2:00PM Water Cooler 1/16/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The White House will never admit this publicly, but the president is developing a softer attitude towards the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Five sources who’ve spoken privately with Trump about NAFTA say he’s taking more seriously the risks of withdrawing the U.S. from the trade deal with Canada and Mexico” [Axios]. Big if true.

“China in talks for sale of jet engine technology to Germany” [South China Morning Post]. Lateral move?

“The U.S. International Trade Commission’s recommendation for combined quotas and tariffs up to 35 percent on imports of solar cells and panels have sparked some panic among many in the industry who argue it will hike costs for the clean energy systems and wipe out up to a third of the solar jobs in the U.S. But the recommendation is still far weaker than the measures sought by Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, the two companies that lodged the trade complaint” [Politico]. “Panels are also only one part of the total cost of building a solar installation, and they now make up less than 20 percent of the overall price of a home system and about one-third the cost of a large, utility-scale plant.”



“‘I’m Running,’ Romney Says Privately, but as a Trump Friend or Foe?” [New York Times].

“Haley for President? UN Diplomats Bet Trump Envoy Has Ambitions” [Bloomberg]. Maybe Romney and Haley should run together?


“[P]olitical handicappers have gradually increased the odds that Democrats will retake the House, where they need to pick up 24 seats to do so. Democrats must net two seats to take control of the Senate, a harder task given the number of competitive states where Trump won election” [WaPo]. Indeed they have.

“Republicans have a platter of good economic news to run on in the 2018 elections: a surging stock market, a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, high consumer confidence, and weeks’ worth of headlines showcasing companies handing bonuses to their employees while crediting the newly signed GOP tax bill” [RealClearPolitics]. “Though so much positive economic data helps Republican congressional candidates counter the traditional midterm headwinds a party in power faces, the president continues to step on his — and his party’s — encouraging news.”

“Trump has succeeded in doing something extraordinary, something neither Clinton nor House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could do — he has united and energized Democrats” [Inside Elections]. “Moreover, if national polls are accurate, the president has taken his own party to the edge of a political cliff, the 2018 midterm elections. This has occurred in spite of a growing economy, a booming stock market, a shrinking unemployment rate and tax cuts intended to stimulate even more growth.”

Governorships: “The GOP is forced to defend 13 states that former President Barack Obama won — from Maine to New Mexico to Wisconsin — while Democrats are protecting just one — Pennsylvania — that fell to Trump” [Politico]. “With exactly half of the 26 Republican-held seats up for grabs in 2018 being left open by a departing governor, a surge of Democratic turnout could overwhelm any goodwill individual GOP incumbents may have built up in tight states.”

Arizona Senate: “GOP faces brutal Arizona primary fight” [The Hill]. “Republicans hoping to hold on to the Arizona Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake (R) face an increasingly tumultuous primary environment, with firebrand former sheriff Joe Arpaio entering the race from the right and Rep. Martha McSally trying to win over President Trump’s supporters without alienating more moderate general election voters.”

Arizona House: “McSally Senate Bid Moves AZ-02 to Lean Democratic” [Cook Political Report]. “But without McSally, Republicans may struggle to hold this district. In fact, Democrats are hoping for a scenario in which McSally loses the GOP Senate nomination to a more conservative candidate and moderate Republicans abandon the ticket altogether, allowing Democrats to waltz into this middle-of-the-road seat.”

“Infrastructure Is A Political Opportunity For Trump That Will Likely Go To Waste” [FiveThirtyEight]. “Democrats have strong incentives, in an election year, to block any Republican achievements and cast the GOP as a party that had total control of Washington for two years but did little beyond passing a tax cut that disproportionately benefited the wealthy. Also, Trump is so unpopular with voters that his backing a bill (on any issue) may decrease its chances of gaining popular support — no matter what is in the legislation.” So the Republicans will no doubt propose a bad bill, which the Democrats prevent from passing (unless the Republicans go the reconciliation route).

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Voters Abandoning Donald Trump” [Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic]. “Previously unpublished results from the nonpartisan online-polling firm SurveyMonkey show Trump losing ground over his tumultuous first year not only with the younger voters and white-collar whites who have always been skeptical of him, but also with the blue-collar whites central to his coalition… Many things could change between now and November’s election—much less 2020. But these detailed soundings show how the gales of resistance Trump has fueled are reshaping the electoral landscape. Whether by age, gender, race, or education, Trump is deepening almost every social and political division that existed before him—with unpredictable consequences for the parties and for the country itself.” No mention of the suburbs, oddly. What this does show is that essentialist characterizations of Trump voters are simply wrong; as the Obama voters who flipped to Trump in 2016 showed. I said that these voters would flip away from Trump, not because of windy “gales of resistance,” but if he didn’t deliver, and I don’t think for them he is. The economy isn’t performing nearly as well for these voters as the glittering statistics suggest; for example, consumers fueled their holiday retail spending with debt; now commentators suggest tax cuts will keep the retail “boom” going. If “consumers” (that is, workers in the aspect of reproducing their labor power) are driving the economy, then, they’ll be doing that on debt and tax cuts. When that can’t go on, it will stop.

“Republicans Poised for Collapse in New York” [New York Magazine]. “The Republican Party has yet to find a single 2018 candidate for any of New York’s statewide offices. Two potential challengers to Cuomo backed out this week. Kirsten Gillibrand remains, for the moment, unopposed. And there still isn’t any declared Republican candidate for state attorney general or comptroller.” Because a one-party state works so well in California…

“Don’t Expect Too Much From the DNC Fraud Lawsuit” [Walter Bragman, Paste]. “While the outcome of the DNC fraud lawsuit is uncertain, a smaller suit with tailored plaintiffs, would likely have a better chance of succeeding. Instead of pursuing this latter option, however, the Becks chose to gamble on a high profile long shot. And unfortunately, it isn’t their credibility on the line—they will come out of this with a heightened public profile no matter what—but rather, that of everyone who claims Bernie Sanders was denied a fair shot in 2016.” This article is from June; if I read the current status of the DNC lawsuit correctly, the Becks — the lawyers bringing the case — have cured the defects identified by Bragman, which is why the case is moving ahead.

“First shots in war on Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security” [Newsday]. “It’s no good thinking the Medicaid work requirement doesn’t matter because it seems those allowing it aren’t coming for you. They are coming for you. They’ve said so. And they’ve begun.” Never forget that Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had a deal on a Grand Bargain, derailed by the Lewinsky matter (so the country owes Monica Lewinsky a debt of gratitude). And Obama and Boehner had a deal too; but the Freedom Caucus derailed it. So, “They’ve said so,” indeed.

Stats Watch

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, January 2018: “Activity remains strong this month in the New York manufacturing region but did slow slightly compared to December” [Econoday]. “Employment is a soft spot in January’s report but strength is evident in unfilled orders and especially prices. This is the first indication on 2018’s factory sector and, like last year’s very strong run for the regional samples, conditions and optimism among these samples remain very strong.” And: “slightly below expectations, but still a solid report” [Calculated Risk]. And but: “I am not a fan of surveys – and this survey jumps around erratically – but has been relatively steady for the last year” [Econintersect].

Debt: “Pretty clear here there’s been almost no loan growth over the last year or so” (chart) [Mosler Economics].

Retail: “The U.S. Supreme Court may take a big role in the direction of online commerce. The court will consider whether states can broadly require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if they lack a physical presence in the state” [Wall Street Journal]. “It’s a challenge to a system of tax and economic regulation that hasn’t kept up with the online explosion that has put far-flung retailers and virtual businesses in competition with local store owners. Many retailers say the playing field is heavily tilted against them, with online companies undercutting prices and effectively gaining a subsidy by offering tax-free sales. Many states also are being hurt as revenues from sales taxes erode.”

Retail: “Online grocery sales account for less than 3% of the roughly $800 billion grocery market. Analysts expect that share will grow into the double digits in the next five years, however. Amazon sold nearly $2 billion in groceries in the U.S. last year, says One Click, which analyzes patterns in e-commerce transactions” [Wall Street Journal].

