2:00PM Water Cooler 12/8/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Net Neutrality

“In more than 700 U.S. towns and cities, from Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, to San Francisco, people took to the streets Thursday to protest the proposed changes to net neutrality regulations” [247 Wall Street]. “Thursday’s protests mostly took place outside Verizon Wireless stores….

“FCC Boss Lies Again, Insists Net Neutrality Harms The Sick And Disabled” [TechDirt]. “For a decade now one major ISP talking point against net neutrality is that it hurts the sick and disabled. Verizon, for example, has tried to pretend that net neutrality rules hurt the hearing impaired because it prevents them from getting access to prioritized medical services like video relay or other technologies. Comcast has frequently trotted out this argument as well… You may be shocked to learn that this isn’t, nor has it ever been, true. Both the discarded 2010 rules, and the 2015 rules, carve out mammoth, tractor-trailer-sized exemptions for medical services. In the 2015 rules, the FCC was careful to distinguish between “Broadband Internet Access Services (BIAS)” (generalized internet traffic like browsing and app data) and “Non-BIAS data services,” which are often given prioritized, isolated capacity to ensure lower latency, better speed, and greater reliability. VoIP services, pace makers, energy meters and all telemedicine applications fall under this category and are exempt from the rules.”

“Why I Changed My Mind On Net Neutrality” [TechDirt]. “[Stratechery’s Ben Thompson’s] position (and the position of everyone, including Ajit Pai) who insist that there’s no evidence of “systematic abuse” are (conveniently) ignoring (or are unaware of) the long history here. This is not a situation where broadband providers have shown no interest in abuse. They have regularly and clearly stated their intent to systematically abuse their dominant position in the market… There is a decently long list of examples of bad behavior by broadband providers (though Pai and his supporters like to dismiss those as anomalies). But the more important point is that it’s always been the… threat of rules that have kept the big broadband providers in check.”


“Trade negotiators from Canada, Mexico and the United States will begin meeting in Washington on Saturday” [Politico]. “Rules of origin, financial services, regulatory practices and the sectoral annexes will take up a bulk of negotiators’ time, as all four groups are scheduled to meet for three days apiece. Negotiators will also meet for two days each to discuss state-owned enterprises, telecommunications, customs, environment, digital trade, goods and technical barriers to trade. They will spend one day each on textiles, anti-corruption, energy and competitiveness, the schedule shows.”

“Sen. Chuck Grassley said it’s become clear after recent meetings with top administration officials that President Donald Trump isn’t ready to abandon his brinkmanship over a possible withdrawal from NAFTA, even as he and other lawmakers continue to make the argument that a potential NAFTA pullout, or even the threat of doing so, could have disastrous consequences for farmers” [Politico]. “‘You get the impression that this president has taken a tough negotiating position and he’s going to stick with it,’ Grassley said in an interview with Adam Behsudi.”

“Canada wants its two North American partners to ratify eight core conventions, including the right to organize, laid out by the International Labour Organization to make Nafta work. ‘We did put forward a very ambitious proposal on labor,’ chief negotiator Steve Verheul told lawmakers this week. While Canada has adopted all eight and Mexico has nearly done so, the U.S. has adopted only two, Verheul said. ‘The U.S. is resisting that proposal'” [Bloomberg]. “Canada’s call to claw back U.S. ‘right-to-work’ laws, which ban unions from requiring workers to pay dues, is another obstacle.” Sounds like the Canadians are doing better by labor than our own Democrats.



“One constant in recent years has been the Republicans’ preoccupation with their base, an all-consuming focus on placating their die-hard supporters regardless of the feelings of people who are not among the party faithful. The political math argues against this strategy: Hard-core Republicans and conservatives constitute only about a third of the electorate, and their views often aggravate the two-thirds outside their circle” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “Can Republicans count on pulling [a 2016-like victory] off again in 2018? The answer is probably yes in the upper chamber. Trump carried 10 states that have Democratic senators facing reelection next year, plus two other potentially important states (Arizona and Tennessee, the latter of which would be competitive in 2018 only if former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen runs), leaving only one Republican, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, up for election in a state where Hillary Clinton prevailed. But in the House, where Democrats need a gain of 24 seats and with Clinton having won 23 seats that are held by the GOP, this base-oriented strategy is less compelling. The danger for Republicans is that the intensity in politics today seems to be far greater on the Democratic side than it is on their own, and they are marginalizing themselves among the swing voters in the middle.”

“Don’t snooze on the battle for Senate control in 2018” [NBC]. “If Jones wins, pickups in Arizona and Nevada — plus Democrats successfully defending all of their seats — would give them control of the Senate. That’s far from easy. But it looks more doable than it did a year ago.”


“Alabama Senate Special Election – Moore vs. Jones” [RealClearPolitics]. “Moore +2.3” (Previous: Moore +1.5). No new polls.

“Roy Moore accuser alters story on yearbook signing, to hold press conference” [AL.com]. Not helpful to Jones.

“Back in September, one of the few African-Americans in the crowd asked the [Roy Moore] when he thought was the “last time” America was great. [Moore:] ‘I think it was great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction,’ Moore responded, according to a Los Angeles Times report in September” [HuffPo].

“A Racist Flyer Might Cost Doug Jones the Election Because the Entire Democratic Party Is Trash” [The Root]. “On the rare occasions when the Democratic Party does address black voters, it only talks about the “black issues”: policing, mass incarceration, civil rights, etc. For the party leadership, black people aren’t whole people who have the same concerns about taxes, job creation, education initiatives, international policy and economics as other voters. They are simply bodies collected in the coffers of the party’s ineffective longing for power.” Inspired by a Democrat campaign flyer, which is indeed a doozy.

2016 Post Mortem

“Leaked emails reveal how Dataminr was pitched to foreign governmenta” [The Verge]. “In March 2015, Philippe Reines, a former aide to Hillary Clinton at the US State Department, reached out to an old colleague about his consulting firm’s client. Reines contacted Capricia Marshall, a consultant who had been the US chief of protocol, a top State Department officer who acts as a liaison with foreign diplomats. Reines wanted Marshall to arrange meetings with foreign embassies for Dataminr — a company that has come under scrutiny from privacy experts for its service analyzing Twitter data. ‘If you could pull this off, would be a great way to get you a solid ongoing retainer,’ Reines wrote in an email. Marshall responded: ‘Talking to Azerbaijan. May then ask Saudi?’ … The leaked emails shed light on the largely unregulated world of international lobbying in Washington, where ‘strategic advisors,’ ‘consultants,. and lawyers use their US government experience to benefit clients and themselves, while avoiding public scrutiny both at home and overseas.”

New Cold War

The headline: “Donald Trump Is Guilty” [Max Boot, Foreign Policy]. The deck: “The only remaining question is what exactly he’s guilty of.” Alrighty then.

UPDATE “Exclusive: Email shows effort to give Trump campaign WikiLeaks documents” [CNN]. “Congressional investigators are uncertain who the sender is, and CNN was unable to make contact with the individual. It’s not clear whether the email was a legitimate effort to provide the hacked documents to the Trump campaign.”

UPDATE “Email pointed Trump campaign to WikiLeaks documents that were already public” [WaPo]. That was fast.

Tax “Reform”

“The tax bill working its way through Congress is designed to lower corporate tax burdens, but some logistics and transportation companies worry they might be left out in the cold. The Senate version of the legislation does not include many family-owned businesses among the types of corporations subject to a lower tax rate. Companies structured as ‘electing small business trusts,’ or ESBTs, are particularly vulnerable, as they would pay 10% to 20% higher taxes than competitors that qualify for reduced rates on ‘pass-through’ income. Small, family-run businesses are common in many corners of the logistics sector, and some of the industry’s best-known names, including truck-stop chain Love’s Travel Stop, are set up as trusts” [Wall Street Journal].

