2:00PM Water Cooler 2/23/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“Sen. Bernie Sanders On Gun Control, Russian Meddling And Congressional Dysfunction” (audio) [Vermont Public Radio]. This seems to be the source for some of the quotes used by Politico, the Hill, and others. Unfortunately, there’s no [family blogging] transcript, except for one portion on the Russkis, which I want contextualized. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, let alone transcribe it, so I wonder if some kind reader can listen and report. For example, via the twitter: “He lays down reasonable solutions to “Russians,” including SECURING VOTING AND PAPER TRAILS ON BALLOTS.” Well, I’m not happy with that either, because the paper ballot needs to be the official record, not a so-called paper trail, and e-voting machines, even with paper trails, are not hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public which (IMNSHO) is the system we should all be demanding, including Senator Sanders. I’d also like very much to hear Sanders’ views on Congressional dysfunction.


“Despite Bright Spots for Trump, Disapproval Remains Intense” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. Wonkish: “The Fox News poll always starts out with registered voters, which makes their numbers a couple of points better for Republicans than those of most other news organizations who begin with a base of all adults, then narrow down to registered and likely voters on ballot-test questions as the elections get closer. To my liberal friends who like to dispute anything connected with Fox, this difference between registered voters and adults explains much of the divergence between the polls of Fox and other major news organizations. I am only referring here to polls conducted over the telephone by live interviewers, not online polls or robo-phone polls…. Simply put, Trump does best among non-college-educated whites, men, and those over 45 years of age. He does worst among college-educated whites, women, those under 45 years old and, of course, nonwhites. Given that midterm elections are virtually always referenda on the incumbent president, this should be food for thought for GOP candidates and office-holders.” “Does best” is an understatement; the polling shows intense polarization.

“Pence’s net favorable rating of -10 (subtracting his favorable rating from his unfavorable rating) is the best of the six political leaders identified by Quinnipiac. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is second with a net favorable rating of -11, followed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi tied with a net -13. President Donald Trump is also deeply underwater with a net favorable rating of -22, but that’s nothing compared to Trump’s GOP frenemy Mitch McConnell. The Senate Republican leader scored a dismal -36 net favorable rating: just 15 percent of voters view him favorably while 51 percent view him unfavorably” [RealClearPolitics].

Texas: “National Democrats come out against primary candidate Laura Moser in bid for Culberson’s seat” [Texas Tribune]. “The DCCC posting, which features the kind of research that is often reserved for Republicans, notes that Moser only recently moved back to her hometown of Houston and that much of her campaign fundraising money has gone to her husband’s political consulting firm. It also calls her a ‘Washington insider.'” Democrats posting oppo on Democrats? Wowsers.

Texas: “EMILY’s List Weighs in Hard in Texas Primary — Against a Leading Woman in the Trump Resistance” [The Intercept]. “Laura Moser, as creator of the popular text-messaging program Daily Action, gave hundreds of thousands of despondent progressives a single political action to take each day. Her project was emblematic of the new energy forming around the movement against Trump, led primarily by women and often by moms. (Moser is both.) It was those types of activists EMILY’s List spent 2017 encouraging to make first-time bids for office. But that doesn’t mean EMILY’s List will get behind them. Also running is Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a corporate lawyer who is backed by Houston mega-donor Sherry Merfish. EMILY’s List endorsed her in November.” Ka-ching.

Missouri: “Greitens didn’t shoot straight with Missourians, can’t govern under indictment” [Kansas City Star]. “We are not yet prepared to call for the governor to resign. But he should seriously consider declaring to the legislature — as allowed by the state constitution — that he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’ … We take no joy in writing this recommendation. But Missourians deserve a full-time governor devoted to their welfare, not one focused on a felony accusation in court.”

New Cold War

“The hysteria over Russian bots has reached new levels” [Thomas Frank, Guardian]. “The ads themselves are now thought to have been the product of highly advanced political intelligence. So effective were the troll-works, wrote Robert Kuttner on Monday, that we can say Trump ‘literally became president in a Russia-sponsored coup d’etat.'” One might almost think Kutter is projecting…. More: “For thoughts on the finely tuned calculations behind this propaganda campaign, the Washington Post on Saturday turned to Brian Fallon, a former Hillary Clinton press secretary, who referred to the alleged Russian effort as follows: ‘It seems like the creative instincts and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the US political operatives who do this for a living.’ Of what, specifically, did this sophistication consist? In what startling insights was this creativity made manifest? ‘Fallon said it was stunning to realize that the Russians understood how Trump was trying to woo disaffected [Bernie] Sanders supporters …’ The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s more:

If you’re one of those people who frets about our democracy being in serious danger, I contend that the above passages from the Post’s report should push your panic meter deep into the red.

This is the reason why: we have here a former spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, one of the best-funded, most consummately professional efforts of all time, and he thinks it was an act of off-the-hook perceptiveness to figure out that Trump was aiming for disgruntled Sanders voters. Even after Trump himself openly said that’s what he was trying to do.

For a veteran politico to be stunned by this unremarkable fact, one of two things has to be true: either Democratic “political operatives” are incredibly bad at what they do, or else they are feigning amazement in order to get themselves off the hook for the lousy job they did in 2016. They themselves blew millions and came up empty, but to this handful of bargain-basement Russian trolls they ascribe all manner of ability. Clinton’s glittering Jedi army was simply powerless against them.

Oddly, or not, Frank can’t seem to get work in the United States after Listen, Liberal! (which you should consider reading if you have not). He’s probably going to find getting work harder after this. Anyhow, this is the ad that converted me (via):

I’m so ashamed. How can I make amends? Where do I sign up for the liberal Democrat Drang nach Osten?

“Mueller Russia indictments cause ‘discord'” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “However, ‘discord’ has buried in it the connotation that the parties at one another’s throats would normally be in closer agreement. That makes it particularly apt to use ‘sow’ with “discord.” A single seed, planted in a crack of a mighty rock, can grow and split that rock asunder.” Yes, if it hadn’t been for outside agitators causing “discord,” all those happy darkies firewallers would have turned out in droves in the 2016 general election.

“But a veteran Washington former federal prosecutor who served during both the Clinton and Bush administrations believes there is a strategy that Mueller is quietly pursuing and that explains his actions so far” [Margaret Carlson, The Daily Beast]. “Seth Waxman, now a partner specializing in white-collar crime in Dickinson Wright’s Washington office, has a theory of Mueller’s case, which requires no novel reading of existing law to find Trump broke it. It employs the main weapon any federal prosecutor uses to police public corruption. It is Title 18 United States Code, section 201 that specifically makes it a crime for a public official to take ‘anything of value,’ a bribe, in exchange for government action, which can be prospective. Note that above I wrote ‘public official.’ That’s because the law is generally wielded against public officials. Problem: Mueller is investigating conduct before Trump became one. Enter Waxman. He points out that in 1962, Congress extended the bribery law to cover activity prior to the assumption of office. It did so, he says, in order to close a ‘loophole’ afforded those ‘who assume public office under a corrupt commitment.” The upshot? Trump became covered by 18 USC not when he was sworn in but as of July 21, 2016 when he became his party’s nominee in Cleveland, Ohio.”

“Democrats want $300 million to fight possible Russia election tampering” [Reuters]. In other words, they want a boondoggle for their IT donors in Silicon Valley, and they want to keep the hysteria going for as long as they can. More: “Schumer also said Democrats want Trump administration officials to issue a public report detailing how Russia might interfere in the 2018 U.S. vote. They also want a classified report for state officials and relevant congressional committees.” Presumably a version of the classifed report will be released? So voters can read it? (I don’t know why I bother….)


“However, pointing the finger at the gun lobby misses the underlying values that define the owning of a gun in the first place — the values of safety and freedom. In the American version of the ‘hierarchy of needs,’ these two values are at the top. According to Pew Research polling, 67 percent of gun owners own a weapon for “protection.” Guns = safety and security. Those who want more gun restrictions argue that guns are often used to harm not protect. That even the most conscientious gun owners can cause accidents. But, gun owners don’t see things that way. That may not make sense to many of us who don’t own one, but it does to them” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. Safety and freedom sound like great ideas!

Marion Hammer is a horrible human being [The New Yorker]. Well worth a read.

