2:00PM Water Cooler 1/2/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, allow me to join Yves and Jerri-Lynn in wishing you all a Happy New Year (or perhaps, happiness being a dubious proposition, a pleasurable or contented or satisfying New Year). 2017 was challenging and stressful for me in a number of ways, but also immensely rewarding, personally. And it certainly wasn’t dull! Some may recall that my post-2016 prediction was continued volatility; that is my prediction for 2018 as well, or to put this another way, I expect 2018 to maintain 2017’s standard. –lambert


“President Donald Trump entered the White House nearly a year ago promising aggressive action on trade policy and brimming with threats, but he did not deliver the punch many expected in 2017. That could change early this year, as the NAFTA talks come down to the wire, the administration’s investigation of Chinese trade policies ripens, and a number of tariff and trade decisions pile up on Trump’s desk” [Politico].



“Bernie Sanders is seen as the most likely Democratic nominee to challenge Trump in 2020” [Quartz]. So says to PredictIt, a political prediction stock market. FWIW!

“Warren positions herself for potential 2020 run” [Politico]. “The liberal icon and Republican bete noire has amassed more money in her campaign war chest than nearly any senator in modern history, groomed political connections with Democrats who’ve been skeptical of her in the past, and worked to bolster her bipartisan and foreign policy bona fides.” I could vote for the plain-spoken woman who wanted to put bankers’ heads on pikes and started the CPFB (since she co-sponsored Sanders’ Medicare for All bill). I’m not sure I could vote for the woman who was yammering Clinton talking points (and that contrast between “plain-spoken” and “yammering” was quite deliberate; Warren’s demeanor, I felt, changed and for the worse).

New Cold War

“As the Dossier Scandal Looms, the New York Times Struggles to Save Its Collusion Tale” [Andrew McCarthy, National Review]. “Even a cursory FBI investigation of Papadopoulos would have illustrated how implausible it was that he could have been integral to a Trump-Russia plot. Anonymous intelligence and law-enforcement officials have been leaking collusion information to the Times and other media outlets since before Trump won the November 2016 election — that’s why we’ve spent the last year-plus hearing all about Page, Manafort, Flynn, et al. If Papadopoulos had really been the impetus for the investigation way back in July 2016, what are the chances that we would never have heard his name mentioned until after his guilty plea was announced 15 months later? What are the chances that we’d only now be learning that he was the real stimulus for the investigation? I’d put it at less than none.”

“Speech and Email Release: The Three Public Statement Signals Tied to Russia’s Dirt-as-Emails” [emptywheel]. “… at least according to Papadopoulos, who at times oversold these things…” And gets drunk…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Maine Voices: A Senate page absorbs lessons not taught in a political science class” [Portland Press Herald]. The page seems like a nice person, but get this at the end: “Additionally, despite our range of political beliefs, there were also issues that have been contentious in politics for years that most of us actually agreed on, such as criminal justice reform, common-sense gun regulations and gay marriage. I strongly believe that some of the country’s future leaders were among this group.” So that’s what we have to look forward to? That’s it? That’s gonna be a problem…

“Don’t Bring the Truth to a Knife Fight: A New Year’s Proposal for the Left” [The Hampton Insitute]. “This is why the right wing is winning: they know they have enemies and they have allies, and together they want to defeat those enemies. To defeat those enemies, they mobilize, organize, intervene, and act collectively. They imagine the future they want. They talk to each other, they create their own ideological bubbles from which to act, resist, take swings. They capture the state and wield it toward their ends. They don’t care about what the other side thinks. They aren’t trying to win us over. They believe in themselves and their movement. They don’t think their people need to be enlightened by public intellectuals.”

“Populism Is a Problem. Elitist Technocrats Aren’t the Solution” [Foreign Policy]. “Just as a healthy body fights off myriad viruses, so too do healthy political systems identify and respond to the challenges they faceJust as a healthy body fights off myriad viruses, so too do healthy political systems identify and respond to the challenges they face. Liberal democracies’ problems over the past years haven’t come merely or even primarily from the challenges they have faced but rather from a diminished capacity to recognize and respond to them. It is not just rapid economic and social changes that matter but the inability or unwillingness of national political actors and institutions to respond to those changes that has caused rising support for populists. The real cause of Western democracies’ current travails is that many core political institutions have decayed dramatically over the past years — or ceded responsibility to unelected supranational bodies — hindering their ability to translate the demands of a broad range of their citizens into concrete action at home. Western democracies have, in short, become dramatically less democratic.” Note the curious lack of agency throughout.

“Since Trump’s election, the Democrats have experienced something similar with the rise of insurgent groups like Indivisible, whose ostensible goal is to overthrow the party ‘establishment’ and generate candidates ostensibly more responsive to the people” [Foreign Policy]. Same article, but I pulled out this quote because it’s so [family-blogging] delusional (or, alternatively, mendacious). Indivisible is not an “insurgent group.” It was started by Congressional staffers, for pity’s sake. It doesn’t even support Medicare for All, so it’s to the right of Kamala Harris. “Indivisible has also received funding from the tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, as well as foundations or coalitions tied to Democracy Alliance donors, including the San Francisco mortgage billionaire Herbert Sandler, the New York real estate heiress Patricia Bauman and the oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix” [New York Times]. I mean, come on. And Foreign Policy is the heart of The Bloob, the crowd that’s trying to foment our next war!

Stats Watch

PMI Manufacturing Index, December 2017: “The December final for Markit’s U.S. manufacturing report is little changed from December’s flash” [Econoday]. “The jury is still out but the factory sector appears to have accelerated noticeably going into year end.”

Philly Fed Coincident Index: “Last month’s hopeful move up reversed putting this back to levels that historically have been associated with recessions” [Mosler Economics].

Small Business: “Small-business hiring slows, even as the economy accelerates, Paychex survey finds” [CNBC]. Twelve-month growing in hourly earnings: 2.76%. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick (though of course averages conceal).

Commodities: “Moroccans continue to protest against the ‘mines of death'” [Mining.com]. “This time, protesters showed up dressed as miners, had their faces and hands blackened and were carrying black loaves and coffins. With such attire, they wanted to symbolize what happens at the many abandoned coal pits that exist in the mountains surrounding the town, where young people struggling to find employment go to try to extract some coal to then sell it; the problem is that many end up not finding the mineral but death instead.”

Real Estate: “Industrial and supply chain real estate expected to soar in 2018” [Logistics Management]. “‘E-commerce activity is really driving the industrial sector’s success,’ said Craig Meyer, President of JLL’s Industrial group, Americas. ‘It represents around 9 percent of total U.S. sales, and experts predict this could reach nearly 14 percent in the coming years. These figures, along with a strong global economy, indicate that demand for industrial space will only increase in 2018.’ This coincides with a recent study conducted by San Francisco-based Prologis with Oxford Economics. That research, too, maintains that logistics real estate delivers goods into the hands of time-conscious consumers faster than ever.”

Manufacturing: “Factories across the globe warned they are finding it increasingly hard to keep up with demand, potentially forcing them to raise prices as the world economy looks set to enjoy its strongest year since 2011” [IndustryWeek]. “A slew of Purchasing Managers Indexes published on Tuesday from China, Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. all pointed to deeper supply constraints, with a U.S. gauge still to be released.”

Manufacturing: “Is the U.S. at peak of industrial production?” [Logistics Management]. “[Michael Hicks, an economist and the director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research] also notes that since about 2000, manufacturing jobs held by non-college graduates have declined by almost 45 percent, while manufacturing jobs held by those with a college degree are up almost 17 percent. ‘That means in net, all the new jobs and almost all the replacement jobs in manufacturing are going to college graduates. That trend also accelerated during the Great Recession.’ The press release ends with the observation that ‘manufacturing in American is doing extremely well and is enjoying record levels of production.'” And: “‘While manufacturing employment has gained a full million jobs since the end of the recession,’ Hicks says, ‘that rebound seems to be slowing. Still, the loss of manufacturing employment has been swamped by growth in other sectors. For every job we’ve lost in manufacturing since December 2007, we’ve gained six jobs in other sectors. The problem is the new jobs require different skills in different places. Moreover, turnover within manufacturing has had a very uneven effect on workers.'”

