2:00PM Water Cooler 1/4/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, once again I’m late coming to Water Cooler, this time [cough] because of writing the post on [cough] marijuana that you are about to see. Today, however, the complete Water Cooler will not be nearly so truncated, when I get to it. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves! –lambert UPDATE 4:24 More, more, more!

How are your pipes doing? How about the roof? Or is all this talk of “bombogenesis” yet more fear-mongering? (Bangor is said to be getting eighteen inches; that’s practically a “light dusting.” So what’s the hysteria about?)

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“Clinton Hits Record Low In Poll With 61 Percent Unpopularity” [Jonathon Turley]. “Clinton’s low favorability ratings were previously at 38% in late August/early September 2016 during the presidential campaign. Notably this really did not move from April 1992 when she also registered a 38% favorable rating. What is different is not just the dip of popularity but the significant increase in unpopular figures.”

“Socialist Bernie Sanders Wears a $700 Jacket While Complaining About Rich People” [Newsweek]. “Senator Bernie Sanders sported a $700 coat on Monday during New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s swearing-in ceremony. The socialist was cozy and warm in a $690 Burton 2L LZ down jacket as de Blasio was assuming office for the second time in a row during the frigid temperatures at City Hall. Sanders, 76, joked, saying of the weather, “By Vermont standards this is a warm and pleasant afternoon.'” My L.L. Bean parka cost $400, and though it’s excellent, I wouldn’t want to be sitting for an hour in the cold wearing it, as Sanders did. $700 is perfectly reasonable for a good winter coat. I mean, it’s not like a parka is a fashion item, right? But wow. They hate Sanders. They really, really hate him.


“On Tuesday, now-former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) officially resigned from the U.S. Senate following allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. As we discussed in our last newsletter for 2017, Franken’s resignation means that Minnesota will hold a special election for Senate this coming November, which will take place at the same time as the regular election for the state’s other Senate seat (a “double-barrel” election). Franken’s exit paved the way for Gov. Mark Dayton (D) to officially appoint now-Sen. Tina Smith (D), previously Minnesota’s lieutenant governor” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “With an overall success rate of just above 50%, the history of appointed incumbents shows that Smith’s certainty of holding her seat is far from a sure thing. Placing Smith’s position in context, we only rate her chances as Leans Democratic to start with. She may be aided by the presence of her popular colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), on the ballot as well as what may be a positive national Democratic environment. However, Smith has not run for office on her own before — she was elected lieutenant governor as a part of Dayton’s 2014 ticket — making her an unproven choice in that respect. It’s also possible that the Minnesota GOP will pick a strong nominee — a favorite rumored choice is former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — who can make the race competitive.”

“Utah Senate: Hatch Retirement Makes Seat Safer” [Cook Political Report]. “Republican U.S. Orrin Hatch announced today that he will not seek a seventh term in November, creating a third open seat for Republicans…. It is widely expected that 2012 GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will seek the GOP nomination. Romney, who directed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, remains popular in the state and would be a heavy favorite in the general election. In that respect, Romney would probably put this seat more firmly in Republicans’ grasp than Hatch, who might have drawn a competitive primary challenge.”

“It’s Not Just Romney: Hatch Retirement Could Lead to Decisions for Grassley, Crapo” [Roll Call]. “Hatch was one of the lead authors of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, along with Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and its stalled reauthorization is poised to be a key priority for Hatch in his final year as a senator.” That would be nice.

“Somehow, Senate Dems united as election year begins” [McClatchy]. In retrospect, the Berniecrats should have occupied the DNC offices after Ellison’s defenestration; that would have brought about unity, just by a different route.


“And the winner is… Republican wins after name drawn from a bowl in Virginia House race” [USA Today]. However: “”At this moment I am not conceding,’ a solemn [Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds] said after the drawing. ‘I am reflecting on a very interesting campaign and a very hard-fought campaign.'” Sortition isn’t so bad. Say, why don’t we pick all our candidates by lot? Could we do worse?

“Which 2020 Democrat Won 2017?” [Politico]. “The candidate who best fortified his position as the public face of the Democratic Party is unquestionably Sen. Bernie Sanders. How much more airtime does he get than everyone else in pack? Consider this stat: Bernie was a guest on the Sunday morning talk shows for a whopping 21 out of 52 weeks this year. No other potential candidate appeared more than four times… Still, by no means has Bernie locked down the nomination, or even consolidated the left. His attempts to prioritize economic populism have caused friction with activists concerned about racial equality and reproductive freedom…. The only prospective candidate who aggressively elevated her position in the invisible primary was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, thanks to her seizing of the sexual misconduct issue.” If you like horse-race posts, this is a good one. Oh, I forgot — by which I mean repressed — Biden. Herewith: “Much of the activist left sees Biden as a relic and a joke, unfit for the populist times, still yapping about bipartisanship and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But in that moment [of consoling] Meghan McCain, Biden showed what he does that few in politics can: comfort and connect so effortlessly that you don’t even realize or care that he’s still talking politics. He will not be put out to pasture so easily.” Oh, please. Stop. Just stop.

Trump Transition

“Now that tax cuts — the one cause that animates all Republicans — are in the statute books, Mitch McConnell will be dealing with the reality that a 51-49 Senate majority can be as fragile as a snowflake. Especially when two retiring Republican senators (Jeff Flake and Bob Corker) make no secret of loathing Donald Trump. And two other GOP senators (John McCain and Thad Cochran) are in fragile health. Pretty soon Mike Pence won’t be able to leave Massachusetts Avenue for fear that his vote will be needed to break a Senate tie” [Walter Shapiro, Roll Call]. “When it comes to anything with a whiff of controversy, like the debt-ceiling vote, Paul Ryan’s current 26-seat majority is as secure as a bitcoin investment. Whether the threats come from the right-wing Freedom Caucus or northeastern moderates panicked about the 2018 elections, Ryan will be as worried about defections as the North Korean border patrol.” So the Democrats have some strength in the upcoming budget negotiations. “In such negotiations, the Democrats’ mantra should be: Human beings are more important than money or symbolism. A prime example is the deal that the president keeps saying he wants — trading statutory protection for the Dreamers in exchange for funding his cherished border wall.”

