2:00PM Water Cooler 2/2/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I got a late start on Water Cooler today, and will be back with more in a bit. However, I think there’s already plenty to discuss…. –lambert UPDATE 3:36PM All done!


UPDATE “I Spent Two Years On China’s Belt And Road, And This Is What I Found” [Forbes]. “After spending two years visiting “Silk Road” projects I can conclude that for all the pomp and soft power, formal BRI developments are a rare sight on the ground — can we count pre-2013 projects? Can we count projects started by other countries but funded by Beijing? Can we count as-yet-unrequited MOUs?…. [T]his is a fully multinational endeavor with a much longer history than is often credited to it. When we talk about the New Silk Road we are talking about an array of interconnected and interdependent trade routes and infrastructure and economic development projects, not a singular initiative cooked up in some back room on Tiananmen Square…. [And while] the [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)] is so far a successful example of China working in productive collaboration with an array of international players, many of the country’s other large-scale off-shore infrastructure projects have been all-out developmental quagmires, to put it mildly.”



Nice numbers:

Following immediately on the 1.6 million views for Sanders’ dynamic town hall on the details of Canadian single payer, with actual Canadians.


UPDATE “Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – January 2018: The Public’s Priorities and Next Steps for the Affordable Care Act” [Kaiser Health News]. “Health care is at the top of a group of issues that voters want 2018 midterm candidates to talk about, but it’s a much higher priority for Democratic voters (39 percent) and independent voters (32 percent) than Republican voters (13 percent); and a lower priority than other issues among voters living in areas where there are competitive 2018 House, Senate, or Governor races.”

UPDATE Pennsylvania: “Silence makers: Why did Pa. Democratic Party go MIA on sex harassment? [Will Bunch, Philadelphia Daliy News]. “The party has done nothing about two lawmakers — Leach and state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone — who stand accused of misconduct and still plan to be on the ballot as Democrats in 2018, while it’s also dithered on a sexual-harassment policy that was promised a year and a half ago.”

UPDATE Pennsylvania: “Groen Resigns As Pa. Dems Chair” [Politics PA]. “‘I accept full responsibility for comments attributed to me in an article printed several days ago in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Will Bunch. Some of my comments were taken out of context and some were inaccurate. They were certainly in artful and in hindsight were not offered with the level of clarity I would have liked,’ Groen said.”

UPDATE Ohio: “Non-endorsement for local state senator illustrates Cuyahoga County Democratic Party’s continued divisions” [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]. “State Sen. Kenny Yuko fell just one vote short of getting an endorsement in a county party meeting late last month. His primary opponent, State Rep. John Barnes, didn’t get the endorsement, but managed to pull just enough support to keep Yuko from reaching the 60 percent threshold Yuko needed. The move surprised political observers not only in Cuyahoga County, but in Columbus too. Yuko, a former union organizer, is popular with progressive activists, and recently was chosen as the top Democrat in the Ohio Senate. Like other top Democratic elected officials, a picture of Yuko hangs at Ohio Democratic Party headquarters. Barnes, in contrast, is not well-regarded by statewide Democrats, and occasionally has voted with Republicans on key issues.”

UPDATE “Democrats Anonymously Target Muslim Candidate, Questioning His Eligibility to Run for Michigan Governor” [The Intercept]. “‘While we knew the attacks were coming, we didn’t think they would come in the form of insider Democrats using Trump’s ‘birther’ tactics,” the [Abdul El-Sayed] campaign said in a statement.” Come to think of it, the “insider Democrats” didn’t think much of another “progressive” Muslim: Keith Ellison. Odd.

UPDATE “2018 House Open Seats” [Cook Political Report]. Handy table.

UPDATE “[I]f you look at national support for the tax legislation, you will see that it lines up almost exactly with voters’ overall perception of the president” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “In other words, if you like the president, you like the tax reform legislation. If you don’t like Trump, you either don’t like the bill or you are undecided about it. It is a reminder that whatever the president touches carries his polarizing brand. Even as voters are overwhelmingly positive about the economy, it doesn’t translate to their opinions of the president or the tax law.”


UPDATE “DNC exaggerated how much it spent to defeat Roy Moore” [McClatchy]. “After Jones defeated Republican and accused pedophile Roy Moore, the DNC said it had quietly spent $1 million constructing a voter-outreach effort for the Democrat, including an extensive campaign of text messages, phone calls, and door-knockers. Now, faced with documentation that questions the claim, DNC officials say the committee spent only $250,000 of its own money on the race, cash that funded more than two dozen staffers on the ground in the state who, among other things, conducted extensive outreach to African-American voters. The rest – nearly three-quarters of the total funds originally claimed – was not a direct injection of DNC money but instead cash the DNC raised on behalf of Jones through email solicitations. Counting that kind of assistance as funds spent is unusual, according to Democrats familiar with campaign fundraising; political groups typically make clear distinctions between the money they raise for a candidate and the money they spend backing a candidate.”

2016 Post Mortem

“Hillary Clinton Just Can’t Say Sorry” [The Daily Beast].

UPDATE “What Juanita Broaddrick Wants You to Know” [Katie Halper, New York Magazine]. The part most relevant to electoral politics: “Hillary Clinton’s actions of protecting her male staffer [Burns Strider] accused of sexually harassing a young female staffer did not surprise me. Hillary’s relationship with this man as a faith adviser was important to her personally. Therefore, the young woman’s degrading assaults took a back seat to Hillary’s own needs. Just because Hillary is a woman does not automatically translate her championing other women, especially if it does not fit her agenda.”

Obama Legacy

“Michelle Obama on divisiveness and fear: ‘Forget what they’re saying in Washington'” (interview with Ellen DeGeneres) [WaPo]. In answer to this question from DeGeneres: “I personally feel frightened. What is your take on what’s happening?”

New Cold War

The Nunes Memo (“the memo”) is released (and not, sadly, read into the Congressional Record as The Hill suggested this morning, but declassified by Trump. Here is a PDF, which starts with a letter from teh White House Counsel justifying the declassification. The key paragraphs, at least for this hot take:

(Caveat that we don’t have any backup evidence for this.) Nunes also writes: “The FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the application. … However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.” So, Obama’s Justice Department managed to get the FISA Court to sign off on the same oppo that Steele and Fusion couldn’t manage to peddle to Jebbie? Without telling the Court it was oppo? Impressive.

Realignment and Legitimacy


“How Can Democrats Connect ‘Identity Politics’ to Economics?” [Rebecca Traiser, New York Magazine]. I sat down with [Roosevelt Institute head] Felicia Wong, along with Institute fellows Dorian Warren and Andrea Flynn:

FLYNN: I want to talk about wealth. We talk about income as sort of the problem solver. But actually you can equalize incomes, you can equalize education, and that actually won’t get you to equalizing wealth. The ability of families to pass wealth down from one generation to another has driven these massive economic inequities. So even if you’re making more money, if you don’t have any wealth, you can’t capitalize on that income as much as you might be able to. You might not be able to start a business, might not be able to invest in education. It requires savings and a cushion to do this.

UPDATE Concrete material benefits:

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, January 2018: “A very solid employment report for January, one however tinged with a hint of weakness, is led by a 200,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls. This is 25,000 above Econoday’s consensus and near the high estimate” [Econoday]. “The fall in the workweek could be the first tangible confirmation of what the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book has been warning, that lack of available workers is holding down the expansion. But the gains in average hourly earnings are clear and certainly underscore the FOMC’s language that points to improvement in inflation and rising interest rates this year…. Note that today’s report includes routine benchmark revisions to the establishment survey.” But: “The household and establishment surveys could not be compared this month – according to the BLS “December – January changes in household data are not shown due to the introduction of updated population controls”. This was a confusing report so I will pass on making any other comments” [Econintersect]. And: “Overall this was a strong report, with a nice pickup in wage growth” [Econintersect]. “I don’t expect a downturn for employment any time soon (unlike in 2007 when I was forecasting a recession).”

Employment Situation: “The Jobs Numbers: Who’s Hiring in America—and Who’s Not” (charts) [Bloomberg]. Handy interactive graphic on jobs by industrial sector.

UPDATE Employment Situation: “Making Sense of the Jobs Report: It’s Not Always Easy” [New York Times]. “For one thing, it’s really two reports stitched together. One, based on a survey of employers, provides information on jobs: how many were created (or eliminated) the previous month and how much those jobs pay. The other, based on a survey of households, focuses on individuals: how many are working or not working, along with information on their age, race, education and other characteristics. Over the long run, the two surveys tend to tell pretty much the same story. Both, for example, show that the labor market has experienced a slow but remarkably long-lasting recovery over the past eight years. But in any given month, the two sources can diverge, sometimes significantly.”

Consumer Sentiment, January 2018 (final): “Consumer sentiment has shot higher the last 2 weeks” [Econoday]. ” strength is in future expectations which nevertheless leaves this component at a year-on-year decline of 4.4 percent. The component for current conditions fell in the month which is a reminder of yesterday’s weakness in unit auto sales and which is also not positive for the January retail sales report…. Though more subdued than other consumer readings, the late-month bounce in today’s sentiment report, despite the hint of weakness for January spending, echoes the strength of this morning’s jobs report.” And: “To put today’s report into the larger historical context since its beginning in 1978, consumer sentiment is 11.6 percent above the average reading (arithmetic mean) and 12.9 percent above the geometric mean. The current index level is at the 80th percentile of the 481 monthly data points in this series” [Econintersect].