Retail: “Nike Inc. is having a hard time delivering stronger profits while it delivers more goods directly to consumers. The company’s profits tumbled 9% despite a 5% gain in revenue in a quarter marked by upheaval in sportswear sales channels” [Wall Street Journal]. “With some big chains now liquidated, Nike is narrowing its focus to just 40 of its 30,000 accounts while trying to increase its own online sales and launching initiatives such as deals with fashion startup Stitch Fix. Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Such efforts make it difficult for Nike to control pricing for its brands, however. And the new paths to reach customers and deliver the goods make the company’s distribution channels more complicated, and likely more costly, than ever.”

Shipping: China is expanding its role in ship finance to match its moves toward market power on the seas. The country’s banks poured $20 billion into ship financing this year, some 33% more than they invested in 2016…. The growing financing flow highlights China’s ambition to become the world’s dominant maritime player as European banks pull back their investments” [Wall Street Journal]. Those German banks lost a lot of money on ships… More: “Experts say some shipping companies could relocate to Asia to build closer ties to Chinese lenders. And the country’s banks are quicker than their European counterparts to recover ships if payments are missed.”

Shipping; “Themes that will dominate shipping in 2018” [Splash 247]. ” As a general rule of thumb when it comes to market realities in shipping, if one sector is heavily touted by the majority as a likely winner that often tends to be its kiss of death. Bookies’ favourites in shipping rarely pay out. Fortunately among Splash readers there does not appear to be a clear sector winner as we head into the new year. In an ongoing poll carried on this site LNG has a slim lead over dry bulk in terms of which sector has the best prospects in 2018.” Interviews with industry experts.

The Bezzle: “Tesla Inc. may have delivered about four times more Model 3 sedans last quarter than in the prior three months — or boosted sales by a factor of 27, depending on which analyst you ask” [Industry Week]. “The broad range of estimates reflects how little the electric-car maker has disclosed about the progress it’s made speeding up production of its sedan that starts at $35,000…. ‘The reason we remain upbeat on the Tesla story despite the prolonged Model 3 production problems is because EV and autonomy are the future,’ [Gene Munster, co-founder of research-driven venture capital firm Loup Ventures] wrote in a Dec. 28 research note. ‘Tesla is fighting to gain production scale to create that future.'” Whatever that is, it’s not research.

The Bezzle: “‘Oh My God, This Is So F—ed Up’: Inside Silicon Valley’s Secretive, Orgiastic Dark Side'” [Vanity Fair]. Makes me wonder if Eric Schmidt slithered out from Alphabet for a reason other than spending more time with his family. The lead: “From reports of those who have attended these parties, guests and hosts include powerful first-round investors, well-known entrepreneurs, and top executives. Some of them are the titans of the Valley, household names.” Things go on from there (and I wonder how many of these guests and hosts are top Democrat donors and bundlers). A must read, if only for a phrase, used multiple times, that I haven’t heard before: “cuddle puddle.” Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww! I’m not a prude, and although the power relations seem more than a little sketchy to me, my thought was that this network (class) of men is making capital allocation decisions worth hundreds of billions of dollars and they must be completely and collectively addled by sex and drugs. Explains a lot about Uber, and not just about Trav personally, who would have slid right into this scene like the slippery little scut that he is.

Tech: “Steve Jobs’s worst decision was promoting Tim Cook” [Quartz]. “The parallels between Gates and Ballmer and Jobs and Cook are eerie. Apple under Cook has doubled its revenue to $200 billion while doubling profit and tripling the amount of cash it has in the bank (now a quarter of a trillion dollars). The iPhone continues its annual upgrades with incremental improvements. Yet in five years the only truly new product that’s managed to ship is the Apple Watch. And somehow, with 115,000 employees, Apple can barely get annual updates out for its laptops and desktop computers.” So AI is going to “disrupt” Apple. Maybe.

Tech: “2017 Aviation: Only 1 Fatal Passenger Flight Accident per 7,360,000 Flight” [247 Wall Street]. A remarkable technical achievement. It’s worth noting that we don’t hear cries for “light touch” regulation of aircraft manufacture and maintenance (messed up though it is through outsourcing), no doubt because the executives and owners themselves fly in them.

Tech: “Toshi: A Dapp Browser for the Ethereum Network” [Brian Armstrong]. Read carefully, a libertarian dystopia.

Fodder for the Bulls: “How much will the economy grow in 2018?” [Calculated Risk]. “First, since I’m always asked, I don’t see a recession in 2018. It is possible that there will be a pickup in growth in 2018 due to a combination of factors. The new tax policy should boost the economy a little in 2018, and there will probably be some further economic boost from oil sector investment in 2018 since oil prices have increased recently. Also the housing recovery is ongoing, however auto sales are mostly moving sideways. And demographics are improving (the prime working age population is growing about 0.5% per year, compared to declining a few years ago). All these factors combined will probably push GDP growth into the mid-to-high 2% range in 2018. And a 3% handle is possible if there is some pickup in productivity.” And: “Ten Economic Questions for 2018” [Calculated Risk].

Corruption: “Keppel Offshore & Marine acted against 17 former or current employees for their roles in the Brazil bribery scandal the company resolved in December for $422 million” [FCPA Blog]. “Keppel admitted paying $55 million in bribes to officials in Brazil during a decade-long scheme. It won about $1 billion in contracts.”

Five Horseman: “As the new year begins the Fab Five are off to the races” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 2

Rapture Index: Closes +1 on oil supply/price. “The price of oil sees multi-year high” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 188. Holy moley!

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 60 Greed (previous close: 53, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 2 at 11:17am.


“Unfiltered Fervor: The Rush to Get Off the Water Grid” [New York Times]. “the off-grid water movement has become more than the fringe phenomenon it once was, with sophisticated marketing, cultural cachet, millions of dollars in funding and influential supporters from Silicon Valley…. The most prominent proponent of raw water is Doug Evans, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. After his juicing company, Juicero, collapsed in September, he went on a 10-day cleanse, drinking nothing but Live Water. ‘I haven’t tasted tap water in a long time,’ he said.” Grifters gotta grift. Of course, from a public policy perspective, the Silicon Valley squillionaires are now free to abandon another public good. Yay!


“What 2017 Was Like for the World’s Oldest Trees” [Atlas Obscura]. “Methuselah and Old Hara, 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines in California: The sun shone. Rain fell, no more than three inches each month. Fire blazed nearby but did not touch the grove. Small limber pines grew further upslope than ever in human memory, creeping into bristlecone territory.” And: “Pando, 50,000-year-old clonal aspen stand in Utah. Pando struggled. Its root system, 80,000 years old, supports more than 47,000 trees, most of which are nearing the end of an aspen stem’s lifespan of 110 to 130 years. In June, the new shoots—the young trees that could replace the senescent—sprouted. Outside the fencing that the park rangers have erected, deer feasted on the shoots; inside, fewer were eaten. It will be another decade before the community’s survival is assured.”

Nice idea:

Neoliberal Epidemics

“About half of adults with a disability receiving Medicare benefits received at least one opioid prescription in a year, and they’re more likely to be from the suburbs, small cities or rural areas” [MarketWatch]. “Opioid prescriptions were highest in places with lower median household incomes and higher unemployment rates and those aged 55 to 64 years old rather than younger Americans, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which analyzed data of almost 3.5 million adults younger than 65 with disabilities and were receiving Medicare Part D benefits for at least a year in 2014…. More opioid prescriptions were linked to places with economic hardships, particularly in the South, Southwest and Midwest.”

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Yikes. Readers, has anything like this happened to you?

Guillotine Watch

Best of the genre:

(Even if “before” the Bastille, at right, turns out to be 1745!)

Imperial Collapse Watch

America, 2018:

Busiest trackage in the country.

Class Warfare

“Working Class w/ No Living Wage: The Absurd Math of US Income” [John Laurits]. Summarized in this handy chart:

Well worth a read, and I’d welcome your (critical) thoughts. Laurits is taking a road not traveled, at least in the world of neoliberal economics departments. For example, is his definition of income correct?

