2:00PM Water Cooler 2/14/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“President Donald Trump has yet to make any concrete decisions regarding whether to proceed with limiting imports of steel and aluminum for national security reasons — but after a bipartisan, bicameral meeting at the White House on Tuesday with lawmakers and a half-dozen of his top advisers, he’s at least well-versed in both sides of the debate” [Politico]. “The hourlong gathering provided an opportunity for 19 lawmakers to sit down with Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others to either urge the administration to move more quickly to restrict imports or to emphasize the need to take a narrow, targeted approach. In one exchange, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) pressed Trump to move ‘very, very cautiously’ and to only go after countries that engage in unfair trading practices. ‘That’s all countries,’ Trump replied.”



“Kirsten Gillibrand Pledges To Stop Accepting Donations From Corporate PACs” [Buzzfeed]. “The New York senator — a national fundraising powerhouse — joins Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Maria Cantwell in pledging to reject corporate PAC money. [Update: Following Gillibrand’s announcement, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey the same pledge on Wednesday night.]” I’ll need receipts, but it’s an interesting trend, even if only public relations.


“Republican Women Frustrated by Trump’s Approach to Abuse Charges” [RealClearPolitics]. “The Trump White House’s handling of abuse charges against men in its midst is frustrating prominent Republican women as the party’s yearslong struggle to attract female voters stretches into the 2018 midterm elections…. ‘I’m extremely disappointed in this situation. Abuse is never OK,’ Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said on CNN Tuesday…”

UPDATE “Dems: Bill Clinton too toxic to campaign in midterms” [Politico]. “Clinton’s likely absence on the stump this year comes amid major demand for high-profile surrogates this year — from Obama, who’s expected make select appearances, to Joe Biden and the full crop of 2020 prospects, who are likely to be all over the place in the thick of election season. Even Hillary Clinton will do some targeted campaigning.”

UPDATE The headline: “Somewhere in Between” [The Nation]. Oddly, the deck: “The rise and fall of Clintonism.” And the body: “Two new books help fill in the details of the rise and fall of Clintonian economics and politics: Bill Clinton, a short biography by Michael Tomasky, and Shattered, a narrative account of Hillary’s 2016 election loss by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. These demonstrate neatly how Clintonism—a politics of triangulation in a neoliberal age—eventually undermined itself.” So, people are still reading Shattered (which I recommend). More: “In the context of postwar politics, the upper class accommodated itself to a truce in the class war, for about three decades. But when the system came under strain, the elites launched a renewed class war, leveraging stagflation to destroy and devour the welfare state. Clintonism could work in the early stages of that process, buoyed by the economic bubble of the 1990s. But when the inevitable disaster struck, it would become an anchor around the neck of the Democratic Party—and it remains one to this day.”

“While voters bemoan partisanship, most members of Congress have spent their entire lives in one party and see American politics through a partisan lens. They are comfortable with that perspective, and with the personal relationships built with colleagues over the years. This helps explain why members of Congress prefer to stick with their party — and their president” [Stuart Rothenberg, Inside Elections]. “None of this is meant to excuse the deafening silence coming from most House and Senate Republicans at the all-too-frequent lunacy emanating from the White House and from the president’s allies. Nor does it alter the political reality that the fine line that some GOP members are trying to walk this midterm year is so narrow and tricky that it is essentially unwalkable.” “Lunacy” is a strong word for a handicapper like Rothenberg!

“Romney to announce Senate run on social media: report” [The Hill]. Oh, good.

“Are Democrats Or Republicans Winning The Race For Congress?” [FiveThirtyEight]. Handy updated chart of generic polling.

“2018 Generic Congressional Vote” [RealClearPolitics]. The same.



UPDATE “Dems flip seat in Florida state special election” [MSN]. Democrats on Tuesday won yet another special election for a state legislative seat once held by a Republican, this time in a battleground seat south of Tampa, Fla. With all precincts reporting, attorney Margaret Good (D) took 52 percent of the vote, ousting Sarasota real estate agent James Buchanan (R). President Trump carried the state legislative district by a 5-point margin in 2016. It opened when the incumbent Republican quit to spend more time with her family and building her business.”

Obama Legacy

Not tan, either:

New Cold War

“On Tuesday, the leaders of the American intelligence community testified to Congress that Russia has already set its sights on this November’s midterm elections” [Paul Waldman, The Week]. “Russia may or may not succeed in that kind of hacking again. And it may not succeed in something even worse, hacking election systems; according to the U.S. government, Russia attempted to penetrate the systems of 21 separate states in 2016, and may have succeeded in some places…. At Tuesday’s hearing, the intelligence officials admitted that no one in the government is in charge of fighting back against Russian use of propaganda and social media to disrupt our elections.” Lambert here: Throwing all the hacking talking points into one bucket, a few comments: Sometimes it’s necessary for an imperial hegemon to grow a pair; I suggest this is one such time. One approach would be to give consideration to the idea that our own interference in other countries’ elections — Yeltsin’s victory in 1996 springs to mind — has induced blowback, a consistent misfeature of our foreign policy. I would also like to have it shown to me that votes were actually flipped because of Russian “meddling;” I haven’t seen any reports, and I do try to keep track. We might also note that the scale of the “meddling” is utterly incommensurate with the scale of our electoral sytem. There’s also a rich irony in “admitted”; the agenda, to put the intelligence community in charge of our electoral process, seems reasonably clear. Finally, there are a couple of tests of good faith: If you really want to prevent hacking, then secure the entire system with hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. And if you really care about democratic values, then make voter registration a 24/7/365 core party function (at least, if you’re a D- or indeed a democrat).

UPDATE “Twitter deleted 200,000 Russian troll tweets. Read them here” [NBC]. For perspective: “Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year” [David Sayce]. 200000 / 350000. = 0.57. So the Russians tweeted 57% of one minute on Twitter. That doesn’t seem like very much

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Black Politics After 2016” [Adolph Reed, Nonsite.org (SS)]. “A year into the Trump presidency and unimpeded Republican control of Congress and of most state governments has confirmed what many on the left have known all along, that the right’s agenda is an all-out attack on working people, no matter what their racial and gender classifications and identities or sexual orientations.” Important! Well worth it, as anything by Adolph Reed.

Then again:

“Against Bravery Debates” [Slate Star Codex]. 2013, still relevant: One of the parlor games played in the Vampire Castle.

“Group aims to curb police stops with free brake repair event in DeKalb” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. The “group” being DSA.

“‘Socialist’ Judge, Refusing To Evict Tenants, Rankles City Landlords” [CBS Pittsburgh]. “Recently-elected District Justice Mik Pappas ran on a platform of stemming that tide by making landlords more accountable in court. ‘There are good actors on the side of lessors and there are bad actors on the side of lessors, and what I promise to do is give great defense to the rights of all parties involved in each case,’ Pappas said. But those lessors, or landlords, are crying foul. They are filing complaints the Court Administrator’s Office saying Pappas has come down squarely on the side of the tenants — continuing or postponing cases, not granting evictions, and when he does evict, not requiring the tenant to pay the back rent owed.”

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, January 2018: “Tangible increases in many basics lead a stronger-than-expected 0.5 percent jump in consumer prices for January” [Econoday]. “The core, which excludes food and energy, confirms the strength, up 0.3 percent which hits Econoday’s high estimate. Despite the strength, neither year-on-year rate were able to advance, at 2.1 percent overall and 1.8 percent for the core.” 2.1% is not very much; is in fact what the Fed is aiming for, no? More: “Consumer prices are showing what could, in retrospect, be seen as emerging life, early acceleration tied perhaps to the emergence of underlying wage pressures. Today’s report is certain to lend itself to anti-inflationary prudence especially among the hawks on the FOMC.” And: “Energy price changes remained the driver for inflation. Core inflation remain below 2.0 % year-over-year” [Econintersect]. And: “Using these measures, inflation picked up a little year-over-year in January. Overall, these measures are close, but still mostly below, the Fed’s 2% target (Median CPI is slightly above)” [Calculated Risk].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, February 2018: “Inflation expectations among business held at a subdued 2.0 percent year-on-year pace in February. These results, unlike this morning’s consumer price report, do not point to the risk of rising inflation” [Econoday].

