2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“Poll Excludes Bernie Sanders from List of Potential 2020 Candidates” [Progressive Army]. From Morning Consult/Politico. Guess who wins! Joe Biden!


FWIW, Stuart Rothenberg handicaps the House horse race:

Comment: “Republicans have a 241-194 majority. Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats for a majority. Most likely outcome is modest Democratic gains in the teens to a more dramatic electoral wave.”

(I say FWIW, because I haven’t followed Rothenberg until now, so I’m not yet sure how to discount him. So remember that tabular presentation is a rhetoric of spurious precision.) And the Senate:

Comment: “Republicans have a 51-49 majority. Early outlook: no net gain to GOP+1-2 seats.” NOTE: The Senate cannot initiate impeachment proceedings. If the Democrats can’t win by successfully persuading suburban Republicans, especially women, that they deserve to govern because Trump is a boor, a sick man, and a Russian puppet, it would be better for them to lose big, and shed baggage like the horrid Manchin and McCaskill. Addition by subtraction, as they say in baseball.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The deficit doesn’t matter” (interview) [Stephanie Kelton, Christian Century]. “People don’t wake up angry in the morning because of the national debt. They’re angry because they’ve lost wage mobility, they’re worried about their own retirement, and they’re worried about putting their kids through school. If Democrats think that worrying about the deficit is the way to win back Trump voters or get people to the polls, it’s not.” Well worth a read; Kelton on top form (and in an unexpected venue).

“Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?” [The Atlantic]. All I can say is that I physically saw Trump speak in Bangor for well over an hour in July 2016, and he improvised his speech for that time. No word salad at all, no repetition, no nothing. (Granted, his rhetorical style isn’t mine, and I wouldn’t have called his language crisp, but he was clearly compos mentis.) So if in fact these stories are true, whatever hit him had rapid onset. However, this seems to be the latest talking point in the Acela corridor, and I give it all the credence I’d normally give tendentious court gossip; it’s also a variation and heightening of the existing liberal trope, used for Bush as well, that conservatives are all stupid and crazy. Neither of these two points completely rule out the possibility raised by the article, of course, since the Presidency is a stressor, but I set bar is pretty high for those who yammer wolf on a daily basis over the decades.

“The Wolff lines on Trump that ring unambiguously true” [Axios]. Worth noting that none of these lines refer to Trump’s supposed neurological difficulties (a point Wolff is pushing).

“One Hillary Clinton supporter’s rotten political empire” [WaPo]. A well-deserved and long-overdue calling out of the odious David Brock. “The career of the silver-haired smear artist has come full circle with a report in the New York Times that Brock directed $200,000 from his political action committee empire into an effort to encourage women to go public with accusations of sexual offenses against President Trump — and that one of Brock’s most devoted donors kicked in even more. (My effort to get a response from Brock for this column was unsuccessful.) That news comes nearly a quarter-century after Brock launched his lucrative brand by walking point on the so-called Arkansas Project. Funded through a seven-figure donation by Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife to the American Spectator magazine, the project sent Brock rooting through the misdeeds — whether real or fictitious did not appear to matter — of then-President Bill Clinton during his years as governor of Arkansas.” In the same way that Brock spent $1 million paying Clinton trolls in 2016, thereby putting the burden on every online Clinton supporter to prove they were not a troll, Brock proposes to pay women accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, thereby putting the burden on every female Trump accuser to prove they were not paid. (“Drag a dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” as arch-Clintonite James Carville famously said of Paula Jones.)

“White voters are moving to the South — and making it more Democratic” [WaPo]. “[R]ecent research suggests that Democrats are also benefiting from another phenomenon — whites who have moved to the South. Since World War II, Americans have been migrating South. That’s picked up in recent years, aided by a relatively strong economy and — as anyone north of the Mason-Dixon line this week will appreciate — balmy winters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10 of the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2016 were in the South, five in Texas…. In a new article, political scientists Sunshine Hillygus, Seth McKee, and McKenzie Young show that whites who have moved to the South are more likely to be Democratic than lifelong Southerners.”

“The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes” [Wired]. “The ‘efficiency gap’ is a simple idea at the heart of some of the tools being considered by the Supreme Court.” An excellent explanation, well worth a read as background for Gill v. Whitford.

“Group Mounts Ballot Effort to Remove Legislature from Redistricting Process” [Oklahoma Watch]. “Represent Oklahoma Inc., which is applying to be a social welfare nonprofit and has launched a website, has set a $400,000 fundraising goal to put a state question on the 2018 ballot that would let voters decide whether to transfer redistricting duties to an independent, nonpartisan commission.”

“Researchers can now make neighborhood voting predictions from Google Street View images” [TechCrunch]. “Led by Stanford computer vision scientist Timnit Gebru, the team of researchers used software to analyze 50 million images of street scenes and location data. Their goal was to find data that could be used to predict demographic statistics at the zip code and precinct (which usually contain about 1,000 people) level…. In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team wrote that their technology can supplement the American Community Survey, which costs more than $250 million each year to perform. Since the survey is also labor-intensive, with workers going door to door, that means smaller areas with populations of less than 65,000 are often overlooked. As technology improves, demographic statistics may eventually be updated in real time, though the researchers noted that policymakers will need to be careful to make sure data is collected only at the community level to safeguard individual privacy.”

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, December 2017: “Hiring cooled though employment levels are very high and there’s also a hint of wage inflation in December’s employment report” [Econoday]. “The payroll breakdown shows two more outstanding months for construction, up 30,000, and manufacturing, up 25,000, in confirmation that housing and the factory sector accelerated into year end. Other industries are more subdued with retail falling 20,000 in results that will raise talk of brick-and-mortar decline while professional and business services rose a subdued 19,000 with the temporary help subcomponent up only 7,000. The average workweek for all private-sector employees came in unchanged at 34.5 hours. The fundamental strength of this report contrasts a bit with the more moderate level of headline payroll growth and does raise the question, one that the Federal Reserve has been repeatedly asking in its Beige Book, whether scarcity of available labor, particularly skilled labor, is holding back business expansion — that employers simply can’t find the people they need.” And: “U.S. payroll gains slowed by more than forecast in December, wages picked up slightly and the jobless rate held at the lowest level since 2000, adding to signs of a full-employment economy” [Industry Week]. But: “Weaker than expected, with the prior two months revised downward by a net 9,000 jobs. In any case employment growth continues its multi-year deceleration that began with the collapse of oil capex” [Mosler Economics]. “Nothing new here- annual employment growth has been decelerating in a straight line for a long time, coincident with the general deceleration of bank credit, auto sales, housing, etc. all evidence of decelerating aggregate demand.” But but: “The headline jobs number was below consensus expectations at 148 thousand, probably somewhat due to weather (snow) during the reference week in December (Weather was the reason I took the “under” [true! –lambert]” [Calculated Risk]. “The headline jobs number was a little disappointing and the unemployment rate unchanged at a low level – but overall a continuation of multi-year trends. Wage growth was disappointing again.”