“America’s Worst Graveyard Shift Is Grinding Up Workers” [Bloomberg]. “[N]o one knows how many [meatpacking] sanitation workers get sick and injured on the job, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t require plants to report contractors’ injuries, and the highly fragmented sanitation industry uses multiple job codes, so cleaners fall through the data cracks, the GAO says.

Judging from [Packers Sanitation Services Inc.’s] record, the nightly storm of high-­pressure hoses, chemical vapors, blood, grease, and frantic deadlines, all swirling in clouds of steam around pulsing belts, blades, and blenders, can be treacherous. From 2015 through September 2016, Packers had the 14th-highest number of severe injuries—defined as an amputation, hospitalization, or the loss of an eye—among the 14,000 companies tracked by OSHA in 29 states.” Nice definition of “severe.”

“Pockets of Rural America at Risk of Being Undercounted in Census” [Daily Yonder]. “The Census will rely more on the internet for data collection. Since rural residents trail in internet connectivity, with 21% of rural homes lacking service compared with 13% of urban residents, response rates from rural areas could be under-represented. The rural regions with the most at risk, and the least likely to have internet service, are African-Americans communities in the South, Hispanics in the Southwest, and Native Americans living near tribal lands and reservations. Low participation rates are also expected in “deep Appalachia” and among migrant farmworker families. [Demographer William O’Hare] said that approximately 40% of impoverished rural people in these regions have no internet access.”

Splendid black and white photos [Geography of Poverty]. Like a modern-day Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, but with no text.

New Year’s Wrapup

Yes, this is what my New Years’ was like:

Brain damage at multiple altitudes:

The City that Loves You Back:

Or not:


Not a bad thing to be a Dancing Grandpa (he has his own video channel):

News of the Wired

“New lensless camera creates detailed 3-D images without scanning” [Phys.org]. “The camera is compact and inexpensive to construct because it consists of only a diffuser – essentially a bumpy piece of plastic – placed on top of an image sensor. Although the hardware is simple, the software it uses to reconstruct high resolution 3D images is very complex.”

“Use this Harvard Law checklist to prepare for any negotiation” [Quartz]. 32 items!

“Neil Young just launched a high-quality archive of his entire back catalog” [The Verge]. Young: “I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution.” He doesn’t like crapification any better than we do….

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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 (CC):

CC: “Here’s one of my gardens buttoned up for the winter on the Front Range of Colorado. I have been sheet mulching with hay flakes overtopping whatever is handy for the past four years, building up the soil. This year it was rabbit manure, some years it’s shredded leaves.” That chair in the shade makes me want plop down and just sit and watch and listen. I bet this garden is covered with snow, now!

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the NC fundraiser. So do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click the hat!


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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. cocomaan

    Big Brother is Watching you Watch:

    It’s happened a few times to me. I was searching google the other day for how to set up a mobile ham radio I bought at least a year ago and had in the box until now. The brand is Baofeng. I searched google and immediately was getting Baofeng directions, for the particular model, which was creepy.

    I assume it was because I had the receipt in my google, but i was surprised because it was a year old for a piece of hobby equipment.

    I have heard of people discussing products among friends only to start getting ads for those products. This is why my wife and I keep our phones in another room of the house when we aren’t using them.

    1. cocomaan

      Also, after posting this, I did some digging and found “myactivity.google.com”. You can go in there and tell google not to track your stuff. There’s settings for rejecting customized ads and everything. Who knows if they actually adhere to this but it’s good to lay out that expectation. I just turned off virtually everything but recommended YouTube videos because those have been useful to me in the past.

      If you go into Myactivity, you might even see that google has been sampling your voice, if you had given them permission.

      1. JTMcPhee

        When my daughter was about 3 years old, car travel with her was a challenge. So we bought a “Fisher-Price” sort of thingy, called I believe a “Busy Box.” It hooked over the back of the front seat where she could reach it. Had a fake steering wheel, a little plastic bump in the middle of which tooted a plastic beep-beep horn, various dials and sliders and shiny bits to distract her while giving her some notion that she controlled anything (other than by annoying the heck out of the front-seaters with that beep-beep thing.) It cost a pretty penny, used up a bunch of petro-resources to make, and did nothing.

        My guess, given Google, is that any seeming control you might assert over your web presence via myactivity.google is a lot like the control provided by that Busy Box…

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      Of course if you do a search or mention a product in emails you will get ads. That is what all the fuss is about, that WE are the product: Google, FB etc make big bucks whenever we click one of those ads. It’s OUR data but they package and sell it without giving us a cut, not to mention all that personal info they retain.

      I recently switched to Duck Duck Go on my tablet and was happy as a clam until the Atlantic wouldn’t give me access cuz it could tell my browser wasn’t letting any ads or whatever through. To read the Atlantic I apparently have to disable the protections in DDG for their site.


      1. clinical wasteman

        first glib thought was: “blessing in disguise?” But of course not really – it’s shocking that your access was blocked, more so because it was done in such a sly, surreptitious way, and still more so because you & others who comment here contribute to collective knowledge & criticism with every reading of unsympathetic/uncertain publications, regardless of whether it directly provokes any direct riposte here or elsewhere. The amount of life experience, general & esoteric reading & other specialist knowledge underlying comments here without necessarily ever being directly cited makes a lot of difference, I think.
        On a grim logistical level, is the blocked access something that only happens on a tablet &/or only with a dedicated Atlantic app as opposed to url-based site? Curious because haven’t seen this in several years using DDG but haven’t tried in those formats (though same also goes for the publication), & it might tend to confirm suspicion about enclosure of internet that way.

        Meanwhile & belatedly, Tau Hou hari* to everyone here.

        *Can’t claim enough semantic knowledge to be sure, but as far as I understand it the Māori version bypasses the pitfalls of indexable “happiness”: more like “bonheur”, i.e. good fortune or blessings of fate

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          And a hearty Tau Hou Hari to you!
          Not an app, bookmarked. Probably I was using Chrome at the time the bookmark was created if that matters and so far the Atlantic (yes, I agree) is the only bookmark that has done this to me

      2. kareninca

        I switched to Duck Duck Go about two years ago, and it was great. Then several months ago it stopped working – practically all I got when I entered a search were ads. I know someone else this happened to. But you’re still having luck with it? I really don’t know what to use as a search engine anymore. I’ve actually gone back to using Google, to my shame; I tried several other search engines and they gave me the same mass of ads that DDG was providing. Maybe Google has created a virus that is killing other search engines; it sure seems that way.

    3. Kim Kaufman

      That happened to me. Talking with friend and mentioned a person wearing “scrubs.” An ad for scrubs showed up when I next went online. And I have no other connection to scrubs or nurses or anything like that. She was using google phone which goes through her computer, not an actual phone, and I suspect that’s where it came from. Creepy.

    4. just_kate

      This has happened to me and my family on several occasions and its creepy. One time I had a box of cracker barrel mac and cheese that was given to me sitting on my kitchen counter and the next day I started getting ads for that product showing up on multiple sites I visit. Another time my SIL was telling me a story about the plenty of fish website which I had never heard about and again I started seeing online ads for that company. Could be coincidence but it felt really strange and there have been others like that.

      1. Katy

        My boyfriend and I visited a jewelry store. He has an iPhone 5. Shortly thereafter, he started seeing ads on his phones for diamonds. Surely the advertisers got information that he might be in the market for jewelry. But where that information came from, we don’t know. That’s the creepy part—not knowing the source. Was it from a Google search? He says he hasn’t searched on his phone for diamonds. Was it the Chrome browser on his home computer? I don’t know. Did Siri clandestinely listen in on our conversation? Did an app on his phone secretly use his GPS location, then sell the information to advertisers? No idea, but none of them seem implausible at this point.

        1. bob

          The store itself could have been scanning for any phone in the store via wifi or cell ID.

          Then, the store reports which phones were in the store. They do a lookup on the phone id’s, then figure out who’s phone it is.

          Then, every time a website is visited by that phone in question, an ad is sent.

          In that case it’s not necessary the phone being an “active” particapant in the chain. All the phone is doing is broadcasting wifi, bluetooth and cell ids.

          Matching up the person to the phone, to the location, can all be done outside of the users phone.