Retail Sales, January 2018: “Retail sales not only proved very soft in January, but a sharp downward revision to December looks certain to pull down what had been outstanding strength for consumer spending in fourth-quarter GDP” [Econoday]. “The downward revision to December turns what had been a solid holiday shopping season into a so-so season. Control group sales, which are a direct input into GDP, did rise a very strong 1.2 percent in November but are now down 0.2 percent for December with January limping in at no change. After today’s report, the consumer sector gets a one-notch downgrade from strong to solid.” And: “The increase in January was well below expectations, and sales in November and December were revised down sharply. A disappointing report” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Despite the headlines, this was not a bad report – especially if one considers the rolling averages…. [T]he three month rolling averages of the unadjusted data was little changed” [Econintersect]. “Our analysis says this month’s growth was above average for the growth seen in the last 12 months.” And: “The long and short of the matter is that at least some of this retail sales report just doesn’t feel like it really adds up to what retailers have said through December and January” [247 Wall Street]. Yep.

Business Inventories, December 2017: “Business inventories came in as expected in December, up 0.4 percent with November unrevised and also at 0.4 percent and with October unrevised at no change. December’s build was centered among manufacturers where inventories rose 0.5 percent and also wholesalers at 0.4 percent. Retailers held down the total” [Econoday]. “The build in inventories slowed in the fourth quarter and the question now, given the flatness of the retail sector, is how much businesses will need to increase their stocks in the first quarter, an answer that will have direct consequences on the quarter’s production and employment.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of February 9, 2018: “Amid rising interest rates, purchase applications for home mortgages fell by a seasonally adjusted 6.0 percent in the February 9 week. Unadjusted, the year-on-year gain in the volume of purchase applications fell 4.0 percentage points to 4.0 percent” [Econoday].

Commodities: “The supply chain for minerals critical to electric cars begins in Congo but increasingly runs through China. Wholesalers in the central African nation that is the world’s biggest producer of cobalt sell most of their products in makeshift markets to Chinese buyers, launching a long journey in which bags of the mineral are shipped to China and processed into lithium-ion batteries for electronics. ….[T]he process is part of a world-wide race to lock up the supply chain for cobalt, and China is far in the lead” [Wall Street Journal]. “The concentration is raising questions about market control and conditions at the mines, where significant production comes from freelance diggers working under grueling circumstances likely to gain more attention as the demand for cobalt grows.”

Infrastructure: “Trump’s infrastructure plan isn’t a plan. It’s a fantasy” [Los Angeles Times]. “In fact, cities, counties and states across the country are raising their gas and sales taxes and passing bonds to help tackle the massive backlog of unmet needs. But Measure M [for the LA Metro] and similar efforts are supposed to complement, not replace, federal funding. Without federal money, projects will take longer to build, fewer jobs will be created and backlogs will lengthen. The federal pullback sought by Trump ignores why the federal government has been contributing so much to state and local infrastructure projects: We have a shared national interest in a country that’s safe and well-connected, and where people and goods move efficiently.”

Shipping: “Liner shipping M&A has ‘destroyed $110bn of shareholder value’ in 21 years, says report” [The Loadstar]. “[The report’s] author, McKinsey & Co, said this had mainly been due to continuous overcapacity in the sector. The management consultant said bulk shipping was the only transport sector with a worse performance than liner shipping’s average of less than 2% return on invested capital. The profitability league table is headed by the cruise line industry, with a return of over 12%.”

Shipping: “Blockchain bill of lading platform raises $7m in seven minutes” [Splash 247]. “CargoX, a startup developing a blockchain smart bill of lading platform, has managed to raise $7m in just over seven minutes in an initial coin offering of its Ethereum-based CXO Tokens…. CargoX claims logistics companies can save up to $5bn a year by using its new bill of lading platform.”

The Bezzle: “Deutsche Bank to Pay $3.7 Million to Settle SEC Charge it Misled Consumers” [Corporate Crime Reporter]. “The SEC’s investigation found that traders and salespeople made false and misleading statements while negotiating sales of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Customers overpaid for CMBS because they were misled about the prices at which Deutsche Bank had originally purchased them…. Deutsche Bank and Solomon consented to the SEC’s order without admitting or denying the findings.”

The Bezzle: “Google’s nemesis: meet the British couple who took on a giant, won… and cost it £2.1 billion” [Wired]. “Google was guilty. The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, made that brutally clear. “Google abused its market dominance,” Vestager declared as she announced her judgement in Brussels on June 27, 2017. She handed Google a £2.1 billion fine – the largest antitrust penalty ever handed to a single company, and gave it 90 days to change its ways. Watching the livestream 500 metres away in the Thon Hotel EU, Adam and Shivaun Raff shared a smile of relief. It had been 11 gruelling years since they realised Google was deliberately demoting their price comparison website, Foundem, in search results.” This is very, very good. And the little guys, also in this case the good guys, won!

The Bezzle: “Blue Apron Holdings Inc. has been cutting its logistics costs but its been shedding customers at the same time. The meal-kit company’s customer ranks fell by 15% in the fourth quarter… as the food home-delivery service suffered from the big logistics problems that have eaten into profits and the ability to market its business” [Wall Street Journal]. “Blue Apron has made progress on fulfillment challenges at a Linden, N.J., warehouse the company opened last year. The company says it now has the ‘nimble infrastructure’ needed to get its subscription meals delivered to homes. But Blue Apron also looks to be losing market share, and it’s struggling to get its infrastructure in place as other operators push into the market. Blue Apron canceled plans last quarter to open a site in California, a blow for a business tha\t needs a stronger physical footprint to match its online ambitions.”

The Bezzle: “The Corrosion of Ethics in Cryptocurrencies” [Medium]. “But in this environment, actual ethical behavior looks suspicious. It’s not really believable that I would pass up significant gains for some altruistic reason, is it?”

The Bezzle: “How Wall Street’s ‘fear gauge’ is being rigged, according to one whistleblower” [MarketWatch]. “One of the most popular measures of volatility is being manipulated, charges one individual who submitted a letter anonymously to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The letter makes the claim to regulators that fake quotes for the S&P 500 index are skewing levels of the Cboe Volatility Index, which reflects bearish and bullish options bets 30-days in the future on the S&P 500 to gauge implied stock-market volatility (see excerpt from the letter below):

The flaw allows trading firms with advanced algorithms to move the VIX up or down by simply posting quotes on S&P options and without needing to physically engage in any trading or deploying any capital.

Mr. Market: “Number of fund managers who see the economy in its late cycle is at a 10-year high” [MarketWatch]. “According to the BofA Merrill Lynch fund manager survey for February, 70% of those polled believe the global economy is in its “late cycle,” the highest such reading since January 2008, right as the financial crisis began to gather steam. The late part of an economic cycle typically coincides with the market’s peak and precedes a decline into recession.”

Five Horsemen: “Juggernaut Amazon is back in the saddle, only 1.3% below its record closing high” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Feb 14 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 13 Extreme Fear (previous close: 12, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 18 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Feb 12 at 7:00pm. Still lagged, WTF!!! Extreme Fear for a week now….

Our Famously Free Press

“Bay Area News Group Hammered by More Layoffs, Resignations” [San Jose Inside]. “The Merc used to be one of the largest daily newspapers in the industry with upward of 400 reporters and editors, according to the Media Guild. After the latest round of buyouts and layoffs, the number of union-represented newsroom staff in the South Bay is down to 41. The East Bay papers are left with 65.”

“Local News is a Building Block to Rebuild Trust” [Medium]. “The challenge we face is that while local news holds some of the greatest promise for renewing the social contract between journalists and the public, it also faces the greatest threats. The economic and technological challenges buffeting local news are profound. If we are concerned about trust we also have to be concerned about sustainability and helping rebuild the infrastructure for local news around the country. This insight inspired a coalition of foundations to come together in 2017 to launch an unprecedented effort to expand trust and financial sustainability in local news. The collaboration, called NewsMatch, paired an end-of-year fundraising campaign with a targeted capacity-building effort focused on equipping newsrooms with new tools, technology and training to better engage their communities and cultivate donors.”

Neoliberal Epidemics

“The Health Threats of Welfare Stigma” [JSTOR Daily]. “Jennifer Stuber and Karl Kronebusch examined what happened when states changed the rules of aid programs after the federal government revamped its policies in 1996. Among people who are eligible for means-tested programs like Medicaid, food stamps, or cash assistance, the percent who actually enroll has always been fairly low. Even before the policy change, pickup rates for various programs ranged from 40 to 70 percent. Given that people who are eligible for these programs are, by definition, facing serious economic hardship, that might seem odd. Stuber and Kronebusch write that the explanation is the incredible power of stigma…. Stuber and Kronebusch note that one argument in favor of stigmatizing government aid is to limit its use to the truly needy, discouraging anyone who can possibly get by without it from applying. But their research found that didn’t happen. People with high levels of need—those with worse health or more kids, for example—were just as likely as anyone else to be scared away from applying for benefits by stigma… And yet, the current rhetoric around work requirements for Medicaid, and “welfare reform” in general, seems designed to ramp up stigma and discourage people from seeking help.”