International Trade, November 2017: “Imports, at $250.7 billion, jumped 2.5 percent in the month and offer definitive evidence that domestic demand is very strong. Details on the import side show what is in fact a sizable and welcome gain in capital goods which points to new business investment” [Econoday], “The fourth quarter looks to have been very healthy though the rise in imports, even though it reflects increased domestic demand, will nevertheless hold down fourth-quarter GDP.” And: “The US trade balance continues to modestly widen, which given current conditions that include higher oil prices, likely works to keep the $US under pressure” [Mosler Economics],

Factory Orders, November 2017: “November’s factory orders report closes the book on what, despite a 1.3 percent headline jump, was not a uniformly strong month for manufacturing.” [Econoday]. “Total orders as well as payroll growth in manufacturing have been picking up and though capital goods took a pause in November, the factory sector is on the move, evidenced by a very strong 1.2 percent rise in the month’s total shipments.”

Institute For Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, December 2017: “A little bit of cooling can be a good thing” [Econoday]. “The breakdown shows a very solid 14 of 17 industries reporting monthly growth led by retail which is hint of strength for December’s retail sales report which comes out next week. Mining and construction, which are non-service industries that are tracked in this report, both posted monthly gains.” And: “Growth was intact for most of the report’s key metrics” [Logistics Management].

Housing: “You constantly hear that owning a home is a no brainer in California because you will always get major tax benefits. Well the new GOP tax plan is actually going to benefit California renters while California homeowners in crap shacks will see higher tax bills. It is an interesting tax proposal because the typical US household owning a typical $200,000 home is going to come out ahead. This is your bread and butter ‘American’ family” [Dr. Housing Bubble]. “However, Taco Tuesday Baby Boomers and Gen X’rs in California have been getting mega subsidies for buying hyper expensive crap shacks. Every tax bill that comes out seems to favor homeowners. In fact, I haven’t seen one that hasn’t favored homeownership. But the way the tax bill is setup, crap shack owners are going to actually have to pay more and renters are going to benefit nicely from the much larger standard deduction.”

Retail: “Sears, Kmart to Close 103 Stores: The Entire List” [247 Wall Street]. Here’s the list (PDF). They are finally putting the Sears in Bangor Mall out of its misery. It was the most depressing and demoralizing retail space I’ve ever been in, so I can only imagine what the stores that were closed ever earlier were like. With Macy’s gone, that leaves JC Penney is the only remaining “anchor tenant.” “Anchor” implying some sort of permanence or stability, how amusing.

Retail: “Some department stores look to have some life in them after all. Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. both reported expanding sales for the critical holiday months, offering relatively upbeat outlooks for a retail sector that’s been upended by the consumer drive to online marketplaces. Macy’s same-store sales rose 1% in November and December from a year ago, while Penney’s increased 3.4%” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “Harsh weather adds different strategies to motor carriers’ playbooks” [Logistics Management]. “[O]ne thing that has been apparent at [PItt Ohio, a provider of less-than-truckload, truckload, supply chain, and ground services] is seeing customers shift to more sustainable processes, through the replacement of things like oil-based products to water-based products.” But water-based products freeze, hence heated trailers!

Shipping: “U.S. shipping prices are reaching the highest levels in years as demand far outstrips truck capacity. Some companies are delaying non-essential shipments rather than scramble to find a truck” [Wall Street Journal]. “Just one truck was available for every 12 spot-market loads needing to be shipped by the end of last week, according to DAT Solutions LLC, leaving the sector at its most unbalanced in more than 12 years. The heavy demand is tracking the strengthening economy, which just went through its biggest jump in holiday sales since 2011. At the same time, some in the industry say new regulations are helping keep trucking supply tight.”

Tech: “Some Chinese companies see a path to gaining a bigger piece of a critical, high-value piece of electronic supply chains. The operators are designing semiconductors for the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence…, potentially providing new inroads for a Chinese chip sector that has tried without much success to challenge the dominance of Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc.” [Wall Street Journal]. “Companies like Horizon Robotics are part of a new crop of chip companies that think they can win the AI chip race, giving them a stronger hand in a market that is a profit-generating bulwark of international airfreight shipping. They face formidable competition from old hands such as Intel and Qualcomm and deep-pocketed new entrants such as Apple Inc. and Google.” I dunno about Intel. They may have their hands full for a bit.

Tech: “BlackBerry Ltd.’s efforts to push into self-driving cars took a new step forward as the former smartphone maker signed a deal with Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc. to work together on automotive software” [Bloomberg]. “Baidu will bundle BlackBerry’s QNX vehicle operating system into its Apollo self-driving car platform, a set of tools that automakers can use when designing autonomous vehicles. The partnership also includes integrating BlackBerry’s more established in-car entertainment software into Apollo.”

The 420: “Marijuana-related stocks fell again Friday, extending their prior-session losses after the U.S. Justice Department overturned an Obama-era protection for states that have legalized the plant. The news put the brakes on a strong rally early in the week” [MarketWatch].

Five Horseman: “It’s another day of “techs gone wild” as even pokey old Apple takes a stab at a new high” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 5

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 Greed (previous close: 72, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 5 at 11:29am.


“Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia” [Bio One]. “Observers report both solo and cooperative attempts, often successful, to spread wildfires intentionally via single-occasion or repeated transport of burning sticks in talons or beaks. This behavior, often represented in sacred ceremonies, is widely known to local people in the Northern Territory, where we carried out ethno-ornithological research from 2011 to 2017; it was also reported to us from Western Australia and Queensland.”

“Edward Dorn: When we are all there together / Grasses: An Elegy / beyond the sea of grass” [Tom Clark (via)]. Lovely photo essay.

Neoliberal Epidemics

“To Address Opioids And Diseases Of Despair, Communities Must Build Resilience” [Heatlh Affairs]. “The answers to these questions force us to take a broader, systems-level look at the foundational issues driving these ‘diseases of despair.’ Only by understanding the underlying causes of these diseases that are holding our communities hostage will we be able to adequately support those who need immediate treatment and ‘space’ to heal; prevent addiction from taking hold of our loved ones and neighbors; and shore up the overall health and well-being of entire communities.”

“The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy” [Trust for America’s Health] (full report; PDF). “Deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide could account for 1.6 million fatalities over the coming decade (2016 to 2025) according to a new report, Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy, released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT).”

Lambert here: That’s a World War I “death in the trenches” level of organic damage. There’s no possible way that damage won’t have political effects, possibly very, very, very bad ones.

More: “From 2006 to 2015, there were 1 million deaths from these three causes. This would represent a 60 percent increase compared to the past decade, if recent trends hold. The study found, however, that these numbers may be conservative, especially with the rapid rise of heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil use. If the nation continues along recent trajectories, death rates would actually double to 2 million by 2025.” Everything’s going according to plan; see Rule #2 of Neoliberalism! No, but seriously, folks; this is an important report from deep within the establishment, so but and click through to the material under “Report Calls for a National Resilience Strategy”; all the policy recommendations are medical. I’ve been saying that the “deaths of despair” would only be addressed when the problem could be medicalized, and it looks like that’s what’s happening here.