          This is also why it’s almost impossible to carry a phone and not have your location tracked. Fine, your phone is completely ‘secured’, whatever that means. It’s still possible to track your phone if it’s in anyway “on”. At the very least it’s broadcasting its cell id’s for the towers it’s connected to, in order to receive incoming calls.

          Phones are moving radio beacons.

          1. bob

            But, but but..

            AIRPLANE mode!

            Airplane mode still allows a phone to “listen” for radio signals, in the most “secure” interpretation of the rules. They just don’t broadcast anything, which I’ve never believed. Anyone tried using a bluetooth while in airplane mode? Bluetooth is one of the best ways to get a very accurate fix on the location of a phone. It only works in a 10m radius.

            I think it is much easier for the phone manufactures to make the phone seem “dead” than to actually make the phone dead. Knowing the location of the phone is central to the moblie OS.

            1. Grebo

              It only works in a 10m radius.

              With the right antenna bluetooth can be picked up (even hacked) from over 100m away.

              1. bob

                My point would be that a store could use the short range to say a person were in a store, and in what section of larger stores.

                “optimized” to a smaller range, in order to better track the phones built in consumer.

                This is the way all things internet are moving. Many more wifi/cell sites, but with lower power– which will allow better tracking. It could be that tracking ability is why its being pushed. It could also be for other reasons.

                It’s long been rumored that some isps want to use your router to let *other customers* use your wifi. At some point, the bigger cable only ISP will probably have enough, well distributed sites that they could offer cell service, through the routers.

                5g phone/data seems all about merging phone and data, and allowing easier hops between sites to more, smaller, distributed sites.

                Its lamberts mesh network, built by, and for the telecoms.

                The ISPs have a wire connection in many more places. Already. If they can start to organize wifi better(not real orginized, but top down monopoly), rumored to be part of 5G, they can get better bandwidth over just wifi, before the new standards.

                It’s nuts more munis don’t realize how much value there is in building your own, local, networks.

            1. s.n.

              i have only a landline phone connection, and yet several times in the past few months i have noted that the subject of my phone conversation is immediately followed up by advertisements related to whatever the phone conversation mentioned when i turn on my computer and visit the internet. I assume that it is my (unplugged) computer listening in on my conversation (how they do that?) , or comes via the other party of the phone call (who has a mobile – -but not ‘smart’– phone)
              Beyond creepy.

          2. Yves Smith

            Devices are listening to you. I have only a laptop, and started getting ads based on a conversation I had near the computer. I had done NO searches on that topic.

        2. drexciya

          I regularly get pop-ups on my Android phone, when I’ve been at the local supermarket or some other “interesting” location, asking me to review that specific location. It’s Google Maps I think. I’ve most likely granted the app too much permissions on my “smartphone”.

    5. rcd2010

      My husband and I were discussing the washer-dryer, clearly on its last suds, while I happened to be reading a financial site. Our discussion was when to ring the landlord. less that 5 minutes later ads started popping up in the right margin for … washer-dryers. Really, trust no-one. Airbnb recently asked me to send the front page of my credit card statement which was the most outrageous security request, given they have my passport, photo etc. Guess they wanted the full set a an attractive market offering. I refused and the host (and us, I know) lost out.

  2. Knifecatcher

    Eric Schmidt is a slimeball. He was a powerful executive at the company where I started my career and while I never interacted with him – I was a lowly peon, and he never really interacted with such – I’ve heard plenty of well corroborated stories about his casual cruelty and abuses of power, sexual and otherwise. All hearsay for sure but from everything I’ve heard his reputation was well earned.

    Here’s a PG example, which I’ve heard from at least two people. Eric and a group of employees were having dinner at a neighborhood Italian place I know well. It was a casual joint, family style and a lot of fun. The owner would often bring in musicians to wander around and serenade diners. On this particular occasion a young lady was singing and Eric called her over, saying he had a request. The request?

    “I will give you $100 cash right now if you stop singing.”

    Yes, she took the money, and yes, she stopped singing.

    1. Toske

      Just based on watching him in interviews, I always felt him to be absolutely gushing with smugness, superiority and at least a bit of misanthropy.

    2. Grebo

      “I will give you $100 cash right now if you stop singing.”

      Hmm, I often find myself thinking “I will buy you some headphones if you agree to use them” so I wouldn’t condemn Schmidt for that.
      What made him dead to me was turning up to visit Assange with CIA agents in tow.

    3. begob

      Larry David would never pay $100 – he just interrupts the singing with a burst of applause and drowns any further attempt in a stream of congratulations.

      1. neo-realist

        Larry would say something to the effect of “Hey, how much are they paying you for disturbing people while they’re dining?”

  3. Teodrose Fikre

    I really love this site. It has become my one of my go to pages and I often direct people from the Ghion Journal back here. Thank you for all that you are doing. Thank you for supporting independent journalists like me who are finding it harder and harder to compete in an era where corporate media and the establishment are hammering people who don’t toe the corporate line.

    Just passing along my newest article at the Ghion Journal about Wall Street lies and the duplicity of the media class.

    read article here: https://ghionjournal.com/lies-about-the-economy/

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Just FYI you might not want to use “shysters” in articles (to say nothing of titles) if you want to be distributed more widely. Dog whistle word whether you meant it that way or not.

      1. Teodrose Fikre

        Thank you for the feedback. For the record, I don’t do dog whistle, the shysters I spoke of were Obama and Trump, to my knowledge, neither are Jewish. I say that because that is the 800 pound gorilla in this conversation, I don’t ascribe to the theory that Jews are responsible for the ills of the world. Wickedness and those who are depraved enough to bludgeon humanity run the gambit and are not constrained to any one race, ethnicity, religion or ideology. I don’t do collective condemnation. I used the word shyster because, it is interchangeable with the word charlatan. It just means someone who deceives in order to defraud others, but I take your input to heart. Thank you and have a great new year.

    2. perpetualWAR

      Thank you for your solid reporting. Reading your article, “Libtards and Rethugs: Insulting Each Other as “Elites” Laugh at us,” made me think you’d read my mind and wrote the article. I’ve been saying this all along. The distraction the elites are obtaining are wonderful to keep the pitchforks away.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, but please add value to this site (say, with a quote) rather than simply dumping a link to your own site. That’s against site policy; we call it link whoring, and severely discourage it. Go thou and do not sin again.

      1. Teodrose Fikre

        I shall repent and not repeat Lambert. I’ll actually do more to engage with people at this site and spend less time debating people on social media. There is depth here that is rarely found at other sites. Even though I have not spent too much time interacting with folks yet, I have been observing the back and forth, you have a great thing here, keep up the good work.

    1. pretzelattack

      shit. thanks for posting the link. i don’t read consortium as much these days, but it’s a great site.

    2. Buttinsky

      Oh my god. First that the indispensable Robert Parry has had a stroke — and then that he can nevertheless continue to write as incisively and cogently as this:

      The hatred of Trump and Putin was so intense that old-fashioned rules of journalism and fairness were brushed aside. On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump “Resistance.” The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster. Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.

      Other people, including senior editors across the mainstream media, began to treat the unproven Russia-gate allegations as flat fact. No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the U.S. government’s institutions. Anti-Trump “progressives” were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

      Hatred of Trump had become like some invasion of the body snatchers – or perhaps many of my journalistic colleagues had never believed in the principles of journalism that I had embraced throughout my adult life. To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism; it was a commitment to the American people and the world to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could; not to slant the “facts” to “get” some “bad” political leader or “guide” the public in some desired direction.

      I actually believed that the point of journalism in a democracy was to give the voters unbiased information and the necessary context so the voters could make up their own minds and use their ballot – as imperfect as that is – to direct the politicians to take actions on behalf of the nation. The unpleasant reality that the past year has brought home to me is that a shockingly small number of people in Official Washington and the mainstream news media actually believe in real democracy or the goal of an informed electorate.

      Whether they would admit it or not, they believe in a “guided democracy” in which “approved” opinions are elevated – regardless of their absence of factual basis – and “unapproved” evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality. Everything becomes “information warfare” – whether on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, MSNBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post. Instead of information provided evenhandedly to the public, it is rationed out in morsels designed to elicit the desired emotional reactions and achieve a political outcome.