Factory Orders, December 2017: “Downward revisions to capital goods shipments offset to a degree the strong 1.7 percent headline gain for December factory orders. Shipments of nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, which will be inputs into the second estimate for fourth-quarter GDP, are revised 2 tenths lower in December” [Econoday]. “Orders on the durables side are led once again by civilian aircraft but also include good showings for vehicles, primary metals, fabrications, and machinery. But orders for core capital goods, like shipments, are revised lower… Nevertheless, today’s report is consistent with a factory sector that, despite mixed signals like the capital goods data or the dip in manufacturing hours in this morning’s employment report, is probably accelerating into the new year.” And: “According to the seasonally adjusted data, it was aircraft which accounted for much of the increase. The data in this series is noisy so I would rely on the unadjusted 3 month rolling averages which improved” [Econintersect].

GDP: “The U.S. economy is on track to grow at a 5.4 percent annualized rate in the first quarter following the latest data on manufacturing and construction spending, the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow forecast model showed on Thursday” [Reuters].

Retail: “Amazon is tightening its ‘iron grip’ online” [Business Insider]. “A revised estimate by GBH Insights pegs the company at capturing 47% of all online commerce for the most recent holiday season. In a note to investors, GBH Insights analyst Daniel Ives wrote that this proves that Amazon has an ‘iron grip’ on online spending that will only strengthen as 2018 continues. That grip is boosted by the ‘unmatched consumer fortress’ Amazon has built with its Prime membership, according to Ives. Amazon does not disclose how many members it has signed up for Prime, but GBH estimates it could be as many as 90 million…. During its earnings call Thursday, Amazon said it would continue to add membership benefits and work on getting Prime to be the rewards program for Whole Foods, which is set to roll out later this year.”

Retail: “What Drew Amazon and Alibaba to Bricks-and-Mortar: Q&A” [Bloomberg]. “The world’s online shopping giants are following smaller web retailers into what might appear to be the merchandising past. Amazon, Alibaba and most recently Alibaba’s rival, JD.com, are operating brick-and-mortar stores, joining companies such as the formerly web-only Warby Parker, Athleta and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. Even Tencent, the Chinese games and social media giant, is doing deals in retail. These companies are part of a new “bricks and clicks” trend blurring the division between online and in-person sales. Traditional store-based retailers are joining in by elevating their web game.”

Retail: “Telling sign at the local McDonalds” [GP via email]:

GP comments: “If consumers preferred the computer kiosks over human cashiers McDonalds management would not have to offer inducements to use them. And by the way – I ordered at the kiosk and no cookie was forthcoming.”

The Bezzle: “A Bitcoin Conference Rented a Miami Strip Club—and Regretted It” [Bloomberg]. “‘We’re a bunch of dudes with a lot of money in our 20s. We like naked girls,’ said Jeff Scott, a cryptocurrency trader from New York. He got a table for 12 with a hedge fund analyst and the heads of two startups, and said the evening wasn’t much different than his typical night in a strip club. ‘If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but you’re not going to expect us to change.'”

The Bezzle: “I haven’t followed Elon Musk’s flamethrower-selling stunt closely, but I gather that the gist of it is that he got some flamethrowers, peddled them on the internet for $500 each, and will use the money to fund the operations of The Boring Company, the company he started to (1) drill tunnels or something and (2) conduct hilarious pranks. And it worked: “Elon Musk Stops Taking Flamethrower Orders After $10 Million in Sales,” congrats everyone. The Boring Company is not a public company, so I do not expect to follow up in six months with a story about a securities fraud investigation over its failure to disclose to investors that the flamethrowers could light people on fire” [Bloomberg].

UPDATE The Bezzle: “Sometimes companies need chief executives who are visionary geniuses. Sometimes more mundane skills are required. Tesla’s plan to hand Elon Musk as much as $60 billion in stock over 10 years shows the electric-car maker is confused about what sort of boss is appropriate” [Reuters]. “[F]or Musk to reach his lucrative milestones Tesla has to become the opposite of a startup. To collect the incentive scheme’s last 1 percent of the shares, the company must reach about the same size and achieve roughly the same level of profitability as General Motors, currently the most successful U.S. car company. That’s a real stretch.”

UPDATE The Bezzle: “Check-in time at Airbnb just got postponed. The home-rental app ruled out doing an initial public offering in 2018 after its finance chief abruptly quit. With positive cash flows, boss Brian Chesky doesn’t need to rush. And naming a chief operating officer shows Airbnb has learned from some of its Silicon Valley peers’ mistakes” [Reuters]. “Meanwhile new operations head Belinda Johnson steps up at a good moment. That role, held by Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, for example, is crucial for companies that must deal with regulators and governments. Johnson has already honed her skills on such matters as head of business and legal affairs. After initially suing authorities in San Francisco and New York, the company dropped its pugnacious approach and has begun working with cities to ensure its renters aren’t exacerbating housing shortages or flouting laws. In short, Airbnb is growing up without being dragged up. By contrast, car-hailing counterpart Uber only just hired its first chief operating officer, and did so after abundant regulatory and cultural issues.”

UPDATE The Bezzle: “Berlin regulates Airbnb and safely deflates its housing bubble while returning 8,000 rentals to the market” [Boing Boing]. “The rules were created in 2014, with a two-year grace period. They banned whole-home rentals outright, but preserved limited rights to rent out rooms within homes on a short-term basis. This is one of Airbnb’s touted advantages — the ability to stay with locals in their homes — but the majority of Airbnb rentals were for whole-homes….. The Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing has published a report on the effect of the measure’s first year, and found that it returned 8,000 units to the city’s long-term rental market. More than half of those units had not been used for short-term rentals, but had been left empty, presumably in anticipation of flipping them as property rates rose, due, in part, to the supernormal rental returns Airbnb offers to homeowners.”

Tech: “Expanding the borders into hell: Can a new crop of female and minority founded venture funds rescue us from the ‘hoodie kings’?” [Pando Daily]. No, by Betteridge’s Law. More: “My journalistic spidey sense tells me that a new wave of startups is sloshing around and forming now. I hope it’s looking at the cost of the toxic cultures like Uber, Zenefits, and SoFi, and saying ‘no thanks, toe-stepping, hard-drinking, bro culture.'” Would Uber be “a good corporate citizen” if “Travis Kalanick” were “Victoria Kalanick”? Dubious, because without a profit model, you’re left with criminality, no?

UPDATE Gentlemen Prefer Bonds: “Daily: The Bond Bear Market, Greenspan Edition” [Credit Writedowns]. “I was watching the former Fed Chairman on Bloomberg yesterday. And even though he refrained from taking a view on how the Fed should be conducting monetary policy right now, I heard him say a number of things that were rather controversial. One was that we risk ‘stagflation’ in the future. The second was that one driving force for the stagflation would be high government deficits. In the end, I got the impression that Greenspan was a bond bear. However, I found his arguments unconvincing and I remain sceptical of the secular bear market thesis.”

UPDATE Gentlemen Prefer Bonds: “Ignore the Doomsday Talk Surrounding Bonds” [Bloomberg]. “The situation looks more benign when you pull back the covers. Yields as measured by the Bloomberg Barclays Corporate Bond Index have risen from 3.05 percent in early September to 3.45 percent currently, which is a smaller increase than seen in Treasuries…. This is telling in two ways. First, it shows the tremendous compression of risk assets to their Treasury benchmarks as demand has kept up for any sort of yield. Second, it shows that the increased costs of corporate borrowing are nowhere near what you might expect if you looked at just the Treasury market. This is notable because it means that not only are borrowing costs less than what you might expect, but that corporate profit margins are not going to be impacted as significantly as many predict.”

Five Horsemen: “Amazon defies this morning’s tech wreck to move higher on earnings news” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Feb 2 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 Greed (previous close: 61, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 77 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 31 at 7:00pm.




“Brr! Six more weeks of winter for US, says furry forecaster” [Agence France Presse].

“Pollen weighs in on a climate conundrum” [Nature]. “Ultimately, we can have confidence in global temperature reconstructions only when they are based on comprehensive, multi-proxy data sets that span the Earth, and in which local and proxy-based noise is dampened. Marsicek and co-workers’ synthesis of North American and European pollen records continues the march in this direction — these data were previously analysed within each continent to produce reconstructions6,7, but they have now been carefully joined together and compared with a model. Further progress could be made through similar efforts to mine data obtained from around the world, much as has been done to refine the hockey-stick reconstructions.”

“The scientist who predicted ice-sheet collapse — 50 years ago” [Nature]. “In a 1978 paper in Nature, Mercer updated his arguments in clear and elegant terms. “A disquieting thought is that if the present highly simplified climatic models are even approximately correct,” he wrote, “this deglaciation may be part of the price that must be paid in order to buy enough time for industrial civilisation to make the changeover from fossil fuels to other sources of energy” (J. H. Mercer Nature 271, 321–325; 1978).”

From The Department of Well, Who Knows?

Then again, I like fat, so this confirms my priors, and if carbohydrates equal grains, Against the Grain has something to say about that….

The 420

“SF will wipe thousands of marijuana convictions off the books” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “San Francisco will retroactively apply California’s marijuana-legalization laws to past criminal cases, District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday — expunging or reducing misdemeanor and felony convictions going back decades…. Rather than leaving it up to individuals to petition the courts — which is time-consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in attorney fees — Gascón said San Francisco prosecutors will review and wipe out convictions en masse.”