“DELAWARE’S OPIOID CRISIS” [The Outline]. “I expected Luigi to be the best man at my wedding and godfather to my children, not to die when we were 21. His funeral was my introduction to a world in which I’d be burying friends long before it was their time to go; at this point, nearly everyone I know from Wilmington has a similar story. It is perhaps the defining feature of someone my age and from my state to have a dead sibling, cousin, or friend.”

“The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, nationally, by state, and by race or ethnicity” [Child Trends]. “A growing body of research has made it increasingly apparent that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a critical public health issue. ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences and events, ranging from abuse and neglect to living with an adult with a mental illness. They can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being in childhood or later in life.1 However, more important than exposure to any specific event of this type is the accumulation of multiple adversities during childhood, which is associated with especially deleterious effects on development.”

I say let the private sector handle it:

Class Warfare

“Home Depot Battles Tight Labor Market With Easy Application” [Bloomberg]. Heaven forfend that Home Depot raise wages or improve working conditions!

Jobs matter. Thread:

UPDATE Food matters. Thread:

“Vice Media sued by former employee alleging systemic pay discrimination against women” [Los Angeles Times]. “The lawsuit, which seeks class-action certification, was filed by Elizabeth Rose, who worked at the millennial-focused media company in New York and Los Angeles from 2014 to 2016, serving as a channel manager and project manager. Vice Media operates the Viceland cable channel and produces two news programs for HBO, among other projects. Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the complaint alleges that Rose, as part of her job, received internal memos that showed the salaries of about 35 Vice Media employees, revealing a pay disparity in which females ‘made far less than male employees for the same or substantially similar work.’ According to the lawsuit, Rose learned that a male subordinate — whom she hired — made about $25,000 more per year than her.”

“Debt, Neoliberalism and Crisis: Interview with Maurizio Lazzarato on the Indebted Condition” (PDF) [Sociology]. “Drawing on the work of Deleuze and Guattari in order to connect Nietzsche and Marx, he develops a theory of debt suggesting that the power of credit, central to neoliberalism, requires the construction of an indebted subjectivity. Producing a responsible, guilty and thus hindered subject, this condition involves individuals and societies facing an infinite social debt.” Interesting on the subject, but wrong on the creation of money (further in the abstract). Interesting though!

“Want to grow the US economy? Cancel student debt, new report shows” [Mic]. Levy Institute getting lots of good press. (I think we should consider giving refunds to those who were able to make their payments faithfully. Just reset the whole system.)

“The amazing true socialist miracle of the Alaska Permanent Fund” [Vox]. I wonder if we could do with data what Alaska does with oil….

News of the Wired

Tell me it’s not a great country (1):

Tell me it’s not a great country (2): “An Oral History of The Wire’s Unforgettable 5-Minute ‘F*ck’ Scene” [Vulture].

Happy Valentine’s Day:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (pq):

pq writes: “I took this photo Thursday from the bridge over the river through my village. The river froze solid with all the below-zero weather earlier this month. Last week, it warmed up — nearly 60 degrees last Friday — followed by two days of rain. The ice on the river rapidly started melting and flooded low-lying areas, nearly covering the picnic tables in the park. Then the temperature plummeted back down into the teens, refreezing the slushy ice chunks on the river and turning the flood plain into a skating rink. Is this the new normal, or have the Russians hacked our weather?”

Look at the texture of that ice!

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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. Kokuanani

      Can someone please tell me exactly what this Russian hacking consists of? All I’ve been able to find is references to “millions of tweets” or entries on Facebook. Are the Dems, Repubs or whoever assuming that the American public [the 50% that vote] are so susceptible to this background yammering that it influences their voting? Are there any claims of hacking actual voting machines, or paying off those election officials who fail to provide enough machines in heavily Dem precincts [the Repubs already do that], or purging voter rolls [again, the Repubs do this].

      I can’t figure out specifically what all the screaming and hand-waving is about. Is “meddling” the new “weapons of mass destruction” — a phrase that scares everyone even though they don’t know what it’s referring to?

      1. Jean

        Paper ballots prevent Russian hacking, so why aren’t politicians demanding them?

        Does buying ad space on social media platforms:

        A. Create a healthy new economy and contribute to GDP?

        B. Allow the Rosskies to take over our democratic institutions?

        1. The Rev Kev

          Paper ballots prevent Russian hacking, so why aren’t politicians demanding them?

          Because that would stop your political parties from hacking them. Way back in Florida in 2000 (going by memory here) something like 20,000 votes disappeared from the Democrat electoral count and then just as quick reappeared as on either the Republican rolls or Republican-friendly rolls. That was only the first time I heard about such stuff going on.
          Some of the things that go on with computer voting in the US is so blatant that it would make the old Soviet Politburo blush. And yet the Republicans use it and the Democrats are happy to encourage it. Just Google diebold voting and read what comes back.

          1. Adam Eran

            Read Means of Ascent by Robert Cato. It is the story of how LBJ defeated the most popular politician in Texas (Coke Stephenson) with the aid of helicopters and money…and lots of election fraud.

            Stephenson was Texas’ version of Abe Lincoln. He would literally win logging contests (still dressed in his campaign clothes).

            I doubt he would have authored civil right legislation, or fought the Vietnamese, so…a mixed bag.

      2. Grizziz

        Marcy Wheeler follows this very carefully if you have time to read her blog, emptywheel. The mainstream press is profiting over the fearmongering and is remiss in not making clear statements about the actual danger involved when foreign governments are only seeking public information and not seeking to harm,

        the press should be far more cautious reporting on various degrees of hacking, as most people don’t understand the difference between a scan, a compromise, and damage from such compromise.


        1. Carolinian

          A column that should have been written oh, say, a year ago. The bogosity of “Russia gate” has been obvious from the beginning.

          1. RWood

            “I have to admit my definition of what the Russians did is, unfortunately, honorable state espionage,” Hayden, now a principal at the Chertoff Group, told an Oct. 18 audience at The Heritage Foundation. “A foreign intelligence service getting the internal emails of a major political party in a major foreign adversary? Game on. I would not want to be in an American court of law and be forced to deny that I never did anything like that as director of the NSA.”


        2. Procopius

          Minor quibble: I don’t follow her regularly, so maybe she’s changed her position, but about six months ago I was disappointed when she wrote that she believed the Russians had hacked the DNC computer, even though she did not have smoking gun level proof. At least she was honest and said she did not have proof, unlike Digby and Charlie Pierce who have broken my heart by jumping on the Russia Hacking bandwagon, claiming it’s obvious.

          1. Swamp Yankee

            Yes, Digby and Pierce have both been major disappointments over the last two years. Juan Cole has also gotten pretty bad, to the point where what he once dismissed as absurd (Russians hacked the election) he now, without noting the change of line, treats as a given, despite the lack of evidence.

            I think a lot of it has to do with class and age and MSNBC. Seriously. I know Cole, and while he has a great sense for the Middle East and translating it for Western audiences, as an Army kid who grew up largely overseas, I can attest that he has very little real sense or feeling for the U.S. outside of college-wealth bubbles like Ann Arbor, and really gets on pretty thin ice when he strays from his area of expertise.

            I abandoned Pierce and Digby far earlier, though, Spring of 2016 when both proved they were for Markts Uber Alles when it really came down to it.

            All are affluent people over 50 years old who have forgotten, if they ever knew, what not having lots of disposable income is like. My sense is that they also are of the demographic cohort who frequently have MSNBC (or possibly, CNN) on in the background (or foreground).

            A damn shame, as I once admired all of them.

            Does Gaius Publius still publish at Digby’s blog? My sense is his intellectual honesty and independence of mind would no longer be welcome there; would be pleased to hear if that’s wrong.

      3. Ook

        So we have Nuland gleefully declaring that they spent five billion to subvert Ukraine, and the CIA goes so far as to color-code their public sponsorship of coup d’etats, but Americans act like offended virgins when it comes to the idea (unsubstantiated as it is) that some foreigner might flash out an opinion on Twitter. What a small, frightened people you’ve become.

      4. Skip Intro

        What you, and many others, are missing is the stunning effectiveness of the Soviet Russian threat. With a handful of innocuous looking tweets and a fraction of a percent of the Clinton gang’s budget, Evil Supergenius Vladimir Putin personally changed the winner of the US presidential election from the Most Qualified* Candidate in the History of the Universe, to an addled clown appointed as a sham candidate by the same gang. Imagine, if you dare, what would happen if they really wanted to do damage, instead of just punking would-be figureheads and their owners.

        *it is rare that a candidate is a war criminal before they are elected President.