Class Warfare

“Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings.” [Daphne Merkin, New York Times]. “What happened to women’s agency? That’s what I find myself wondering as I hear story after story of adult women who helplessly acquiesce to sexual demands. I find it especially curious given that a majority of women I know have been in situations in which men have come on to them — at work or otherwise. They have routinely said, ‘I’m not interested’ or ‘Get your hands off me right now.’ And they’ve taken the risk that comes with it. The fact that such unwelcome advances persist, and often in the office, is, yes, evidence of sexism and the abusive power of the patriarchy. But I don’t believe that scattershot, life-destroying denunciations are the way to upend it. In our current climate, to be accused is to be convicted. Due process is nowhere to be found.” The recent establishment, by “300 prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives” of the “Time’s Up” action program (site) is a salutary act of noblesse oblige that also shows the strict class limits of the #MeToo movement: There’s no encouragement of collective action by working class women whatever. So indeed, “what happened to women’s agency”?

“Introduction: Law and Neoliberalism” (PDF) [David Singh Grewal and Jedediah Purdy]. “In most prominent cases, neoliberalism has shielded market relations from particular kinds of politicization. This shielding is, in many ways, its signature move.” Stumbled across while Googling, an example of the sort of serendipity that the Tiered Internet would throttle.

News of the Wired

“Dude, you broke the future!” [Charlie’s Diary]. This is a really interesting perspective from Charlie Stross, well worth a read. Two nuggets:

And looking in particular at the history of the past 200-400 years—the age of increasingly rapid change—one glaringly obvious deviation from the norm of the preceding three thousand centuries—is the development of Artificial Intelligence, which happened no earlier than 1553 and no later than 1844.

I’m talking about the very old, very slow AIs we call corporations, of course. What lessons from the history of the company can we draw that tell us about the likely behaviour of the type of artificial intelligence we are all interested in today?

I really, really like the idea of corporations as “slow AI” (Stross goes on to justify the concept, IMNSHO, in material I won’t quote here.) Second nugget:

What do our current, actually-existing AI overlords want?

Elon Musk — who I believe you have all heard of — has an obsessive fear of one particular hazard of artificial intelligence — which he conceives of as being a piece of software that functions like a brain-in-a-box) — namely, the paperclip maximizer. A paperclip maximizer is a term of art for a goal-seeking AI that has a single priority, for example maximizing the number of paperclips in the universe. The paperclip maximizer is able to improve itself in pursuit of that goal but has no ability to vary its goal, so it will ultimately attempt to convert all the metallic elements in the solar system into paperclips, even if this is obviously detrimental to the wellbeing of the humans who designed it.

Unfortunately, Musk isn’t paying enough attention. Consider his own companies. Tesla is a battery maximizer — an electric car is a battery with wheels and seats. SpaceX is an orbital payload maximizer, driving down the cost of space launches in order to encourage more sales for the service it provides. Solar City is a photovoltaic panel maximizer. And so on. All three of Musk’s very own slow AIs are based on an architecture that is designed to maximize return on shareholder investment, even if by doing so they cook the planet the shareholders have to live on. (But if you’re Elon Musk, that’s okay: you plan to retire on Mars.)

On paperclip maximizers, this old Bob & Ray sketch is more a propos than it might seem at first:

* * *

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 (CR):

CR: “I took this Ollantaytambo, Peru in 2008 — I imagine it hasn’t changed.” And on those mountain-tops…. No snow!

* * *

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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. Wukchumni

    (Big Don)
    (Big Don)

    Every morning judging from his tweets you could see him arrive
    He stood six-foot-two and weighed ’bout two-ninety-five
    Kind of broad at the hip and narrow in the cerebral marrow
    And everybody knew you didn’t give no lip to Big Don

    (Big Don)
    (Big Don)
    Big Bad Don
    (Big Don)

    Nobody seemed to know where Don called home
    He just drifted onto golf courses and played all alone
    He didn’t say much other than favorite adjectives he’d honed
    And if you spoke at all you just said why? to Big Don

    Somebody said he came from Queens
    Where he got in a fight over landlord schemes
    And despite crashing blows from casino dreams
    We sent an unqualified fellow to the promised land. Big Don

    (Big Don)
    (Big Don)
    Big Bad Don
    (Big Don)

    Then came the day at the bottom of a tweet line
    When all were sure he’d cracked and humanity started crying
    People were praying and hearts beat fast
    And everybody thought that they’d breathed their last ‘cept Don

    Through the smoke and mirrors of this man made hell
    Walked an imbecile that many seemed to know well
    Grabbed a member of the law
    And tried to cease and desist, to forestall
    Big Don

    (Big Don)
    (Big Don)
    Big Bad Don
    (Big Don)

    And with all of his strength he gave a pre recorded presser
    Then his press secretary sighed there’s nothing else to address here
    And humanity scrambled into a situation grave
    And now there’s only one left down there to save
    Big Don

    With threats & innuendo not allowing NK to back down
    Then came that rumble way down in the ground
    And smoke and gas belched out of that launch site town
    Everybody knew it was the end of the line for Big Don

    (Big Don)
    (Big Don)
    Big Bad Don
    (Big Don)

    Now they never reopened that worthless pit
    They just placed a marble stand in front of it
    These few words are written on that stand
    This silo and others are empty on account of a big man
    Big Don

    (Big Don)
    (Big Don)
    Big Bad Don
    (Big Don)…


  2. dk

    “Poll Excludes Bernie Sanders from List of Potential 2020 Candidates”

    So much for turnout.

    BREAKING 4/11/2020 : Republicans Retake Senate, House in Stunning Reversal

      1. Lee

        The gave him 23 minutes of the show last night. He DID believe Anita Hill and wished he could have gaveled down those who dissed her during hearings. He’s gutted by the loss of his son but seems quite willing to deploy the loss for political gain. The college loan issue was not raised. If you CntrlF search the page, the only mention is the College Promise Tour wherein he lectures men on deportment regarding their interactions with women, among other things one would assume.

        Sorry for your loss, Joe, now go home and mourn your son.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      And regarding Biden being the frontrunner as a result, does anybody else remember when Droopy Joe Lieberman came out as the frontrunner early in the polling for the 2004 election, mainly because he was the only declared candidate with any name recognition after being Gore’s running mate?

      That didn’t last long…

      1. Pavel

        Let’s not forget it was Saint Al Gore who foisted the horrid Lieberman on the country as his VP choice. And that was as a reaction to Bill Clinton’s inability to keep his zipper zipped in the presence of a White House intern.

        A pox on all their houses! Time to start over with a new party.

        1. SpringTexan

          It was also Al Gore who wrecked the civil service with all the contracting out.

          And who didn’t fight after the election in Florida.


  3. Oregoncharles

    “Christian Century” is still around? Haven’t seen it in ages; I wondered. Of course, Kelton’s answers are influenced by the venue. It’s an interesting take on the intersection of politics and economics:

    [ The Dems should] “Take that. It’s a gift. Take that gift and say, “Look, you’re willing to do $1.5 trillion. We’re willing to do $1.5 trillion. But you’re making your check paid to the order of big wealthy corporations and the richest people in this country. Let me show you how we’re going to write our checks for $1.5 trillion—this is where a moral vision is crucial. Our checks are going to go the poor, the struggling, and the people with no healthcare.”

    Of course, they won’t, and it’s enormously revealing that they won’t and haven’t already. That’s the level on which there’s really no difference except in the rhetoric and cosmetics.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      What a gaffe! And a gigantic missed opportunity by the Republicans to own the Democrats for a generation, at least. Trump isn’t always an idiot; sometimes he’s an idiot savant, a walking talking demonstration of how degraded and trivial Beltway discourse is.

