2:00PM Water Cooler 12/21/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“he Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is declining to say whether it supports renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences, which expires at the end of this year, or approval of a new Miscellaneous Tariff Bill. Both pieces of legislation unilaterally waive tariffs on imported goods, an action that’s at odds with the Trump administration’s preference for “reciprocal” trade relationships” [Politico]. “A USTR fact sheet shows that India, Thailand and Brazil are the three largest beneficiaries of the GSP, accounting for more than half of the $18.95 billion in total imports under the program in 2016. The single largest product — $1 billion worth of motor vehicle parts — stands out at a time when the Trump administration is trying to revamp NAFTA to boost auto and auto parts production jobs in the United States.”



In Minnesota, Franken’s resignation and replacement by Tina Smith (D) means that both Smith and Senator Amy Klobuchar will be running at the same time, where Senate elections are usually stagged. Larry Sabato calls such elections “double-barreled,” tabulated them, and concluded: “The main takeaway from Table 1 is the fact that the same party tends to win both seats in a double-barrel Senate election. In 54 cases, just eight have featured split-ticket outcomes” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Given the straight-ticket pattern in such elections, Minnesota’s historical Democratic lean, and the likelihood of a pro-Democratic environment next year (to an unknown extent at this point), it seems at this early juncture that a Democratic sweep in Minnesota in 2018 may be more likely than not. But time will tell — Minnesota has consistently trended toward the GOP in presidential elections even while remaining the second-most Democratic state in the Midwest (behind only Illinois), so we’re certainly not writing off a GOP win in Franken’s soon-to-be-old seat.” Sabato also mentions the possibility that Arizona could be a double-barrel if McCain can no longer serve.


“Last uncounted ballots: Moore can’t close 20,000-vote loss” [Spokesman-Review]. “Republican Roy Moore hasn’t conceded his 20,000-vote loss to Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s Senate race, and military and provisional vote totals announced Wednesday aren’t enough for Moore to close the deficit. … Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced Wednesday that a total of 366 military ballots were returned from overseas. He also said 4,967 provisional ballots were cast. Even if all of those votes went to Moore, that is well short of the 20,000-vote deficit that Moore would need to close the gap. It also would not be enough to trigger an automatic recount. ‘No additional ballots are eligible to be received,” Merrill’s office said in announcing those last ballot totals.'”

Obama Legacy

Remember that poster? Good times. Thread:

Tax “Reform”

“Boeing applauds tax bill with $300 million workforce-related and charitable investment plan” [MarketWatch] and “Three banks boost worker pay with tax cut money” [MarketWatch]. I thought the days of the boss telling workers who to vote for were long gone. Silly me!

“U.S. tax curbs on debt deduction to sting buyout barons” [Reuters].

New Cold War

“Prosecutors ask FBI agents for info on Uranium One deal” [NBC]. “Stewart Baker, a former top lawyer in the George W. Bush administration and an expert in the CFIUS process, said he doubted that the Uranium One decision ever reached Clinton’s desk. About the donations [to the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton’s $500K for a speech in Moscow], he said, “Is it possible that the Russians thought they needed to do this and that it would help them? Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that it actually did.” Sensible, but if the same logic is applied to communications between some Russians and the Trump campaign, don’t all the claims of “collusion” disappear as well?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“#MeToo run amok” [Shikha Dalmia, The Week]. “Movements collapse when they become more interested in collecting heads than advancing their cause. Unfortunately, the very worthy #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse might have just reached that point…. Last Friday, #MeToo took down Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor of the liberal Detroit Free Press (or Freep as it is called locally). Henderson was fired for ‘inappropriate behavior’ — even though no women actively complained about it — [outside the workplace] that allegedly violated the newspaper’s ‘zero tolerance policy.”” “Inappropriate behavior” is even vaguer and less suspectible to any sort of due process than “sexual misconduct.” Looking on the bright side, it’s even easier to weaponize.

“The Year in Resistance” [Michelle Goldberg, New York Times]. “Throughout February, enraged citizens, coordinated by groups like Indivisible, MoveOn and the Working Families Party, flooded congressional town halls to demand that their representatives save the Affordable Care Act. Repeal, which seemed inevitable in January, failed in July and again in September.” No mention, of course, of #MedicareForAll…

“The Democratic Socialists of America are growing — rapidly” [Nuvo]. From an Indianapolis alternative newspaper (didn’t know there were any more!): “The Central Indiana DSA chapter operates out of the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center—established in 2013 by the Indianapolis Faith and Labor Coalition to focus on wage theft, particularly in the construction and service industries. DSA holds weekly meetings there for coordination, planning and communal eating. About half the members I spoke with on a Sunday in November told me the 2016 election was a pivotal event for them politically. The Bernie Sanders campaign mobilized them, as it did many young voters. ‘I didn’t just want to be angry online,’ one member said who canvassed for Sanders. ‘I wanted to put that anger into something.'”

The headline: “Since Trump’s Victory, Democratic Socialists of America Has Become a Budding Political Force” [The Nation]. The deck: “Why an army of young people is joining DSA.” No. DSA membership is 30,000. That’s not an army. I think the DSA is enormously interesting — far more interesting than liberal icons like (see above) “the resistance” (Prominent resistor and liberal Democrat enforcer Neera Tanden’s sinecure at the Center for American progress is, after all, funded in large part by corporate donations), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. DSA has yet to be seriously challenged.

