2:00PM Water Cooler 12/7/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Net Neutrality

“FCC’s next step on net neutrality: Blocking the states” [Politico]. Stil germane. “[Pai’s ‘Restoring Internet Freedom’ order] calls broadband an interstate information service, and any state or local law regulating the service could not subvert or undermine the federal policy of deregulation, a second FCC senior official said.”

“We’re thinking about internet freedom in all the wrong ways” [The Week]. “The net neutrality debate, however, has a problem: It discusses the social and cultural effects of the internet almost entirely in terms of the free market. In this narrow scope, it appears that only options for ensuring internet freedom are letting the market work, or limiting what large corporations can do. And in constraining the conversation to these terms of the companies who operate on the internet, we obscure the real threat to freedom in general: those companies themselves… Put another way: There is no public space on the internet. The net neutrality debate has a free-market problem. In only thinking in terms of what commercial enterprises can and cannot do, we limit ourselves to thinking of the web as a privately owned space.” Once again:

Why not?

The shape of things to come:


“Despite the opportunity to blow open Canada’s dairy market in a NAFTA 2.0, major U.S. dairy producers say they know where the money is and it’s south of the border” [Politico]. “‘We’d prefer to win both battles, but if you were to ask me if I had to choose one or the other, I’d pick south of the border and give up north of the border. Simply because of the math and the number of consumers,’ said Andrei Mikhalevsky, president and CEO of California Dairies Inc., a dairy cooperative of 400 large farms that produce 9 percent and 23 percent of the nation’s milk and butter, respectively…. However, the Trump administration has already taken a hard line on dairy, proposing NAFTA provisions that would effectively hobble Canada’s supply management system and open more access for U.S. farmers than ever before.”



“In a recruiting victory for Democrats, former Gov. Phil Bredesen announced today that he will run for the open seat created by the retirement of GOP U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. Bredesen’s announcement puts the race into the Toss Up column, a rating change that has larger implications for the 2018 Senate map” [Cook Political Report]. “Many Democratic strategists believe that Bredesen can appeal to voters across party lines in a state that has become increasingly more Republican in recent years…. The national significance of Bredesen’s candidacy and the race’s move to Toss Up is that it puts three Republican-held seats in play. (For the purposes of this math equation, we are excluding Tuesday’s contest in Alabama.) As the Senate stands today, Democrats need a net gain of three seats to win the majority. Until now, it has been mathematically impossible as only two GOP seats have been considered truly vulnerable. This does not mean that Democrats will win the majority; only that it is now mathematically possible.”


“Alabama Senate Special Election – Moore vs. Jones” [RealClearPolitics]. “Moore +2.3” (Previous: Moore +1.5). No new polls. Worth noting that the race has been within the margin of error for some time; remarkable for a Democrat in Alabama.

New Cold War

“Robert Mueller Jumps Onto the Trump Money Trail” [The New Yorker]. Here’s the conclusion: “Whether these inquiries will lead anywhere remains an open question. One thing seems clear, though: Mueller’s investigators are following Deep Throat’s advice and following the money. For Trump and his associates, that has to be disturbing.”

“Mueller’s probe doesn’t end with a bang, but with a whimper” [Ned Ryun, The Hill]. From a Bush speechwriter. “I think it’s high time for President Trump to do what he should have done a year ago: declassify everything related to the Russian collusion case and the Hillary Clinton email investigation, both of which go to the heart of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, FBI and, possibly, the White House.” Interesting idea…

“Liberal America’s unhealthy fixation on Russia” [Edward Luce, Financial Times]. “[L]iberal America has worked itself [note lack of agency] up into a moral panic. If it were not for Vladimir Putin, we are asked to believe, western democracy would be in reasonable shape. Without Russia, there would be no Donald Trump.” And:

The latest to join the fray is Joe Biden, the former vice-president. As a potential White House candidate, Mr Biden is a good barometer of Democratic thinking. In a co-authored article for Foreign Affairs, Mr Biden calls for the creation of a 9/11-style commission “to examine Russia’s assault on American democracy”. The body would identify tools to fight the Russian menace. “Americans need a thorough, detailed inquest into how Russia’s strike on their democratic institutions was carried out and how another one might be prevented,” he writes.

In sum, Mr Biden is calling for a new Cold War.

As I’ve been saying….

“Palestinians recognize Texas as part of Mexico” [The Beaverton]. “‘The territory north and east of the Rio Grande is very important to the Mexican people,’ explained a [Palestinian National Authority] spokesperson. ‘Before American settlers showed up and implemented slavery, Mexico oversaw this land. Then, President Polk sent his armies to invade the rest of these Mexican territories, and force the country to give up California, New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. We may soon recognize these states as part of Mexico too.'”

Tax Reform

“The GOP not only entirely excluded Democrats from the process of drafting the bills, but the party punished Democratic constituencies—from residents of high-tax states to graduate students—in the bills’ substance. The tax plans represent a political closed circle: bills written solely by Republicans and passed solely by Republican votes that shower their greatest benefits on Republican constituencies. Meanwhile, the biggest losers in the plans are the constituencies of the Democrats who universally opposed them. It’s not just redistribution: The tax bills are also grounded in retribution” [Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic]. “In all these ways, the Trump-era GOP has grown impervious to virtually any opinion that resists its own internal consensus. Next November’s midterm elections will begin answering whether the party has drawn that closed circle too narrowly to preserve its upper hand in Washington.” Well, yes and no. I’m not sure “internal consensus” is all that much a Republican thing, as we’ve seen on health care, and the continuing efforts of the #NeverTrump thing. To put this another way, it’s not all that difficult to create consensus around rewarding your party’s friends and punishing its enemies. ‘Twas ever thus! And as far as “closed circles,” surely there are rather a lot of those around right now?