Arming teachers:

(Link to the original.)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Public Corruption Cases Are Harder to Prove Than Ever” [Governing]. “Suppose you hope to land a big government contract. Here’s one way you might go about getting it: You hire a lobbyist, who just happens to be a longtime friend of the governor. He hands the governor $10,000 in cash, maybe in a briefcase, like in the movies. The governor then picks up the phone, calls the head of the agency awarding the contract and you’re in, ready to make your pitch. Maybe that sounds like a corrupt arrangement. But that scenario, suggested by Randall Eliason, a George Washington University law professor, would be perfectly legal under current interpretations of ethics laws. The recent mistrial and dismissal of charges against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez made it clear that juries don’t consider gifts between friends, no matter how valuable, to be proof of corruption.” Third World stuff.

“Are voting-machine modems truly divorced from the Internet?” [Freedom to Tinker]. “The ES&S model DS200 optical-scan voting machine has a cell-phone modem that it uses to upload election-night results from the voting machine to the “county central” canvassing computer. We know it’s a bad idea to connect voting machines (and canvassing computers) to the Internet, because this allows their vulnerabilities to be exploited by hackers anywhere in the world. (In fact, a judge in New Jersey ruled in 2009 that the state must not connect its voting machines and canvassing computers to the internet, for that very reason.) So the question is, does DS200’s cell-phone modem, in effect, connect the voting machine to the Internet?…. [technical detail omitted] … So, in summary: phone calls are not unconnected to the Internet; the hacking of phone calls is easy (police departments with Stingray devices do it all the time); and even between the cell-towers (or land-line stations), your calls go over parts of the Internet. If your state laws, or a court with jurisdiction, say not to connect your voting machines to the Internet, then you probably shouldn’t use telephone modems either.”

Stats Watch

There are no stats of interest at Econoday today.

ECRI’s WLI Growth Index: “This [Economic Cycle Research Institute] index is indicating modest growth six months from today” [Econintersect].

Housing: “Black Knight: National Mortgage Delinquency Rate decreased in January” [Calculated Risk]. “The number of delinquent properties, but not in foreclosure, is up 40,000 properties year-over-year, and the number of properties in the foreclosure process is down 144,000 properties year-over-year.”

Housing: “As has been widely reported, the new home builders have been focused on higher priced homes – and this is clear in the house price data. Compared to the bubble peak, the NAR median price is up 4.4%, the Case-Shiller index is up 6.4%, however new home median prices are up 27.5%!” [Calculated Risk].

Housing: “Our analysis suggests that banks’ appetite for mortgage credit risk has been increasing over time. Our findings match other evidence that residential mortgage lending standards have eased in recent quarters (including this mortgage index and this Federal Reserve Board lending survey), while remaining substantially tighter than during the housing boom (see this housing credit index). As other observers have noted, banks’ greater willingness to originate jumbo mortgages is likely to continue, given the improving housing market and the attractive yield on such loans (see this October 2016 Wall Street Journal article, password required). Overall mortgage demand will, however, remain dependent on the evolution of long-term interest rates and the macroeconomy” [Liberty Street Economics].

Commodities: “Cobalt price: Supply scramble heats up with Canadian deal” [Mining.com]. “Investors piled into Cobalt 27 Capital Corp (TSX-V:KBLT) and RNC Minerals (TSX:RNX) on Thursday after the companies entered into a royalty deal on all future nickel and cobalt production at RNC Minerals’ Dumont project in Quebec in a deal worth $70 million….. Annual production of the raw material is only around 100,000 tonnes primarily as a byproduct of nickel and copper mining with more than 60% coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where fears about political instability and the challenges of ethical sourcing combine to supercharge supply concerns. The country is only set to tighten its grip on supply as Glencore restarts its Katanga mine, ERG’s $1 billion RTR operation comes on stream later this year and Nzuri Copper’s advanced Kalongwe project enters production. Prices for cobalt have nearly quadrupled since hitting record lows two years ago, trading at decades highs above $80,000 a tonne this week. Nickel, mainly used in the steel industry, is up 50% in the past six months on expectations of growing demand from electric vehicles.”

Shipping: “European Commission issues massive fines for cartel behaviour among car carriers” [Splash 247]. “The European Commission has fined a raft of car carrier firms €395m ($485.6m) for taking part in cartels, in breach of EU antitrust rules. CSAV, K Line, MOL, NYK and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) have been found guilty of colluding on prices, the latest in a worldwide clampdown on car carrier carter beahvious that has seen fines dished out in three other continents to date. The cartel activity lasted from 2006 to 2012. The commission’s investigation revealed that, to coordinate anticompetitive behaviour, the carriers’ sales managers met at each other’s offices, in bars, restaurants or other social gatherings and were in contact over the phone on a regular basis. In particular, they coordinated prices, allocated customers and exchanged commercially sensitive information about elements of the price, such as charges and surcharges added to prices to offset currency or oil prices fluctuations.” That’s real money!

Shipping: “The [Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)] mandate, which took effect Dec. 18, could result in a conversion of highway traffic to rail if businesses believe that over-the-road drivers may not be able to meet delivery targets; the ELD rule is expected to cut driver productivity by 3 to 10 percent as drivers accustomed to fudging paper logs in order to run more miles than allowed by law are now forced by technology to stay within federal hours-of-service (HOS) limits” [DC Velocity]. The deck: “ELD compliance issues for dray drivers could impact their operations, at a cost to the intermodal ecosystem.” That’s why I hate the word “ecosystem” when used as a profit for market; “ecosystem” takes no account of the legal and regulatory system (probably why Silicon Valley loves the word, come to think of it).

Shipping: “A growing recovery in shipping is helping rescue the sector’s former top financier from possible liquidation. U.S. private-equity firms J.C. Flowers & Co. and Cerberus Capital Management LP plan to buy to buy German lender HSH Nordbank for $1.2 billion” [Wall Street Journal]. “The two German states that own HSH had been looking at a sale for around $245 million, but improved results and a substantial reduction in bad shipping loans have made the struggling lender more attractive.”

Shipping: “Maersk’s “Transformation” Under Scrutiny” [Logistics Management]. “According to published accounts of a presentation given to investors by Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, the company intends to “transform” its logistics and supply chain model to compete with package delivery behemoths like UPS and Fedex. ‘Good luck with that,’ says Foster Finley, Managing Director, of the consultancy, AlixPartners. ‘While we have the greatest respect for Maersk and its superb business culture, this represents a huge break out of its core competency,’ said Finley. ‘Furthermore, they don’t have the shipper relationships that have been nurtured over the years by the world’s largest integrators.’ A more realistic scenario, said Finley, would for Maersk to concentrate its “last mile” strategies in U.S. mega-port cities like Los Angeles/Long Beach; New York/New Jersey; Charleston; and Savannah.”

Transport: “UPS to deploy electric delivery cars at cost parity to diesel, gas powered units” [DC Velocity]. “UPS Inc. said today it will deploy 50 electrically powered package cars by year’s end that will be comparable in acquisition costs to conventionally fueled trucks without any subsidies for electric vehicle investment, a move the transport and logistics giant said could be a breakthrough in large scale truck fleet adoption of electric vehicles…. Atlanta-based UPS said it has reached subsidy-free parity by working with Workhorse Group Inc., a Loveland, Ohio-based manufacturer of electric vehicles, to design and build a prototype from the ground up. The two companies said they have spent four years on the effort. The 50 vehicles will be utilized in densely populated urban areas like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Dallas, and operate with a range of about 100 miles between charges, UPS said. Depending on the success of the initial deployment, UPS will expand use of the vehicles during 2019.”

The Bezzle: “For self-driving cars, car washes are a nightmare” [CNN]. “A self-driving vehicle’s exterior needs to be cleaned even more frequently than a typical car because the sensors must remain free of obstructions. Dirt, dead bugs, bird droppings or water spots can impact the vehicle’s ability to drive safely…. ‘For self-driving technology to scale, we can’t have engineers paid $150,000 a year, running around the vehicles and wiping them down,’ [Seeva CEO Diane Lansinger] said. “It’s going to be quite awhile before we get away from the manual care.”

The Bezzle: “Tesla Inc.’s sedan supply chain may be moving into a higher gear. The Silicon Valley auto maker is notifying some reservation holders new to the electric-car brand that they can begin ordering their Model 3 sedan…. suggesting production of the vehicle at Tesla’s assembly plant is speeding up after a turbulent start last year” [Wall Street Journal]. “Tesla has received about 500,000 reservations for the Model 3 since revealing the sedan in 2016, but the move into the mass-market business has been rocky. It delivered about 1,600 of the vehicles during the final three months of 2017—well below its goal of building 5,000 on a weekly basis, or 250,000 on an annual basis.” “Suggesting” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.

