2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Trump to Crash Davos Party of Global Elites” [Bloomberg]. “Previous U.S. officials came to the World Economic Forum to defend international norms, but Trump’s bellicose tweets, protectionist threats and disdain for international agreements promise to make his presence disruptive and all-consuming. Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda will receive an icy reception among world financial and economic titans even as he becomes the most closely watched figure at the Alpine ski resort in Switzerland, said Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group.”

“”U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue will deliver a strong message today on the importance of NAFTA to the U.S. economy and the business community in his annual State of American Business speech, according to advance excerpts” [Politico]. “‘The American economy has taken several big steps forward with regulatory relief and tax reform, and the administration deserves lots of credit. But a wrong move on NAFTA would send us five steps back,’ Donohue will say. ‘The bottom line is growth will be weakened, not strengthened or sustained, if we pull back from trade.'” That’s groaf.



“The 2020 Celebrity Election Will Be Far Crazier Than 2016” [Ian Welsh]. “Remember, Trump won, in the end, because enough people were sick of regular politicians to take a flyer on him. A celebrity with more charisma and brains is entirely viable and will be considered seriously.”

“A Seven-Step Plan for Ending the Opioid Crisis” [Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg]. Medicalized and criminalized laundry list, followed by this: “All of these steps come with a cost, but little effort has been made to quantify it. Local and state agencies bear most of the burden of this crisis, but no one has yet analyzed the extent of the assistance they need. That should be done before coming up with a price tag. Senate Democrats have proposed spending $25 billion without first detailing a plan. If money is to be spent effectively, it must be attached to a comprehensive plan of attack.” That’s our Democrats!

“‘Haley—‘as ambitious as Lucifer,’ in the characterization of one member of the senior staff—had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent,” Wolff, a journalist and author, writes [Fire and Fury]” [The American Bazaar (KW)].

“Biden Should Make James K. Polk’s One-Term Pledge And ‘Make America Normal Again” [Newsweek]. “[A] Polkian one-term pledge would transform Biden from a party hack hoping to retire a hated Republican president into an inspiring figure who truly put nation above party. One-term Biden could make the honestly argument that, at his age (77 on Election Day), he has no larger ambition except restoring our key national institutions and then handing off a stronger nation to a successor of either party.” An extended riff on the “This is not normal!” trope beloved of liberal Democrats.

Oprah Boomlet

“Oprah Winfrey for president? The idea reveals an uncomfortable truth” [Guardian]. “Hillary’s qualifications were considered so unassailable, that to challenge them was considered de facto sexism by many. Yet somehow, within a year of Trump’s inauguration, a not-insignificant segment of Democratic voters (or at least tweeters) have swung from fetishizing ‘qualifications’ to adopting the Republican line on celebrity candidates whole cloth.”

“Oprah 2020? The Democratic unicorn-hunt launches with a little magical thinking” [Salon]. “What’s really going on with the Oprah boomlet, I suspect, is the latest round of a liberal-progressive unicorn hunt, which isn’t all that new in itself but has been amplified by current Trumpian conditions. Please enjoy this CNN article from August 1999 in which Warren Beatty was said to be ‘very seriously’ considering a presidential campaign, running to the left of announced 2000 Democratic candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley.”

“Winfrey’s delivery wasn’t the soft, enfolding, personal empathy of “Oprah on the couch.” It was “Oprah on a soapbox” — bold and full of vigor. When she raised her volume and used repetition to declare the end of the era when powerful men could abuse women with impunity — “But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.” — I thought it sounded almost like a campaign speech” [Eugene Robinson, RealClearPolitics]. Yes, Obama used repetition (anaphora) effectively as well. (What did we learn, Palmer? [Bangs head on desk].)

Universal enthusiasm:

A Machiavellian theory:

Like Michelle?


Ohio: “J.D. Vance Is Now Seriously Considering Running For Senate In Ohio” [Buzzfeed]. From back in October: “J.D. Vance joins forces with Steve Bannon.”

Ohio: “Dennis Kucinich is running for Ohio governor” [CNN]. “His decision to run for governor in 2018 means he joins a large field to succeed two-term Republican Gov. John Kasich. Kucinich’s opponents in the Democratic primary include Richard Cordray, who stepped down late last year as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, precipitating a clash within the Trump administration Ohio is generally considered a purple state, but it swung strongly for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and Ohio’s 2014 election results showed Kasich won his re-election bid with a strong margin.”

Wisconsin: “Democratic Madison mayor enters Wisconsin governor’s race” [AP]. “Soglin became the ninth top-tier Democrat in a crowded field that will square off in the August primary. The winner will take on Walker as he seeks a third term in November in what will be his first race since his failed presidential run. Soglin, 72, hoped to tap into enthusiasm of the state’s most liberal voters in his base of Madison and in Milwaukee that helped propel Bernie Sanders to victory in the 2016 Democratic primary.”

“The IRS’ election-year quandary: When to boost Americans’ paychecks” [Politico]. “The agency is under pressure to take as little as possible so people will see big increases in their take-home pay ahead of this year’s midterm elections…. There is a history of politicians trying to manipulate withholding, through obscure tables issued by the IRS, with an eye toward providing a short-term boost to the economy. President George H.W. Bush tried it ahead of the 1992 election, and the 1986 tax overhaul attempted, unsuccessfully, to quash refunds altogether.” More money in your pocket!

“Responses to the ‘generic ballot’ poll question suggest a partisan electoral wave is building. But the fight for control of the House isn’t a single national election. It will be fought district by district, and national Democrats face challenges on the ground even with the generic ballot favoring them” [Inside Elections]. “So, some GOP incumbents who won comfortably in the past are at risk this year. I would certainly keep an eye on Trump districts that went for Barack Obama twice.” Exactly the districts the Democrat establishment does not wish to appeal to! (Though they could change their minds and/or people could disintermediate the DNC and donate to those races directly.)

“Are Democrats’ Senate Chances In 2018 Overrated?” [FiveThirtyEight]. “[T]he Senate map is really tough for Democrats, with 26 Democratic seats in play next year (including a newly opened seat in Minnesota after Al Franken announced his intention to retire) as compared to just eight Republican ones. Moreover, five of the Democratic-held seats — the ones in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana — are in states that President Trump won by 18 percentage points or more…. Don’t believe me? Check out the race-by-race ratings put forward by independent groups such as the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. They suggest that Democrats are more likely to lose Senate seats next year than to gain them — and that while there’s a plausible path to a Democratic majority, it’s a fairly unlikely one.” To which we have been drawing attention…..

New Cold War

“Politicizing Steele’s Raw, Unverified ‘Intelligence'” [Andrew McCarthy]. “At the height of the campaign, Obama officials shared dossier claims with Congress and the FISA Court.”