Can we please not use the phrase “deep state” anymore?

Stats Watch

Lots of stats today!

GDP, Q3 2017 (Final): “The third estimate puts third-quarter GDP at a very solid 3.2 percent annualized rate though the gain isn’t based on consumer spending which rose at only a 2.2 percent pace. What held up the quarter was a very solid 4.7 percent showing for nonresidential fixed investment in what was the third straight strong reading for this key measurement of business spending” [Econoday]. Animal spirits? And but: “The consumer spending declined, but the real improvement came from using a lower inflation deflator. I am not a fan of quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but my year-over-year preferred method showed moderate acceleration from last quarter” [Econintersect].

Leading Indicators, November 2017: “[T]he index of leading economic indicators is back at a steady and healthy pace of growth [Econoday]. “Initial jobless claims have returned to pre-hurricane levels with financial indicators, manufacturing orders and consumer sentiment also positives.” But: “Because of the significant backward revisions, I do not trust this index” [Econintersect].

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, December 2017: “Respondents to the Philly Fed’s manufacturing sample are reporting new acceleration from an already enormously strong rate of growth” [Econoday]. “New orders are pouring in this month, up more than 8 points to an unusually strong 29.8. The build in unfilled orders slowed slightly but also remains unusually strong at 10.8. Shipments are moving quickly at 23.4 despite congestion in the supply chain as deliveries slowed once again. Input costs remain elevated and selling prices are showing traction.” And: “Consider this a stronger report than last month” [Econintersect]. “This is a very noisy index which readers should be reminded is sentiment based. The Philly Fed historically is one of the more negative of all the Fed manufacturing surveys but has been more positive then the others recently.”

Chicago Fed National Activity Index, November 2018 2017*: “November was once again a strong month for the national activity index” [Econoday]. “The economy is definitely solid based on this index which, after a very soft year, began to show real life in September.” NOTE * Econoday says “2018.” First sighting of that typo, which I’m surprised I haven’t yet made myself!

Corporate Profits, Q3 2017 (Revised): “Corporate profits, at an annualized rate of $1.854 trillion in the second estimate for the third quarter, rose 9.8 percent compared to the third quarter of 2016 vs an initial estimate of 10.0 percent” [Econoday].

Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, October 2017: “Year-on-year, rose prices were up 6.6 percent in October and 6.5 percent in September which is strong appreciation in a low interest rate, low inflation economy” [Econoday].

Jobless Claims, week of December 16, 2017: “Jobless claims moved higher in a report that nevertheless points to strength for the December employment report” [Econoday] .

Retail: “Best Buy Co. may be offering a model for how to withstand the Amazon juggernaut. The electronics retailer seems to be having success with its recent investment in e-commerce…, building up the anything-anywhere strategy known as omni-channel while adding new marketing and pricing plans aimed at meeting Amazon on the discount floor” [Wall Street Journal]. “Best Buy is leveraging its real-estate by having stores do double-duty as warehouses while helping speed up shipping times. Best Buy also has turned parts of stores over to space where online consumers can pick up goods. And it is looking to outflank Amazon on shipping by offering free delivery with no minimum purchase this season.

Commodities: “The commodities rebound of 2017 is being forged in copper.The metal is on track to post its best year since 2010…, with prices rising on a strong gap between strengthening demand and troubled supply. The demand comes from bullish sentiment over the use of copper in prospective electronic vehicles and in new U.S. infrastructure spending” [Wall Street Journal]. “But the bigger boost may be the straightforward growth across the global economy that’s helped bulk carriers recover this year after a years-long commodities shipping downturn. Demand in China is a big driver, and the country’s 18.9% gain in iron ore imports from October to November, according to Alphabulk, signaling the manufacturing sector there remains robust.”

Commodities: “More than 300 large dry cargo ships are having to wait outside Chinese and Australian ports in a maritime traffic jam that spotlights bottlenecks in China’s huge and global commodity supply chain as demand peaks this winter” [Reuters]. “Adding to the congestion is a coal and iron ore buying spree that kicked in after the National Congress of China’s communist party in October…. ‘Bad weather, substitution of domestic ore with better quality imported ore caused by the anti-pollution policy, and strong steel prices…have all helped to push freight rates up,’ [Ong Choo-Kiat, president of Taiwan’s dry cargo shipper U-Ming Marine Transport] said.”

Shipping: “Air cargo boom pushes Moscow Sheremetyevo to break ground on new handling terminal” [The Loadstar]. “Construction is set to begin next year. Freight terminal operator Moscow Cargo has reported a 35% upturn in volumes since the first site opened this year.”

Shipping: “Americans are taking a dim view of excessive packaging, and so is the country’s biggest e-commerce shipper. Amazon.com Inc. is taking extra steps to ship orders in correctly-sized packaging…, in a push to take vast tons of cardboard and filler out of package distribution channels” [Wall Street Journal]. “It’s an effort driven partly by cost and partly by environmental concerns—and by the growing consternation of online consumers who find their front porches filled with big boxes filled with tiny items, and often see different items from the same order spread across several parcels. Those deliveries are part of a fundamental logistics problem that arises when various goods are stocked at different distribution centers.”