Retail: “No brick-and-mortar meltdown during holiday, panelists say at NRF convention” [DC Velocity]. “The conventional wisdom heading into the holiday was that brick-and-mortar retailers would buckle under the pressure of online commerce, notably from Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc… Holiday sales during November and December 2017 increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016, as consumers spent more than expected thanks to growing wages, stronger employment, and higher confidence, according to an NRF report released Friday. The rise was the largest increase since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen during 2010 after the end of the Great Recession, NRF said.”

Shipping: “69% of Danish shipowners hit by cyber crime in the past year” [Splash 247]. “In the poll of CEOs of local lines carried out by Danish Shipping, 42% of executives indicated that they are very worried or extremely worried that their company will be attacked or that their data will be lost in the coming 12 months.”

Big Ag: “The U.S. wheat glut is resisting farmers’ efforts to cut back production. Wheat farmers planted the least acres of winter wheat in over a century, as tumbling prices and strong production overseas pushed more farmers to switch to crops like soybeans and corn” [Wall Street Journal]. “American farmers are being hurt by bumper harvests in Russia, where exporters are supplying North Africa and the Middle East at a better price than U.S. farmers can offer. While U.S. planting is at a record low, Russia’s exports are at a record high. Regulators say U.S. wheat stockpiles are rising, and strong corn and soybean harvests signal a difficult year for those commodities. The impact has been evident in transport networks: Grain volumes on U.S. railroads fell 13.9% in the second half of 2017.”

Manufacturing: “Dutch firm unveils world’s first 3-D-printed propeller” [DC Velocity]. “Now comes word that a Dutch consortium has brought 3-D printing to the maritime—or at least, the shipbuilding—world. Late last year, the Dutch firm Damen Shipyards Group unveiled what it called the world’s first class-approved 3-D-printed ship’s propeller. Known as the WAAMpeller, the triple-blade prop was fabricated using the wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) technique, which deposited 298 layers of nickel aluminum bronze alloy to create the item. Damen then installed the 4.5-foot diameter, 880-pound WAAMpeller on one of its “Stan Tug 1606″ tug boats, where it passed tough tests such as speed trials, a bollard pull, and a crash stop scenario, which stresses the propeller by going from full throttle ahead to full throttle reverse.”

Supply Chain: “Apple Supplier Workers Describe Noxious Hazards at China Factory” [Bloomberg]. “Chinese recruiters play up the chance to build advanced consumer electronics to attract the millions of typically impoverished, uneducated laborers without whom the production of iPhones and other digital gadgets would be impossible. Goggles and earplugs are not always available, a problem when some factory machines are noisy and spray tiny metallic particles or coolant, according to Bloomberg interviews with workers…. Hundreds throng a workshop where the main door only opens about 12 inches. Off-duty, they return to debris-strewn dorms bereft of showers or hot water. Many go without washing for days at a time, workers told Bloomberg.”

Transportation: “Ford Motor Co. will more than double spending on electrified vehicles, amplifying its investment in a segment that the auto industry sees growing from what’s now just a fraction of the market” [Bloomberg]. “With battery costs declining rapidly and regulators around the globe cracking down on the internal combustion engine, automakers have been rushing to step up their game with regards to all-electric models. While the segment comprises less that 1 percent of annual deliveries in the U.S., global demand is expected to rise as governments phase out gasoline and diesel engines and batteries reach price parity with traditional powertrains.” See NC here on those batteries.

Transportation: “The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of ‘jaywalking'” [Vox]. “‘In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers’ job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them,’ says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. ‘But under the new model, streets became a place for cars — and as a pedestrian, it’s your fault if you get hit.'” You can bet the same thing will happen with robot cars; it will be your job to avoid to bots, not the bots’ job to avoid you. That will certainly simplify the algos!

Fodder for the Bulls: “Goldman: ‘Recession Risk is Low … For Now'” [Calculated Risk]. Goldman: “Our model suggests that near-term recession risk is low. The probability of a downturn is also below normal over the next 2-3 years, but has been rising steadily in economies that are seeing unusually easy financial conditions and tightening labor markets. These include the US, Germany, the UK and a number of smaller G10 economies.” Calculated Risk: “CR Note: My view is recession risk is low this year, and I expect further growth in the US in 2018.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon’s raging melt-up blows the top off our chart for the fourth day in a row” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 16 2018

Rapture Index: Closes down on Supernatural. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready].

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 81 Extreme Greed (previous close: 79, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 76 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 16 at 11:41am.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Two Civil War podcasts I recommend:

The Civil War (1861-1865): A History Podcast” (RSS). “A history podcast in which we weave together a chronological narrative of the Civil War era.” Every battle! The authors are very good at describing terrain, which is a gift. The battles are interwoven with history and political economy as well. We are up to the Battle of Davis Bridge on October 5, 1862.

HIST 119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877” (RSS). “Four broad themes are closely examined: the crisis of union and disunion in an expanding republic; slavery, race, and emancipation as national problem, personal experience, and social process; the experience of modern, total war for individuals and society; and the political and social challenges of Reconstruction.”

* * *

“There is No Racial Justice Without Linguistic Justice” [Language Log]. “The goal of the NSF REU site is to address these issues by increasing the number of speakers of African-American English engaged in linguistics and related fields, such as communication, speech and hearing sciences, and education. Part of the challenge of meeting this goal is that many of the colleges and universities that serve these speakers do not offer undergraduate majors in linguistics.”

“Ban the Box, Criminal Records, and Racial Discrimination: A Field Experiment” [The Quarterly Journal of Economics]. “[C]riminal records are a major barrier to employment: employers that asked about criminal records were 63% more likely to call applicants with no record. However, our results support the concern that [Ban the Box (BTB)] policies encourage racial discrimination: the black-white gap in callbacks grew dramatically at companies that removed the box after the policy went into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to employers with the box received 7% more callbacks than similar black applicants, but BTB increased this gap to 43%. We believe that the best interpretation of these results is that employers are relying on exaggerated impressions of real-world racial differences in felony conviction rates.”


“Water Warriors Escalate Actions Against Fracked Gas Plant” [Last Real Indians]. “Last Monday, activists climbed a crane to stop construction of the Tacoma LNG facility. On Thursday, activists used tripods to block all three gates to the site. That same day, a Tacoma jury, finding that they couldn’t determine whether the LNG facility is on Puyallup or City of Tacoma-owned land, acquitted two women who locked down to construction equipment.”

Crapification Watch

“I think Google has stopped in­dex­ing the old­er parts of the We­b. I think I can prove it. Google’s com­pe­ti­tion is do­ing bet­ter” [Tim Bray] (Bray works for Amazon, but has great credibility for his standards work). “This isn’t just a proof, it’s a rock-n-roll proof. Back in 2006, I pub­lished a re­view of Lou Reed’s Rock n Roll An­i­mal al­bum. Back in 2008, Brent Sim­mons pub­lished That New Sound, about The Clash’s Lon­don Calling. Here’s a chal­lenge: Can you find ei­ther of these with Google? Even if you read them first and can care­ful­ly con­jure up exact-match strings, and then use the “site:” pre­fix? I can’t. [Up­date: Now you can, be­cause this piece went a lit­tle vi­ral. But you sure couldn’t ear­li­er in the day.]… My men­tal mod­el of the Web is as a per­ma­nen­t, long-lived store of humanity’s in­tel­lec­tu­al her­itage. For this to be use­ful, it needs to be in­dexed, just like a li­brary. Google ap­par­ent­ly doesn’t share that view.” I’ve had the same experience; I will search Google for words I know I have written, and they won’t come up. But it’s good to have my experience validated, as we say, by a personage who is not a random blogger.

Health Care

“As insurers and pharmacy benefit managers consolidate and increase their market share, they have been able to capture an increasing share of the money spent on drugs for themselves. Indeed, a 2017 report found that, of the money spent on prescription drugs by patients and health plans at the point of sale, brand drug makers only realized 39 percent. Meanwhile, supply-chain participants, such as pharmacy benefit managers, realized 42 percent of these expenditures” [Truth on the Market].