“Democrats punch back on Russia” [Politico]. “Democrats, frustrated by conservative attempts to undercut the investigation into Trump’s ties to Moscow and growing convinced that Republicans aren’t taking electoral security seriously, are increasingly tired of waiting on their colleagues in the majority to act and are taking their concerns public.” If the Democrats took electoral security seriously, they’d be advocating hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, with Election Day as a national holiday. Of course, they don’t.

Trump Transition

On Trump’s live negotiating session:

“He did not appear to be senile.” Thing is, you may have noticed that there was just an enormous wave of liberal Democrat speculation and pearl-clutching that senile is exactly what Trump is; tame psychologists, Tom Steyer’s squillions, hand-wringing Op-Eds, and all the usual panicked moralizing. So far as I can tell, Trump countered all that effectively with a very simple tactic; Yglesias admits as much. So, you know, “never mind.” Maybe the Democrats should be considering a different approach?

Business as usual (re: “Trump Administration Waives Punishment For Convicted Banks, Including Deutsche — Which Trump Owes Millions“):

I’m not saying business as usual is a good thing. It stinks. But these waivers stink in the usual way.

“A White House That Can’t Shoot Straight” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “For sometime I have been convinced that, barring a seismic “Black Swan” event, Republican chances of retaining the House and picking up any net seats in the Senate were largely contingent upon both the economy remaining strong and voters, many of whom are unenthusiastic about Trump’s behavior, begrudgingly giving him and his party credit for that improved economy. Yet even with partially mitigating factors such as Republican-friendly congressional district boundaries and a Senate map that could hardly be better for the GOP, this is shaping up to be an ugly election for Republicans.”

“President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers’ behavior that began during the election, a USA TODAY review found” [USA Today]. “The trend toward Trump’s real estate buyers obscuring their identities began around the time he won the Republican nomination, midway through 2016, according to USA TODAY’s analysis of every domestic real estate sale by one of his companies.”

“DREAM Act dies in Senate” [Politico]. From 2010: “The DREAM Act would have passed if Democrats had shown unity on the measure.But five Democrats voted against the legislation: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and both Montana Democrats, Jon Tester and Max Baucus. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition to the DREAM Act Saturday in a statement Saturday but missed the vote. Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett.” And here we are!

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE On the “media men list,” apparently by Katie Roiphe and to be published in Harpers:

Lambert here: I suppose if the maintainer(s) and propagators of the list don’t wish to participate in public life — that is, to “do politics” as conventionally understood — that’s their prerogative. Nevertheless, if they wish to create the impression that not only #MeToo but the Women’s March are driven by a secretive cabal working by planting a series of stories with a scoop-hungry press — operational handwriting suggestively similar to RussiaGate, now that I think of it — as opposed to being organic, they are proceeding in exactly the right way. (Do note that as of this writing there’s no question of publishing the names on the list; only the name of the list maintainer.) It would also be interesting to know the connection of the list owner, if any, to the Clinton campaign.

“Helping the Courts Detect Partisan Gerrymanders” [Center for Political Studies]. An algorithmic alternative to the efficiency gap approach currently before the Supreme Court.

“Americans, Not Partisans: Can Priming American National Identity Reduce Affective Polarization?” [Journal of Politics]. ‘Building on the Common Ingroup Identity Model from social psychology, I show that when subjects’ sense of American national identity is heightened, they come to see members of the opposing party as fellow Americans rather than rival partisans.”

DSA map:

Not large. But interesting.

Stats Watch

Import and Export Prices, December 2017: “Despite a sizable 2.0 percent rise in petroleum, import prices rose only 0.1 percent in December which falls short of Econoday’s low estimate. Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.2 percent in a disappointing result that will heighten concern over the lack of inflation. December’s export prices are likewise weak” [Econoday]. “[C]onsumer prices haven’t been showing much life at all and today’s report won’t be raising expectations for any traction to appear anytime soon.” She’s dead, Jim. And: “The significant growth in this month’s changes were fuel imports whilst food prices moderated” [Econointersect].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, January 2018: “Inflation expectations among businesses did show life in December but eased back” [Bloomberg]. “Today’s results follow disappointingly weak import and export price data released earlier this morning.” A lovely parrot, the Norwegian Blue.

Wholesale Trade, November 2017: “Economic demand is strong and inventories are on the rise” [Econoday]. “The need for inventory build is underscored by the year-on-year rates where sales are far in front at 9.8 percent vs only 4.0 percent for inventories. The stock-to-sales ratio for the sector is on the decline, down to 1.24 in November vs 1.25 and 1.26 in the two prior months.” And: “The improvement this month in the headline data was primarily due to durable goods. Overall, I believe the rolling averages tell the real story – and they improved this month. The current trends are accelerating (improving)” [Ecointersect]. “Inventory levels remain elevated but below recessionary levels.”

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, December 2017 (yesterday): “Optimism among small business owners cooled in December after November’s surge to 13-year highs” [Econoday]. “Helping to dampen optimism in December were expectations of real sales, down 6 points to 28, plans to increase employment, down 4 points to 20, and earnings trends, which dropped 5 points deeper into negative territory to a minus 15, by far the worst performance among the components. The two rising components, plans to make capital outlays and current job openings, both posted only feeble 1-point gains, albeit achieving high levels of 27 and 31, respectively.” And but: “Down more than expected but remains elevated since the election as per the chart, even as the reality of weak sales and earnings persists” [Mosler Economics].

Consumer Credit: “Things are starting to add up better with this jump in consumer borrowing. With real disposable personal income growth near 0, and spending growing at just over 2.5% through November, it’s now looking like consumers ‘dipped into savings’ by running up their credit card balances which tends to be followed by reductions in spending” [Mosler Economics].

Consumer Credit: [Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis]. “Despite large deleveraging after the recession (particularly among those younger than 60), average mortgage debt remained higher in 2013 than in 1999… Unlike other types of debt, average credit card debt in 2013 was below its 1999 level for most age groups…. Auto debt also rose between 1999 and 2008, but dropped across all age groups after the recession. Auto debt then rebounded in 2013… Student debt, on the other hand, consistently grew from 2005 to 2013 for all age groups.”

Housing: (Via Zillow) “Nationally, 30 percent of working-age adults—aged 23 to 65—live in doubled-up households, up from a low of 21 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 1990” [Dr. Housing Bubble].

Retail: “Struggling retailer Sears Holdings Corp. said this morning that same-store sales in the first two months (November and December) of its fiscal fourth quarter were down 16% to 17%. The decline no doubt contributed to the company’s decision to seek new and renegotiated financing” [247 Wall Street].

Retail: “Managing brick-and-mortar stores may not be a drag on sales after all. Target Corp. demonstrated the advantage of having both physical stores and online sales during the holiday period, using its retail space to fulfill 70% of its digital order” [Wall Street Journal]. “The results came as Target boosted same-store sales 3.4% during November and December, a turnaround from last year when the retailer was hurt by mismatches in its supply chain and online competition.”