Shipping: “New tax plan will not curtail port infrastructure investment” [Logistics Management]. “[T]he AAPA was pleased that several important tax related policy priorities were addressed in the final “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” legislation recently passed by Congress. These included provisions related to tax-exempt bond financing and wind energy production tax credits. … “We’re extremely pleased that the final legislation keeps the tax-exempt status for [private activity bonds (PABs)]. This provision will help foster investments, not just in and around ports, but also in needed infrastructure development throughout the nation,” [said Kurt Nagle, AAPA’s president and CEO] added… Another “win” for ports and for all engaged in wind energy in the final legislation was the continuation of the existing level of wind energy production tax credits…. A sizable number of ports on the east, gulf, and west coasts and the Great Lakes handle wind energy components as part of their cargo mix…. In addition, AAPA had supported the House bill’s repeal of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). This is important since most PABs issued by ports are subject to the AMT, and therefore, increases the cost of financing. In the final bill, Congress repealed the AMT for corporations, but retained it in a modified form for higher-income individuals.”

The Bezzle: “Shares of The Long Island Iced Tea Corporation soared as much as 432% pre-market Thursday morning after the company said it would change it’s name to Long Blockchain Corp.” [Business Insider]. “The company will continue to sell its line of bottled drinks based on the eponymous cocktail, it said, but its parent company ‘is shifting its primary corporate focus towards the exploration of and investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology,’ according to a press release.”

The Bezzle: “Investors in bitcoin and other virtual currencies would lose a lucrative tax break under the Republican tax bill that’s on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk” [Bloomberg]. “New limits in the bill would bar cryptocurrency owners from deferring capital gains taxes when trading one type of virtual currency for another — effectively closing a gray area in the tax code, experts say. Those gains can be considerable.”

The Bezzle: “Opinion: Why Tesla is literally an unbelievable stock” [MarketWatch]. “Tesla isn’t an attractive investment now — not just because of the stock’s high valuation but also because it fails a basic quality test, which I shamelessly borrowed from Warren Buffett: Would I own the shares if the stock market were to close for 10 years?… Recessions are tough for deeply cyclical companies like Tesla. The bulk of their costs are fixed, and accordingly lower sales usually result in significant declines in net income and often lead to losses. This is why car companies and their cyclical brethren don’t trade at high price-to-earnings levels when the economy is doing well and their earnings are high. The market doesn’t usually take these high earnings at face value, knowing full well that there are lower earnings (or losses) when recession comes. Tesla doesn’t have to worry about this low price-to-earnings problem, because in spite of its $50 billion market valuation, it has no earnings, just losses. It trades at whatever price-to-future Musk tells you it does.” Ouch!

Fodder for the Bulls: “The global economy looks steadier, but uncertainty remains, from Trump to Brexit” [Joseph Stiglitz, MarketWatch]. “In short, as the advanced economies’ post-2008 recession fades into the distant past, global prospects for 2018 look a little better than in 2017. The shift from fiscal austerity to a more stimulative stance in both Europe and the U.S. will reduce the need for extreme monetary policies, which almost surely have had distortionary effects not just on financial markets but also on the real economy.” Although there are plenty of caveats!

Honey for the Bears: “As director of wine for [the newly opened Four Seasons mega hotel] as well as its private members club, [Jan Konetzski] gets a unique view of how City workers are feeling about the business environment as they unwind, network or celebrate with clients over lunch or dinner. Oh, and lots of conversation about bitcoin’s wild ride” [Financial News]. “And the overall sentiment at the moment? Upbeat but with a fair amount of trepidation about the year to come. ”[The mood] is ‘we are fine, so let’s enjoy the moment’ — but maybe it is the celebration before it all goes down’ he says. ‘We overhear a lot of conversations on the tables in the City and there are so many diverse opinions about what is going to happen next year. I do not know anyone who I would trust that knows what will happen.'” Nobody knows anything!

Five Horsemen: “Seattle sluggers Amazon and Microsoft are tied for first place with a 28.66% gain since April 26th. Silicon Valley stalwarts Alphabet and Facebook are tied for third place with a 21.05% gain. Apple’s in the middle with a 23.25% gain. All are beating SPY, an S&P 500 index tracker” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Dec 21

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Greed (previous close: 72, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 65 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 21 at 11:49am.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“P.T. Barnum’s Most Famous ‘Freaks'” [RealClearLive]. “Chang & Eng: Born in what’s now Thailand, the conjoined twins (called Siamese twins due to their birthplace) earned enough as a sideshow attraction that they were able to buy a plantation in North Carolina… The Civil War wiped out their fortune, however.” I had no idea that Chang & Eng were slave-owners. Learn something new every day.

Here’s hoping Erica Garner runs for Senate and wins her primary against Chelsea. Anyhow:

More from Cornel West on Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ love letter to Barack Obama” [World Socialist Web Site]. From 2016, but still germane.

“‘We Were Eight Years in Power,’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates” [San Francisco Chronicle].

And this:

I hesitate to join in the fray here, but: Coates cancelled his Twitter account. However, Black Twitter is quite large and very dynamic, and I would speculate that Coates discovered that not enough people were willing to watch his back.