Class Warfare

UPDATE: When you hear the word “disruption”…

“Hour of the Furnaces: Imperial Finance and the Colonization of Daily Life” [Viewpoint Magazine]. A bit dense, but this: “While conversations around the relationship between imperialism and finance have been ongoing in Latin America, these connections have been largely missing in discussions of ‘cultures of finance’ in the United States since the financial crisis. What would it mean to recenter our critiques of finance and financialization around an anti-imperialist politics? To begin, we might ask if the so-called ‘financialization of daily life,’ beginning in the early-2000s in the United States, is really something new, or whether, as some have suggested, it signals the further extension of imperial finance within centers of capital accumulation. Here, the logic of the ‘internal colony,’ a term utilized by various activists in the 1960s to describe conditions of colonization in centers of capitalist command and which foregrounded alliances with struggles for national liberation abroad, might be useful to understand how victims of the subprime mortgage crisis, student loan crisis, and numerous other schemes of debt and indenture have been subject to something like the colonization of daily life by finance.” Deaths of despair?

“Warren Buffett & Imperial Economics” [Economics of Imperialism]. “The market power of a monopolist is a wonderful thing – if you are the monopolist. There is rarely only one supplier unchallenged by rivals. But being one of very few suppliers, or having a government contract that guarantees high prices for your product, or using advertising and brand recognition to cement market domination, or building a commercial barrier to limit what competitors can do, or using patents to stall their development, are all means of building a favourable position in the market. These are the kinds of company, big and small, that Berkshire Hathaway seeks.”

News of the Wired

UPDATE “Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech’s Repair Monopoly” [Motherboard]. The trailer:

See Naked Capitalism on the “right to repair” here, here, here, and here (from J-LS).

UPDATE The mysterious East:

There’ll always be an Oz:

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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 (Annie Spratt):

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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.



    For the Bezzle: Jeffrey Loria not sharing profits with county or city from $1.2 billion Marlins sale

    Jeffrey Loria’s lawyers have told Miami-Dade County not to expect any profit-sharing revenue from last year’s $1.2 billion sale of the Miami Marlins, according to documents released Friday.

    The 2008 county agreement that had Miami-Dade fund the bulk of the $515 million government-owned stadium in Little Havana gave Miami-Dade and Miami the right to 5 percent of any profits Loria and partners might reap if they sold the team within 10 years.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      So much for the sanctity of the contract. My favorite paragraph:

      The reason? About $280 million in debt that lowered the profits from the $1.2 billion sale, plus an agreed-to underlying value of the franchise of about $625 million, based on it getting more valuable each year. Add in nearly $300 million in taxes tied to the sale by Loria and partners, and Loria’s accountants claim the sale amounted to a loss of $141 million. Loria also deducted the $30 million fee paid to the financial advisors hired to negotiate the deal.

      Sir, if you say the franchise is unprofitable, then it isn’t worth $625 million. I wonder what politician agreed to this, and if they will be held responsible.

  2. Bill

    Republicans lose their minds–that’s news


    Bates continued said. “We need to really talk about what we’re saying and what we mean. Because words do have power, but the reality is, you can’t infiltrate a system that’s open to the public.”

    The leading Republican candidate for governor perpetuated the conspiracy theories.

    “I think she raises very legitimate issues,” said Jeff Johnson. “I think there’s a huge cultural issue that we’re talking about here, not just showing up at caucus. There are some here who are trying to change what America is. And we can’t allow that.”

    It prompted many to hurl accusations of Muslims attempting to take over the United States and establish “Sharia Law,” however fundamentalist Christians are already on track to introduce their own version.


    A few days after declaring his intention to impose a religious test upon refugees so that Christians would be given priority, President Trump gave a bizarre speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. In between a plug for “The Apprentice” and boasts about his disastrous calls with heads of allied states, he made some less-noticed policy news.

    He vowed to help blur the line between church and state by repealing the Johnson Amendment.

    In a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center, Americans were asked what made someone “truly American.” A third of respondents overall, and 43 percent of Republicans, said you need to be Christian. That would exclude me, as well as about 30 percent of the population.

    The far right has done a lot of fear-mongering about the undue influence that religious fanatics may soon exert on the body politic. Seems they better understood what they were talking about than most of us realized.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The National Prayer Breakfast is an odious spectacle that should be abolished. Sadly, support for it is bipartisan.

      And while we’re on the topic of Muslims in Minnesota:

      Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison lost his bid to become the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Saturday after a scorched-earth smear campaign targeting his religious faith, his affinity for the Nation of Islam in his youth, and his support for Palestinian rights alongside a secure Israel.

      Instead, the majority of the DNC’s voting members chose former labor secretary Tom Perez to lead the party. After two rounds of voting in Atlanta, Perez netted 235 votes to Ellison’s 200.

      Perez was widely perceived as being brought into the race by allies of President Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other members of the party establishment. One of the speakers who introduced his nomination, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, also works as a corporate lobbyist for the D.C.-based Podesta Group. After neither candidate reached a majority of votes in the first round of voting, Harrison was on the floor, whipping votes for Perez.

      Ellison — a black man, a Bernie Sanders supporter, and the first Muslim elected to Congress — earned initial support from many Democrats until a strong backlash from the Obama and Clinton camps and prominent pro-Israeli activists.

      Haim Saban, the entertainment tycoon who is one of the Democratic Party’s largest donors, called Ellison both “anti-Israel” and anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League called on Democrats to reject him. On the eve of the vote, prominent Democrat Alan Dershowitz proclaimed that he would leave the party if Ellison were elected chair; Jack Rosen, who leads the American Jewish Congress, emailed DNC members the day before the vote decrying Ellison’s views on the Middle East, concluding that he threatened the U.S.-Israel relationship.

      Perez, on the other hand, courted pro-Israel activists during the course of the contest.

      Shortly after his victory, Perez offered the newly created position of “deputy chair” to Ellison, which Ellison accepted. This is not an official position in the DNC’s bylaws so it is unclear what this position would entail. It is also unclear whether Ellison will still leave Congress, which he announced he would do if he won the chair position.

      Many prominent Muslim Americans expressed disappointment in Ellison’s defeat, saying that his treatment during the course of the campaign was emblematic of how Muslims fare in public life.

      Sadly, factions in both party establishments seem to have issues in this regard…

    2. UserFriendly

      The GOP in MN’s 4th (which contains all of Saint Paul and some suburbs) PVI D+14 is totally irrelevant, they would be better off going to the DFL caucus. The Somali diaspora is largely centered in the cedar-riverside area of Minneapolis (MN-5, D+26) and to a lesser extent in Saint Cloud (MN-6, Michelle Bachman’s old district. R+12). If they were planning on invading a GOP caucus I would have thought they would aim for the 6th where they might actually get something out of it. Or maybe that bunch of muslims are just genuine travel ban conservatives…. strange times.

      Edit: wow flagged by skynet? what on earth for? lol

    3. WheresOurTeddy

      ‘Americans were asked what made someone “truly American.” A third of respondents overall, and 43 percent of Republicans, said you need to be Christian.’

      So in order to be truly American, I must believe in the iron-age myths of (just one of many at the time) messianic cults of Semitic herdsmen living in Judea (which is 8000+ miles from ‘America’) under the yoke of the *Roman Empire* roughly 1800 years before ‘America’ (which is named after an *Italian* guy by the way) broke away from England, which itself did not exist in any form we recognize as ‘England’ until roughly 1000 years after said messianic cult began.

      And it would all be moot of Constantine didn’t think he needed an ‘official’ religion to try and bind the Roman Empire together culturally due to dozens of religions on the fringes creating pesky rebellions all the time, leading to him picking one of the fastest growing, most zealous and difficult to govern groups from one of the sandy provinces.

      Seems logical to me. Definitely not the cultural inertia of a people too intellectually lazy to question what dad and grandpa believed.

      Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.

  3. JacobiteInTraining

    I saw one of those new kiosks at a local McDs the other day. Mainly, I went in just to use the restroom but I still have this sense that if I do that, I should order something…so I turned the corner and was staring right into the face of that huge ‘Order Here!’ screen.

    They had some nice lady there showing people how to use it, but I noped the heck out and left. Haven’t been back.

    1. JohnnySacks

      I confusedly went to the counter to order at one in Canada on my way to Montreal and the cashiers(?) waiters(?) service staff(?) looked at me as if I had 2 heads. Stumbled through placing, paying for, and receiving my order before realizing they weren’t used to people doing that anymore. They’re really way ahead of us on certain things, one nice treat is all stores round the bill down to the nearest $0.05 and not deal with pennies anymore, the other is (was) waiters swiping your card at the table so it never leaves your sight.

      1. Charlie

        I was in a Barcelona McDonald’s a couple of weeks ago and there was only one cashier in a very crowded place. Most used the kiosks. I did myself, and the wait time was just as long as if I were standing in line to order from the cashier.

        Just goes to show how it won’t benefit anyone except our Scrooge overlords.

    2. Carolinian

      I’ve been in a few McD that had the things–never seen anyone actually using it. The long wait at McDonalds these days is to get your order, not to pay your money.

      But they do have good WiFi to while away the time.

    3. Christopher

      They’ve been here in Australia for about 5 years or so.

      I never use them and only see young ones ordering on them.

      I deduce from this that older people understand that they have replaced jobs and will continue to do so if they are adopted.