Shipping: “From the perspective of large retailers, [Guy Courtin, Vice President of Retail and Fashion at ‎Infor] pointed out that there is increasing interest from them in regards to how reverse logistics operations impact their overall inventory strategy” [Logistics Management]. “That thesis was further supported by CBRE in its aforementioned research, which noted that the solution to the reverse logistics problem is improved and expanded supply chain networks that create tremendous real estate opportunities as users add additional warehouses and distribution centers to support the reverse flow of inventory.” My jaundiced view: First the malls ate downtown. Then online plus warehouses ate the malls. And nobody can look at the goods they buy, or even speak to a human about them, so of course there are returns. I suppose this is progress. But see above on Target!

Shipping: “Buoyed by increased demand due to an ongoing economic recovery, the truckload market is back to 2014 levels in many ways, with capacity tight and carriers seeing the pendulum swing in terms of rate gains, too. This has also played out in the form of the spot market seeing record highs for rates and volumes” [Logistics Management].

Shipping: “Staying ahead of Mother Nature: interview with John Bosse” [DC Velocity]. Services provided by The Weather Company to truckers; the interview is in essence a sales piece from the CEO. If you want to know how Tesla, et al., should be selling to truckers, this interview shows how. Whether Tesla is doing that, I don’t know.

Shipping: “January will be a record month for containership deliveries, with Alphaliner listing seven so called megamax newbuildings of 19,000 to 21,000 teu due to join the fleet” [Splash 247]. “Even with these deferrals, Alphaliner is predicting total new containership capacity due to be delivered in 2018 to hit 1.5m teu putting severe pressure on many already fragile tradelanes.” Shipowners just can’t help themselves….

Big Ag: “The new U.S. tax law may sow big changes in the country’s agriculture supply chains. A provision inserted into the tax code just before the final measure passed in December gives a critical boost to farm cooperatives over independent dealers…, an action that may reshape parts of the agriculture economy while sharply reducing taxes for many farmers” [Wall Street Journal]. “The new provision allows farmers to deduct up to 20% of their total sales to cooperatives, letting some farmers reduce their taxable income to zero and effectively handing them a bigger tax bill if they sell to separate companies and distributors. Tax experts say that will give cooperatives a significant edge, benefiting co-op giants including American Crystal Sugar Co., Land O’Lakes Inc. and CHS Inc., while stinging agribusinesses like Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., and smaller private operations.”

The Bezzle: Report from CES: “In the real world, Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) is touting the self-driving (autonomous) car technology it acquired when it purchased Mobileye. The semiconductor giant has settled on a theme of building passenger trust in driverless cars. This may not have been the best time for Intel to put its eggs in the trust basket” [247 Wall Steet].

Manufacturing: “Toyota and Mazda Select Alabama for New Auto Factory” [Bloomberg]. “Alabama edged out North Carolina as the winner in a multistate contest for a prized Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. joint car factory worth $1.6 billion, a person familiar with the negotiations said. … The shared factory Toyota and Mazda plan to open in 2021 is the only new auto assembly plant to be announced under President Donald Trump…. It will be Toyota’s 11th assembly plant in the U.S. — its biggest market — and the first since 2011. The automaker already has an engine factory in Huntsville, Ala., and announced a $106 million upgrade to the facility in September.”

Tech: “In fact, a smattering of analysts that have already weighed in on Facebook’s outlook in 2018, and so far it’s very solid” [247 Wall Street]. “Aside from its main platform, Facebook has Instagram, which is wildly popular as a photo sharing service. Instagram has even been moving in on Snap and its platform, securing more users. Facebook is expected to keep expanding into 2018, with its user base already over 2 billion and counting.” People keep telling me to go on Instagram. I dunno….

Gentlemen Prefer Bonds: “Bonds are the topic du jour, especially after the Bank of Japan got everyone a bit worked up yesterday by trimming its government bond purchases. Then this morning, Bloomberg reported China is considering cutting back on its U.S. Treasury holdings” [MarketWatch]. “In our call of the day, [Kit Juckes, global macro strategist at Société Générale] lays out where he thinks the line in the sand for a bond bloodbath lies. ‘I’ll believe the bond market has turned when 10-year TIPS (Treasury inflation-protected securities) yields have broken 1% (and nominal yields have broken 3%),’ he says in a note to clients. ‘That is where yields ran out of steam in the 2013 Taper Tantrum, as the selloff in asset markets (notably in EM), prompted the Fed to soften its tapering stance and change its forward-guidance.'”

Five Horseman: “The Five Fab pause after a week of heavy lifting” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 10

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 76, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 10 at 11:28am.

Health Care

“CHIP funding could run out as soon as this month in some states” [CNN]. “The CHIP program provides health coverage to nine million children from lower-income households that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Its federal authorization ended Oct. 1, and states were then forced to use unspent funds to carry them over while the House and Senate try to agree on a way to continue funding. Congress extended funding on Dec. 21 as part of a temporary spending plan to fund the federal government through Jan. 19. Lawmakers touted that states would have money to last while they worked on a long-term funding solution.”

“The Case for More Medicare” [David Leonhardt, New York Times]. “Yesterday, Paul Starr, the eminent health scholar, published a persuasive essay, through a joint project of The American Prospect and Century Foundation, about the future of health policy. The core of his idea is Midlife Medicare: opening up the highly popular and successful program to Americans starting at age 50, rather than 65.” #MedicareForSomeMore. I like it!

“The Road to Medicare for Everyone” [Jacob Hacker, American Prospect]. Readers may remember Hacker from 2009, where his so-called “public option” proposal was originally Medicare-like, covering 50 million people, and then dwindled away to nothing, after it had served its purpose of sucking all the oxygen away from single payer. The Hackers of this world always appear whenever single payer gets traction.

Net Neutrality

These Congress Critters need your attention:

“Susan Collins, Angus King back bill to reverse FCC vote against net neutrality” [Bangor Daily News]. Well done. It only takes a majority to pass a CRA in the Senate, so if the Democrats can get it together, Collins puts them over the top.

Imperial Collapse Watch

“The Most Awful Transit Center in America Could Get Unimaginably Worse” [Bloomberg]. “Penn Station is a debacle reaching across time. Its past is a slow-motion disaster of inaction and canceled reforms, its present an ongoing disgrace. And its future could be truly catastrophic, in the form of a tunnel failure that pinches shut one of the most vital economic arteries in America.”

Class Warfare

“The Rust Belt isn’t the only region left behind by the economic recovery. The suburbs of the American west are struggling, too” [The Atlantic]. “Suburbs far away from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, where people bought homes during the ‘drive til you qualify’ housing boom, were plagued by a high number of foreclosures in the bust. After the homes went through foreclosure, they were purchased by investors and rented out, creating new, low-cost rentals… The problem is not the influx of renters, necessarily, but instead the absentee landlords who don’t keep up homes.” Oddly, or not, the phrase “private equity” does not appear.

