2:00PM Water Cooler 1/30/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“U.S. Trade Representative and self-professed curmudgeon Robert Lighthizer admitted some progress at the close of the sixth round of NAFTA talks in Montreal, but not before effectively eviscerating a significant new Canadian proposal meant to break open the talks on auto rules of origin as enormously vague” [Politico]. “One official close to the talks said the fact that Lighthizer didn’t hit Canada over its alternatives to U.S. proposals on an investor-state dispute mechanism and sunsetting the deal was seen as a good sign. But the trade ministers appeared to have not yet waded into the negotiating weeds.”



“The Case Against Cuomo” [Jacobin]. “Andrew Cuomo is no Berniecrat. He’s merely figured out how to manipulate New York state’s opaque, oligarchical political system to give himself a left-liberal sheen without risking his connections to his richest donors…. It’s an open secret in Albany that Cuomo is committed to maintaining Republican control of the state senate, where creative redistricting deliberately gives the upstate GOP minority an advantage. The governor could have used his veto power over districting maps in 2012, or used some of his vast campaign resources to elect a stronger Democratic majority in the upper chamber. Instead he has carefully maintained this structural barrier to the passage of progressive bills.” Same strategy the national Dems use with the Blue Dogs.


“We’ve Never Seen Congressional Resignations Like This Before” [FIveThirtyEight]. “On Jan. 15, Pat Tiberi became the 12th member of the 115th Congress to resign from office. If that feels like a lot, that’s because it is; it’s the most people who have resigned from Congress through this point in the session in at least 117 years…. The 115th Congress owes its historic turnover to the confluence of two events, one normal and one abnormal. First, there’s the start of a new presidential administration. Five of the first six members to resign this session1 did so to accept jobs in President Trump’s administration. That’s not unusual…. But in addition, three of the four most recent members to resign from the 115th Congress did so because they were accused of unwanted sexual advances.”

2016 Post Mortem

“How could former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe assume an oversight role in the FBI probe of the Clinton email scandal when just months earlier his spouse had run for state office in Virginia and had received a huge $450,000 cash donation from Common Good VA, the political-action committee of long-time Clinton-intimate Terry McAuliffe?” [National Review]. “[T]he answer was clear. McCabe assumed that Clinton would easily win the election.” Like most everyone else.

Tax “Reform”

“What Companies Are Really Doing With Their Tax Windfall (So Far)” [Industry Week]. “[Willis Towers Watson, the] HR consulting firm asked 333 employers with at least 1,000 employees what they have done or plan to do as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Only 4% of companies said they had “increased wages for all employees”; an additional 3% said they planned to do so in the next year. While a further 13% said they’re “considering taking action this year or next,” a full 80% of companies aren’t considering giving raises at all.”

“Since Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would hand out bonuses and expand benefits to more than 1 million associates thanks to new tax reform measures, the retail giant has also laid out plans for store closures and thousands of layoffs at both the store and corporate level” [MarketWatch].

New Cold War

Please tell me things have not reached this point:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Top DNC official out after less than a year on the job” [NBC News]. “In a farewell email to DNC staff on Monday night, O’Connell thanked them and said she was proud of their work, while not offering a specific reason for her departure.”

“The Case of the Missing “Fraudulent” Voters: An Interview With Greg Palast” [Truthout]. “Kobach and Trump are destroying the voter files they received from a couple of states. The real [question] is: What is the commission’s agenda? Did they find fraudulent voters? I’m certain they are covering up the fact that they didn’t find fraudulent voters. Kobach also bought lists of [Latino] voters. The purpose is clear: Match any José Garcia on voter rolls with José Garcia on deportation orders and purge an American for the crime of having a common [Latino] name.” Yes, what Kobach’s CrossCheck is doing really is that brain-dead.

“Democratic Establishment Tries To Keep Progressives Off Congressional Ballots” [TRNN]. “Several grassroots and progressive congressional candidates are facing expensive lawsuits from the Democratic establishment, which is challenging their ballot petitions in hopes of clearing the primary field…. Anthony Clark was one of the first congressional candidates to receive the backing of Brand New Congress, an organization founded in late 2016 by former Bernie Sanders staffers aimed at replacing current members of Congress, Republican and Democrat. Clark is running as a Democrat against Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL), who has held the seat of Illinois’ 7th Congressional District since 1997. Davis’ campaign has tried to file several legal complaints to remove Clark… On January 22, a judge overruled several objections filed by incumbent Rep. Davis’ surrogates, former State Senator Ricky Hendon and his staffer Cherita Logan, that alleged Clark’s signatures to get on the ballot were fraudulently obtained. This week, the board of elections will decide on whether to accept the judge’s recommendations.” Filthy.

“The Post-Physical Economy and the Rise of Trump” [Splice Today]. “The only way to have something resembling a service or information economy, or a whole workforce of professionals and cubicle-dwellers, is to outsource physical reality more or less entirely. First, this sets up a situation in which your society of professionals is massively parasitic on a worldwide system of economic exploitation. And second, this is a solid formula for devaluing and immiserating a portion of your own population: the people who are unsuited to the cubicle, or just for one reason or another fall by the wayside in the mechanical march of robotic education. Such people fall out of the economy completely, or they continue in the physically-oriented tasks: we still have to build and fix things. But the dignity of that sort or work was massively under attack in the technocratic vision that valued education, keyboard-stroking, strategic messaging, and filling in little circles with #2 pencils above all.”

“Donald Trump, #MeToo, Facebook, And The Breakdown Of Institutional Power” [BuzzFeed]. “Smash the exterior of an institution and you may reveal catacombs of cruelty, shame, sickness, all the terrible things people with power can do to those without it in the corridor of a hotel suite, inside an office, inside a home, in small places you feel as though you are not meant to be…. If you read all these stories and start writing down (or calculating out) the ages of the people in them, the interns and assistants and desk assistants and students, especially the women (and men) whose names you’ve never heard before, a pattern emerges…. Many of these stories concern people too inexperienced to know who to tell, or how or when.” I like the musing sensibility of this piece, which is worth a read, but I don’t think much of the institutional/structural analysis.

Stats Watch

Consumer Confidence, January 2018: “Consumer confidence moved back higher in January… and is just off November’s 17-year high” [Econoday]. “But the consumer confidence index has in fact been tracking the stock market higher over the last year, in some contrast to the rival consumer sentiment index which has been flattening out. But today’s report is another reminder that a strong jobs market is the solid foundation for the American consumer.”

S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, November 2017: “Prices for existing homes rose a strong 0.7 percent in November to just beat expectations and match October’s gain” [Econoday]. “A limited number of homes on the resale market is a positive factor for prices though this is an increasing negative for sales which, in contrast to sales acceleration in the new home market, have in fact been flat.” And: “According to the data, prices increased in all 20 of 20 cities month-over-month seasonally adjusted” [Calculated Risk]. And: “Many pundits believe home prices are back in a bubble. Maybe, but the falling inventory of homes for sale keeps home prices relatively high. I continue to see this a situation of supply and demand. It is the affordability of the homes which is becoming an issue for the lower segments of consumers” [Econintersect].

State Street Investor Confidence Index, January 2018: “Global institutional investors regained confidence and became net buyers of equities in January for the first time in four months” [Econoday]. “The return of confidence in European equities after two years of subdued risk appetite among institutional investors probably reflects improving European economic growth, subsiding political uncertainties, and the ECB’s accommodative policies. But with North American equities rocketing higher to record highs at the start of the year, continued albeit moderating net selling by institutional investors here indicates that the tendency towards risk aversion seen since September towards this region still prevails.”