      Thanks for the link, dcblogger.

      1. Wukchumni

        It was a multi layered joke about people paying a lot of money for H20, combined with the name of your 2 pm est missive.

  4. allan

    “Only 1 Fatal Passenger Flight Accident per 7,360,000 Flight … A remarkable technical achievement.”

    But, in the U.S. at least, also a remarkable policy achievement.

    The last two fatal commercial jet accidents (2006 in Lexington, KY, and 2009 in Buffalo)
    were on commuter flights.
    Although both were blamed on pilot error, the accidents focused attention on the staffing
    and working conditions at regional airlines and led, over the howling of the regionals,
    to the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administrative Extension Act of 2010.
    There have been no fatal commercial jet accidents in the U.S. since then.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I don’t know if they are related, but ever since the enhanced airport security after 2001, it has been much safer to fly.

  5. Tim

    “President Donald Trump entered the White House nearly a year ago promising aggressive action on trade policy and brimming with threats, but he did not deliver the punch many expected in 2017. That could change early this year, as the NAFTA talks come down to the wire, the administration’s investigation of Chinese trade policies ripens, and a number of tariff and trade decisions pile up on Trump’s desk” [Politico].”

    This is the risk sitting on our low volatility stock market’s doorstep. The “good stuff” (tax gift) is out of the way, now comes the big reason people thought the markets would tank if Trump was elected – protectionism.

  6. ChiGal in Carolina

    North Carolina is not a democracy (in links)…
    so there’s LOTS of grass-roots activism going on here–much of it nonpartisan because so many are indeed fed up with the duopoly


    On the local level many groups of citizen activists grew out of Indivisible, and most of them support Medicare for All. Unlike the state Dems, P-DOC, the progressive Dem caucus of Orange County does.

    As for dancing grandpas, I thought the end of Robert Reich’s surprisingly good (Mr Rogers for grownups?) documentary, Saving Capitalism, pretty much rocked.

    But what made my New Year’s Eve was Dave Chappelle, and his message was pretty much the same as Reich’s in different words–this shit is fucked vs check out this nifty little graphic explaining democracy and oligarchy–leading to the same conclusion:

    we gotta be there for each other, find that common ground, or we’re goners for sure–oh, and equally important, let’s have some FUN while we do it…

    two key ingredients of Naked Capitalism, come to think of it!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > On the local level many groups of citizen activists grew out of Indivisible, and most of them support Medicare for All.

      True, I should always make a distinction between national and local. But the local is so damned hard to find, and with Google increasingly sucking, even harder.

  7. Grumpy Engineer

    John Laurits’ math isn’t quite right. He correctly notes that approximately 40% of GDP lands in people’s pockets as earned wages and that about 10% of GDP get to people through government benefits, but he incorrectly assumes that ALL of the remainder lands in the pockets of various “rent seekers”. This isn’t true.

    Approximately 30% of GDP is “business-to-business spending”, where money is sent directly from one company to another to pay for equipment, materials, facilities, or services necessary for the operation of the business. That spending counts as part of GDP, but it never enters the pockets of individuals to be used on “consumer spending”. With the “business-to-business spending” wedge consuming 30% of the pie, only 20% would remain for unearned income to individuals. 20% is still too much, but it’s not the apocalyptic 50% that Laurits presents.

    Also, Laurits uses the stupid metric of “Bezos, Buffett, and Gates now possessing more wealth than the bottom 50% of the nation combined.” That’s not really a good measure of how rich these billionaires are. After all, a newborn child has more wealth than the bottom 47% of the nation combined. How can this be, you might ask? It’s because the bottom 16% of the nation has considerable NEGATIVE net worth, as seen in https://www.frugalfringe.com/worthometer-2/. It takes the next 31% of the nation (who have a small amount of POSITIVE net worth) to cancel out all that debt. Net result: anybody who isn’t a multi-billionaire is wealthier than the bottom 47% of the nation combined.

    If you want to grip about income inequality (which indeed is a real problem), use an appropriate statistic like the Gini Index or the mean-to-median wage ratio. Both have been steadily worsening for the past 30 years.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is very useful, thanks. I don’t think Laurits’s point is “income inequality.”

      He’s trying to get a handle on the surplus being creamed off in the form of profit, rent, etc.*, and It looks to me like he’s approximately correct,

      NOTE * And then being allocated, at least in part, by “cuddle puddlers” in Silicon Valley….

    2. Frenchguy

      I agree, this is a bad take on GDP.

      Also, in addition to business-to-business, there is 1.5 trillions $ of imputed rents in GDP, rents that owners of their own homes would pay to a hypothetical landlord (you add that to GDP otherwise a rise in the ownership ratio would decrease GDP).

    3. Skip Intro

      I would be remiss if I failed to bring up Michael Hudson’s point that rents represent costs to the productive economy, and should be subtracted from GDP.

    4. Matt

      “Approximately 30% of GDP is “business-to-business spending”, where money is sent directly from one company to another to pay for equipment, materials, facilities, or services necessary for the operation of the business. That spending counts as part of GDP, but it never enters the pockets of individuals to be used on “consumer spending”. With the “business-to-business spending” wedge consuming 30% of the pie, only 20% would remain for unearned income to individuals. 20% is still too much, but it’s not the apocalyptic 50% that Laurits presents.”

      GDP measures the value of final goods and services. Intermediate goods and services are not included in order to prevent double counting.

      1. Grumpy Engineer

        But business investment spending and portions of government spending are included in GDP, per https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gdp.asp.

        Technically, I could have been more precise and said “finalized business-to-business, business-to-government, business-to-government, and government-to-government spending”, but that would have been an awful mouthful.

        Only 70% of GDP is for “personal consumption”, so at most we’d expect people’s take-home income (whether by wages or by government benefit) to add up to 70% of GDP. Not 100%. The fact that our total take-home income adds up to less than 50% of GDP definitely points to substantial rents being extracted, but it’s not as bad as Laurits presents with his pie chart.

    5. DonCoyote

      Thanks GE. Laurits post + your comments almost get us to an MMT-like view of income, which IMO is a good thing, and some of Laurits approach (i.e. I think GNI is an easier place for people to start than GDP) is more intuitive, at least to me.

      As you point out (and even he admits, in his GDP discussion) you have to subtract off large chunks of the 50% since it is offsetting accounting entries to begin with, but that is perfectly consistent with MMT business to business transfer.

      I think if you combine a more complete GNI approach with some information on taxes, you’d have a more accurate and complete picture that might still be accessible to non-economists, and possibly an easier starting place for certain MMT concepts.

  8. Byron the Light Bulb

    Andrew McCarthy, “What are the chances […]? I’d put it at less than none.” — So negative odds. Meaning the Papadopoulos affair explanation is the favorite, most plausible scenario, contradicting your entire thesis. Confirmation of the null hypothesis. So just a 3,000-word conjecture. How good are your maths, Mr. McCarthy? –Not great.– Ok, probabilities not your forte. Putting politics to one side for a moment, Andrew, come on buddy. The quality of your work-product needs improvement. Can you at least pretend to be professional? Today’s PR flak is a squib load. What comes next is catastrophic failure.

    1. Carolinian

      Yes how dare he attack conjecture with still more conjecture. If the Nat Review article seems a bit obscure it may be because the entire “scandal” is baloney from soup to nuts. Pulling back for the long shot, what would it matter if Putin had tried to influence the outcome? The assumption is that the American public somehow lacked the good sense to reject Hillary Clinton on their own–at least enough of them–by holding their nose and voting for Trump. A typical American election these days is suffused with tons of propaganda coming from all directions. By comparison whatever Putin may have done, could have done, would have been trivial at best.

      So it is indeed probably useless to argue over the details of nonsense. It does however suggest that our media bigwigs aren’t much different from Trump himself. Truth for them is whatever assertion seems useful at the moment.

    2. Filiform Radical

      The original, non-light bulb Byron, philhellene that he was, was probably familiar with the concept of hyperbole.

      1. Byron the Light Bulb

        The rhetorical device misdeployed was meiosis, not hyperbole, a diminishment for effect rather than an exaggeration. Funny, how delusions are untethered from even internal contradictions from which they are constructed. Probable/improbable, what is the difference? It’s not cheating if you would have won anyway, right? That’s where it’s at now?