“Few Americans think the plan will lead to lower taxes for them personally, and this is true of Republicans as well, despite their strong support of the plan. One-third of Republicans think their taxes will be lowered; most Democrats expect their own taxes will go up. By almost a 2 to 1 margin, independents are more likely to think they’ll go up rather than down” [CBS News].

Trump Transition

“Top Republicans left no doubt that the House will approve legislation Thursday preventing a weekend partial government shutdown, erasing any suspense over an impending budget clash that would put a calamitous exclamation point at the end of the capital’s tumultuous year” [AP]. “The leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members had been threatening to withhold needed support, also made clear that the bill would be approved.”

“Donald Trump’s Brains” [New York Review of Books]. Interesting on the conservative institutions that actually do influence Trump. “A battle for the future of conservatism is in effect being fought between these anti-Trump conservatives and pro-Trump conservatives associated with the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank based in California, which for years has been discussing the Federalist Papers, the dangers of progressivism, and, above all, the wisdom of the German exile and political philosopher Leo Strauss, who taught for several decades at the University of Chicago.” ZOMG!!! The Struassians!!!! Not again!!!! (I can see the “liar” part just fine, but “noble”?)

“President Trump might actually be able to pull off [vs. Mueller] what Nixon failed to accomplish [vs. Cox and Jaworski]. He has a number of advantages that Nixon lacked—from a Congress controlled by fiercely partisan Republicans whose political calculations have led them to stand by their president regardless of almost anything that he does, to a conservative media that perpetually broadcasts his points of view” [The Atlantic].

Very poor advance work:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Al Franken announces he will resign from the Senate” [WaPo]. Franken: “Some of the allegations against me simply are not true, others I remember very differently. But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota. It’s become clear that I can’t both pursue the Ethics Committee process and at the same time, remain an effective senator for them.”

“Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to appoint his lieutenant governor and close ally, Tina Smith, to Al Franken’s seat if the Democratic senator resigns on Thursday, three people familiar with the Democratic governor’s thinking said” [Politico]. “But that appointment would be just the start of an upheaval in Minnesota. Part of the reason Smith could be heading to the Senate, the sources said, is that she has indicated no interest in running for Congress in the past and would not run for the remainder of Franken’s term, which expires in 2020, in a 2018 special election. That would clear the way for a wide open Democratic primary next year if Franken steps down.” Hmm. “Senator Ellison” has a nice ring to it.

“While there is a presumption that Republicans aren’t competitive statewide in Minnesota, Franken’s close 2008 race and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s narrow 43,695-vote victory in 2016 would suggest otherwise” [Cook Political Report]. “At this writing, the situation is very fluid and is likely to take weeks to sort itself out.”

“Conyers’ exit after decades could open political floodgates” [ABC]. “John Conyers’ resignation from the U.S. House amid sexual harassment allegations unlocks the seat he has held for more than a half-century — and sets off a free-for-all race to replace him with at least three potential legacy candidates, including two relatives of Conyers and a son of a prominent former mayor.”

“On Wednesday, Democratic senators sought to claim [the moral high ground] by pushing Franken to resign just one day after Conyers — the longest-serving House member — resigned over harassment allegations. The calls from nearly three dozen senators, members of the House, and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee came less than a week before voters in Alabama head to the polls for a special election to replace Jeff Sessions” [RealClearPolitics].

* * *

“I followed Bernie Sanders as he went to Ohio and explained to crowds how Democrats could win back Trump voters.” [Vice]. Important:

“It is clear that there is an element of Trump supporters who are racists, sexists, homophobes, and there’s nothing I’m going to say that’s going to appeal to them,” he said. “But I think that the vast majority of Trump supporters are people who are in pain, who are struggling economically, who are worried to death that their kids are going to be in even worse shape economically than they are, and they turned to Trump because Trump said things that made sense. He said he was going to take on the establishment, and he was going to provide healthcare to everybody. You know what, it’s pretty much what I said.”

The difference, of course, is that Sanders seems to have a plan to provide benefits like health insurance to large swathes of Americans. The question—which may not be answered until 2020—is whether Trump spoke to those voters because of his vague populist promises or because of his willingness to embrace the nastiest aspects of the culture war.

Sanders, evidently, thinks that it’s the former. He has obvious compassion for subsection of Trump supporters, an undeniably practical perspective to have—while some on the left might be giddy about writing off the 62,979,879 Americans who voted for the guy, Sanders wants to win them over with his populist, anti-elitist platform.

“We are winning the fight for the future of America,” he told the audience in Dayton. “Please never forget we’re the vast majority of the American people.”

There’s a good deal of heart-burning about this from liberal Democrats, even those of good faith, but let us again remember the key role that Obama voters who flipped to Trump played in 2016. And then there’s this:

So, there are other paths to victory for Democrats than appealing to wealthy suburbanite Republicans. Who knew?

“How Trump Is Ending the American Era” [Eliot A. Cohen, The Atlantic]. An important perspective from a conservative member of The Blob:

To a degree rarely appreciated outside Washington, it is virtually impossible to conduct an effective foreign policy without political appointees at the assistant-secretary rank who share a president’s conceptions and will implement his agenda. As of mid-August, the administration had yet to even nominate a new undersecretary of state for political affairs; assistant secretaries for Near Eastern, East Asian and Pacific, or Western Hemisphere Affairs; or ambassadors to Germany, India, or Saudi Arabia. At lower levels, the State Department is being actively thinned out—2,300 jobs are slated for elimination—and is losing experience by the week as disaffected professionals quietly leave.