News of the Wired

“Gaming disorder” will be recognised as a disease later this year following expert consensus over the addictive risks associated with playing electronic games, the World Health Organization said Friday” [Agence France Presse]. “The disorder will be listed in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), to be published in June, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.”

“How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy” [Big Think]. From September, still germane. “Novel reading is a great way to practice being human. Rather than sprints and punches, how about something more primitive and necessary in a society, like empathy?” The neuroscience aspect of this article leaves me cold. But as a humanties major, I find the idea appealing.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, pleas s e place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (Peter):

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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. Steve H.

    Past performance etc, but when I was a kid in Madison Soglin was an effective activist organizer. And Dennis making his move as well. Bernie planted seeds that now provide some protective shade.

    1. Dr. Robert

      As sensible as Madison’s governance has been, voters in the rest of the state will be very skeptical of a mayor from the People’s Republic.

    2. wsa

      Current Madison residents aren’t going to see Soglin as an old guy in the Bernie Sanders mold, an old radical railing against injustice, but as an old guy shouting at the kids to get off the lawn.

      The reputation of Madison for radicalism is wildly overstated. It might have been true once, but these days Madison is an enclave of the credentialed classes.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        All true but not especially relevant. Soglin is no longer a radical but he is a very smart guy what has IMO done an excellent job as mayor these recent years. The fact that the local business class is not opposed to him is, in a run for governor, a net plus, not a minus. Walker is already claiming that the strength of the Madison economy is entirely due to the UW and state government – Soglin is the only candidate he is worried about – but both the UW and the state workforce have shrunk in recent years so it’s a harder argument to make than usual.

        Like Bernie, Soglin knows what he knows and thinks what he thinks, even if his politics aren’t especially radical these days. He may be able to do a bit better than the average Dem in a general election due to personal credibility. But mostly, there are no undecideds in WI anymore so the election will be all about turnout.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Soglin is the only candidate he is worried about

          If your criterion is the ability to govern — hat tip to Stoller for, as we say, “centering” this concept — then Soglin has done it.

  2. Wukchumni

    The immediate concern in Davos with the reign of error in attendance, has to be that there’s a handy McDonald’s nearby, and I just checked and they do, so it’s a go. Supersize him.

      1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield

        IIRC Ivana (NOT Ivanka) Trump is a great skier, and claimed to have been on the Czech national team. And I believe Donald met Marla Maples on the ski slopes in Aspen during a Trump family Christmas trip.

      2. human

        I saw him about 15 years ago as he came in from the back nine at his club in Briarcliff, NY in physical distress. He is not an athlete.

  3. Jim Haygood

    When you can’t run with the big dogs:

    Netflix lacks the advantages of the other FAANG stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google parent Alphabet.

    Each of these other FAANG megacaps are north of $500 billion in market value; Netflix is still under $100 billion.


    Netflix has outpaced old-school Microsoft (the fifth member of our Five Horsemen) over the past year. Sheer momentum apparently was the basis for selecting the FAANG gang. Whereas the Fab Five are the five largest cap stocks in the US … for better or worse. On with the show!

    1. Summer

      Just shooting off the hip here, but those numbers show that market value not about “content creation.” And only marginally about any profit that can be made from content (content is the bait to get you to give up information about yourself).
      Facebook, Amazon, Apple, & Google differ from Netflix in their importance as surveillance companies. They hype the advertising, marketing, and entertainment, but their real business is surveillance and the veil of cyber security.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > market value not about “content creation.”


        I’m not even sure that “surveillance” is the right word; no knock on the comment, just shooting off the hip myself. We are looking at resource extraction, where the resource is data, and the ground of the extraction is, well, human flesh. That’s always been the case in the workplace, but the model seems to have been generalized to reproduction, as well a production. And all in the last 40 years or so.

  4. Jim Haygood

    From the Bloomberg article about Penn Station — a poignant snapshot of imperial decline:

    As the gateway to America’s largest city, Penn Station should inspire awe, as train stations do in London, Paris, Tokyo, and other competently managed metropolises. Instead, it embodies a particular kind of American failure—the inability to maintain roads, rails, ports, and other necessary conduits.

    In 2009, NJ governor Jon Corzine put together a fully funded $8.7 billion project for new tunnels—Access to the Region’s Core, or the biblical-sounding ARC. But in a case of extreme political myopia, Corzine’s successor, the White House-eyeing Chris Christie, canceled the plan to keep gasoline taxes low.

    “There will come a time when the reliability of the tunnels starts to decay,” says Charles “Wick” Moorman, the co-CEO of Amtrak until the end of 2017. “The curve, once it starts, may be fairly sharp. We’ll just have to see. Nobody knows. This is a great science experiment. Kids playing with chemicals.

    My heart is black and my lips are cold
    Cities on flame with rock and roll

    — Blue Oyster Cult

    1. rd

      Taking away the SALT deduction and limiting the mortgage deduction means there won’t be anybody in NYC or NJ anyway, so no matter.

    2. sd

      Next time you descend the stairs to Amtrak, look for brass and iron handrails. They are the originals from the old Penn Station.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Wick” Moorman has decades of operational railroad experience. He’s not some pencil-necked MBA. He doesn’t use “hair on fire” language, but that’s exactly what this is:

      The curve, once it starts, may be fairly sharp. We’ll just have to see. Nobody knows. This is a great science experiment. Kids playing with chemicals.

      That the greatest, richest country in the world can’t fix the Hudson Tunnels… What an indictment of the political class (and the donor class, too, if it comes to that). What can they be thinking? Everyone will use Uber? Moar helicopters?

  5. dcblogger

    “The agency is under pressure to take as little as possible so people will see big increases in their take-home pay ahead of this year’s midterm elections…. There is a history of politicians trying to manipulate withholding, through obscure tables issued by the IRS, with an eye toward providing a short-term boost to the economy. President George H.W. Bush tried it ahead of the 1992 election, and the 1986 tax overhaul attempted, unsuccessfully, to quash refunds altogether.
    Dave Johnson predicted this when he appeared on the Nicole Sandler show. The IRS will be pressured to create tables for under withholding, and then people will be hit w/ tax bills in April 2019.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The Democrats better win the house then, so we can take the money this year, and then roll it back the next. Kidding! (Kinda)

      Except if the Democrats take the House, they’ll impeach Trump — hey should, long ago, have impeached Bush, so here we are — which will tear the country apart.

      If I had to pick a happy outcome for the wave, it would be a return to gridlock with a Democrat Senate…

      1. JohnnyGL

        Kucinich went with Tulsi Gabbard to Syria back a year ago. He’s been on fox news slamming the intel community, he’s been against the red-scare russian election story.

        He’s pretty much everything today’s Democratic Party hates.

        I recall Obama put the squeeze on him during ACA negotiations and then redistricted him out of his seat anyway, even after he played ball. Perhaps that’s why he’s had the gloves off ever since then?