“An unmistakable theme arising from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is increasing Congressional skepticism that nonprofit hospitals and health systems deserve the benefits associated with tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This skepticism is reflected not only in the final exempt organization provisions of the Act, but also in several significant proposals that surfaced in, but did not ultimately withstand, the full legislative process” [The Bond Buyer]. “In many respects, the concerns expressed in the recent legislative process are consistent with those expressed in the past by senior IRS Exempt Organizations officials and longstanding legislative concerns that the nonprofit health care sector is inexorably drifting towards the purely commercial sector (and thus should be taxed accordingly). These concerns have included the consistency of exempt status with several factors: e.g., (i) the emergence of the “nation-sized” nonprofits—organizations that are national (or even global) in scope and scale; (ii) the blurring of the line between tax exempt and commercial health care; and (iii) highly complex, lucrative executive compensation arrangements. Many of these concerns—and their compatibility with the community benefit standard— remain relevant today.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

“How could differences in ‘control over destiny’ lead to socio-economic inequalities in health? A synthesis of theories and pathways in the living environment.” [PubMed]. “We conducted the first synthesis of theories on causal associations and pathways connecting degree of control in the living environment to socio-economic inequalities in health-related outcomes. We identified the main theories about how differences in ‘control over destiny’ could lead to socio-economic inequalities in health, and conceptualised these at three distinct explanatory levels: micro/personal; meso/community; and macro/societal.” Handy diagram:

If you have the time for a dense article, this is a dense article that also speaks to the notion of embodiment.

Class Warfare

“Persistent Precarity” [The Nation]. “The ‘millennial’ is created, not born, as Harris shows, and as is true of all creations, her qualities reveal more about her makers than they do about her. From preschool to college to their entrance into a precarious labor market, Harris tracks how young people in America operate within a system that reinforces the economic, educational, and political injustices that sort us all into upper and underclasses. The proverbial participation trophy, the frantic visions of meritocracy, the generational recriminations—they’ve always said more about the parents of millennials than millennials themselves. It’s not the kids these days that we need to worry about, but the world their parents helped build. ‘In order to fully recognize the scope of these changes,’ Harris explains, ‘we need to think about young people the way industry and the government already do: as investments, productive machinery, ‘human capital.'” That is, “parents” “who control industry and government”. For pity’s sake.

Still true:

News of the Wired

“The Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame astounds us with a huge, rare collection” [Ars Technica]. “This collection of roughly 260 working pinball, electromechanical, and video games has been open to the public for over a decade… It arguably includes the most varied and valuable open-every-day collection of pinball and pinball-like games in the United States, if not the world…” Visitors must pay 25 or 50 cents a play in coin: ‘If the games aren’t played, they will say, ‘[family blog] you,’ because they dry out, and they get corroded,’ the staffer told Ars. ‘They need to be played.'” “They need to be played.” The difference between analog and digital…

“AI learns how to fool speech-to-text. That’s bad news for voice assistants” [The Next Web]. “A pair of computer scientists at the University of California, Berkeley developed an AI-based attack that targets speech-to-text systems. With their method, no matter what an audio file sounds like, the text output will be whatever the attacker wants it to be.” So much for transcripts…

“Budist, the Russian Chatroulette for Wake-up Calls, Is the Only Network that’s Actually Social” [Vice]. “The Budist system is simple: People sign up for a time slot to be woken up, in five minute increments, and altruistic callers sign up on the page pictured above to wake one of them up…. You don’t get any info about who you’re about to call, which I guess makes for more interesting conversation with your random stranger.” I hope the callers remain altruistic…

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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 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 (eberhard grossgasteiger):

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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. jsn

    Fellow readers, do you have good links on these claims:
    “Never forget that Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had a deal on a Grand Bargain, derailed by the Lewinsky matter (so the country owes Monica Lewinsky a debt of gratitude). And Obama and Boehner had a deal too; but the Freedom Caucus derailed it. So, “They’ve said so,” indeed.”

    I find myself arguing constantly with Democrats about the existence of these deals.

    1. foghorn longhorn

      A simple search of the google turned up a book written about it, called ironically, “The Pact”.

    2. Kevin

      Wikipedia: “Grand Bargain”, looks like a good place to start for Obama/Boehner. Curious myself, workload here prevents me from digging further right now (always the case…)

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I was in a rush, so didn’t provide links for what I regard as common knowledge :-) Both have been linked to at NC. These are the links I use:

      1) Boehner/Obama handshake deal: “Obama vs. Boehner: Who Killed the Debt Deal?” [Matt Bai, New York Times]. Mother Jones has a tl;dr version of Bai’s piece.

      2) Clinton/Gingrich deal: “RECAP:How Monica Lewinsky Saved Social Security” [Daily Kos]. Cites to The Pact, but Kos should help with your Democrat friends.

      1. Adam Eran

        You can also consult Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal: Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?”

  2. Arizona Slim

    Slim checking in from Tucson.

    My take on the AZ Senate race, featuring Arpaio and McSally: Dear sweet Martha is not known for the quality of her office’s constituent service. Which is a shame because Ron Barber and Gabby Giffords’ offices were really good. Down here in Baja Arizona, such things matter a lot.

    As for Arpaio, let’s just say that the Maricopa County sheriff allowed thousands of rape cases to go unsolved while he was in hot pursuit of the “illegals.” I don’t think that will help him in Maricopa County, which recently voted him out as sheriff.

  3. allan

    From band director to chief data cruncher: Trump’s choice to lead U.S. education statistics agency raises eyebrows [ScienceMag.org]

    The people appointed to lead the flagship U.S. agency that collects and vets education statistics typically have spent many years working for the federal government or a university and have managed large organizations before taking the job. But James “Lynn” Woodworth, President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), doesn’t fit that mold. And researchers are divided over what his unusual background could mean for an agency responsible for analyzing education data both domestically and around the world.

    Woodworth, whose appointment the White House announced last week, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after college and spent 6 years as an intelligence officer monitoring communications in Arabic. He then spent a decade as a high school music teacher and band director in rural Arkansas before returning to school for a Ph.D. in education reform from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (UAF). For the past 5 years he’s been a research analyst at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. …

    Some in the statistical community point to Woodworth’s lack of management experience as a potentially major impediment to tackling those and other issues. “He doesn’t fit the profile” for the position spelled out in federal statutes, says Kitty Smith Evans, head of the Washington, D.C.–based government affairs office for the American Economic Association. She is past executive director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, a Washington, D.C.–based coalition of stakeholders. Specifically, she notes that the law stipulates the NCES commissioner “shall be highly qualified and have substantial knowledge of statistical methodologies and activities undertaken by the center.” …

    It all depends on what you mean by “highly”, “qualified”, “substantial”, “knowledge”, “statistical”,
    “methodologies” or “activities”.

  4. Knifecatcher

    Shouldn’t the Romney “he’s running” story be classified under 2018? Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat, not President.

      1. Utah

        much to the chagrin of those of us actually in Utah who don’t want another Mike Lee/ Orrin Hatch style Republican- and that is exactly what he will be.
        But I think his wife actually pushed him onto the roof of their campaign limo, and our Gov and Orrin strapped him in. He doesn’t have a choice because Utah Republicans are crazy. We gave the world Jason Chaffetz and Mike Lee. And local news has a story about an R precinct chairman who thinks that anybody who isn’t head of household shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
        that story if you’re interested:

    1. neo-realist

      Mitt is a very wooden campaigner from what I’ve seen: He reminds you of the soulless corporate executive that decides to close your branch or office of the company to outsource those jobs to a lower labor cost center, either in or outside the United States. Trump, IMO, would wipe the floor with him in a primary challenge if he’s serious about running for the top office.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Say what you want about Trump, but the guy does know how to work an audience. His live campaign rallies were electric.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        Rmoney reckons that the Little People will have had their fun and sobered up by the time the next presidential circus gets rolling(much like another, more abrasive, scold I can think of…), and will be ready for a centrist parental figure to save them from their folly.
        I can’t even look at the guy without seeing a museum quality replica of a Roman Patrician in grey 1950’s flannel.
        …and, for grins, I’ll wager a six of shiner that said circus gets rolling far sooner than even the last time(more than 2 years of campaigning, or at least half-campaigning).
        The Spectacle is lucrative; so we need more of it.(like how football, for instance, has spread out way beyond the few months it used to occupy.(stepdad has the full nfl package. there is no respite))
        One of these days, the Campaign will never end.