“Sen. Susan Collins Strikes a Bum Deal” [Moyers and Company]. ” Sen. Collins is a centrist but not a moderate in many ways. She is the one that made President Obama scale back the stimulus package during the Great Recession.” Hmm. Collins voted for the final $787 billion bill. IIRC, it was Democrat Larry Summers, then Obama’s top economic adviser, who threw out Christina Romer’s high-end proposal, making sure it never reached Obama’s desk. So, Collins most certainly did not “made President Obama scale back the stimulus package,” since any negotiations with her would have been after Summer intervened.

The Collins version:

UPDATE “Religious leaders arrested at Sen. Collins’ Portland office after sit-in to protest her vote on tax bill” [Portland Press Herald]. “During their prayer, members of the group said they were in Collins’ office to represent ‘the poor and disadvantaged’ who they believe will be harmed by the tax bill. The clergy said that Jesus taught spiritual leaders to ‘walk with the disenfranchised and to stand against the tax collectors.'”

UPDATE “Apple could get a staggering $47 billion windfall from the tax bill” [Vox]. “What’s particularly striking about this windfall is that though Apple has been a fierce advocate for corporate tax reform — $47 billion is a lot of money after all — Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained over and over again that shoveling billions into his corporate treasury won’t boost his investment spending. He already has plenty of cash, but beyond that, when Cook wants Apple to invest more, he borrows the money.”

Trump Transition

“Commentary: President Trump starts to rack up wins” [CBS]. “Congress is likely to soon pass a tax reform bill. Robert Mueller’s “Russia Squad” is getting its first round of bad press. Judge Roy Moore is favored to win next week’s Senate election in Alabama with Trump’s support. The Supreme Court has acquiesced to Trump’s travel ban for now (while it waits for the lower courts to rule). The Supreme Court also offers hope to social conservatives in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, facilitated by Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the bench. The economy is booming. Blue-collar wages are on the rise. Meanwhile, many of Trump’s enemies are still harboring their go-nowhere fantasies of impeachment. This isn’t to say that Trump’s presidency couldn’t still end in his removal from office. But even if it does, that day is still a long way off, and will likely depend on massive Democratic gains in next year’s midterms.” My view on the economy is — and readers know I’m a Maine Bear, so discount as you will — is a good deal less sunny than “booming.” Ditto on blue-collar wages. Nevertheless, it is true that the real economy hadn’t collapsed, and that’s not such a bad thing, especially with a “recovery” that is by now quite long in the tooth. NTDT, but nevertheless, if in 2020 Trump is in a position to say to working class voters in swing states that, for all the chaos and crudeness, that he delivered on the economy, and is perceived to have done so, then he might do much better than conventional wisdom suggests. “Have you see the other guys,” but in reverse.

“Despite Trump’s Rancor for the Global System, the World Economy Is Surging” [David Ignatius, WaPo]. “The global economy has surged forward this year, significantly outperforming expectations. As the International Monetary Fund wrote in its latest world economic outlook, published in October: ‘The current upswing reaches more broadly than any in a decade — roughly 75 percent of the world economy … is sharing in the acceleration.’… Boosting U.S. demand by increasing workers’ real wages would make this recovery as real and powerful at home as it seems to be abroad. If we’re really talking about making America great again, rebuilding middle-class incomes is where to start.”

That is the essential question: do voters choose to give [Trump] credit for a healthy economy or choose to focus on his erratic and divisive behavior? [bold in original] In other words, should we look to Trump’s overall job approval rating, or his approval rating on the economy as the more accurate representation of the president’s standing with voters?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “Elections are driven by the fundamentals. And, nothing is more fundamental to voters than the health of the economy. In 1998, even at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment proceedings, President Clinton enjoyed job approval ratings in the 60’s. Why? Voters determined that a good economy superseded their personal feelings about Clinton’s behavior. This year, voters give Trump low marks on job approval, even as they give the economy higher marks. The enduring question for this president is which number accurately reflects how voters will ultimately judge him? Will they continue to express disapproval of his presidency, but ultimately choose to vote on the basis of their more positive feelings on the economy? Or, will they give Trump some credit for the economy but determine that his behavior is the more important variable in their vote?”

Realignment and Legitimacy

No, not Kamala Harris:

“The Party of Lincoln Has Devolved Into the Party of Trump” [Eugene Robinson, RealClearPolitics]. Robinson: “[O]nce corruption has become established, it takes Herculean effort to root it out; once respect for the rule of law is lost, it takes generations to restore.” Agreed, and it’s sad. Reagan prosecuted his financial crooks (the S&L crisis). Bush the Younger prosecuted his (Enron). But under Obama, elite impunity became the, er, norm. No banksters were prosecuted for the Crash. Not even Wells Fargo before election 2016, which surely would have handed the election to Clinton!

“Democrats saw Franken as a liability” [The Hill]. “A second Democratic senator said there was strong ‘concern that we were losing the moral high ground with Roy Moore and the president,’ referring to the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama and President Trump.” Cf. John 11:50? And “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

“On what he called the worst day of his political life, Senator Al Franken articulated two points that are central to understanding what has become known as the #MeToo moment. In an eleven-minute speech, in which Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate, he made this much clear: the force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country’s population—those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media” [Masha Gessen, The New Yorker]. “The case of Franken makes it all that much more clear that this conversation is, in fact, about sex, not about power, violence, or illegal acts. The accusations against him, which involve groping and forcible kissing, arguably fall into the emergent, undefined, and most likely undefinable category of ‘sexual misconduct.’ Put more simply, Franken stands accused of acting repeatedly like a jerk, and he denies that he acted this way. The entire sequence of events, from the initial accusations to Franken’s resignation, is based on the premise that Americans, as a society, or at least half of a society, should be policing non-criminal behavior related to sex.”

“America, it seems, is at a tipping point on the issue of sexual misconduct. But, in politics, of course, nothing is that easy. If Democrats want to be the party of “zero tolerance” they also have to accept that it may come with unpredictable – or even negative – political consequences. For Republicans, while Trump was able to weather the “Access Hollywood” scandal in 2016, his party may pay the price for his behavior – and that of other Republicans like Roy Moore – in 2018″ [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. And nobody mentions The Big Dog in the Room. Or his enabler. “Moral high ground” my sweet Aunt Fanny. Except–

“[Kirsten Gillibrand] had just come from a podcast interview with the New York Times in which she’d blown through the Democratic code of silence on Clinton misdeeds by saying that yes, if Bill Clinton were president now, he would have to resign after something like the Monica Lewinsky affair” [Politico]. Oddly not mentioned by the normally astute Walter, in whose article the word “Clinton” does not appear.

“Is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee stifling dissent within the party?” [Mic]. “Under the document’s section labeled “Communications,” for example, the DCCC lays out a number of provisions requiring candidates focus on ‘shared values’ and ‘unity’ — and even requiring candidates to hold a ‘unity event’ with their primary opponent or opponents after the primary race.” You know. Values like taking corporate money. Unity like purging your opponents from party institutions.

“A Democratic victory in Georgia’s state Senate election on Tuesday put an end to the Republican’s two-thirds supermajority” [The Hill].

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, November 2017: “Overheating may not be the description of the labor market but heating up definitely is” [Econoday]. “Pointing to the risk of labor constraints is a rise in the average workweek, up 1 tenth to 34.5 hours for private-sector employees. Another risk is the lack of available workers, reflected most clearly in the unemployment rate which is unchanged at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. Yet all this demand has yet to translate into wage inflation… The bumps have come and gone and the labor market is where it was before the hurricane season, continuing to grow and continuing to absorb what is a very thin pool of available labor.” And: “The number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.6 million. Also, the number of long-term unemployed, which is those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, was essentially unchanged at 1.6 million. Long-term unemployed persons accounted for 23.8% of the unemployed” [247 Wall Street]. But: “The household and establishment surveys were extremely out of sync from each other. The unemployment rate is dubious as there is so much difference between the household and establishment surveys” [Econintersect].