        1. Annotherone

          Yes – who could blame him for taking the gloves off?! He has been treated disgustingly by everyone, including media, pundits etc – the usual suspects. I regret not seeing him on TV Fox News, but to spare my volatile BP I don’t watch any TV news (or much TV at all now).

        2. JohnnySacks

          His 2004 presidential attempt left me evermore with a new term for what the party and the media does to the progressive side of the party: It ‘Kuciniches’ them. The attempt to ‘Kucinich’ Sanders in 2016 was pretty much a success.

    1. Massinissa

      Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Say what you will about Ron Paul and his domestic policy crankery, but he has been against military interventionism and American imperialism more strongly and for longer than the vast majority of Democrats.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Only anti-war republican still in existence I am aware of. Different guy from a different time.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Via mail from Peter:

        This was a bark burl on a conifer in downtown Portland.

        The occasion was a street art festival.

        Am attracted, among other things, to items with odd surfaces.

        This caught my eye.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Wow, he’s really getting right to work. Very impressive.

      Very good issues to push, too. Think of all those people walking around with cracked phone screens and all the little repair shops that could pop up with so much empty retail space around.

      If people can suddenly walk into a store and pay $40 or so and get their screen fixed, instead of dropping $600+ on a brand new phone, I suspect that would be very well received. (If I’m off on the technical aspects and screens can’t easily be fixed, please correct me).

      Very much in line with Lambert’s ‘concrete material benefits’. Also, once a ‘repair’ culture takes root and the skill base develops, DSA can start holding screen-fixing clinics to go with brake-light fixing clinics.

  6. Andrwr

    I’m surprised how few DSA members there are in Vermont, NH, and Maine. The opioid crisis seems like a way to draw attention to the lack of support from dems and repubs. My small town in Maine just had a huge fentanyl bust but the most politically engaged are only focused on the next women’s march (the drug bust involved unemployed women).

  7. dcblogger

    Leonard Pitts on Fire and Fury
    The book is entertaining. Too bad it’s not always true.

    For example, Wolff reports a snub of the president by Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell that a McConnell aide says never happened. Wolff has reporter Mark Berman breakfasting in a hotel restaurant Berman says he’s never been to. He misidentifies a nominee to Trump’s cabinet. There’s more, but you get the point.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/leonard-pitts-jr/article193850019.html#storylink=cpy

    1. albrt

      It’s just the Democrats’ version of truthiness – a narrative that seems true to the base is far more useful than a narrative that is actually true.

    1. JohnnyGL

      ….and daily beast is only interested in whether or not Putin will be happy.

      It appears there isn’t the slightest interest in the ‘cost’ of military deployments on US citizens.

    2. a different chris

      >seeking to reposition U.S. military forces to please Putin

      Rethinking your force deployment, even in peacetime, is not only a prerogative but a necessity of command. If it “pleases” somebody that doesn’t mean it’s the reason you did it. But hey, maybe it is supported:

      >to “refram[e] our interests within the context of a new relationship with Russia

      Well, do we still want the old suck-to-the-max version of our relationship with Russia? I think, no. So hey some blue skying is welcome.

      >Harrington was dismissive of U.S. interests in the Baltics

      Yeah. So am I. What the (family blog) is there of interest in the sad, pathetic Balkans?

      >that, conspicuously to the former official, made no mention of Russia as either a competitor or adversary

      Huh? You are making a paper for people and they need to be told something as basic as if Russia is “a competitor or adversary”??? I suspect they have their own opinions on the subject. Does Emeril tell you a steak “is meat” before he shows you how to prepare it? ‘Cause if you don’t already have your own opinion on the subject, then why are you even there?

      >If that wasn’t enough, European allies were already alarmed at Trump’s tendencies to discuss the defense of Europe as a protection racket.

      (family blog) them, too. The truth hurts.

      And then this:

      > it deployed 150 soldiers to the [Baltics] after Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014

      All due respect to our soldiers, but 150? That’s nothing but bait, and I suspect every one of those guys knew it.

      >The former administration official who told The Daily Beast about Harrington’s proposal was incredulous that anyone on the NSC would treat U.S. forces and European allies as chess pieces

      They ARE literally real-world versions of chess pieces you moron!!!! What the heck, do I have to explain chess, the military, the connections between the two… this dimbulb is your source?

      >as Harrington wondering, “if these sanctions are harming our economy without putting any pressure on Russia, what’s the point?”

      Ah, yeah. Unbelievable if this is considered “out of bounds” thinking. But I guess I will have to believe, because it is shortly followed by what may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read:

      >Deputies like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have had to reassure nervous allies that Trump has an “ironclad” commitment to European security after the president says things like “having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset to the world and an asset to our country, not a liability.”

      So our allies get nervous if we start getting along with Russia? Do they think we are going to decide to split Europe between us? Jesus.

  8. DJG

    While everyone else has been focused on Oprah’s viability, I have been considering the truly viable celebrity candidates. I will support:

    Henry Rollins. The first majorly tattooed president, who has slowed down some from mixing it up with his fans now that he is graying. The right age. Highly distinguished jawline.

    B52’s. All four of them. It will be a Rocklobsterate of a presidency, and they will change the name of the White House to Funplex. Fred Schneider will improve our collective diction with doses of sprechgesang.

    Patti Smith. She sang for all of those nobles at the Nobel. Just Kids is a remarkable memoir, which puts me in mind that Gloria makes a better national anthemn than the current one.

    1. Isotope_C14


      Still liked jello Biafra’s campaign promises for mayor of sf, all businessmen had to wear clown suits within the city limits.

      He isn’t the firebrand he used to be nowadays, so I’d pick Tori Amos and Bjork ticket, just because it would be insanity.

      The state of the Union address:
      Hello Americans, did you know that sometimes when you are asking your cat where the candle is it becomes grey? I was having some candy yesterday and I felt kind, not just because of dolphins, but also because of leaves. Like the colorful leaves in fall that taste like wind. Do you like wind?

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Jello Biafra dropped into FireDogLake I think for a few weeks as a guest writer and was surprisingly normal to interact with.

    2. Rhondda

      B52’s for MegaMultiPrez! I truly believe Fred could drain the dang swamp. He’s perhaps the only American who could.

      This is the best idea I’ve heard all year. But perhaps I’m living in my own private Idaho…

  9. DJG

    The problem with Dianne Feinstein’s flexible virtue: If she leaked the testimony by Steele, then she could have leaked the full Senate Report on Torture. Instead, she and Obama engaged in an epic non-battle between two moral giants about who would help the local murderers and torturers to evade responsibility.

    It’s bipartisan.

    1. Louis Fyne

      It still isn’t too late for Feinstein to donate her (and her husband’s) Trump tax cut windfall to a progressive cause of her choosing. :)

      not holding my breath though.