      I have noticed at some that the staff will tend to ignore you until they can’t, but I will stop going when you can no longer order at the counter. And, once they are fully automated with one or two people operating the conveyor belts, well that’s the end of us.

      They are symptomatic of corporations whose only concept of social responsibility is to make as much money as they can. And we let them do it without protest, putting one or two cashiers on to force us to self checkouts. That’s when I drop my shopping on the floor and walk out.

    4. Tom Bradford

      One of my local supermarkets, unfortunately the closest, has introduced a self-pay section and reduced the number of (wo)manned checkouts from eight to two. I now do my main shop in one of the others, but for a single or couple of items I go to the closest and resolutely used a personned check-out, which are always next to the self-pay area. If the one-and-only girl there offers to help me use one I always decline, telling her that I refuse to be trained to do for free for them what the management currently has to pay someone to do.

      I have heard of people preferring to use the self-pay as, in busy times, it’s relatively easy to flick items past without registering them but presumably the savings on wages more than cover these losses.

      From the length of the queues at few manned checkouts I’d say I’m not the only one with this view, but I fear it’s a losing battle.

    5. Darthbobber

      That handle. Is there a current Stewart pretender? Will they be marching down to Derby town and back again soon?

      1. Kurt Sperry

        My Snowdrops look a few days out still from opening. I had a Hellebore blooming two weeks ago!

      2. The Rev Kev

        First time I ever saw them was in Germany where they are known as Schneeglöckchen which I suppose you can translate as ‘little snow bells’. I always thought that for a simple flower, that they were quite charming.

      3. wilroncanada

        Snowdrops and crocuses both are out here on Southern Vancouver Island. Mind you, so are hundreds of millimeters of rain in January, along with an almost300 centimeter snow base on OUR Mount Washington, perfect skiing last weekend at our family winter get together weekend.

  4. sleepy

    “How Can Democrats Connect ‘Identity Politics’ to Economics?”

    One starting point for increasing wealth equality would be to repeal Medicaid’s vicious clawback provisions which effectively prohibit accumulated asset transfers of lower income families from one generation to the next.

    1. Lee

      Given how much is recovered from bleeding the poor, why the f@ck do they bother? Is it just sadism?

      • Revenues as a percentage of state long-term care Medicaid expenses ranged from .01% (Louisiana) to 2.2% (Oregon), with only eight states (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho,
      Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oregon) above 1%.


      These data are a bit dated, so maybe there’s something more recent. Searching “Medicaid clawback” only brought up things relevant to individuals. Searching “Medicaid estate recovery” got me the above link.

      1. sleepy

        With Obamacare, if your income is below a certain income level you are automatically kicked into Medicaid and not eligible for subsidies. If you are above 55, the previous asset limit for medicaid doesn’t apply (that was a change from the old system which previously counted assets). I wonder what impact that might have on more recent data figures since the advent of the ACA. Plus many of those people haven’t died yet.

        Keep in mind too that before the repeal of the mandate, if they had no other insurance they were required by law to enroll in this system.

        I also know two dual eligible medicare-medicaid individuals who own houses which their estate will lose because medicaid is paying their medicare premiums.

    2. Paul Cardan

      They’ve already made the link. It’s education. The assumption is that the free market rewards all productive factors according to contribution (which is only fair), and so the solution to unjust inequality in wealth is to afford workers the equal opportunity to acquire in-demand skills, thereby growing their human capital. That’s where higher education comes in. Of course, many people can’t afford it, and that doesn’t seem fair. So, that’s where non-dischargeable student loans come in. Of course, colleges and universities are structurally racist and sexist (among other things), and thus sites for the reproduction of unjust disparities in wealth, and this is unfair. The solution is to rid those institutions of their biases. Throw in some anti-trust legislation (because monopolies, like unions, are bad for everyone), and you’ll have the best of all possible worlds: the only poor people will be those who deserve poverty, due to their preference for leisure, bad character, or their lack of things like talent and initiative (which might strike readers of Rawls as unfair, but never mind).

      Here’s how Democrats won’t connect identity politics and economics: they won’t advocate rent control or cooperative housing, thereby stemming the tide of gentrification, something that disproportionately impacts communities of color. They won’t demand a job guarantee, something likely to be quite beneficial for those who are historically the last hired and the first fired. They won’t advocate repeal of Taft-Hartley, even though this would greatly bolster the cause of organized labor and thereby dramatically improve the lives of the lowest paid and most abused workers, a group disproportionately consisting of women and people of color. And they won’t advocate Medicare for All (unless forced to do so, as memorably conveyed by that charming Anita Hawkins video , the one that was linked here a few weeks back), even though women and those for whom women in this culture must care (children, the elderly, the disabled) stand to greatly benefit from such rationalized health care schemes.

      1. redleg

        Skills and education are not equivalent.
        Education should teach critical thinking and analysis in a particular field, not skills. Skills should be taught at a trade school or through apprenticeships, etc.

        1. Lee

          Lester Thurow cited a study* that showed that medical doctors, among the most highly educated professionals, still learned 60% of their knowledge on the job. The percentage for other occupations is much higher.

          * His book, Dangerous Currents, where the study was cited, was published in 1983, but I’d be surprised if the numbers have changed that much.

    1. Tertium Squid


      The primary proponent of impossiblism in my life, a toddler known-associate, alternates so often between “Property is Theft” and “MINE!” I’m now convinced he’s trapped inside a permanent recapitulation of the arc of 20th Century history.

  5. Synoia

    And by the way – I ordered at the kiosk and no cookie was forthcoming.

    Virtual Cookie?

    Check your browser. They know who you are and where you live!

  6. economicator

    Snowdrop (Galanthus – milk flower from Greek) is my favorite flower! Thank you for posting that!…I remember snowdrops shyly poking through the snow crust in our yard as I was walking out of our house to go to school, sometime in my first school years, somewhere at the other end of the world, decades ago, in a country that doesn’t exist anymore.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It does, however, discredit both the Obama Justice Department and the FISA Court, as Gowdy himself points out, tweeting:

      It is important for the American public to know if the dossier was paid for by another candidate, used in court pleadings, vetted before it was used, vetted after it was used, and whether all relevant facts were shared with the tribunal approving of the FISA application.

      And it certainly provides a good deal of context for the origin of the Mueller investigation, regardless of what that investigation (eventually) turns up.

      I mean, do we really want oppo research triggering surveillance of political figures by the organs of state security? Especially when the fact that it is oppo is not disclosed to the Court that approves the surveillance? If the memo is correct, that’s no nothing burger (Remember the heroic Sally Yates? One of the Justice Department figures who would have withheld “relevant facts” from the FISA court….)

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Of course, if the Democrats had impeached Bush over his warrantless surveillance program in 2006, which they could certainly have done since the program involved multiple felonies, none of this would be happening. Naturally, Pelosi immediately took impeachment off the table, and then Obama voted to give retroactive immunity to the telcos for their felonies in July 2008…

        2. funemployed

          Imagine how much money and time could have been saved over the years if instead of creating a FISA court, we simply purchased an ink pad and rubber stamp.

        3. Lynne

          And in the ultimate in hubris, Comey sent out a tweet complaining that the memo “damaged relationship with FISA court.” Because, you know, it wasn’t his actions or the actions of his minions in withholding information in their warrant requests that might damage relationships with a court or anything. /sarc

      1. allan

        I’ll turn the mic over to the Cowliphate :)

        Ammo Bundy‏ @Ammo_Bundy
        Replying to @shaneharris @OrinKerr

        Steele’s work was started, and initially paid for by the Washington Free Beacon, a GOP-mouthpiece. Let’s be honest here.

        To your broader point, we have no idea what the general level of evidence is for FISA warrants.
        I would be very happy to make them all public. But I’m not going to rely on the word of Nunes
        and the GOP staff on HPSCI, who have proven themselves in the past to be unreliable narrators.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The key here is not how it got started, but people in the government used it a very partisan way before FISC.

          And it seems to suggest that the evidence was weak on Carter Page that they had to resort to the dossier in such a manner (not disclosing its political origin). (This also related to Jaxbeau’s first point below).

          1. Procopius

            So you believe the memo is accurate and complete? At this point I don’t give credence to either side in the absence of verifiable evidence.

        2. Lemmy Caution

          As to who funded Steele’s work, let’s be accurate.
          It has been reported that Steele’s company Orbis wasn’t hired by Fusion GPS until June, 2016, a month or more after the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign took over the funding of the research project in April, 2016, through the intermediary of Democratic power attorney Marc Elias’ law firm Perkins Coie, according to the Washington Post.

          1. rps

            A research project? LOL!, brings tears to my eyes. More like a junior high science project badly done the night before.

            1. UserFriendly

              It was a campaign, almost undoubtedly, Jebbie or Little Marko, but they refused to name which one so Trump wouldn’t take revenge.

          2. The Rev Kev

            Its origins is not that important. What is important is that the deep state as well as one political party, used this crap to try to destroy the presidential hopes of a second political party. It could just have well been used to destroy Clinton’s Presidential hopes in other circumstances.
            Since when did the deep state get a veto on which billionaire gets to be President? Unless you are willing to make them an official part of the government, then you have to go after the people responsible and have them fitted up for orange jumpsuits to make sure that they understand in future that there is a personal penalty to pay for doing stuff like this.
            In passing, when I was a kid, we had a word for this sort of action by people against their country. We called it treason. And that is no joke.

            1. apberusdisvet

              most definitely treason; 20 to life at a minimum; but the Deep State protects its own; wrist slaps the norm.