Capital Spending: “Combined U.S. & Canadian Industrial Spending Falls 30 Percent” [Industrial Reports]. “November spending for the two nations totaled $36.83 billion compared to October’s $53.37 billion. The research organization reported 239 planned U.S. and Canadian projects in November.”

Consumer Sentiment, December 2017 (Preliminary): “The consumer sentiment index… remains elevated though continues to edge back from October’s expansion peak” [Econoday]. “Immediate indications on consumer spirits, in what is a positive for the holiday shopping outlook, are in fact very positive as the current conditions component actually rose sharply….

This component is getting a boost from rising income expectations which is a reflection of the strong jobs market and also perhaps that income gains will not be eaten away by inflation…. [B]uying plans for durables which are improving this month.”

Wholesale Trade, October 2017: “Inventories are getting off to a slow start in the fourth quarter as those at the wholesale level fell a sizable 0.5 percent” [Econoday]. “The draw reflects strong demand for autos…. Declining inventories are a negative for GDP but are in fact very welcome during a time of solid expansion, pointing to the need for restocking and gains for future production and employment.” And: “The improvement this month in the headline data was primarily due to durable goods. Overally, I believe the rolling averages tell the real story – and they improved this month. The current trends appear flat (little acceleration or deceleration)” [Econintersect]. “To add to the confusion, year-over-year employment changes and sales growth do not match.”

Energy: “The demise of King Coal is working its way up the power supply chain. General Electric Co. is cutting 12,000 jobs in its power division…, after a big bet on turbines for coal and gas-fired plants ran into the reality of declining demand for conventional power fuels” [Wall Street Journal].

Retail: “How Can Dollar General Afford to Open 900 Stores?” [247 Wall Street]. “The primary theory about the success of Dollar General is that its store locations are in rural and sprawling suburban areas that other retailers have either abandoned or never targeted. It keeps the costs of what its sells low, perhaps lower than Walmart. It can do this in part because it operates on a shoe-string, with very low expenses to operate each store.” And holy moley, what a quote:

[Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s chief executive officer] told The Wall Street Journal:

The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer.

We are putting stores today [in areas] that perhaps five years ago were just on the cusp of probably not being our demographic, and it has now turned to being our demographic.

That demographic is lower income people in remote locations.

Thanks, Obama! For your wonderful recovery.

Shipping: “[A] bit of an anomaly occurred during the fourth quarter of 2016 … with indications that efforts made by motor carriers to fill driver seats, an issue, which has plagued the sector for several years, appeared to be paying off. But the traditional trend of high turnover returned in the second quarter of this year and, based on the data issued by the ATA today, the third quarter as well” [Logistics Management]. “For the third quarter, ATA reported that the annualized turnover rate for large truckload carriers with more than $30 million in revenue increased 5% to an annualized turnover rate of 95%.” But: “At the same time, though, turnover at less-than-truckload (LTL) fleets dipped 2 percentage points year over year to 7 percent, hitting the lowest level since the second quarter of 2016. LTL driver turnover is much less than in the much-larger truckload sector because LTL drivers are typically better paid and because their relatively shorter lengths of haul afford them more home time and a better work-life balance” [DC Velocity].

Shipping: “Dockworkers and East Coast port employers entered negotiations this week hoping to agree on an extension to a contract set to expire next September. But instead the talks exposed deep rifts that could point to a rocky path to labor peace for ports from Maine to Texas. Union officials ended the meeting early, citing disagreements over port automation” [Wall Street Journal]. “ILA leaders fear driverless forklifts and artificial intelligence will replace many port jobs, as they have already in many European container terminals. Both sides have much to lose if they fail to reach an agreement.”

Shipping: “with Seller Flex, Amazon will oversee package pickups from the warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods through Amazon.com and delivery to customers’ homes. These tasks are currently handled for Amazon by UPS and FedEx. And while Amazon may still use UPS and FedEx for delivery, the report said that Amazon will decide how to send a package, as opposed to leaving that at the discretion of the seller. And among the benefits of handling more deliveries for Amazon, cited in the report, are things like providing greater flexibility and control over the last mile to consumer’s homes, saving money through volume discounts, and helping to avoid congestion in Amazon warehouses through keeping merchandise in outside sellers’ facilities” [Logistics Management]. “In a blog posting, [James Thompson, a former Amazon executive and now a partner for Buy Box Experts, an Amazon consultancy firm], explained that Seller Flex is a big deal for Amazon on multiple fronts: “Seller Flex provides Amazon with additional capacity to ensure that products can be shipped to customers inside their 2 day window. Amazon has a problem that they are not keen on discussing externally: their warehouses are full, which has historically presented a problem during the busy holiday season.

Transportation: “Anheuser-Busch has preordered 40 of Tesla Inc.’s electric Semi trucks, the WSJ Logistics Report’s Jennifer Smith writes, which the company says are well-suited for making short shipments to wholesalers. Anheuser-Busch, the U.S. subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev has a history of being first in line for new transportation technology, which it sees as a way to reduce the company’s fuel costs and vehicle emissions” [Wall Street Journal]. Investments include compressed natural-gas delivery trucks and hiring a driverless big rig to make a supply run in Colorado last year.”

The Bezzle: “AI researchers are trying to combat how AI can be used to lie and deceive” [Quartz]. “As modern AI systems begin to power more services, such as malware detection and automatic insurance quoting, some are beginning to question whether such systems themselves ‘understand’ enough to avoid deception.”

Five Horsemen: “Favorable end-of-year seasonality takes hold as the Fab Five reach for the stars” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Dec 8

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 60, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 70 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Dec 8 at 11:59am.


“Canada’s Desjardins not scratching pipeline loans after all” [Mining.com]. “Canada’s Desjardins, the largest association of credit unions in North America, has decided to lift a moratorium on loans for energy and pipeline projects, noting that it will weigh its clients’ environmental, social and governance practices in all future lending decisions… Effective immediately, the lender will purchase carbon credits to offset its greenhouse gas emissions. It has also vowed to focus on renewables for the direct investment of its own assets in energy infrastructure. The Desjardins Group pension plan is making this same commitment, it noted.”

“Fall storm took out power company’s $200 million smart meter network” [Bangor Daily News]. “When power w ent out for some half a million Mainers after the October windstorm, another system went down, too — Central Maine Power’s $200 million smart-grid communications network that, among other things, was supposed to improve outage communications and storm recovery…. [A]s utility poles went down in the storm, it wasn’t just power lines that got taken out — so did radio transmitters for the wireless smart-grid ‘mesh’ that were installed at the top of the poles. Meters themselves lost power, and over time battery backup power for some components was drained.” $200 million is real money, in Maine (paid for on our utility bills, too, although the profits, naturally, go out of state.) I gotta say, I’m getting so whenever I hear the word “smart,” I think “stupid” (or possiibly “screw job”).

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“‘This is all people crave: accountability.’ Michael Slager gets 20 years for Walter Scott death” [Post and Courier]. “Slager was patrolling one of North Charleston’s most hardened communities on April 4, 2015 when he stopped Scott’s car for a broken brake light. The police had long used minor traffic stops to check on residents and look for greater crimes afoot. This stop was ordinary until Scott, 50, jumped out and ran. Slager gave chase and tried to stop him with a Taser…. Scott is running away at the first gunshot and is still running at the eighth, which brought him down. Five of the bullets had hit him from behind.” And that, my friends, is why DSA repairs brakelights today.