Neoliberal Epidemics

Young Ezra:

Class Warfare

“Disney union workers reject company’s latest offer on wage increase” [Orlando Weekly]. “In its latest contract offer, Disney proposed an increase of 6 to 10 percent raise over two years for non-tipped full-time and part-time workers. That means cast members who made $10 per hour would only get a 50-cent raise in their first year. Other workers who earn more would get a 3 percent raise in the same time frame. Disney also offered its employees a one-time $200 bonus and promised no increase in health care costs.” Mickey Mouse, indeed!

“America’s Dental Gap Has Left People Relying on Pliers, Chisels, and Whiskey” [The Nation]. And if you’ve got bad teeth, down into the underclass you go, so the pliers are only the beginning!

“Kaffer: 8 years into tests of abandoned rape kits, Worthy works for justice” [Detroit Free Press]. Important:

In 2009, 11,341 untested sexual assault kits — the results of an hours-long process that collects evidence from the body of a rape victim — were found during a routine tour of a Detroit police storage warehouse, some dating back to 1984. [Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy] and her team started the long and laborious process of testing those kits, investigating the crimes, and prosecuting the perpetrators… Ten thousand rape kits tested. One hundred twenty-seven convictions won, 1,947 cases investigated, 817 serial rapists identified…. A rapist rapes on average seven to 11 times before they’re caught. … Of our set of 817 … over 50 of them have 10 to 15 hits apiece.

The “serial” aspect caught my eye. (Linked to here, but see again: “Whatever they’re after, clearly no quantity of it ever suffices. Learning about other humans acting so robotically presents a conceptual difficulty. We wish to emphasize the moral agency of the predators, their supposed gains—sadistic pleasure, the glee of getting away with it—which enlarges their monstrosity and distinguishes them from the rest of us. But who would ‘choose’ to be a robot?”) I’m struggling here, but it’s almost as if the sin is not lust, or even a lust for power, but greed (never enough). In fact, it’s almost as if the accumulation of capital is a sublimated, and socially sanctioned, version of this form of “primitive” accumulation. Or vice versa.

News of the Wired

“She Giggles, He Gallops” [The Pudding]. “Analyzing gender tropes in film with screen direction from 2,000 scripts.” Most frequent word for women: “snuggles.” Most frequent word for men: “straps'”(!).

“I Write Because I Hate” [n+1]. Retrospective on William Gass, obviously an interesting writer I should have known more about. Any post that raised the question of “the identity of indiscernibles” is alright with me!

“Designing Against Misinformation” [Jeff Smith, Medium]. Smith is Product Designer, Facebook News Feed. “We will continue working hard on these efforts by testing new treatments, improving existing treatments, and collaborating with academic experts on this complicated misinformation problem.” Idea: Let users curate their own feeds. Present the feeds in reverse chronological order. Forget about the algorithm. Fire the programmers. Fire the Product Designer. Problem solved! (Inidentally, one misfeature of Facebook is that you can’t embed links in your posts. There is, therefore, no way for users to address (both senses) problems or contextualize material, very much unlike blogging platforms. So all that functionality falls onto the algorithm, and — is there a computer science-y way say this? — there is no algorithm that cannot be gamed, given a level of effort.

I hope this one’s still on the shelves:

* * *
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 (PH):

PH writes: “Streptopus amplexifolia, Claspleaaf Twistedstalk, from around Kamloops, s.c. BC, Canada.”

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. Lee

    Identitarian crisis?

    Latino Identity Fades As Immigrant Ties Weaken, Study Finds

    Uh oh, by the fourth generation 50% of Hispanic/Latinos pass for white. The absurdity of identitarianism is strong in this one.

    Those familiar with northern New Mexico will have encountered some of the palest Hispanics on earth. Some even have blue eyes. They’ve been speaking Spanish and not swapping fluids with Native Americans since the time of the conquistadors. Or so they claim.

    Happy holidays one and all!

    1. Scott

      I forgot how bad NPR was until I read the article. It was a very interesting subject and they still couldn’t avoid taking a shot at Trump from a credentialed “expert.”

      But this also reminds me of when I met a man from New Mexico who was of Spanish origin who hated being called Hispanic. He said he had nothing in common with immigrants from Mexico as his family had been in the U.S. for centuries. It reminded me of my Sicilian friends who resist being called Italian.

      1. Lee

        My former wife’s grandmother from near Taos New Mexico was of Spanish and Irish ancestry. She was blue-eyed and with alabaster skin and her first language was Spanish. Their Spanish surname can be traced back to men who served with Cortes. And before that to Russian Jews who immigrated to Spain and converted to Christianity under Ferdinand and Isabella. The father of my ex was a Mexican national with Native American and Spanish ancestry. They, and even more so my son, are an identity smorgasbord.

        1. LifelongLib

          A little OT, but my Iranian (now U.S. citizen) sister-in-law found out recently that she may be eligible for Spanish citizenship because her ancestors were Jews who were expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella…

          1. Basil Pesto

            I’m in the same boat and have looked into it. It is apparently quite difficult to get, in terms of the burden of proof, what is required of you etc. I plan to apply but it won’t be a cheap process as I will need an immigration lawyer etc (and there are other costs involved – research, learning Spanish etc). I imagine there are some sephardim who are good to go and have retained that deep connection to the Iberian peninsula but for me it’s so remote that the fact that I could become a Spaniard by some weird historical detail is sort of hilarious to me.

