2:00PM Water Cooler 5/25/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I’m going to add some more links as a make-good for my fecklessness yesterday. –lambert


“Donald Trump launches US probe into car imports” [Financial Times]. “The Trump administration has initiated a national security investigation into automotive imports that would clear the way for the imposition of new tariffs on cars from Europe, Japan and South Korea and lead to a major escalation of global trade tension. US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday night he had instructed Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to look at launching an investigation into imports of cars, trucks and automotive parts, using Section 232 of the 1962 trade act — the national security provisions used to justify the introduction of tariffs on steel and aluminium earlier this year.”



“Trump 2020: Inside the machine that’s already working to re-elect Trump” [Vice]. “Before any major Democratic candidate for president has raised a dime, the president’s 2020 campaign has already raised over $40 million. Trump Make America Great Again, a joint fundraising committee with the RNC that can transfer money to the Trump campaign, has raised another $34 million.”

UPDATE “Sanders Accepts Amazon Invitation After Video Highlighting Jeff Bezos as ‘Face of Greed’ Gets Retail Giant’s Attention” [Common Dreams]. “‘I remain deeply concerned about Amazon, an enormously profitable corporation, paying workers wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on federal programs like Medicaid, food stamps and public housing for survival,’ Sanders said. ‘At a time of exploding profits,’ he continued, ‘I would hope that Amazon would pay everyone who works in your fulfillment centers a living wage. Thank you very much for your invitation to visit a fulfillment center. I look forward to doing that. Let’s work out a mutually convenient time.'” I’m sure some Amazon MBA, right now, is trying to figure out how to fill that fulfillment center with ringers….


“Mega-Donor Tom Steyer Is Forcing Democrats to Talk Impeachment. Is It a Losing Strategy?” [New York Magazine]. Maybe not for Steyer. (Steyer’s money: “Of all the works of Sauron the only fair.”

“The Bernie-Trump Campaign Finance Legacy: Rejecting Corporate PAC Money” [Buzzfeed]. “[W]hen it comes to campaign finance — and the move to reject corporate PAC money — many leading Democrats in red and purple districts are in step with national figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand. In 2016, for example, just three candidates on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list, challengers the party is backing to contest seats in Republican-held districts, said they wouldn’t take money from corporate PACs. This election cycle, that’s jumped to more than 50%, according to End Citizens United, a group that wants to change current campaign finance rules.” I think this is good, but the real standard should be the average donation: $27. And nothing over a set limit, either. Sanders, and the left generally, can’t make a dirty money argument without a clean and simple guideline for what’s dirty and what’s clean.

“Has the Blue Wave Already Crested?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “Trump has been able to keep the party together, in large part, by tweeting and talking like a populist/nationalist, while governing like a traditional Republican…. . A Gallup poll this week found that 67 percent of Americans believe “now is a good time to find a quality job in the U.S”; the highest percentage in 17 years of Gallup polling. Much of the increased optimism, writes Gallup, “is the product of a radical turnaround among Republicans and those who lean Republican.” As long as the economy stays strong, the GOP is likely to remain united behind the president. Yet, even as Trump’s job approval has ticked up, he hasn’t seen a substantial improvement in the ‘intensity gap.'”

CA: “Clues From the Upcoming California Primary” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. Big horserace roundup, well worth a read. “California, unlike almost every other state, uses a top-two primary system to advance candidates to the November general election. That means every candidate regardless of party appears on the same ballot, and voters can only vote for one of them. This can sometimes lead to one party getting shut out of the general election…. The intricacies of the top-two format explain why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its allies have had to dump several million dollars (so far) into three Republican-held Southern California seats, CA-39, CA-48, and CA-49, before the primary because the Democrats are worried about not advancing candidates to the general election in one or more of those districts. This is why the California primary is by far the most important House primary this year, and not just because California has the largest share of U.S. House seats (about one-eighth of the 435 total, 53). Rather, it’s mostly because the California primary could decide races in June. For instance, we rate CA-49 — an open Republican seat held by the retiring Rep. Darrell Issa — as Leans Democratic, making it one of the top Democratic pickup opportunities in the whole country. But it would immediately move to Safe Republican if two Republicans make it through the top-two primary (or Safe Democratic if two Democrats make it through, as seems possible albeit remote).”

