuckerberg, et al), I think the easiest answered question would be: what could go right? My response would be: Nothing will go right with it.

    What to say about the subtle lack of questioning, in that linked Nature.com™ piece, as to how using the word ibuprofen (for many, one of the best PHYSICAL PAIN/INFLAMMATION RELIEVERs there is for so many who can’t afford a doctor (let alone a hospital) and aren’t on other blood thinner medications), indicates a suicide attempt, versus a lack of financially accessible healthcare?

    And what to say about the subtle fact that the piece didn’t mention that Facebook is on quote as noting that they will contact the local police when they feel it’s needed (whatever that means, which they weren’t willing to share) which becomes particularly ominous in light of the fact that US Facebook users cannot opt out of Facebook’s Mental Health AI™. This, in a time when we increasingly witness despairing people being shot, instead of helped, by the police.

    Could go on, and on, and on with the rational questions lacking in that, Nature.com™, ultimately PR piece for AI Mental Health Programming™ (and all the others which littered online search responses), but time is short. The best, accessible critique I’ve read to date [1], is this one:

    11/29/17 By Katyanna Quach The six simple questions Facebook refused to answer about its creepy suicide-detection AI – Code can work out if you’re close to topping yourself

    Analysis Facebook is using mysterious software that scours material on its social network to identify and offer help to people who sound potentially suicidal.

    It’s some new technology CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned in his 6,000-word manifesto earlier this year. Yet, his lieutenants have kept quiet about how the borderline-creepy thing actually works. It is described as software invisibly monitoring and assessing the state of mind of more than a billion people in real time, through the stuff they talk about and share online. From what we can tell, it alerts human handlers to intervene if you’re sounding particularly morose on the social network, prioritizing reports by friends that you’re acting suicidal.

    What could go wrong? Where could it go next? Will it be used in emotion experiments like we saw in 2014? Will it be used for adverts, if not already; if you hit your glum post quota for the week, will you get banners for vacations and weekend breaks? These aren’t even the questions we put to Facebook: they were far simpler, and yet, silence.

    In a blog post this week, Guy Rosen, veep of product management, said “pattern recognition” and “artificial intelligence” will detect posts and live videos in which someone may be expressing thoughts of suicide, flagging them up faster to specialist reviewers.


    Digging in, you have to wonder how smart this software really is – and whether it warranted the soft headlines some journalists gave it. The video detection seems interesting, but the text analysis sounds like a glorified grep. “We use signals like the text used in the post and comments (for example, comments like ‘Are you ok?’ and ‘Can I help?’ can be strong indicators),” said Rosen. “In some instances, we have found that the technology has identified videos that may have gone unreported.”

    Bafflingly, this machine-learning technology will not be deployed in the European Union, seemingly due to the region’s General Data Protection Regulation aka GDPR – Europe’s new privacy rules.

    We asked Facebook six straightforward questions. No snark, we simply sought to scrutinize a system watching over more than a billion people. And although acknowledging it was thinking them over, the product team failed to come up with any responses. Here are the six questions Facebook couldn’t or wouldn’t answer:


    [1] I’ve only found three highly critical – and then not even critical enough – commentaries. There are likely numerous lonely blogs out there – which will never come up on a search till about five years later, after the damage is done – which have scathing commentary about the Zuck’s actual concerns and aspiration$ regarding the mental health of ‘nobodies’.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Maybe we are examining this article in the wrong light. So Facebook is using software to monitoring and assessing the state of mind of more than a billion people in real time, right? And one use that they are using these algorithms for is to prevent self-harm for people, right? So, trying to forget the image of a SWAT team smashing their way into a house because Facebook reported them as a risk, how about we try this on for size.
      Maybe, just maybe, it is not self-harm that is the real purpose behind these algorithms but it is to pick up on people wanting to harm the corporate elites and those in power. I am willing to bet that this software was fine-tuned during Occupy Wall Street before they were smashed. Wouldn’t our elites want to know when the natives get too restless? And how far they could push us before it got serious for them? I would say that it is a truism that you can’t control what you can’t measure. And now Facebook has given the elites measuring algorithms for the rest of us.

      1. ChrisPacific

        This story got me thinking about how many similar stories in the US these days are only helpful and reassuring given the presumption that the parties involved are all acting in good faith. If you drop that assumption, they become creepy or downright sinister.

        I envisage the citizens of the US all plugged into Matrix-style consumer pods and used as batteries for generating economic activity, profits and growth. The Facebook story is analogous to hooking up vital sign monitoring to the pods and sending a technician around with a box of tools whenever any readings look abnormal. Mustn’t allow our little profit generation units to malfunction, after all.