        1. foghorn longhorn

          My political radar, pradar?, is saying that nobody who has ran for prez before will stand a chance in ’20.
          The dems will somehow gutshot Bernie and trump pretty much vanquished the reps last time.
          This is a time of change, if the middle finger that is trump doesn’t work, the next step will be even more radical.

          1. Arizona Slim

            I can see Bernie running as an independent or with that People’s Party that Nick Brana has been working on. Brana was one of Bernie’s 2016 campaign staffers.

        2. edmondo

          If Trump doesn’t run in 2020 (and I am willing to bet that he’s one and done) there
          s no need for Mitt – Mike Pence is lurking in the background. Now there’s a race – Pence versus Romney. The entire GOP electorate would be sound asleep after ten minutes of the first debate.

      3. Massinissa

        “I love this place! The trees are.. The right height!”

        Mitt Romney, 2012

        Yeah, he really was a pretty bad speech giver.

        1. Lemmy Caution

          This Mitt story always reminds of Senator Keeley’s fascinating “story” in Birdcage:

          “My wife and used to go to Virginia…every autumn to see the foliage turn.
          Virginia has amazing foliage…although l do think that the foliage in Ohio is underrated.
          lt’s just dazzling along l-75. Just dazzling.
          We would go down to Virginia, to get away for a while.
          To see the wonderful farms, the countryside. The hills, the mountains.
          Talk about ‘purple mountains’ majesty.’
          Just fantastic.
          Red leaves, purple mountains…green fields.
          And the roads.
          Black…cutting through the green.
          All the colors.
          The trees.
          Pennsylvania’s nice too.”

      1. Jen

        Well done, Lambert. The idea of a Bush/Clinton rematch in 2016 had me ready to gouge my eyes out, but this? Kill me now.

    1. Adrienne

      And who’s paying for all the “free” electricity that EV car owners enjoy? Tesla’s superchargers are obviously paid for by other Tesla owners, but the municipalities and utilities that are installing “free” charging stations are simply taking money out of the pockets of people who can’t afford a new car.

        1. John k

          10-15 yrs ago tree folks woulda loved somebody coming along inventing producing e cars, and woulda supported gov subsidies to kickstart it… even better if rich people woulda also generously boosted the subside another 10-20k…
          So now it’s happening! And rich investors are generously subsidizing! And production is in US, with no bidding for sites in non union states!
          And now the complaints seem to be it’s not profitable, and/or they’re not paying unionized ca workers enough, or working them too hard, or they’re not producing enough cars…

          So they might go bust, but meanwhile they’re making CR top rated products, giving away patents, and moving the needle.

          1. subgenius

            Yeah, and funnily enough it would have been a f(amily blog) stupid idea then, too.

            Firstly, you are ignoring the fact GM DID make an e-car back in 1996

            Secondly, you are ignoring with the externalities associated with electric vehicles and the fact that personal transportation factored around a car type system is entirely unsustainable and thus doomed to failure.

            Add to which, a great many successful tech operations have some very iffy 3letter alphabet soup funding them.

            Research. It is your friend. But you gotta make the effort…

            1. Adrienne

              Yes, an electric car is still a car. Auto-dependent development is an environmental disaster, from acres of unused surface parking lots to miles of ugly strip malls to un-walkable and un-bikeable cul-de-sac housing developments to 4-lane high speed arterials infesting every city and town in America… auto-dependent land use patterns are a prime driver of habitat loss, pollution, and excessive energy use. Electrifying cars and trucks will only kick the can down the road a decade or two.

        2. Wukchumni

          Tesla LOSES $10-20,000 on every sale, even with the subsidies…and who knows what loses on the model 3 are..?

          I hear they’re doing better on lack of volume, now.

  5. Hana M

    It may be true that Google is doing a poor job indexing older sites but I instantly pulled up at the top of the Google search list this wonderful old (1999) series from musicologist Alan Pollack on the Beatles with a simple search on Beetles [sic] Alan Pollack. Google helpfully corrected my spelling. http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/awp-notes_on.shtml

    That said, I spend an inordinate amount of time on the web searching for odd, often deep historical or otherwise obscure data and images, and Google has grown progressively less useful with a dramatic decline in–I’m guesstimating–the last two-three years. Whatever is happening it is weirdly selective. I’m prompted to put on my foil hat….Does Google know that IRL I’m friends with Alan and his wife? Probably.

    1. Hana M

      Ha! Internet free association still rules (at least in my own mind such as it is).

      The web site that includes Alan’s amazing Beatles musicology analysis also has more posts by the site’s titular owner Hans Durrer who seems extremely sensible and rarely posts, but when he does it’s just great.

      Here he vivisects the media obsession with ‘this man’. Which man, you may ask? The fact that you probably do not need to/ dare not ask the name is a diagnostic marker for our latest collective induced lunacy. Durrer has some sensible advice. http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/HEADER/editorial.shtml


      1. Hana M

        From Hans Durrer “I’ve never thought being authentic a convincing idea (and most definitely not for a statesman) and this man is clearly the best argument against it. There are however advantages to this therapy-ideology for we now all get to see what extraordinarily ignorant people with manners that defy description are supposed to govern us. Yet “the real problem” is not this man — we are the problem for we allow this man to dominate our agendas. In fact, we behave like he does: Giving in to impulses, behaving like addicts, following almost every stupid tweet of his.”

    2. Summer

      It’s going to be interesting down the line to compare pre-internet versions of books and articles with the internet version…and there will be more “internet abridged” versions.
      Or even compare an original version of an internet article with a later version.

      1. Ed Miller

        The winner always write history (as in whitewash history), so now it’s becoming easier. A trend I’ve sensed since the late 1990’s. Our masters/owners are pleased.

        Yeah, I’m a little slow in that regard, although the GFC was a great awakening.

    3. Darius

      I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to find the name of the white civil rights lawyer who was at the NAACP that Thurgood Marshall spoke highly of. Failure on Google. Didn’t try elsewhere.

  6. subgenius

    Now we can get transcripts that say different things to the source…and also sources that say different things to the source!


    (Note – this is real time, it can be MORE convincing with an offline render…)

    What’s not to love?

  7. nippersmom

    “‘In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers’ job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them,’ says Peter Norton

    This is still the case on my campus. Students (faculty and staff are not immune from this behavior, either) randomly step off the curb in front of traffic without looking on a routine basis.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Many of us do it – jaywalking, which can be unlawful in many places.

      That is to say, in many situations today, you are responsible, according to the law, for avoiding vehicular traffic.

      1. FreeMarketApologist

        It will be interesting to see how the algos manage the things that show up in front of cars: On an interstate, the likelihood of a person running in front of a car is quite low. Much higher likelihood of deer and other wildlife. On a residential street, it’s more likely to be people (and pets). As a driver, I’d like to not hit any of them, but may have to make snap decisions that will result in a bad outcome for at least one of us.

        If I believe that no harm should come to wildlife, children, and pets, will I be able to tweak the algo’s settings for my beliefs, or must I accept Elon’s? Will the algos be smart enough to distinguish a small white person near the ground from a small white poodle?

        1. EricT

          I think since they can invent a table saw safety that stops the blade as soon as it detects the presence of an appendage near the blade they should be able to invent a smart car that can avoid hitting a person or animal.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          That’s it!

          Put a slider bar on the dash, labeled “Do not Kill:”

          Squirrels <--> Dogs or Cats <--> Sheep <--> Cattle <--> Children <--> Adults

          Empower the users!