High-level diplomatic contact with allies and adversaries alike has withered. Meanwhile, for fear of contradicting him, Trump’s underlings avoid saying too much publicly. As a result, the administration’s foreign policy will continue to be as opaque externally as it is confused internally.

One consequence will be a corresponding confusion on the part of foreign powers about the administration’s goals, commitments, and red lines—and the likely misinterpretation of stray signals. Even well-run administrations can fail to communicate their intentions clearly, with dire consequences.

I feel the author’s pain, I really do. After all, WASPs of my age were raised to do our little bit for the empire, even if “only” maintaining American hegemony at several removes (say, though symbol manipulation). That said, it’s very hard to see how “the American Era” — certainly since 9/11, and probably since elites decided to move our manufacturing base offshore as neoliberalism took hold — has been a substantial net positive for most Americans, certainly those outside our swollen Imperial City.

Stats Watch

Challenger Job-Cut Report, November 2017: “Lay-off announcements rose to 35,038 in November vs 29,831 in October and 26,936 in November last year. This is the highest total in seven months and, though still at an historically low level, does hint at softer-than-expected results for tomorrow’s monthly employment report” [Econoday]. “Lay-off announcements rose to 35,038 in November vs 29,831 in October and 26,936 in November last year. This is the highest total in seven months and, though still at an historically low level, does hint at softer-than-expected results for tomorrow’s monthly employment report.”

Jobless Claims, week of December 2, 2017: Fell, lower than expected [Econoday]. “The labor market is very healthy though claims data, along with this morning’s Challenger report, are not pointing to increasing strength for November’s employment data.” In such rude health that Walmart doesn’t have to pay a living wage… However, and: “The weekly claims was not the only report that offered support for a solid employment situation report this week from the Labor Department. ADP forecast earlier this week that private sector payrolls rose by 190,000 in November. That was marginally above the consensus estimates” [247 Wall Street].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of December 3, 2017: Very strong, below August’s peak [Econoday]. “Full employment, the rally in the stock market, and solid home-price appreciation are all important pluses for confidence measures.”

Quarterly Services Survey, Q3 2017: “Information revenue rose 1.8 percent to $391.2 billion in the third quarter compared to the second quarter with the year-on-year rate at plus 5.8 percent” [Econoday].

Manufacturing: “General Motors Co. is building the future of its pickup trucks on the expensive and complicated supply chain for carbon fiber” [Wall Street Journal]. “Auto makers have been working with carbon fiber producers to ready the material for auto production, and researchers say carbon fiber prices have been falling. Carbon fiber is complicated and time-consuming to produce, however, and so GM would likely have to reset production operations by having fully formed parts shipped to its plants. The costs and complexity could improve if GM’s use pushes broader adoption of the material at auto factories.”

Shipping: “Drewry Supply Chain Advisors say ocean cargo rates will firm up in 2018” [Logistics Management]. “Despite the increase in deliveries of large containerships scheduled for 2018, we do not expect a new price war in ocean transportation, as robust demand growth and higher carrier concentration will also influence the market…. Retailers and manufacturers should watch the ocean transportation providers closely in 2018 to see whether the effects of carrier concentration are starting to be felt in negotiations and in pricing, as they may have to rethink their vendor contract strategy to align with a narrower base of much larger carriers.” Concentrations works!

Shipping: “Contract talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) broke down on Wednesday over union concerns about potentially job-killing automation” [Splash 247]. “Union officials fear employers aim to use automation to wipe out dockworker jobs entirely rather than have automated features that would be operated by workers.”

The Bezzle: “The contents of a digital wallet belonging to cryptocurrency company NiceHash, which included potentially millions of dollars worth of customers’ bitcoin, was stolen in a major security breach early Wednesday” [Business Insider]. “NiceHash is only the latest cryptocurrency company to suffer a major hack in recent months. Despite the widespread notion that the blockchain technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is safer and more trustworthy than that underlying other kinds of digital financial transactions, startups in the industry have struggled to secure their sites and software against hackers.”

The Bezzle: “A brief history of Bitcoin hacks and frauds” [Ars Technica]. “Here we present a short history of the Bitcoin world’s most significant scams and hacks. It’s worth noting that all of these attacks were against Bitcoin-related services, not the core Bitcoin software. As far as we know, the Bitcoin network itself is highly secure, though of course that’s little comfort if you entrust your bitcoins to a third party that gets hacked. Also, the list seems to skew toward older incidents. Users seem to have faced greater dangers of hacking and fraud in 2011 and 2012 than they do today.”

The Bezzle: Old news to NC readers.

(I love “Disruptive Innovation Festival”…)

The Bezzle: “Airbnb guests are finding hidden cameras planted in their rentals” [CBS News]. “In late November, activist and filmmaker Jason Scott tweeted his colleague found a camera disguised in a motion detector at an Airbnb. The company called the discovery ‘incredibly rare,’ [they would, wouldn’t they?] and said the host was banned. In October, an Indiana couple said they found a camera in a smoke detector in the bedroom at their Airbnb in Florida. The home owner was arrested for ‘video voyeurism.”” But don’t worry: “The company told CBS News about two million people use Airbnb on any given night, and they are always willing to work with law enforcement when complaints are made. Experts say there are a few things consumers can do to protect themselves: invest in a digital device detector, search rooms and use a flash light to try and spot lenses.” Or maybe disrupt AirBnB and stay in a normal hotel, where you don’t have to do things like that.

Concentration: “Amazon is raising prices at Whole Foods after its highly-publicized cuts” [Business Insider]. “The average price increase on each item was about 1.6%, [research firm Gordon Haskett] said. The findings are surprising, given the ‘myriad of positive press’ around Amazon’s price cuts at Whole Foods since the acquisition, Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom wrote.” It’s not surprising at all. It’s classic monopolistic behavior.