    2. integer

      If she leaked the testimony by Steele

      AFAIK Feinstein has only released the transcipt of Glen Simpson’s testimony. Simpson is one of the co-founders of Fusion GPS.

      Feinstein: American People Deserve Opportunity to Read Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS Transcript

      Interestingly, Feinstein told a CNN reporter she was “pressured” into releasing the transcript. When she was asked who had pressured her, Feinstein asserted that she wasn’t pressured and had misspoke.


      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > AFAIK Feinstein has only released the transcipt of Glen Simpson’s testimony. Simpson is one of the co-founders of Fusion GPS.

        And now the word of a Democrat security vendor is being taken as gospel by the usual suspects. The mind reels.

  10. lyman alpha blob

    Please enjoy this CNN article from August 1999 in which Warren Beatty was said to be ‘very seriously’ considering a presidential campaign…

    Heh. Was he seriously considering running for POTUS, or just trying to promote DVD sales of Bulworth which came out the previous year?

    A POTUS like that Bulworth character would be quite welcome, the celebrities themselves not so much…

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Classy Truth-Telling Bulworth who makes people uneasy by speaking uncomfortable truths? There’s a guy from Vermont like that. Does not rap as far as I know.

  11. DJG

    Harper’s and the list and Katie Roiphe and finding the wrong allies: Harper’s internally must be quite the overheated place these days. The January issue contained a wonderful, highly self-aware essay by John MacArthur about visiting Czechoslovak dissidents, what the dissident writers and artists wanted, which was mainly to practice their craft, and what they suffered. There was a long book review about three new novels from Egypt, now that conditions in Egypt worsen and worsen.

    Yet up front you had to slog through another gear-grinding column by Rebecca Solnit, in which she started off on one topic and then went into full solnitsplaining about Trump and the Russian conspiracy and then ended with some paragraphs of deeply shallow wool-gathering.

    So I’m wondering about all of the pre-melodrama. Somehow, if this person is mixed up with Roiphe, I’m not sure that we are going to see the exposure of a great dissident. And the business about offering people money not to publish doesn’t seem to understand what publishing is all about. Unless, of course, a lot of upper-middle-class white women’s feminism truly is only about the money.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I hope Harper’s has the stones to publish the Roiphe piece (and that Solnit, a stone Clintonite, is not able to nobble it).

      The more I think of #MeToo institutionally, the less I like it. There’s a list. And somebody or some group of people is going down the list, and checking off items. So there is a decision-making process, and decision makers. So who are they? Whoever they are, they’re making firing decisions. Thinking institutionally — and not defending creeps like Weinstein — I don’t think I much like unknown groups of people assuming what amounts to para-state authority. I suppose one could classify this as a “political intervention,” “Dual sovereignty and parallel government,” #198 on Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. If so, one might well ask on whose behalf these para-state powers are being assumed — the answer “all women” being obviously false and certainly made in bad faith.

  12. lambert_strether.corrente@yahoo.com

    Solnit is the high-brow’s Joan Walsh.

    Which is too bad. She wrote a good book on the SF Fire, and then lost her mind.

  13. Paul Cardan

    Regarding “Americans, not Partisans,” I must first confess that I was not able to get beyond the paywall to the article itself. Perhaps someone who’s read the piece can tell me whether I’m wrong in thinking that the following claim is trivially true: “when subjects’ sense of American national identity is heightened, they come to see members of the opposing party as fellow Americans rather than rival partisans.” The idea seems to be that solidarity is inversely related to intra-social conflict. Is this not obvious? It may even be true by definition.

    Also, the author’s examples (appearing in the abstract) of solidarity inducing events, namely the 4th of July and the Olympic Games, suggest that he recommends inducing nationalism as a means of reducing polarization (which he regards as a bad thing, or, in his words “normatively troubling”). So, we need more in the way of rituals infused with mythic thought concerning who we are as a people. This is, after all, what the 4th of July is: an annual repetition of the glorious founding acts of our virtuous Fathers whereby God-given principles of upright conduct were embodied in our fundamental institutions. I say that the ritual is infused with myth because, in part, it’s a lie, the whole country having actually been stolen from the original inhabitants through processes ranging from clear-cut acts of genocide to dirty deals to broken promises. As for the Olympics, that’s another ritual involving a pair of mythic identifications: oneself with the nation and the nation with its representatives in international competition. The nature of the competition emphasizes masculine, agonistic virtues. So, Republicans and Democrats are supposed to play nice because each thinks of the other as part of a We who defeat some Them. How very Greek!

    If this is accurate, I would only caution the author, Levendusky, that this has been tried before. There was a group of people back in the 1930s who were also big into myth-infused rituals, especially international sporting events. They too wanted to reduce “polarization” in their society, because they too found it “normatively troubling.” But the rituals just wouldn’t do the trick, even when combined with a large dose of military Keynesianism. Their society remained (and remains) polarized, because the underlying causes of conflict were not addressed.

    1. Paul Cardan

      Finally figured a way past the paywall. Turns out that he doesn’t recommend torchlight marches. No Cult of the Supreme Being either. Instead, he recommends . . . the rhetoric of bipartisanship, quoting the master himself: “we come from different parties, but we are Americans first. … Our regard for them [the American people] compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation—one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all” (Obama 2013).” Mythic? Of course. Sacred words of a pledge, typically uttered in unison, asserting unity through common birth (‘nation’), invoking God as well as lesser deities (liberty and justice). But still lame. Not the kind of spurious solution to a real problem I was hoping to find. Spurious to be sure, yet strangely unimaginative. You’ve got tenure, man. Take some risks.

  14. Croatoan

    On “How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy”: Anecdotally I know two people who read all the time and their empathy towards a family member is severely lacking. Maybe what happens is that they are more empathetic for fictional people than real people?

    As a trend I am seeing a lot of articles like this and I feel it is a new form of click bait meant to be shared in certain sub cultures. I can imagine that whoever reads or gets emailed this article is probably a book reader and hence you will be cookied and fed ads pertaining to books.

    1. JBird

      Maybe it is what you read. A good book, essay, or poem can put in the place of others, extend your imagination, and understanding, but some neoliberal, or Foxian, polemic can just ossify the self righteous hate. Or maybe read some romance, or adventure fluff. Fastfood for the the mind. Of course reading the former is harder to do than reading the latter.

  15. djrichard

    — He appeared totally uninformed about DACA and immigration policy.

    Does Trump know the political value of immigration policy to his re-election? Yes.

    Does Trump know the political value of DACA to the dems? Yes

    Does he need to know more than that? I would argue no.

    Edit: and I would argue that Trump’s political intuition is more razor sharp than many give him credit for.

    1. albrt

      If Trump’s political intuition is as sharp as a transfer shovel, it is probably sharp enough in the current environment.