        3. Jen

          I wonder what the algos would make of a hay bale lying in the middle of the passing lane on the interstate on a dark snowy night. And whether the would draw the same conclusion that any driver who has experience with encountering such obstacles would: there is never just one hay bale.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        It was that way in California, at the crosswalks. Simply amazing.
        DO NOTattempt this in Texas.

        A tip for avoiding squirrels, do not dodge them, just keep your speed and your path and they will avoid you.
        It’s when you zig and they zag that calamity occurs.

        1. Procopius

          In 1961 it was that way in California everywhere (well, it was enforced in Los Angeles; I think it was the law everywhere). I got ticketed for failing to yield right of way to a jaywalker. The bus next to me stopped for him/her but I was newly from Detroit and had never heard of such a thing. The officer told me I should have realized when the bus stopped in the middle of a block that there was a reason and should have stopped until I found out what it was. Sensible advice, which I’ve tried to follow in other circumstances — situational awareness.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        It’s that way in Maine, too, and it always seems bizarre to me. I mean, I know the car’s trajectory, that’s why I’m walking in the direction and at the speed that I am. Why don’t they just go on their merry way? (Of course, I’m thinking like a city person in a small town.)

        1. Yves Smith

          Not always.

          I stepped into one of those crosswalks WITH THE PARELLEL LINES, which means the driver is required to stop, in Rockland. This is not a courtesy. It’s the law.

          A woman in a BMW zoomed so close to me in the crosswalk that I was able to hit her car with my shooting stick, hard. Mind you, I could easily have done real damage (as in broken her taillight) but I just whacked her bumper.

          The woman had the nerve to do a U-ie at high speed, and come around and yell at me that she had been going to fast to stop. This with my brother next to me. She’d not only nearly hit me but admitted in front of a witness that she had been driving recklessly and gave me a good look at her plates.

          Unfortunately we had taken the train to Rockland, so I didn’t have time to go to the cops and report her. Do I every wish I had.

    2. Jen

      Our local college town put up a split rail fence along one of the main thoroughfares in town to reduce the number of random student crossings. It’s particularly treacherous during the winter, as then tend to favor black coats at night (Canada Goose – $1K!!!), and seldom look up from their devices.

      I apply the same rule to crossing streets as I do to puttering about on the water in small human powered boats: anything bigger and/or faster than me has the right of way. I reserve the right to comment on skills, intelligence and ancestry as profanely as I see fit.

      1. Wukchumni

        About 7 years ago the Hells Angels rented out pretty much an entire motel, and law enforcement got wind of it, so there were about 197 motorcycle hobbyists, and 198 cops ensconced hereabouts one weekend.

        Normally it’s pretty Mayberry around these parts, with just one sheriff, and it’s strictly on the down low from a law enforcement angle, but not so much that weekend. The coppers were stuck like Elmer’s to the erstwhile bad boys, and I think the winning ticket was them nailing an Angel for jaywalking, which is a tall order, as we’re 20 miles from the first set of traffic lights, ha!

  8. Jim Haygood

    “American farmers are being hurt by bumper harvests in Russia, where exporters are supplying North Africa and the Middle East at a better price than U.S. farmers can offer. While U.S. planting is at a record low, Russia’s exports are at a record high.

    Over the last five years, Russia’s ruble has lost nearly half its value against the US dollar. US sanctions played a part in weakening Russia’s currency.

    But a weak ruble mightily benefits Russian wheat farmers, in the same way that US sodbusters hit the jackpot in 1973 as the newly-fiat US dollar turned to (family blog) before our very eyes.

    Unintended consequences, as it were. Don’t we miss ol’ Bretton Woods.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Waiting for your update on the market reversal and the over 1% drop in RUT (the Russell 2,000).

    2. jo6pac

      Russia also became the largest non-Gitmo growers in the world. The largest shippers of grain so as you point out the so-called Amerikan smart people just threw Amerikan farmers under the bus.
      The best thing that has happened to Russia are the stupid sanctions it has made Russia turn inward to make whatever they need themselves. In the mean time slowly bleeding the eu of jobs.
      BMW announced plans on building a car plant since there since they can’t ship cars there anymore and the M-B plant will be done shortly in Russia.

      They use grow winter wheat around me in the Central Valley in Calli not anymore there’s no money in it.

      1. Wukchumni

        The Central Valley was almost exclusively a wheat growing area before the advent of electric well pumps, circa 1900.

        “The Octopus” by Frank Norris was all about wheat and the railroads shafting farmers.

      2. Procopius

        … made Russia turn inward to make whatever they need themselves.

        Funny, that’s been the response of North Korea to Bush/Cheney’s breaking the Agreed Framework, too, which is one reason the Orangeotan and China have little leverage over them.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        It is a natural experiment in protectionism. The sanctions against selling things to Russia amount to protectionism under-any-other-name for Russia. So Russia is able to make more things for itself in the absence of economic invasion by alien production.

  9. Synapsid

    The article about Warrior Warriors blocking access to a PSE construction site at the Port of Tacoma would do its readers a bit of a favor by increasing accuracy and perhaps toning down hyperbole.

    What is to be built is variously called in the article an LNG facility and “a 140 foot, 8 million gallon LNG storage tank with production capability of 500 000 gallons LNG per day. LNG is fracked natural gas in a liquid state.” Farther down, “If PSE succeeds, the air, water and salmon of the Puyallup Nation will be polluted.”

    “Fracking” has become a foul word to some environmental activists but is used wildly enough to have lost its meaning in such use. We see this in the above “LNG is fracked natural gas in a liquid state.” LNG is natural gas in a liquid state whether the gas came from a well where fracking was employed or not. In the US chances are increasingly good that it was employed, but not in the rest of the world. To use “fracking” as above is to say “Bad! Bad!”

    To say that an LNG storage tank has a production capability is to confuse. “Production” of natural gas means to get the gas from a natural reservoir through a well. Storage tanks don’t produce, they store.

    We’re told that if the storage tank is built the air, water and salmon of the Puyallup Nation will be polluted. Perhaps the tank won’t look too pretty from the Puyallup tribe’s two Emerald Queen casinos either, but it isn’t clear to me, at least, how the presence of an LNG storage tank at the Port of Tacoma is going to pollute air and water, or salmon. The natural gas would be liquid, remember (and the Port of Tacoma is not what anyone would call pristine.) Someone help?

    1. subgenius

      What could go wrong? Oh, that’s right.. there’s currently 1,000,000 barrels of LNG condensate in a delightfully toxic mix with seawater off the coast of China…only a quarter of the volume of the deepwater horizon crude spill (according to official figures) but LNG condensate is FAR more toxic than crude in seawater…

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yeah, it read a little press-release-y to me (and IMNSHO it’s utterly critical for people fighting pipelines, landfills, and other colonial projects imposed on the flyover states by the metropolis to be accurate in technical detail*). But I thought it was important to know about the scale of the protest, and this is the only link I can find.

      * The technical expertise of the Penobscot Nation was important in fighting the landfill; they did work on water quality.

  10. fresno dan

    “The Voters Abandoning Donald Trump” [Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic].
    …………… No mention of the suburbs, oddly. What this does show is that essentialist characterizations of Trump voters are simply wrong; as the Obama voters who flipped to Trump in 2016 showed. I said that these voters would flip away from Trump, not because of windy “gales of resistance,” but if he didn’t deliver, and I don’t think for them he is. The economy isn’t performing nearly as well for these voters as the glittering statistics suggest; for example, consumers fueled their holiday retail spending with debt; now commentators suggest tax cuts will keep the retail “boom” going. If “consumers” (that is, workers in the aspect of reproducing their labor power) are driving the economy, then, they’ll be doing that on debt and tax cuts. When that can’t go on, it will stop.
    So, so true – and I would say pretty obvious – yet it is impossible to find it in the mainstream corporatist media. I believed Trump won cause he could talk about “American carnage” and evinced skepticism about rah rah America – now that he is prez, everything is the BEST IT HAS EVER BEEN UNDER ANY PRESIDENT EVAH!!!!
    Its been a long time since a recession – I can’t see Trump surviving even a minor slow down. I see ever more people hanging on by a thread – the fact that it is not newsworthy to report the poor are getting ever more desperate doesn’t mean that there won’t be an affect.