Class Warfare

“Destruction Of Black Wealth During The Obama Presidency” [People’s Policy Project]. “The paper finds that while President Obama had wide discretion and appropriated funds to relieve homeowners caught in the economic crisis, the policy design his administration chose for his housing program was a disaster. Instead of helping homeowners, at every turn the administration was obsessed with protecting the financial system — and so homeowners were left to drown. As a result, the percentage of black homeowners who were underwater on their mortgage exploded 20-fold from 2007 to 2013.” Thanks, Obama!

News of the Wired

“DNA has gone digital – what could possibly go wrong?” [The Conversation]. “The ability to manipulate DNA was once the privilege of the select few and very limited in scope and application. Today, life scientists rely on a global supply chain and a network of computers that manipulate DNA in unprecedented ways. The time to start thinking about the security of the digital/DNA interface is now, not after a new Stuxnet-like cyberbiosecurity breach.”


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

LR writes: “UC Davis arboretum. The slime on the water surface was gorgeous in color….”

Readers, I’m running a bit short on plants. Buttoned-up gardens? Fall foliage? Forest fires?! First snow? Those photos from the summer you never had time to look at? Thanks!

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. j84ustin

    It appears Anita Hawkins is not a real politician from California. Would be nice if she was; correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. Vatch

      I think you are correct. At first I thought she was in the California Senate, but then I noticed that she says she’s in the U.S. Senate. No, she isn’t. Satire this be.

      1. Wukchumni


        We’ve been duped, but it was a pleasant whet dream thinking she was a politician with a potty mouth, a pretty smile and a poignant message.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Please don’t mention The World’s Worst Human.

            * * *

            Seriously, I think the Sarondon dog-piling is beyond absurd, but let’s not even introduce the trigger, even in jest. There’s enough else to talk about.

          1. Vatch

            In case anyone is wondering, this web page confirms that Sen. Kamala Harris has co-sponsored the Sanders Medicare for All bill:


            I suspect that Anita Hawkins (or “Anita Hawkins”) is satirizing a large number of Democratic politicians. She might even be satirizing some of the politicians who have publicly supported Medicare for All. It’s likely that some of those politicians have very reluctantly endorsed health care for all, and may have privately uttered some of the off-color complaints that are in the Anita Hawkins video.

    2. j84ustin

      ***I see now she refers to herself as Senator, of which there are two, and neither are her. That probably should have tipped me off that this is a parody account and not the account of a sitting Senator.

  2. Jim Haygood

    The curmudgeonly James Howard Kunstler divines the meaning of Bitcoin:

    The dirty open secret here is that central bank interventions [QE] are the only means for keeping the capital markets up, and that markets are just a Potemkin false front for Western economies that are drying up and blowing away.

    Dem/Prog America in its Silicon Valley gourmet employee bistros and Hamptons lawn parties thinks that the flyover Trumpist Red State world of meth, joblessness, and anomie is some kind of Netflix hallucination. But no, it’s for real. The center of the ol’ US of A is hollowed out. The bad news is that it probably has enough juice left in its disaffected youth, and certainly enough weaponry, to start a very serious insurrection if it continues to get dissed.

    Enter the joker in the deck: Bitcoin. [Its] message is that financial circulatory system of the global economy is in some kind of distress. It is vectoring right smack into the same lane as the gathering political crisis in the US government, as a fight to death between Donald Trump and his adversaries comes darkly into view.

    Bitcoin is doing the job that gold used to do: indexing the loss of value in paper currencies and the things that affect to represent them.


    Just wait till central bankers stop keeping capital markets up. Like ol’ Jed Clampett, we’ll be out shootin’ at some food, while warming our chapped hands over a barrel of burning brokerage statements. :-(

        1. Ed Miller

          Starting December 18 you can buy bitcoin futures, but you can only buy. No short selling (until the muppets are sucked in). Hotel California anyone?

    1. Summer

      “Just wait till central bankers stop keeping capital markets up…”
      That happens once the gutting of any type of social safety net system is complete.
      For now, the global fantasy has to be maintained that the “markets” are superior.

    2. Summer

      “Just wait till central bankers stop keeping capital markets up…”
      That happens once the gutting of any type of social safety net system is complete.
      For now, the global fantasy has to be maintained that the “markets” are superior.

      And I’ll add, once there is no more public anything.
      Then it really goes into the walled and pay-walled dystopia.

    3. Robert Hahl

      If a da Vinci can sell for $450 million, why can’t a bitcoin?

      If you want to get in on the action, CBTC is a closed end OTC fund that owns bitcoins (until they are all stolen). If you buy one share (now worth about 0.1 bitcoin) and they go to $1 billion, you will be a $100 millionaire!

      1. Wukchumni

        I’m already a trillionaire, in fact i’m worth $100,000,000,000,000.00.

        Now, if only it wasn’t in Zimbabwe dollars…

        Get one for yourself on eBay for $38

    4. Oregoncharles

      @ “shooting at some food”: Between squirrels, deer, and turkeys, all on the property (the turkeys cruise through every once in a while), I think we’d do OK. Turkeys are now well established and spreading around here – some friends further out have them essentially all the time.

      And lots of fruit and nuts. Would have to trade for grain, and plant potatoes and garlic.

  3. Croatoan

    I have long believed the neo-liberals wanted a Cultural Revolution. The current state of the #metoo movement proves this to me.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Possible hint: Hillary’s penchent for Mao-style jackets?

      the sartorial unconscious doesn’t lie….

      1. Jean

        Nope, we now have our own cultural revolution in the form of the sudden appearance of “Sexual Harassment” memories and the apologia of those who dared to be on the receiving end of allegations that results in career exile.

        Sort of like Stalin’s putting hundreds of victims in a cell and having warders asking them what they could have possibly done to deserve that. Those that thought of some remote insult to say, the Soviet Road system, were whisked off of the the Gulags to be worked to death.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Speaking of the Soviet system (road or otherwise), their one-design apartment buildings (or is it more than one design? Maybe actually a choice of 2 or 3 designs) may be our answer to fast fashion.

          But more than that.

          It could be

          1 answer to fast fashion

          2. lessen aesthetic inequality, where the elegant 1% are prettier and lead more beautiful lives than the 99% ugly people.

          One style suit and one apartment building, and we are all equally fashionable.

    2. Wukchumni

      #metoo has so far required household names in order to toss them off their petard, but if it ends up in the lower reaches of the citizenry, then you’ve got your cultural revolution.

      1. Procopius

        … in order to toss them off their petard.

        ??? I hope I’m not violating policy by asking what you are talking about. When I was younger, which often feels like the time when they were still actually used, a petard was kind of like a bucket, filled with gunpowder. What nowadays we call a satchel charge. The way it was used, some poor schlub had to light the fuse and run up to the gate to the castle, pound a big nail into the gate, and hang the petard on it, then run back to his own lines. Since the technology of making reliable fuses was only in its infancy, the fuse often went out. Sometimes, though, it burned faster than it was supposed to, which resulted by the poor schlub being thrown into the air (hoist) by his own petard. /pedant

    3. Enrique

      Reminds me more of the “Cult of the Supreme Being”-era Robespierre period. Admittedly, the “Supreme Being” statue probably would in some way involve Hillary in her Mao jacket.

      Doesn’t really bother me, TBH. Zealots and lunatics always are their worst enemy and self-marginalise at great velocity.

      At what point do more people go full Trump and just say (either) I didn’t do it, they’re lying, fishing for attention/lawsuit winnings, piss off, etc? It pretty well worked for him when you think on it. People like Franken should just say: we have elections and primaries for this sort of thing – in the meantime I’m doing my best for the people of Minnesota. And then a few news cycles later the scalp-hunters move on.