CA: DCCC helicopter money:

CA: “California Republicans bet the House on unknown businessman” [Politico]. “Trump’s endorsement of [John Cox, a little-known businessman running for California governor], a wealthy businessman who previously ran unsuccessfully for House and Senate seats in Illinois and, briefly, for president in 2008, was the culmination of weeks of effort by Republican leadership, including endorsements from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). The president’s intervention is considered especially significant as Cox failed to secure the California Republican Party’s endorsement, splitting activists’ support at the state party’s convention this month with another Republican, state Assemblyman Travis Allen. “Tell me what in the universe is better for a Republican in a primary than a presidential tweet,” said Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party. The president’s intervention is considered especially significant as Cox failed to secure the California Republican Party’s endorsement, splitting activists’ support at the state party’s convention this month with another Republican, state Assemblyman Travis Allen.”

UPDATE NY: Democrat primary election rigging (1):

UPDATE NY: Democrat primary election rigging (2):

Zogby seems to think the liberal Democrats are acting in good faith. If he really believes that, he should resign his leadership position, such as it is, and reflect.

UPDATE NY: Democrat Primary election rigging (3):

Last I checked, the voters will speak on September 13. Are they not relevant? Did I not get the memo?

UPDATE “Progressives seethe over DNC chair Perez’s decision to back Cuomo in NY primary fight” [CNN]. “Perez’s nod came alongside endorsements for Cuomo from 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden. The one-two-three punch of prominent establishment leaders arriving at the convention to publicly back Cuomo angered Nixon supporters and dredged up grievances tied to the 2016 presidential primary, when the DNC’s national apparatus favored, though never openly endorsed, Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.” Don’t get mad. Get even.

NY: “Teachout vows to take on Wall Street, public corruption” [Albany Times-Union]. “‘I think it’s incredibly important that the next attorney general be independent and be willing to take on corruption in Albany,’ Teachout said, noting that she was among the first to call for the resignation of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver after his 2015 indictment.”

KY: “Election Upset: Teacher Beats Kentucky House Leader Who Backed Controversial Pension Bill” [Governing]. “As upset teachers across Kentucky Tuesday tried to flex their political muscle, Rockcastle County High School math teacher R. Travis Brenda narrowly defeated House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell of Garrard County in one of the most-watched races for the state House, according to unofficial results.” That’s quite something. Good to see the Democrat leadership going all in for the teachers unions striking in the Red States — who’ve now proved to be “electable” as well. Oh, wait…

2016 Post Mortem

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” [Epsilon Theory]. Suburban Connecticut: Coyotes and Lyme Disease. “Trump got significantly more coverage than Clinton in major media outlets. Trump got significantly more positive coverage than Clinton in major media outlets. Trump suffered from no infectious meme like Clinton suffered from Emails! in major media outlets. I’m not saying whether all this is good or bad. I’m just saying that it IS. And what it isn’t. This isn’t a Russia thing. This isn’t a Facebook thing. his is a mainstream media thing. A mainstream media thing comprised of people who, for the most part, would rather rip out one of their own fingernails with red-hot pincers than help Trump, but who, driven by the systemic pressures of their business and its utter reliance on Fiat News, did just that.” Interesting read. (Do remember that Clinton, using the Pied Piper strategy, encouraged the press to cover Trump, which the article doesn’t mention. I don’t know how to quantify the effects, though.