        It would be a nice if a tool like this was used to look out for our collective wellbeing as human beings, but decades of neoliberalism have transformed the Facebooks of the world into rapacious amoral corporate monstrosities who believe their only duty is to maximize shareholder value. They are not wired for things like kindness or compassion.

  26. curlydan

    2017 vs 2018 health care premiums from eHealth (sorry, it’s from a press release, but they’re also credible statistics):

    “Average premiums for unsubsidized individuals and families increased 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively, between the 2017 and 2018 open enrollment periods…
    • Families are paying average monthly premiums of more than $1,100 per month….
    The average monthly premium for individual coverage increased 16 percent between the 2017 and 2018 open enrollment periods, from $378 to $440 per month ($5,280 annually). The average premium for family coverage (two or more people) increased 17 percent for 2018, from $997 to $1,168 per month ($14,016 annually).”

    $14K annually…in premiums…before the deductible. Not sure why they don’t mention average deductibles. The head of eHealth is a little scuzzy and likes to go on Fox News a lot, but still…DON’T GET SICK fools


  27. Jeremy Grimm

    “Arctic will never be frozen again” — There’s a compelling and very short video available at NOAA — “Age of Arctic Sea ice in March from 1987-2014” [https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/arctic/news-story/age-arctic-sea-ice-march-1987-2014]. Combine that video with the observations: 1) new ice can melt rapidly in response to changing conditions — e.g. the new ice that forms on some lakes every winter, 2) conditions are changing — the arctic is already warming, and 3) an ice-covered arctic is white but an ice-free arctic is dark and dark waters absorb more heat. So … Here is one climate tipping point cocked and ready-to-fire coming to a planet near you soon.

    1. Wukchumni

      Suggested reading matter:

      The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, from 1962.

      “Set in the year 2145 in a post-apocalyptic and unrecognisable London, The Drowned World is a setting of tropical temperatures, flooding and accelerated evolution.

      At the beginning of the novel, the catastrophe responsible for the apocalypse is explained scientifically: solar radiation has caused the polar ice-caps to melt and worldwide temperature to soar, leaving the cities of northern Europe and America submerged in beautiful and haunting tropical lagoons.” (Wiki)

  28. TiPs

    Regarding the “relative stability” of tax revenues, first, in a $20 trillion economy, a 1% change makes a big impact on the budget; second, taxes are a mostly redistributive mechanism, and it’s not a coincidence that inequality begins to rise as the top rate is reduced under Reagan.

  29. S M Tenneshaw

    Ryan Cooper wrote an even more devastating column about the fake Democrats. The summary graf:

    The great danger of milquetoast liberalism
    It’s looking more and more likely that Democrats can win in 2018 and 2020 no matter who they run. But if they run a slate of weak, timid, centrist compromisers, hemming and hawing about policy gimmes like Medicaid, who mouth progressive promises with their fingers crossed — and especially former Republicans, for Pete’s sake — they won’t get much in the way of concrete results. The result will be demoralization of the base, rising third-party support, and another backlash against elite failure, just like in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

  30. Wukchumni

    I’d be remiss without mentioning that it’s the sesquicentennial today of a giant avalanche that took out about 1500 mature giant sequoia trees in the Garfield Grove in Sequoia NP.

    “One of the most cataclysmic events affecting the Sierra Nevada in historic times impacted the Garfield section of the grove. On December 20, 1867, a warm rain fell on heavy snowpack blanketing the higher elevations of Dennison Ridge. One observer wrote that “the north side of Dennison Mountain” fell through the heart of the grove into the South Fork of the Kaweah, destroying a reported one-third of the grove’s forest. The avalanche and landslide swept down from as high as 7,500 feet, covering hundred of acres, and devastating an area about 2.5 miles long and ranging in width from 1,500 to 4,000 feet. A natural dam was created measuring a half-mile wide and 400 feet high, and the reservoir that formed behind it breached the dam on Christmas night.”

    “The flood scoured the canyon, then flooded Visalia in the Central Valley to a depth of five feet. Sequoia logs and tree sections were carried to the valley, where they floated far and wide beyond the riverbanks. Though new growth has disguised most signs of the 1867 avalanche in the grove, its effects are still dramatically apparent in the vicinity of Snowslide Canyon, where dense sequoia forest ends abruptly at an avalanche boulder field which swept away all that was growing there before the slide.”

    Not much threat of it happening today, no snow.

  31. Kim Kaufman

    ““The Great Republican Tax Heist of 2017” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “The tax bill is not just a massive payout to corporations and the idle rich. It is now a direct, personal bribe of Republican members of Congress and the Republican president, executed through the tax code. ”

    Remember earmarks? Good times! At least a little something was brought back to the district. This just goes straight into the lawmakers’ bank accounts.

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