    2. lyle

      All be it there was a significant event to force this faster this happened to the largest ethnic group in the US those of German Heritage. WWI came along and anthing related to Germany was bad bad bad. For example a lot of churches went to primarily services in English. Last call says that at least a piece of Prohibition was to get at the Biergartens around where folks drank beer on sunday pm. My greatgrandfather who came to the us at about age 10 never bothered to get the citizenship papers, so when a list of enemy aliens was published his name was on it and his door was painted yellow. Or to give another example, in the Trinity Luthern Cemetery there is a stone where the husband who died in 1914 has the enscription in German and wife who died in 1921 has the inscription in english. So in that case the german ethnicity faded over a few years. It should be noted that Wisconsin in 1921 outlawed the teaching of the German language in schools.

      1. Lee

        Some years ago I was given a tour of Butte MT by a local. She took me through various neighborhoods saying this is where the Italians lived, this is where the Irish lived, and so on. At the conclusion of the ethnic tour she said, with a note of disappointment in her voice,”Now we’re all just white.” So now we must ask, are we becoming victims of whiteyfication? Do my Irish and English ancestors each cry out for the blood of the other within me?

      2. Wukchumni

        In the UK in the midst of WW1, you couldn’t very well have a German Shepherd guarding you and yours, so they renamed them Alsatians.

        The Canadians couldn’t live in a town called Berlin, Ontario during the same time period, so it got renamed to Kitchener.

        See how easy that was…

    3. Henry Moon Pie

      Spent several years in Mora County. Very true about self-perception: most folks born there insisted on being called “Spanish.” Their ancestors actually arrived in the 1830s. Frank Waters’s novel, The People of the Valley, lays it out. One reason they may have ended up there were heretical religious practices, i.e. Penitentes. They were so isolated that they held on to Castilian pronunciation.

      The ethnic backgrounds in Mora were actually more complicated and interesting. A number of Fort Union soldiers ended up with wives and new homes in Mora County. There are quite a few German and Irish-surnamed who consider themselves Spanish. There were also some Lebanese and Jewish traders who became Spanish after a generation or two of intermarriage.

      Over on the other side of the mountain, in Rio Arriba, there was a thriving Chicano movement in the days of Rejes Tijerina, but I never ran into many Mora enthusiasts. Mora residents had instead become notorious for running some hippies out of a commune up along Coyote Creek in the early 70s. “We killed their men and raped their women,” a young fellow once bragged to me. Probably an exaggeration, but I was relieved when I learned he didn’t consider my wife and me to be hippies.

    4. Oregoncharles

      We lived in New Mexico for a couple of years and often visited the Taos area. Extremely interesting. A friend of mine was going with a Spanish woman from there – her name was one of a dozen in the area. Her father had visited Spain as a tourist. He spoke Spanish, of course, but every time he spoke, people would gather around to listen to him, because he was speaking 300-year-old Spanish. It would be like Shakespearian English.
      Also: there was a sizeable contingent of Dutch soldiers among the conquistadors, so there were northern people in Mexico, and doubtless New Mexico, from the beginning.

  2. Carolinian

    Re Minnesota–on Ralph Nader’s podcast they were saying that ex GOP governor Pawlenty is going to run as a strong candidate for Franken’s seat and that’s why some Dems are wishing Franken would stay. Also it seems Franken has not said exactly when he will step down and is being very mum lately.

    Just passing that along…

    1. Hana M

      Nah! I thought it was kinda rad, especially the color coordination with the orange eyes of the owl and the shades on the guy playing Davy Crockett.

  3. allan

    “Obama years, in no particular order” missed at least one:
    there’s no mention of the multi-city crackdown on Occupy.

    1. Darius

      Obama’s embrace of austerity resulted in the jobless recovery. That, far and away, is the biggest reason we now have Trump.

    2. perpetualWAR

      Wonder if there is any mention of the millions of taxpaying homeowners who lost their homes to fraudulent criminal activity of the bankers who Obama sheltered?

    3. Charlie

      Also left out was the 2012 NDAA that allowed propaganda to be sent to the domestic population.

      If you want to know where fake news became a thing, there it is.

      1. Jan

        Plus the little detail of suspending habeus corpus, Meaning military police can show up at your doorstep, arrest you, imprison you on an army base and you get no phone call, no lawyer and can be kept there indefinitely without being charged.

        Thanks Constitutional Scholar Obama!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am very reluctant to buy, say, a Black Forest cuckoo clock made in, say, Indonesia. That kind of cultural appropriation just doesn’t seem appropriate.

      White German clock makers would probably object…I can’t speak for them.

      And there is nothing appealing, to me, in seeing white, brown, black kids in every country trying to subsist on hamburgers, like us Americans. This is another uncomfortable cultural appropriation.

      At the end, it’s case by case.