Five Horsemen: “So far Facebook is bouncing best out of Tech Wreck II” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Dec 7

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 60, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 73 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 7 at 11:58am.

Health Care

“Ben Jealous calls for single-payer health care in Maryland” [WaPo]. “In a 19-page proposal that echoes U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ national plan for the government to cover everyone’s health insurance through Medicare, Jealous said a state-run, single-payer system would be the next logical step for a state like Maryland, which has an all-payer system, but he offered no specific details on how the government would cover the cost of the ambitious plan…. Jealous said the state has saved more than $400 million under its all-payer system and a move toward single-payer would only lead to greater cost savings, money that could help pay for the program. He also did not rule out an increase in sales or income taxes to pay for the universal coverage.”

Our Famously Free Press

“MSNBC Reverses Decision to Fire Contributor Sam Seder” [The Intercept]. “Seder and MSNBC were set to part ways when his contributor contract expired next year, with reports indicating the departure had to do with a 2009 tweet from Seder surfaced by the far-right provocateur Mike Cernovich. After initially caving in to right-wing internet outrage over the tweet, MSNBC reversed its decision to not renew Seder’s contract.”

“10 Things You Can Do Now to Up Your Social Media Game in 2018” [Media Shift]. For news venues. One interesting nugget: “Facebook still leads the pack, but over 20 other platforms now have more than 100 million users each.”

Meet the new boss:

Break out the mops and buckets:

Class Warfare

“Georgetown University refuses to recognize graduate student union” [WaPo]. “Georgetown’s decision echoes opposition to graduate student unions at other prestigious universities. Yale University, Boston College and Columbia University have railed against a 2016 National Labor Relations Board ruling that granted teaching and research assistants the legal protection to unionize. Yale, Columbia and Princeton posted information on their websites warning students that unionizing could alter their relationship with faculty and limit their individual rights once a union becomes their collective voice.” Good liberal institutions…

News of the Wired

“AI is now so complex its creators can’t trust why it makes decisions” [Quartz]. “Modern artificial intelligence is still new. Big tech companies have only ramped up investment and research in the last five years, after a decades-old theory was shown to finally work in 2012. Inspired by the human brain, an artificial neural network relied on layers of thousands to millions of tiny connections between ‘neurons’ or little clusters of mathematic computation, like the connections of neurons in the brain. But that software architecture came with a trade-off: Since the changes throughout those millions of connections were so complex and minute, researchers aren’t able to exactly determine what is happening. They just get an output that works.”

Waze, from Google:

Can any Los Angeles readers confirm?

* * *
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, please put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (EJ):

EJ writes: “Technically, on review, the site is best judged (years later) as at approx. lat. 42.7454 long -72.9276 in or at the Western edge of Sherman Reservoir inside the Green Mountain National Forest at the locations where the branches of the Deerfield River combine and get repleenished from reservoir (creating seasonal rapids rafting out of Zoar, MA).”

* * *
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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. Jim Haygood

    Emotions boiled over today among Bitcoin punters, who sent the digital currency over $19,000 on some exchanges while other exchanges were trading $2,000 to 3,000 lower.

    Unlike stock exchanges which were required in 1975 to create a national market system, Bitcoin exchanges are not coordinated. Doubtless arbitrageurs made a ton of coin buying at $16,600 on one exchange while selling at $19,600 on another.

    Bitcoin fever
    A bubble born down deep within my soul
    Bitcoin fever
    The thousands keep flying by like the highline poles

    The wrinkles in my forehead
    Show the trades I’ve put behind me
    They continue to remind me
    How fast I’m growing bold
    Guess I’ll buy with this fever in my soul

    — Merle Haggard, White Line Fever

      1. Lil’D

        I don’t know how one can short BTC
        So the arb requires purchase, transport & sale while the quote remains…

  2. barrisj

    The Dems and “moral high ground”…gaaah, we’ve seen how that has played out over the years. “Moral high ground” is just chum for carnivorous Repubs, keep feeding them MHG and they’ll keep winning lekshuns, full stop.

      1. Kevin Curry

        I’m firmly in the small minority of dems that believe Bill Clinton should have resigned, but placing any blame whatsoever on Hillary for her husband’s sexual misconduct doesn’t fly.

        1. diptherio

          Outwardly, she remained stoic and defiant, defending her husband while a progression of women and well-funded conservative operatives accused Mr. Clinton of behavior unbecoming the leader of the free world.

          But privately, she embraced the Clinton campaign’s aggressive strategy of counterattack: Women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Mr. Clinton would become targets of digging and discrediting — tactics that women’s rights advocates frequently denounce.


          She was much more than an innocent bystander.

          1. barefoot charley

            The first (maybe only?) lesson from Watergate is that the coverup is worse than the crime. No one told Hilary.

        2. WheresOurTeddy

          Had she not been the attack dog toward those woman and belittled them in starkly classist terms, I’d agree with you.

          She did, so I can’t.

          Will never understand the apologists for these criminals as long as I live.

        3. Homina

          Well obviously “any blame whatsoever” doesn’t include say, her murdering him as soon as she found out the first allegation, for just the most obvious action which would’ve prevented future misconduct. Or Ed Kemper’s mother not murdering him as soon as she thought he might become or be a serial killer. Or Colin Powell not wringing Dick Cheney’s neck, or even smuggling in a firearm to kill him and Bush and Ashcroft and others…or any of those others choosing not to do so against the others.