      It’s not like any elected (or appointed) official from either legacy party is offering voters anything other than a pile of shit that needs to be shoveled.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The Russians say that they don’t know which particular flavour of Jihadist’s sent those drones but they do know where they came from as the counter measures took control of several of them and landed them, allowing their controls to be examined. The drones look like rubbish but the controls that they used were high-tech which Jihadists had never used before i.e. they had help from a state actor. They point out also that a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane just happened to be circling the region at the time as well – you know, just sayin’.
      If this was inspired by some goofball in a three-letter agency, then they should reflect that the US has some 1,000 bases overseas that could be vulnerable to the same form of attack and now the technological cat is out of the bag. The US military is already experimenting with swarms of drones both in the air and at sea and this may inspire more non-state actor to employ the same type of attack. Could you imagine this sort of attack on a commercial airport such as JFK or Tel Aviv? The Russians fought them off with their defenses but that is a military installation which commercial installations do not have.
      Sometimes when you have a critical weakness the only thing you can do is shut the hell up and hope that nobody notices it but now drone swarm attacks may be a thing because of this attack in the same way that regular drone attacks became a thing a decade or so ago.

    2. integer

      Drone attack on Russian bases in Syria came from Turkish-backed rebels – MoD

      The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces, the Russian military said. Moscow reportedly complained to Ankara about the attack.

      The assault last Saturday involved 13 primitive unmanned aircraft and was thwarted by the defenses of the two bases, an airfield near Latakia and a port site in Tartus. The Russian military said the drones had been launched from the village of Muazzara, in the south-western part of the Idlib governorate, which was designated a “de-escalation zone” under an arrangement negotiated by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

      See link for new picture of captured drones.

  16. Ben Around

    Why is NC’s collective strategy on the Trump book to dismiss credible evidence of mental illness out of hand?

    I have news for you. Repeating stories over and over is a strong indicator of the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. Yes, this happens even to geniuses and those who play one on TV. You, like MSNBC, seem convinced there can be no merit to this claim. Why?

    He is the right age for dementia. He is under stress and his staff sees it progressing. He considers candy a major food group. He has a family history of dementia. You really want to call this one from afar and say this has no merit? Tell us more about why that is.

    Frankly, I question your narrative and why you even have one.

    1. Summer

      “Repeating stories over and over is a strong indicator of the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

      Like “work really hard and you’ll get ahead.”
      “the greatest country on earth”

      I guess “moderate stage of Alzheimer’s Disease” is a diplomatic way of stating it.
      I’d say the President is singing in the key of A “America”.

      1. Ben Around

        I enjoy your sentiment, but this is something different.

        Moderate Alzheimer’s starts with, for instance, you losing your keys and continues to the stage where you no longer know what a key is. At some point the keys need to be taken away before you do damage. It is the stage of the disease where you lose the essence of what is you. Not recognizing people (like John Boehner) you know is part of it.

        I know a brilliant man who lost his medical license because he had the temerity to write a letter on the obvious dementia of another president.

        There is a reason why George II barely speaks publicly, rarely gave press conferences, and paints as a major form of expression. Most likely, he and his successor share the same awful disease.

        Dementia is common. Denial is also common. I am not surprised to find them here.

        1. Summer

          You don’t think America is losing its keys and need them taken away (especially since no one officially gave the USA the keys to say, for example, the middle East)?
          “It is the stage of the disease where you lose the essence of what is you…”
          Lose it – real essence or imagined essence…
          “Not recognizing people you know…”
          Like people who have been in the country for hundreds of years and still they rendered invisible?

          Trump is a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease in the American culture at large.
          Don’t take my word for it:
          Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia: A Netflix Original
          2013 NR 1h 29m

          I’m firmly in the camp that Trump is hated because he lays bare the hypocrasies of empire.
          Other than that, he’s business as usual.

    2. Paul Cardan

      Okay. Establishing that DJT has a mental illness would require testimony of a number of experts on such illnesses, experts who’d actually taken the time to go through the procedures on the basis of which diagnoses of psychopathologies are considered credible among such people (the relevant experts). To do this, I’m pretty sure they’d have to meet with DJT in person, probably on more than one occasion. To the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t happened. Someone with the relevant expertise would have to do this in order for concerns about mental illness to come close to crossing the threshold (vague though it is) for impeachment. Until that threshold is crossed, his mental health is politically irrelevant, as there’s nothing to be done about it, by law anyway. Finally, talk of mental illness fits a pattern. I believe it’s been called “any stick to beat a dog.” First it was emoluments, then it was Russian hacking, then it was collusion with Russians to undermine trust in HRC, then it was collusion with Russians to sow division and confusion, then it was obstruction of justice, and now it’s mental illness. I believe there’s a saying: “Fool me once . . .”

      1. Ben Around

        Every line you wrote is reasonable. I have been dealing with dementia drugs and patients since 2012. I worked for a firm that manufactured a flawed but common drug for Alzheimer’s and spent years working at a hospice.

        Truly, this can be a political football and maybe it should. I am not sure if I have ever seen someone falsely-diagnosed with dementia who did not have it. It seems like seeing a gunshot victim and not being sure if the victim is suffering blood loss. If everybody around you candidly thinks you’re losing it, you are. That seems an essential part of Wolff’s interviews on his book. It doesn’t take years of MMSE scores charted out to make the determination. You can make that the gold standard, but your family practitioner is almost definitely not waiting around for that.

        Now, it may all be scurrilous lies. Dementia is pretty easily disprovable. An unscripted and coherent conversation with someone is a great step in that direction. That may be why a 60 Minutes interview was scrubbed in favor of Hannity, who gave the administration the questions beforehand.

        President Pence is not something I welcome but he may be needed. Alzheimer’s patients can also suffer extraordinary impetuosity. If everyone around him really sees this decline, I would be pretty sure Trump will not be in office for a second term. He may rally and have years left of health, but that happens seldom.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      Don’t remember a loud cry to impeach the last media star turned conservative politician with a less than towering intellect who was elected president and who actually did have dementia.

      As a matter of fact many of the leading politicians in the Democrat party, including our previous POTUS, speak quite highly of him. Just saying.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      Because I trust the sourcing on these stories about as far as I can throw a piano; a concert grand piano. The coincidence of Steyer dangling $10 million dollars and the spate of stories and the moral panic plus the Democrats’ electoral interest is too much to accept. And again: I’m not much interested in armchair diagnosis, whether of Terry Schiavo, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump.

      The topic raised was not the stories in Trump’s book — your comment confuses this — but Trump’s riposte to a current liberal talking point about his senility. Yglesias, who propagates such talking points, admits the gambit failed, and in so many words.

      NOTE NC is basically one-and-three-quarters people and a commentariat. I’m flattered that you have formed the picture that we have the operational capacity to devise a collective strategy, but we don’t have the time for that. To descend to the personal for one moment: Perhaps this is projection on your part? That you’re used to working in an environment where there is a collective strategy, and so that everybody is like you?