      1. Lee

        We have degrees for murder, manslaughter, and just about every other crime. If we apply this principle to the various violators and their violations, Franken’s transgressions pale in comparison to most others that have been named.

        As to Lambert’s link quoting this:

        The entire sequence of events, from the initial accusations to Franken’s resignation, is based on the premise that Americans, as a society, or at least half of a society, should be policing non-criminal behavior related to sex

        Isn’t touching someone without their permission battery? Again, degrees of wrongness must be applied and the punishment, if warranted, should be proportionate. A letter of reprimand and a warning that future occurrences will be punished with increasing severity would be enough for most, I’m guessing. Ever the optimist, me. As for adultery, it may be reprehensible or not, depending on circumstances, and it is still a crime in some states, but I wouldn’t fire my brain surgeon over it, or anyone else for that matter.

        1. Yves Smith

          I am not of the school that merely kissing someone when they are asleep is battery, which is your position. If so, every parent is guilty of battery and sexual assault.

          1. Lee

            Well, my previous response disappeared. Let me just say, that the position you ascribe to me is most definitely not my position.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I would like to see the culture revolve back to folk music, instead of rock or rap.

      That would represent one culture revolution (360 degrees).

      For example, Andean folk music is nice. I like the song El Condor Pasa.

      1. Procopius

        I’m fond of Thai “country music,” which comes in several flavors. “Music for life” can be found on YouTube, as can “luk thung”, which translates as “child of the fields.”

  4. Jim Haygood

    There is a decently long list of examples of bad behavior by broadband providers.

    Such as this one from cable company Suddenlink’s law enforcement page:



    Call (800) 291-2491. A Yaana representative will provide the documentation necessary to process emergency requests without a court order, eavesdropping warrant or other legal process.


    We don’t need no stinkin’ court orders. USA! UFB …

  5. Bill

    “AI researchers are trying to combat how AI can be used to lie and deceive”

    It’s still garbage in, garbage out, and always will be, IMNSHO

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The number one priority, or the only purpose in fact, for a robot is to assist humanity with the question, what the heck are humans doing in the world, or what is the purpose of life?

      Perhaps one day, that question is irrelevant, after we as a species are long gone.

      A new species, the gods, will have replaced us, in the future Utopian world. And these gods will experiment with science. One day, they find some archaic human DNA.

      With that, these gods are able to bring back humans.

      And they will regret it.

      First they confine these humans to the gods’ equivalent of our Jurassic theme park. Then, something goes terribly wrong, and, well, you have to watch the movie.

      1. neighbor7

        “There is only one really serious philosophical problem,” VirtualCamus says, “and that is robot suicide.”

    2. Kevin

      “AI researchers are trying to combat how AI can be used to lie and deceive”

      great, we’re creating a subspecies of politicians now??

  6. Vatch

    I gotta say, I’m getting so whenever I hear the word “smart,” I think “stupid” (or possiibly “screw job”).

    You’re not alone. Years ago my blood pressure would rise at the sight or sound of the words “smart growth”. There is no smart growth on our overpopulated overdeveloped planet. There’s only stupid growth and slightly less stupid growth.

  7. Carolinian

    Re Franken–so the Democratic party gets to select and then dispose of politicians with the electorate having little say in the matter other than the generic Dem v Repub food fight? Were there any polls showing that a majority of the state’s voters wanted him to resign?

    Have no brief for Franken but this whole episode seems disturbing.

    1. Ellie C.

      Don’t know about any polls, but the overwhelming number of comments at the New York Times and on social media are highly critical of the perceived railroading of Sen. Franken by members of his own party. It does seem the Dems wanted him gone to get rid of a distraction and claim the moral high road. I doubt it will help them in future elections, and there has been significant backlash against Sen. Gillibrand in particular.

    2. Kevin

      Agree. There are procedures – which he even invited, but nope, they all know better than we do.

      Our ancestors settled here to avoid a King, now we have hundreds.

    3. grayslady

      IMHO, no way Franken would have been given the boot if he came from a state with a Republican governor. Dayton will appoint another Democrat so the corpoDems in Versailles on the Potomac don’t care. I assume something similar was at play with Conyers–safe Dem seat for his district.

    4. djrichard

      I don’t think it’s any more complex than what Lambert quoted above,

      “Democrats saw Franken as a liability” [The Hill]. “A second Democratic senator said there was strong ‘concern that we were losing the moral high ground with Roy Moore and the president,’ …”

      It’s consistent with https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/walter-benn-michaels-the-trouble-with-diversity-election/Content?oid=24418522 (linked yesterday)

      It’s just going to turn the left into what it wants to be—the moral czar of the country who says these people have the correct moral position, these people don’t, and we want to get rid of the people that don’t have the correct moral position.

      Michaels goes further, “That kind of politics is doomed to failure.” It’s not hard to see this outcome after Trump and the victory of “extremist” parties in Europe.

      CJ Hopkins in contrast sees the moral-high-ground-type campaigns as ultimately being successful. Or more accurately, he sees global capitalism as being the winner in the culture wars. Or even more accurately, any players than can be painted as being “extremists” as being losers. See https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/20/tomorrow-belongs-to-the-corporatocracy/ Who knows, maybe in that end-game, we’re all cast out (like lepers?) until we embrace the professional class. It’s not hard to see this outcome either.

      1. Darius

        It’s instructive to see how Republicans cater to their base. I guess Democrats do too, but educated professionals motivated to vote are only about 5 percent of the population. The putative Democrat base, working people, are just an object of scorn by Democrat decisionmakers.

        So the Republicans have a much more reliable voting bloc.

  8. Wukchumni

    Susan Collins tells Maine TV station @WABI_TV5 that she is “absolutely certain” that the GOP tax package won’t trigger Medicare cuts.

    “I have it in writing from both the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and also Senator Mitch McConnell.”

    Susan hold a paper aloft, and proclaims there’ll be a piece in our time!

    1. Quentin

      Collins has always played the game Obama was so good at: lying before stealing the goods and running… I’m frantically looking forward to Mr. and Mrs. Obama’s frank revelations about their perfidy.

  9. Jim Haygood

    China’s current property bubble mirrors the US bubble of 2001-2007 … including the mortgage fraud:

    Millions of homeowners are enjoying the sensation of ever-expanding wealth. A report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed prices in 33 major cities soared 42 percent in 2016. [But] private estimates and anecdotal evidence suggest prices in most big Chinese cities actually doubled or tripled since late 2015.

    A Hong Kong property investor surnamed Fu, who declined to give his full name because he was admitting criminal behavior, told Reuters that 20,000 yuan (about $3,000) in a traditional red gift envelope was enough for a valuation company to inflate the price of the apartment he wanted to buy in Shenzhen by 40 percent. That increased the amount the bank was prepared to lend him by 1.26 million yuan.

    Property agents often recommend buyers use so-called loan agents to help them secure funds from lenders. Operating out of small, cramped offices, often in residential blocks, loan agents “re-package” — or falsify — documents for mortgage applications.

    “Around 60 percent of property buyers in Shanghai are involved in some kind of re-packaging,” said Jack Xiao, who worked for over a decade as a property agent in the city.


    You don’t need no PhD Econ to realize that China’s property bubble ends in tears.

    If the quoted Mr Fu’s given name isn’t Bar … well, it should be. ;-)

  10. Cynthia

    Jay Hancock of Kaiser Health News is a little too pro-ObamaCare for my liking, but I congratulate him immensely for doing a bang-up job exposing the fact that our nation’s elite teaching hospitals have grown to become nothing more than neoliberal parasites feeding at the public trough. In his Washington Post piece entitled “Hospitals find asthma hot spots more profitable to neglect than fix” ( see first link below), he reports that John Hopkins has received roughly $205 million in federal grant money over the past decade to conduct asthma-related research in the city of Baltimore.