      5. Procopius

        No, there is absolutely no evidence that a single vote was changed either by persuasion or by hacking a voting machine. The whole thing is a myth, started by the five highly paid consultants who own the Democratic Party to divert attention from their responsibility for losing the 2016 election and has grown enormously as a signal of tribal membership of anti-Trumpists. Many anti-Trumpists have enormous contempt for ordinary Americans, and they have created a caricature of Trump’s “base” voters that is far removed from reality. This provides an opportunity for some real leftists to win office by pretending to be Democrats while the DNC/DCCC/DSCC are diverted from spending their resources electing Republicans and Blue Dogs (and fighting to prevent Leftists from winning).

  1. dan

    I am somewhat uncomfortable with the whole student debt forgiveness. Many rational people
    looked at college education in their younger years and balked at the prospect of going into debt
    vs the benefits of higher education. As well, the student loan system itself was a big factor in
    raising costs across the board. It is a slippery slope to bring up funds used for non-education
    purposes (or above and beyond what expenditures would have occurred had funds been
    more limited and focused), but not hard to become uncomfortable with that as well.

    So it is not those diligently paying their bills that might a bit ‘screwed’ – and fight to deserve a
    refund, but those who lost opportunities.

      1. rd

        I think that is the purpose of bankruptcy: you try something, somebody funds you, it doesn’t work out, you go through an unpleasant process, and you come out the other side able to move forward.

        If a bankruptcy court judge believes you have the wherewithal to pay some or all of the debt, then a payment plan is set up. If not, you go into credit purgatory for a while and rebuild your life instead of having a perpetual financial guillotine over your head.

        Why should Donald Trump be able to have his companies declare bankruptcy numerous times while somebody who tried something at age 20 gets their Social Security garnished at age 65 because it didn’t work out?

        So you just make student loans dischargeable through bankruptcy like every other debt. Federally-guaranteed ones can have a high priority for repayment compared to things like credit cards, but they would still be dischargeable as the need arises.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That’s another good suggestion, though free money (from the government) for all will put more money into the economy…assuming we don’t have an inflation problem.

          1. JTMcPhee

            The kleptocrats, I would bet, would quickly figure out scams to Hoover up all that free money… I’d vote for the forgive-us-our-debts approach, in the words of that Presbyterian prayer I personally have spoken going on half a million times now. As long as the forgiveness is absolute, and not subject to the scam that a discharge in bankruptcy leaves open — where the debt calln be “revived” by the discharged person who gets talked, by a guilt-tripping creditor’s minion into agreeing to pay, anything, after the discharge. http://stephenmgoldbergpc.com/rebuilding-credit-an-old-scam-resurfaces/

            Many humans are rotten creatures.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              The kleptocrats are always there.

              And most people have some free money, anywhere from a few bucks to a few hundred dollars and more. That (being scammed) will always be a concern.

          2. rd

            College and university isn’t free in most other countries, but it is lower cost. For example, all Canadian colleges and universities cost about the same as American state schools. So the best universities are selective on which students they accept but they don’t cost much more. There are usually subsidies involved to keep the tuition low but they aren’t free. Scholarships and financial need is available but not usually a major decision criteria.

            This is similar to Canadian healthcare, where it is assumed that it should be universally acceptable with controlled costs. As a result, there is not massive financial anguish in Canada due to either healthcare or student debt.

            1. Andrew Watts

              The US spends about $90 billion dollars a year to make college “affordable”. If that money went towards tuition costs and wasn’t used to expand administrative bloat we’d be in a similar condition as Canada. It’s unfortunate and a lot more expensive for our education / health care sector that the US is still enthralled with the spirit of capitalism manifested by our classical liberals and Calvinist forefathers.

              The country fared better when this theological ideology was replaced by the Social Gospel. I doubt that some kind of theological underpinning will ever be eradicated from American society. The US is still the country where an entire continent exported it’s religious fanatics.

        2. Bridget

          “I think that is the purpose of bankruptcy: you try something, somebody funds you, it doesn’t work out, you go through an unpleasant process, and you come out the other side able to move forward.”

          You are correct, that is the purpose of bankruptcy. The catch being the “somebody funds you” part. Nobody is going to lend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in unsecured debt to an unemployed teenager or twenty something without some assurances of repayment.

          1. Bridget

            Let me add…one of the few issues on which I agree with progressives is that we are failing our young people in the financing of higher education. I came of age in an era when I and my cohorts could pay for college with a little help from our parents, summer jobs, and part time jobs during school. Professors back then spent a lot more hours teaching, there were no fancy rec centers, and far fewer administrators (directors of diversity and safe spaces,I’m looking at you!)

            It is entirely possible to deliver a great education at a reasonable price. I happen to believe that the money loaned to unsophisticated 18 year olds and their families has largely fueled the outrageous cost of higher education today. I don’t think that the solution is more of the same.

            1. FluffytheObeseCat

              Reviving discharge in bankruptcy is not “more of the same”. Bankruptcy is the most widely accepted, effective way to curb loose, careless lending practices. The practice of dumping tens of thousands of dollars into the hands of DeVry and Phoenix “University” students will end when the lenders have skin in the game again, and not before. They are the knowledgeable experts who will react swiftly and prudently to a change in lending ground rules.

          2. a different chris

            >without some assurances of repayment.

            No: Lenders have, since the Sphinx was fresh-cut stone I suspect, traded off between “assurances of repayment” and usurious interest rates. What do you think 6+ percent on a co-signed, non-dischargable loans for an indestructible good vs, say, 2.8% for a rapidly depreciating asset like a pick-me-up truck is except usury? (and the co-signer is the same on both loans, I can tell you personally.)

        3. Procopius

          I think that is the purpose of bankruptcy:

          You haven’t been paying attention. Lovable Uncle Joe Biden was almost single-handedly responsible for inclusion in the “Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005” of a provision that student debt is not only not dischargable in bankruptcy, but they can pursue you and garnishee your Social Security Pension up to 25% until it’s paid off. I think they can also garnishee your Disability Pension, but am not certain. He also made it much harder to discharge credit card debt, on the grounds that people would get this easy credit and then just declare bankruptcy to avoid paying it back. Never mind that such behavior had never been seen before. This is why I’ll vote for a Republican before I’d vote for him.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I think Romancing the Loan’s comment below is to everyone’s best interest, as it benefits everyone, and instead of further division, can unite us.

      3. Lost in OR

        Would it be fair to award every citizen an equal stipend? Those who wisely invested in their future through debt can pay down that debt. Those citizens who wisely chose not to use debt can use the stipend to improve their lives as they so choose.

        The favoritism and inequity of gov’t policy is a divisive issue. Listen up Liberal, favoring the cultural elite will only buy yourself more of the Donald. Many citizens used and abused in the Great Recession would put said stipend to very good use. We might even help revive the economy. Which, l believe, is what this discussion is about.

        1. kevin

          This sounds all well and good, but we can’t afford to give every one hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you stipulate equal subsidies for all you are committing many young children, teens, and 20 somethings with medical issues to death.

          Education isn’t quite the same. If you are only making your “equal stipend” argument for that industry I’d suggest you say so. I do think UBI is a good idea, not sure it would be enough to cover education though

          1. a different chris

            Even (especially) if you don’t believe in MMT, Jeff Bezos is “worth” over 100 billion dollars. We, well he and his cohorts, can afford it.

            It’s a question of how* we spend this money. That is all. The morality people want to apply to spreading it around is hilarious, when you look at those paragons of probity Trump/Bezos/Gates et. al.

            *if you haven’t figured it out, MMT or confiscating it from Bezos is not saying we don’t need to clean up our college system. Or our highway builder mess. Or… etc. It just means the limits are not money per se.

      4. dan

        OK. Life isn’t fair. But if the objective is to benefit the economy for all – why
        not something else, such as a real infrastructure plan, instead of student debt

      5. The Rev Kev

        Instead of thinking in terms of student debt, think of education in the same terms as research – a long-term investment in the country. If your country does not have a highly educated work force, you will be always competing against countries that do value education with one arm tied behind your back. Countries like Russia and China for example. If you want a bit of proof of that statement, consider the fact of the increasing rate of patents lodged by China and the decreasing rate by the US.
        The money that you invest in education is paid back in the higher tax bases that these former students will have as well as the money that they will generate using their education over their lifetime. If you try to cram the idea of education into the straight-jacket of the market, you will be always be chasing the financial income for the next quarter’s bottom line. An uneducated workforce will also impose burdens on your country by having to be helped financially in hard times like the present.
        Remember too that a majority of these student debts is not actually for education but has gone to pay an increasingly large managerial infrastructure in the colleges and the pay of those presidents running colleges has increased out all proportion. Education is now a Wall Street industry. This no longer resembles things like the post-WW2 GI education bill. Getting a workforce that is properly educated I consider to be a core function of any state and is definitely in a nation’s best interests.