New Cold War

“Beating a Hasty Retreat from the Steele Dossier” [Andrew McCarthy, National Review]. Just as the Grey Lady offered a platform to disgraced fabulist Louise Mensch, they offer a platform to Fusion GPS, the firm that couldn’t sell the Steele Dossier even to Jebbie: “Yet, while the authors attest to the sterling reputation of Steele, they elide any mention of his claims — i.e., of the sensational allegations of a traitorous conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that Fusion GPS, while working for the Clinton campaign, generated and tried mightily to publicize through the Clinton-friendly media. Instead, Simpson and Fritsch erect a strawman: What their work has really been about, they now say, is “decipher[ing] Mr. Trump’s complex business past.” This includes scrutinizing financial ties between Trump’s business conglomerate and Russian interests. It is from this effort that Republicans and other Obama administration critics are supposedly trying to deflect attention.” The original Democrat claim, as made by Clinton in debate, was that Putin would “rather have a puppet [Trump] as president.” Democrats don’t get to gaslight the whole country with that charge for a year, and then back off from it when it doens’t pan out. I mean, come on:

“Business dealings,” forsooth. Trump’s an oligarch. Of course his business dealings are unsavory.

Realignment and Legitimacy


Also too, the DSA dog caucus.

Stats Watch

Challenger Job-Cut Report, December 2017: “Modest” layoffs “underscore the health of the nation’s labor market” [Econoday]. And: “That is the lowest annual total since 1990” [Econintersect].

ADP Employment Report, December 2017: “ADP sees a strong gain of 250,000 for December private payrolls” [Econoday]. “At a 190,000 estimate vs an actual 221,000, ADP did get the direction right in its November private payroll forecast, calling for a substantial decline from October’s post-hurricane surge when private payrolls rose 247,000. The consensus for ADP’s December call is steady strength at 188,000.” But: “ADP employment has not been a good predictor of BLS non-farm private job growth” [Econintersect]. And but: “The ADP report hasn’t been very useful in predicting the BLS report for any one month, but in general, this suggests employment growth above expectations” [Calculated Risk].

Jobless Claims, week of December 30, 2017: “Initial jobless claims rose 3,000 in the December 30 week to 250,000 which is higher than Econoday’s consensus but still consistent with strength in the labor market and points to strength for December’s payroll data and unemployment rate” [Econoday].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of December 31, 2017: “Slowed,” “still at an historically high level and hinting at strength for consumer spending” [Econoday].

Purchasing Managers Services Index, December 2017: “Down noticeably from … November but also up substantially from December’s mid-month flash” [Econoday]. “[A]ctually points to acceleration and solid strength. New orders are the strength for the last two weeks with backlogs also a positive. Hiring is described as solid and price pressures eased though respondents in the sample continue to report upward pressure for fuel costs and, more importantly, wages as well. Less than positive, however, is business confidence in the survey which the report describes as relatively subdued.”

Commodities: “A handful of Canadian [cobalt] miners are looking at producing more of the crucial component in lithium-ion batteries, betting they can build a bigger supply chain with a socially responsible source of the metal” [Wall Street Journal]. “Most cobalt currently comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where supply is threatened by political, legal and labor issues, leaving suppliers looking elsewhere for the mineral. Canada is the world’s third-biggest producer of cobalt.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla managed to push out only 793 of [Model 3] cars in the last week of December” [Wall Street Journal]. Let’s be fair. The Model 3 is hand-made. That takes time.

Retail: “Reis reported that the vacancy rate for regional malls was 8.3% in Q4 2017, unchanged from 8.3% in Q3, and up from 7.8% in Q4 2016. This is down from a cycle peak of 9.4% in Q3 2011” [Calculated Risk]. “Although unchanged in Q4, recently both the strip mall and regional mall vacancy rates have increased from an already elevated level.”

Shipping: “New Jersey lawmakers say the days of mob influence at the New York region’s seaports are long gone and it’s time to wind down federal anti-corruption oversight. Legislators are trying to pull the state out of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, the 64-year-old bistate agency designed to combat the organized crime and racketeering that plague the docks” [Wall Street Journal].

The 420: “U.S. Pot ETF’s Assets Soar as Investors Rush Into Sector” [Bloomberg]. “Investors are falling over themselves to get into the first pure-play marijuana ETF to list in the U.S., sending its assets up more than 13-fold in five trading days.”

Tech: “Intel Memory Access Design Flaw Already Addressed by Apple in macOS 10.13.2” [MacRumors]. Assuming the patch isn’t buggy.

Tech: “Apple Battery Replacement May Mean 16 Million Fewer iPhones Sold” [Bloomberg]. “[Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz] estimates around 519 million users are eligible for the battery offer, and that in the most likely scenario 10 percent take the $29 offer, and about 30 percent of those people decide not to buy a new iPhone this year. This means Apple could miss out on 16 million iPhone upgrades in 2018, the analyst said.”

Honey for the Bears: “Stock-market investors should ‘brace for a possible near-term melt-up’: Jeremy Grantham” [MarketWatch]. “Grantham favorably cited an academic paper published last year that concluded that the strongest indicator of a bubble in U.S. and almost all global markets was price acceleration.”

Five Horseman: “Amazon threatens to blow the top off of our “techs gone wild” chart, while Apple — ever solicitous of the battery life of its older phones — languishes in the doghouse” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 4

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Greed (previous close: 67, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 62 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 4 at 2:54pm.

Our Famously Free Press

“In war, the battle today is less on the ground than on social media” [WaPo]. Examples: Ukraine and Syria. I don’t know about that. I think war on the ground was pretty important both places…

Imperial Collapse Watch

Meanwhile, we can’t even build a new train tunnel under the Hudson, even though we know the existing tunnel must fail, and when it does, the Northeast Corridor will fail:

Health Care

“Get ready for a revived brawl over single-payer healthcare in California” [Los Angeles Times (MR)]. “Seeking to redirect the debate [away from single payer], the Assembly has held a number of hearings in recent months to explore how to achieve ‘universal healthcare,’ be it through a single-payer model or other ways to expand coverage. The hearings compared systems in other states and countries and looked into other ways to control costs.”

“Following The Affordable Care Act: A Look Back” [Timothy Jost, Health Affairs]. Farewell to Jost, a truly excellent and informative blogger.