Commodities: “A gold rush for cobalt is underway. Booming demand for cellphone and electric-vehicle batteries is driving a once-unthinkable growth in companies focused entirely on the metal” [Wall Street Journal]. “One commodities group expects annual demand for cobalt to triple to roughly 100,000 metric tons by 2030. Mining giant Glencore PLC says there could be shortage as electric-car production ramps up unless a new supply is discovered.”

Retail: “The profitable business of selling to the hard-up” [The Economist]. “Yet with well over 14,000 outlets across America (about the same number as there are McDonald’s restaurants) almost 75% of Americans now live within five miles of a Dollar General… The chain’s profits have risen like a helium balloon since the recession, to more than double those of Macy’s, one of the most famous brands in retail, in the past fiscal year. Its market value is a whopping $28bn…. Around 70% of Dollar General’s customers live in rural places which have been slow to recover from the recession…. Yet rural communities account for only 46m, or 15%, of the population—and they are shrinking fast…. To keep expanding so rapidly, Dollar General will need to appeal to those with a higher income than the working poor.”

Shipping: “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is tightening delivery requirements for its suppliers still more as it looks to get its supply chain moving faster and leaner. The retailer will tell suppliers to deliver more goods to warehouses exactly on-time or face penalties, the WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer and Jennifer Smith write, in a new sign of how e-commerce competition is raising pressures across distribution channels. The new guidelines call for large suppliers to deliver full orders within a specified one- or two-day window 85% of the time or face a fine of 3% of the cost of goods. That’s up from earlier thresholds, and Wal-Mart is also boosting the demand on smaller suppliers from 33% to 50% on-time delivery. The standards are aimed at keeping shelves stocked and inventory low, a tough combination in retail but one that’s increasingly important as consumers scan both stores and websites for available goods. Suppliers will get something in return: data on sales and inventory that should help them put the right goods in motion.

Shipping: “A joint venture that includes the industrial real estate arm of financial titan Goldman Sachs Asset Management said today it will develop a three-story warehouse and distribution center in Brooklyn, New York that will be the first multilevel industrial facility on the East Coast” [DC Velocity]. “The facility’s design is expected to become more commonplace in densely populated urban areas where land is scarce and expensive, and where strong demand exists for last-mile fulfillment services for goods ordered online…. The project is perhaps the most visible so far that the Goldman Sachs Asset Management unit has financed… All told, the unit controlled $1.9 billion of real estate assets as of last Sept. 30.”

Supply Chain: “Some U.S. importers may find the legal ground at the border growing more precarious. Recent court rulings have opened the door to more whistleblower lawsuits over goods that have been mislabeled to avoid customs duties. The cases take an expanded view of the False Claims Act…, encouraging lawyers that specialize in the anti-fraud cases and raising risks for corporations as they match documents to the goods they move into the country” [Wall Street Journal]. “The shift came last October when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Victaulic Co. in a case involving imported pipe fittings. Recent cases like one involving may broaden the impact of whistleblower cases across the supply chain. In one case, a garment wholesaler failed to note several signs that overseas suppliers were avoiding duties by submitting fake invoices to customs.”

The Bezzle: “The Follower Factory” [New York Times]. “The Times reviewed business and court records showing that Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. In most cases, the records show, they purchased their own followers. In others, their employees, agents, public relations companies, family members or friends did the buying.” In other words, corrupt professionals. Say it’s not so!

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s self-driving technology has been particularly disappointing, [Steve Wozniak] said, noting that Musk predicted a Tesla would drive itself cross-country for the first time by 2017…then early 2018…or perhaps later” [MarketWatch].

Tech: “Robots could kill many Las Vegas jobs” [CNN]. “But Las Vegas is also the U.S. city most at risk for losing jobs to automation, according a study from the University of Redlands. In 20 years, about 65% of the city’s jobs could be automated. For example, Las Vegas has approximately 39,000 retail salespeople. About 36,000 of those positions could be technically automated by 2035, according the study. Cashier, cook and game dealer jobs could be automated almost entirely. How many positions actually end up automated depends on factors like cost and if customers accept the switch.”

Tech: “Scoop: Apple delays iOS features to focus on reliability, performance” [Axios]. “Apple is prioritizing work to make iPhones more responsive and less prone to cause customer support issues…. While a renewed focus on quality and performance might ease some outside criticism, some inside the team question whether the approach will actual lead to higher quality. Plus, customers tend to pay for features more than security and reliability, which are tough to assess at the time of purchase.”

Tech: “Apple is reportedly slashing iPhone X orders because it isn’t selling well” [Business Insider]. “Apple is set to report its holiday-quarter earnings on Thursday, where it will provide total iPhone sales from October to December. It will also give revenue guidance for next quarter that analysts can bake in to iPhone shipment estimates.”

Tech: “WSJ jumps on iPhone X production cut story, add new fictions” [Apple Insider]. “One day after Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei issued its annual iPhone component panic story, the Wall Street Journal published its own hand-wringing coverage of the state of iPhone X, just two days before Apple is set to deliver financial results for the holiday quarter…. Strangely enough, while two major financial newspapers have now claimed that Apple has actually slashed orders for 20 million units (that would be over 13 years of 2017 Pixel sales, or more than all the Microsoft Surface, Amazon Alexa, Samsung Galaxy Gear and Android Wear devices ever sold) of iPhone X in just this quarter, the implied reduction of manufacturing volume hasn’t triggered any apparent collapse in Apple’s supply chain.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon thunders on into the asteroid belt as Apple lags and sags” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 30 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Extreme Greed (previous close: 68, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 78 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 30 at 11:10am. Oil?


“Modern human brain organization emerged only recently” [Science Daily]. “Only fossils younger than 35,000 years show the same globular shape as present-day humans, suggesting that modern brain organization evolved some time between 100,000 and 35,000 years ago. Importantly, these shape changes evolved independently of brain size.”

“Association between Traffic-Related Air Pollution in Schools and Cognitive Development in Primary School Children: A Prospective Cohort Study” [PLOS Medicine]. “Children from highly polluted schools had a smaller growth in cognitive development than children from the paired lowly polluted schools, both in crude and adjusted models… [C]hildren attending schools with higher levels of EC, NO2, and UFP both indoors and outdoors experienced substantially smaller growth in all the cognitive measurements…. Residual confounding for social class could not be discarded completely; however, the associations remained in stratified analyses (e.g., for type of school or high-/low-polluted area) and after additional adjustments (e.g., for commuting, educational quality, or smoking at home), contradicting a potential residual confounding explanation.” N= 217.

Our Famously Free Press

In memoriam Robert Parry:

“Radio War Nerd EP #76* [*REPOST] — Robert Parry on Lost History & Death of US Journalism” [Patreon (open free repost)]. Parry starts at 33:30. “We talk about the stories Parry broke, the destruction of targeted journalists including his late friend Gary Webb who was driven to suicide, and Nixon’s plot to sabotage Vietnam War peace talks in 1968 to make sure Humphrey didn’t win the election.” I think it’s time for the liberal Democrats to rehabilitate Nixon, now that they’re finished with Bush and Reagan.

“Robert Parry RIP: A Reporter Outcast In His Own Land” [Greg Palast]. “Bob Parry has died. He was a giant… The reporter who uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal. Instead of a Pulitzer, he was fired by the AP. Then fired by Bloomberg and Newsweek for more reports. And, 30 years ago, he convinced me to take on two unknown and dangerous brothers: the Kochs. He exposed them in Nation Magazine — which he told me led Nation to fire him.”