      6. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Nobody promised life would be fair.

        Fortunately, being fair (or being seen as being fair) is often in our best interest. This is certainly true for advocates of highly controversial proposals in a deeply conflicted political environment. (People have different notions of “fairness,” of course…)

    1. Romancing The Loan

      I’d feel the same way, having chosen to attend less-prestigious schools on scholarship rather than take out loans to tread the red carpet. We have many examples, from NAFTA to SNAP, of why responding with a flippant “nobody promised life would be fair” to those sorts of inequities is insufficient and prone to backfire.

      I do like the proposal made in earlier threads, of a national debt relief program where everyone would be given one-time payments that must be used to pay down any existing debt before being used for any other purpose.

      1. Rojo

        Everyone 18 and over gets $5000 deposited in an IRA that can be used to A) Pay down student loans, B) Pay for the school of your choice or C)let ride until age 59 (just like IRA’s currently).

        Kids starting out get some free college.

        Mid-lifers get out from under their debt more quickly

        Oldster’s nest-eggs get a nice little boost.

      2. False Solace

        Oh my God. We have a huge problem in this country, right here, right now, with young people unable to start their lives and others deterred from going to college at all, yet a bunch of selfish whiners are going to complain that they personally may not benefit financially from fixing the problem.

        Give me a break. This is why we can’t have nice things.

        Rest assured, you will personally experience a much improved economy that’s more fair to everyone. Isn’t that enough? Maybe it helps to consider the kids you may someday have who will navigate the system?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > that they personally may not benefit financially from fixing the problem

          That’s really not it. “They” are pointing out that they made sacrifices to play by the rules and yet don’t get the benefit the rulebreakers got; it’s as if a sort of inverted means test were applied to those eligible for relieft.

          To me, this is another example of why programs that convey universal concrete material benefits are superior, both ethically and politically, to those with eligibility determination. Especially when, as here, the eligibility determination is not paying your debts, which is a deeply charged issue. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” is not universally practiced, even by today’s Christians…

      3. Tom_Doak

        How does it help to make a national debt relief program where most of the proceeds get Hoovered up by the big banks and Sallie Mae? Didn’t we already bail them out??

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > a national debt relief program where everyone would be given one-time payments that must be used to pay down any existing debt before being used for any other purpose.

        I keep thinking in terms of a “system reset.” When your system is crashing all the time and behaving in a flaky matter it’s time to press the reset button (which is what the Jubilee would do).

        In our case, pushing the reset button would mean undoing — one hopes — forty years of neoliberalism, returning us to the mid-70s (right before real wages flattened). Then, with the benefit of experience, we could uninstall all the buggy software, and the malware, that caused the crashes, start clean, and move in a better direction with the benefit of experience. (Not saying the mid-70s were perfect, by any means, but as a baseline I’d prefer them to the present day.)

        Anyhow, the “reset” metaphor might prove helpful, though in general I deprecate the comparison between computer systems and natural or human systems, because the computer systems are simpler.

      5. a different chris

        >having chosen to attend less-prestigious schools on scholarship

        I’m sure your parents were proud.

        When I was in the CMU lab I met a guy bouncing lasers off of, well everything I think, for his doctorate. At some point in one of our conversations he started laughing and said – “you know, I couldn’t get into Pitt as an undergrad, let alone CMU.” Now this was decades ago when Pitt sucked. He was your usual young male and f(amily blog)ed around a little more than most. He wound up getting into Pitt-Johnstown by the skin of his teeth.

        I suspect his parents weren’t, at the close of high school, very proud of him. There was certainly no school so “low-prestige” that it would give him a scholarship.

    2. taunger

      I think it was actually a brief period of time when the rational choice was not going to school because of debt. Costs have been rising consistently, but I remember talking to alums from my law school when I was a student in 2010. Grads in 1996 could still earn their way through school with summer jobs (good paying, legal internship jobs, but still …). By the time I applied in 2008, I knew that income based repayment would stymie the worst, and if I could get public service forgiveness, I would pay less than sticker price.

      So really, the bad times probably started around 2000 and ended in 2008. Otherwise, I would say the rational choice would almost always be some sort of higher education.

      Not that anyone is rational, which is a silly argument to begin with, and there is no reason persons should toil under debt to no social benefit.

      If we want to talk rationality, how about putting student debt back into the bankruptcy process and making lenders do their due dillegence? Maybe forgiveness and that together? With free public school available as an option? Now I think we are starting to get rational

      1. False Solace

        We’re already in a situation where the US Federal Government, an entity that can never go bankrupt except voluntarily, guarantees the vast majority of student loans. How much due diligence need lenders perform? It’s just a big profit trough for yet another industry. I see in Trump’s budget he canceled a bunch of loan forgiveness programs and dialed up enforcement. Now that’s winning. /s

    3. Tom Stone

      Dan, decades ago I made a living collecting student loan debt.
      I believe it should be outright forgiven.
      Here are a few reasons…
      Student loan schools, back in the day the two worst were a beauty college ( out of $2MM placed over 5 years $1,800 was collected, by me).
      We found them, they didn’t have a pot to piss in.
      Schools like universal beauty academy, that “University” the ExPOTUS shilled for, ITT technical institute…
      All hopeful people, who got screwed.
      That’s a good third of Student Loan debt.
      For the rest, we live in a consumer society, if you strangle your achievers with enough debt that they become wage slaves…not good.
      Having those monthly payments spent on goods and services also sounds nice.
      And of course there are people who took advantage, there are always some in any game.

      1. a different chris

        >And of course there are people who took advantage, there are always some in any game.

        That’s the difference between cap-C Conservatives and other people… and in America, I suspect we are 75% cap-C Conservatives, no matter how we vote. They focus obsessively on the 1 out of 100 that scams the system, and the 99 that needed it just don’t register.

  2. Jim Haygood

    New York Fed’s Underlying Inflation gauge (which uniquely includes some financial market prices in addition to the usual goods ‘n services, thus picking up asset inflation) ticked up to three percent even.


    Not coincidentally, there’s trouble in DXY — the dollar index has fallen back to a feeble 89.12 today. Equally uncoincidentally, the old yellow dog has risen from its customary pallet in the shade to charge across the yard like its tail was on fire:


    Gold is the mirror of the dollah.

  3. Steve from CT

    Obama surrounded by drones. How appropriate as a representation of his administration. Love it.

    1. David Carl Grimes

      I would like another portrait of Obama surrounded by dollars. That too would be appropriate.

    2. sbrown

      I think Obama should not only be surrounded by drones, but blood and dead humans should be included as well. That would really bring the point home of what he has has done.

      1. nowhere

        Why is there such focus on Obama? Trump has been President for over a year now. He has continued, if not escalated (by many reports), the frequency of both drone strikes and civilian deaths.

        Yes, Obama was Droner In Chief, the current occupant of this title is just as morally reprehensible. Why not focus on what can be changed now, rather than fixating on what happened years ago?

        1. Kurt Sperry

          Because as long as the Democrats embrace endless, counter-productive war, there is no hope for a sane and humane foreign policy. When there are two war parties in a two-party system, democracy is broken. And defeating Trump is essentially pointless until the Democrats first offer an actual alternative. Obama’s record of a cynical neocon policy, combined with the still ongoing, head-in-the sand hagiography of his term in office is proof that nothing has been learned top party level. Trump isn’t the problem; he’s a symptom of it, and the problem is bipartisan.

        2. HopeLB

          By failing to enact any change from the previous administration, sweeping Bush and Co’s illegal surveillance/wars under the rug (Moving Forward (away from Hope and Change)) , even going so far as to make legal what was previously not, Obama set in place the scaffolding upon which Trump and the Republicans could climb to greater heights of neoconism/neoliberalism/militarization/privatization/Banksterism. Had we had eight years of change, Trump not only would have lost, but if somehow he had won, would have much less structural apparatus to work with and the mindsets/philosophy that fuels them.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Why is there such focus on Obama? Trump has been President for over a year now. He has continued, if not escalated (by many reports), the frequency of both drone strikes and civilian deaths.

          Because the Democrat Party needs to get over Obama if it is to serve its (putative) base, i.e., move beyond the professional class dominance described so well by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!

    3. Annotherone

      Good on whoever created this – this one is the stone cold truth! Flowers? Shakespeare: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” (Sonnet 94 )

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Nice Shakespearean quote.

        Pretty things smelingl far worse past expiration dates…perhaps poetic justice.

        But what deeds did they commit that should sour them so? Being adored by many humans? That they did not do on their own, though.