      1. Wukchumni

        We quite like going to Basque restaurants in Ca. & Nv., the setup is similar in all of them, as you select a main course and in the meantime the rest of your meal comes out family style with a tureen of soup followed by a bowl of salad, etc. We’ve probably been to a dozen different ones, and some years ago there was a Basque eatery off of Hwy 99 in Bakersfield, so we gave it a try, and it was run by Chinese folks and the ju ju was so many shades of wrong, lemme tellya.

        Benji’s Basque Restaurant in Bakersfield is decent though, if you’re in the area.

  4. L

    I think that this one can safely be filed under “Class Warfare” as well, or perhaps under the ongoing list of real emergencies that are not getting the tax cut treatment:

    56 miles from temptation
    [Washingon Post]

    Over the past generation, disability in America changed. As the number of people receiving federal disability benefits surged, before tapering off in 2015, the share with circulatory disorders such as heart disease, once the plurality, shrank significantly amid medical advances. Meanwhile, the percentage of workers awarded Social Security Disability Insurance for musculoskeletal disorders — disabilities frequently treated with opioids — began to rise sharply. By 2012, nearly half of the beneficiaries were using opioids, and more than one-fifth chronically, according to a paper published last year by researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of California at Los Angeles.

    Perhaps nowhere else do disability and opioid use more closely intersect than in Kentucky. It’s here where the counties with the highest rates of opioid use are also the counties with the highest participation rates in federal disability programs, clustered in the hills and hallows of Appalachia.

  5. Jim Haygood

    Ed Yardeni’s fundamental indicator fell slightly over the past week, but remains near the high end of its range for the year.

    Raw industrial material prices went up (favorable). But Bloomberg Consumer Comfort eased a bit, while the 4-week average of unemployment claims rose slightly. Chart:


    Atlanta Fed’s “nowcast” for 4th quarter GDP growth remains at 3.3% annualized: no worries.

      1. Ed Miller

        Sorry for catching up so late on readings.

        We are lucky that FDR’s Presidency resulted in term limits. The 2016 election could have become Obama for Life, and now if the R’s maintain control we could be facing Trump for Life in 2024. Ugh!

  6. Jim Haygood

    Virtuous New York:

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed that the New York State Common Retirement Fund halt all new investments “with significant fossil-fuel-related activities” and prepare a plan to divest existing fossil-fuel investments.

    According to the governor’s proposal, he and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli “will work together” to create an advisory committee that would enable the Common Retirement Fund “to develop a decarbonization roadmap.”

    DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the $201.3 billion pension fund, said in a prepared statement that “there are no immediate plans to divest our energy holdings.”


    CalPERS sacrificed a ton of potential gains over the past decade from selling its tobacco stocks, which throw off cash and capital gains like demented energizer bunnies thanks to their gov-sponsored oligopoly.. With energy shares still somewhat depressed, New York likely will achieve the same disappointing result.

    On the thesis that politicians are usually wrong — but Cuomo is ALWAYS wrong — I’m forecasting that crude oil will bust out over $60 soon. This is not a particularly brave forecast, the chart shows:


    As a carbon-based lifeform, I find state-mandated decarbonization mildly threatening. :-0

    1. Scott

      This type of divestment could be a good idea, but given the general state of state pensions, it is likely not one from an investment one. If Cuomo were to say couple this with a commitment to increase pension contributions to make up for the new gap, I’d be more in favor of it. But as it stands now, it looks like standard grandstanding from a Democratic politician who dislikes public pensions and likes to show that he’s doing something on climate change.

  7. Martin Oline

    I had just yesterday come across Larry McCaffery’s 100 best English-language books of the twentieth century, and William Gass as a writer whose work has 3 places in the list. He was awarded 16th place with In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, 81st with The Tunnel and 82nd with Omensetter’s Luck.
    I didn’t know he had died but this link was very timely and interesting for me.
    For those wishing the see McCaffery’s entire list I submit this link:

    1. Lee

      Jane Austen’s genteel works were described by D.W. Harding as a prime example of “regulated hatred”. He’s right, she’s actually quite savage, in an elegantly written, genteel sort of way.

  8. Judith

    I just heard from a friend connected with the J20 trial that the current trial of the first six defendants ended today with all six found not guilty and acquitted of all charges. I am glad to have hope about this now.

  9. Summer

    “Idea: Let users curate their own feeds. Present the feeds in reverse chronological order. Forget about the algorithm.”

    This is the control freak economy. And it’s very desperate.

    1. Hana M

      I’m not having better luck with the Econoday links. I’m running the next to most recent Firefox on a PC.

  10. Code Name D

    My first fire? Boy does that bring me back. I remember playing with my first shredding machine and my first coal mine.

  11. DonCoyote

    On rape and greed as addiction (OK, really just on greed, but I think there is something to the comparison):

    I just today came across Sarah Silverman (“you’re being ridiculous”) interviewing Bernie Sanders about a year ago. Some interesting observations in there; this is what was said about greed as addiction (starting about 39:10, although the context of the “us” 99.9% vs “them” .1% starts 37:55)

    Bernie: There is a world out there, it’s a–I think, a sick world frankly, I think, you know, we all have friends or family members who are dealing with alcoholism, who are dealing with drugs, and I think greed is addictive as well, they need more and more and more. And they cannot control themselves, and in that constant greed and the desire for more wealth and more power, they are doing terrible, terrible harm. There aren’t many of them, but they have just unbelievable power. For me, the “us” and the “them” is, “they” are the “them”. And kinda, “we” are the “us”.