The Bezzle: “Tesla accused of knowingly selling defective vehicles in new lawsuit” [The Verge]. “A former Tesla employee claims the company knowingly sold defective cars, often referred to as ‘lemons,’ and that he was demoted and eventually fired after reporting the practice to his superiors. He made these allegations in a lawsuit filed in late January in New Jersey Superior Court under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).” Hey, move fast and break things… .

The Bezzle: “Recode Daily: Kylie Jenner shaded Snapchat and Snap shares sank $1.3 billion” [Recode]. If your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a busienss. If your platform depends on a celebrity, you don’t have a platform.

The Fed: “Stock market climbs as Fed report suggests no need for 4 rate hikes in 2018” [MarketWatch]. “U.S. stocks climbed Friday as U.S. benchmarks looked set to end an up-and-down stretch of trade on a high note, amid consternation about rising bond yields and the reemergence of long-stagnant inflation. A Federal Reserve monetary policy report, however, offered little sign that the central bank was overly concerned about the type of out-of-control inflation that might warrant more than three rate increases in 2018.”

Mr. Market: “JPMorgan’s Quants Warn Risks Are Growing for Bond Short-Squeeze” [Bloomberg]. “Short positioning in Treasury futures has climbed to a record, increasing the potential for an unraveling of trades betting on further declines in bond prices, Marko Kolanovic wrote in a note to clients. There’s also been an extreme swing in sentiment, with investors unduly focusing on higher inflation risks, said Kolanovic, who heads the team in New York.”

Five Horsemen: “SNAFU — Situation Normal; Amazon Fired Up” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Feb 23 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 15 Extreme Fear (previous close: 18, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 15 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Feb 21 at 7:00pm. Now only lagged by two days. What’s the point of a Fear and Greed indicator that craps out at the ends of the scale?

Health Care

“Bipartisan Group of Governors Outline Health Care Compromise, Again” [Governing]. “Democratic Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Republican Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and Independent Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska discussed their plan at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Their proposal — which expands on a letter they wrote to Congress in August — is aimed at stabilizing the marketplace, making plans more affordable and giving states more flexibility. The governors made a point to argue that, despite the partisan rhetoric in Congress, the goals of delivering high-quality care and reducing costs or covering more people and being fiscally responsible are not mutually exclusive.”


“Building a backup bee” [Food and Environment Reporting Network]. They’re not “building” it; they’re breeding it. “[Dr. Gordon Wardell] has investigated all aspects of [Blue Orchard Bee (BOB)] life in those cages and has figured out how to do what no one else has: economically raise large numbers of BOBs on a small parcel, making them a commercially viable alternative to honeybees for almond pollination…. Theresa Pitts-Singer, who for years has studied BOBs at the USDA’s Utah bee lab, thinks the bees are finally close to becoming a managed pollinator, reaching a “tipping point” she never thought they would reach. She is convinced because BOBs are increasingly available and growers want them, even though they are not cheap. She says that for a long time only one orchard pollination model was dependable: renting honeybees. Now more people seem to accept that other models might work—from bringing more wild bees onto farms to alternatives such as BOBs.”

Hey Ma, can we go barefoot?

Class Warfare

“The New Working Class” [The New Republic]. “Although the “narrative makers” may have missed it, the working class has changed. Those who used to occupy its fringes—hotel housekeepers, retail clerks, and home care aides—are now its majority. Today, home health care is the fastest-growing industry in the United States, projected to add over a million new jobs to the economy in the next ten years. Retail jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, currently make up 10 percent of all employment. These jobs have always been important, but as automation and outsourcing have decimated manufacturing, the relative significance of service work has increased…. This change in the composition of the workforce has the potential to redefine traditional alliances in the United States. Already, unconventional partnerships have formed across different groups: Walmart workers, restaurant workers, and domestic workers have organized and joined with community groups and movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Movement for Black Lives. These alliances also take into account the importance of unpredictable scheduling, social isolation, safety concerns, and gendered and racialized expectations of who is “naturally” inclined to service work.” Hence DSA is clever to be organizing childcare. (And adopting Roberts Rules, which (unlike the General Assembly) respects meeting-goers’ time.)

New of The Wired

“Two-way communication is possible with a single quantum particle” [Science News]. “Using a single photon, or particle of light, two people can simultaneously send information to one another, scientists report in a new pair of papers. The feat relies on a quirk of quantum mechanics — superposition, the phenomenon through which particles can effectively occupy two places at once.”

“Somebody Needs to Make a Movie About John Shuster and His Ragtag Team of Curling Rejects” [Slate]. You don’t see Slate throw the West Fargo Pioneer a link very often!

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

pq writes: “Flood waters from the January thaw pooled in low-lying areas and then froze when the temperature dove back down into the teens. The good news is, it won’t be too long before the maple sap starts running. (I took this photo three days before the lunar eclipse.)”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Bill Smith

    “The ES&S model DS200 optical-scan voting machine has a cell-phone modem that it uses to upload election-night results from the voting machine to the “county central” canvassing computer.”

    Don’t know about this machine but where I have been an election judge the machine does have a modem which we plugged into the phone jack. After the polls close we print out a report that shows the results. Then we connect to modem and phone in the results. But we also hand carried two duplicate memory sticks, the printed report (a copy of which we leave taped outside the door of the pooling place) and the scanned paper ballots down to the board of elections.

    The next day the county comes and collects the scanner (which we leave locked up and in a locked room) and eventually checks the results that are left on the scanner to everything else.

    The official count doesn’t use the phoned in numbers. That’s just an early release for the press.

    1. XXYY

      The problem of course is the electronic storage of information inside the scanner itself. This is unverifiable (I assume).

      Accuracy and transparency are two completely different things. Accuracy is fine when everyone trusts everyone else (good-guy environment). Transparency is vital when no one trusts anyone else. The ability to *easily prove* that no malfeasance took place is a vital quality in a voting system, and needs to be designed in at every stage. Convenience, speed of reporting, etc., are very much secondary concerns.

  2. fresno dan

    “The hysteria over Russian bots has reached new levels” [Thomas Frank, Guardian].

    You know, when I put on my hammer and sickle bunny ears antenna red commie slippers, and began receiving my orders in my basement lair from Vlad (after Trump’s win, and my nefarious undermining of US democracy by trolling, I now get to call Putin Vlad) to implement my scheme to destabilize America and travelling across the midwest in my 1988 Yugo nicknamed Yugo girl as a pro Hillary false flag operation, all the commissars still are in awe at how I did it. Well, I think it was Lennin who said we will undermine the capitalists with their own 140 characters non-profitable social media scam…..

      1. Synoia

        and began receiving my orders in my basement lair

        Hmm, that’s generally difficult…Technically radio reception in basement is very iffy. What you need is a really good Red Guard (c 1950) antenna on your roof. I believe it’s hammer and cycle shaped.

        1. Barbara Kurth

          I am so glad that humor is entering the comments about Bernie/Russiagate. If this whole fiasco was being treated as humor, no political entity could ever use it to sway public or otherwise opinion. Besides, I like to sleep at night and have a good day next. I achieve those by blaming EVERYTHING on HRC (and sometimes the British Empire). I voted for Bernie in case you think I am a Trump devotee.

      2. DJG

        You’re darn tootin’ that Fresno Dan has has the revolutionary bunny ears as well as the red commie slippers, both of which can receive radio signals, and I recall that 1988 Yugo, which is pink, not red–very wily not to have it colored red, very good with the symbolizm and propagandska–that sped across Illinois and undermined the stalwart stolid straightforward Midwestern voters–so much so that Frezno Dan is single-handedly responsible for Peoria renaming itself Petrograd and Madison changing its name to Moskva po Lake Mendotska.

        And then he was off to Pennsylvanska to ruin the Democratic convention and Hillary’s chances there in the fall.

        1. Wukchumni

          There is a minty looking candle apple red circa 1984 Yugo I see driving around here every once in awhile.