        1. Lee

          “Attention span of a rabid tsetse fly”, was Mark Shields’s assessment of Trump’s mental state. Quite funny, true or not.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            I don’t know any executives, but the last time I worked near one, getting stuff off their desk as fast as possible was the norm (and that can work out well for a company if it’s otherwise well-functioning). So in that context, a short attention span is adaptive.

            It would be helpful if there were less focus on the real flaws of Trump the individual, and more focus on common flaws shared by the class of squillionaires of which he is a member. Trump as ideal type, in other words.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Sometimes, Trump seems to act like a kind of American billionaire version of Voltaire’s ‘candide’. :)

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Trump also once said that a nation never had to default borrowing in its own currency.

      Not an idiot, maybe even a genius…though neither is important compared with being sincere/insincere, etc.

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      He’s neither an idiot nor mentally unstable. He’s simply a classic narcissist who has never been challenged because he had money and so was insulated from the kind of confrontation of his pronouncements less well-off narcissists eventually have to deal with.

      Hence his doing a press conference via pre-recording. It allows him to avoid the very kind of situation he’s not equipped to deal with without simply avoiding it altogether. The rest of the time, he has people.

      1. cnchal

        What Elizabeth says!

        It’s amusing and horrifying at the same time to observe the narcissists in the media not understand their own kind when under extreme pressure.

        Unfortunately, the standard moves to ditch the narcissist in one’s presence will not work here. Becoming emotionally flat and ignoring him, so he moves onto the next victim, means the world could be set on fire just to get that attention back. What a goddamn mess.

    4. dk

      Careful there, “maybe Trump isn’t such an idiot after all (because he likes MfA)” invites its opposite reflection: “maybe MfA is idiotic, because Trump likes it.”

  4. InquiringMind

    Apropos of nothing specific…but I haven’t heard about the brass tacks implications of not having the individual mandate anymore.

    So, If there’s
    a). no longer a penalty for failing to have insurance, and
    b). the requirement that insurance companies cover you despite pre-existing conditions is still in effect…

    …why not cancel health insurance immediately and then sign up the day the doctor diagnoses you with that expensive condition you were hoping never to have?

      1. John Zelnicker

        @Lambert – Enrollment in Medicare is automatic at age 65. That’s for the basic parts A, B, and D. If you want to use a Medicare Advantage Plan (sometimes called Part C) you have a sign up window and if you want to change plans there is also a limited window (October to early December). As with Obamacare, certain life changes can also open a short-term window to make a change.

          1. SpringTexan

            Yes, it is NOT automatic if say you are not collecting SS or something. But unless you have other coverage through work, if you don’t sign up for Part B at age 65 and do choose to sign up later, you will be penalized by higher premiums for life. Something to remember.

            Also, not everyone is eligible for Medicare at age 65. It depends on your work history and if you worked whether you paid Medicare taxes.

            1. Ed Miller

              You have the right idea, but technically you are wrong, except for Part A which covers hospital expenses. Everyone should enroll in Part A at age 65 because it costs you nothing.

              As long as you are working and have medical coverage through work you do not have to sign up for Medicare, Part B and D (or a Medicare Advantage Plan C). But when you stop working, as I did at 68+, you must immediately enroll in the rest of Medicare beyond Part A or pay higher premiums for life.

              I thought we were covered for 2 months with COBRA but discovered that wasn’t good enough. COBRA did not cover expenses as we expected because they only paid what Medicare doesn’t pay, even if you don’t have Medicare. The clock was running against us for those 2 months, and the company information given us was not clear as to what we needed to do. The local SocSec office was also unhelpful on this point. It’s almost as though the neocon-infiltrated Feds have written rules on what is allowed to be said so the retirees have a maximum opportunity to do the wrong thing and be stuck for life.

              1. LifelongLib

                My state government employee health system requires both active employees and retirees to sign up for Medicare when they reach age 65. I suppose it’s mainly an effort to shift as much cost as possible to the federal system.

              2. Lambert Strether Post author

                It all sounds needlessly complex, i.e. crapified.

                Not sure how this will work for me, since I plan to postpone going on Social Security for as long as humanly possible (because shuffleboard has bad health effects, if for no other reason).

                1. marym

                  It’s very crapified, but in the simplest case, if you’re already on SS you just get your Medicare card in the mail a few months before you turn 65. If you’re not already on SS, you have to sign up.

          1. John Zelnicker

            @Yves – My apologies.

            I just got around to checking my earlier comments. I did not intentionally give bad info. I would never do that. I understand the house rules.

            Truth is, I thought I remembered being enrolled automatically, and I wasn’t collecting Social Security yet.

            I plead age-related misremembering. I will check myself in the future.

  5. Michael Fiorillo

    “Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?”

    The “Putin Did It!” thing isn’t quite as perky as it used to be, so now perhaps the money is moving into the 25th Amendment.

    Anything, absolutely anything to avoid real politics!

    1. Pavel

      Speaking of Trump and Putin and their cognitive functions… I remember seeing a portion of a roundtable discussion Putin did with Russian journalists (perhaps on RT, not sure). Apparently he does it regularly or at least annually. He came across as very knowledgable, extremely articulate [contrast with teleprompter-less Obama or GWB any time], and quite witty. He also seemed genuinely to answer the journalists’ questions. I have to say I was impressed, though I don’t agree with all his policies (e.g. human rights). But on wars of needless and illegal aggression, I submit that WJC, GWB, Obama, and Trump are far more dangerous and hypocritical. And let’s not forget all those wars, bombs, and depleted uranium weapons cause enormous environmental damage and have huge opportunity costs.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        I agree, he’s very informed and articulate, and whatever you might think of how he governs Russia, he and Lavrov are very nimble and effective in geo-political/strategic affairs.

        And you can also make a very strong (but unspeakable in polite company) argument that, whatever the internal nature of the Russian state, it has in recent years been an objectively a greater force for global stability, such as it is, than the US.

  6. 3.14e-9

    Re: Poll Excludes Bernie, etc. …

    If I’m not mistaken, the article and the poll on which it was based are from June 2017. A November 22 poll did mention Bernie, although Morning Consult made sure to include a subheader that Biden did better.


    Maybe there are more-recent polls. This is just what I turned up with a brief search (with freezing fingers that can barely type).

    The handwriting’s on the wall, though. I started watching Judy Woodruff’s fawning interview with Biden on last night’s PBS NewsHour but started falling asleep. Or maybe I got up for a snack. I forget.

    1. flora

      I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the DNC won’t let Sanders run in the Dem prez primary again, unless he changes his affiliation, and maybe not even then.

      1. 3.14e-9

        I can’t imagine they would, either. But I don’t think that’s the point. The centrists are trying to eviscerate the progressive left entirely. This may not even be all about 2020. Progressives backed by Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, and maybe some others are winning state and local elections. Can’t have any more of that in 2018, no siree Bob.

        1. JBird

          I don’t think the leadership of either party realizes how close they are to being the neo-Whigs. That party desolved when it couldn’t make a decision on slavery. Neither the pro or anti could either compromise or win firm control which made the party seize and then shatter like a frozen engine. It was a 8-12 year process.