Police State Watch

A parallel case to this morning’s “tense New England police encounter.” Thread (via JBird):

JBird writes:

Apropos of the earlier thread on NY Times report on a swatting and police shooting. This gets me because being hard of hearing, I don’t need any headphones to not hear, or not clearly enough, especially when tired, sick, distracted, poorly working aid. Of course that’s only about half the time, so no worries!

Class Warfare

“Death of the American Trucker” [Rolling Stone]. “In his stagecraft, Trump puts truckers on a pedestal. Behind the scenes, his administration is seeking to hasten a revolution in robotic driving that poses an existential threat to their livelihoods. We’re at the dawn of the self-driving truck. The technology will benefit most Americans: Ever-alert robotic semis promise safer highways, reduced emissions, faster ship times and, for the 70 percent of goods that travel by truck, lower costs. Yet this same revolution threatens every single job in heavy trucking – 1.7 million in all, according to a White House analysis published in the final days of the Obama administration. Truckers earn $60 billion in annual wages. And trucking is now the most common profession in 29 states.” Assuming robot trucks work.

“Episode 14: The Job Guarantee & Social Justice (w/ Pavlina Tcherneva)” (podcast) [The Next System].

News of the Wired

“In Which Nietzsche Learns the True Meaning of Christmas” [Existential Comics].

“Cracking the Brain’s Enigma Code” [Scientific American]. “[Eva Dyer, a neuroscientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology] calls her work a proof of concept for using cryptographic strategies to decode neural activity.”

“I’ve re-recorded Alan Turing’s “Can Computers Think?” radio broadcasts” [The Aperiodical]. “Throughout the lecture, Turing’s language is friendly and inclusive. He is also charmingly humble, admitting there are many other opinions and that these were just his own. I was also pleased to see Turing acknowledge the legacy of computing with a quotation from Ada Lovelace speaking about Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. I found the script so pleasing that I decided it would be nice to rerecord it so that new audiences would be able to hear Turing’s words as he intended.”

“Power Causes Brain Damage” [The Atlantic]. From July, still germane: “[When] Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario… put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, ‘mirroring,’ that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the ‘power paradox’: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.”

“You’re Descended from Royalty and So Is Everybody Else” [Nautilus]. Fascinating data structure:

You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. Each generation back the number of ancestors you have doubles. But this ancestral expansion is not borne back ceaselessly into the past. If it were, your family tree when Charlemagne was Le Grand Fromage would harbor around 137,438,953,472 individuals on it—more people than were alive then, now, or in total. What this means is that pedigrees begin to fold in on themselves a few generations back, and become less arboreal, and more a mesh or weblike. You can be, and in fact are, descended from the same individual many times over. Your great-great-great-great-great-grandmother might hold that position in your family tree twice, or many times, as her lines of descent branch out from her, but collapse onto you. The further back through time we go, the more these lines will coalesce on fewer individuals. “Pedigree” is a word derived from the middle French phrase “pied de grue”—the crane’s foot—as the digits and hallux spread from a single joint at the bottom of the tibia, roughly equivalent to our ankle. This branching describes one or a few generations of a family tree, but it’s wholly inaccurate as we climb upward into the past. Rather, each person can act as a node into whom the genetic past flows, and from whom the future spills out, if indeed they left descendants at all.

“The father of virtual reality sounds off on the changing culture of Silicon Valley, the impending #MeToo backlash, and why he left Google for Microsoft” [Business Insider (MR)]. Jaron Lanier. Well worth a read, especially now that we know about “cuddle puddles”….

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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 (SC):

SC writes: “I did a mass planting of Salvias in front of a church in mid-Summer this year (months late, but I had multiple die-offs of the first couple of hundred plants and had to re-start from seed twice; this was definitely a learning year for me). By early Autumn they were gorgeous and remained so until November cold killed them. This photo is the least bad of the lot, take a week or two before the cold got them. I apologize for the soft focus.” And now a blizzard is going to cover up the beds with snow! Which will melt in due course, beginning the cycle once again…

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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. perpetualWAR

    Well, PHH Mortgage employees get indicted for bank fraud, but Kerry Killinger, et. al, gets to continue to live in their Seattle gated communities. Yep, that is justice!


    You can thank our new Seattle Mayor, Jenny Durkan, for a job well done. So well done that the job of Mayor was delivered, as promised.

    “The same day Portmann was indicted, then-U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan announced there would be no criminal charges against Washington Mutual’s leaders. The announcement came months after Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation investigators leveled claims of negligence and fraud at WaMu brass.”

    Senator Levin delivered a massive Congressional fraud investigation and dumped it onto Durkan’s desk. Jenny ignored all findings. And Seattle voters allowed her to fail upwards. Life is good.

  2. Wukchumni

    In an alternative universe, Jeff Sessions orders the production of opioids to be curtailed immediately across the land and huge fines and jail time to any that attempt to import/smuggle them into the country, and the factories that produced them turned into rehab centers to cure those so effected, ok, that’s enough of that pipe dream.

  3. Kevin

    “So what’s the hysteria about?”

    but….but…it’s colder than MARS!!!!!

    I still remember my introduction to Minneapolis winters – walked just over a block one day and my eyelashes kept sticking together – could not figure out why – until I noticed I was brushing away ice crystals. (not to mention the mucous inside my nose that froze into little ice pebbles)


  4. Robert Hahl

    Bach Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: II. Air, “Air on a G String”

    Antonin Dvorak – Serenade for Strings, Op. 22: II. Menuetto

    W.A.Mozart Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Complete) Slovak Chamber Orchestra

    Child Grove (English Dance)

    Beethoven – Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5, No. 2 (Paul Tortelier & Eric Heidsieck)

    Black Bend – Dan Visconti

    1. a different chris

      Air on a G String is, of course, lovely, but I can’t help an adolescent snicker at the name and its implications…

      Ah well.

  5. Mark Gisleson

    I look forward to reading your article.

    .cough/SFV OG/cough

    Take your time; after five I’ll be cross-fading and even more ready for whatever Sessions-related bad news you have for us.

  6. Carla

    Thanks for the great plantidote! The splash of scarlet is most welcome on this gloomy, grey, bitter-cold day. I look forward to this feature of the Water Cooler every day.