“A Tribute to Robert Parry: Independent Journalism at Its Best” [FAIR]. “Frustrated with the limits and compromises of corporate media—he was once told that a story on Contra financial skullduggery had to be watered down because Newsweek owner Katharine Graham was having Henry Kissinger as a weekend guest (Media Beat, 4/23/98)—Bob launched his own online outlet, Consortium News.”

“Robert Parry Has Died” [Moon of Alabama]. “This is a huge loss for everyone who has kept some skepticism about the propagandistic media onslaught on our conciseness. Parry’s writing was always fact based, well grounded and beyond the usual claptrap. The Iran-Contra stroy, Reagan’s October surprise and dozens of other political crimes would have been buried had Robert Parry not dug into them.”

“The Passing of Robert Parry” [TruthDig]. “When I think of Bob, I am reminded of sitting in a D.C. bar with I. F. Stone. ‘I just can’t stand the suffering of the innocent,’ he said. It was that humanity that led him to establish the beloved, I.F. Stone’s Weekly.

* * *

“Blackstone Group LP, the private equity giant led by Stephen Schwarzman, is considering its biggest foray yet into the $27 billion-a-year industry for financial information” [Reuters]. Just what we need; private equity controlling financial reporting. What could go wrong?

Imperial Collapse Watch

“The Uncomfortable Truth About Whole Foods and Amazon’s Grocery Monopoly” [Jacob Bacharach, Alternet]. “I have sometimes joked that although the Soviet Union collapsed, it was the Soviet system that won the Cold War. It’s only half joking…. [T]he drift of western capitalism, at least in the Anglosphere, has been toward something more and more Soviet in appearance—vast, state-related and state-subsidized industries controlling whole sectors of our domestic economies with largely fictional financial statements signed off by corrupt, captured audit firms replacing fake quotas and production reports. Better gross margins are the new record harvest of wheat. Meanwhile the shelves at the premier grocery stores are literally empty [as at Whole Foods under Amazon]. Imagining life in a declining empire, where the basic mechanisms of food, housing, and transportation seem everywhere to be breaking down even as we continue to build shiny districts for the tourists, is no longer an act of imagination. ”

Class Warfare

“White-Collar Unionization Is Good for All Workers” [The Nation]. “White-collar unionization has an important role to play in helping labor to expand under these difficult conditions. Newly unionized white-collar workers provide dues to increasingly cash-strapped unions, whose funding is under greater attack than ever thanks to the Trump administration. And unionization raises wages sector-wide, both for union and non-union workers. Further, unions in the media sector are capable of drawing a disproportionate amount of attention to the virtues of organizing. Journalists love talking about themselves, and when an outlet unionizes, it’s a national story.”

“When algorithms are introduced into public assistance programs, the effects are rarely good for poor and working-class beneficiaries” (interview) [Virginia Eubanks , Jacobin]. “I had this conversation with a woman who I called ‘Dorothy Allen’ in my first book. We were talking about her EBT [Electronic Benefit Transfer] card. She told me, ‘Yeah. It’s more convenient. It’s great to not have to carry around paper [food] stamps anymore. But also, my caseworker uses it to track all of my purchases.’ And I had this look on my face, a look of total shock. And Dorothy said, ‘Oh. You didn’t know that, did you?’ I did not. She said, ‘You all’ — meaning middle-class people like me — ‘You all should be paying attention to what happens to us, because they’re coming for you next.'” At an Amazon Go store?

“Boston’s Bid For HQ2 Overlooks Amazon’s Awful Labor Practices” [WBUR]. “What you see in the Amazon warehouses is a culture of industrialized brutality in which the worker isn’t a human with attendant needs, but a body that exists to be utilized until it’s too broken or too spent to be productive anymore. But this culture doesn’t just apply to Amazon’s manual labor workspaces. It goes all the way to the executive level.”

The headline: “Pot, Terrorism Boost Security-Guard Pay in Era of Puny Wages” [Bloomberg]. The deck: “Organized labor also a factor in outsize wage gains.”

News of the Wired

“Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books” [CNN]. “Garbage collectors in [Ankara] have opened a public library comprised entirely of books once destined for the landfills… Today, the library has over 6,000 books ranging from literature to nonfiction. There is also a popular kid’s section with comic books and an entire section for scientific research. Books in English and French are also available for bilingual visitors.”

* * *

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 (pq):

pq writes: “Here’s a photo, first from me in many months. I couldn’t hold out any longer in Seattle’s booming economy, and in October moved back to upstate New York, near where I was born. Moving from affluent blue to below-average red has been interesting, although not as painful as leaving cold rain for daytime highs of 0-5.

I took advantage of our January thaw (three whole days, woo-hoo) to go for a walk down by the river, which remains frozen solid. When I got home, I was looking through my files and found a photo of the sugar maples along the banks, which I shot in early November in the same spot. I thought it would be fun to do a composite.”

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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!


[Readers, I need to fiddle with my PayPal account re: The missing hat. –lambert]

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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. UserFriendly

    Anyone interested in voting reform should check out this example of STAR voting, a form of range voting. How it works:
    For those unfamiliar with STAR, the rules are simple:
    * You may score as many candidates as you wish to show your level of support and preferences for each
    * The winner is the candidate scored higher by more voters between the two highest-scoring candidates
    * You may give candidates the same score
    * Leaving a candidate’s score blank counts as a zero

    Or create your own poll.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I wonder which will come first:

      1. A viable national third party (or second party, after the duopoly).

      2. Voting reform, like ranked or STAR voting.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I am wondering which will come first, that is, which is faster or easier to achieve, not what is more desirable.

          That is, some would like STAR, but is it easier or harder to get that?

          1. UserFriendly

            Well, ranked choice has a bunch of stupid money behind it because some mega donor gave a ton to fairvote. The cynic in me thinks that was largely to wall off better reforms, but it could just be dumb luck for the duopoly. So all the places that have reformed have switched to ranked choice and then a dozen or so have switched back because it misfired. I’m worried that places will adopt ranked choice, have a misfire and be put off voting reform all together. STAR and other range methods get the best consensus candidate; the one that the most people will be satisfied with. Ranked choice just lets you support ideal candidates that have no shot and feel morally superior, cause once they have a shot there is a high chance that they accidentally knock out the best consensus candidate in the first round and possibly without enough strength to beat the worst one.

            Luckily The Center For Election Science, which supports various types of range voting, just got a decent size grant and they are close to talking Fargo, ND into adopting approval voting (the simplest form of range n=2, where you just approve one or more candidates on the ballot).

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      I know I’m an old fart, but that idea strikes me as sufficiently annoying a lot of people would skip voting just because it’s so complex. The real first big step in voting reform would be open primaries in all states, including replacing caucuses. Everyone should be able to have a choice of who gets to run, not just those registered to the established parties. That alone would go a long way toward a more equitable system.

      Personally, I hate when I’m presented with a survey that requires I rank a list of items that doesn’t include the option to rank two items equally. Which is the problem I see with all those suggested reforms that have voters assign a number to the candidates. If you look at it, it’s not that much of an improvement.

      1. UserFriendly

        Did you try the sample? It isn’t very complicated; you can rank as many or as few candidates with whatever score you like. You could give them all the same score if you felt like it, though that would effectively make your vote irrelevant. Marking at least one candidate differently from the rest is a sufficient vote though.

      2. a different chris

        Not sure what you are saying? How does the “open primaries” work? Do you mean I get to vote for the guy, say “D” that I want to win, and then the “R” that I hope he faces because I think he will lose?