        1. ambrit

          When I complained to Comrade Boris about how cold I was getting last winter without adequate firewood for the Volga Ironworks and Peoples Foundry stove, he sent me a full body bunny suit! In White, to confuse the opposition. “No one will ever connect you with the Party. No sane Party aparatchik would let him or herself be associated with the Whites.”
          It worked a treat. Everyone assumed that I was sadly suffering some sort of semisenescence, tricked out in the regalia of a neuropathological nostalgia for Mass Appeal Television Christmas Specials circa 1969. Rankin and Bass, two of the most prolific and effective agitprop agents Moscow Centre ever had. Then and of course, the legendary Brothers Kroftt. Psyops at their best!

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > a full body bunny suit!

            Is this it? (via):

            The hammer and sickle emblem is free, but there’s an extra charge for embroidering the number on your Party card.

            UPDATE Shipped, amazingly enough, from Chelyabinsk. Is life imitating art, or art life?

            1. ambrit

              Comrade Strether;
              I was not aware that the Parties’ thermal retention suit was now publicly available! The Party has obviously taken a page from our fellow Chinese Peoples’ Party playbook. Take formerly restricted Homeland Defense Industries and redesign them for dual purpose, homeland defense and pseudo capitalist resource aggregation modalities. Sell the Capitalists the rope, in many convenient shapes and sizes.
              This is obviously a public version of the Party exclusive model. The ‘Red’ is not quite the same, and the Hammer and Sickle is well nigh inobtrusive.
              The Party version has posable ears for adjusting for better reception of radio traffic.
              Considering how much ‘fake’ everything there is floating about in our phenomenal environment today, I’d equivocate a bit and say that Life Is Art.
              old and unimproved ambrit

    1. Avalon Sparks

      Ha Ha!!

      My question is WHEN in the whole history of the internet have Online Trolls ever changed a person’s mind about their opinion? I’d say NEVER.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Lennin said we will undermine the capitalists with their own 140 characters non-profitable social media scam

      Whereas Lennon (John, not Vlad) said —

      “Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry …”

    3. Code Name D

      And all I have is this crummy Duck Doggers decoder ring in Cyrillic script. And all is says is “Drink your Oveltieen.”

  3. XXYY

    Cook Political Report:

    I am only referring here to polls conducted over the telephone by live interviewers, not online polls or robo-phone polls….

    Is it just me, or is this methodology itself intensely skewing? That is, only people (a) with wireless phones, (b) are home when polls are conducted, and (c ) have the time and inclination to talk to a pollster are represented in these polls. This excludes pretty much anyone I know or have ever met, and me as well; I never answer our home wireless phone thanks to a decade of denial of service attacks by telemarketers and pollsters.

    Perhaps this explains the poor performance of pollsters of late.

      1. XXYY

        Of course, I get this, but if (say) your sample is 2000 people, and (say) only one in a thousand people you actually reach is under 30, then your data re. people under 30 depend on two people, whereas your data on people over 60 come from 1500 people. (Treating the word “data” as plural means you’re a scientist!)

        Even if the solution to oversample (say) people under 30 until you get a reasonable number of respondants, the people you reach are going to be systematically atypical since (I argue) answering telephone polls is not representative of this demographic.

        Same thing if your methodology were to go around and ring doorbells during the day: you would only be sampling the unemployed non-homeless.

    1. Yves Smith

      No, Cook is right. Online polls are crap. I have no idea how you can possibly poll with robo calls.

      With phone interviews, you know the demographics to a degree and can have the interviewer confirm them. That means you can weight the samples properly to represent the population.

  4. jawbone

    Some of my favorite winter memories, back in the time when real winters were the norm in southwest Wisconsin, came with the February thaws. Snow would melt in warmer weather, creating large, very shallow ponds in the fields. The next good freeze, if not accompanied with snow and winds, would form mirror smooth skating “rinks.”

    I was never allowed to skate by myself until I was much older, and even then a big brother was usually needed to get permission to skate on the real lakes or the Fox River. That possibility of spots of fragile ice and possible drowning thing that worries parents….

    But I could go out, whenever there was time, to skate by myself on those wonderful if short lasting “ponds.”

    Oh, for the days (and nights) of real winters! And the time of life when it was not unusual to have snow depths up to my knees. Heh.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      I’m looking out my window at mostly bare ground. I think you need to be in the U.P. these days to get those kinds of winters regularly.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      Our pundit elite seems furious over the possibility that a different group of outsiders managed the quaint, simple aliens of the Murikan heartland more effectively than they themselves did.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Saw a few seconds of an interview with a democrat big wig the other day. He was going on about how the Russians were targeting purple states when the sharp reporter asked him point blank why didn’t his party target those states and implied that that was kinda his job. His reaction was sort of like a deer in headlights crossed with crickets chirping at the same time.

  5. djrichard

    The Fed: “Stock market climbs as Fed report suggests no need for 4 rate hikes in 2018”

    13 week treasury yield has been increasing at a rate of roughly 25 basis points every two months. Which suggests 6 rate increases over the year by the Fed Reserve (assuming the 13 week stays on trend).

  6. Carolinian

    makes it a crime for a public official to take ‘anything of value,’ a bribe, in exchange for government action, which can be prospective

    So you have to prove that the perp both knowingly took Putin’s bribe and promised prospective action in return.

    How is this new and not the gist of the supposed scandal from the beginning? Safe to say that if Mueller could prove any of this he would have long ago done so.

    But Margaret Carlson did fill her column inches for the week. This is why journos like her get the big bucks.

    1. djrichard

      Remembering when Reagan and Iran did some actual quid-pro-quo regarding hostages before Reagan got elected. But Reagan didn’t represent a deplorable populist electorate, which makes all the difference.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        lol : “But Reagan didn’t represent a deplorable populist electorate..”

        I was a kid in and around Houston Texas, at the time…and I would beg to differ.

        in other news….you know something’s wrong when my house in Central Texas is colder than the frelling North Pole. We were at 28 that morning(unless the days have run together more than I realised)

        1. djrichard

          Well yes, Reagan might have been threatening to your status quo. But was he threatening to the status quo of global capitalism and the deep state?

          If Trump won on Jeb’s platform (friendly to status quo), but with the the same taints otherwise (Russian tainted, womanizer, white supremacy dog whistling, etc), I don’t think we would have seen a special prosecutor. I think even the Russian taint would have been embraced simply as a peculiarity as long as it didn’t threaten the status quo.

          1. jrs

            Trump isn’t threatening to global capital, hardly. As for the deep state, that’s mostly infighting. The ruling class has it’s divisions but none represent us.

            1. djrichard

              Sure, I think he’s been trained now. And the special prosecutor in particular has been important as part of that training.

              But that training wouldn’t have been necessary if he didn’t have a platform premised on rolling back free trade and emptying the swamp and not engaging in wars.

              Given the jettison of planks from his platform, it will be interesting to see how his “base” holds together for the 2020 election. If they can be suppressed (through disillusionment), it should be pretty much mission accomplished for the status quo.

          2. Amfortas the Hippie

            I meant the deplorable nature of St Ronnie’s Houston constituency.
            I remember well dressed suburban republican men stomping around like they were owners of the world, and sneeering at anyone who disagreed with them(including my folks).
            smug, superior, condescending, triumphant, entitled.

            1. djrichard

              I can commiserate. I was around back then, and was certainly on their radar as not being one of them. But in my immediate social circle, we were all in blue collar families. So just different side of the tracks.

              I’m guessing the issue is more pronounced today. Kids will still have their social circles. But blue collar today pales in comparison to what it was. And those are the deplorables that Trump is/was seeking to have as his base.

            2. djrichard

              But I can’t commiserate on the cold. We were in the 80s yesterday. It’s not right being this warm.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Taking a Noble Peace prize (which has some value, both monetary – in not directly, indirectly – and non-monetary), would that be taking part in bribery?

    3. Byron the Light Bulb

      Does asking for stolen DCCC data be posted on Wikileaks so that Cambridge Analytica can crunch the data into something that can be used by a foreign troll farm to commit identity fraud in an influence campaign so that the fruits of Euarasian natural gas arbitrage be taxed at the disputed long-term 24% rather than the proper short-term 44% thus saving your political benefactor billions, possibly keeping the Brighton Beach Bratva from extorting you with evidence of bank fraud and some pervo-betamax-performance art circa 2013 so that financial sanctions against the associates of the leader of an Eurasian energy producer are lifted after the election, count as quid pro quo? Asking for a friend…an attorney friend that’s representing an attorney that’s representing some jabroni. No big whup.