  7. Jen

    How are my pipes?

    Just peachy. Came home last night to find a chunk of my dining room ceiling on the floor, and two very freaked out dogs looking like they were trying to assure me it wasn’t their fault. Lord, what a mess.

    Fortunately, the burst pipe had a relatively small, finite water supply, which was largely absorbed by insulation, which is why part of my dining room ceiling came crashing down. Fortunately, also, I have insurance, with a company whose business model is to charge reasonable premiums, serve their customers, and pay claims promptly.

    After spending a lovely morning with my plumber getting the broken pipe fixed and chasing down the other frozen pipe, all is well with the universe except for the gaping hole in my dining room ceiling. But at least the heat will get to the pipes now, an they won’t freeze.

    I guess nor-easter no longer puts the fear of god into the masses like it used to, so the media needs a jazzier term. It’s just snow, for crying out loud. And not even lake effect snow at that. I bow down to the hardy denizens of Buffalo.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      I have always disliked the way people go on about “nor-easters”. Most of the time I think they want to sound like they’re from an old Maine whaling family.

      I will admit to being very fortunate in my NYC commute: I live 1/2 a block from a subway station, and work 2 blocks from another, so my commute is a non-event in all but the absolute worst situations (e.g., Sandy, 9/11). (I walk the 1 mile most of the time, good or “bad” weather.)

      There’s no such thing as bad weather — there is just inappropriate clothing.

      1. Jen

        Perhaps I wasn’t as clued in to weather forecasts as a kid, after all, back in the day one had to wait for the weather report on tv or radio, but I don’t recall noreaster being part of the lexicon back then. It was just snow.

  8. Darius

    They turned off the heat on some floors of my wife’s office building in DC to save money and the pipes burst, forcing a floor closure while they cleaned up. Seems too easy to say penny wise and pound foolish.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m amazed by that. Pipes bursting in DC?! Was the building insulated at all? (I’m thinking of all the McMansions thrown up during the pre-Crash housing bubble, the ones with styrofoam pediments and also poor insulation; perhaps a CRE bubble in DC has led to the same behavior?)

  9. Sid Finster

    RE: “financial improprieties” – at risk of repeating myself, an aggressive prosecutor can always find an excuse to bring charges against anyone, especially if that person is involved in high level business or politics. Invariably, there will be an overly aggressive tax position, an irregularity in a document submitted under penalty of perjury or something.

    If nothing else, the prosecutor can simply dig around enough and ask enough questions until the target either perjures himself (W. Clinton – remember the most unedifying spectacle of watching his groupies insist that lying about sex wasn’t perjury?) or lies to investigators (M. Stewart).

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘an aggressive prosecutor can always find an excuse to bring charges against anyone’

      Then there’s the other side of the coin, throwing the game:

      Ex-FBI Director James Comey’s original statement closing out the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was edited by subordinates to remove five separate references to terms like “grossly negligent” and to delete mention of evidence supporting felony and misdemeanor violations, according to copies of the full document.

      The draft, released in full for the first time on Thursday, offers new details on the FBI’s Clinton investigation and controversial conclusion.

      The full draft, with edits, leaves little doubt that Comey originally wrote on May 2, 2016 that there was evidence that Clinton and top aides may have violated both felony and misdemeanor statutes, though he did not believe he could prove intent before a jury.


      Verdict first, witness interviews later — straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

      It’s good to be queen.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > edited by subordinates to remove five separate references to terms like “grossly negligent” and to delete mention of evidence supporting felony and misdemeanor violations

        Makes you wonder where those subordinates are now and what they’re doing; and what “insurance policies” they have.

        NOTE Adding, I wish I could make that insanely annoying video popup The Hill has go away. You can’t even drag it out of the way and it covers the text. Any ideas, anyone? I’m using Opera…

    2. Procopius

      I’ve always been doubtful about the conviction of Martha Stewart. You know, the FBI has a policy forbidding the recording of their interviews. I’ve always felt it was so they could claim any time they wanted to that the victim suspect lied to them. The court will always and the jury will usually believe the FBI agent.

  10. allan

    Cashless tolls coming to Thruway by 2020, Cuomo pledges [LoHud.com]

    Cashless tolling will come to the New York state Thruway by the end of 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. …

    The tolling plan was one of dozens of proposals Cuomo included in his 92-minute, agenda-setting speech, which he delivered Wednesday in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center near the state Capitol. …

    Few of Cuomo’s proposals caught attendees by surprise, however, since the governor had spent recent weeks methodically releasing details of his major plans.

    The tolling plan was an exception, with Cuomo pledging to expand the all-electronic system — in which motorists travel through overhead toll gantries at full speed — over the next three years. …

    Under a cashless-tolling system, cameras capture images of license plates as cars and trucks drive through. …

    The push to expand, however, has not been without hiccups.

    In the Lower Hudson Valley, motorists have been hit with hundreds of dollars in late fees after just a few crossings on the former Tappan Zee, with some claiming they never received a bill in the first place.

    In early 2017, the fine for a late toll payment at the bridge was increased to $100 for each violation. …

    A win-win for neoliberal economics and the surveillance state. He’s running.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      This has to be challenged, on practical and grounds at the very least. Presumably this works by tying the photos of license plate numbers to the registered owner of the vehicle. In most cases it will be the owner who’s driving, but there will definitely be a nontrivial number of exceptions. And even when the owner is driving, the address the DMV has on file is not necessary their current one. How do you hold someone legally responsible for a debt they didn’t personally incur and/or never received notice of?

      If your aim is to maximize toll revenue for the state to fund essential services, it doesn’t cost that much to pay toll collectors. I’m sure they collect their hourly wage in a matter of minutes and no vehicles go through without paying. Not so if you’re relying on people paying bills after the fact, which will result in unpaid tolls, bills being sent to collections and ruined credit ratings. More preying on the poor.

      But that, along with surveillance, is probably the whole point.

      1. allan

        Be afraid. Very afraid. Ominous narration with a Queens accent:

        … Our transportation system must be better protected, and we must do it now. We have had warning. The past incidents shook everyone to the bone. We don’t need to understand anymore. We will do just that. In this year’s budget, we will do just that with more and better trained police and more state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, because government’s number one job is to protect its people, and we will do exactly that. …

        Weird. I thought that government’s number one job is to protect the rights afforded by the Constitution.