        I think we just tried that, actually. :D

    3. a different chris

      >The winner is the candidate scored higher by more voters between the two highest-scoring candidates

      As opposed to?? I guess this is simply to emphasize the “second place is first loser” vibe of America. :)

      Seriously, are you saying there is
      1) a runoff election between the two highest scoring?
      2) after the overall scores single out two candidates, then the number of 1st place votes of only those two candidates are compared?
      3) or was it just more words than needed?
      4) or not anything I guessed

  2. Jim Haygood

    Game on:

    The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple violated securities laws concerning its [lack of] disclosures about a software update that slowed older iPhone models, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Several weeks ago, the company admitted to slowing down the performance of older iPhone models to make their batteries last longer. Apple released a software update early in 2017 that throttled older iPhones, but didn’t specify that the action slowed the devices.

    The slowdowns only occur when the iPhone’s battery reaches a certain, unspecified point of low health and can be fixed if a user replaces the old battery with a new one. As part of its public apology, Apple cut the prices of battery replacements in its stores to $29, a $50 discount.


    Plug and play … or else. Battery not included.

    1. 3.14e-9

      Seconded. I knew Bob Parry. Finding the truth and exposing the hypocrisy of media complicit in covering it up was an obsession for him. One might have forgiven someone like that for being a self-righteous asshole, but what I remember from the few months I worked in the same office was that he was extremely kind and encouraging. He will indeed be missed.

    2. grayslady

      I just listened to the full 2 and one-half hour interview with Parry. Even though I am slightly older than Parry, and lived through those same times, I learned a great deal that I never knew before. Listening to Parry is like listening to a great history teacher–or even a great business teacher, since he certainly gives an insider’s view of the news business.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Despite the soaring delusions of Bloomberg’s frayed-collar journos, it’s vaporware.

      Alexa … fetch me a nurse.

      One ain’t enough, so you’d better make it three.

      1. Duck1

        I think they are planning roving Healthcare teams on boxcars on Warren’s rails delivering a disruptive distributed JIT bandaid that everyone with an iPhone version. ?? can download an app for free.

    2. Lee

      I think NC is going to have to create a new category: The BuffelBez, perhaps.

      It will be interesting to see what Chimeric entity results from the combination of Buffet’s profit-seeking charitability and Bezos’s non-profit model. Who knows, maybe it will be good thing.

      Why don’t one or more of these squllionaires choose a poor U.S. neighborhood and/or small town and provide them all with healthcare and a guaranteed minimum income just to see what happens?

    3. Summer


      I just think of this from the posts above:
      “What Companies Are Really Doing With Their Tax Windfall (So Far)” [Industry Week]. “[Willis Towers Watson, the] HR consulting firm asked 333 employers with at least 1,000 employees what they have done or plan to do as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Only 4% of companies said they had “increased wages for all employees”; an additional 3% said they planned to do so in the next year. While a further 13% said they’re “considering taking action this year or next,” a full 80% of companies aren’t considering giving raises at all.”

      On another point, there’s been some ink, but hardly enough addressing the authoritarian aspects of corporations – using the identifier “authoritarian.” Everybody’s well aware governments can be authoritarian, but the public relations industry works overtime for the corps.

      As for the healthcare plan above, light on details, but tying healthcare to a job is where the mess starts.

  3. Lee

    “The Post-Physical Economy and the Rise of Trump” [Splice Today]. “The only way to have something resembling a service or information economy, or a whole workforce of professionals and cubicle-dwellers, is to outsource physical reality more or less entirely.

    Perhaps this should be under Imperial Collapse Watch. As is too often the case these days, I cannot recall or am too lazy to find and cite the source. In any case, I once read a plausible theory for the collapse of Rome’s western empire as resulting from outsourcing and decentralization of physical production. Once the population of the periphery realizes that they can make, or trade for all they need without the costly “facilitation” of parasitic bean counters wearing flowing robes in Rome….

    1. Synoia

      Rome outsourced to Constantinople.

      Where would you place an Imperial Capital?

      Across the major trade route of the world? Or in some out-of-the-way collection of hills inland?

      1. Oregoncharles

        Take a look at a map of the Mediterranean. Italy, and therefore Rome, is right in the middle. Their chief rival was Carthage, directly across and therefore also in the middle, but hemmed in by the Sahara.

        Widen the map to include the entire Old World. Where does everything, all three continents, cross? It;s the Middle East/Fertile Crescent, the Crossroads of the World.

        You are right that the Bosporus is one of the key trade routes, especially for as narrow as it is. But when the Mediterranean was a key trade area, the Bosporus was really at the periphery, the gateway to barbarian (now) Russia, and eventually the Viking north. In fact, the Vikings traded through Russia to Constantinople during the Dark Ages, and founded Russia and Ukraine in the process, as they founded most of the cities of Ireland.

        1. Lee

          My Russian step-daughter is pretty much indistinguishable from my Irish relatives. But then, I’m at a point in life where all white people are starting to look alike. It’s particularly difficult to keep the characters straight in Scandinavian films. At times I suspect I’m watching an ensemble of clones or very close relatives.

      2. Larry Y

        Imperial Capitals are subject to path dependency.

        Look at the capitals of imperial China – there’s been several, but I think the most prominent are Xian (Chang’an), Nanjing, and Beijing. Nanjing is particularly interesting, because it’s been the capital several times, but doesn’t really seem to stick. On the other hand, Beijing seems to have been established because it’s proximity to the north (think Great Wall).

  4. Clive

    Re: Tales of exploitation and abuse by those in power in the corridors of power (or hotel suites) including in the workplace and the abused not knowing where to turn

    It never ceases to amaze me that, for the vast majority of those on the receiving end, their first approach is to HR. That is the last place you should go. The first port of call is, or should be, law enforcement and/or a lawyer.

    1. Lee

      Most employers require employees to “seek administrative relief” from within the organization before getting a lawyer for civil complaints. This can involve a union rep for the dwindling number of workers who have one. I assume it would not apply to criminal complaints. The problem there might be with how seriously local law enforcement takes such matters.

      1. FreeMarketApologist

        I would advocate the employee going to a outside lawyer first, having them review the potential case, then taking the lawyer along for the meeting with HR. Adversarial, perhaps, but a sends a strong message that it’s serious.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Happening right here in Tucson. The University of Arizona’s recently fired football coach, Rich Rodriguez, was accused of doing all sorts of improper things by his former assistant.

          Said assistant’s claims against the UA are now up to $16 million. And, rather than going through HR, she hired an attorney.

          Recent news report right here:


          1. a different chris

            Well I don’t know anything about the case, but this made me laugh bitterly:

            >Additionally, I took an independent polygraph test that confirmed I been have truthful throughout the investigation.”

            I have no doubt at all that anybody capable of rising to Rodriguez’s level in his profession is quite capable of telling you the moon was made of green cheese and not even cause the slightest twitch of the needle. (And they can also go off on total psychotic tirades over nothing, too, weirdly enough)

      2. Sid Finster

        An employer cannot prospectively forbid an employee recourse to the courts.

        Otherwise, every employment contract would state that, as a condition of employment and as partial consideration thereunder, the employee waives and relinquishes all rights to sue the employer for any reason, ever.

    2. marku52

      Yup. HR’s job is to protect the company, not you.

      “Hey, we had policies in place. You must not have followed them….”

    3. Sutter Cane

      Sure, hiring a lawyer is a great idea – for those who can afford one.

      I’d say for most workers this sounds about the same as advice like “Why don’t you just move to where the jobs are?”

      Given the unlikelyhood of HR doing anything to correct the situation, even if a lawyer is engaged, most people probably feel they only have two options – 1.) Put up with it, or 2.) Find another job.

      I know when I worked under an abusive supervisor, the job itself wasn’t all that great, and certainly wouldn’t have been improved after my boss had to have a meeting with HR at my behest. Had I gone to a lawyer I would have just spent what little cushion that I had saved up, which I ended up needing when I left to take a lower-paying job to get away from my manager.