              The problem though, with this result, is that it can’t be denied that the Rule of Law is dead in this country; except of course for the 1%. This is neither a D or R thing; all 535 are complicit, as are many of the bureaucratic underlings.

              Shame, really.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Hey, Christopher Steele was born in Yemen. Couldn’t the FBI claim that the whole saga is a Houthi-Iran plot to discredit them? Turns out that this character was also involved with the FIFA scandal a few years ago as a source. I have yet to hear of a request to extradite him to the US for questioning but he would make a great fall guy to protect the establishment with. He is a big boy and must surely know the dangers of running with the wolves.

      2. Jaxbeau

        Nunes memo

        While the memo purports to tell us how the Steele dossier was used for FISA warrant(s), it doesn’t tell us what else was included because, national security. Carter Page has been under investigation since 2013. While not indicted criminally, his meetings with Russian agents required him to testify for “a criminal complaint filed in 2015 against Evgeny Buryakov, an undercover agent posing as a Russian bank executive in New York.” Of course Mr. Page claimed innocence and characterized his testimony as being ‘helpful to the FBI.’

        Couple this lack of background with Adam Schiff’s claim two days ago that:

        “This evening the Committee Minority discovered that the classified memorandum shared by the Committee Majority with the White House is not, in fact, the same document that Members of the House of Representatives have been reviewing since January 18, 2018 and that the Committee Majority voted on Monday to release to the public,” Schiff wrote in an open letter to Nunes.

        and we have a cluster(family blog) of misinformation calculated to act as a distraction.

        I’m interested in the reactions of our commentariat here at NC.

        Including here another thank you to you, Lambert, and everyone at Naked Capitalism for the herculean job you do every-day-of-the-week. Much appreciated.

        1. Heliopause

          “it doesn’t tell us what else was included because, national security.”

          No, it doesn’t tell us because, whatever it was, it was insufficient to pursue a FISA warrant. That is to say, even flimsier than the Dossier. That’s according to the Memo’s summation of the testimony of McCabe. Now, whether the Memo is accurately representing this is another question.

        2. lambert strether

          If the issue is non-disclosure of material information regarding the Steele dossier, then whatever other information was in the FISA warrant application is not relevant. And I think that is the issue.

          To be more clear, I care much more about the systemic role played by the intelligence community than I care about whether the warrant was a good warrant or not.

            1. integer

              FWIW Lawfare blog is funded by the Brookings Institution, the founder of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, among many other dubious undertakings. The editor-in-chief of Lawfare blog is Benjamin Wittes, who is a personal friend of James Comey.

              What James Comey Told Me About Donald Trump Lawfare blog

              Ever since then, and particularly since Gizmodo used me as forensic evidence in its weird effort to out a supposed Comey Twitter account, people have developed this idea that Comey and I are especially close. Some people have even started following me on Twitter because they think I’m channeling Comey or am some secret line into his thinking. The truth is rather more pedestrian: We’re friends.

              1. integer

                Oh, and surprise surprise:

                I’m with her (by Orin Kerr) Washington Post

                I haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since I was in college. But I will do so this year, when I will vote for Hillary Clinton for president. Here’s why.

                Note the similarity to:

                I’m the last one to defend the national security surveillance apparatus, but for all the missing information in The Memo and its partisan motives, I’m reserving judgement.

                Poor ol’ Orin really needs to add a little bit of variation to his writing style. His standard opener seems to involve mentioning how unlikely it is, given his priors, for him to have come to the conclusion he has, as if that will imbue what follows with some kind of added credibility or gravitas. Heh.

          1. Darthbobber

            Silly editorial up on the grey lady today by the inevitable ex-fbi agent blaming some group called progressives for enabling such a kerfuffle by having questioned the good fairh of the applicants for fisa warrants over the years and having the temerity to suggest that the process was basically a rubber stamp with no meaningful safeguards.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Holy moley. Here’s the Times Op-Ed:

              Thank Progressives for the Nunes Memo
              [T]he progressive narrative has focused on an assumption of bad faith on the part of the people who participate in the FISA process, not the process itself.

              Shameful, indeed! Why, it’s almost as if, instead of being Heroes of the Republic, Clapper and Brennan were a perjurer and a torturer, respectively. Oh, wait. And then there’s this:

              FISA requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting foreign intelligence surveillance on Americans. The act also created a special court where federal judges would vet petitions for surveillance warrants.

              This makes the FISA process unique because it involves all three branches of government.

              James Madison would thoroughly approve of distrusting “the intelligence community.” Federalist 51:

              Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

              And for Madison, the “unique” “FISA process” would also be a ginormous honkin’ red flag. Federalist 47:

              No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.

              The central issue, IMNSHO, remains the same as it has been since Clinton supporters urged that faithless electors should over-ride the election results based on secret intelligence: Should the intelligence community have veto power over the selection of a President, or not? We can argue about the details of the FISA process all we want, but that remains the issue.

      3. marku52

        Yes, Yates, McCabe, and Ohr. All politically compromised creatures, using an unverified political hit job with no more backing than if I said “Somebody told me you were beating your wife again” to authorize full scale investigations by state security.

        This stinks to high heaven.

        And what the heck was supposed to be so secret that the future of the entire country would be damaged if it ever saw the light of day?

        That the FISA court is run by a bunch of credulous rubes?

        1. Lynne

          That the FISA court is run by a bunch of credulous rubes, that the FBI has no problem with exploiting that, and that the FBI still sees no issue with that. Keep in mind that Comey’s whine in response was that now the intelligence community might not trust Congress. The idea that the FBI and the rest of the “intelligence” community might need to worry that they have destroyed the trust that some placed in them is irrelevant to him.

        2. Sid Finster

          Stop kidding yourself.

          Now that the unelected and entirely unaccountable national security organs have taken it upon themselves to overturn election results that they do not approve of, we are no long living in a republic but in something else.

    2. Heliopause

      Assume for a moment that the Memo gets most of its facts wrong; it remains the case that a House committee, with tacit or explicit support of the majority caucus, just got done accusing a number of high government officials of performing their jobs fraudulently. Not dropped by some individual as a passing innuendo on one of the cable news talk shows, but as an official House committee document, and with the approval of the President. That’s a pretty huge somethingburger.

      If, on the other hand, the Memo gets most of it substantially right then there’s even more something in the burger, but that remains to be seen.

    3. integer

      Heh. Amongst other things, Trey Gowdy also tells CNN hosts who are trying to badger him into one corner or another that he has a lot of respect for them, but disagrees with their premise. He is probably the most diplomatic person I have ever come across, yet he still manages to lucidly get his point(s) across, and this series of tweets is no exception. Put simply, the Mueller investigation doesn’t need the Nunes memo to discredit it, as it has already discredited itself, numerous times in fact.

        1. integer

          Maybe. I have followed Gowdy pretty closely over the years, and he has a lot of respect and reverence for law enforcement and the intelligence agencies, to the point that he thanked John Brennan for his service to the US before he went on to interrogate him and catch him out*. Gowdy often remarks that his time working with the FBI was the best 18 years of his professional career, however he is also adamant about the requirement for law enforcement/intelligence agencies to remain politically neutral. My take is that Gowdy knows more than he is letting on, and fully understands that falling into the trap of appearing to have partisan motives will undermine the investigations that will likely result from the Nunes memo. YMMV.

          * This is an abbreviated version, but the full version is available on YouTube.

    4. Mo's Bike Shop


      For instance, if it were a nothingburger, all that crap about National McSecurity would be a thingburger for everyone to ponder (burger).

    1. nippersmom

      Wow. we always knew he was weak on anything related to foreign policy (which would include the Russia hysteria) but he’s beginning to make me question whether I’ll even be able to vote for him if he runs again in 2020.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Looks like nippersmom and Slim are on the same wavelength. I’ve been asking those questions too.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Looks like Bernie going full-bore on the Russia-did-it meme while ignoring the without-the-DNC-I-would-be-President-now meme caused his ratings to be tied to a lead balloon by average Americans.

          1. polecat

            Like I’ve said before, the whole russki-gate cloke of darkness needs to be shredded … it’s a big burning necklass he doesn’t need to wear for some perceived cred ! Does he Really believe them such heinous/scary/evil adversaries ??

            Perhaps he should rewatch the film ‘The Day After’ …

            1. Procopius

              Well, Bernie’s younger than me, so he probably doesn’t have the searing memories of the McCarthy years. He should have plenty else, but it’s mostly domestic. History of the labor movement and socialism in America. I remember the Old Queen, too, and I don’t mean that in a homophobic way. People have to selectively erase every memory earlier than last Tuesday to insist that there is no chance the FBI did not mislead the FISC. Oh, and COINTELPRO. Ever heard of that one?

      2. Lunker Walleye

        To Nipper’s Dad and Mom

        Bernie just sent an e-mail about caucusing in the next go-around. Why would I spend valuable time pretending that the process is an honest effort? Fool me once, etc. Bernie is now marked “spam”.

      3. nippersdad

        For the time being, I am going to view this as a money saving opportunity; coupons like that just don’t come around every day. WHEN all of this implodes we will see how he reacts, so here is hoping it implodes quickly and he can wash Lady MacBeth’s stains from his hands in time.

      4. redleg

        One thing to consider, since he sure looks like he’s going to run in ’20, is whether or not he’s playing by the Dem rules so he can run as a Dem candidate. Playing it by the rules to avoid upsetting any more Hillary-bearing palinquins apple carts.
        It’s not like the Dem bigwigs are notoriously vindictive or anything.