        … Cashless tolling has been a great success at our downstate bridges and tunnels. It’s not just faster for the commuter and better for the environment. It’s also more secure. The new electronic toll structures are designed with state-of-the-art homeland security devices. They also have license plate readers. Police are on site and are electronically notified in three seconds of a violation or a suspicious plate from the license plate reader. It’s in place. It works. It works very well. Today we call on the Port Authority to do the same and install cashless tolling and security equipment on their crossings – the George Washington Bridge, the Outerbridge, Bayonne and Goethals Bridges, Holland, and Lincoln Tunnels. …

        And this is what the Dem leadership considers to be center-left.
        Sadly, this particular flavor is so saddled with baggage that it will never make it out of the gate.
        A convenient calendar of upcoming NYS corruption trials.

  11. D

    The Machine needs/Wants, no humans to interfere with its horrifying brutality.

    Mario Savio and Occum’s Razor

    (I don’t need to provide a link, most are aware of this)

  12. allan

    Comcast quietly fired hundreds in direct sales before Christmas [Philly.com]

    Hundreds of door-to-door salespeople for Comcast Corp. who walk neighborhoods and troll apartment complexes to pitch its telecom and TV services were called into company offices about two weeks before Christmas and fired, according to an employee and Comcast documents reviewed by the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

    The Florida employee could not be identified because of a nondisclosure agreement as part of a severance package. …

    Comcast executives told the former employees that it was reorganizing its direct sales force so that they covered bigger neighborhoods.

    “The Central Division is creating a new territory-based sales model that will connect more closely with residential prospects and customers in their communities,” Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Moyer said Thursday. “By giving highly trained sales professionals direct responsibility for entire neighborhoods, we can provide a better experience for those who are interested in our services, during and after the sale.” …

    Ryan Bingham couldn’t have said it better. But no hard feelings:

    … In late December, Comcast announced that it would hand out $1,000 bonuses to full-time employees, in response to the Trump tax cut that will slash its corporate tax rate. The fired employees will be eligible for a “$1,000 supplemental severance payment,” Comcast said. …

  13. knowbuddhau

    About that Atlantic article implying brain damage from having power. Aside from a bad headline, yet another violation of a rule so fundamental even I remember it 30 years on: no generalizing beyond your sample.

    I was actually looking forward to reading more about mirror neurons. Silly me, it’s The Atlantic, after all. But seriously, mirror neurons are hugely important to empathy. Think about it.

    We have in our heads reflections of the “outer” world. The so-called “other” is actively shaping us. It’s every bit a “part” of our self as any other neural network.

    But since it’s The Atlantic, it’s paeon to the problems of the powerful, namely, hubris. Not a mention of the term’s etymology, not a word about overweening pride being well known as a pathology for thousands of years? No matches found on the entire page for “Greek,” “pride,” “arrogance.”

    Yes, of course we all need to stay grounded. Start with your own research.

    Are college students, in a short-term, pencil-and-paper event, really a good proxy for Wall Street’s long-term power players, or FDR or Winston freaking Churchill? How far we’ve flown from the actual data and its actual context.

    Was the mirroring response broken? More like anesthetized. None of the participants possessed permanent power. They were college students who had been “primed” to feel potent by recounting an experience in which they had been in charge. The anesthetic would presumably wear off when the feeling did—their brains weren’t structurally damaged after an afternoon in the lab. But if the effect had been long-lasting—say, by dint of having Wall Street analysts whispering their greatness quarter after quarter, board members offering them extra helpings of pay, and Forbes praising them for “doing well while doing good”—they may have what in medicine is known as “functional” changes to the brain.

    I wondered whether the powerful might simply stop trying to put themselves in others’ shoes, without losing the ability to do so. As it happened, Obhi ran a subsequent study that may help answer that question. This time, subjects were told what mirroring was and asked to make a conscious effort to increase or decrease their response. “Our results,” he and his co-author, Katherine Naish, wrote, “showed no difference.” Effort didn’t help.

    This is a depressing finding. Knowledge is supposed to be power. But what good is knowing that power deprives you of knowledge?

    “Knowledge is supposed to be power”?! See, there’s your problem.

    1. False Solace

      I wonder what that means evolutionarily. Once you get in good and grab plenty of resources, your empathy turns off because it’s only needed when you’re grabbing. Once you have fistfuls of loot and status, you go hog wild. Empathy would only slow you down.

      Seems like a decent explanation for why human authority figures and leaders are so invariably corrupt, with only an occasional rare exception to prove the rule. Once you get wealth or power you lose your soul. Doesn’t matter what you were when you started. Very few people would be immune.

      If that hypothesis holds the next thing we’d need is some sort of Empathy Turing Test to identify the outliers and ban everyone else from the pool of candidates for political office.

    2. anonymous

      “no generalizing beyond your sample”


      the essence of statistical inference is that sampling allows one to make generalizations to the larger population of interest from which the sample is drawn, or to one’s universe of content.

      1. knowbuddhau

        True dat. In the abstract, definitely, and with well-designed studies, plausibly but not necessarily.

        Humans aren’t fundamental particles. But getting a few of us anywhere, under any circumstances, is all too often immediately generalized to all of us, everywhere, all the time.

        The problem of over-reliance on college students, a population that has already undergone a selection process. in the lab by reducing complex and often context-dependent social behavior to artificial pencil-and-paper tests, was a noted problem back in the 80s.

        I’m not at all persuaded by the whole paradigm.

        And one of the main reasons I quit watching nightly network news is the practice of saying “Americans this” and “Americans that” based on data from just a few people, not the thousands it would take to have any reliability. The abuse is ubiquitous. (The other is that it’s blatant propaganda. Stop watching for a few years and you can’t overlook it.)

        “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” — Mark Twain

    3. DonCoyote

      Part of the problem with science today is when we try to make it into TED Talks and magazine articles, it’s really getting stretched further than it should probably go, according to characteristics of the sample and how completely or incompletely the study operationalizes the construct.

      Personally, I was reminded of Anathem, and Orolo & Erasmus’ conversations on consciousness.