    Even though the findings from their medical research overwhelmingly supports the notion that the best and most effective way to combat the asthma epidemic in Baltimore is to shift federally-funded healthcare dollars away from hospital-based care and give it to community-based asthma programs, this urban elite teaching hospital still keeps the lion’s share of their federal grant money to fight asthma within the very narrow confines of the hospital. John Hopkins is not only being extremely hypocritical in NOT putting their evidenced-based research into actual clinical practice, i.e., NOT practicing what they preach, they are also violating their obligations as a non-profit institution, which requires them to give back to the community in exchange for NOT paying their fair share in state and local taxes.

    In addition to that, it’s also been reported recently how The Cleveland Clinic, another highly protected and privileged neoliberal parasite within the academic medical elite complex, has grown to become a modern-day Taj Mahal surrounded by a boarded up and dilapidated neighborhood that’s overrun with roaches and rats and impoverished with drug addicts and petty street criminals. The juxtaposition between the two is striking and most disturbing to say the least ( see second link below).

    Unfortunately, John Hopkins and The Cleveland Clinic aren’t alone. Most other academic hospitals across the US aren’t living up to their obligations as tax-exempted businesses either. Most of them are scoring huge profits off their nonprofit status. It’s way past time that we make these tax dodging parasites share their federally-funded wealth with their neighborhood communities or strip them of their tax exempt status!



    1. Tooearly

      The thing is I don’t think the IRS has ever successfully held one of these hospitals feet to the fire for failing to provide actual Community benefit as opposed to make believe Community benefits.
      I could be wrong about that and if I am I would like to know it

    2. Christopher Fay

      I’ve been wondering about the Cape Cod Health Cartel. All medical services on Cape Cod seem to have to be part of the network. What does the CCHC do for the community?

  11. diptherio

    Not holding my breath, mind you, but it did make me smile a little when I saw this:

    Credit Union Sues Donald Trump to Save the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    December 5, 2017 – This afternoon, the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union against Donald Trump and Michael Mulvaney. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan.

    The lawsuit challenges President Trump’s recent, illegal takeover of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in which he installed his at-will White House employee, Michael Mulvaney, to be Acting Director of the CFPB. The CFPB protects millions of Americans from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices in the financial marketplace. Mr. Mulvaney has called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.”

    “We support the CFPB as a protector of our low income members’ financial rights, and fear that the appointment of an Acting Director beholden to the White House could result in upheaval and ultimate dissolution of this critical agency,” said Linda Levy, CEO of the Credit Union. “Having experienced the devastation that the 2008 mortgage crisis wreaked on our low income members, we need the CFPB to protect communities targeted by financial predators.”

    “This is a naked, illegal power grab by Donald Trump to destroy an agency that helps and protects millions of ordinary Americans,” said Ilann M. Maazel, a partner at ECBA, and lead counsel for the Credit Union. “The law requires Leandra English to be CFPB’s Acting Director.”

    “President Trump’s attempt to install a White House official as the acting head of what is supposed to be an independent agency is deeply disturbing and should concern everyone,” said Debra Greenberger, a partner at ECBA, and counsel for the Credit Union.

    The Credit Union is a not-for-profit, federally-regulated financial cooperative owned by its approximately 8,500 members and dedicated to providing high-quality financial services and community development investments in low income, immigrant and other underserved communities.


    And here’s the complaint itself:

  12. perpetualWAR

    FINALLY, someone calling out Obama (officially, with a white paper) over the massive loss of black wealth under his administration. I have been referring to Obama as Uncle Tom for awhile, but it always gets me ‘looks’ except on NC.

    Thank you for this inclusion!

    Homeowners [TAXPAYERS] were so [family blogged] by Obama.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I just hope there is not a mortgage on the Obama Presidential Library.

      “Your payment is past due.”

      1. JTMcPhee

        Straight cash transaction, of course. MUF (money up front) as Milo Minderbinder would categorize it.

  13. Summer

    “A Racist Flyer Might Cost Doug Jones the Election Because the Entire Democratic Party Is Trash” [The Root].

    The Democratic Party will read this and hone in on this part:
    “This has always been the modus operandi of the party, but it was rescued over the past decade by Barack Obama, a black candidate black voters in the South adored. He mobilized both black and white voters in the South by canvassing, using foot soldiers and going after every vote, even turning some red states blue. Now that he’s gone, the Dems are back on that old shit … until they need us again.”

    They’ll rev up Obama to help campaign through the South during upcoming 2018 or 2020 races. Then go right back to “that old shit.”

  14. Jim Haygood

    Next year Facebook and Alphabet (parent of Google) will exit the Information Technology sector for a new Communications sector. Communications will include the former Telecoms sector which was down to only three companies (AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink) — not enough to function as a standalone sector.

    Amazon will become even more dominant in the existing Consumer Discretionary sector after media companies leave it for the new Communications sector.

    When these changes occur next September, the Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse will be spread over three sectors:

    Info Tech — Apple; Microsoft
    Communications — Alphabet; Facebook
    Consumer Discretionary — Amazon

    One tends to think of all five giants as tech stocks. But their differing roles in the digital ecosystem are developing into distinctive sectors in their own right.

  15. Vatch

    “That is the essential question: do voters choose to give [Trump] credit for a healthy economy or choose to focus on his erratic and divisive behavior?”

    Jeez, how can anyone claim that we have a healthy economy? According to the Forbes real time list, the net worth of Jeff Bezos has dropped to approximately $97.6 billion! Surely our economy cannot be considered healthy until such a smart and hard working man has a solid $100 billion. Perhaps the tens of millions of people who get SNAP and Medicaid assistance could contribute to a fund on behalf of Mr. Bezos. Fifty dollars each ought to do the trick.

    I leave it to the readers to decide whether I’m being sarcastic.

    1. Mark P.

      Don’t waste your tears on poor Mr. Bezos. He could become the world’s first trillionaire if his Blue Origin space program pays off and he starts asteroid mining.

      Nothing like having more platinum or lithium — maybe by an order of magnitude — than everybody else in the world to enrich the Bezos coffers.

    1. Summer

      The first assumption of the “smart” kitchen is that you have food to begin with.

      So this is more of a bizarre, idealized future where “the internet of everything” is in service of micromanaging the lives of the privileged.

    2. Summer

      “The company’s newly released app, the thing Florence thinks will be a recipe-killer, promises highly customizable “micro-cooking content.” It will offer thousands of permutations of meals, and it could preheat your oven, too. Eventually, it could go further — perhaps suggesting foods based on your genetic profile or how many steps your fitness tracker registered that day. It might be able to order your groceries or help you build your own meal kit. Someday, it might even know the entire contents of your fridge.”

      This article also reminded me of this bit from 2015 Newsweek:
      “Coder Aziz Shamim captured the core of the post-Mom economy when he tweeted earlier this year: “SF tech culture is focused on solving one problem: What is my mother no longer doing for me?”

    3. The Rev Kev

      Not sure how great it will work out in practice. People want to be involved in their cooking if they are into it. A very long time ago a company made a cake mixture that only need water adding to it to make a cake but sales were flat. Upon investigating, they found that housewives felt left out of the process so the company made a tweak to the mixture and now had housewives break an egg into the mixture. Sales went right up. You can’t automate everything.
      This is more than the Internet of Sh*t at work here. It is the tech industry trying to find any transaction point in our lives and then forcing and cramming their way in so that they can collect fees. Getting a taxi? Now mobs like Uber have jammed their way in. Want to get a hotel room? Now mobs like Airbnb have crammed their way in. Getting at date? Well, you get the idea. Anything we do they want to jam their way in and collect their fees like having a road that suddenly has become a toll road.