    1. sleepy

      While Trump imho won the election by flipping former Obama supporters in states like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, they were never his base. His base was the 90% of his voters who had also voted for Romney and McCain. 70% of Trump’s votes came from households which exceeded the national median income.

      The political rhetoric characterizing the “base” as ignorant working class whites is nothing more than an attempt to marginalize and demean the concerns of that group that flipped from Obama to Trump in those states I mentioned and that cost Hillary the election.

      My 95% white working class Iowa county had voted democratic in every presidential election beginning in 1984. In 2016 the county went for Trump. Iowa as a whole voted republican only once since 1988. These are lifelong democrats. Those folks are the democratic base. One would think that the easiest way for a dem to win in 2020 would be to go after those voters, but no, the dems want a shot at the lifelong repub, suburban voters like in GA-9.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > While Trump imho won the election by flipping former Obama supporters in states like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, they were never his base. His base was the 90% of his voters who had also voted for Romney and McCain. 70% of Trump’s votes came from households which exceeded the national median income.

        Exactly. The voters who flipped were Trump’s margin, not Trump’s base.* And the Democrat establishment seems to be working overtime not to appeal to them.

        NOTE * And they can’t be a “base,” by definition, because they’re volatility voters!!!

      2. Procopius

        I think you’re ignoring Fresno Dan’s point. Unless the statistic was just a damned lie (entirely possible) it was reported that Trump voters have a median income of $70,000 a year. Almost all the MSM coverage I see depicts them as inbred, poverty-stricken, ignorant rubes. Half of them are from the top 20% income group! I’m appalled by the refusal of the Democratic Elite (aka The Nomenklatura) to admit this and think about what it means.

  11. fresno dan

    “The Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame astounds us with a huge, rare collection” [Ars Technica]. “This collection of roughly 260 working pinball, electromechanical, and video games has been open to the public for over a decade… It arguably includes the most varied and valuable open-every-day collection of pinball and pinball-like games in the United States, if not the world…” Visitors must pay 25 or 50 cents a play in coin: ‘If the games aren’t played, they will say, ‘[family blog] you,’ because they dry out, and they get corroded,’ the staffer told Ars. ‘They need to be played.’” “They need to be played.” The difference between analog and digital…
    I went to the National Pinball Museum in Baltimore MD years ago. I tried to look it up on the innertubes because of this article, but it appears to have pinged its last pin…..


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A museum museum, or a museum of museums, where the inquisitive can go and look at museums from long ago.

      That’s what we need.

    2. Bugs Bunny

      Went to pinball hall of fame and an atomic bomb museum. Best memories I have of that awful town. Was falsely arrested for a DUI (officer wouldn’t show me the breathalyzer result), threw me in an actual paddy wagon on the strip and had to spend 2K getting out of jail. On the weekend. Returned to France and had a lawyer back in Vegas reduce the charge to illegal parking. Seems it’s a scam on out of state car renters. If I were darker skinned they’d probably have just shot me.

      Anyway, go to the pinball museum and avoid cops.

  12. Synoia

    Please do not under estimate the Democrats’ ability, and desire, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Running “against the Rs” without a platform “for anything” would be excellent for the Ds.

    It’s a very good mechanism to avoid “the blame of rule,” aka “It’s their fault.”

    1. Sid Finster

      Team D may just rehash Team R’s 1996 performance. Clinton was deeply unpopular and Team R figured that just about any doofus could beat him, so they put up the most anodyne candidate they could find in Bob Dole, who promptly lost.

      1. voteforno6

        Let’s not forget the incredibly stupid government shutdown forced by the Republicans prior to that election. If we have another one, I wonder who’s going to take the blame for that one? Sure, the Republicans do control Congress and the Presidency, but one thing they’re really good at is blaming people for stuff. I’ve seen a lot of reporting on how the Democrats will not agree to a deal unless something can be done with DACA. While something should be done about that, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one to point out how this might not be a such a winning issue for the Democrats as they seem to think. How hard would it be to portray them as causing disruption in the lives of American citizens, in order to secure benefits for those who technically aren’t citizens? Is that the hill they want to die on?

        1. integer

          How hard would it be to portray them as causing disruption in the lives of American citizens, in order to secure benefits for those who technically aren’t citizens?

          The seeds are already being sown. One example:

          ‘Nobody Wants To Live In Haiti’ – Tucker Carlson Has Heated Debate With a Guest

          Is that the hill they want to die on?

          Apparently it is.

          Top DNC official warns Democrats: Support a ‘clean’ Dream Act or ‘you’re going to have some problems’

        2. Jen

          Particularly telling is that it appears to be the only hill they want to die on. Net neutrality? Nope. Ending warrant-less surveillance on american citizens? Biiiiig nope. Medicare for all. Nope. I could go on and on.

          Then again, as Lambert routinely points out, the Democrats are nowhere near as feral as the republicans. They love that bipartisanship!

      2. JohnnyGL

        That was the thought in 1994, but by 1996, the economy had really strengthened and Clinton had cut a number of deals with Republicans to pass, well, Republican legislation. One of the biggest was telecom deregulation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996

        That Act kicked off a boom in mergers, laying cables across the atlantic and connecting everyone to the internet.

        Also, in 1995, the Netscape IPO had caught fire and the boom was well underway. https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/08/09/the-ipo-that-inflated-the-dot-com-bubble.aspx

        By election season of 1996, the economic triumphalism was in full swing and everyone was going to get rich off the internet….somehow or another….

        Clinton cruised to re-election and Dole never really looked like he was going to challenge Clinton.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” –James Joyce, Ulysses

      Let me just lay out my nightmare scenario:

      Exactly as in 2006, the Democrats in 2018 win back the House and/or the Senate with enough (very carefully selected, by design) Blue Dogs to prevent all but the most marginal and performative reform legislation to be passed (that is, nothing that makes the donor class unhappy would be passed, especially #MedicareForAll). Even if they manage to impeach Trump (and let’s remember that Pelosi immediately took impeaching Bush off the table in 2006), they will either (a) make their peace with Pence and the “responsible” Republican establishment (seeking those suburban Republican votes) or (b) continue the current atmosphere of hysterical speculation, so as to avoid doing anything but blaming Republicans for it.

      Then, in 2020, they run a straight replay of 2008: A neoliberal ticket with the correct identity politics properties. (I say “ticket” to include, say, Biden/Booker — “B-B” has a nice ring to it, with Biden signaling a “return to normalcy” and a “safe pair of hands,” and Booker signaling “the voice of a new generation” and so on and so forth, as well as a ticket like Harris/… McAuliffe, with Harris doing “the future is female,” and McAuliffe bringing the state of Virginia, the Clintonites, and big bags full of money. All idle speculation, of course, but you see where I’m going and how horrid it could be.

      So, exactly as in 2006/2008, a “wave election” would end up being completely dissipated in 2018/2020, and we’d have a bunch of Blue Dogs clogging the pipes for another eight years. The Democrats are really, really good at this stuff!

      Now, I can imagine Sanders blowing this up with his list, his platform, and tours in the flyover states. (For example, rumor has it that the flyover states are tired of sending their kids off to die in wars that we never win and provide no obvious benefit to them; Trump counties correlate to combat deaths. So as the warmongering heats up, I’d love to see Sanders tour those states on an “End the Wars” platform. The drop in life expectancy is also the elephant in the room for the political class, and #MedicareForAll, which is Sanders’ signature program, has obvious appeal as a solution.)

      I also don’t hold much of a brief for Elizabeth Warren, but it’s possible that the scenarios I’ve outlined above are too vile and corrupt and horrid even for her. We’d have to see.

      In any case, we saw what “inevitability” meant in 2016. Just because, like the Bourbons, the Democrat Establisment has “forgotten nothing and learned nothing,” and so will double down on the tactics Clinton used in her turn to the right after the Democratic convention, doesn’t mean the tactics will succeed.