      “Quantum interference—the crosstalk among similar quantum states—knits the different versions of your brain together.”
      “You’re saying that my consciousness extends across multiple cosmi,” I said. “That’s a pretty wild statement.”
      “I’m saying all things do,” Orolo said. “That comes with the polycosmic interpretation. The only thing exceptional about the brain is that it has found a way to use this.”

      So maybe the avout (mathematical monks) got better at detecting the crosstalk (or picking up signals from further up the wick) because they (or at least the non-heirarchs) had no power?? Again, fanciful because it’s stretching *way* beyond the studies given and throwing in quantum consciousness to boot…but flights of fancy can be fun.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Aren’t they though? Just look at to what good use Einstein put them. Or all the wondrous works of art.

        Quantum effects in biology, otoh, are no flight of fancy. The exceedingly complex navigation system IIRC of thrushes (eg, robins) becomes so finely balanced that a single quantum fluctuation puts it over the edge.

        That is, according to this BBC doc: The Secrets of Quantum Physics. And it says you can watch for free for the next 8 days.

        (Ever since Lambert turned me on to the concept of embodiment, though, it’s getting harder and harder to put up with the horrible metaphysics of your average BBC physicist. What I wouldn’t give for a science doc narration that kept the same cosmos in mind the whole damn time. Which is it, mechanical or organic?! Are we in the Newtonian or Quantum universe?! Make up your mind! lol)

  14. CalypsoFacto

    $700 is perfectly reasonable for a good winter coat. I mean, it’s not like a parka is a fashion item, right? But wow. They hate Sanders. They really, really hate him

    a LOT of the criticism I see from the center against Bernie is this type of nonsense that almost seems like they’re trying to call him out for hypocrisy. A communist, wearing an expensive coat, can you believe this guy wants to rule the world? Like come on, who does this work on, brain dead people who think they’re speaking to people who think $700 is sinfully exorbitant for a garment? I guess these are the same people who were ok with Michelle Obama wearing Gucci and Marchesa as long as she wore J Crew and Ann Taylor as well.

    1. CalypsoFacto

      admire those brands Lady O wore:

      A noncomprehensive litany of some of the designers whose clothes the first lady wore during her husband’s two terms in office includes: Carolina Herrera, Narciso Rodriguez, Michael Kors, Maria Cornejo, Thom Browne, Isabel Toledo, Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Marchesa, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Tadashi Shoji, Cushnie et Ochs, Tory Burch, Naeem Khan, Brandon Maxwell, Rodarte, Bibhu Mohapatra, Zac Posen, Barbara Tfank, Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Joseph Altuzarra, Tracy Reese, Monique Lhuillier, Thakoon, Christian Siriano, Calvin Klein, Sophie Theallet, Reed Krakoff, Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler and Alice & Olivia. Also Talbots. And Target. And Ann Taylor. Sheesh.

      Plus, of course: Gucci, Versace, Givenchy, Alaïa, Junya Watanabe, Christopher Kane, Roksanda, Moschino, Lanvin (those controversial expensive sneakers), Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen, Duro Olowu, Lanvin and Kenzo. To name a few.

      from What Michelle Obama Wore – And Why It Mattered

        1. 3.14e-9

          David, that was a scurrilous falsehood, and it doesn’t excuse Bernie’s bad judgment by showing up in public in a down jacket that could buy several weeks’ worth of groceries for a downtrodden family of four in the Rust Belt. Hillary actually showed her sympathy for the plight of average Americans by appearing in a ready-to-wear jacket purchased off the sale rack.

          Of course, that didn’t stop the snarky, sexist remarks by Hillary haters. Fortunately, Snopes set us straight by tracking down the real cost of her Armani jacket – not $12,495, but just $7,497. That’s 40 percent off, an incredible bargain. Moreover, the charge that she wore the jacket to a speech about income inequality was a total lie. As Snopes pointed out, she didn’t use the words “income inequality,” not once! She touched on the subject briefly, just two paragraphs out of a 14-paragraph speech she delivered after she cooked Bernie’s goose in the New York primary.


          Butt-hurt Bernie Bros were no doubt behind that fake new, which was blatantly sexist, and that was just their style. And remember, they cost her the election, making them directly responsible for Trump. Maybe attacking Bernie’s jacket is a little tit for tat, and serves him right.

          [Kills me that I have to do this, but if I don’t add a sarcasm alert, someone is going to take me seriously.]

          1. Wukchumni

            Some of my Patagooch is so old it was made in the USA and now a bit worn and torn, no value really-but priceless.

            1. Baby Gerald

              Great comment Pi!

              $700 for a ski jacket might sound expensive, then I noticed a brand called Moncler being worn all over the place here in the city. Moncler is to Patagonia what Patagonia is to LL Bean. Their down coats run well into the $2k range depending on size and weight, with $800 for a light puffer being the popular entry-level model.

              One wonders how many in the crowd at the DeBlasio inauguration were sporting those because as I said, they’re all over the subways and streets of Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Park Slope.

          2. David Carl Grimes

            A $7500 jacket? Only a very upper middle-class woman can buy that. I could buy a good used car for that amount. Bernie’s $700 jacket might be able to buy me a car destined for the scrap heap, where I can cannibalize the parts for use in other cars.

    2. Jen

      I have no idea whether Canada Goose parkas are a good winter coat. They do appear to be fashion items, and cost about $1K. I see many students at my humble liberal arts college bedecked in them, starting in October, which makes me wonder what the hell they do when it really gets cold. IMO, if I pay 1K for a coat, it should come with a personal robot who will shovel off my car and start it for me.

      My serious winter coat – the one I haul out when the temps drop to 5 degrees or less, was made by ISIS for women, when they were a Burlington VT shop. It’s probably 15 years old, still in great shape, and really warm. Might have paid $200 for it then. I just wish it were a little longer.

      1. CalypsoFacto

        I just put $200 and 2003 into the dollar inflation calculator here: http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

        Fifteen years on, your $200 coat is now $498 (and you probably couldn’t get it for that if it were still made in VT). I don’t know what that means in the context of Sanders other than $700 for a functional Vermont-capable parka is probably at the lower end of the spectrum in 2017 dollars.