  16. Sid Finster

    Re: Max Boot – I have said it in the past that an aggressive prosecutor can always find an excuse to bring charges against anyone. That goes double for anyone involved in high-level politics or business. If nothing else, just ask enough questions, and you’re sure to get an untruth or a half-truth in there somewhere, a document is sure to contain irregularities, which is grounds for a perjury or obstruction beef, tax evasion or failure to observe currency controls, whatever. Any stick with which to beat a dog.

    So why isn’t every businessman and politician routinely up on charges? Because the way the law works in the real world is that those whom the establishment wants punished, get punished, and those whom the establishment doesn’t want punished, sleep soundly. This is entirely intentional, BTW.

    I don’t mean that a bunch of 1%ers hold secret email votes in which they decode who gets voted off the island. Rather, the laws in this country reflect establishment concerns, and, as glorified politicians, prosecutors are responsive to establishment wants.

    If, for instance, Comey were to have brought charges against HRC stemming from her email server pecadillo, there would have been a deafening hue and cry from people of influence and authority, the people who really run this country, in spite of the abundant evidence that HRC flagrantly violated the law. In his zeal not to enforce the law, Comey was even forced to misstate the laws pertaining to specific intent (in showing the intent element of a criminal offense, it is only necessary to show that the accused intended to do the act complained of. It is not necessary to show that the accused intended to violate the law.)*

    Moreover, Comey and the FBI even avoided questioning HRC, so as not to put The Anointed Queen in a situation where she might otherwise to perjure herself or lie to law enforcement and thus force the DoJ to come up with another transparent excuse not to bring charges. Can anyone imagine howls of the establishment outrage if HRC were charged with perjury or a similar process-related crime?

    *I actually called a former prosecutor friend to see if I remembered this correctly, He sheepishly confirmed that my memory was accurate.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Re: Max Boot – I have said it in the past that an aggressive prosecutor can always find an excuse to bring charges against anyone.

      I believe that is was Stalin who once said “Show me the man, and I will show you the crime.”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The more complicated the legal system, the more likely people are not aware they are break laws.

        But, I think, not knowing is not an excuse, for everyone.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Not so simple. There is a bloke called Harvey A. Silverglate who wrote a book called “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent”. He states in it that the law in the US has gone askew (http://ulrichboser.com/how-many-felonies-did-you-commit-today-an-interview-with-harvey-silverglate/) to the point that you can quite easily commit 3 felonies a day without even realizing it.
          There are examples at https://mic.com/articles/86797/8-ways-we-regularly-commit-felonies-without-realizing-it#.nCsApNs3d but if you live in the US, are you in the same boat? Laws in the UK were like this back in the late 1700s which caught up so many people that they had to resort to transportation – first to the American colonies until the 1770s and then to the newly discovered continent in the south.
          The US only does internal transportation (e.g. Alaskan prisoners serving their time in Arizona) which helps explain the massive number of Americans wasting their lives in profitable prisons. Yeah, the war on drugs and all that but also how US law widely interprets felonies. I see now that some places want to make supporting the Israeli boycott a felony.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Not long after her big Hamptons fundraiser and subsequent media trial balloon, Joe Biden was dragged out of mothballs and brought back into the picture. We’re being told that Biden is ‘electable’.

      At the elite level, I feel like there’s a battle between the Joy-Anne Reid democrats (more id pol) and the Mark Penn democrats (more socially conservative). Of course, both factions quickly unite when it comes to stomping Bernie Sanders fans.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Mocha Diva

      Not enthusiastic about epithets for candidates based on skin color; that style doesn’t lead to a good place.

      Yes, I know the Democrat Establishment is marketing her as “black” when in fact she’s Jamaican/Tamil Indian, so there are hidden complexities regarding how, exactly, her identity is to be ascribed, and by whom, but we can let that play out…

      1. ambrit

        Well, Lambert, older Englishmen and women might remember when people from India were referred to, often publicly, as “N—–s.” (You can’t make this stuff up.)
        I remember an episode of the American comic Tim Reids’ television show, “Franks Place” where the plot included a discussion of the “Brown Bag Test.” I looked it up. It was episode five, “Frank Joins the Club.”
        New Orleans is a funny place, but, for all of its’ faults, as American as guns and apple pie.
        Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank%27s_Place

  17. Steve H.

    Smart meters: not healthy. I’m doing background research, but in my house the microwave and the wifi were dangerous to 4 feet. Got an instrument to measure when Janet started having health effects after a smart meter was installed where she works. Right now it’s at “can’t rule out.”

  18. hreik

    Sanctimonious Kirsten Gillebrand has announced she will donate money from Franken’s PAC. That amount totaled $12,500.00 over her ‘career’. Wonder what she’ll do with the $820,893.00 that Boies, Schiller and Flexner donated to her various campaigns. They are the proud firm representing Harvey Weinstein, who has criminal sexual charges against him in : NY, London and LA


  19. D

    Re Smart Meters

    Ahh the grand old Stimulus Fund [Corporate Pigfest]™ Years. For one, it was a Pigfest for surveillance (RFD Chips, etcetera) including Utilities; with the added benefits for Obama of ramping up really ugly employment figures via thousands of contracted temps installing millions of smart meters while the well paid thousands of permanently employed meter readers were – initially – let go in dribbles; and preparing for IOT™ 24/7 surveillance.

    Just one illustration of many, emphasis mine:

    Smart Meter Manufacturers and Utilities Reap Benefits of U.S. Stimulus Package

    New York, July 16, 2010 – “Trilliant and competitors such as Itron Inc., the largest U.S. maker of utility meters, are beginning to benefit from the $4.5 billion in stimulus funds the Obama administration directed toward smart grids to improve efficiency and accommodate electric vehicles and rooftop solar panels, reports the Washington Post in a July 15th article. Trilliant Chief Executive Officer Andrew White told the Washington Post, “There’s been an avalanche of requests from utilities; we’re getting about one a week.”

    This comes as no surprise to market research publisher, SBI Energy who in a market study published last month estimated the value of the United States smart meter market at $6 billion for 2010. “Our projections see robust growth across the board in smart meters. U.S. smart meter value will triple over 2009 to reach $15 billion by 2014,” notes Smart Grid and Consumers report author David Cappello.

    Like Trilliant, SBI Energy has seen the increase in installation numbers of advanced two-way smart meters. Current trend trajectories show gigantic increases over the current decade (2010-2019). For the United States, smart meter installations are projected to rise from one-fourth to one-half of all approximately 120 million residential electrical accounts. The aggregate U.S. projections are as follows:

    • 25 million by 2012;
    • 40 million by 2015;
    • 60 million by 2019.

    Utilities embarking on a smart grid program have thus far taken it upon themselves to settle the upfront costs for smart meters and their installation—a cost typically ranging from $100 to $200 per meter. In turn, they are passing these costs back to ratepayers in the form of surcharges, SBI Energy reports. PG&E performed an initial rollout of 4 million smart meters, for example, recouping its $1.7 billion investment via rate hikes. Similarly, Xcel is doing its best to recover as much of its investment in the SmartGridCity.

    This is not to even mention potential health issues. More on Smart Meters™: https://stopsmartmeters.org/

  20. barefoot charley

    Extraordinary feat of Brexit simplicity from Finian O’Toole: “Apart from all of its other consequences, this means the DUP’s great bluff has been called. It was insisting on two contradictory things: no special status for Northern Ireland and completely leaving the customs union and single market. This contradiction has come back to haunt the whole Brexit project -the DUP has been forced to concede that if the first condition is to be satisfied, the second in effect cannot. The deal secured by Ireland does not necessarily force the UK to stay in the customs union and single market. It just forces it to act as if it has stayed in – a distinction without a difference. Call it what you like – if it acts like a customs union, moves like a customs union and is fully aligned like a customs union, it is a customs union.” All right then?