      1. Romancing The Loan

        For most plaintiff civil litigation, including workplace stuff, if you have a good case you can get a % fee based arrangement where the lawyer fronts all the costs. Your employer cannot forbid you from talking to a lawyer before you speak to HR – and if they try that’s just more damages for you. ;)

  5. allan

    Anti-growth fake news from a well known Marxist front group:

    The U.S. tax bill signed into law in December will have a limited effect on the U.S. economy, as companies are unlikely to spend their tax savings on growth initiatives while the tax cut for the wealthy will not trickle down.

    That’s according to Moody’s Investors Service in a FAQ on the credit impact of the tax bill published Thursday, which warns of a number of negative consequences for federal debt, local governments, utilities and homeowners.

    “We do not expect a meaningful boost to business investment because U.S. nonfinancial companies will likely prioritize share buybacks, M&A and paying down existing debt,” said Moody’s analysts led by Rebecca Karnovitz. “Much of the tax cut for individuals will go to high earners, who are less likely to spend it on current consumption.” …

    “As a result of the legislation, we expect deficits to widen faster than under our pre-passage baseline, resulting in faster accumulation of federal debt, a component of general government debt,” …

    How long before Moody’s HQ receives a friendly visit from ICE? Show me your models.

    1. Jim Haygood

      We expect deficits to widen faster than under our pre-passage baseline, resulting in faster accumulation of federal debt, a component of general government debt.‘ — Moody’s

      Exactly what old budget hand David Stockman deduced. He forecasts a 5.5% of GDP deficit in FY2019, which begins nine months from now.

      That’s a level of fiscal stimulus usually only seen in late recession, as revenues fall in a weakening economy and spending on automatic stabilizers goes up. This time it’s being done with tax cuts and discretionary defense spending hikes in a blazing hot economy. Recession can just take a hike. We don’t believe in it no more.

      1. Goyo Marquez

        Blazing hot?
        Paraphrasing Truman?
        When your neighbor loses his job that’s a recession,

        When you lose your job that’s a depression,

        When nobody can find a full time job at higher than the minimum wage but the 1%’s investments are doing great, that’s a blazing hot economy.

        1. WheresOurTeddy

          Jim emails in to breathlessly cheer on Amazon and the Big 5 every morning, so consider the source.

          85% of people in the US don’t own any stocks and the 15% that do tend not to care much about things that affect the 85, in my experience. I expect wailing and gnashing of teeth if the central bank levitation machine is ever turned off, but who are we kidding? The proles will be storming the castle before well-heeled baby boomers wake TF up.

      2. marku52

        Since the trade deficit is about 2% of GDP, the actual stimulus will be about 3.5% of GDP. Still big, but not as big.

  6. Summer

    “New Cold War

    Please tell me things have not reached this point”

    Lewis Carroll just gave his shout out from the grave: “Now that’s a rabbit hole!”

    1. JohnnyGL

      Honestly, every conceptual leap to an additional level of absurdity might perversely be a good thing.

      I’m guessing that as the narrative gets more and more ridiculous, more and more of those who were previously believers will drop off, thinking “this is just too much, it can’t be this crazy”. Then, what’s left becomes an ever-narrower spectrum of an increasingly isolated group of people who are only talking to each other about this one crazy, cult-ish belief.

      This has got to be how Russia-gate dies a slow death.

      Wait, it IS dying, right?!?!?! I’m not as confident as I wish I could be….

      1. Summer

        Here’s the thing: Anyone in that orbit (and it won’t be Trump) that goes down is not going down for corrupt business practices, they are going down for the TIMING of their dealings and who they dealt with.
        So it ultimately will do nothing about the global financial kleptocracy. Much more a threat to ordinary people than “spy vs spy” non-sense.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        Sadly, I fear it is not dying. Once the bulk of the media began discussing it as established fact, it became so in the minds of the public whose only source of information is the corporate and social media. The latter will now be presenting them with more from the people who think exactly the same way they do, which will further cement the unproven narrative.

        As I noted yesterday, it is now their belief that Andrew McCabe’s early retirement means he has all kinds of juicy stuff he will be able to testify to once he’s no longer employed by the FBI. It’s pure speculation, and yet the brainwashed millions have leapt on it with fervor, attacking anyone who suggests they may be getting a little ahead of themselves rabidly.

        Today, I posted information on a bipartisan DACA proposal that covered not just the young people but their parents. Yes, it included money for “walls and fencing,” but seriously—does anyone think a DACA bill will pass before the March deadline without that concession.

        But, of course, the proposal was dismissed because “that’s a non-starter,” and besides, anything “bipartisan has to be suspect.”

        Okay, I confess I posted the link where one of the #McResistance groups was trying to get people out and marching around, with the suggestion that showing support for the proposal might be a little more useful. My bad.

        I’m paranoid where the current crop of Democrats is concerned, so I have to wonder whether their encouraging that kind of purism isn’t done deliberately so they can virtue signal when nothing gets done. Wouldn’t be the first time, in my observation.

        For anyone interested in the proposal, which was drawn up by the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House: https://www.countable.us/articles/2452-bipartisan-house-group-releases-new-daca-proposal

      3. Paul Cardan

        I don’t know about it dying any time soon. See this WaPo article (brought to my attention by RabidGandhi in the comments section to today’s Links). ‘Russian meddling’ is now part of a domestic story that serves to vilify politicians abroad, in this case Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), a figure who’s marginally on the left in Mexican presidential politics. Readers are invited to believe that the Russian threat is global. The author, Krauze, also seems to want to portray those who’ve been tainted by “nefarious” Russian influence as anti-Semitic, which is a nice touch, as it brings the racism theme together with the idea that Russians are bent on undermining democracy. It’s as though Putin were like Hitler. But, of course, Trump is like Hitler too. And so Trump is like Putin. Hence (?), Krauze describes one of AMLO’s associates, Irma Eréndira Sandoval, as “Trumpian.” If I have my facts right, Sandoval is a female, academic critic of neoliberalism, and a future cabinet member should AMLO, a leftist, win election. Supposedly, she’s “Trumpian.” A close reading of the article will also show, I think, that some sort of personal score is getting settled. See Krauze’s account of the weird exchange that resulted in the charge of racism. So, it seems that Russia-gate is a sort of multi-tool: good for lots of different things. It allows progressive neoliberals to simultaneously deflect criticism for obvious failures and go after their enemies, both personal enemies and what you might call, for lack of a better term, class enemies.

  7. Summer

    “the dignity of that sort or work was massively under attack in the technocratic vision that valued education, keyboard-stroking, strategic messaging, and filling in little circles with #2 pencils above all.”

    And the artistic option also gets devalued, made subservient to the promotion of products and platforms.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Today is a particular critical day to read this news.

      From the article:

      The second memo was written by Cody Shearer, a controversial political activist and former journalist who was close to the Clinton White House in the 1990s.

      The Guardian was told Steele warned the FBI he could not vouch for the veracity of the Shearer memo, but that he was providing a copy because it corresponded with what he had separately heard from his own independent sources.

      1. cocomaan

        None of this is going to end well. Everyone wants blood and jail time for the other side.

        Like I said in the other thread, Caesar crossed the rubicon because he was facing prosecution on the other side.

        1. JBird

          What? Roman style proscriptions? Death, destitution, or if you’re very lucky exile? We aren’t there yet although I believe some of the crazier partisans might like that.

          Anyways wealth still protects one from the law.