          Hell, if every person woke up with a button on a “kill-all-humans” device, and didn’t push it, then yes, they should shoulder some blame “whatsoever” for every rape, murder, war crime, environmental destruction, etc. afterwards. How could they not?

          They had an opportunity to prevent that, yet chose not to. This is just simple action-consequence stuff. The nature of “blame”, if it is any way logical rather than emotional.

          The moral problem is the Trolley problem, whether a moral action is obligated even if it leads to a bad moral result. A “lesser of two evils”. Obligation and other stuff. Utilitarianism vs absolutism…

          But 50% of American voters can’t be bothered to go to, in some cases, considerable and expensive trouble to vote for one of the two candidates that is likely to do all the same crappy things to them that the other would do.

          Maybe the solution to the Trolley Problem is someone sighing. “I just don’t care, I’m about to be hit by a train of my own in the next minute. Why bother….”

          1. Procopius

            Pish. Tush. Powell didn’t just share some blame, he worked as hard as he could to support Bush/Cheney’s war. You can say that was because he’s devoted his life to serving our government, but I still think of him as a war criminal. That UN speech was so bad he and Wilkerson must have known it was all lies. I’ve come to realize that Wilkerson is a lying sack of [family blog], too.

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          I don’t blame Hillary Clinton for Bill’s sexual misconduct. I do blame her for enabling it, and for keeping Bill Clinton’s name before the public as a Democrat power broker, through, e.g., the Clinton Foundation. It is, as it were, “two-for-one.”

    1. Lee

      I just received an email from Nation Magazine chiding me for not yet signing a petition to impeach Trump. Have they not cast their eyes toward that other beast slouching toward the white house? I chided them back regarding setting a dangerous precedent, and wasting time in duopolist revanchism while there are better ways to skin cats. Apologies to cat lovers.

      1. johnnygl

        As a parent of 2 small children, i think i have translatable skills here…

        Tell the dems they made a 4 year f- up and they need to go to ‘timeout’ for 4 years, sit in the corner, and think about what they did so wrong that they made trump electable. Impeachment is just the dems trying to get out of doing their full 4 years of timeout like the spoiled brats they are!!!

        I find it’s more fun if you infantilize your politicians and media elites. :-D After all, they do it to us all the time!!!

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      15 miles is a bit generous. I suspect the overwhelming majority of Congressional critters would be terrified if they ever had to go a mile north of the capitol building.

  3. dcblogger

    Democrats can kiss the Tennessee Senate seat goodbye. Grassroots Democrats will not campaign for a Republican. This is a perfect example of how Schumer took Democrats from a majority of +60 to a deficit of -8.

    1. geoff

      Phil Bredesen, who’ll be running for Corker’s seat as a Democrat, was a reasonably well-liked two term Tennessee governor (2003-2011). The state DOES seem to be getting redder by the day, but Bredesen managed to win a statewide vote twice during the Bush administration, so I wouldn’t write him off just yet. (He’s also VERY rich.)

      1. Jen

        For some definition of writing off. Does it count as a win for the populace if they elect a republican in drag?

    2. edmondo

      I remember when Ted Strickland and Evan Bayh were going to win back the Senate for the Dems not too long ago.

  4. JohnnySacks

    GM putting carbon fiber in pickup trucks, what could go wrong? I’ve been critical of the obsession with CF for quite some time, specifically in multi thousand dollar mountain bikes. It’s a weight saver and has high strength, but at what cost? Drink a few less beers, lose 5-10 lbs, and save the thousands for the same weight loss.
    But mass produced vehicles, ugh! What parts are they saving weight on? The material is basically plastic with fibers in it. It’s flammable. It’s brittle so if it’s damaged, even slightly, it has a tendency to disintegrate under stress. It’s not repairable without specialized equipment – vacuum bags and autoclaves, nice if you’re selling spare parts, ka-ching. Focus on more utilitarian vehicles that people can actually afford rather than high tech status symbols.

    1. voislav

      They have no choice, it’s cheaper than paying EPA penalties, and market forces are dictating that the only way to improve emissions and fuel economy is to reduce the weight of the vehicle. Ford is doing it with their aluminium body frame at 1+ billion cost for the F-150.

      The main reason is that the automakers need to reduce vehicle fuel consumption by 33% over the next 7 years. The plan 5 years ago was that the high oil prices will change the vehicle sales mix towards smaller and inherently more fuel efficient vehicles, so that new technological solutions are not really necessary.

      Well, the oir prices are what they are and the customers are just refusing to buy the smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, opting for trucks and SUVs. This is forcing an unfavourable vehicle mix onto the OEM due to the way the fuel economy is calculated.

      EPA formula is based on the vehicle footprint (area), so it favours lower, more streamlined vehicles that have lower weight and aerodynamic resistance for the same footprint. High sales of trucks and SUVs are killing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), because the sales of smaller vehicles that would normally offset their bad fuel economy are dropping.

      Now the automakers are stuck in a bind, their strategy of relying on higher fuel costs to drive the sales mix towards smaller vehicles is not panning out, in fact the reverse is happening, heavier vehicles are increasing their share of sales. So they are left with only one choice, to actually improve the fuel economy off the large vehicles, trucks and SUVs. The simplest way to do this is to reduce weight, whether it’s turbocharging the engine, carbon fiber body or aluminium body frame.

      So if anyone is to blame it’s the consumer, they insist on buying the high tech status symbols rather than the utilitarian vehicles, automakers are just catering to the market.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > So if anyone is to blame it’s the consumer, they insist on buying the high tech status symbols rather than the utilitarian vehicles, automakers are just catering to the market.

        So, marketing campaigns and public relations have nothing to do with consumer “choices”?