          I need to read up on the Whigs, as the only detailed book l can find is an ~800 tome in small print, it’s going to be an adventure. One would think there would be a number of good books printed if not in print but no.

          1. Mo's Bike Shop

            Here’s one cheer for any bibliography you dig up. I’m dilettanting on deep history, but I’d lap up anything about the historical intermodal states of our two-party system.

            I always find it ironic when I read about the FF’s concerns about ‘party’, ’cause they seem to have come up with a party-generating system. Maybe our constitution made us all ‘Lawyertarians’. Perhaps we should send HomeEc Ph.Ds the next time :)

        2. anonymous

          From 3.14e-9’s 11/17 Morning Consult link:
          “While both Sanders and Biden held their own against Trump in the Northeast, Midwest and West in a hypothetical matchup, Sanders underperformed Biden in the South — a region where Clinton won more primaries and caucuses than Sanders in 2016. According to the most recent poll, Trump led Sanders by 5 points, 40 percent to 35 percent, in the region, while Biden led Trump 43 percent to 37 percent in the previous poll…In the South, Trump has a 2-point net approval rating: Forty-eight percent of Southern voters approve of him while 46 percent disapprove, according to the recent survey. Nationally, however, Trump’s approval is 6 points underwater, with 44 percent of voters approving and 50 percent of voters disapproving.”
          Once again trying to use the South, which will go Republican, to pick the Democratic nominee.

          1. Yves Smith

            Not that it matters, but Sanders also spent very little time in the South, plus the Southern primaries were early, when the MSM was succeeding in ignoring Sanders. I have had Trump voters in Birmingham tell me they would have voted for Sanders. My impression is he does well once they get past his Brooklyn accent, that it’s a matter of exposure.

            1. foghorn longhorn

              The south was solidly democratic until the Clintons.
              After two years, they lost the U. S. House and Senate.
              They begat Newts contract on america.
              It has been downhill from there.
              You young uns might google Ann Richards (D), former Texas gov.

              1. Tvc15

                Went to her inauguration! Ann Richards and Molly Ivins. TX politics in another life.

                Not as impressed with her daughter.

                1. foghorn longhorn

                  It doesn’t even seem real now.
                  Two democratic women leading the charge in now solidly red tejas.
                  He was born with a silver foot in his mouth. Ann
                  He was born on third and thought he hit a triple. Molly
                  Guess who they were talking about.

                  1. ÖpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

                    When you saw Ann and Molly, you knew exactly who they were for: the People.
                    When you see a Dem or a Dem journalist today, you immediately think: “Ï wonder what kind of corporo-fascist grifter is paying their way?”

                    1. Amfortas the Hippie

                      I had the privilege of sharing a six pack of cheap swill with Molly Ivins at a protest against Austin’s draconian anti-homeless crusade(circa 92?93?).
                      I had erected a teepee made of bamboo and old teeshirts on the corner of Congress and 10th, and her and Steve Fromholtz wandered by and stayed for the duration.
                      she was mighty, and a real presence to be around.

                      …as far as the perfidious DNC and their shenanigans of omission and calumny, I know lots of teabilly types around here who have expressed at the very least curiosity regarding my Bernie sticker on my tailgate.
                      With a little local preaching, he could have won my little part of Texas.

                  2. Lambert Strether Post author

                    I changed the Richards quote to the correct “silver foot in his mouth. Though I concede “silver boot in his mouth” is suggestive and correct in its own way.

                    And while we’re at it on great Texas politicians who were also women, Barbara Jordan. Would have voted for her for President in a heartbeat.

                    1. flora

                      Barbara Jordan. Watergate hearing. Listen to just the first minute and a half, up to the 1:30 to get an idea of her extraordinary mind and power of speech.

                      I use this speech because the ‘impeach Trump’ gang needs a reminder of what this constitutional step should not be used for trivial reasons, and what such a step requires. Ms Jordan’s whole speech is a good primer.


            2. 3.14e-9

              Good point, Yves. I usually look at the original surveys, especially the demographic breakdown of the samples, but didn’t do it this morning. Your comment provided some motivation. Here’s something I found that might be relevant:

              For the poll including the Trump vs. Bernie question, the sample was 34 percent Republican, with 19 percent Republican men – Trump’s biggest support group. The poll a week earlier, which pitted Trump against Biden, was 32 percent Republican, with 16 percent Republican men. That alone could account for a couple of percentage points in Biden’s favor.

              I don’t know how one could prove whether or not that was done deliberately. However, it clearly was deliberate that Politico didn’t even mention Bernie in its article about that week’s poll – unlike the Morning Consult article at the above link – while its article the previous week was all about Biden.

            3. Elizabeth Burton

              In his book Our Revolution, Bernie addresses the Super Tuesday issue, and suggests that, in hindsight, they probably should have done more there.

              I continue to dismiss any conclusions drawn by pundits et al. because they refuse to acknowledge that Clinton has a toxic candidate who won where she one by a combination of name recognition and skillful manipulation of neoliberal feminism that convinced a whole lot of middle-class women Bernie was a misogynist. Well, that and playing the same victim card she continues to play, which makes me want to smack her upside the head.

              But I digress…

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                I think the bottom line here is that Sanders in 2016 was not truly a national politician, although his strength of character and policy-based “change” (vs. more of the same) message was almost enough.

                Presumably he will have learned from that for 2020, and that’s what the Town Halls he’s been doing are about. He should do a ton of them in the South.

                1. johnnygl

                  I have a hunch that sanders will win the south in 2020. It isn’t really that tough a nut to crack. Trump snatched it away from Ted Cruz and JEB quite easily. Obama grabbed it from clinton in 2008.

                  It’s very doable. Bernie’s laying the ground work to do it.

                  I also think sanders can take the Great Plains populists and turn the blue in the general.

                  It can be done!

              2. flora

                an aside:

                “playing the victim card” trivializes the real and serious issues and concerns of the whole Dem voter base. I think the Dem estab has been trivializing the issues important to their voting base since the late ’80s, when the 3rd-Way, DLC Dems took over the party.

                Bernie did not and does not trivialize the Main Street or middle class or working class or disenfranchised voters’ issues.

          2. WJ

            You got to love that “While both Sanders and Biden held their own against Trump in the Northeast, Midwest, and West….” I am betting, without even reading the goddam article, that in any legitimate poll Sanders way outperforms Biden vis-a-vis Trump in THE ENTIRETY OF THE US OTHER THAN CERTAIN SOUTHERN STATES THAT GO REPUBLICAN ANYWAY.

            But maybe that’s no longer true after he was caught wearing a $700 jacket, as Newsweek recently fearlessly reported. Because people in support of Medicare for all and free college can’t wear nice jackets.


    2. Sid Finster

      Bernie Sanders could register with Team D, give the DNC an irrevocable power of attorney, skin Bill Clinton alive and walk around in his hide and wear his clothes and from time to time pat HRC on the bum, and Team D still would not let him win the nomination, much less the presidency.

      And guess what – it does not matter. Unless and until the Deep State is eradicated root and branch, it matters not who the president is.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Unless and until the Deep State is eradicated root and branch

        Whatever “deep state” means, given that the brilliantly malleable phrase is now being used across the political spectrum with no clear object in view or shared understanding.