        Canada Goose parkas are desirable items for the same group that wears very expensive nearly disposable athleisure brands like Lululemon. They are probably pretty good, but thankfully I live in a very wet clime and not a terribly cold one, so I can get by without a parka.

        1. crittermom

          Having previously spent 20 years living @ 10,000′ my winter coat is an Arctic Carhartt & I still love it.
          It’s a longer length & has knitted cuffs. Really keeps the cold out.
          I’m still looking for a good pair of winter boots, however.

          It makes me wanna scream at the slanderous attempts at Bernie. Yet there are those idiots who gobble it up, which makes me wanna scream even louder. Geesh!
          Sounds like he made a good purchase to me.

          1. foghorn longhorn

            If you don’t mind a utilitarian look, check out Muck boots.
            Insulated rubber boots with an aggressive tread.
            Around a 100 bucks.
            Last forever.

            1. Wukchumni

              A friend haunts Hollywood thrift stores and sometimes has great scores, back in the day when the studios would donate entire ensembles, and sometimes the stores wouldn’t know the names or values, and he bought most of the wardrobe of Vertical Limit for a pittance. We’re talking the gamut of good stuff, priced from $5 to $20 per item, hardly worn.

        2. homeroid

          Bought a good down coat back in 1993. Cost me $250 back then. still a good coat. Must be worth $500 by now. Don’t wear it much at all as winter here on the coast of Alaska has been Quite warm for many years now.
          The jetstream has pushed the flow of cold air east. We as a result get the warm air from the south. There is mud in my drive way. Perhaps the Donald should come here and talk about weather-or is it climate change. I know he would never do either.

    3. Darius

      Senators make a lot of money. He can afford a nice coat. Probably not making a fraction off the books of what His Awesomely Awesome Awesomeness, the intersectional former president is off his, but probably more than enough to finance a down-filled coat.

      1. CalypsoFacto

        It seems the coat was a gift from his son – see comments below. I guess my original point was about the criticism of Bernie from the center; they hate him, but they can’t hit on anything other than misrepresentation of his policies (“communism!”) or this bizarre ‘inauthenticity to identity’ stuff like a social democrat (“communist?”) daring to wear a coat that cost a dollar value most normal people would find sort of high. I think the implication is supposed to be that it is hypocritical for someone with his policies to wear something “expensive”. Leaving out entirely the vast monies spent on the designer outfits of, well, most of the upper class, including the Obamas. But we knew the brands they wore!

      2. JBird

        The whingening about the coat will work on the half that don’t need them. You might need a decent coat or even just a windbreaker with a heavy liner once in a great while. Maybe $200. Or less. I almost never need more than a windbreaker.

        It’s like with footwear. If I ever get back to serious hiking, I could easily see myself dropping 800 for boots or maybe more. You can be just in ratty shorts and t-shirt often but with your feet you get quality. But if you don’t hike or ski that’s crazy talk.

        1. Wukchumni

          My go-to pair of hiking boots are $75 Timberland White Ledge waterproof ones. I walk a pair to pieces every couple of years and onto the next one. No break in time needed. Pretty lightweight too for an upper boot.

          1. JBird

            I’ll have to keep those in mine as I really don’t want to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on boots. I don’t have enough as it is!

    4. Procopius

      Yeah, but this is why I think I will not be able to return to CONUS in this lifetime. $700 is more than a quarter of one month’s income for me. I grew up in Northern Ohio and Southern Michigan, and I remember how much winter clothing we had to have. Aside from impossibly high rents, I simply could not afford to buy clothing. Probably food, too.

  15. Louis Fyne

    Today’s Edition of “The Democratic Party: it’s a feature, not a bug”

    People are celebrating the rising value of their 529’s—-instead of turning to the Dems. for an answer to geometrically rising tuition costs.

    from Reddit: “Dow Jones 25,000! ….My Kids’ 529 thanks you Mr. President! Up over a third since GEOTUS election!GOD-EMPEROR”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      For many of us, when we gain, say $1,000 from stocks, the billionaires are hundreds of millions richer.

      We root for our own worse wealth-inequality.

      Not as pronounced maybe, it is the same with housing. When a little guy’s house goes up, say, $20,000, and he’s happy; although mansion-owners can put ever more distance between them and the that happy little guy…with more incentives to reinforce ‘the ‘gates’ in their gated communities to safeguard that distance.

      1. Ed Miller

        Sorry, but people miss the real inequality in housing. Sure, the little guy’s house goes up by $20,000 but the mansion owners have also been buying up “little guy” houses en mass, especially since 2008. They make more since they own more houses, plus block other littler guys and gals from buying in at all. Then they raise rents at their apartments and rental homes. Double bonus!!!

        Not implying that one mansion owner is the owner of all this by himself, although there are cases I am sure. The money class is winning across the board in housing. Thank you Fed.

  16. D

    While the comparison between Sander’s coat, versus the rest of his political class, was bullshit, as someone who bootstrapped themselves into a profession which ultimately betrayed humanity, who is now forced to desperately find somewhere else affordable to live when I refused to go along with that program, I find 700 for a coat to keep me from hypothermia, after providing decades of GDP goodies to an utterly corrupted fascist government, deadly. I’m horrified that it is considered affordable.

  17. Arthur J

    Well at -11F my tired, 45 year old diesel tractor doesn’t want to start. So like some horror movie, I hook up cables from the car, the backhoe, the spare tractor battery and the 200amp charger, and when I hit the key it has no choice but to start. It’s going to blow snow whether it likes it or not !

    Just doing my part to keep the machines enslaved.

  18. Brian

    Sanders’s jacket was a gift from his son, who literally works for/at Burton.

    Jane Sanders even tweeted a pic of him wearing it confirming it as a gift well before this story ran.


  19. D

    How many centuries will it take for us to realize that Intelligence™ – when cut off from all else – has nothing to do with wisdom, kindness, and life – versus daily Disruption™ and destruction?

  20. ewmayer

    4.5 quake overnight in the east SF bay — We had a good shaking on the opposite said of the bay, and when I got up this morning there were (and still are, but less so) dozens of little ants scurrying all over my desktop next to an exterior wall and the windowsill just above it. At first I was unsure whether that was due to the quake or the anomalous warm-up we had overnight (high jumped from 60 yesterday to 70 today) due to being sandwiched between a pair of rainy fronts off the Pacific. But we’ve had plenty of near-70 days this winter (4th-driest december on record), so I’m guessing it must be quake-related.