        1. Filiform Radical

          I say hyperbole and not meiosis because hyperbole is dramatic overstatement and meiosis dramatic understatement. If you think of “over” as “higher probability”, my usage was incorrect. If you think of “over” as “in the direction of the point” (the point here being that the probability was really small), then my usage was entirely correct. I regard the latter as a more robust and generally applicable definition of the rhetorical devices in question.

          In either case, the broader point is that exaggeration for effect is a thing that writers do on occasion and doing it does not in any way discredit them.

  9. clarky90

    The idea that “populism” is bad or undemocratic bothers me. I am a populist. The opposite of populism is “elitism”. The elite are deluded. I am not analyzing them intellectually, but rather observing their behaviour and their physical bodies. They are rapidly destroying themselves via depravity, and trying to take the rest of us with them.

  10. Craig H.

    Re the Vanity Fair cuddle puddles:

    Ewww. I’m not a prude.

    I am a prude. I’m not going anywhere near these people.

    If you are interested in gawking at the cultural underbelly, Steve Outtrim has put together around ten hours of youtube presentations on the Shadow History of Burning Man. A large quantity of speculation, but way more actual facts than you can possibly check. I got burned out after checking about 50 of them and everything he said that I could check, checked out. He says Zuckerberg, Brin, Page, et al are Satanists. Obviously that is not a readily checkable fact.

    Here is a link to the series part one (if you have time!)

    His slides are largely illegible in the youtubes but he has them in .pdf and there they are crisp.

    1. cocomaan

      they speak proudly about how they’re overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives, just as they do in the technology world they rule.

      The funny thing about these tech folks thinking that they’re revolutionary in their personal lives is that living like a decadent psycho isn’t anything new. History is littered with self-important people who lived depraved lives.

      What is really revolutionary is acting like a real live human being these days.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Seen this all before. Back in the 60s and 70s a lot of young guys made it big in the new rock’n’roll scene and now found themselves with unlimited access to booze, drugs and hot & cold running women. Many could not control themselves and I think that these tech bros will find the same over time. My own guess is that all the trillions of dollars that the Fed created since the ’08 crash is fueling all this extravagance but it does not really matter as the end result will be the same.
        Back in the era that I was talking about young musicians were dropping faster than second lieutenants in a combat zone and I think that the same will eventually happen here, especially with the much larger variety of drugs available now. They will find that actions that they undertake will eventually have to be paid for with consequences whether planed for or not. Down the track these, by then, middle-aged Peter-Pans will be milling around asking each other whatever happened to so-and-so and not liking the answers.

      2. Eclair

        Have not heard the phrase ‘cuddle puddle’ in a few years and had totally forgotten about it.

        But, it was in use among many of my young twenty-something gay and gender-fluid activist friends. As in, we were camped out in some back-of-beyond area where construction for a pipeline might or might not be going on, it was rainy and raw and snow might be coming during the night, and the word would go out, cuddle-puddle in x’s tent tonight.

        In my middle-class straight white woman naiveté, I assumed it was to keep warm. I would like to keep that image.

    2. Wukchumni

      I went to Burning Man from 2003 to 2009 and enjoyed the experience, and maybe the stalwarts of Silicon Valley were there, but I never saw hide nor hair of them. One thing I savored about the experience then, was the idea of separating 25,000 to 45,000 people from the outside world (it’s not like that now-all connected up, I hear) where the information flow was pretty much word of mouth or work of art.

      We talk about money a lot on here, but the only thing it’ll buy you there is a bag of ice, or a cup of coffee or tea, that’s it.

      If you’ve never been, it’s easy to make assumptions of what goes down, but why not go and find out for yourself instead?

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Sorry, Wukchumni, but to quote Mr. Watterson’s Calvin (who I miss dearly…)

        “I don’t need to shove potato chips up my nose to know I won’t like it!”

        Burning Man was, is and will always be insufferable twits (present company excepted!) and bad art. And that’s before it jumped the elitist shark. :)

    3. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Im a part of the New Orleans BDSM community, and I can assure you that we are all (except one ‘club’) drug free. Im not including Weed or Alcohol. Im the only one that smokes regularly and i consider it Medicine. Its a very safe space for ‘us.’

      FWIW, theres way more Dommes than Doms around here =)

      Kink helped me stay sober. Like Political Economics.

      1. ambrit

        From years ago when I worked down in the French Quarter, I found most of the ‘druggies,’ whether straight, bent, or wiggly, to be out of towners visiting for a bit of sodom and gomorrah. The local BDSM crowd I met were mainly almost Uptown in their demeanour. A lot of high muckety mucks frequented the Quarter after midnight. The booze and drugs hounds I knew were almost all Fat City types. Even the Yats would steer clear of that crowd.
        Fond memories.

    4. Enquiring Mind

      Combine the Schmidt, Vanity Fair and creepy intrusive ad themes and some deviant behavior and sociopathic patterns seem to emerge. Toss in the device usage that is juiced up by training and manipulating users via apps that clever dopamine hits and it is easy to ask just what value or values are being created in Silicon Valley. (Okay, so I’d never be invited to those parties, and I’d never go anyway!).

      One element that seems ripe for further exploration is the inducement to use smart phone devices for instant gratification via Snapchat or similar platforms (“ooh, look at my new whatever”). That would look like targeted harassment in a new form.

      1. Meher Baba Fan

        and the exec’s were saying ‘oh my wife is fine with it’.
        Sure she is. Because she knows what has been promised to happen, if she complains to her freshly confident, 20 billion a year husband about his youthful, entitled cravings

    1. Daryl

      Interesting how many are pulling the golden parachute ripcord. Has anyone done an analysis of whether retirements are actually ticking up, or is it just being remarked on more because of Trump?

      1. perpetualWAR

        It seems as if the retirements are ticking up. A friend and I were just speaking of this today. We both wondered if they know something’s coming down the pike that they want nothing to do with…..like a 2nd global financial crash? It makes you scratch your head, for sure.

        1. Daryl

          Was thinking the other weeks that the pols who slash social security will probably go down as the most hated in recent US history. Need not be something so dramatic as a second financial crash — maybe just another brilliant “reform” in the works.

      2. Wukchumni

        It’d be a real shame were the credit lines on those golden parachutes to get tangled up, after ejecting from the craft.

    2. rd

      I don’t agree with all of Romney’s positions, but he seems to be a fundamentally intelligent, decent person. He also should have enough money that he won’t be immediately auctioned off to the highest bidder. Can you use $100 million IRAs to fund campaigns?

      This may be the solution to the GOP’s problem with killing the ACA. They can just re-brand it as Romneycare and claim it is now repealed.

      1. edmondo

        Seriously, can you name one piece of legislation or one major or minor issue where Romney would vote differently than Orrin Hatch?

        The actors change, the play remains the same.

        1. RUKidding

          Agree. Don’t see RMoney as particularly decent at all. Via Bain, he destroyed a lot of companies to his own personal gain and benefit, whilst ruining the lives and retirement savings of many citizens. I see RMoney pretty much the same old, same old as Orrin Hatch. What’s the difference?

          RMoney will vote straight Republican. The only minor change is that he might try to primary Trump in 2020. Big whoop.

      2. blennylips

        he seems to be a fundamentally intelligent, decent person

        Not in my universe:

        I mean seriously folks, regardless of your politics, can you conceive of strapping your dog kennel on your roof, with your dog in it, and driving at high speed from Boston to Canada?

        Well, this story about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 1983 summer vacation has resurfaced again, with Mitt and his wife, Ann, defending the act in a recent interview with Diane Sawyer.


          1. UserFriendly

            What I hate most about Romney is that he lost in 2012. Obama’s sucking up to Wall Street needed a rebuking ASAP and the GOP goes and nominates the monopoly man making that impossible.

      3. bob

        “he seems to be a fundamentally intelligent, decent person. ”

        Not in this world. Plenty of facts to the contrary.

        I’d personally blame him for legitimizing the offshore tax avoidance and money laundering done by the likes of Bain. What was on the edge of ‘unseemly’ became a perfectly legitimate ‘business decision’ after this prez run. His boosters got that in spite of his loss.