        That said, you (we) have a bootstrapping problem, don’t we? Can’t eradicate the so-called deep state without capturing the Presidency, can’t capture the Presidency without eradicating the so-called deep state. Framed that way, this is a counsel of despair (as indeed the so-called “deep state” induces, since an adversary that can be named, is feared, but cannot really be identified cannot be fought).

        1. The Rev Kev

          More likely you will get Joe Biden & Kamala Harris for 2020. Jimmy Dore has a video called ‘Establishment’s New Trick To Screw Bernie In 2020’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6bba9OT7U which mentions that the Democrats want to filed 17 candidates in 2020 as a tactics to shut Bernie out and leave a path clear to those that they want to lead the party.

          1. Jen

            Brilliant. Run one former vp and 15 candidates with limited name recognition and the same neoliberal policies that have cost the party 1000 seats in 8 years against the most popular active politician in the country. Sounds like a plan.

            Perhaps the idea is that with so many candidates the results will be easier to change?


  7. dcblogger

    considering how much courage it takes, can we just be grateful for all the women and men (there have been a few) who have come forward to tell their stories? And could we have just a little less blame the victim? This really cannot be pleasant. Even if you are vindicated, your career is ruined.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      This is an issue that should be discussed as public policy. Like whether we want guest worker programs, or illegal immigration, or…?

      Let me start: Do we want a system where merit equals power or where doing your part means you are valued?

  8. Laruse

    Re: Trump’s mental health

    I have watched my father-in-law decline into now late stage Alzheimer’s for many years; for the majority of those years, everything was fine. He was functional, driving mostly pretty well, calm and his normal mild mannered self. After a major medical crisis (and intense stress), it was like someone flipped a switch.

    While in the hospital, the calm demeanor went away. The soft spoken retired carpenter turned into a racist and frighteningly paranoid man full of rage and fear. He did recover for a time after that medical crisis, and for the first year, it seemed like the calm easy going man we knew would come back.

    But now 2.5 years later, there are no more good days. He has declined to the point where police have been called to restrain him at home. Just this week, he presented himself in his local county courthouse in the middle of the snowstorm demanding that they investigate who had stolen his million dollars from him (he is obsessed with a junk mail sweepstakes that he is sure is actually a check that no one will cash for him) and he had to be returned home in a police cruiser. It’s a scary time for my husband’s family.

    What I am saying is that from my 35,000 feet perspective, POTUS looks an awful lot like a man who, due to extreme stresses, is seeing a decline in his mental capacity. He has the best health care in the world and all kinds of handlers to help keep him in line (advantages my FIL lacks) and that should slow things down. But if it really is dementia, there is no stopping it, and when it accelerates, it is no joking matter.

    I am not in any way a 25 Amendment fan; I would greatly prefer to keep Trump than have Pence in office to institute the American Taliban. I am just saying, having witnessed it with my own eyes in my own family, if Trump does go downhill, it could be a really bumpy ride to the bottom.

    1. Louis Fyne

      hypothetically, even if Trump has dementia and it’s disclosed next Monday, so what?

      Pence is president and given the precedence of prior tax code changes—-the tax code won’t be touched for another decade+. Foreign policy won’t change, and Democrats won’t be running on universal Medicare as a 2018 party platform.

      If anything, Trump goes out on top after a “don’t cry for me” resignation address after a year of cutting taxes and regulation. And Don Jr. and/or Ivanka get set up as a perennial potential GOP presidential candidates.

      1. ÖpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I’m not sure the sickness of the Chief Executive is the real worry. It’s the sickness of the polity that elected him that worries me.

        8 years of Bush’s Third and Fourth term policies, and the charlatan at the top is worshipped as a God by the Left.

        Then a candidate who stole the primary loses to a laughingstock TV showman, and people just shrug at the shenanigans of the party that made it all happen. Seems like the whole country has Alzheimers, not just the POTUS

    2. RUKidding

      Lambert’s experience of attending a Trump rally notwithstanding, I have to agree that dementia or Alzheimers can hit fairly quickly – or I should clarify, become suddenly worse – especially if there’s stress involved.

      I held back my gag reflex and watched a few of Trump’s rallies in the summer of 2016, and I agree that Trump could speak better than expected at those rallies, at least some of the time. Given the horribleness of Clinton’s campaign, I called it for Trump (my friends will confirm) in August 2016, based in part on how well most of Trump’s rallies actually went. What we saw on TV were often the gaffes and racist shout outs, which were horrible, but he said a lot of other things that sounded good… not to say that I believed ONE word of it. But he sounded good and, yes, spoke coherently about important topics.

      Nowadays, my impression – from far far far away – is that he looks not very well, and I have held my gag reflex and listened to one or two talks where there’s a ton of word salad happening. That combined with some of his tweets do give me pause.

      I’m in no position to make a judgement call, but I nursed my dear father through Alzheimers and my mom through dementia. Both did OK for a while, but then there were some pretty precipitous declines that seemed to come out of the blue. My family, and parents, were extremely lucky in that neither parent got really bad, but both exhibited some angry outbursts and some incidents of relatively mild physical attacks of other people.

      In other words, the decline can sometimes appear to happen very quickly, and it only gets worse from there.

      In no way am I happy to think about a President Pence (ugh), but am I satisfied to have yet another President with advanced Alzheimers/Dementia? Not really. That precedent was set with Reagan, and I didn’t agree with it then, and I don’t agree with it now. If, indeed, Trump is mentally impaired, he really should not be allowed to stay in the job, especially given his penchant for destructive behaviors. I’m thinking particularly about his repeated threats of nuclear war. In comparison to a nuclear war, I will choose – ick – President Pence.

      Unfortunately, I think it’s highly unlikely that the peons will ever be told the truth about Trump’s mental and physical health. He’s too valuable to the GOP and the Oligarchs to reveal if he’s impaired. Rather risk nuclear annihilation than let go other valuable opportunities to take money from the poor and middle class in order to hand it over the the mega rich, and to enrich Trump and his family, personally.

      Just saying…

      1. Louis Fyne

        there is a hypothesis that one cause of Alzheimer’s *!might* be aluminium accumulating in your brain, causing protein build-up…..via exposure to aluminum from cans with acidic beverages [beer or soda] and certain types of baking powder.

        I try to avoid drinking out of cans and minimize factory bread consumption. just sayin. lookup the hypothesis…interesting read. hypothesis came about after contaminated well water lead to a spike of dementia in a discrete area in sw england

          1. Alex V

            Other research has found little evidence for a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s:


            Also, aluminum cans are lined with an extremely thin resin coating, so the beverage is not actually in contact with the aluminum. That’s why cans don’t oxidize on the inside when empty… So, unless you have actual lab tests showing excessive aluminum in your brain matter, likely not much to worry about.

            And did you mean Fiji water? If so, that’s a pretty unusustainable choice…


            Company is owned by the Resnicks, same empire that’s draining California of its water for almonds and tried to convince us that pomegranates would cure cancer.

      2. witters

        So Trump has dementia? Um, your entire political system strikes many of us as functionally brain dead.

        Just saying…

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Was editing my previous comment but ran out of time.

          I predicted on another blog before the election that a Trump administration, which I didn’t expect, would be a Regency.

          If there’s even a dram of truth to that, then isn’t Trump’s neurological condition more a matter of concern for him and his family?