      5. Lambert Strether Post author

        Sanders is — and very fortunately for us all — a politician (and since he operates at the national level, necessarily a creature of the Beltway). I don’t like Sanders giving aid and comfort to the McCarthyite talking points of warmongering liberal Democrats — sorry for the redundancy — either. That said, my interepretation is:

        1) The Beltway is even more insane with anti-Putin/pro-war hysteria than we can possibly imagine, and so simply to function Sanders has to bend with the wind;

        2) Ditto Clinton voters, some of whom Sanders will need in 2020.

        So, is this the Hill we would have Sanders die on? I don’t think so. I also think it’s extremely foolish to throw a politician under the bus, who has just demonstrated the capacity to draw a million viewers to a discussion of Canadian single payer.

        If there were a Sanders 2.0 who was better on this, I’d be for them. I haven’t seen one.* And I don’t see this as the classic case of being forced to eat a Democrat sh*t sandwich (as opposed to the Republican sh*t sandwich). Rather, we’re being offered a Club sandwich when what we want and deserve is a multi-decker Dagwood.

        If you want an activist, by all means go for Jill Stein (who, let us remember, supported the Russian hacking thesis in her recount lawsuit). I don’t want an activist. I want a politician, somebody who does electoral politics.

        * Our Revolution and DSA should be bringing them forward. Early days yet for that.

        1. integer

          FWIW I agree, to a certain extent, with this. If you are not corrupt, being a politician is a sh!tty job, and Sanders is among the best options currently on the table. I’m not enthusiastic, but I certainly see where you are coming from. As Caitlin Johnstone said, it would be hard to hold it against anyone voting for the domestic policies that Sanders has put on the table, it’s just a shame he seems so shortsighted on foreign policy.

          1. polecat

            I don’t know about other people, but I’ve gotten pretty tired of having that democrat football constantly being kicked out from under me feet … going back at least to 2006** … ‘;(

            **earlier even, when one considers the ill-reign of Clinton l the first(and wifey), the ‘New’ Democrats …
            My hope is that the rotting, stinking, putrid corpse of a demcrat party dis-incorporates into the earth from whence it came … with something to replace it, sans bagage !

        2. integer

          Adding: My take on all this is that until the intelligence agencies (the CIA especially) are made fully accountable to the US public (which is not to say everything they do should be publicized), there will never be an improvement in domestic policy in the US. That is my primary concern with Sanders; I don’t think he has it in him to do what needs to be done.

    2. Sid Finster

      My SWAG is that Bernie has figured out that if he wants to run in 2020 (or at least not get primaried on the way) then he had better get on board with the Deep State and/or DNC agenda. Not to mention Sanders already is in bad graces with the DNC for having the nerve to challenge the Anointed Queen.

      The Deep State does not care whether they get their way by force, agreement or fraud, as long as they get what they are after.

      That’s not intended as an excuse for the man. If he cannot stand up to threats and bullying, if he cannot resist flattery and manipulation, then he has no business being president.

    3. djrichard

      I don’t think this has anything to do with foreign policy. If dems were ever to meet in private with Russia, they would say, “nothing personal, it’s just business”.

      They would say the same thing to Trump if they could let their guard down enough. Because I don’t see there’s any way that can actually impeach Trump. Certainly not unless they have a smoking gun from Mueller.

      At best, this whole thing simply smacks of a GOTV effort. Keep milking that outrage until the cows come home. The problem now is that Trump and the GOP aligned with Trump get to milk outrage on their side, with their own GOTV using the Nunes memo as a basis. It’s an outrageapolooza.

      If I were Bernie I would keep as low a profile as possible. Unfortunately, if he simply stays neutral that would actually give him more profile than he wants; the dems would just accuse him of being a Russian stooge. In contrast to the Trumpists who wouldn’t accuse him of anything if he was neutral. So in reality he has the enemy at his back. Fortunately for Bernie, it’s not like somebody else could outflank him by occupying a neutral space, in the way that Obama outflanked Hillary by saying he would not have voted for the Iraq war. By not being neutral, he’d be losing potential Trump voters, but he’d be running against Trump (and his voters) anyways. And Bernie can always climb down this tree anyways when it’s necessary in the interest of winning some Trump voters. At which point he can say, “nothing personal, it was just business”.

      Anyways, hopefully this whole charade is over by then.

      1. Buttinsky

        “the dems would just accuse him of being a Russian stooge.”

        I’m sorry, I think you can put me in the Eleanor Roosevelt camp: One of the big reasons she resisted JFK’s candidacy in 1960 was his failure to call out Joe McCarthy in the Senate, even after others had. Bernie’s jump onto the Neo-McCarthyism bandwagon — out of fear of being accused of being a Russian stooge would be the second worst reason, right after actually falling for the Russiagate story — is too much for me.

        Of course, Roosevelt did support JFK in the general… so ask me again in November 2020.

    4. Ted

      I like Bernie. I think he really is a decent man for a career politician. His advocacy for many policies that matter to us mopes is dead on. But … fool me once, shame on you … fool me twice … shame on me. He has yet to spend any of his popularity taking a principled stand against the surveilance state and in favor of transparency in government. He also shamelessly stumped for Clinton once her coronation was complete.

      How about Bernie retire and throw his resources at younger folks on the condition that they hold true to the values that make a democratic republic possible. (Hint: not Russia, Russia, Russia!!!)

      Brought to you by The Party for Mopes like Us.

      1. integer

        He also shamelessly stumped for Clinton once her coronation was complete

        And Clinton’s D party primary coronation was at his expense, making his shameless stumping for Her even more unpalatable.

      2. JCC

        I’ll say this for Bernie though… after watching his Town Hall on Medicaid For All, he ain’t all bad :-)

      3. Yves Smith

        He did not “shamelessly stump” for her. He did the bare minimum. Tell me how many campaign rallies he attended with her, unlike, say, Liz Warren?

        And he refused to give the Dems his mailing list, when they were pressing him constantly for that.

    5. Darthbobber

      Not a mistake. Not what a saint without ambitions might do, but not a mistake.

      He knows perfectly well that enough voters in democratic primaries buy the enchilada that a refusal to do that is much would turn an uphill fight into a nearly certain loss.

      When he calls the Nunes memo a ploy to short circuit the investigation he says nothing that is not both true and reasonably obvious.

      His own obligatory reference to russian interference is measured by democratic standards. So much so that if all democrats were going that far and no farther we would not have the level of shrieking hysteria that we do.

      Pretty clear to me that if he were running the circus the russian front would not be the main focus of team donkey’s efforts. Still less the hill they proposed to die on.

  7. Lee

    Re The Memo

    This is a partisan fight without a principle in sight. What would Frank Church have to say, I wonder. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, perhaps?

    Church gained national prominence during his service in the Senate through his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities from 1975 through 1976, more commonly known as the Church Committee, which conducted extensive hearings investigating extra-legal FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering and covert operations. The committee investigated CIA drug smuggling activities in the Golden Triangle and secret U.S.-backed wars in Third World countries.[13][14][15][16] Together with Senator Sam Ervin’s committee inquiries, the Church Committee hearings laid the groundwork for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Rarely do we get to see that in the open though.

      “You started first.”

      “No you started first.”

      1. Jim Haygood

        We almost demobilized … but secret government concealed behind an Iron Curtain of classification was just too great a deal for newly empowered insiders to pass up:

        On Sep 20, 1945, Harry S. Truman signed an executive order dissolving the Office of Strategic Services. By Oct 1945 its functions had been divided between the Departments of State and War.

        The division lasted only a few months. The first public mention of the Central Intelligence Agency appeared on a command restructuring proposal presented by Jim Forrestal and Arthur Radford to the U.S. Senate Military Affairs Committee at the end of 1945.

        Despite opposition from the military establishment, the Department of State and the FBI, Truman established the National Intelligence Authority in January 1946, the direct predecessor of the CIA.


        As always, war provided the pretext for a permanent destruction of civil liberties and the rule of law.

        Even Frank Church’s intelligence “reform” only ended up entrenching secrecy, leading to the current extraconstitutional Gang of Eight who are fed lies just like the FISA court.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          How to do a Total Quality Improvement program in a black box agency? I suspect every secret police force produces awesome results for about three years before someone learns how to game their new found superpowers.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > This is a partisan fight without a principle in sight.

      I disagree. The fact that the partisans are not drawing attention to them doesn’t mean that principles are not present.

      Assuming the memo is accurate, what we have is a Flexian from the intelligence community (Steele) developing oppo for a political party (here, the Democrats), that political party feeding that oppo to the executive branch (the Justice Department and the FBI), and then the executive branch (the FBI) using the oppo at the FISA court as justification for further surveillance of the opponents of that political party by the intelligence community, without telling the court it’s oppo. That stinks.

      What if the same process had been applied to the Sanders campaign? Or any campaign? Because if the process described by the Nunes memo is true, and it’s OK, then it’s OK for any administration to do for any campaign. Since McCarthyism has taken over a large faction of the Democrat party, the incentives are obvious.

      1. Lee

        I agree. “Not in sight” as in not being honestly fore-fronted. This could change, and quickly, I hope.

        1. JohnnyGL

          The only upside I can think of in this situation is if Sanders wins in 2020 and tries to de-escalate various hot spots around the globe and the neo-cons yell, “he’s a traitor for attempting peace!!!”, there’s a much bigger likelihood that the American public responds with a giant eye-roll and says: “we’ve just spent 4 years hearing this crap, not interested!”