        1. Byron the Light Bulb

          I wish. No, I wrote that alternate history book series that asks, “If Korea won the English Civil War, would the Falklands War have been fought with unmanned Yongary Kaiju?” And that murder mystery series about the Siderodromophobic Hobo who rollerblades around solving crimes in Kansas City, the Bionic Dave tetralogy.

          Don’t let me be misunderstood, all of the above-above alleged could have been dealt with a political transparent but limited hang-out. Throw us a bone. America is not Prince Hamlet, nor was it meant to be. Trump has never learned that you don’t sell to the person in front of you.

      1. Paul Cardan

        It’s so difficult to discern intent without the benefit of cues like intonation, body language, and so forth. I will assume that you are in earnest. In that case, I believe I’ve found an eleventh distinct informal fallacy linked to Russiagate: complex question. FYI, here are the other ten:

        Argumentum ad ignorantiam: it did happen, since you cannot prove that it did not.
        Misrepresentation: “17 intelligence agencies”
        Argumentum ad baculum: I’m right, as I’m sure you’ll agree, seeing as how I’ll shame you, insult you, or accuse you of treason if you don’t.
        Argumentum ad hominem: naysayers or skeptics are dupes, useful idiots, racists, etc.
        Hedging: from hacking the vote (literally), to propagandizing for Trump, to “sowing division,” without ever explicitly admitting error along the way.
        Exaggeration: “act of war,” “worst attack since 9/11,”
        Double standard: Russian meddling is an act of war, but US interference in foreign elections is not.
        Cherry picking: ignoring WikiLeaks’ claims about its source; ignoring Crowdstrike’s track record.
        False cause: attempts to “sow division” are contemporaneous with division, ergo . . .
        Lost contrast: Russia meddled, and we know this because we’ve defined meddling as any attempt to influence US public opinion, whether successful or not, and we know that any state with the means to make such an attempt would do so.

        I’m shooting for something around a baker’s dozen altogether. Anyone care to give red herring a shot?

        1. Richard

          Paul, thanks so much for this! This helps me, at least, properly identify some of swarm of horrible arguments that surround me.

        2. integer

          My First Day as CIA Director Consortium News

          “We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence … used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

          Binney and other highly experienced NSA alumni, as well as other members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), drawing on their intimate familiarity with how the technical systems and hacking work, have been saying for a year and a half that this CIA/FBI/NSA conclusion is a red herring, so to speak.

        3. Elizabeth Burton

          Isn’t Russiagate itself a red herring, since it’s main purpose seems to be keeping everyone’s attention off the real interference that occurred before, during, and after the elections in the form of voter suppression by both political parties? Why is it no one is discussing that the Department of Homeland Security is now effectively in charge of election oversight, and one of its first actions was to issue a warning the Russians were going to be messing with this November’s elections?

          I can’t think of a better way to cover up any and all voting irregularities this fall, up to and including deliberate “miscounts” ensuring progressives lose, than telling people “The Russians done it!”

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > How is this new and not the gist of the supposed scandal from the beginning? Safe to say that if Mueller could prove any of this he would have long ago done so.

      Agreed, but I thought that moving the timeline back to Trump’s nomination, rather than his election, was an interesting concept to file away.

  7. Rob P

    >For a veteran politico to be stunned by this unremarkable fact, one of two things has to be true: either Democratic “political operatives” are incredibly bad at what they do, or else they are feigning amazement in order to get themselves off the hook for the lousy job they did in 2016.

    Or, more likely, both things are true.

  8. Synoia

    Folks, I’m beginning to think arming teachers might not be the best idea

    Nice for you to get there. Now I have a suggestion:

    Let’s have open carry in Congress & the Senate for all, Visitors, Staff and Lawmakers.

      1. pretzelattack

        it takes a good legislator with a gun to stop a bad legislator with a gun.also, addition by subtraction.

    1. Tom Stone

      There are a LOT of Guns in the USA, a year or so the late Kevin R.C. Obrien took a look at the data ( Which is imperfect) and came up with more than 300 Million sold here since the early 1990’s.
      He also tried to determine how many AR15 style rifles ( The AR 15 is an “Assault Rifle” in the same sense that Ketchup is a vegetable)) had been sold since they came on the market almost 60 years ago and the figure was 24 Million.
      How many more guns are there?
      Millions of Model 94 Winchesters, 6 million M1 Carbines were made and there are likely a million or so sitting in closets.
      And these are just the guns held by ordinary people.
      How many stolen or illegal guns are circulating among criminals?
      Many millions.
      And they last a long time given minimal care, I have fired rifled muskets and a spencer rifle made in the 1860’s and was acquainted with a man who regularly shot a short land pattern Brown Bess manufactured in 1768.
      It’s not new tech, given a CNC Mill, a 30 ton press and a drill press I could turn out full auto 9 MM submachine guns all day, just like they do in Australia.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I can think of three possible routes around the “amazing number of gunz in circulation” point (which is true):

        1) Pay people to turn their guns in

        2) Regulate ammo heavily

        3) Licensing and registration (just like cars)

        1. Dandelion

          mandatory bodily injury liability insurance, as with cars. let Wall Street price coverage, and therefore gun sales, out of existence while getting some rent for their troubles. Win-Win.

  9. Craig H.

    Sort of ground report on the TX thing; I just moved out of Culberson’s district.

    In 2016 he got over 56% of the vote and the D got less than 44. I find it hard to believe that anybody would classify this seat as contested. Also the man is a buffoon. My favorite Culberson experience was right before Ike when he was on the main local AM news station telling everybody to hunker down and make sure that they had plenty of water and ammo. Ike was a major storm that ripped a hundred shingles off the roof of my building.

    There was also an hilarious moment in Houston politics when Ed Emmet told FEMA to leave town after one day because Houston was better off without their interference. He was great. The city was completely out of action for a week and his advice to the citizens was “come on just use your head”. I did not hear any Culberson commentary after the storm had wrecked the place.

    1. Darthbobber

      DId the Democrats run an actual candidate and fund them, or did they run a sacrificial lamb with a token campaign?

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        The Texas Democrats are notorious for running Republican-lite candidates, especially if they can self-fund. Indeed, recruiting Republicans to switch sides is a tried-and-true DCCC/DSCC process. They did it here in TX-21 when Derrick Crowe started getting lots of endorsements from people sick and tired of having to choose between two Republicans. Notably missing from the “qualified” official candidate’s website is a list of specific issues. Instead, there’s a generic list of “concerns.”

  10. edmondo

    Texas: “National Democrats come out against primary candidate Laura Moser in bid for Culberson’s seat”

    I went to the candidate’s website. Even though she is endorsed by the Justice Democrats, I could not find the words “Medicare for all” anywhere on there. If this is a left wing progressive, I must be Che Guevara

    1. Daryl

      Aye, google didn’t turn up much either.

      This is on her website:

      > Assuring all families have access to health care by fighting for a single-payer system that covers all Americans

      next to

      > Easing the tax burden on middle-class families, not just on the wealthy

      Pretty telling that a candidate who mostly makes tepid statements like these is considered by the Democratic party to be “too liberal” for Houston.

      1. edmondo

        But she has an entire section dedicated to “Entrepreneurialism.” (Is that even a word?) Therein she shows how progressive she is by advocating tax credits and being against lobbying.

        Maybe she used her husband’s connections to get a few endorsements? I hear the Democrats are pretty big on that kind of thing.

      2. Darthbobber

        I’d quibble that last sentence. It isn’t that that the Democratic Party fears she’s too liberal. What its members fear or don’t fear will emerge on primary day. Its that the Democratic apparatchiks fear that the Democratic party as such WON’T think she’s too liberal.

    2. Darthbobber

      The Texas stories in combination offer almost a textbook example of how the party oligarchy’s. network works. DCCC dumps in this piece of oppo which, even if it were all the gospel truth, accuses the target of things that DCCC has a long record of having no problem with. And by not officially coming out for the guy they’re almost certainly backing they avoid having to acknowledge that he doesn’t live in the district still and has no intention of doing so.

      Meanwhile Emily’s list trots out a by-now-pretty-ancient pp support record for it’s choice, (successfully disregarding that the unbacked woman is equally fine on that, without the baggage of the favored woman, whose professional career seems to have been largely devoted to helping bosses of both genders screw precariat workers of both genders).

      The separate elements of the network of influence move separately towards the common goal.