        2. MK

          Yes – read through the comment section on NYT, WAPO or CNN on any Trump story. The bloodlust is real and will not go away unless Trump is either criminally charged by Mueller, or impeached by Congress. Nothing less will satisfy many on the “left” (other than death or incapacitation).

          (1) If that doesn’t happen, expect even more resistance from the “left”.

          (2) If that does happens, expect the “oath keepers” to go ballistic (literally).

          As Rodney King once asked: Can’t we all just get along??

          1. polecat

            In a word, or two .. apparently not. Even when it get down to stick n stones, tribalism will remain as a strong cohesional force in human affairs.

            Know thy neighbor’s aggressions .. and of their neighbors as well.

          2. 3.14e-9

            There’s no doubt that the “bloodlust” is real, but the comment sections of the NYT, WaPo, and CNN are almost certainly padded, to put it politely.


            That story was written before the retreat. A reporter for the Free Beacon attended, got a copy of Brock’s confidential “strategic action plan,” and posted it online. Yeah, I know, it’s the Free Beacon, but the document posted online is a photocopy and not in a format that could be altered easily. Among other priorities in the Brock memo is keeping the Russia story going nonstop. BTW, the memo also discusses Brock’s “pro bono army.”

            I think of this memo every time I see another Russia story. At first, I didn’t think Brock could have that much influence, as evidently, he’s something of a pariah in some Democratic circles. The big D party donors, however, are another kettle of fish.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        This sounds a lot like Dick Cheney’s trick of anonymously leaking to the media things he wanted to lie about and then getting on the talk shows and citing his own leaks as ‘evidence’.

    2. JerseyJeffersonian

      Oh, Cody Shearer. I think I’d be a little careful about putting too much credence in what he has to say.

      This is the guy to whom he seems to have often reported.

      Obviously, these accounts have their own axes to grind, but it were wise to get a little parallax on these fellows’ past history before placing too much confidence in what they say, convenient as it might seem to nurturance of one’s TDS.

  8. jo6pac

    Democratic Establishment Tries To Keep Progressives Off Congressional Ballots

    Love it and you can leave comments at the site if you have disq. No one has been friendly to corp. owned demodogs.

  9. Jim Haygood

    The good Dr Hussman struggles to remain solvent longer than the market can remain irrational:

    My impression is that future generations will look back on this moment and say “… and this is where they completely lost their minds.


    Meanwhile, in place of watching a horror movie [or the SOTU] tonight, cast your eyes over Dr H’s appalling chart showing a 35% chance of a crash in the next 30 days:


    Puts out the wazoo … or BTFD [Buy The Fabulous Dip]?

    My models are nowhere close to selling. From a Hussmanian perspective, they’re psycho bullish. :-)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I don’t often watch SOTU live. More typically, I read coverage of it afterwards (though I should the text itself instead).

      So, I can’t really in good conscience say I’m boycotting it.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Not going unless I get a seat on the House floor.

        Although I’d end up getting ejected for hollering ‘Death to the dollar!‘ when Trump rants about the trade balance … and ‘California libre!‘ when he extols the Wall.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    “How could former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe assume an oversight role in the FBI probe of the Clinton email scandal when just months earlier his spouse had run for state office in Virginia and had received a huge $450,000 cash donation from Common Good VA, the political-action committee of long-time Clinton-intimate Terry McAuliffe?” [National Review]. “[T]he answer was clear. McCabe assumed that Clinton would easily win the election.” Like most everyone else.

    On this alone (let’s not conflate it with others), credit where credit is due – those who put Trump in the White House.

    Also on exposing the Swamp (again, let’s not conflate this with others).

    1. Watt4Bob

      Thanks for pointing this out.

      If anyone is looking for an ice-breaker with which to start their next conversation with a Trump supporter, try sincerely thanking them for stopping HRC.

      Then explain that while it’s a start, it’s only a start, and we’re inevitably going to have to band together and get rid of him too, because once again we’ve been had.

      My right-wing, faux-news addicted Dad, god rest his soul was truly surprised when I admitted/predicted, pre-election 2008, that Obama might turn out to be as bad as ‘W’ or Bill Clinton.

      I’m glad to have lived long enough to witness the dawning realization that to get the republicans off our backs, we’re going to need to defeat the democratic party establishment first.

  11. marku52

    Rehabilitate Nixon? Why not? He was a heck of a lot more progressive than HRC or Obama.

    Created OSHA, the EPA, even proposed a version of universal health. Beat the “family bog” out of the “Audacity of Nope.”

    Of course there was that little war crimes problem, But again, look at Obama (assassinating US citizens, legitimating torture) and HRC (destroying Libya), so nothing really to choose between with that part.

  12. Brandon

    As big of a turd as he may be, boycotting any POTUS’s SOTU is a bad precedence to be set by any party. Unless the Dems are trying to permanently disown Trump’s voter base then it’s not a good image to have going into the 2018 elections. Acting like adults would go so much further in reuniting our splintered citizenry. Alas, divide and conquer will rue the day.

      1. polecat

        Maybe we should upgrade Faceborg .. too the more hyperbolically accurate ‘Facebash’ … because THAT’S the next iteration.

        When the Skittel Thugs came for the White House, I did not interfere because he/she/they/? were not my president ..
        When the Skittel Thugs came for my local politican, I did not complain, because that person did not share my hallowed views … about EVERYTHING !
        When the Skittel Thugs came for local business, I shrugged cuz I didn’t like cakes they made ..
        And when the Skittel Thugs departed with my next-door neighbors, and the dog,and the cat, AND the canary, I began to wonder, as I had not ever bothered to get to really know them ..
        So when the Skittels Thugs finally leaped at me, calling me the worst thing on this earth …..

    1. cocomaan

      I completely agree.

      Did anyone boycott GWB Jr’s SOTU? Because that was the guy who accelerated the crash of the economy and got us involved in not one, but two wars, plus however many clandestine assassination operations. And of course, the torture. And so on.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Why? The SOTU is just a phony pageant exercise, the remnants of a practice of an agrarian society. Its stupid and meant for children. After all, Wilson made it a regular practice, and he was a monster.

      I don’t mind a joint address for a specific purpose in the vein of Johnson discussing Civil Rights, but the SOTU is the Oscars for the ugly people of DC, no different than the Al Smith Dinner or the Correspondents dinner.

      The last one I watched was the 2006 (?) event to see if Shrub would really say “animal human hybrid” or if it would be dropped from the 4pm release of the speech. He did.

      1. Brandon

        “SOTU is just a phony pageant exercise”

        I agree, just like the national anthem before sporting events.

  13. marku52

    Anyone know if McCabe is lawyering up? The timing of his departure is interesting as it occurred right after they announced that the Nunes memo was going to be released.

      1. marku52

        He is under investigation by the IG.
        “The Justice Department’s inspector general has been focused for months on why Andrew McCabe, as the No. 2 official at the FBI, appeared not to act for about three weeks on a request to examine a batch of Hillary Clinton-related emails found in the latter stages of the 2016 election campaign,”

        “At the same time, the FBI was facing a new set of questions, this time about McCabe’s role in a stalled probe into the Clinton Foundation. Some within the FBI felt McCabe had repeatedly moved to hamstring that probe”

        It seems he was looking out for his patron’s interest. It would be time to lawyer up.


  14. abynormal

    6000 books saved from a landfill, and a library is born…what does this say about a first world? Are we finally puking the 2nd world?

    We are so surrounded with this fortune that we tend to forget that though subjectively in abundance, objectively this is a rarity.”
    ― Chris Matakas, #Human: Learning To Live In Modern Times

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Just don’t wear too much magnetically strong jewelry at the table.