          I don’t wish dementia or Alzheimer’s on anyone, even on a Donald Trump or his family, but couldn’t it credibly be argued that a chaotic and dysfunctional Trump administration is preferable to a potentially effective (in all the worst ways) Pence one?

            1. Michael Fiorillo

              Yeah, natch, but while you can call me a deluded person just trying to calm myself, I don’t think “they” would let Donnie get near anything but a facsimile of the football.

    3. Lee

      I went through this with my mom. Initially we cared for her at our home. Finally, she became such a danger to herself and others that we found a small facility with few patients and 24 hour care and supervision. She was physically very fit, so she didn’t need nursing care. The cost burned through her life savings but, mercifully, she died a few months before her money ran out.

      1. Wukchumni

        At my Mom’s assisted living place, she lives on one side of it, completely segregated from the memory loss place connected to it as if the twain shall never meet. She tells me over the course of living there a couple years, 5 or 6 have slipped over to the other side. And these’d all be people in the late 80’s-mid 90’s so not a good age fit comparison.

    4. The Rev Kev

      I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Reagan started suffering the effects of Alzheimers before the end of his first term but America still went on even through his second term. By the end it was rumoured that Nancy was making many executive decisions. Wasn’t much talk of the 25th Amendment though he did use it (https://www.businessinsider.com.au/25th-amendment-colon-trump-reagan-bush-unfit-president-2017-10?r=US&IR=T). Wasn’t there a study too that found that sociopaths do very well at the top levels of business and government so why should Trump be any different. He remains what he is – a New York real estate hustler.
      In truth, the post of President may be mostly just as a figurehead on top of a series of satrapies & empire builders with the Pentagon going one way, the intelligence community going another, and so on. Probably find that they only cooperate when it actually benefits themselves somehow, otherwise they do what they want to do. You can think of the President as like British royalty here. Lots of show and spectacle but the British government is actually running things while people go ooh-ahh at the Royals.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Woodrow Wilson’s wife ran the country for years after he had, IIRC, a stroke in office. Did as well as can be expected, too. Considering some of Wilson’s faults, maybe better. But I’m not familiar with the details.

  9. Steve H.

    Look at all those references to resilience! Resilience generally is likened to elasticity, the ability to return to a previous state. I’ve read about people being resilient. Communities usually don’t return to a previous state. My town has documented both in-state and out-of-state communities giving their deplorables a bus ticket to here, four blocks away a homeowner took an axe to a truck where someone was shooting up, again. Three blocks away a ministers wife I know got her truck broken into (again) and is now known as the Ramen Noodle Bandit since her I.D. was used to forge/steal ramen noodles and Crown Royal.

    As Stephen Glenn noted, you can’t rehabilitate someone who’s never been habilitated in the first place.

    1. Rhondda

      Resilience is one of those BS business bingo words for Big Healthcare/Big Psych and their research barnacles.

      For me it conjures those commercials of a spray-flecked Timex watch being unstrapped from a speed boat while John Cameron Swayze intoned “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

      Resilience shmilience. Howsabout we identify and address the underlying stressors rather than demand people and systems become resilient to those stressors and problems? Howsabout we not strap people to the neoliberal speed boat?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > resilience

      I caught that too and I don’t like it (especially as it turns out to be code for “Let’s medicalize this!” which I wouldn’t call resilient at all).

      I think of “resilience” in terms of resilient cities or towns; there was a good deal of thinking in those terms after the Crash.

      Presumably these people, as good neoliberals, have individualized the concept to mean psychological resilience. From the APA:

      How do people deal with difficult events that change their lives? The death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness, terrorist attacks and other traumatic events: these are all examples of very challenging life experiences. Many people react to such circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty.

      Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves resilience, an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps.

      So closing the mill and moving the jobs to China is fine, just a “traumatic event,” and one for which credentialed professionals have developed coping skills that they will share with you. For a fee….

      1. Steve H.

        > So closing the mill and moving the jobs to China is fine, just a “traumatic event,”

        Laughed out loud. Too true.

        Also, I’ve adjusted my historical perspective on the recency of resilien* to biological intangibles as being a recent development. Samuel Johnson, from 1751:

        “…the common resiliency of the mind from one extreme to another…”

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        for some reason, folks in crisis sometimes ask me for advice.
        I ended up buying a case of copies of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius for these occasions.
        Now That’s “resilience”.
        Interestingly, the number one complaint from the recipients of this largess is the almost universal fear that they cannot understand philosophy, and are therefore afraid to read it.

  10. lyman alpha blob

    Thanks for the Charlie Stross link Lambert – he’s a good one!

    If you or anyone is interested in reading more of his take on corporations and AI, and more specifically how future AI could allow corporations to evolve into malignant algorithms under no human control whatsoever, I highly recommend his book Accelerando which available to read for free here.

    1. djrichard

      Ted Chiang was pontificating on this same theme too. See Silicon Valley Is Turning Into Its Own Worst Fear

      Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Great article, thanks for that one. Chang pretty much nails it with this –

        That doesn’t mean they reflect a real threat; what they reflect is the inability of technologists to conceive of moderation as a virtue. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk assume that a superintelligent AI will stop at nothing to achieve its goals because that’s the attitude they adopted. (Of course, they saw nothing wrong with this strategy when they were the ones engaging in it; it’s only the possibility that someone else might be better at it than they were that gives them cause for concern.)

        Side note: I’m a fan of Chang’s scifi writing too and think it would be pretty cool if in fact time turned out not to be linear.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          I’ve added some bookmarks. I think logical positivism is very rewarding, but F=ma means you have to assume time is a constant. And it really has never felt that way for me.

  11. allan

    “The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes”

    This story is interesting and important but leaves some misleading impressions.

    1. The “efficiency gap” wasn’t invented by mathematicians, but by a political scientist
    and a law professor:
    N. O. Stephanopoulos and E. M. McGhee, Partisan gerrymandering
    and the efficiency gap, The University of Chicago Law Review (2015), 831–900.

    2. The mathematicians mentioned are in fact concerned that the efficiency gap
    is too simplistic a measure of gerrymandering, and optimizing for it can lead to bad outcomes.

    3. There are statistical criteria for verifying that gerrymandering has taken place, by sampling over the (very) large space of possible district maps and seeing how extreme an outlier the disputed map is in terms of the resulting partisan split. This is only briefly mentioned and buried in the next to last paragraph of the story.

    More about this can be found in
    M. Bernstein and M. Duchin, A Formula Goes to Court: Partisan Gerrymandering
    and the Efficiency Gap, Notices of the Amer. Math. Soc., (2017), 1020-1024. [PDF]

  12. Ben

    “Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump” – looks like the foundation of a Reaganesque defense when finally dragged before a congressional hearing.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Have you heard about Sirius Cybernetics Corporation?

      No one was ever fired for ordering from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

  13. Tooearly

    “I’ve been saying that the “deaths of despair” would only be addressed when the problem could be medicalized, and it looks like that’s what’s happening here.”
    With the money being wasted on drug testing and bogus treatment programs we could fund decent schools and housing and build resilience in neighborhoods but not enough opportunities for graft there

  14. Oregoncharles

    “I really, really like the idea of corporations as “slow AI””

    All organizations are computers. To the extent they’re feedback-regulated, they’re quasi-sentient. I think this is one reason the old mainframe systems used by government and corporations have proven so difficult to replace, to the point of abject failures: they’re intertwined with the OTHER computer, composed of people. People are harder to change, especially en masse.