  11. Left in Wisconsin

    The Bezzle: “For self-driving cars, car washes are a nightmare” [CNN]. …. ‘For self-driving technology to scale, we can’t have engineers paid $150,000 a year, running around the vehicles and wiping them down,’ [Seeva CEO Diane Lansinger] said. “It’s going to be quite awhile before we get away from the manual care.”

    See, all of you who think robots are going to take all the jobs just haven’t thought through how much menial manual care a(n entitled portion of) society can embrace. Unlimited!! Compared to butt-wiping, car wiping will seem downright delightful.

    1. Robert McGregor

      I had a multi-millionaire uncle in the 1970s who got his millions through inside trading in the Mexican government. I was sitting on his beach circa 1978, as we talked about seaplanes. He said they were too “high maintenance,” because they constantly had to have the salt water wiped off them. He said, “It’s fine in the military where you have plenty of peons, but not here” (Manzanillo, Mexico). As a 22 year-old, I was confused, because I thought Mexico had plenty of low-wage labor. But there is low-wage labor, and then there is REALLY LOW WAGE LABOR! Oligarchs prefer the latter.

      1. Wukchumni

        I had dinner once upon a time with a casino owner whose empire included casinos in Reno, Las Vegas and Laughlin. I asked him which one he liked the best, and his eyes lit up a little and he exclaimed Laughlin!

        I asked why, and he told me there was nothing to do there, so he got about half of his employees wages back across the tables. He said the rate in Vegas & Reno was closer to 15%, in comparison.

  12. a different chris

    >and e-voting machines, even with paper trails, are not hand-marked paper ballots

    Even worse, you’re dealing with human voters. 5% of them will quite honestly believe that “I didn’t vote for that guy!” if they don’t see the very ballot they wrote on. Another similar percentage will lie about it.

    So yes, hand-marked paper ballots are the only way. And I’m a techie, for chrissake.

    1. Lemmy Caution

      Bernie’s there:

      “I’m conservative enough to think that we should do what Canada does in national elections — go to paper ballots because we can make sure then that there is not cyberattacks against our voting systems.”

      Bernie Sanders
      Vermont Public Radio interview (14:50)

      1. Daryl

        Sounds good to me. I’ve always been concerned about cyberattacks…not the kind that come from Russian script kiddies, the kind that come pre-installed on voting machines that are less regulated and audited than slot machines at casinos.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Paper ballots and their support network are a direct attack to the heart of neoliberalism: “No, plenty of people will volunteer for the grunt work.” Whoa, there is a society!

    1. Lee

      Alas, there is the 2nd amendment to deal with. I don’t know if a reinterpretation of said amendment by the Supreme Court could do it or not, but currently there is essentially no chance of that.

      To become an operative part of the Constitution, an amendment, whether proposed by Congress or a national constitutional convention, must be ratified by either:
      The legislatures of three-fourths (at present 38) of the states; or.
      State ratifying conventions in three-fourths (at present 38) of the states


      1. dcblogger

        Right-wing resistance to meaningful gun control is driven, in part, by a false notion that America’s Founders adopted the Second Amendment because they wanted an armed population that could battle the U.S. government. The opposite is the truth, but many Americans seem to have embraced this absurd, anti-historical narrative.

        The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison.


        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          We can discuss the principles involved, and we can discuss what else we can do to save lives.

          The former also involves taking into consideration

          1. the likelihood of achieving the goal (for example, Dems risking the mid-term elections)
          2. How long will that take

          In the meantime, I believe we should look into hi-tech, defensive measures.

        2. Randy

          IMO the main reason they thought they needed a militia was to protect against Injun pushback against the white invasion of Indian lands.

          1. Darius

            Put down slave revolts. Perhaps the wake of that is the fact that in practice the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right of white people to bear arms. A black man with a gun is shot down on sight.

    2. djrichard

      Yes, and then it’s just a matter of turning out your base. The dems are collecting quite a number of issues to turn out their base:
      – Russia
      – Tax cuts for the rich
      – Governance regarding guns
      – White supremacy
      – Metoo

    3. Wukchumni

      Guns seem as popular and widespread now, as people smoking cigarettes say circa 1965.

      Back then, it was common for folks to have a dozen ashtrays scattered throughout the house everywhere in case you felt the urge to light up inside, and the table over from you in the restaurant might be full of chain smokers puffing away the entire meal. I asked my mom how much she smoked through her pregnancy with me, and she told me “half a pack a day”. Hell, she’d get arrested for admitting doing that, if she was in a family way today!

      Similar to cigarettes, we know guns and in particular the bullets that rip through everything faster than the speed of sound, aren’t good for us.

      How do we go about making guns the social pariah that cigarettes are currently?

      1. ambrit

        Figure out a real cure for insecurity. FDR had a chance with his Four Freedoms. But that was too anti-oligarch for the elites.
        Someone mentioned that FDRs’ programs were in response to a truly existential threat to western society. It will probably take a similarly existential threat to galvanize another such bout of reform of the body social.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > existential threat

          Which is coming; that’s a what a legitimacy crisis is.

          My concern is that the elites, this time around, will go for a “business plot” (the one Smedley Butler blew the whistle on), as opposed to a New Deal.

          That’s one reason I think gridlock is our friend. Granted, the elite is still sliding right, but bitter conflicts among them slow the process down, as opposed to what would happen if either party took full control.

      2. Anon

        They may not be good for you, but they’ve done loads of good for me in my lifetime. They helped my parents (and now help me)put food on the table, both meat and garden veggies saved from the rabbits with a .22; they’ve protected my chickens from predators, they scared off coyotes who came up to the house eyeing my dog, and they scared off a few two-legged predators as well. But hey, I’m not rich so I don’t deserve food or safety, right?

  13. allan

    Cuomo on Newburgh: ‘They have to feed the lawyers’ [Politico]

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday chastised the city of Newburgh — which is grappling with the aftermath of a toxic chemical discovered in its drinking water source — for its planned lawsuits over the contamination.

    “We have been very active in the Newburgh situation and will continue to be,” Cuomo told reporters at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. “Why they would threaten litigation, you know, they have to feed the lawyers. But whatever we can do, we will do and we are doing, by the way.”

    On Wednesday, Newburgh, a city of 30,000 people, sent notices of intent to sue to Cuomo, several federal entities and two private companies allegedly responsible for contaminating Washington Lake, the city’s reservoir. The state has identified the nearby Stewart Air National Guard Base as the source of the contaminant known as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, which was present in firefighting foam for training and firefighting purposes.

    While the state paid for the city to temporarily switch to water from the Catskill Aqueduct, that was never intended to be a permanent solution. The Department of Environmental Conservation pushed back final tests of a permanent filtration system to remove PFOS from water in Washington Lake to early March but still plans to switch Newburgh over to filtered water from the lake. …

    As bad as this situation is for the beleaguered residents of Newburgh,
    it’s good news for the future of the Democratic Party.

    Cuomo 2020: In like Flint.

    1. Wukchumni

      Newburgh is about 10 miles away from West Point, and as perfect as everything is @ the Point, it’s the polar opposite @ Newburgh. We watched drug deals go down in the street, and got a ‘lets get out of here’ flight or flight syndrome from the place. It sports a crime rate way beyond the average, a dangerous place before getting hit with dangerous drinking water.

      1. Darthbobber

        Whereas Beacon, facing Newburgh from the opposite side of the Hudson is the reverse. Was up there again this fall, to visit the Storm King sculpture park outside Newburgh and the DIABeacon site in Beacon. (Great hole-in-the-wall Mexican place in Newburgh, btw.)

        Interestingly, Beacon, which is mostly white and upscale, is chockfulla Black Lives Matter signage and promotion of every warm progressive cause a certain sort of Catskillite could possibly desire. (Pete’s home wasn’t far away, and two different places I ate at had a menu item prominently called “the Pete Seeger”). Newburgh, where the actually oppressed seem to live, is of course bereft of all the outward accoutrements of this sort of political activism.

  14. Lee

    Do molecular biologists dream of frankenbots?

    Roboticists are turning to fleshy substances to build a fleet of bio-inspired robots.

    Actually, this is rather intriguing. Muscles run on fat and sugar as opposed to fossil fuels, or alternatively, batteries, which still have limited energy density. What would the production to waste stream consist of, I wonder. They may be simply reinventing the horse or oxen but with the advantage of eliminating the need to provide calories that are necessary for all life functions outside of useful work. Oh, happy day! The services of manual laborers and the precariat will no longer be required. We can feed them to our self-driving muscle cars.