      2. Eureka Springs

        Well, the oir prices are what they are and the customers are just refusing to buy the smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles,

        What smaller trucks? Please bring back those 80’s and 90’s smaller trucks… they would sell like hotcakes in a snowstorm (old datsun, toyotas and isuzu pups for example)… I could still load a rick of wood in those puppies.

  5. Lee


    “Despite the opportunity to blow open Canada’s dairy market in a NAFTA 2.0, major U.S. dairy producers say they know where the money is and it’s south of the border” [Politico]. “‘We’d prefer to win both battles, but if you were to ask me if I had to choose one or the other, I’d pick south of the border and give up north of the border. Simply because of the math and the number of consumers,’ said Andrei Mikhalevsky, president and CEO of California Dairies Inc.

    This is in spite of a high prevalence of lactose intolerance south of the border? Hmmm. I suppose higher population and that hard cheeses tend to be ok for the lactose intolerant might make the numbers work. Did you know the Massai are lactose intolerant and that their staple mixture of the blood and milk of their cattle eliminates the adverse effects of lactose? At least that’s what I just read in Dawkins’ The Ancestors Tale.

    1. Procopius

      Is there a reliable survey of lactose intolerance available somewhere? I understood lactose intolerance was supposed to be prevalent among Asians, but dairy products are very popular here in Thailand and milk at private schools is subsidized by the government. If the lactase mutation originated in northwestern Europe than it would be common sense to expect lactose intolerance among a population who have had very little intermixing of genes from that area, but I’ve become so skeptical I wonder if anyone has really verified that is the case.

  6. Mark Gisleson

    Actually, NO, Sen. Ellison does NOT have a nice ring to it.

    MN got Al Franken because Democrats and the Left nationwide jammed him down our throat over a year before the 2008 primary. Both of his primary opponents were well to his left, but the out-of-state money just kept pouring in.

    National Dems and the Left need to STFU and let MN pick its own next senator. This nationalizing of local races is a nightmare and one that neoliberals usually win. If Ellison runs and wins the primary, fine. But if he does so with tons of out-of-state money like Franken did, Minnesotans will most likely reject him. Out-of-state money is toxic now (it will doom Randy Bryce in WI 1CD, mark my words). And, btw, Ellison has his own ‘woman’ problem (https://www.scribd.com/document/38659893/The-Truth-About-Keith-Ellison).

    As for this big win in forcing Franken out, congrats! Dayton’s going to pick a Dartmouth MBA to replace him, but it’s OK because she’s a woman.

    Just shoot me now.

    PS This link no longer works for me in Firefox’s new Quantum build which is strange because had been running fine and no new updates have been installed. Naked Capitalism seems fine, it’s just this one page which opens fine in Chrome but not Firefox.

    1. False Solace

      I agree Ellison would face an uphill climb. There’s the perception he’s from an extreme liberal district, which will hurt him outside the Metro, and he doesn’t have Obama’s charisma.

      In order to win, Ellison would have to go hard Bernie mode. And I don’t think he has a track record of supporting Sanders-style policies in a loud enough voice to penetrate the thick cloud of right wing media that blankets upstate MN. Bags of Hollywood money, mealy mouthed liberal policies, and tired dust-ups over identity politics are a sure loser. Trump nearly won this state. Wellstone won this state.

      Franken was a tough sell in MN. Lots of suspicion of flashy Hollywood types (they’re considered rude) and there was grumbling about his ‘disrespect toward women’ the first time he ran. It sure does seem like someone wanted to take him out before 2020, though.

        1. Eureka Springs

          Centrism should be – The only vote for a Senator should be for one who will only vote to abolish the U.S. Senate.

    2. johnnygl

      Your comment is well-taken, but i would like to pick a bone with the idea that nat’l dems (and their big money donations) and the ‘left’ (as lambert would define it) are EVER on the same side of anything of importance.

      It seems more likely that nat’l dems used their money to drown out the left and push Franken as an electable, acceptable compromise for the nat’l leadership.

      I don’t know the details of that race and am happy to be corrected.

    3. Allegorio

      Solution: ban campaign contributions from outside an electoral district. A person cannot vote in 2 electoral districts, why should he be able to fund candidates outside the district he votes in. It is the ability of big money to fund their preferred candidates in all electoral districts that results in captured legislatures, captured by the special interests. Let all electoral districts fund their own candidates and keep outside money out. It could be argued that money would then be funneled through a resident of that district, but that would have tax consequences. Will this pass the $$$ is free speech test of the SCOTUS? Possibly if linking funding to voting.

      1. Eureka Springs

        Sounds nice but would still allow for the few rich in any given area to control the board. In my poor rural Arkansas district there are still a few very rich who could and would do so with ease. If they didn’t the semi rich local banker (once pardoned by Bush Senior) sure would… did so for decades.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s a very good point on outside money. I had assumed Ellison would have to be organic, since there’s no way the national Democrats would lift a finger to help him. And Our Revolution works through local chapters.

  7. Synoia

    d: Hi Mr Democrat-Party-Person, I’m a democrat!

    D Happy to meet you. I too am a Democrat! Are you $upporting the re$i$tance?

    d: Maybe, but I want the things Bernie Sanders proposes.

    D die Infidel, die a thousand deaths!!!!! We want Democrat$ supported, not those democrat scum.

    1. Jen

      Too direct.

      d: Hi Mr Democrat-party-person, I’m a democrat
      D: Happy to meet you. I too am Democrat! Are you $upporting the re$i$tance?
      d: Maybe, but I want the things Bernie Sanders proposes
      D: We must look forward, not backward, seeking common sense, bipartisan solutions. You russian stooge, racist, sexist Bernie Bro.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > D: We must look forward, not backward, seeking common sense, bipartisan solutions. You russian stooge, racist, sexist Bernie Bro.