        Heads I win, tails you lose.

  11. Elizabeth Burton

    I’m inclined to base my view of Elizabeth Warren on what she does, which so far seems to weigh well on the side of working for people instead of profiteers. Because I understand politics, I’m also inclined to forgive what many seem to find unforgivable, which is that she came out for Clinton instead of Bernie, because (a) I suspect she’s smart enough to have known the odds were stacked and (b) she’s experienced enough to know that had Clinton won the election she’d have been blacklisted.

    We have to keep in mind there are a whole lot of people now politically active who haven’t a clue how politics works and have a video-game understanding of how elections happen. They’ve also been fed the “us vs. them” mentality all their lives, and many are young enough they’d really rather just throw the bums out and start over. In other words, they “want a revolution NOW!” because they lack the historical background to understand the kind of revolution they envision is a romantic fiction and would inevitably be co-opted by just another group of oligarchs.

    Or, more briefly, if she runs and Bernie doesn’t, she has my vote. And if they run together, all the better.

    1. Altandmain

      We have to keep in mind there are a whole lot of people now politically active who haven’t a clue how politics works and have a video-game understanding of how elections happen.

      I think that this is unfair to poor people and young people.

      People who have nothing to lose discount the future. People want results NOW because well, for many people they are at the point where they cannot take it anymore.

      Be very careful about analyzing people from a position of privilege – it is something that the Clinton supporters are incapable of understanding. Bernie Sanders became popular because his supporters knew that Obama did not deliver the promised change and that Clinton was a liar that would sell them out.

      I’m not saying not to vote for Warren if it comes down to Warren vs Trump. I am however saying that people are on the state of despair and many are at the end of their rope, so to speak.

    2. John k

      If they both run he will bury her.
      Would he want her for veep? Maybe, he’s a very canny pol… but though she laudably wants to break up the banks, she is only a reluctant and newbie progressive at best. And hardly young…
      I’d like her at treasury.
      Maybe tulsi, seems to be moving rapidly left, supported Bernie early… vet, young and pretty…

      1. pretzelattack

        yeah anybody that voted for reagan twice is not really progressive. she’s an honest republican, but i don’t trust her on war issues.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Because I understand politics, I’m also inclined to forgive what many seem to find unforgivable, which is that she came out for Clinton instead of Bernie,

      I like to think I understand a little about politics; that’s why I focused on demeanor. I don’t particularly begrudge Warren’s eye for the main chance in supporting Clinton (though a more original temperament might have seen the possibility of putting Sanders over the top with support and a position as, say, Secretary of the Treasure). What I do begrudge is her adoption of Clintonite talking points on the trail, which are brainworms designed to make people stupid. It’s one thing to bend the knee; it’s another thing to polish your superior’s shoe with the oil on your nose, as William S. Burroughs put it.

  12. Dita

    Big Brother IS watching – a few months ago I was walking with a friend up second avenue in NY. We popped into PB Teen, unplanned and just for a few minutes. I had my smartphone that day, turned off. Next day and for days after PB Teen ads followed me all over the net.

    I leave the phone home now.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      It’s that location data grab that’s getting ya. Turn your location off and presto! no ads.

  13. Anonymous

    There are a number of people who don’t like feeling like being the personal ATM for corporatocracy. I don’t own a smart phone and certainly, if Apple (who just made its CEO wealthier than God and all but a few other oligarchs) wants to purposely rig its products for planned obsolescence, then we all ought to feel comfortable bobbing up and down in a sea that is managed by corporate offshoots of the military intel state. After all, if you aren’t banking with the right folk, the bombers will be overhead tomorrow.

  14. KB

    A few days back someone from Minnesota posted they would like a meet-up in Minneapolis. I agree, would be nice. Mostly just wanted said poster to know there are more of us who read this blog like I have since it’s inception that live here.
    Lambert stated he would maybe help put us together……How do we make that happen?….I tried e-mailing Lambert on that day but no luck. I am sure it was my mistake so thought I’d try this post..

    1. False Solace

      Another Minnesotan here… NC, feel free to pass along my email if that’s in the works.

    2. Vastydeep

      Count me in too. It takes some time to get down to “The Cities,” but it’s an easy trip for a meet-up.

      1. sheepdog

        Moving back to Minnesota sometime this spring and a long time NC reader. I would be very interested in a meetup but wait till I arrive please.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      A Minnesota meetup needs an organizer to pick the date, time, and the venue and do the (little) co-ordination needed. If one or several wish to do that, mail me using the contact info above and we’ll do a post with the detail, along with a map, etc. We could hash out the venue in comments, but we do need an organizer to manage that process. Yves and I can’t do that!

  15. Grebo

    Re: living fence.
    Where I’m from we call this a hedge. Some of them can be hundreds of years old. This one looks like it got forgotten and grew out, they have to be trimmed from time to time.

    1. bob

      The worst are Blackthorn-


      3″ spikes. It’s the perfect evidence of british imperialism in the NE US. They imported them and planted them all over to protect their newly stolen lands. Not even trees and bushes are allowed to be single purpose. Lazy in other words.

      Keep your sheep safe. Make gin while you keep the savages at bay.

      Anyone who has ever had to try to make it through an area where they have taken over would welcome a flame thrower.

  16. Summer

    Tech: “Toshi: A Dapp Browser for the Ethereum Network” [Brian Armstrong]. Read carefully, a libertarian dystopia.

    “…These first two steps alone are something that many people in the world have never experienced. Allowing people who create wealth to keep it, is probably a necessary (if not sufficient) condition for economic growth…”

    Why don’t they just call the browser “Atlas Shrugged?”

    1. False Solace

      Oh man:

      > 2. Ideally over time, the value of that wealth will go up (not down due to inflation etc).

      I assume this is a reference to the way Ethereum, like most of these flimflam “currencies”, has built in deflation by instituting a maximum number of coins (for Bitcoin the max number is 21 million). As horrifying as inflation is to a comfortable middle class reader with a house and some savings, mandatory deflation means that every loan has to be paid back with currency that’s worth more than when the loan was made. So anyone with capital loves it, anyone with Ethereum to lend loves it, and everyone else is ground into the dirt. Under deflation the tendency is to sit on a pile of loot instead of putting it to use, since the loot will be worth more automatically if one does nothing without any risk.

      Ethereum and bitcoin are intentionally repeating the mistakes our civilization made with gold (and learned from). Now that’s revolutionary!

      It’s also really interesting how he blithely states that users’ wealth “cannot be taken from them” even though we know from news reports that Bitcoins are stolen all the time, and he talks about private property as if such a thing can exist in a vacuum without armed force to back it up. Bring back some of the old revolutionaries — I liked them a lot better. Imagine no possessions… I wonder if you can.

      1. Wukchumni

        “Ethereum and bitcoin are intentionally repeating the mistakes our civilization made with gold (and learned from). Now that’s revolutionary.”

        Please explain…

        1. Grumpy Engineer


          The problem with the gold standard (and with the limited coin-count crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum) is that the total supply of money is essentially fixed. And in the face of a growing economy and population, this meant (as a matter of mathematics) that average prices and average wages must fall over time. In other words, both price and wage deflation.

          And when deflation is strong enough, it can make sense to hoard money, as its purchasing power will become stronger with time. This causes the amount of money in active circulation to shrink, making the deflation all the worse. When it gets bad enough, money stops circulating and people must revert to a barter economy.

          A better solution is a well-managed fiat currency, where the supply of money is gradually increased to account for a growing economy/population, such that prices (or maybe wages) remain flat over time.

          Unfortunately, our current fiat currency is not well managed. The US Federal Reserve deliberately over-injects in an attempt to reach “target inflation”. In this situation, it makes sense to hoard assets, both physical and financial, instead of hoarding money. [The past decade has been been very profitable for those who have managed to hoard significant assets.] And as an added penalty, the newly-injected dollars come into the economy predominantly through Wall Street or the federal government, resulting in very uneven distribution that makes most people wait a long time before the dollars finally “trickle down”.