    Sarah: I’m so titillated by you calling it an addiction…my very good friend and mentor Gary Shandling, who passed away and today is his birthday actually, but he said something exactly like that, and I’ll never forget it, he said, “Greed is an addiction, and the people who are controlling our money, are addicted, to greed, and it’s as if you gave a bunch of cokeheads a pile of coke and said, ‘Distribute this evenly among your people.’ ”

    So…can we get the .1% into a 12-step program (and what would making amends look like?). Actually I don’t think America has very good models for treating addicts, so I’m not sure where this insight (if valid) gets us in terms of treatment.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Perhaps a 12-step combined with an extended stay in some fabulous, spiritual retreat to know money is not everything.

      *If it’s fabulous enough, maybe they will want to stay there forever.

    2. Summer

      “So…can we get the .1% into a 12-step program (and what would making amends look like?”

      Looking at it from this perspective and considering the wealth in the stock market (casino capitalism), it might look alot like Gamblers Anonymous.

    3. Adam Eran

      Since you bring it up, my humble analysis is that this is bad human software. Inanimate objects (i.e. software) have common failings. A “race condition” (the software consumes all the CPU cycling endlessly to, e.g., divide by zero) or “memory leak” (the software gradually consumes all the memory available, crashing the computer) are common errors…so common tools have been developed to find them.

      Human software is no different. Take a look at “supernormal stimuli” for a few examples.

      My working hypothesis is that all of the ethical prohibitions, seven deadly sins, and moral precepts are attempts to head this kind of brain-crashing obsession off at the pass.

      1. Jobs

        By “race condition” you probably mean “infinite loop”. A race condition is a situation where two or more processors “race” for ownership of a shared resource, often a lock, mutex or other synchronization primitive.

    4. Wukchumni

      The way you do it is really underprice a bitchin’ place in the Hamptons on the water, and all of their real estate agents will turn them on to the deal, and arrange it so they all show up at the same time to see it, on account of their greed that knows no bounds, and then you do an intervention and amazingly all of the Unabankers cop to their addiction problem, willingly bankrupt their concerns and give all of their ill-gotten gains back to the less fortunate, which is all of us.

      Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      1. Jen

        Or seal them in with means to contact the outside world, limited food, lots of alcohol, and let nature take its course…

    5. Mo's Bike Shop

      Instead of taxing income over, say, 2 million, convert it to some social currency, a la the Yap. Make it non-revertible, only rich people can have this. Maybe it’ll draw their attention away from mucking with the real economy.

      1. Ian

        Sadly then it will likely get donated to “Charity” groups that often have something other then charity in mind.

  12. tony

    Did you listen to that Weinstein tape? It was pitiful. The man is obviously pathological, and his predation was not about sex, because he could easily hire prostitutes or go for the young ones that would be willing to trade sex for roles. Typically pathological people keep putting themselves into the same bad situations in order to solve some internal issue, whether it is getting into abusive relationships or trouble with the law. Weinstein seems like that.

    I am having difficulty seeing the primitive accumulation fitting here, because it actually is rational behaviour that gains a person resources. Pathological repetition of the sexual predators gains nothing but temporary pleasure, while having enormous potential costs.

    This should not be considered a plea for mercy for Weinstein or others. Everyone is in my opinion still fully responsible for their actions, and should they choose to deal with internal issues by hurting others, they should be condemned.

  13. allan

    There was some discussion here a few days ago about the DSA or other organizations helping low income people with their W-4s for 2018 because, with all of the changes coming from the tax bill, it will be very confusing to say the least. If you have too little withheld, you will be stuck with a tax bill (and possible penalties) in April, 2019.

    Turns out that’s a feature, not a bug:

    How the Trump Administration Could Game Paychecks to Win Support for the Tax Bill [Nation]

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      >>For generations the IRS has actually been shielded from politicization

      I don’t feel like that has been the case. And though they will never be on my Valentine’s list, going Amtrack/Post Office on your taxing authority seems destabilizing.

      I think the only people who knew about Obama’s rebates were Rush’s dittoheads.

      1. Yves Smith

        No, that has been the situation. The IRS goes after small businesses rather than big ones not for political reasons but because the rich companies hire the best tax litigators and regularly beat the IRS even when the IRS has a very good case.

  14. WheresOurTeddy

    Big Brother Is Watching You Watch (with help from Jesus’s fundamentalist friends on Earth):

    Small California Town to be Surveilled by Police Drones (bought by local church)

    I live in Northern California between Oregon and Sacramento. Bethel Church is a cult. They got one of their people on Redding City Council this year. Turning Shasta County into a theocracy.

    P.S. – the article’s claims that crime and homelessness are NBD in Calabama are wrong. We are an economic sacrifice zone. There is a war on the homeless here and the Jesusites are on the wrong side according to the red type in their manual.

  15. GF

    Class Warfare

    “Disney union workers reject company’s latest offer on wage increase”

    My wife and I received our Social Security notifications as to what our 2018 monthly payments will be. We both show an increase of $0.60 (60 cents) per month. I wish we could reject this offer from the gov’t as the Disney workers did and demand an actual cost of living increase.