  21. Wukchumni

    Bitcoin gets compared to the Dutch tulip bubble a lot, and there’s one interesting similarity, in that apparently very few Dutchmen were involved in bubbly horticulture, as in not very widespread. We talk about bitcoin a lot, but i’ve never met or heard of anybody playing the game.

    I mentioned the other day if gold had put in the same performance, the spot price would be a million dollars an ounce, and a plain jane 14k man’s wedding ring would be worth around $30,000.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      i wonder if we can use stars as money.

      “Can I buy that politician? I will pay with Sirius. And how many more crypto-hawkish candidates can I purchase with Aldebaran?”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It’s either that, or BitTulip.

          Personally, I have great hopes for the latter. It’s still early and lots of upside left.

  22. Wisdom Seeker

    I gotta say, I’m getting so whenever I hear the word “smart,” I think “stupid” (or possiibly “screw job”).

    Amen. Another in the long list of English words destroyed by corporate marketers. The letter S is particularly hard hit, with “smart” joining “safe”, “secure”, “service”, and “special” on my List of Marketing Oxymorons.

    Corporate Marketers have gotten almost as good as Congress now, in terms of giving something an attractive name that does the opposite of what the name suggests. “Smart” meter and “Private” browsing are contenders, but “Patriot” act and “Affordable Care” are still the heavyweight champs in this game.

    1. Jim Haygood

      The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, which introduced CTRs, SARs, MILs and FBARs to enable total surveillance of bank customers, remains the granddaddy of Orwellian-titled legislation.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee stifling dissent within the party?”

    The Democrats may come to realize the old adage that it is better to have dissenters inside the tent p***ing out than to have them outside the tent p***ing in.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe they have installed a matrix where the dissenters think they are taking over the party.

  24. Summer

    The Bezzle: “AI researchers are trying to combat how AI can be used to lie and deceive” [Quartz]

    Algorithms have priorities set up by hierarchies. They come from the mind of the coders and programmers with all of the baggage from coders and programmers.

  25. john c. halasz


    I think you misremembered Sen. Collins role in the 2009 stimulus. The house passed a $900 bn stimulus package and Obama then spend a good deal of time negotiating for Rep. support with Collins in particular. The result was to cut the package down to $787 bn, with aid to states being eliminated. That is about the stupidest thing one could do headed into a steep recession and significantly reduced the effect of the gov. stimulus because of state gov. cuts. Ever since then I’ve regarded Sen. Collins as an insufferably stupid woman.

    1. lambert strether

      I wasn’t sure of Collins’ subsequent role. But as I said, Summers first narrowed the range of possibilities, and the Collins negotiations were after that.

      And that’s the history if we don’t ask the question, as Tipping does not, why the Dems were negotiating, in 2009, with Collins in the first place, given their control of the House and the Senate, and with the greatest orator of our time and a moral exemplar (as we were told) in the White House. (“When your enemy’s drowning, throw ’em an anvil.” Obama threw the Republicans a life preserver instead, by treating them as responsible interlocutors with whom it was possible to have a good faith negotiation. With results that we see today!)

      So, in my view another case of Democrats blaming Republicans alone for outcomes they are fully complicit in.

    1. marym

      Interesting. Thanks for the link. It’s surprising that only 50% of the lies were “cruel lies, told to hurt or disparage others.” His policies, to the extent that they exist in any coherent formulation, and his actions so far seem mostly or entirely overtly cruel, as are those of his appointees. None of them, as far as I can see, have a history of doing or advocating anything that wasn’t cruel, predatory, self-serving, or destructive of the common good. Cruelty also seems to be what most excites the crowds at his rallies. It’s very troubling that his fans seem to find a shared cruelty to be sufficient to convince them that he’s somehow on their side .

  26. Lee

    Judge Roy Moore is favored to win next week’s Senate election in Alabama with Trump’s support.

    Mark Shields predicts on PBS Newshour that Jones will upset Moore in Alabama; cites in support of his position a complete lack of candor among polled voters, who will be embarrassed to admit they are voting for a Democrat but will be appalled at the notion of Moore representing their state. Go Bama! And take the rest of the Confederacy with you when you leave. Just kidding……..sort of.

  27. Jim Haygood

    20:04 GMT

    Palestinian Health Ministry reporting that at least 25 people wounded in Israeli air strikes, including six children.

    Thank you, Trump. /sarc

    1. Lee

      How many Palestinian lives and how much of their land will it take for Zionists to get even with the Nazis. It would be nice if someone gave us a number to work with.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Just “mowing the lawn,” again… https://www.alternet.org/world/killing-people-mowing-lawn-how-israeli-hardliners-and-official-washington-dehumanize-people

      Not that the Israel-ites haven’t been doing this stuff for a very very long time. One bit from the Book of Joshua, Chapter 8: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Joshua-Chapter-8/#24.

      And a random opening of the Old Testament pretty much anywhere in the Books from Exodus to Joshua and beyond will bring one to Heroic Bible Stories of God’s Chosen People using guile and sword to kill off the Philistines and Jebusites and Amorites and all the others. And then taking their land and their flocks and their females and some of the children as slaves.

      So there’s Divine Sanction for the current version…

  28. skippy

    NiceHash, the popular Bitcoin cryptocurrency mining application has been hacked. Right now it appears that the damage stands at 4700 BTC stolen coming to $65 million in lost payouts & wallets for their users.


    disheveled… to bad the code can’t reconcile psychology…

  29. D

    joe defiant, re:

    Im getting ready to figure out how to stop them from putting one in my house in Brooklyn NY. They are supposed to install them next year.

    Good luck Joe. I got lucky and happened to be at my apartment to prevent the installation when PG&E contracted Wellington Energy sent temp workers (generally unskilled regarding gas and electricity) out who installed them without even knocking on doors to inform anyone. Re Wellington, emphasis mine:

    01/26/11 Stop Smart Meters! Exclusive: Interview with the Wellington Energy Whistleblower

  30. Lambert Strether Post author

    Here is FindLaw on sexual assault.

    My concern, with Gessen, is that the categories of “sexual assault” and “sexual misconduct” (two examples linked to today; the media seems to be settling on this term) are being blurred. Sexual assault, as a crime, is a matter of law and determined by the courts. Sexual misconduct is a matter of… what, exactly? Public relations? And determined by whom? Journalists? Party factions?

    One thing we do know: “Sexual misconduct” isn’t determined by voters, since both Conyers and Franken were summarily dismissed from office, not by voters, but by party apparatchiks, in Franken’s case, one might speculate, for the larger goal of defeating Moore in Alabama by occupying the moral high ground. So, swell, in the case at hand, but a poor precedent when the larger goals are different.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Not exactly. Now that you cause me to think about it, I think it’s about who will manage the free-market endgame. I’m with Barbara Ehrenreich on this:

        1. skippy

          Concur on the management marketing PR Bernays thingy.

          Yet I will still forward its all a bad case of old wine in a new bottle from an historical perspective, with the added bonus that some can say its what people want.

          Free speech, difficult aspect to discuss, I understand there is protected and unprotected speech, but not the vacuous libertarian jargon of free – anything.

          The rest is in my disheveled opinion just a rehash of Jefferson’s nail shack or some dude in antiquity having a dummy spat after the wine men got an attitude whilst the – owner – was on a sojourn.

          disheveled… its all just old school Galbraith, albeit with a fracas over accounting preferences and how that influences the long game.

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