    Tech: “Robots could kill many Las Vegas jobs” [CNN]. “But Las Vegas is also the U.S. city most at risk for losing jobs to automation, according a study from the University of Redlands. In 20 years, about 65% of the city’s jobs could be automated. For example, Las Vegas has approximately 39,000 retail salespeople. About 36,000 of those positions could be technically automated by 2035, according the study. Cashier, cook and game dealer jobs could be automated almost entirely. How many positions actually end up automated depends on factors like cost and if customers accept the switch.”

  16. Tomonthebeach

    Plos Medicine – Minus Common Sense: Deliver us from epidemiologists.

    The article cited here purports to demonstrate that the neurotoxins in city air pollution retards child brain development (while hedging bets in every other sentence). It apparently never dawned on these researchers that where there is intense air pollution there also is intense poverty thereby putting a lot of unmeasured variance in the error term of the equation. Too much…. as is too often the case.

    They should go back to telling us about the dangers/health benefits of red wine.

  17. Summer

    ” I think it’s time for the liberal Democrats to rehabilitate Nixon, now that they’re finished with Bush and Reagan.”

    That shouldn’t be too hard since his downfall was a largely due to (according to the official record) a bizarre comedy of errors beltway intrigue.
    The harder core critiques of Nixon have largely been glossed over as “hippie ranting” by the establishment.

  18. Summer

    RE: Dollar General

    They can expand more in cities without having to go after “the middle class.” Tick-tock.
    They have the perfect business model for people who are spending over half of their net montly income on housing.

  19. audrey jr

    Lambert, thanks so much for remembering Robert Parry. He was a fearless reporter and a wonderful human being. I read a post last night written by his son. Nat. Robert was a good friend to another great reporter who is no longer with us, Gary Webb.
    So sorry for your loss, Nat and the rest of the Parry family. We don’t have many fearless journo’s left.

  20. TinFoilHatsForSale

    Re: Nunes as “Russian agent”

    Yes, maybe “agent” is a bit over the top…but possible lines of connection can be drawn…and they lead not so much to “agent” as “stooge” or the increasingly familiar term Kompromat. Nunes is acting like someone desperate to hide something. (witness his cloak-and-dagger late-night Uber trip to the White House)

    Nunes has been on a years long, passioned and quixotic campaign to promote a former NATO military base in the Azores. He is of Portuguese descent and vacations in the Azores (and may have real estate & family interests there).

    Having a US military base (Lajes) on the island of Terceira is something he clearly wants. See this from 2015 http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421842/house-intel-chair-devin-nuness-one-man-war-pentagon-brendan-bordelon and this from 2017 http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article115511968.html

    Okay, so what’s the Russia connection? Well, the Portuguese also want the US military base on Terceira. During the Cold War, Lajes, in addition to being a simple refueling and transfer hub, used to be a NATO listening post tracking Soviet submarine traffic in the mid-Atlantic. It meant lots of jobs for Portuguese. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/world/europe/americans-start-to-leave-air-base-in-azores-and-locals-fear-economic-impact.html)

    So maybe, lately, Russia wants to restore some of that sub traffic…maybe to snoop around undersea communication cables. Would Russia be anxious about the NATO response to their increased sub activity in the Atlantic? Probably. How could they get information about possible responses? Maybe through friendly connections in Portugal see: https://intelnews.org/tag/frederico-carvalhao/

    Russian sub activity in the Atlantic has steadily increased since the early-to-mid-2010’s


    …but there is probably no connection to House Intelligence Committee member and now chairman, Devin Nunes and his odd behavior attempting to discredit (the pointless, ludicrous and devoid-of-fact oppo research) Russia investigations. (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/the-ever-deepening-mystery-of-devin-nunes/520899/)

    …but if it was a plan, and it probably wasn’t because it would be crazy, it is nonetheless starting to work: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447930/russian-naval-threat-nato-must-strengthen-anti-submarine-capabilities

    The harder people try to derail a folly, the more interesting the folly becomes.

    1. Sid Finster

      Like any other conspiracy theory, Russiagate logic is basically a game of “six degrees of separation”.

      I used to know a guy who came up with similar elaborate “proofs” that Jews everywhere lived and breathed for the destruction of Poland, and his attempts to connect the dots were exactly the same mix of verifiable but otherwise innocuous facts, combined with paranoid conjecture and speculation masquerading as certainty. He’d tell anyone who would listen about his theories.

      It later turned out that this guy had advanced brain cancer, which took his life shortly thereafter. Looking back, I like to think that the conspiracy theories were just the cancer talking.

        1. Sid_finster

          What election hacking proof?

          If there were proof, it would not need to be released. Anything else is an argument from ignorance.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        For those who had to look it up:

        Because they have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight makes twelve, and there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was also a ship, and the ship sailed the seas, and there were fish in the seas, and fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and the Russians are red, and fire trucks are always “Russian” around, so that’s why fire trucks are red!

  21. JohnnyGL

    So, I saw this article on immigration….http://theweek.com/articles/751617/liberals-have-lost-minds-over-immigration

    Which led me to this tweetstorm….https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/956771494448660482

    And then I found myself compelled to spot the pernicious neoliberal assumptions and ahistorical narratives built-in….

    https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/956775132550201344 — ever-rising non-white tide is INEVITABLE (resistance is futile, etc). Though, he puts lots of caveats on this….

    https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/956779885774520321 — here’s another….stopping immigration hurts economy….my inner-lambert asks, “who’s economy”???

    https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/956780558599663619 — “can’t become racial engineers” – WTF is he talking about? American history is littered with racial engineering. And it hasn’t ended. Trump fits comfortably within the confines of American history, even if he makes DC liberals squeamish. Also, the policies he’s advocating below are basically an alternative version of racial engineering.

    But, for me, this one takes the cake…
    https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/958105033605705728 – “we need immigrants to keep pensions afloat”. No, we don’t. Not even close. Because Japan (and because MMT). They’ve been screamed at for nearly 3 decades to increase immigration and they’ve declined to do so and nothing bad has happened to them.

    And he follows it up with advocacy for “high-skilled” immigration. And there we have it, folks! Families get downgraded because DC-elite economists want to build their junk vanity project called “MERITOCRACY”. It’s a pipe-dream which cuts wages because it’s supposed to do so. It’s also a subtly parasitic colonialist project, encouraging capital flight form developing countries and stealing the skilled labor from developing countries that they’ve spent years developing.

    I’ve found my opinion is moving against immigration in recent years, and I strongly suspect it’s the advocates FOR immigration (like Noah Smith) that are driving me in that direction.

  22. ewmayer

    o “Tech: “Robots could kill many Las Vegas jobs” [CNN]” — CNN omitted mention of perhaps the biggest potential Vegas-market niche here, robot hookers. “I’m a love machine, baby!”

    o ““Robert Parry Has Died” [Moon of Alabama]. “This is a huge loss for everyone who has kept some skepticism about the propagandistic media onslaught on our conciseness.” — I think MofA intended “consciousness” but fell prey to an auto-correct fubar here.

    1. ewmayer

      Yowza – some by-now familiarly creepy names in there – Ukrainian intel/propaganda, the Vicky-Nuland-esque Anne Applebaum, the BBG, and of course all roads lead to HRC-for-prez Inc.

      Really looking forward to Yves’ and Lambert’t takes on this one.