        1. Annotherone

          I expected more of him – naive, I guess. On inauguration day 2009 I could never have imagined him embracing the use of drones so easily. That was where the festering began, for me.
          (First reply disappeared)

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            After Obama-the-Constitutional-Lawyer flip-flopped on FISA reform and voted to give retroactive immunity to the telcos for Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance in July 2008 , after promising to filibuster it in January 2008, I knew what I was dealing with. Too bad.

  4. djrichard

    “But I didn’t know how to get other people to recognize the validity of my identity.”

    I understand there’s a market for identity. You just have to figure out where your identity has value. It helps if you can help them connect the dots on how your identity will help them increase revenue or decrease cost.

    1. djrichard

      OK, I have to admit my knee-jerk reaction wasn’t fair to the article. In general I’m against the idea of finding validation of identity through other people. But when reading the article, it’s clear her identity came about in “coming out”. So full props to her.

      It’s also clear that she got to experience the lows of the marketplace and is now getting to experience the highs of the marketplace. But more than that, she does seem to have found a way to be at grace with the world. Good luck to her.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m glad Preston is running for office and kudos to her.

        My concern is more with Teen Vogue than Preston.

        First, there’s no mention whatever of Preston’s platform. (I mean, we got over the notion that there’s a direct line between ascriptive identity and political views with Obama, right?) Second, Teen Vogue quotes Preston:

        I didn’t know how to get other people to recognize the validity of my identity.

        and combines that with the headline:

        I Went From Experiencing Homelessness to Running for Office

        I end up with the idea, which I don’t much like, that one should run for office to affirm one’s identity (which seems hardly as democratic a view as the view that one should run for office to serve one’s constituents, for example).

        1. djrichard

          Yea, I figured that was what was going through your head too. Leave it to editors to get the editor’s message across more so than the message that the person being interviewed wants to communicate.

          And admittedly, by running for government, it suggests that she wants to make it so nobody else has to go through what she did. Which is admirable. But it would also mean that anybody who is transgressive in the way she was would no longer need to “come out”. Which means that their identity no longer comes from themselves; rather their identity would be validated by an institution; they get to join the club with the rest of us who-would-be-irredeemable-but-for-the-grace-of-institutional-authority. Yay! Right?

          That said, it’s also a different kind of redemption compared to how we redeem ourselves in the labor marketplace. In the labor marketplace, we redeem ourselves by increasing revenues or lowering cost. So maybe being redeemed by government institution at least provides some relief compared trying to do the same in the labor marketplace? Or maybe, and this is where I’m treading into crazy territory, maybe we don’t even try to redeem ourselves in the labor marketplace. But if we give up on that, maybe we should be giving up on redemption by institutional authority as well. Have to give this more thought.

          1. JTFaraday

            No, if you have “an identity” that is that stigmatized/ discriminated against by society, you need to be sufficiently accepted by society BEFORE you can redeem yourself in the marketplace, just as everyone else is obligated to do. It’s a double burden.

            This is not a difficult concept. Some on the so-called “left” seem to want to make it “difficult,” and I say over and over again, this is not the right thing to do, ethically or strategically. Nor does it make sense intellectually. I can’t twist my brain into knots for you.

            If we want to relieve ourselves of the necessity of redeeming ourselves through obligatory labor, that’s a different argument. Honestly, if it’s necessary to labor there’s only so much difference between doing it in a so-called “market” and doing it in some other structure of authority.

            We can get into those questions, but those questions don’t alter the question of people who are stigmatized and excluded and/or abused by society and its structures of authority.

            And if “the left” is pissed that capitalism is absorbing these people and using them to make itself look good and it’s working for them, then we see this “left’s” mistake.

  5. shinola

    The Adolph Reed article “Black Politics after 2016” is very good (although rather long & dense). If you have some time, it’s definitely worth a read. One of the (many) nuggets in the article:

    “The contention that working-class disaffection from Clintonite neoliberalism most of all expresses backlash against blacks and others is an argument, as Clinton’s snide dismissal of Sanders indicates, that economic inequality is not a central concern for blacks, women, immigrants, LGBT or transgender people. A year into the Trump presidency and unimpeded Republican control of Congress and of most state governments has confirmed what many on the left have known all along, that the right’s agenda is an all-out attack on working people, no matter what their racial and gender classifications and identities or sexual orientations.”

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘A year into the Trump presidency and unimpeded Republican control of Congress and of most state governments has confirmed … that the right’s agenda is an all-out attack on working people.’

      Nothing scourges working folks like rising inflation. Trifecta partisan control of the presidency and Congress is a recipe for untrammeled fiscal stimulus and inflation. ‘Guns and butter’ was a disaster under Lyndon Johnson with across-the-board D party rule, and is shaping up much the same under R party misrule.

      We fiscal curmudgeons yearn for a Democratic majority in the House come November — not because of any affinity for the D party platform, but rather because partisan gridlock tends to restrain grand new government gestures.

      Thirteen shambolic months of R party flakery have burnt down our childrens’ future with the certainty of $30 trillion in federal debt by the end of an eight-year Trump regime. Hear me roar …

      1. giantsquid

        During the ‘guns & butter’ years of Kennedy and Johnson, the cumulative US debt increased by 21% (about 6.8% during Kennedy’s shortened term and 10.6% during Johnson’s five plus years). During Reagan’s reign of guns & tax cuts, the debt increased by 187%, and that during a time of divided government. The debt was also up during the Obama years by over 95%. So I’m not sure divided government is a cure all for what ails us. In fact, the US debt decreased during each of the 10 years preceding the Great Depression. In any case, the ‘guns’ spending is likely to continue, divided government or no, and another tax giveaway is already baked into the pie.

      2. Synoia

        that the right’s agenda is an all-out attack on working people

        Nonsense. The D’s just do it differently.

      3. John k

        Inflation comes from shortages, including engineers during 60’s moonshot and Vietnam. Those were fading when oil began the 4x jump in the 70’s.
        Inflation not a problem when gov prints to employ an army of unemployed, as we have now.

      4. Jonhoops

        Jim Haygood, you’ve got that backwards. Inflation is of little concern to the working man if his wages rise at the same pace as the cost of goods.

        Inflation is a big concern for the rentier classes and bankers who see the value of their investments and loan portfolios being whittled away.

        This why the Fed (tool of the bankers) is always concerned about fighting inflation even when in the middle of a deflationary financial crisis.

    1. rd

      This is why the police need tanks…to assault our schools to take out the shooters holed up in them.

      I seem to think there is something wrong with that picture, but am struggling to figure out what it is……it is becoming normal for schools to become re-enactments of the shootout at the OK Corral. every day seems to be High Noon.

      1. fajensen

        I seem to think there is something wrong with that picture, but am struggling to figure out what it is

        It’s the “Only In America” aspect of tragedy – School shootings simply doesn’t happen anywhere else at this rate, not even in those crazy places like, for example, Venezuela, Paraguay and Iraq. The police don’t need tanks, APCs and a 24/7 SWAT team in any po-dunk town anywhere else BUT in America.

        The subversive question becomes: “Why Only In America!?”

        Something in the water, perhaps? American Culture? A straight-up, obvious to everyone, ranting nutter can get guns and/or become a trusted advisor to several presidents? In the latter case, crazy seems to be a qualification.

    2. Christopher

      As someone in Australia looking at all the deaths from guns, I see all the people come out ‘what a tragedy’ etc.

      Nothing changes, so expect more of it. I’ve stopped trying to influence the debate. If enough of you say enough, things might move forward, but that doesn’t happen, people just go out and buy guns. That’ll fix it

  6. JTMcPhee

    Brazilian drug dealer protects market base by vaccinating mopes to keep them alive to continue buying.

    Too bad the Elite Capitalists don’t see the wisdom in this model.

    (I’m sure the young man had a more charitable notion in mind, though. Altruism take many forms indeed.)

    1. ambrit

      This is what happens when the central government puts the interests of the wealthy of their nation ahead of the general good. It’s not just a Brazllian thing. It happens in many places with weak central authorities. It can, and probably will happen here.

      1. JTMcPhee

        It does, and did. Al Capone and New York mobsters were public benefactors in their way and to their tribe. Kiss the Godfather’s Ring, and all that.

  7. Jim Haygood

    Juggernaut Amazon set a fresh record closing high of 1451.05, besting its Jan 31st high water mark by 16 ticks.

    Everybody back in the pool …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      When Amazon announces its expansion to Mars, the value of the company will go to the Moon.

      But I think if the expansion is to the Moon, the value will go to Mars. This latter is probably more valuable…Mars is higher, or further away.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        There is no joy for taxpayers in other cities to see a corporation take advantage of a not-so-smart mayor.