    On a related note, we tried out the NYT tax calculator that compares the 2017 tax year with our 2018 projected earnings and the result was 0 (zero) increase in our refund.

    Here is the link:

    Merry Christmas to all Water Cooler readers and NC readers.

  16. marym

    WaPo: Sessions rescinds Justice Dept. letter asking courts to be wary of stiff fines and fees for poor defendants

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era Justice Department letter that asked local courts across the country to be wary of slapping poor defendants with fines and fees to fill their jurisdictions’ coffers, part of a broad rollback of guidance that Sessions believes overreached, according to people familiar with the matter.

    It’s the latest move in Sessions’s effort to dramatically reshape the Justice Department by undoing many of the reforms imposed by his predecessors and giving the institution a harder edge. Sessions is revoking 25 previous guidance documents dating back to the mid-1990s and covering everything from ATF procedures to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

  17. Carolinian

    Eric Schmidt steps down as chairman of Alphabet.

    Mr. Schmidt, 62, has been eclipsed in Washington by other figures at Google, including Max Pappas, a longtime political operative who has a relationship with Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who support conservative causes, said some of the people familiar with the company. In the meantime, Google is under fire, along with other tech giants, as legislators seek to deal with the perceived monopolies these companies have.

    In a time of heightened scrutiny on workplace behavior and sexual harassment, Mr. Schmidt’s personal life has also attracted attention. While he is married, he has brought a series of girlfriends to corporate events over the years.

    And most recently, Mr. Schmidt thrust Google into a negative spotlight when he pushed the head of the New America Foundation to punish one of its scholars, Barry Lynn, for applauding the European Union’s decision to levy a record $2.7 billion fine against Google.

    Strangely no mention of his work for a certain presidential candidate or his stated desire to suppress algorithmically determined “fake news.” But then the NYT probably doesn’t see those as negatives.


  18. Adelle Chattre

    Congress approved a temporary spending bill today preventing a government shutdown. Say, does anyone happen to have a lead on the text of the continuing resolution yet?

    1. Wukchumni

      The only thing that can stop a bad opioid user with a syringe, is a good opioid user with a syringe.

      Hey, it works with guns, the NRA claims.

  19. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    Canary in the coal mine?

    If the only real measure of the wealth of a nation is the organization and standards which it holds to, the media accounts of the recent passenger train incident on a track limited to 30 mph must be worrying to those who in the US who are concerned about national well-being. In many developed nations eighty miles per hour is not regarded as “high-speed” in relation to train services and would be regarded as an absurdity.

    In my opinion American exceptionalism has been used as a foil to foist low standards on the people. The US military may be the best, but what will the veteran retire to? What evil absurdities will their children inherit?

    1. Strategist

      Better quality presentation of the results data here

      Independence parties win an absolute majority of seats in the parliament, and more votes than the unionist parties, but not over 50% of all votes cast. Which, folks, does not mean there is a majority for staying within Spain!

      Looks to me that Ada Colau’s party Catalunya en Comu Podem could be decisive if it wished to be?

      The BBC rolling news is covering the result phenomenally badly.

  20. allan

    Timing Is Vital as Companies Set Bonuses, Spending Before New Tax Law [WSJ]
    AT&T’s pledge this week to give $1,000 bonuses to more than 200,000 workers once President Trump signs the tax overhaul may have saved it $28 million

    The timing of AT&T Inc.’s pledge this week to give $1,000 bonuses to more than 200,000 workers once President Donald Trump signs the tax overhaul may have saved it $28 million.

    That is because committing to making the payment now could let it record the expense in 2017 for tax purposes. In AT&T’s case, that would mean a $70 million deduction under the existing 35% tax rate. By contrast, recording the bonus expense in 2018, when the new 21% corporate rate is in effect, would mean a $42 million deduction. …

    In what is undoubtedly merely a case of bad fiber optics, AT&T’s CEO was paid $28 million in 2016.

    1. steelhead

      To settle the union contract a few weeks ago AT@T agreed to give the 200,000 union workers a one time $1000.00 payment if the union supported the merger. Timing is a feature not a bug. How much after tax does the payment net in contrast to the stock buybacks and C-Suite additional compensation?

  21. John k

    No quid pro quo…
    Just happened to pay 30 mil…
    Did sadaam ever wish he’d contributed to a world class charity?
    I bet gaddhafi did.
    Wonder if anybody ever suggested protection was worthwhile in such a tough neighborhood?
    Wrong not to speculate…
    Anyway, if he declined, easy to understand the rightful ‘he died’ crowing… a woman scorned…
    Good lesson for les autres…

  22. Homina

    I hesitate to join in the fray here, but:

    Not sure why anyone would not choose to jump into the fray and declare that yes, West is the pal of black Americans, poor people, foreigners, women, Palestinians….and Coates is the defender [nigh worshipper] of warmonger Obama and enemy of the innocent and completely non-objective.

    Isn’t that obvious??? You need a dozen examples, or something, not just from this kerfuffle?

    Kill Arabs: Cornel West (paraphrasing): Stop doing that all Presidents including Obama. Immoral, duh.
    Kill Arabs: Ta-Nehisi Coates (paraphrasing): That’s something all Presidents must do. Oh how sad that Obama had to do that.

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