  17. Rhondda

    Re “Politicizing Steele’s Raw, Unverified ‘Intelligence’” [Andrew McCarthy]. “At the height of the campaign, Obama officials shared dossier claims with Congress and the FISA Court.”

    I spent the entirety of last eve reading the transcript from Gene Simpson’s “interview” before the Senate Judiciary Committee. All 9 hours of it. I found it more than a little gripping.

    One of the interesting titbits:

    “Chris [Steele] deals in a very different kind of information, which is human intelligence, human information. So by its very nature the question of whether something is accurate isn’t really asked. The question that is asked generally is whether it’s credible. Human intelligence isn’t good for, you know, filing lawsuits.”

    I about snorted red wine out of my nose when I read that. Human intelligence isn’t good for, you know, filing lawsuits…but hey, it seems to work just fine for FISA applications.

    When I got up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of credible HUMINT. Not true, not accurate, but credible. It seems so insane to me that the criteria isn’t veracity but whether an assertion is able to persuade, whether it’s believable. And that the notion of credibility seems to rest less on the assertions being made and more on the person providing the material or making the assertions.

    Can we trust Christopher Steele? David Habakkuk over at Pat Lang’s SST has deconstructed this thoroughly and the short answer seems to be no. Steele has had his fabricating fingers in the Litvinenko affair, FIFA, Nuland’s Ukraine provocations and now the Trump Dossier. But Gene Simpson says he’s a “Boy Scout” and is dazzled by him being ex-MI6. Simpson asserts that we should believe the memos … because Chris Steele.

    It strikes me that Steele is ex-MI6 for a reason. He was exposed. (Funny story. Involves fake rocks.) One would think that the carefully cultivated “network of sources” of an outed spy would wither pretty quickly…so pray tell, which worthy and upstanding (credible) Russians would be willing to talk with Mr. Steele these days? I’m thinking “none.”

    I got to thinking about Curveball and TeamB and all that and so I thought I’d see if I could find out how the military and intelligence parses this conundrum of human intelligence and credibility, so I did a little Googling. I didn’t immediately find just what I was seeking, but I ran across this very interesting piece: Assessing the competence and credibility of human sources of intelligence evidence: contributions from law and probability which describes “a computer-assisted system called MACE (method for assessing the credibility of evidence)”. It begins with a worthy overview of history and the law and then gets into attributes of witness competency and credibility along with what the authors call the standard analysis.

    This caught my attention: “We also noted that the distinction between competence and credibility is not always appreciated in other areas as it is in law; intelligence analysis is one such area we know of. In news reports, as well as in intelligence documents we have read, there are numerous statements such as the following: ‘We can believe what X told us because he had good access’. This is an open invitation to inferential miscarriage. Competence does not entail credibility nor does credibility entail competence.”

  18. Summer


    “On Tuesday, a U.S. District Court in New Jersey reversed a 36-year-old court order barring the Republican National Committee from using a voter-ambush technique known as “caging,” which its insiders notoriously used to purge Democrats from voter rolls. GOP operatives would send postcards to voters in blue epicenters. Those returned as undeliverable would then be used by pro-GOP election officials to purge thousands of otherwise legal voters, ignoring a 1993 federal law laying out how to clean up voter rolls. When those citizens showed up to vote, they were told they could not vote; they had to re-register and wait until the next election…”

    Sounds like a bigger culprit than Putin.

  19. WheresOurTeddy

    Reading the “Gaming disorder” article I couldn’t help but think this is the other side of the Case-Deaton study generation-wise.

    The people in their 40s, 50s, and early 60s who are losing/have lost hope are dying of opioids, preventable diseases, and general neglect.

    The people under 40 who are losing/have lost/never had any hope have realized that for the price of a PC and $60 on Steam or the price of a Playstation or Xbox and $60 for a game they can retreat from a horrendous reality where they hate their job (if they can find one), have no prospects for upward mobility, and live worse than their parents did despite same or higher level of education (which used to cost a fraction of what it does now). Usually while said parents are wondering what’s wrong with their kid and muttering about bootstraps and the land of opportunity.

    Never underestimate the appeal of a game *THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO WIN*, even if they only payoff is lost time put toward something else.

    For millions of people in this country, Xbox, Playstation, and PC games are way fairer, more enjoyable, and more rewarding than “Oligarchical Class War Masquerading As Republic: The Game.”

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Excellent, thanks. The Biden 2020 movement need to be killed in its crib. Biden almost perfectly embodies everything wrong with the Democratic Party the past two decades and change.

  20. Anon

    Happy New Year to everyone. From the “What Am I Reading” Dept. Nina Illingworth is accusing recent liberal firebrand Caitlin Johnstone of plagiarism.


    Odd that she makes the claim, but can’t prove it.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Caitlin Johnstone

      Not sure that advocating an alliance with Cernovich was the very best plan for a “liberal” “firebrand,” whatever the heck one of those might be.

      Yes, an odd thread. But the world is full of odds, these days.

  21. The Rev Kev

    “Oprah Winfrey for president? The idea reveals an uncomfortable truth”

    And this could be another-
    Just what America needs. Another billionaire presidential candidate who is obsessed with identity politics. What could she say to average American voters that would have relevance to their lives? ‘Hey, I rose up to become a billionaire and it is all a matter of trying harder – you lazy schmucks!’

  22. Basil Pesto

    “Yet somehow, within a year of Trump’s inauguration, a not-insignificant segment of Democratic voters (or at least tweeters) have swung from fetishizing ‘qualifications’ to adopting the Republican line on celebrity candidates whole cloth.”

    What Republican line? Republicans were appalled by Trump as their celebrity candidate, until he won the nomination and they had to grin and bear it. That’s revisionist, petty political point-scoring.

    1. Yves Smith

      Help me. Have you forgotten Ronald Reagan (who at least did have more modest initial political aims by running for CA governor first) and Arnold Schwarznegger? And big name business leaders with no political experience are in the same boat. Meg Whitman. Carly Fiorina.

      1. Basil Pesto

        Per Lambert, ‘current political line’ fits the bill in my conception of the situation. In the context of the article it seemed to be implying that Trump’s nomination was part of some inherent Republican preference for razzmatazz candidates and that this was evinced by Trump’s nomination specifically. The idea that the party was comfortable with the nomination of Trump because he was a celebrity and this fit with some longstanding party line, which is what seemed to be implied in the article, doesn’t ring true – Reagan and Schwarzenegger aside. The point is that all players in this particular game ultimately become hypocritical and capricious in service of their goals. It just seemed like a petty and thoughtless cheap shot in the article.

  23. Barbara Kurth

    Retail, January 11
    I will be going back to bricks and mortar despite a lack of them for awhile because ordering a small jar of pickled garlic comes with so much recycling and nonrescycling material that I am at a loss for what to do with it all. I have no car so taking things to a dump or recycling plant is not an option. I don’t suppose I am the first person to notice this.

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