    Retraining people for new computer systems is the business my brother was in. He’s retired now; I should ask him about it. Big money, I know that.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Nice to see someone refer to Lewis Mumford, whose ideas would be very helpful today.

        He described ancient Egypt as a Megamachine, and among the first practitioners of remote control…

  15. diptherio

    That Bob and Ray clip is the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks! “How do your workers live on 14 cents a week?”…”We don’t pry into the private lives of our employees.” Listen to how long it took the crowd to settle down after that one!

  16. lyman alpha blob

    RE: “Researchers can now make neighborhood voting predictions from Google Street View images”

    From those images, they were able to glean information, including make and model, about 22 million cars, or 8% of all cars in the country, in 3,000 zip codes and 39,000 voting districts. After cross-referencing that data with information from other sources, including the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and presidential election voting records, the researchers found that they were able to make accurate predictions about a neighborhood’s income, race, education and voting patterns.

    I remain skeptical that this is really anything, especially with the explosion of homes being used as illegal short term rentals these days. Walk through my neighborhood and you’ll find a significant percentage of what appear to be residential homes but are really illegal hotels with cars with out of state plates in front. Makes it difficult to tell who really lives where I’d think. That, plus is it really that difficult to make a prediction based on cars just by say walking around the neighborhood with no AI involved? I’m guessing your average Jane Winebox could make pretty accurate predictions based on the number of beat up old pickups vs. Mercedes and come out correct most of the time too.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Ten years without a car, still get car insurance snail mail. If you don’t register in their system, you don’t register in their system.

  17. The Rev Kev

    Re the paperclip maximizer
    This sounds like a variation of the Shoe Event Horizon from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ but not as likely. Here is the definition of the Shoe Event Horizon-

    “The shoe event horizon is now a firmly established and rather sad economic phenomenon, which is taught as part of the basic Middle School Life the Universe and Everything syllabus.

    Let’s say you are living in an exciting go ahead civilization, so you are looking up at the open sky the stars, the infinite horizon. But, let’s say you are living in a stagnant declining civilization, so you are looking down at your shoes. So, your world is a depressing place, you are looking at your shoes and how do you cheer yourself up? By a new pair! So, everyone does the same thing and more and more shoe shops enter the market. In order to support these extra shoe shops, manufactures dictate more and more different fashions and make shoes so badly that they either hurt the feet or fall apart, so that everyone must keep buying shoes until they finally get fed up with lousy rotten shoes. In order to get people to by the shoes, the manufacturers make massive capital investment in the form of more shoe shops.
    This is the point known as the shoe event horizon. The whole economy overbalances. Shoe shops outnumber every other kind of shop, and it becomes economically impossible to build anything other than shoe shops. Every shop in the world ends up a shoe shop full of shoes no one can wear, resulting in famine, collapse and ruin. Any survivors eventually evolve into birds and never put their feet on the ground again.”

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I think I’m just going to have to disagree, because the way you have put it is, I think, really limiting the perspicacity of the Shoe Event Horizon. The really loooong empires concretated on stone monuments.

  18. Tertium Squid

    In the same way that Brock spent $1 million paying Clinton trolls in 2016, thereby putting the burden on every online Clinton supporter to prove they were not a troll, Brock proposes to pay women accuse Trump of sexual misconduct, thereby putting the burden on every female Trump accuser to prove they were not paid.

    Brock started his career as a Republican operative and maybe he still is one now, just the R’s don’t have to pay him anymore.

  19. annie

    daphne merkin is a child of wealth and privilege — ever hear of merkin hall–and i don’t think her experience and sense of self-worth applies to many of those she’s implicitly deprecating and, yes, shaming.

  20. Tertium Squid

    “In the Trump White House, policy making … flowed up. It was a process of suggesting, in throw-it-against-the-wall style, what the president might want, and hoping he might then think that he had thought of this himself.”

    How much is this true of high political office in general? No one can read everything and unless the president offloads most of his thinking, he’ll be quite a policy bottleneck.

    1. Craig H.

      This was Rush Limbaugh’s explanation of the Trump management (or communication) style since the first days of the campaign. He likes to foment chaos because he believes it stimulates creativity. See the consultant glossary entry for brainstorming.

      It always sounded like baloney to me but how could we disprove it?

      1. albrt

        Brad DeLong could probably disprove it mathematically, but it can’t be disproved empirically since the results could be no worse than electing a Democrat.

  21. The Rev Kev

    Researchers can now make neighborhood voting predictions from Google Street View images

    Unless there is a sign showing a ‘Vote for Trump’ sign or ‘Vote for Clinton’ sign out the front of those Google Street View images, it would be hard to judge the political affiliations of the people living inside. Remember how so many people were blindsided by Trump’s win because all their dodgy polls and computer algorithms told them that there was a 99% chance that Clinton would win?
    Every political dweeb is looking for the magical computer algorithm to predict elections and hit the financial jackpot for being able to do so because they do not want to do the hard yards in actually talking to voters. Unfortunately, as was proven in 2016, you get what you pay for, or what you think that you are paying for.
    I have a simpler way though not as comprehensive. It has already been established by commentators on this site that home devices like Siri, Alexia and Echo listen in to private conversations and push ads on those people based on what they talk about in the privacy of their own homes. OK then. So use these devices to listen in and look for words to do with either politics or politicians associated with words that have a good or bad context. Since you have to have money in order to afford one of these devices, you would really be listening in on the people that ‘really count’ in society. There, problem solved.

  22. dk

    “Dude, you broke the future!” [Charlie’s Diary]

    I disagree with too many of the premises, although not always absolutely.

    Charlie eschews the para/quasi-religious futurist road, and I agree with his reasoning more or less. But what does he turn to instead? The western business model? The corporation, that contractually created ghost entity? Like that’s not steeped in the Christian mythos?

    Worse, the guy never mentions China, biggest nation and cultural mass, or India, right up there too. So I question the model(s) right off the bat. And I question whether the corporation is the real and sole incarnation of the AI gestalt as Charlie asserts. He’s just attributing some more common behaviors and qualities of communities and cultures in general and saying no only corporations do this. I call it pandering, and also blinkered enough to narrow his range of projected outcomes.

    And a lot of Charlie’s doom and gloom predictions are pretty good, if one assumes that there are no options beyond the technocratic corporatist culture/model, and that our capabilities and options are composed of and limited to only that. Charlie is right that a subtle change in trajectory leads to completely different outcomes. The he drills down instead of out, continues down the tunnel of doom instead of changing the vector just enough to escape.

    Yes we’ve even messed up our planet. But we still have options, and for every fun toy we might have to give up or cut back on, there are alternative and replacements. And no, not Nazism either, fml.

  23. McWatt

    The whole point of the change in the tax bill benefiting renters is to fundamentally reshape American society from it’s current neo-feudal state to a completely feudal one. Make no mistake, this benefits the landlord class hugely over time.

    Additionally, everyone is forgetting the basic tenant of the American tax system was not to tax people twice. With the changes in property tax and state deductions people are now subject to being taxed twice.

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