        The way it is now is a feature, though it doesn’t have to be that the weakest link is immediately a victim.

      2. Jim Haygood

        Dean Bonkers should know better than to type “baited breath.” And his description of Toronto as a “non-American city” will rankle some residents of Canada and Mexico who rightly view themselves as fellow denizens of the North American continent.

        But Dean’s quite right that the edifice complex ultimately will take down both Amazon and its municipal victim, just as the completion of Apple’s egregious silver spaceship marked its transition to a deadly dull market performer.

        To paraphrase Martin Amis, who claims that British tennis ace Tim Henman is “the first human being called Tim to achieve anything at all”:

        “Consider the essential unlikelihood of Tim Sawyer, Uncle Tim’s Cabin, Tim Brown’s School Days or Tim Cook’s blowout quarter.”

        1. cnchal

          . . . And his description of Toronto as a “non-American city”

          Toronto is relatively clean and safe. That’s as non-American as you can get.

    1. integer

      Those online poll numbers seem highly unlikely to be representative of the Russian population as a whole. As Putin is almost certain to remain in power, many groups that don’t have Russia’s best interests at heart will already be looking at ways in which they can cast aspersions on the integrity of the upcoming Russian elections. One fairly obvious tactic is to use gamed online polls as “evidence” that the election results do not represent the will of the people and are therefore illegitimate. FWIW Israel Shamir, the author of that article, has displayed what I would describe as a remarkable level of ignorance regarding the level of political influence AIPAC has on US senators, especially given the websites his work appears at, and that Israel (the nation) is a favorite topic of his. For this reason I remain fairly skeptical of his writing.

      1. Carolinian

        In the article he doesn’t endorse the online polls. He’s saying support for this challenger is a big unknown.

  8. Paul Cardan

    The Lazzarato interview is interesting. Thanks. I think he’s right that “workers have not yet created forms of struggle and resistance specifically aimed at the issue of indebtedness” (1044). I find myself wondering what Greeks are supposed to do. Forms of resistance that make sense as a worker might not make much sense as a citizen of an insolvent politically organized community.

    But, speaking of things that make sense (or don’t), what does this mean?

    According to [Nietzsche], the establishment of the creditor–debtor relation necessitates specifically adequate forms of subject and subjectivity. Since debt as such constitutes a promise – a promise of future reimbursement – it thus necessarily requires the construction of a subject able to promise . . . As the creditor–debtor relationship rests on a promise of future reimbursement, Nietzsche suggests that debt faces temporal indeterminacy and unpredictability. In his view, the construction of the subject and of memory becomes a way to anticipate and even to hinder subjectivity, hence this idea of a requirement for ‘the debtor to stand as self-guarantor’ (1042)

    Debt is tied to promising. One way to promise is to say “I promise,” and someone who does this meaningfully is able to explain how the phrase is used (perhaps by example), distinguish proper from improper uses, and justify or criticize examples of it’s use. They should also understand that in saying those words they’ve opened themselves up to a distinct kind of criticism (having to do with what’s promised), and this implies the ability to distinguish keeping from breaking, as well as the ability to distinguish proper from improper excuses. People are trained up so as to be able to do these things. True enough, if we humans weren’t the “products” of natural history that we are, we couldn’t be trained in just these ways and there’d be no promising. True enough, if none of us could remember more than whatever transpired in the previous thirty seconds, promising would be pointless. Is this what Lazzarato means when he says that the creditor-debtor relation necessitates adequate forms of the subject? If so, that’s trivial. Or is he making some other, really exciting claim? Does he mean that human beings have been made to be trainable and made to remember in order to facilitate the creditor-debtor relationship? If so, that’s a meaningful claim, and plainly false.

    1. Synoia

      1. Debtors need a movement, and organization.
      2. Debtors need solidarity, Enforced solidarity, because step 4 will be brutal, and there will be deaths.
      3. They make demands
      4. They have a payment strike.
      5. They form crowds to protect their own from evictions and collections.
      6. They will be called criminals.
      6. Then the police attack. The response must be passive.

      It’s just like union organizing.

      Ghandi was correct.

      1. Darthbobber

        Presumably we nominate the United States government to lead this strike, as the largest debtor? Or it’s current president, the self-described “King of debt”?

    2. Darthbobber

      The article is a fairly good example of dressing commonplaces up in opaque jargon and selling their implications as more than they could be.

      Of course, ANY obligations that persist over time involve an element of indeterminacy. How could they not? Marriages. Building a factory in a place optimized for how things are now. Making a thing today you hope to sell tomorrow.

      As Marx (and others) mentioned long ago, this would create no issues if the world were created anew every day.

      Dragging Nietzsche into it by way of Deleuze adds nothing to our understanding of any of this.

      1. cat's paw

        Yeah, it does. TBF, I only skimmed the interview, but what N brings to the discussion is deep, nigh metaphysical, psychological insight into the historico-development of debt, indebtedness, shame, guilt, and bad conscience as actually existing effects of socio-political forces.

        Marx wouldn’t have recognized a real psychological insight if it sashayed up and slapped him in the face. Marx gives you the “outside” of the process. Nietzsche gives you the “inside.”

        1. cat's paw

          Yes, for example, this is precisely what Foucault found in Nietzsche after having been a more or less doctrinaire French communist in the 50’s.

          “Genealogy of Morals” uncovers the processes whereby simple, even superficial, political and economic relationships, arrangements, designations, ranks, and types acquire “meaning,” become metaphysical and True– and it does it from the inside in a phenomenological and psychological way. It shows how political and “temporal” power becomes spiritual and “eternal” power.

          The unpayable debt of the sinner, the dark and constant suspicion that haunts him, makes him weak and subject, coloring everything he is and does…. is structurally equivalent to the debt of a poor single mother with payday loans she can’t repay– or the debt that the Troika insists Greece must restructure its internal socio-political arrangements for.

    3. VietnamVet

      The fundamental problem from 2008 that hasn’t been solved is the bad debt that can’t be paid off; including student loans which keeps growing, passing $1.2 trillion dollars. This has been papered over with the Fed’s virtual money that the banker oligarchs horde. But, the ledgers fester. The Trump Administration is quite clear. Cut off money going to low-lifes. In other words, as a former Casino owner might say, milk the suckers dry. The problem is in a morbid consumer economy; money, bets and derivatives are also worthless. The only churn is from war and looting. Ultimately, self-destructive. The safe way to infuse more cash into the real economy is a debt jubilee. If not, in the atomic age, wiping out the Empire and its debt, like in the past, risks taking the earth along with it.

    4. JTFaraday

      “Does he mean that human beings have been made to be trainable and made to remember in order to facilitate the creditor-debtor relationship? If so, that’s a meaningful claim, and plainly false.”

      Parents and other adults engage in creditor-debtor relationships with small children all the time, and this is very much both the substance or definition of “socialization” and the purpose of socialization and the means by which socialization happens. Before you can teach the child his ABCs you have to teach the child that he is obligated to pay attention. Disguising this as “play” doesn’t really alter it.

  9. ambrit

    As someone who has availed himself of Home Depots hiring process, well, I’m here to tell you that it is an exercise in worker suppression, to be charitable. Basically, one applies for a position online. The first problem is that you are not applying to work at Home Depot. No. You must apply for an individual job. So, multiple applications have to be offered. Second, and most pernicious is that you get a boilerplate acknowledgement e-mail. “Thank you for applying!” Then the ‘Great Silence.’ Never does the applicant get the courtesy of a reply to the effect that; “Sorry! We’re not hiring. Try later.” Just silence. If any process is designed to discourage people, this one is.
    Not to pick on Home Depot. They are bog standard in the ways they handle prospective employees. I’ve seen the same methodology used at other establishments. This rot extends even down to smaller retail establishments, such as a Mom and Pop bicycle store I inquired at. “Fill out an application, and if anything comes up, we’ll call you.”
    “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
    Welcome to Hard Times.
    Walk around any depressed or even semi-depressed neighbourhood in America. Dress a bit like the locals, (ie. don’t stand out.) Listen. Just listen. If some of the major parties stalwarts would do this, go incognito into their districts, they would learn what fear is.

    1. Carolinian

      Perhaps Home Depot management–once headed by uber rightwinger Bernard Marcus–just aren’t people persons. A friend sent me the Ken Loach movie I, Daniel Blake which suggests dismissive attitudes toward the unemployed also are common in the UK.

    2. Summer

      Not unique to retail. That’s the defacto online HR process. Any gaps in the work history? Algorithm throws it out. You don’t get the curtesy of a chance to explain.
      Age is the other big auto expel. That comes from the year you graduated high school or college.
      Then it’s the search for keywords im the resume that match the job description and requirements.
      People need someone on the inside or connections to the inside to get past the algorithm.