        I think a few bits are missing:

        D: We must look forward, not backward, seeking common sense, bipartisan solutions. You russian stooge, racist, sexist Bernie Bro. Now be civil and unite with me. Where’s that mailing list?

  8. Buttinsky

    Re this quote from the piece on Tina Smith being appointed to replace Sen. Al Franken:

    Part of the reason Smith could be heading to the Senate, the sources said, is that she has indicated no interest in running for Congress in the past and would not run for the remainder of Franken’s term, which expires in 2020, in a 2018 special election.

    Excuse me while I hijack a truckload of salt. It has been my observation over the years that such “interim” appointees invariably discover that it’s somehow their duty to run for the office they never sought. Anything less would be a betrayal of the people’s trust. Or some such drivel.

    1. voteforno6

      Not necessarily…the guy that filled in for Biden (his former chief of staff) didn’t run for the seat. Perhaps he should have, as he seemed to be a far better Senator than the supposedly sentient being currently in that office.

  9. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Stockman nails it on the DOJ/FBI tragi-comic uber-farce: it’s the criminalization of policy differences


    (The ones who are loooooong overdue for an orange jumpsuit fashion statement are Clapper, Brennan and HRC).

    Trump is the worst sort of corporo-fascist pigman but IMO he must win the fight with the spooks who currently run the country.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Hard to win a fight when you start by humbly licking your opponent’s boots:

      National security officials have implored Congress for the past year and a half to extend Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act before it lapses at the end of the month. They portrayed such a bill as the “top legislative priority” for keeping the country safe.

      But with Congress focused on passing a major tax cut and divided over what changes, if any, to make to the surveillance program, lawmakers may miss that deadline.

      Hedging against that risk, executive branch lawyers have now concluded that the government could lawfully continue to spy under the program through late April without new legislation.


      We don’t need no stinkin’ laws. The show must go on.

      1. OpenthepodbaydoorsHAL

        Pane et Circus. But “which” circus? I vote for the one where criminals go to jail.

  10. annie

    do read nyt comments on the ‘kirsten gillibrand at the forefront’ article. not one comment praising her.
    ‘grandstanding,’ ‘eliminating a rival,’ ‘dems eat their own,’ etc. etc.

  11. GlobalMisanthrope

    So, there are other paths to victory for Democrats than appealing to wealthy suburbanite Republicans. Who knew?

    Yeah. But not in liberal Democratic strongholds.

    Remember the Southpark episode featuring smug from Prius owners’ emissions? You know, where they sniff and describe the bouquet of their own farts? Like that.

    I know. I live in Austin, Texas.

  12. ChrisAtRU

    For the Class Warfare section, regarding UBI:

    This from Isabella Kaminska today on Twitter.

    Money quote:
    “This critique reveals the unintended consequences of UBI: rather than deliver a Utopia, UBI institutionalizes serfdom and a two-class neofeudalism in which the bottom 95% scrape by on UBI while the top 5% hoard what every human wants and needs: positive social roles in our community, meaningful work that makes us feel needed, and the opportunity to build capital in all its manifestations.”

  13. Oregoncharles

    “Or maybe disrupt AirBnB and stay in a normal hotel, where you don’t have to do things like that.”
    You didn’t read the article carefully enough; it specifically says that spying cameras can occur in actual hotels, too. Maybe not as often, but it’s an obvious possibility. Lots of people have the access they would need, from maids to maintenance personnel (most likely) to managers (most motivated).

    They don’t like having their stuff stolen or wrecked.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      They’re corporations and (for example in Vegas) plenty of places are wired. But I have yet to see a travel writer advocate this at a normal hotel:

      invest in a digital device detector, search rooms and use a flash light to try and spot lenses.

      I presume because business incentives moderate hotel behavior somewhat.

  14. Wombat

    What’s more of a dead giveaway that Zinke is a poser outdoorsman – rigging his fishing rod improperly or decimating a million plus acres of our federal land for extractor interests?

    1. allan

      Zinke booked government helicopters to attend D.C. events [Politico]

      Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent more than $14,000 on government helicopters this summer to take himself and staff to and from official events near Washington, D.C., in order to accommodate his attendance at a swearing-in ceremony for his replacement in Congress and a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence, according to previously undisclosed official travel documents.

      The travel logs, released to POLITICO via a Freedom of Information Act request, show Zinke using taxpayer-funded vehicles from the U.S. Park Police to help accommodate his political events schedule. …

      But have no fear – the understudy for WH press secretary is on the case:

      “The swearing in of the Congressman is absolutely an official event, as is emergency management training,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift wrote in an email Thursday. “Shame on you for not respecting the office of a Member of Congress.”

      And who is Heather Swift? I’m glad you asked:

      Heather Swift has worked for public affairs and lobbying firms, for then Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, and for many other Republicans running for federal office before her current position at Interior. Swift began her career at public affairs firm Mercury when it lobbied on behalf of NRG Energy and Peabody Energy (one of Zinke’s past campaign donors); she later worked at DCI Group when it lobbied on behalf of Exxon Mobil. Even though while she was at Mercury, Swift worked with an organization called No American Debt that “‘educate[d] the general public about the severity’” of America’s debt, since becoming Interior Press Secretary she has defended Secretary Zinke’s use of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on chartered flights and private jets. …

      And who is No American Debt? I’m glad you asked:

      IRS Information

      NO American Debt Inc. is no longer registered with the IRS.
      Their tax exempt status was revoked on May 15, 2015

      Sounds legit.