      1. Procopius

        I’m very suspicious of the claim that Trump counties are “getting tired of” taking casualties. Correlation is not causation, and there are other studies showing that certain geographic areas have a stronger military tradition than the nation as a whole. I believe one of the results was that an inordinate percentage of military officers come from the Southern states, for example.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        How could blue dog Democrats be defeated? Perhaps the Bernie groups could come up with easily-discoverable proxies for blue dogness. Perhaps every blue dog running could be studied to see if it was a Clinton or Obama delegate to a convention. Perhaps every Dem candidate could also be studied to see if it ever worked in any Clinton or Obama connected group. If it did, it could be named-and-shamed under a Clinton Watch/Obama Watch program run by the Bernie groups.

        Perhaps every blue dog office seeker has just enough Bitter Berners in its area of operations that if every Bitter Berner were to vote against every blue dog, that every blue dog could be defeated and the Dem party could be a little bit more decontaminated and disinfected.

  13. a different chris

    >he’s taking more seriously the risks of withdrawing the U.S. from the trade deal

    So he’s degenerating into a bog-standard Republican (RepubliCrat?) but at least with the added amusement of a potty mouth. Ah well.

  14. djrichard

    FYI, for any Joe Frank fans out there, he passed away yesterday. https://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2018/01/a-passing-of-one-of-radios-last-geniuses/

    For those who haven’t come across him before, there’s some free content of his available for streaming at https://www.joefrank.com/ . I’m on a paid subscription, still working through his material from the 80s, which is when I started listening to him on WFMU. Pure balm for a malcontent back then, back when the economy was booming and there wasn’t really anything on the media landscape that was challenging the orthodoxy.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      RIP. I loved the show about the escalating LA traffic situation that goes absurdly out of control. Or the one about the pawn shop owner. They were all great.

    2. djrichard

      P.S. it’s worth mentioning that there was a gofundme page for Joe’s last round of hospital treatment and recovery. Speaks to the types of issues that are brought up on NC. Here’s an artist who had KCRW as their primary channel to market and who was syndicated to other radio stations and still ended up in that precarious situation.

      Anyways, Joe’s partner (spouse?) Michal provided witness to what Joe was going through in his trials and tribulations. To be honest, it was hard to feel adequate to what Michal was sharing with us on the gofundme page – it was too human. We should all be so lucky to have somebody like Michal when we go through the same.

      I remember the pawn shop episode (the owner doing that after being in a garage band if I remember right). That is a good one. But I don’t remember the LA traffic one. I can imagine Joe would take that topic and really run with it. One of my favorite episodes was “Nausea”. I haven’t listened to that since forever. Time to go stream it.

  15. Jim Haygood


    LONDON — The Guardian, the British newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of national security leaks in the United States but whose aggressive international expansion has brought heavy losses, switched to a tabloid print format on Monday as part of efforts to cut costs.

    The Guardian lost 44.7 million pounds, or around $61 million, in the year ending April 2017, following losses of £68.7 million the year before.

    “We’re in the process of finding a new business model,” editor in chief Katharine Viner said on Monday. “I wouldn’t like to say we’ve got there yet, but I think we’re on the way.”


    Don’t know where we’re going, but we’re definitely proceeding there at a brisk pace. So woolly, so wet.

    1. uncle tungsten

      Thank you JH for that timely reminder. The Guardian is no longer worth the paper or ink that comprises it. Nor the megabytes of cold right wing dollop it calls news. For a much better and more informed read try the Off-Guardian. You may even comment on that journal and it wont serve up whitewashed Blairite tosh.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The Guardian is the only venue where Thomas Frank regularly appears. Oddly, or not, Frank seems to have been blackballed after the appearance of Listen, Liberal!. We need the Grauniad.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I don’t know if its because of the edition I access here (the US version may have different layouts), but I find Thomas Franks articles remarkably hard to find on a casual browse of the Guardian. They are rarely if ever highlighted on the main page or the CIF page, you have to actively search them out. If I was conspiracy minded I’d say this was deliberate.

          Having said that, there are still some excellent journalists in the Guardian, most notably Aditiya Chakrabortty, John Harris and George Monbiot.

    2. Wukchumni

      Would it be possible for the Guardian to clutch Hillary’s pearls even tighter than it has in the past?

      1. ambrit

        Cannot stop unseemly self….
        If it were the Sun, why, they’d give Hillary a “pearl necklace!”

  16. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: Infrastructure Is A Political Opportunity …
    I am growing less and less fond of so-called “Infrastructure” spending. My state bumped up the gasoline tax to pay for much needed road repairs and construction. The best I can tell from what I can see as I drive our highways — the “Infrastructure” spending seems to pay for parking and leasing a lot of heavy construction equipment while making our overcrowded highways more overcrowded and slower. While I have noticed plenty of new potholes I haven’t seen many of them filled or much in the way of repairs to our raggedy roads and bridges. I haven’t even seen many guys with hardhats standing around over shovels getting a feeble drizzle of trickle down.

    1. John k

      Ca has a lot of highway improvements going on. Saw somebody collecting signatures to roll back the new gas tax, but I support the tax… for starters, roads are older need more care, costs are higher, and tax collection is declining as fewer gallons sold. Of course taxes should rise, better if auto to incorporate the various issues.

      1. Wukchumni

        Most of the ‘improvements’ I see in the Golden State are clever traps on roads that have signs that say “construction zone-moving violation fines doubled” and then quite often said ‘construction’ is a phalanx of orange cones, and nothing more.

        A variation on the old crooked southern town…

        My favorite gambit along those lines was in Aussie, circa 1982.

        I was there for a few months, and drove from Melbourne to Sydney on the Hume Hwy, and then coming back, I decided to hit the back roads, and the pavement turned to dirt, and I was following too close to the car in front of me, and it spit out a rock, which shattered my windscreen, so I drove another mile or so to the next town, looking out the right side driver’s window as I was getting there, and then upon arrival, this 2-bit town of maybe 1,000 people, had 7 or 8 windshield stores. I suspected that schoolchildren must’ve gone out on field trips to salt the road with just the right sized rocks, ha!

        Anybody in Oz know the name of the place?

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        What about electric cars that get their energy from fossil fuel power stations?

        How do they contribute more, like other car owners?

  17. Jason Boxman

    Also, what I keep noticing about “sequestration” is that, no one in the Establishment news cares to point out exactly how that came about and who supported it. Thanks Obama!

  18. John Zelnicker

    The Pinball Museum brought back age-old memories.

    When I was in college, 1968-72, I played pinball at Sy’s Luncheonette, also known as The Dirty Drug, which occupied a corner near the middle of campus (UPenn). I recognize some of the machines in the article’s pictures that I played back then, like Playboy. I was something of a pinball wizard, partly due to the very loose machines that could be moved a bit without tilting them. I would go in there early in the afternoon and play until mid-evening on one quarter and the free games I won. Cheap entertainment.

    @Lambert, there was definitely a “dopamine loop” when playing pinball: All those flashing lights and ringing bells made it almost Pavlovian.

    One of my fantasies is to be able to afford one of the vintage machines I played back in the day, so I could play it again.

    1. RUKidding

      Thanks for the memories. I attended a small liberal arts college up in the Lehigh Valley just one year behind yours. We also had a corner store – and my memory banks aren’t coming up with the name, but I can see the owner’s face (maybe called Sals?) – that had quite a few pinball tables. I wouldn’t have called myself a pinball wizard, but I definitely developed some mad skillz on those tables. Cheap entertainment at it’s best!

      Now “hearing” The Who in my head… ah yes, those were the dayz!

    2. Kokuanani

      When I was growing up in suburban Houston [1950s; horses and dirt roads], our newest neighbors moved in with their OWN pinball machine, which they installed in their garage. Thus we could play it endlessly using only one nickel.

  19. Summer

    Work requirements for Medicaid?
    They really want the pressure to drive down wages, but make sure everyone is scrambling to keep billionaires rolling in billions.
    And before you say “Jobs Guarantee,” I can’t even imagine the tyrants they would reward to provide “jobs” under a “jobs guarantee.” And Number 1 War Culture and Economy would probably make them mostly surveillance and death associated.