          Don’t be surprised if in 2020, that it’s Repubs are more open to asking hard questions about anonymously sourced stories in the media from various federal agencies.

          The anti-trump gaslighting machinery that’s been created isn’t working very well at it’s job and hopefully won’t be able to work in the future, either.

      2. Byron the Light Bulb

        “Flexian” is an interesting term, but I believe the institutional jargon would say that Steele is on the “White List”. The FBI needs to reach for the ‘White List” because it knows very little about the ground conditions around the Moskva. Other government agencies would prefer their sources not end up “smersh” on account of the FBI’s Hansen affair and Wotan knows what else. Steele does brisk business because he is good and certainly does not need this tsuris.

        The overall strength of the Nunes memo, it’s LD50 [mean lethal dosage] to the Special Counsel corpus, depends on how close did the FBI get to a “reckless disregard for the truth” in its application. Team Trump appears to be trying to establish the requisite “malice” to reach this threshold, using Congress to probe the line. The arguments thus far are ginger beer weak, as if the defenders are merely going through the motions for an audience of one. Where are questions concerning “‘about’ collection fields, attorney-client privilege, and the successive procedural safeguards for data as it migrates from the NSA upstream, to the CIA and NCTC, and finally the FBI Mormons? This is a real pickle that the Memo does not even begin to address.

      3. Darthbobber

        “Assuming the memo is accurate”.
        Big assumption.

        On one detail this characterization seems wrong to me. As I read the timeline it was not party or Clinton opps who flogged Steele’s product to the fbi and mi6, but Steele and his partner and employers themselves. Largely, I think, for purely pecuniary reasons..

        I think team Clinton’s evaluation of the product was pretty clear from the decision in June to pour no more money down that particular rathole. And given some of the ratholes they continued to fund its usefulness must have been low indeed. It got dumped on likely journalists to make of it what they would, which was pretty much nothing at the time.

        If I remember correctly, the reliably hysterical McCain was among those enlisted to help pitch the product to the feds.

        1. Darthbobber

          My recollection was wrong about when the dems finally jerked the last of their money.

          But right about McCain as the conduit by which the Steele heap got dumped on Comey’s desk.

          Steele knew his prospective customers well. If I had such wares to peddle and I needed a guy who was both sufficiently credulous as long as it was about the russkies and for some inexplicable reason in a position to force the security apparatus to take notice, John McCain woukd have been my hands down first choice as well.

    3. Lemmy Caution

      Despite the chorus of “Another Nothingburger!” in regards to the FISA memo from DailyKos and its ilk, I wonder what the reaction would be if it had been Hillary that was the target of the same chain of events.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Had it been Hillary, I think we should expect to see it in the form most easy to digest for those who are with her – in a movie about resistance fighters somewhere in North Africa, with a cynical intelligence-type officer delivering this line: “I’m shocked, shocked to my core.”

    4. Lynne

      No, the principle is that ANY law enforcement requesting a warrant (even breathing Comey’s allegedly rarified air) is required to disclose to the court considering the warrant request ALL relevant information, including possible problems with information from informants. The fact that Comey et al are dismissing this as a nothingburger is in and of itself evidence that he and the FBI are over the line.

      1. Procopius

        I think you should start reading Radley Balko’s column in the New York Fishwrap. He documents lots of prosecutorial and police misconduct. The rules may state they have to (have to) present all relevant information, but they very often don’t even tell the truth, and very rarely suffer even a rebuke from whatever law and order magistrate they approach. I’m just surprised they don’t get caught more often, but I think that’s mostly because publishers are capitalists and really approve of that style of “law enforcement.”

  8. DJG

    Ryan, the Daily Beast, on saying sorry. The issue isn’t saying sorry, which is now a perfunctory sort of thing, as I recall the young man who said sorry and then pushed me out of the way. Besides, women are always claiming that the patriarchy is making them say that they’re sorry.

    To be terribly patriarchal, the issue is lack of standards. The issue is lack of probity. (Yes, an archaic word but you can look it up.)

    The salient paragraphs:

    “On The View this week, Meghan McCain practically reduced Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to stammers when she asked Gillibrand if Clinton’s response to the Times story was appropriate. Clinton had been a mentor to Gillibrand, McCain pointed out. In response, Gillibrand said, “I don’t know all the details. I don’t know if the punishment she chose was the right punishment. But what it does bring us to talk about is this issue of workplace harassment.”
    “This exchange happened within minutes of of Gillibrand defending her push for Al Franken’s resignation over 12-year-old groping allegations and condemning the RNC for holding onto money donated by Steve Wynn, accused by dozens of women of sexually predatory behavior.”

    This is how MeToo is going to be smothered, by a whole bunch of people making accusations that are for effect or that won’t stick. Meanwhile, there is sufficient evidence from Rose McGowan to charge Harvey Weinstein with rape. Where are the lawmen?

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    uber eats, foodora and so on are disrupting the market by using new techniques such as [squints at notes] underpaying workers in order to [peers through glasses] maximise profit

    Then there is the energy consumed to deliver that food, and more packaging.

    Why not just cook yourself? Do you hate your cooking that much?

      1. Procopius

        Some (many?) feel they don’t have enough time, even if they are only lucky enough to have one full-time job.

  10. DJG

    I’ve decided to go full Cato:

    FISA delenda est

    Or in plain Yankee: We need a new Church Committee.

    And we need indictments.

    1. Sid_finster

      Since the day I learned about FISA, I have been convinced that it is a flat violation of the Fourth and Sixth Amendments, and no amount of sophistry has convinced me otherwise.

  11. Lee

    Jim Haygood, white courtesy phone, please.

    I know yer focused elsewhere, but what’s up with the markets today?

        1. Edward E

          Looks like the ‘talented’ tried for -666 for the DOW and made it (rounded off) missing only slightly. Meanwhile the short term cap on WTI at $66.66 was right on target!
          Also, I suppose you know that S&W is not SWHC anymore, having been changed to AOBC? Once, I was talented enough to pay off my land with S&W! Not proud of it but hey, a gun salesman of centuries doesn’t come around that often.

          Luke Gromen on Twitter: “If everybody is equally talented, everybody’s talents are equally in demand, & everybody gets to initially handle MMT money at the same time, this would work. Fail any of those, & you get US wealth inequality circa 2018.”

    1. Lee

      PBS Newshour just splained it! Effing workers’ wages went up triggering inflation fears and therefore Fed rate increases. How dare they get raises and ruin my exponentially soaring ROI!

    1. JohnnyGL

      Seems like a great opportunity for 2020 hopefuls to show up and make some noise. Sadly, they likely won’t.

    1. marku52

      Well they looked completely stupid on the shutdown “This is horrible horrible horrible and we aren’t going to stand for it….

      Oh wait, never mind.. We’ll roll over.”

      And Pelosi’s “Joe average will only get crumbs”. Boy did she lob a soft one across the plate. I can only assume some bright boy in the WH went through the rolodex of big companys and told them “If you want to keep that tax cut, shovel a piece of it to your workers and claim its due to the tax cuts. Especially if you were going to do it anyway”

      So what does JoJane average see? “Obama gave me 1 good job that turned into 3 (family blog) ones. Trump put $50/month and a bonus in my pocket.”

      Dems are just really really bad at politics.

  12. lambert strether

    And only two weeks ago, ZOMG, the triumphalism!

    Nine months is a long time in politics….

  13. Lee

    The Memo

    Schiff on PBS Newshour: (Gist) If you could see the entire application for the warrant you’d agree with me.

    Well, you won’t let us, so we have to take your word for it.

    Will Hurd, R. TX 23rd, on before Schiff will vote for release of the Dem Memo. Which, according Schiff, will also be incomplete because, national security. We look forward to discussing The Two Memos. Meanwhile, I recommend one and all to review the equally entertaining Memo from Turner with quite possibly politically incorrect photos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAPgDs30eq8

  14. rps


    The DNC and Clinton Campaign colluded with a foreign operative Steele- who’s a former British intelligence officer to manufacture a dossier to discredit and destroy a United States presidential candidate.

    Why aren’t Steele, DNC and Clinton campaign charged with foreign and domestic collusion and interference with a U.S election? How is it possible the paid for manufactured Steele dossier claiming Trump was ‘somehow’ involved with Russia possibly tampering with a U.S. presidential election, when the facts are that the U.S. government has evidence of who tampered with the election: a) British ex-spook, b) the DNC, c) Clinton campaign, and d) Obama operatives in the FBI providing false information to intentionally spy on a presidential candidate (FISA memo).

    If federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, makes it a crime for any foreigner to contribute or donate money or some “other thing of value” in connection with an American election, or for anyone to solicit a foreigner to do so, then when do the DNC and Clinton trials begin? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Lee

      Excellent question. There is that whole Five Eyes thing. And, keeping with the anatomical theme, we have the Israeli tail that wags the American dog.

      1. polecat

        A visual metphore would the ‘piglizard’ of Galaxy Quest movie fame, having been ‘reparticlized’ inside-out … only to then explode ….
        What an oozing, stringy, stinky pile of sh!t this whole affair is !