      1. integer

        I won’t keep going on about this, but I had some very strange experiences around the time I was digging into info on Weisburd and Watts, including a Ukrainian woman at my local pub (which would be very rare in itself) throwing herself at me telling me how she wanted to have sweaty sex with me all night and other surprisingly explicit things. I had walked to the pub by myself that night on a hunch, and knew something was off as soon as I arrived. I was already very suspicious from all the weird people that had been around my house in the preceding days, I was pretty sure someone had broken in, and the the fibre optic cables out the front of my house had been dug up by very suspicious council workers. I declined the woman’s request, a few times actually, as she wasn’t taking no for an answer. She was then almost forcibly pulled back by a group of Australian guys who fit the profile of intelligence agents, who told her “that’s enough”. There were also a couple USians fitting the intelligence agent profile wandering around. As soon as I got there, they checked out of their room (the pub also has a few rooms for rent) and left. We made eye contact for a few seconds as they walked past me on their way out. There were a few other things but I’ll spare you the minutiae.

        1. integer

          I will say though, that I am absolutely stoked that there is now hard evidence revealing those who are/were behind propornot. Looks to me like this exposé has the potential to have some pretty serious repercussions, especially if there is some overlap with the now infamous Nunes memo.

    2. ewmayer

      It’s unlikely anyone will read this days-after-the-fact update, but I just wanted to comment that on not seeing WheresOurTeddy’s link in subsequent daily Links or 2PMWCs I e-mailed Yves about the seeming omission, she replied with a terse “The story is seriously flawed and we are not touching it.” I didn’t bug her for a further explanation of ‘flawed’, but FWIW.

  23. lyman alpha blob

    RE: The Follower Factory

    So after hyperventilating about Russian-linked twitterbots and fake Russian-linked social media accounts, the Grey Lady finally discovers the old news that people from everywhere create and buy fake accounts all the time?!?!

    Something tells me though that they won’t be walking back their prevailing anti-Trump narrative over a simple thing like facts.

  24. Steely Glint

    Just throwing this out to NC and Lambert on norms, Phreet Bharara and Christine Todd Whitman:
    “Today, we’re launching an independent democracy task force at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law to holistically review these informal rules, which ones should remain guidelines, and perhaps which ones should be enshrined into law. We’ll examine norms surrounding financial conflicts, political interference with law enforcement, the use of government data and science, the appointment of public officials and any other issues that may arise in the coming months.”

    1. allan

      Christine Todd Whitman. That name rings a bell …

      Ex-EPA boss Whitman offers first-ever apology for bad info on post-9/11 air quality:
      ‘People have died because I made a mistake’

      The former head of the Environmental Protection Agency apologized for the first time for her declaration a week after 9/11 that the air in lower Manhattan was safe to breathe.

      Christine Todd Whitman conceded [on the 15th anniversary of 9/11] that it was a mistake to give the all-clear at Ground Zero and said she was sorry for the ongoing health crisis that still grips first responders.

      Whitman, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, quickly added that she never lied about the air quality and repeated that she was simply passing on information given to her by government scientists.

      “Whatever we got wrong, we should acknowledge, and people should be helped,” Whitman told the Guardian. “I’m very sorry that people are sick.” …

      Her apology rang hallow with first responders and the advocates who have stood by their sides. …

      “Simply passing on”. Sorry not sorry. So much for sanctifying “the use of government data and science”.

    2. Jim Haygood

      We will be joined by experts and former officials from both parties.

      In other words, the inbred duopoly which has ruled for 150 years.

      ‘Depublicrat’ is synonymous with ‘corrupt.’ Whereas ‘expert’ is synonymous with ‘biased,’ ‘elitist,’ and ‘incompetent.’

      1. Steely Glint

        I would say I have similar doubts. Put aside killing the messangers and perhaps neoliberal tendencies for over-complication, I would suggest there some important matters such as financial discloser leading to conflict of interest that need to be brought out of gray informal areas and given black and white limits. Mind you, there are always those who are paid to exploit any law (also known as loop holes) but as the list of past problems point out, it is an interesting idea.

        1. Paul Cardan

          I’m with Mr. Haygood on this one. A group of “experts and former officials from both parties,” well-heeled creatures of the dominant institutions of this troubled society, led by someone who apparently was not even able to correctly apply actually existing and well-known rules when in office, is supposedly going to come to the rescue of the republic. And this rescue, for all we know, could very well amount to a quest after largely mythical norms. I say “largely mythical” because a mere regularity in behavior (the sort of thing that the self-interested actions of competing elites might well, inadvertently produce) does not a norm make, at least if we mean by ‘norm’ some worthwhile rule that people actually follow. See, for example, “forbearance,” as discussed in the article linked to yesterday’s Water Cooler.

          The fact that they at least say that they want to turn some of these “norms” into law is, I will admit, an improvement on most of what I’ve heard on this topic thus far. It certainly beats the unauthorized use of state power on the basis of rules which no one’s ever heard of, yet are somehow supposed to be ours.

  25. polecat

    Maybe we should upgrade Facebook (along with an attachment of bits of Twitter and the like) .. or as A. Slim above refering to as ‘Faceborg’ .. to the more hyperbolically accurate ‘Facebash’ … because THAT’S the next I-$hit iteration.

    When the Skittel Thugs came for the White House, I did not interfere because he/she/they/? were not my president ..
    When the Skittel Thugs came for my local politican, I did not complain, because that person did not share my hallowed views … about EVERYTHING !
    When the Skittel Thugs came for local business, I shrugged cuz I was offened by the cakes they designed ..
    And when the Skittel Thugs departed with my next-door neighbors, and the dog, and the cat, AND the canary, I began to wonder, as I had not ever bothered to get to really know them ..
    So when the Skittels Thugs finally leaped at me, calling me the worst thing on this earth …..

  26. Kurt Sperry

    Re NAFTA: A Canadian friend shared this link with me having to do with what sounds like typical ISDS [family blog]-


    “Today, our lawyers will be suiting up alongside the Government of Canada to challenge a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ruling that could force Canada to pay more than $500 million in damages for enforcing its own environmental laws.

    How did we find ourselves in this position? Here’s a quick breakdown:

    Bilcon, an American company, wanted to expand its gravel quarry in an ecologically-sensitive area of Digby Neck, N.S. The project was required to undergo an environmental assessment, and a joint panel found it would adversely impact the ‘core values’ of the surrounding communities. The federal and provincial governments agreed and rejected the project.

    But that was not the end of the story. The company filed a NAFTA claim, arguing Canada’s rejection of its proposal was unfair. And this is where things get really interesting: A NAFTA tribunal went outside its realm of expertise to rule on a matter of Canadian law, and found Canada liable — and Bilcon is now seeking at least $500 million in damages!”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The whole degrees of separation thing reminds me of Philip K. Dick’s Game Players of Titan, where — reminiscent of Tsarist Russia, where revolutionary cells were said to consist, in the main, of Tsarist agent provocateurs and informers — the hero realizes, in a moment of drunken clarity, that “we are entirely surrounded by vugs [v]ugs vugs” — protoplasmic alien blobs with telepathic powers who made themselves appear human through mind control.

      We are looking at variants of the Broken Masquerade trope, apparently. (I can’t find an explicit trope for “They’re all in on it,” as in Murder on the Orient Express, alas.)

  27. Polar Donkey

    I worked briefly at autozone corporate hq doing store placement. Shortly before I arrived the guy in charge of the department went to dollar general. Autozone invests a lot of resources in store placement. Other auto parts companies just put a store near a new autozone location. Autozone and dollar general’s target demographiscs aren’t that different.

  28. Edward E

    So very sad… It is sickening to see @propornot is spewing vile poisonous disrespectful garbage about Robert Parry. It’s all just wrong.

    ‘Fairness Doctrine: a former federal policy in the US requiring television and radio broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance.’

    The great Robert Parry could never bring himself to accept it. Fighting back is what he was all about. We’ve lost a heavyweight truth seeker. One of the greatest of all time.

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