          1. Wukchumni

            It’s interesting how countries went off the gold standard and onto a more or less fiat standard not long after the Haber-Bosch Process allowed the world’s population to explode, as Ag wasn’t limited anymore.

  17. bob

    “Unfiltered Fervor: The Rush to Get Off the Water Grid”

    That whole story is beyond belief, a few quotes-

    ““Just take a breath of air,” said Mr. Friesen, a professor of materials science at Arizona State University. “Take a deep breath. No matter how wealthy or poor you are, you can take a breath and own that air that you breathe. And yet water — the government brings it to you.”

    Talking Trump is now at home with the silicon valley fascists. Non sequitur nonsense elevated to Truth via the paper of record.

    Is this very well marketed and funded industry also now using their PR lobby to increase fracking in order to cut supply and lock out competition? It’s only sensible for them to do this, as an “investor” might demand.

    I’d be willing to allow this industry to sell to private industry Fire Deparments, but only near Mar-a-Lago, and only for knocking down the flare ups after Versailles burns. We should, in fact, insist on a bond to cover these costs to be held prior to construction, continuing with occupancy, to protect the neighboring plantation gentry. Free market karma.

    You wanna build castles? Accept the costs. All of them.

    1. bob

      I can’t read anymore!

      “He said “real water” should expire after a few months. His does. “It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery,” he said. “If it sits around too long, it’ll turn green. People don’t even realize that because all their water’s dead, so they never see it turn green.””

  18. The Rev Kev

    “Maine Voices: A Senate page absorbs lessons not taught in a political science class”

    After reading this, all I can say is ‘Oh, where is a Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain when you need one!’

  19. Wukchumni

    I know of a few dozen natural springs in the High Sierra where the water percolates to perfection, and always look forward to a drink there. There are a few that dispense ‘soda’ water, just bring some lemonade mix, and presto you’ve got a delicious thirst quencher.

    The drought was tough on about half of them, as they dried up or barely flowed, but all sprang back to life with the bountiful winter last year.

  20. John Zelnicker

    Lambert: The Philadelphia Mummers Parade on January 1st has nothing to do with Mumia Abu Jamal, so I’m gonna assume that tweet was tongue-in-cheek.

    The Mummers Parade was first marched on January 1, 1901, and the clubs that participate spend many months creating the costumes, sets and performance routines. It is really a sight to behold if you can get up before dawn to get downtown to see it. They start just after sunrise.

    It is considered the oldest folk festival in the US, while it’s roots go back to the mid-17th century, mostly northern, Europe with African components. They parade regardless of the weather.



    1. Donna

      My husband’s great uncle was an actual Mummer. I grew up as did my husband outside Philly in Levittown, Pa. My husband’s family on both sides all hailed from Philadelphia going back to the late1890s. I loved to watch that parade on TV in the 50s through the 70s. My kids were born and raised in Orlando. But, last year we located the parade on YouTube being broadcast by a local Philly station and watched it with my grown children. Still as wonderful as ever.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, tongue in cheek. I saw the Mummers several times when I was in Philly. Terrific! Nothing like having a bearded longshoreman in drag toss you a string of beads!

      1. John Zelnicker

        @Lambert – Indeed!

        I could never quite drag myself out of the house to go see it in person as it was usually too cold for me, but I watched it many times on tv.

  21. tooearly

    Re Mucinex Tweet:
    I am pretty sure the drugstores routinely package and sell this sort of information legally or illegally. News of that has been around since 2010 at least

  22. timotheus

    Meatpacking: another reason these injuries are underreported is that the industry is chock-full of undocumented workers. I met a Guatemalan who had lost a fingertip in that job, was brought inside and given a check for $4000 and signed a waiver. Absolutely certain nothing got reported to OSHA or anywhere else. He was happy with the money to the point where I was left with the impression that for the same payout, he would have gladly offered to get another fingertip sliced off. It is impossible to imagine the horrific, spine-chilling back stories of these unseen, unheard workers who prepare that lovely industrial meat for our delectation. Incidentally, I spoke to a local about a big ICE (then INS) raid that had occurred at the factory that resulted in 400 deportations. Three months later, according to him, 400 illegals were back at work. Not just ANY 400–the SAME 400 who had been shipped out. This was 10 years ago, so maybe it’s harder now. But local kids hired to do those jobs would normally last a maximum of one week.

  23. dontknowitall

    Re “New lensless camera creates detailed 3-D images without scanning”

    “The DiffuserCam can, in a single shot, capture 3D information in a large volume with high resolution,” said the research team leader Laura Waller, University of California, Berkeley. “We think the camera could be useful for self-driving cars, where the 3D information can offer a sense of scale, or it could be used with machine learning algorithms to perform face detection, track people or automatically classify objects.”

    at: https://phys.org/news/2017-12-lensless-camera-d-images-scanning.html#jCp

    Sorry I am late to the party but I thought it might be important to mention that the software mentioned likely makes it possible for a friendly three-letter agency not only to view but actually to 3D reconstruct images from laptop cameras covered with the usual pice of tape since that tape acts as nothing more than a diffuser. In other words, covering your laptop/ipad camera with a piece of tape is not sufficient anymore to preserve your privacy.

    I wish everyone a safe, healthy and productive 2018.

  24. DonCoyote

    Agreed Lambert–both Sanders and Warren campaigned for HRC, but Sanders put Sanders’ positions in Clinton’s mouth, while Warren put Clinton’s positions in Clinton’s mouth.

    It’s possible that Warren is still just not a very good politician (hasn’t been at it nearly as long as Sanders) and/or didn’t have the chutzpah to do what he did, rather than actual kowtowing. She still comes across pretty well on the bully pulpit (At best you were incompetent, at worst you were complicit and either way you should be fired.) and so might make a good VP.

  25. dk

    “Don’t Bring the Truth to a Knife Fight: A New Year’s Proposal for the Left” [The Hampton Insitute]

    Au contraire, the truth comes in really handy in knife fights, or any sort of dire confrontation. But wielding it from a soap-box is iffy, even against an unarmed antagonist.

    Without situational awareness, one is more vulnerable to fake news as well as knives. In fact, without a fairly reliable and unified conceptual model of the world to compare to and test against, and extend as information is validated, one is at the mercy of…just about any thing.

    Pro tip: in a real knife fight, the strategy is to put as many holes in the opponent in as many different places as one can, and then stay out of range while they bleed out. Punctures are easier to accomplish than slashes, a waved-around weapon is easier to strip away. And they don’t have to be very deep, with 1-inch holes in various places, a person with only two hands can only staunch the blood in so many places at once. Tourniquets for limb wounds can buy a few hours, but they take time to apply and can be difficult to place without help.

    That’s some of the truth of knife fights. Knowing can improve one’s odds, and ignoring can be the death.

    “They don’t think their people need to be enlightened by public intellectuals.”

    Pundits Public intellectuals don’t think they need to be enlightened, by the people or anybody. Except maybe cabdrivers, that fading norm bastion of humble insight. Can’t risk talking policy with the Uber driver, they might trash your points…

    Nobody deserves to have to put up with public intellectuals except for other public intellectuals; not even Republicans. Intellectualism is no boon to the culture unless it produces materially. Ideas can count materially, but not by some automatic virtues of novelty or complexity, or the inclusion of favored tokens. The whole “I’ll be the idea person, and you all can go implement my ravings inspirations” is no small part of how we got so deep into this mess in the first place.

    In the paragraph excerpted for the link, Ford recounts the methods and means of “right wing” success, but the same methods have been (and with any luck, will be) used by grassroots groups on the… let’s say, liberal/progressive/left. After all, Caesar Chavez pioneered modern political organizing for poor labor constituencies. So how did the right do so much better, especially in the last decade? One reason is that the right is more interested in local community, organizes locally, and builds power from local bases. The lib-left shoots for the moon, favoring high-profile federal wins without a robust ground-up network. Props to DSA for going to the community level to build their organizations and keep their concepts and policy directions close to constituents.

    Another reason for the right’s successes is their support from big money interests, who much prefer a regional populations satisfied with ritual and ideological pageantry than ones demanding their share of the benefits of their labor and economic activity. Top-down political organizing is always prone to easy compromise at the top, disconnecting leadership from the goals of communities.

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