    2. fresno dan

      February 2, 2018 at 6:39 pm

      I noted in the “links” today
      fresno dan
      February 2, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      the rather total memory hole that Roman Polanski and the statutory if not rape-rape of a 13 year old girl has elicited, during this heightened awareness of sexual abuse (and about time). It is just a strange thing that those who profess or affect a certain stance or philosophy are allowed to so deviate from how they proclaim to act.
      As you note rps, it really is very obvious the contradictions, yet so many people cannot see them…..

    3. Darthbobber

      Err…because paying somebody for work is not by any means the same as soliciting them to donate it to you? As should be obvious.

  15. fresno dan

    Medicare update
    For those who happen to know I volunteer with HICAP to help people with Medicare, my SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) application for my SHIP number had come in …. (that’s SHIP humor….my “ship” has come in…..it seemed funny at the office) This means I can call Medicare and access the Medicare databases on behalf of clients to get their personnel medicare information ….considering how totally confused I already am, this merely means I will delve deeper into the rabbit hole and be even more flummoxed, bewildered, baffled and nonplussed. :(

    Still, I feel like saying Yo Ho HO, Avast Ye, and a bottle of rum…..
    (bear in mind, this is just getting me entered into the database. Considering how long it took the office to get my HICAP registration number entered….still, a journey of a thousand computer entries begins with a single entry)

    1. pretzelattack

      i appreciate your comments. i feel like i’m learning one of the old military strategy games, stalingrad or whatever, with lots of arcane rules, and playing for high stakes without really knowing what i’m doing.

  16. Cafefilos

    MMT: It’s time to think about a better name. First Modern is always a problem in a name since over time it begins to seem silly; Monetary makes it sound like an update to Milton Freidman’s discredited theories; and Theory is a problem since MMT is not a theory but purports to be a description of money’s role in the economy.
    I suggest Sovereign Money Capitalism. I also prefer the term “sovereign money” to “fiat money.” It sounds less capricious.

    1. Grebo

      Capitalism and MMT are orthogonal.
      I would be happy with Sovereign Money Theory or Sovereign Monetary System.

  17. Croatoan

    On Carbs and mortality. If you are cutting out all carbs, like whole wheat breads, or cutting them to 10%, you are doing bad health. When they look at carbs they look at all Carbs, including simple sugars. And it is about balance.

    They note on that study:

    Moreover, in our study most participants from low-income and middle-income countries consumed a very high carbohydrate diet (at least 60% of energy), especially from refined sources (such as white rice and white bread), which have been shown to be associated with increased risk of total mortality and cardiovascular events.42


    However, the absence of association between low carbohydrate intake (eg, <50% of energy) and health outcomes does not provide support for very low carbohydrate diets. Importantly, a certain amount of
    carbohydrate is necessary to meet short-term energy demands during physical activity and so moderate intakes (eg, 50–55% of energy) are likely to be more appropriate than either very high or very low carbohydrate intakes.

      1. UserFriendly

        I wouldn’t phrase it that way. Carbohydrate is an overly vague term. Basically to store energy advanced life forms make molecules like glucose and fructose that are made up of single bonded carbons that each have an OH group and form 5 or 6 member rings (usually one oxygen is in the ring and another carbon is branched off). Anyways those monomers are called saccharides. Some life forms take it a step further and will make disaccharides like sugar to store their energy. All plants go even further and polymerize those monomers into things we can digest like starch, and things we can only partially digest like cellulose.

        So while every plant has cellulose (cell wall is cellulose) we certainly aren’t absorbing the glucose from it. So starchless veggies are technically carbs, but not in the dietary sense. When people talk about eating less carbs they mean ones that we can easily digest into saccharides.

  18. integer

    And The Swamp counters with:

    Russia probe lawyers think Mueller could indict Trump Politico

    Many legal scholars doubt a U.S. vs. Trump case is possible, but two attorneys who have dealt with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team disagree. One expects Mueller to move as early as this spring.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has gathered enough steam that some lawyers representing key Donald Trump associates are considering the possibility of a historic first: an indictment against a sitting president.

    While many legal experts contend that Mueller lacks the standing to bring criminal charges against Trump, at least two attorneys working with clients swept up in the Russia probe told POLITICO they consider it possible that Mueller could indict the president for obstruction of justice.

    Neither attorney claimed to have specific knowledge of Mueller’s plans. Both based their opinions on their understanding of the law; one also cited his interactions with the special counsel’s team, whose interviews have recently examined whether Trump tried to derail the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties.

    “If I were a betting man, I’d bet against the president,” said one of the lawyers.

    The second attorney, who represents a senior Trump official, speculated that Mueller could try to bring an indictment against Trump even if he expects the move to draw fierce procedural challenges from the president’s lawyers – if only to demonstrate the gravity of his findings.

    Seems odd to me that attorneys representing people tangled swept up in the Mueller web probe would be talking to the media. Who told them to do that?

  19. Basil Pesto

    That Berlin/airbnb story is swell. It’s worth pointing out though that for transient immigrants (“ex-pats”), which form a not insignificant part of Berlin’s population, it is difficult to enter the rental market for various bureaucratic/logistical reasons. Such people have to turn to the sublet market, which is an unregulated shitshow. I personally had two nightmare experiences and I know I’m certainly not alone in that (fortunately my this sub-landlord was lovely, and his top-floor apartment was full of plants which I had to water diligently. Which was nice). Foreigners are taken advantage of regularly. Airbnb for whole home rentals is obviously not the solution to this problem for the obvious states reasons, even if airbnb’s contracts offer sub-lessees a level of protection that the state does not. It would behoove the authorities to make accessibility to the primary rental market more user-friendly if they are unwilling to create laws which protect sub-lessees.

  20. Lambert Strether Post author

    WaPo’s editorial:

    The Nunes memo is a giant, damaging distraction
    But even on its own terms, the memo does more to refute than to support the FBI corruption narrative that the president is spinning. Consider these four damning admissions:

    First, the memo states that separate information on a different Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, “triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence operation*.” In other words, it was not the Democratic-funded dossier or the warrant against Mr. Page that led to the Russia probe.

    First, the memo also states (for which it would be nice to have backup in the form of a transcript) that McCabe says that if the Steele memo had not been included, FISC wouldn’t have granted the surveillance request (not really the same as “the Russia probe,” whatever that means. Second, if one regards the institutional role of the intelligence community — that is, the insistence by liberal Democrats that the intelligence community have veto power over the choice of a President — as the key point, not the FISA warrant (if indeed it is a warrant?), then this point is irrelevant.

    Second, the memo indicates that the Justice Department sought its warrant against Mr. Page in October 2016 — after Mr. Page had left the Trump campaign. So the president’s campaign was not the intended target.

    Irrelevant, since the “resistance” to Trump didn’t stop after election day; see the faithless electors debacle.

    Third, the memo notes that “the FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals,” and that “each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause.” The court would not have made those separate findings or granted renewals without evidence that the surveillance was producing valuable information that Mr. Page may have been acting as an agent of a foreign power.

    In other words, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp. Fine….

    Fourth, the memo states that among those who signed renewal applications were Dana Boente, whom Mr. Trump tapped to temporarily lead the Justice Department after firing acting attorney general Sally Yates, and Rod J. Rosenstein, whom Mr. Trump chose to be the deputy attorney general. For the conspiracy narrative to hold any water, one would have to believe that officials appointed by a Republican president, including one confirmed by a Republican Senate, were part of a plot to bring down that same Republican president, and that they successfully hoodwinked FISA judges selected by the Republican-appointed chief justice of the United States. This hoodwinking would have continued after the nature of the dossier had been widely publicized and Mr. Page’s Russian connections publicly scrutinized. This is beyond improbable.

    Weird assumption that the Republicans and their nominees are a unified bloc. It also assumes (“widely publicized”) that the submission to the FISA court disclosed Democratic funding of the Steele memo. To me, that’s a key point, and if the memo is to be believed, that wasn’t done.

    This stuff is hard to disentangle, so I hope I’m getting the details right on this hot take…


    * “counter-intelligence operation.” Operation?

  21. XXYY

    “How Can Democrats Connect ‘Identity Politics’ to Economics?”

    Identity politics has been a big preoccupation of the Dems and liberals for the last several decades. It goes without saying that making powerful institutions more diverse is a worthy goal in its own right, and that people in the society should have access to power regardless of gender, race, orientation, etc. Anything less is a defective and immature society.

    However, if I could snap my fingers and make it so that every powerful group in the country were 50% female, 15% Latino, 13% black, whatever percent LGBT, whatever percent disabled, and so on, so these groups exactly mirrored the larger society, would anything about the society really change? I think we can assume that the same filtering process that formerly selected oppressive white males into powerful posts would still act to select oppressive non-whites, females, and LGBT people.

    In fact, there’s only one thing I can guarantee would change in this thought experiment: Women, non-whites, LGBT, the disabled, and everyone else would have to come to the sad realization that they are being deliberately and systematically oppressed by members of their own group.

    As a white male, I have watched my country being ruled by members of my group since its founding (well, not quite that long personally). Has the country become a paradise as a result? Definitely not. Has it even become a paradise for white men? Definitely not. The vast majority of white men are just getting by. So I have long lost any illusions I ever had that rule by members of my group is some kind of panacea for what ails my society. Non-whites, women, etc. have been largely spared this disillusionment to date.

    My point: I have grave doubts that identity politics, in and of itself, will make massive changes to things like poverty, environmental destruction, wealth Inequality, lack of health care and jobs, and the disempowerment and immiseration of the bulk of the population. So a useful left politics needs to make progress on many fronts. Not just one.

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