      1. ambrit

        Ah! So, this system is an inducement to lie. How neo-liberal! A truly fiendishly clever way to winnow the applicant pool down to ‘ultra ruthless’ employees. The kind that won’t balk at lying to and cheating customers.
        Maybe I should reapply with an “enhanced” resume. Say, I never took any time off to work on our house, and I graduated high school in 2004. There, that should be the ticket!

        1. Anonylisa

          I read about one way to beat the algorithms is to hide information in a font in the header by changing the font color to white. you can put all kinds of keywords and great things in there. also, for gaps in employment, you can fill in the time with something and then make it into tiny white text.

          There are whole tutorials online about how to do this.

  10. Synoia

    UPDATE “Dems: Bill Clinton too toxic to campaign in midterms” [Politico]. “Clinton’s likely absence on the stump this year comes amid major demand for high-profile surrogates this year — from Obama, who’s expected make select appearances, to Joe Biden and the full crop of 2020 prospects, who are likely to be all over the place in the thick of election season. Even Hillary Clinton will do some targeted campaigning.”

    F.. me, said Bill when told of this news.
    No thanks replied the intern.

    Obama, who’s expected make select appearances..
    Yes, at high roller’s functions!

    Joe Biden and the full crop of 2020 prospects.
    Including Bernie?
    And maybe some D’s not in their dotage? or have the squillionaires sucked all the young blood out of the system?

    Even Hillary Clinton will do some targeted campaigning.
    $he certainly will. I’m po$itive $he will pa$$ mo$t of the money to the DNC.

    No mention of a platform. Quelle Surprise.

    Disclaimer: I’m feeling a bit acid today.

  11. Kim Kaufman

    “Dems flip seat in Florida state special election” [MSN].

    Good as far as it goes. Was it another corporate Dem or a more progressive candidate?

  12. Milton

    A Russian “troll tweet” is literally one in a million (200000 ÷ 200000000000). Yep, we’re being inundated with red propaganda.

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    Reading this sequence of tweets I wondered whether the food programs do anything about providing herbs and spices. I’m reasonably certain they don’t.

    I also believe what we eat depends on what we are accustomed to eat.

    I was extremely fortunate to grow up with a grandpa who farmed 2 1/2 acres of Southern California land, with excellent soil, ample fertilizer, and pipe irrigation — growing avocadoes and widely varied fruit and nut trees. He also planted a 1/4+ acre garden. I had a mom who compelled me to eat and ‘LIKE’ whatever she plopped on my plate and a grandma powerfully touched by the privations of the Great Depression [she cleared out the last little bit of egg with her finger and used every tiny bit of food that was still good — all the little stuff off chicken carcasses and the ‘rest’ of spoiled fruit (which I tasted and often found to be the best parts to my surprise) the good parts of spoiled cheese and bread]. And to top things off my dad,in particular, had a taste for herbs and spices and used them amply in the dinners he cooked. Both my parents took us to foreign restaurants to try different cuisines and later replicated them as well as they could at home.

    I doubt many of our poor shared my advantages growing up. Given the ways things have gone, is it any wonder that someone on SNAP might prefer sweet drinks, processed food, and non “healthy” foods? Ignoring the time some “healthy” meals take to prepare and the little time the poor are left for such luxuries — who can cast the first stone to condemn them for their eating habits? Add to that the lack of concern or remedy for the taste of the “healthy” foods they can prepare and I cannot in good conscience fault the eating habits of the poor or the merely middle-class who all too closely follow the poor in poor eating habits — and obesity.

    As for food deserts and fresh foods — I live in an area with farms all around. In my state 5 contiguous acres and sufficient profit results in taxes assessed at the “productivity value” of the land — “Gross sales of products from the land must average at least $1,000 per year for the first 5 acres”. Instead of a variety of farms and farm products I’m surrounded by farms that grow field corn and soy beans [industrial farming using farm equipment and little labor], farmed by share-croppers and land-use lessors edged or centered by McMansions where the land owners live, hoping to see a further profits in the future on their land holdings while paying far less state taxes than nearby “middle-class” homeowners — unable to afford the extra acreage which might lower their taxes — pay. Is it any wonder that many of the local farmer’s markets end up trucking in their produce from the outside into an area idea for garden farms and ‘truck’ farms?

    All told — we are a very very poor country. And the ongoing efforts collapsing the tiny safety net — broad mesh sieve — holey net for few and fewer — makes us an extremely poor country.

    So, what of herbs and spices with more ample and varied foods for our poor? Is there any food preparation training on offer along with food kits including spices and suggested recipes? I have the unhappy impression that food it handed out with any regard for how it might be used to make DECENT meals for those of humankind regardless of their financial situation.

    1. Ed Miller

      I see Twinkies (or similar) in every food box. “Let them eat cake” seems to good for the plebs on SNAP. /sarc

      How this doesn’t improve the market for diabetes medicines and treatments I can’t imagine. The problem I see in this world is where to hide from finance weasels. Ugh!

  14. Summer


    ‘Declaration of war’: liberals divided as California mulls housing push

    Tick Tock. Maybe another reason the Dems are focusing on suburbs because of the impending dispersal of urban base? They have no intention of turning the tide.

    yes, they could lose the cities too…

  15. Jim Haygood

    Snowpack is way below normal in the entire Colorado River basin, except for an area in west central Wyoming at the northern end of the Colorado’s watershed. Map:


    Some snow has fallen in Flagstaff (elev 7,000 ft) this week, but it won’t be enough to bring a 16% of normal snowpack up to snuff. Normally snow-capped Humphreys Peak (elev 12,633 ft) has been bare all winter.

  16. edmondo

    Austin Frerick @AustinFrerick

    Pharma’s greed has no limits. I’m running to put limits on them.

    I know Austin Frerick won’t win the nomination for his Congressional seat (Our Revolution has endorsed a Bernie delegate not Frerick.)

    But is there any way I can convince him to relocate to my area instead? it would be sooooo encouraging to actually vote for someone for a change instead of choosing between Republican and Republican-lite.

  17. Tom Stone

    I went to today’s Broker’s meeting in Sebastopol where a local loan broker named George Elliot spoke about the CFPB’s recent decisions and direction.
    “It’s a green light for fraud , I’m getting daily calls and emails soliciting No-Doc Arms with 20% down.
    We’ve been down this road, let’s not go down it again!”
    That’s the gist of what he said, and he’s right.
    “Perfect for Flippers!”
    “No one has ever gone broke…”

  18. Patrick Donnelly

    Sadly, an apparently genuine shooting at a HS in Florida.

    Excluding a child is not a solution in a country that loves massacres and needs news to crowd out the continuing theft from the middle classes.

    When disturbed children are noticed, then there must be intervention?

  19. The Rev Kev

    Re the Blue Apron style food box.This is so bad on so many levels that I won’t go into it here. What I would like to mention is something different to do with boxes and it is this.
    For about 80 years the Finnish government has been giving new mothers (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22751415) boxes containing a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys and the box itself becomes a handy bed. Whole generations of Finns have slept in these boxes as babies giving Finland the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. For those interested, here is their website-

    Now THAT is how you help people using boxes.

  20. allan

    Report on Monday: 20-30 White House staffers awaiting security clearances.

    Report on Wednesday: More than 130 White House staffers awaiting security clearances:

    Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances

    More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.

    Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance. … It is unclear whether some employees have had their clearance levels changed since mid-November. …

    Of course, it’s possible that 100 clearances have come through since November.
    It’s also possible that $200 billion of infrastructure spending will be PPP’d into $1.5 trillion.

  21. Procopius

    I don’t quite understand why Trump is supposed to designate one agency to be “in charge” of the effort to defend against Russian “interference.” Each one of those guys have their own specific duty, and if they can’t do their job until the President* tells them to then they need to find a different line of work. Most of them have nothing to do with it anyway. Certainly the CIA DOES NOT have any business meddling in any activity in the United States. The Patriot Act may have weakened the prohibition, but they are not supposed to conduct ANY operation in the the U.S. Basically the FBI and NSA should cooperate and intervene if foreign operatives (like employees of AIPAC) commit crimes. The speech of foreigners who happen to be present in the U.S. is supposed to be as protected by the First Amendment as that of citizens. OK, OK, I know it’s just tribal signalling and I don’t want to be a member of that tribe.

  22. Procopius

    And yet, the current rhetoric around work requirements for Medicaid, and “welfare reform” in general, seems designed to ramp up stigma and discourage people from seeking help.

    Well, duh.

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