  15. a different chris

    >A self-driving vehicle’s exterior needs to be cleaned even more frequently than a typical car

    A self-driving vehicle’s exterior needs to be cleaned.

    There, fixed it for most of us.

      1. Daryl

        2018: self-driving cars revolutionize driving in america
        2019: self-driving cars realize the impermanent nature of existence and transcend the trappings of their metal bodies
        2020: carts with horses

        1. polecat

          2030: Flintstone mobiles …. except Fred is dead, due to extreme effects of thermonulcear radiation, along with the wife, the kids, the neighbors …. and whatever horses are still kickin are in the process of devolving down to the size of large rats.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        Bravo! But I’m going to have to cite Bruce Springsteen as who has worried that question to death.

    1. Lemmy Caution

      Many of the high-tech safety and convenience features on today’s cars rely on sensors and cameras located around the vehicle exterior to function properly.
      For example, if any of the sensors or cameras for these features:

      Forward Collision Warning with Full Stop
      Adaptive Cruise Control
      Lane Departure Warning
      Rear Back-up Cameras
      Rear Cross-Path Detection Warning
      Parking Assist systems

      … get covered in mud, snow, ice, bugs or any other kind of debris, then the systems become unreliable and the driver has to resume complete responsibility for safe vehicle operation.

      Hope the engineers are busy designing a bunch of little mini wipers to keep everything perfectly clean every second that Robo car of the future is on the road.

    1. a different chris

      Think the day will come when Amazon’s value, in today’s dollars, is 1/10 that? I do. Couple of decades, though.

  16. Jim Haygood

    Credit for the Kremlin:

    S&P Global Ratings on Friday raised its sovereign credit rating for Russia by one notch pushing it into investment-grade territory.

    S&P said it was raising its foreign currency long-term sovereign credit rating on Russia to BBB- from BB+ with a stable outlook.

    Earlier on Friday, Fitch affirmed its BBB- rating on Russia, its lowest investment-grade designation, with a positive outlook.


    Russian bonds have a 4.36% weight in the largest emerging market bond fund, managed by iShares. Until today a little more than half its holdings were sub-investment grade — that’s the nature of the beast, as many emerging markets are shaky credits.

    Now EMB’s investment-grade holdings may rise from 47.5% to almost 52%.

  17. move left

    As for Bernie, today at work we were listening to Iowa Public Radio for the first time in ages. After the BBC newshour, the IPR top of the hour news summary came on. One item: “Bernie was in Cedar Rapids today (blah blah summary of some stuff he said, a few quotes)” then at the end: “Sanders is in Iowa to campaign for a candidate for governor.”

    That was it. No mention of the candidate’s name! Kinda remarkable they mentioned him at all then. So he probably can’t go too far off the Democrats’ anti-Russian reservation without harming the chances of candidates who support his agenda. Clearly they are being marginalized as it is.

  18. allan

    Four sheriff’s deputies hid during Florida school shooting [NY Post]

    Not one but four sheriff’s deputies hid behind cars instead of storming Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during last week’s school shooting, according to a new report.

    Sources from Coral Springs Police Department tell CNN that when officers arrived on the scene, they were shocked to find three Broward County Sheriff’s deputies behind their cars with their weapons drawn.

    The school’s armed resource officer, Deputy Scot Peterson was also outside — he resigned Thursday over his failure to act. …

    Bad blood has been brewing between the two law enforcement groups ever since the Feb. 14 massacre.

    Coral Springs City Manager Mike Goodrum confronted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel over the incident during a vigil the following day, saying injured kids could have been dying inside the building while the deputies held back, sources tell CNN. …

    Compare and contrast: the `adults’ are squabbling about who [family blogged] up,
    the teens are out trying to change the world.

    1. blennylips

      Just now on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/collapse/comments/7zr3yk/damning_accusations_w_links_to_source_docs/

      4. Damning accusations, w/ links to source docs: Broward County assigned sheriff’s deputies to schools as cushy political rewards, not to protect students. Criminal acts by students deliberately not reported.

      reporting a twitter thread: https://mobile.twitter.com/TheLastRefuge2/status/966854507744374784

      …get out the armour plated popcorn…

    2. The Rev Kev

      So it wasn’t a good guy with a gun but four good guys with guns who didn’t do damn thing to save lives. This was not a case of men being caught out in a Birkenhead drill but four men with pistols, training in their use and a mission to accomplish. It was a failure of moral character. Conservatives are already pointing out a similar long delay by police in acting in the Orlando night club shooting.
      Yeah, I was not in that situation but those men knew that something like this could happen when they became sheriffs. It comes with the job of being a cop. If you can’t do the job then don’t put your hand up for it. It seems that the NRA has the Florida legislature in a hammerlock so maybe these kids can start to break that. Those kids will never forget and will not be talked down to.

      1. Oregoncharles

        there was a similar long delay during the Columbine shooting, and a half-hour delay before they broke into the Las Vegas shooters’ room (in their defense, they could hear that he wasn’t shooting).

        Supposedly the policies were changed after Columbine, but there seem to be quite a few police who didn’t get the word.

    3. Ted

      If the different reports surrounding this case are confirmed, what we have is a colossal failure of institutions to save the lives of children and their teachers. Couple that with the unbelievable shenanigans in Washington surrounding the royal court intrigues, FISA nonsense with the FBI and peepee hotels in Russia and Herr Müller’s indictment of some Russian temps and we are rapidly approaching the point in a collapse when the Mayan working class just walk away from the cities and back into the jungle, allowing the blood sacrificers and their ilk in the temples to starve to death.

      1. Oregoncharles

        the background to your description of the Mayan collapse is interesting. An archaeologist whose name I don’t begin to remember went to the Yucatan and hired local farmers, Mayans, to carry out the various physical operations involved in building the temples and plazas, and timed them. Since the time it took to build the temples is known, he was able to calculate that the PRESENT population could have, literally, built the edifices in their spare time. More recent discoveries may have called that into question, but he basically questioned the idea that there was a population collapse. He thought it was more like a change of fashion, or popular uprising.

        I thought that was really cool research: experimental archeology.

        There are recent discoveries indicating that the collapse was considerably bloodier than that, but that might support your description.

  19. Jen

    “For self-driving cars, car washes are a nightmare” [CNN]. “A self-driving vehicle’s exterior needs to be cleaned even more frequently than a typical car because the sensors must remain free of obstructions. Dirt, dead bugs, bird droppings or water spots can impact the vehicle’s ability to drive safely…”

    That’s gonna be a problem come mud season.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Do these self-driving cars work when it snows? I’m told that that it sometimes snows in North America.

  20. none

    Proponents of hand-marked and hand counted paper ballots keep forgetting how US elections work. In Canada or other parliamentary countries you might vote on 3 or so questions (which MP you want, which mayor you want, and maybe a 3rd thing). You can easily do that with hand-marked ballots, maybe even separate pieces of paper that go in separate ballot boxes for the different elections (MP, mayor, etc.) that you’re voting in. Hand-counting is then simple. The MP’s then pick the PM and cabinet, who in turn handle the detail stuff like appointing the dog catcher.

    In the US there are typically dozens or even 100 separate questions on a ballot. President, governor, senator, mayor, dog catcher, school bonds, sugary drink tax, bla bla bla. There’s no practical way to count all those votes en masse except with machines (maybe old fashioned lever machines). Paper ballots counted by optical scan work fine, and can be hand counted in the case of something like a contested recount for some specific office. Hand counting everything from the beginning would require changing (drastically streamlining) what gets voted on. That might be a good idea, but it’s a big change in the political system and not just in how votes are counted.

    The phone modem does seem like an avenue for messing with the info inside a machine. It might be better for the machine to just print out a report, human readable and also maybe with a QR code embedding the info. The election staff would then use a mobile phone to snap a picture of the QR code and send it to central tabulation which would put it online, and people could compare the online report with the printout if they thought something might be up.

    1. a different chris

      Crap I didn’t even think about that. We had like 10 selections on our last ballot, between candidates and stupid-questions-that-the-gummint-will-find-a-way-to-ignore. You would think that agony would have made more of a mark in my memory.

      Well, I got nuthin’ then. Stomps away muttering to self.