    1. Wukchumni

      We have regular ant invasions in the summer through to early fall, and have to keep everything spic & span, just a drop of Dr. Pepper on the kitchen counter will entice dozens coming and going, carrying off their bounty. We find that spreading diatomaceous earth*(the kills multi legged beasties kind-not the swimming pool filter variety) around the perimeter of the house makes for a great wall against them combined with an excellent ant-trap product named Terro (we call ourselves Terro-ists), but they still traipse in without knocking.

      * that would’ve been a great name for a rock n roll band in the 60’s or 70’s

      Then they completely disappear as if not to exist…

      Creatures are hep to earthquakes and other earth activity we’re not cognizant of, and a fair amount of the time there are foreshocks before the big one. We were in NZ driving back to Queenstown from a trip on the Doubtful Sound in 2011 in February when the aftershock of the temblor in the fall hit Christchurch. We’d only been there a few weeks before, and there were red-tagged buildings here and there from the fall quake, but manageable damage, we thought. The 2nd quake was something else. A hotel named the Grand Chancellor we’d stayed in before a few years later, suffered structural damage causing it to be a latter-day leaning tower or Pisa, and had to be taken down.

      Do you regularly see ants this time of year?

      1. ewmayer

        “Do you regularly see ants this time of year?”

        No, it’s unusuals to see more than an occasional stray one, that’s what caught my attention.

        1. Wukchumni

          I’d be buying some cardbox cased 2.5 gallon rectangular sized plastic water containers if I was you…

          That’s the one item you’ll miss the most, and 30 gallons will set you back $30, nothing really.

          SF has scant natural water sources aside from imported agua, and delivery systems can fail for a time.

          For burrowed in ants for the season, they know something is amiss. And being on top of the dirt is a lot safer than being in the thick of it.

  21. The Rev Kev

    “In war, the battle today is less on the ground than on social media”

    Only to a point. Russia recognizes that the west does not have a free media and trying to get their side across to most westerners is a bit of a forlorn hope but they try. Remember that most people get their news about places and Syria and the Ukraine from the main stream media which means that they are getting a narrative, not the actual news, as the New York Times puts it.
    As an example, most people would not believe that the west actually recruits, trains, equips, finances, supply and evacuates if necessary Al-Quada in places like Syria. You remember them? 9/11 and all that? And remember how last year the liberation of Aleppo was treated like the fall of Rome? And a little girl’s posts were followed here, even when interviews showed that she could not speak English, much less text it. From a place with virtually no internet?
    The thing is, this being the case, countries like Russia, China and North Korea are learning that you ignore the social media hype and just bludgeon through and act. Thus China built those strategic islands and ignored the Facebook posts, the tweets, the Instagram posts. What is the use of trying to talk to a captured media? The leader of Chechnya has just had his Facebook and Instagram account shut because millions of people who followed him were hearing his side of things as an example. And notoriously Washington is trying to get rid of RT from the media landscape. Still, social media seems to be losing a lot of its influence. The response to the social media hype over Iran seems to be a lot more jaded than I have seen before. Maybe all those tweets from Trump are shorting out people’s reaction spans.

  22. dk

    Potter Who Made the Bowl Used to Determine a Virginia House Race Is “Flabbergasted”

    Tell me about the bowl.

    The bowl is one of the last things I made in 2017. It’s a slight departure from the things I usually make. I usually do the painting and carving before the first firing. I fired this one first. I dipped it in one glaze, did a wax-resistant painting. It’s a very apolitical bowl. It’s a serving bowl.

    So how does this serving bowl end up in the hands of elections officials?

    They didn’t approach me until the Friday before. [The museum director’s office] said they wanted to look at some bowls. I put out five or six bowls. Then they told me what it was going to be for. We decided unanimously on that bowl because it was deeper. I was pretty flabbergasted.

  23. ShamanicFallout

    Apropos of nothing and everything I came across this time lapse video of the building boom in downtown Seattle. Just in the last three years! What is going on here?

  24. Wukchumni

    We got enough rain here to keep the pavement wet for about 37 minutes, as in not much. Way too warm to produce any snow below say 10k.

    Another winter of missed content…

  25. Katy

    Tina Smith is having a public gathering in Duluth on Friday 1/5 and in St. Paul on Saturday1/6. I’ll be at the St. Paul event. She needs to know what her new constituents think is important. #MedicareForAll. She’s taking over Paul Wellstone’s seat.

  26. The Rev Kev

    Re You’re Descended from Royalty and So Is Everybody Else

    Oh course other factors come into it such as ahem, line breeding. When the Romans went into Britain they were appealed at how in some tribes, young girls would lose their virginity to their fathers, then they were passed to their brothers, then cousins while young boys lost theirs to their mothers, their sisters and their cousins. Good luck trying to try to draw up a family chart for that lot. It would be almost as bad as trying to do one for European royalty.
    I will give fair warning now to anyone who, because of that article, decides to take up family history. If you get bit by that bug, you are done for. Your life as you know it will be over. This is just fact. God forbid that a Type A personality gets hit by this bug. In daily living you will find retired teachers, retired salespeople, retired cops but you will never, ever meet a retired family historian. Trust me – I know.

    1. ewmayer

      Wikipedia entry on famiy tree notes that ‘tree’ is incorrect in the sense of graph theory:

      “While family trees are depicted as trees, family relations do not in general form a tree in the sense of graph theory, since distant relatives can mate, so a person can have a common ancestor on their mother’s and father’s side. However, because a parent must be born before their child is born, a person cannot be their own ancestor, and thus there are no loops, so ancestry forms a directed acyclic graph.”

      But somehow “family directed acyclic graph” (or “family dag” if you’re a graph-theory nerd) just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well. Sticking to the local-tree approximation, I’ve always preferred the Asian analog, the “family root”, because it conveys both the sense of genealogical rootedness and the imagery of your ancestors being in the ground, typically (as in archeology) in literal the-more-distant-the-ancestor-the-deeper-in-the-ground terms.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Only thing is that the term “family root” has its own connotation here is the Antipodes as referenced in my first paragraph.

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