  20. Wukchumni

    “The Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame astounds us with a huge, rare collection” [Ars Technica].

    I was an aspiring pinball wizard in the early 70’s, and my venue was the local Texaco gas station, where the owner had put 2 machines in the front part of the ‘store’ (gas stations really didn’t sell much in the way of food or drink items back then, pretty sterile looking compared to today) and one of them was named Duotron, and my pals and I discovered that if you rapped the side of the machine about halfway up, it would give you boucoup free points and we’d play normally for 4 balls and then rack up the needed amount before the 5th stanza, so we could play all day for a quarter. The owner never cottoned onto our trickery and endless replays and thought we were god’s gift to pinball!

  21. The Rev Kev

    “Haley for President? UN Diplomats Bet Trump Envoy Has Ambitions”

    Well that should be entertaining. I’m sure that she and Sarah Palin would also make a great team as they seem to have so much in common. It’s not like she was blinded by her own political ambitions and treated the UN like her own personal smash up demolition derby thereby serving to help isolate America on the global scene. It’s not like a lot of countries, including long time allies, are learning to bypass American influence in order to go after their own interests.
    As President, she could take out her list of countries that are on her bad list (I’m sure she checked it twice) and declare economic warfare on them. Maybe even launch the odd Tomahawk missile or two. I’m sure that radical Republicans will continue to protect her from the consequences of her actions as they are doing now. They must have big plans for her.

  22. Wukchumni


    I played my first pinball game in the late 60’s, and you needed around 1,500 points for a replay then, and by the time I was a teenager, it was up to around 30,000 points for a replay, and the last time I played a few years ago, I needed 2,000,000 for a replay.

    Odd inflationary measures, no?

  23. UserFriendly

    Ban the Box….. race was indicated by name I’ll put the name you guess the race.

    Malcolm Fields
    Reginald Banks
    Dylan Fox
    Elijah Joseph
    John Kane
    Maurice Ingram
    Sean Wagner
    Douglas Weber

    Not to say the study is worthless; out of the dozen names from each category (white first, last, black first, last) the vast majority of combo’s would be obvious but I just thought I’d point out some less obvious ones.

  24. allan

    Trump Administration Wants to Arrest Mayors of ‘Sanctuary Cities’

    The Department of Justice is considering subjecting state and local officials to criminal charges if they implement or enforce so-called sanctuary policies that bar jurisdictions from cooperating with immigration authorities. Immigration advocates argue such a move would be illegal.

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made the disclosure Tuesday during a Senate committee hearing on the department’s operations. …

    The Justice Department’s review follows a chilling warning earlier this month from the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, who said California would feel the wrath of his agency because of its decision to become a sanctuary state. Homan also called for local and state elected officials to be charged with federal crimes for adhering to sanctuary policies. …

    Weirdly, no threats are being made against the state and local officials who haven’t cooperated
    with implementation of the Voting Rights Act.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > no threats are being made against the state and local officials who haven’t cooperated
      with implementation of the Voting Rights Act.

      Nice to see Democrats all over expanding their base with a laser-like focus on voter registration, supplying IDs, beating CrossCheck by getting people back on the rolls, etc. Oh, wait… No money for consultants in that!

  25. marym

    Bevin issues ultimatum: If courts block Medicaid plan, half million Kentuckians will lose care

    Gov. Matt Bevin has issued an executive order that would strip Medicaid coverage from nearly half a million Kentuckians should his proposed overhaul of the federal-state health plan be struck down in court.

    No one has filed a legal challenge to Bevin’s changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program that federal authorities approved Friday.

    But several advocacy groups have said some of the changes — such as requiring some “able-bodied” adults to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week — likely will be challenged in court because they violate federal law that establishes Medicaid purely as a health program and does not authorize work requirements.

  26. allan

    Chris Dodd joins K Street firm [The Hill]

    A real shocker – knock me over with a feather.
    From Andrew Cockburn’s article in the January Harper’s:

    … The Volcker Rule meanwhile had to undergo a long and tortuous gestation, beginning with its passage through Congress as part of the financial reform legislation introduced by Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank. On hand to observe the progress of the legislation was Jeff Connaughton, formerly a high-powered lobbyist, who had recently signed on as chief of staff to the reform-minded senator Ted Kaufman, a Democrat from Delaware. In his instructive memoir The Payoff, Connaughton describes how the banking committee functioned:

    Staffers gave lobbyists information about bills being drafted or what one senator had said to another. … The lobbyists passed the information on to their clients in the banking or insurance or accounting industry. … Sometimes within an hour, the news would be emailed to the entire financial-services industry and all of its lobbyists. With multiple leakers from the banking committee keeping K Street well informed, the banking world had complete transparency into bill drafting.

    Among the lobbyists’ prime sources, according to Connaughton, was Dodd himself, who spent hours hashing out the bill with them behind closed doors. (“I remember when I told Jeff that I’d just spent forty-five minutes discussing the bill with Dodd,” one lobbyist told me recently, laughing at the memory. “Jeff was so upset!”) …

    If it isn’t quid pro quo, it’s not illegal.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Once it is shown the people can subsist on negative wealth (home or non-home), once the zero is crossed, there aren’t natural lower bounds.

  27. Stillfeelinthebern

    A state senate seat in northwest Wisconsin flip from Rep to Dem tonight. The seat was open because the Guv appointed the Rep Senator to be Sec of AG.

    In a second special election in a southern, deep red stronghold, the Dem candidate gained 16% on the 2016 election. Both are very good signs for Wisconsin Democrats.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for this. I don’t deny that a “wave” election is possible. My concern is that the Democrats will squander it, which, based on past performance and “personnel is policy,” is a strong likelihood.

  28. integer

    Re: Dreamers

    Here’s a link to a memo on “Dreamers” from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, authored by Jenifer Palmieri and Navin Nayak:


    Just to give a sense of the lay of the land, here is an opinion piece from Fox News on the memo:

    Democrats’ DACA fight is a power play designed to turn Dreamers into a new army of liberal voters

    The fight by Democrats to stop the deportation of about 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and now protected under the DACA program isn’t just an act of compassion. It’s a political power play to win U.S. citizenship for the DACA recipients – known as Dreamers – and turn them into an army of new Democratic voters.

    Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of veteran Democratic political operative Jennifer Palmieri, who was the communications director for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign.

    A memo obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation that was co-authored by Palmieri states this clearly: “The fight to protect Dreamers is not only a moral imperative, it is also a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future success.”

    Not clear enough? The memo also says: “If Democrats don’t try to do everything in their power to defend Dreamers, that will jeopardize Democrats’ electoral chances in 2018 and beyond.”

    This is going to get ugly imo.

    1. integer

      House Republicans coalesce behind plan to avert shutdown Politico

      House Republicans on Tuesday night appeared to coalesce around a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown Friday — even as conservatives threatened to oppose it and a bitter fight continued over the fate of more than 700,000 Dreamers.

      Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a plan at a House GOP Conference meeting to fund the government through Feb. 16, and numerous rank-and-file members quickly endorsed it despite their frustration with another short-term patch. To further sweeten the pot, the Wisconsin Republican’s bill also includes a delay of several Obamacare taxes and a six-year extension of a popular health care program for children.

      That — combined with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) threats to withhold Democratic votes to help pass the measure — appeared to have won over key GOP skeptics.

      “It’s a good strategic position because not only does it offer CHIP [funding] for six years … but you also have a medical device tax delay as well as the Cadillac tax delay,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.), referring to some of the taxes that would be delayed. “I think it puts Democrats in a very difficult position of having to vote against that in the House or in the Senate.”

    2. tegnost

      ugly yes in a human way, I’ve worked with many of the “dreamer” class and they commonly have zero connection to mexico unlike their parents, or grandparents now, it’s been many years since, not without irony, california republicans used cheap central american labor, disrupted and precarified by (illegal) wars to break the working class…

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