    2. Oregoncharles

      ” Paper ballots counted by optical scan work fine, and can be hand counted in the case of something like a contested recount for some specific office. ”

      This is precisely how it works in Oregon, at least in my county. The original, hand marked ballots are then stored for 5 years, IIRC, in case quesitons are asked. There is also an audit at the time, but I’m not sure how thorough. My town had a mayoral election that came down to less than ten votes, so they can do very precise recounts.

      I don’t know how precise the optical scan machines are; if someone has that, they could chime in. I’ll ask our elections office the next chance I get.

    3. Yves Smith

      Huh? I’ve never had 100 entries on a ballot. I’ve had at most 20: Pres, one Senator, one Congressperson, state senator and rep, AG, maybe 3 district court judges, generally running unopposed, maybe some other city offices, at most 2 ballot props.

    4. Yves Smith

      No, paper ballots scanned do NOT work just fine.

      You have ballots that need to be adjudicated, due to machine jamming or marks not being clear.

      And the results can be tampered with. Anything with machine counting is vulnerable to meddling.

      1. none

        The idea of machine scanning is that the machine count will at least be pretty close. If some question gets reported as 60-40 by the machine count and that’s consistent with pre-election polling then probably no one will challenge it and the machine result can be treated as official. If it’s 50.1-49.9 then there can be a mandatory hand count of the paper ballots for that question. There could also be a mandatory hand count of a random sample of 1% of the paper ballots for EVERY question, to make sure that the machines haven’t gone off the rails, but that could be done at leisure between election night and official certification. Or if something came out 60-40 and a candidate still wants to pay for a hand count, then fine, let them.

        The San Francisco sample ballot of November 2016 (
        http://www.sfelections.org/sample_ballots/2016_11/Sample_BT_19_C.pdf ) by my count has 62 things to vote on, and I notice that Mayor of San Francisco and SF County Sheriff are both missing, so there are probably some other local offices and issues that similarly weren’t up for election that day. I went and numbered the questions on the ballot:

        * Federal
        1. POTUS/VP
        2. US Senator (1 seat)
        3. US Representative

        * State
        4. State Senator (district 11)
        5. State Assembly (district 17)
        6. Superior Court Judge

        * School board
        7,8,9,10: Board of Education (vote for up to 4)
        11,12,13,14: Community College board (vote for up to 4)

        * District
        15: BART Director (Bay Area Rapid Transit)

        * State Propositions
        16-33: State Propositions 51 through 67 (described on ballot)

        * School Propositions
        34, 35: School Propositions A, B

        * City and County propositions:
        36-58: Propositions C through X

        * District Proposition
        59: Proposition RR

        * Board of Supervisors:

        60, 61, 62: vote your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice

        The first time I voted was in the pre-electronic-voting era and there were a similarly large number of choices. There was a voting machine where you’d flip a lever next to each thing you wanted to vote for and the contraption had hundreds of levers. The votes were tabulated on odometer-like dials inside a covered recess in the machine. After the polls closed they uncovered the dials and read off the results. Except for the possibility of tampering (which I think wasn’t nearly as serious as that of more recent computer tampering) I think that was a better system than paper or electronics, partly because it didn’t record any correlation between votes, which was better for privacy in my way of looking at things.

        I may post this again in todays or tomorrow’s thread since this is an older thread by now.

        Late edit: I think I made some small counting errors that I can’t fix in the limited edit window, but basic idea is the same. I’ll fix in the repost.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      If true — and I’ve never seen a 100-item ballot — it seems like we’re optimizing the counting process for the ballot, rather than optimizing the ballot for fair elections. Priorities?

      1. wilroncanada

        Suggest you try to learn a little bit more about Canadian politics and its voting systems before pontificating.
        Your conclusion that it is impossible to hand count paper ballots when ballots contain contests in different races is reasonable enough, but no barrier to developing a decent electoral system.
        In Canada, federal, nor provincial, nor municipal elections happen on the same day. So, yes, it is simpler to count hand-marked paper ballots. In addition, MPs do not elect the cabinet and Prime Minister. They did, in the 19th century, before ‘parties’ and party discipline making most MPs rubber stamps in parliament itself. But I digress.
        What is wrong with more than one, or even multiple ballots, for different purposes, and deposited into different ballot boxes for counting? In municipal elections I have had ballots for councilors which contained 20 or more names, with the instruction to vote for a maximum of 8 councilors; a ballot with 6 names for Mayor, and a separate ballot for referenda.

        Of course, we don’t vote for judges, and sheriffs, and dogcatchers

        1. The Rev Kev

          You should see the voting sheets for the Australian Senate during our elections – they are about a yard wide. And yet working the elections there was no big hassle sorting and counting them, especially with observers watching everything going on from the parties.
          I think that Canberra, the city-state capital, is the only place that uses computer voting in Australia but the code for it is open source and besides, plenty of Aussies would argue that Canberra is not even Australian.

  21. Jen

    Re: Somebody Needs to Make a Movie About John Schuster and His Rag Tag Band of Curling Rejects

    “But their underdog story only got more incredible in South Korea. Bolstered by George’s new shoes and some emotional support from unlikely curling superfan Mr. T (Mr. T).”

    Mr T will play himself.

  22. ewmayer

    A bit of “bad Olympics physics” to exercize those gray(ing) brain cells: Just a little while ago, NBC (US broadcaster of the Pyeongchang winter olympics) showed a graphic during one of the men’s 1000m speed skating races: skater frozen during a high-speed turn, line from skate blate thru CG was superposed, 46 degrees above the horizontal, i.e. 1 degree above 45 degrees. Off to the side was an arrow with a text “2.5 Gs” denoting the centrifugal force allegedely induced by said turn. Even without knowing anything about the skater’s speed or the radius of the turn, or resort to calculator or trig tables, it should be easy to spot the error.

  23. Woody

    As a young staffer at NRA in the early 90s, I worked with Marion Hammer and found her to be exactly the sort of strong-willed, independent, highly capable and “fierce” woman feminists claim to admire. The lady commands respect and damn well gets it, too. Her success as a lobbyist has as much to do with her political skills and acumen as it does with the large and active constituency she faithfully represents. In the past Yves has expressed frustration at the Democrat’s seeming inability to understand that success in politics involves rewarding friends and punishing enemies. Marion Hammer understands that dictum better than almost anyone in politics. I have no doubt Democrats and their allied gun grabbers would give their eyeteeth to have someone of her…ahem…caliber on their team. Alas, in the span of her 40 years of service in the cause of Second Amendment rights, not one of her opponents can be said to have laid a finger on her in terms of comparable effectiveness. Instead of ad hominem attacks against her, most would do well to learn from her and try to emulate Marion’s quite evident success. As for the New Yorker piece, if my memory of her is sound, I think she’ll be pleased as punch to read it as it very accurately depicts her at her very best.

  24. Darthbobber

    And right on schedule Josh Marshall’s site is up with a piece titled “Does the DCCC have a Tea Party in Reverse problem? Can’t see the body, because its only for Prime (pay extra for more of this crap) members, but it has Laura Moser and her name prominently displayed for the image. Terrifying that she’s raising large sums of money from small donors and can’t just be drowned out.

    Kerfuffle has now spread to Time, which headlines its article: “The Democratic Party Attacks its Own Candidate in Texas”.
    Gotta love this opening line: “Normally, the Democratic party tends to stay out of the Democratic primary.”
    Err…wouldn’t really be possible for the Democratic Party as a whole to stay out of Democratic primaries. Perhaps they mean to say that the DCCC and DSCC do? But that would not be true, though they usually satisfy themselves by dumping a large chunk of their allowable coordinated expenditures in for a favored candidate, and using beards to do the attacking.

    l like the way TIme mentions that “some” locals worry that Moser’s too “liberal” to win, but the one person they quote is a local GOP consultant. Guess he’d also rather the dems nominated someone else. Why is that?

    The mask has slipped even further. Good.

    I also like the Tea Party in Reverse frame. The “problem” that boosted the GOP to the highest level of national and state power its had since the 1920s, while all the smart people pronounced it to be the doom of the elephants. But it was a big problem for the traditional ruling caste of the GOP, who were to some extent forced to abandon the bait-and-switch.

  25. Summer

    “Tax cuts for the rich”
    Yeah, it’s on the list. But it’s “keeping the tax cuts for the rich.”
    Just look at other list: the big donors.

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