  15. JohnnyGL

    Re Zaid Jilani’s comments on the Morning Consult poll numbers.

    The more interesting part is on the next page of the doc that Jilani cites. p307/387

    1) Trump only gets 5% of HRC 2016 voters to flip…..Sanders gets 13% of Trump voters to flip.

    2) Even bigger….of the 2016 “someone else” voters….Sanders gets 48%, Trump gets 9%, with the rest undecided. That’s a pool of 7M voters (5.7%).

    Both of those tidbits suggest a lot of potential upside for a Sanders candidacy.

  16. Summer

    The Bezzle: “Airbnb guests are finding hidden cameras planted in their rentals” [CBS News].

    “Experts say there are a few things consumers can do to protect themselves: invest in a digital device detector, search rooms and use a flash light to try and spot lenses.” Or maybe disrupt AirBnB and stay in a normal hotel, where you don’t have to do things like that….”

    Always something to do to “protect ourselves.” And just think, all you wanted to do was shop in peace and be left in peace afterwards.
    Consumerism sure is perilous. So many minefields it can make you not want to buy anything at all.

    1. Objective Function

      Great piece here, thanks for posting.Takes me back to my salad days (Mark Twain years) coaching rowing on the Ohio in Cincinnati and Marietta. One shell house was an old coal barge and we had a pretty good rapport with the bargemen. The river is gorgeous, even with the factory towns and piggeries, all the way up to Wheeling and down to Cairo. Huge snapping turtles are the apex predators.

  17. Daryl

    > “there is a presumption that Republicans aren’t competitive”

    This would look good engraved on a tombstone.

  18. allan

    House leaders say no funding for ObamaCare subsidies in spending bill [The Hill]

    House leaders have promised conservatives that the next spending bill will not contain funding for ObamaCare cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said Thursday.

    “The three things that we’ve been told are not gonna happen as part of our agreement: no CSRs, no DACA, no debt limit,” Walker said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. …

    In exchange for her vote on the tax bill, Senate GOP leaders promised Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) they would include bipartisan legislation to fund the cost-sharing reductions as part of the spending bill. …

    This is good news for Collins. Mr. DeMille to the white courtesy phone.

    But in the end, she’ll fold like Flake and all of the other poseurs.

  19. Code Name D

    Version Protest in Wichita Ks.
    Or rather that there wasn’t one. Or at least there wasn’t one at the store front where I visited at 620 S. West Street. I showed up half an hour early and stayed till 5:30. No one showed up. But the police were there. Just before I left, I was approached and confronted by a security officer, the store manager, and Wichita PD. However, as I stayed off the property (not my first protest), so I was in the green. The store manager even thanked me for my discretion. But I was told there were “disturbances” inside the store, which was the main reason why the police were called in apparently. I wasn’t privileged to learn what those disturbances were, unauthorized photography (and yes, that is a thing) was mentioned. But to my knowledge, no one was arrested. Not much else to say really.

    1. Odysseus

      Meh. If people actually cared about building wealth, there are plenty of things they would be doing differently.

      Actions speak louder than words. Unless and until I see some action, I’m going to ignore the words.

  20. Jen

    I want to thank Lambert for, among many other things, introducing me to McMansion Hell. Whether you were already a fan, or, like me, discovered it through Naked Capitalism, Kate Wagner needs your help.

    She writes: “Patreon is introducing a new fee system that burdens patrons with fees instead of creators, creating a mass exodus of patrons who are cancelling their subscriptions to all creators, not just me.

    I make my entire living on Patreon and this severely threatens my financial stability. I am a full-time student with one more semester left of school. These disgustingly greedy changes could destroy my livelihood, my finances, and could leave me unable to pay my rent, bills, and tuition. These changes could literally ruin my life. Besides, as a creator, I am more than happy to pay these fees rather than needlessly burden my Patrons. Link to post below where you can sign her petition and/or contribute.


    1. Daryl

      One of the very unfortunate things about the SV model is seeing businesses that are perfectly financially viable go down the road of family blogification and rent extraction.

  21. Tim

    “building the future of its pickup trucks on the expensive and complicated supply chain for carbon fiber”

    What?! Tell me they aren’t going to make pickup truck beds out of this stuff. The thing about composites, at least typical laminated structures is that they are extremely susceptible to impact damage.

    Also they are too good at being stiff, the end up having to be made thicker than necessary to combat the aforementioned impact damage resistance and to ensure they have adequate bending stiffness. I applaud attempts to make vehicles lighter to save energy, but I sure hope they dial in their applications to suit the chosen material system.

    And don’t by any fiber from those Toray guys…

  22. Tim

    “Ben Jealous”

    I’m not usually one to make fun of names, but is his brother’s name Will B. Jealous?

      1. John D.

        In his autobiography, Dick Cavett mentions that he once knew a woman named Edna Pickton Appleoff.

  23. Kim Kaufman

    re WAZE in LA. Yes, it’s true. Or at least there were other people warning about it who were in contact with FD and city. I can’t remember now if a warning came from the Fire Dept. directly (I was following them on Twitter) but it’s possible since they were good about messaging. #LAFD

    WAZE in general is a menace in parts of my neighborhood by directing rush hour traffic through hillside single lane residential streets not made for rush hour traffic and pissing off neighbors.

    Funny: I was at Home Depot last night about 9 or so. A yellow alert beeped on my phone warning about high winds starting up again – and the beep was heard throughout the Depot on all the other phones. It seems like LA has been pretty good about this disaster, although I haven’t been directly affected (yet).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > A yellow alert beeped on my phone warning about high winds starting up again – and the beep was heard throughout the Depot on all the other phones.

      Sounds like the first sentence of a dystopian science fiction novel…

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