Obama Legacy

“Obama: No community benefits agreement, and let’s move on” [Chicago Reader]. “Obama reiterated his loyalty to the city’s south side and his goal for the center to be an active hub there, a place where the next generation of leaders will be recruited and mentored. He said the center will attract more than 700,000 annual visitors, and will bring $3 billion in economic activity to the Chicago area. But in regard to the binding community benefits agreement that a coalition of groups has been asking for, Obama had this to say: “I respect the intent, but we’re not coming in here as a for-profit organization. I’m raising a bunch of money. I’m not getting a salary from the foundation. Michelle and my motivations are entirely to see the community benefit.” Er, doesn’t the “community” (slipper phrase) get to decide what is of benefit? And doesn’t a binding community benefits ageement allow that to be expressed? It’s like Obama doesn’t think the locals have or deserve agency. Odd.

UPDATE “Obamas Sign Deal To Produce Netflix Shows, Movies” [The Onion].

Realignment and Legitimacy

Modified rapture:

Let’s not forget that Democrat regulars are able to execute Iron Law of Institutions tactics flawlessly. If they are allowed to set the baseline for OR as winning races immediately, and OR buys into it, then the next step is to form alliances with liberals or even Blue Dogs, “because this one race is very important.” And the step after that is to take their dirty money. We already have one MoveOn; we don’t need two. Granted, “winning” is an easy baseline to measure, and it’s all that the horserace journalists care about, which is one reason we are where we are. I suggest OR develop and publicize its own metrics. One might be doors knocked. Another might be voters registered or taken to the polls. A third might be the ratio of dollars spent to votes gained. I would bet that OR spends a lot less money per vote, and if that metric is put out there, it becomes a yardstick to measure the wretched excess of Democrat consultants by, and sends the subliminal message that “Well, the liberals bought another race.” Which is not unjust.

“Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists” [New York Times]. Handy chart:

At least we’re getting a tripartite view of the electorate. Makes the material on Cuomo fall right into place, doesn’t it?

UPDATE “Concerned by Trump, Some Republicans Quietly Align With Democrats” [New York Times]. “In the past year, however, influential liberal donors and operatives have gone from cheering these so-called Never Trump Republicans to quietly working with — and even funding — them. Through invitation-only emails and private, off-the-record meetings, they have formed a loose network of cross-partisan alliances aimed at helping neutralize President Trump, and preventing others from capitalizing on weaknesses in the political system that they say he has exploited.

While this network has mostly eschewed electoral politics, some involved see the potential for it to help form an ideological — and possibly financial — platform to back candidates, including a centrist challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020, possibly from within the G.O.P. or even a third party.

The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance trying to pull the Democratic Party left.” Liberals don’t try to pull the party left. The left does that.

UPDATE Good question:

Useful to whom?

“Give Me Liberty or Something Else” [The Baffler]. “Besides presumed future intra-libertarian squabbles, there’s also another issue, a dark truth of American politics: when the government gets smaller, big business swoops in. After all, for all its DIY aesthetic, PorcFest already has a corporate sponsor: look at its keynote speaker. My friendly libertarian guides would no doubt tell me not to worry. The will of the people, or the free market, or some other mythical force will forge the perfect relationship between business behemoths and a new small-government society. But what happens when some members of that new society are seduced by the power and money of the companies and donors who already exert so much control over the American government? What happens when Walmart tries to pay workers thirty cents an hour? Or when Patrick Byrne wants a monopoly for Overstock.com? Maybe “the people” will stop them. But I suspect the residents of this hypothetical libertarian utopia will genuflect before the “free market” and allow these companies to sweep in and do what they will—thus putting their citizens in thrall to the very kind of impersonal, powerful institution that they claim to be dismantling. There are many reasons why the free state of New Hampshire would never work, why libertarianism is ultimately a simplistic fantasy. I suspect that this is the most fundamental.” Well worth a read, especially if you’re from New Hampshire.

“Governor wants Florida to hurry up on getting election security money” [Federal Times]. ” Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered state officials Wednesday to expedite the acquisition of a $19 million federal grant aimed at protecting the state’s election systems from cyberattack, one day after the state’s top elections official said the money wouldn’t be available until after the November election. The money is part of a $380 million national election protection program President Donald Trump approved in March. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections official, had said Tuesday at the annual convention for the state’s 67 county supervisors of election that the money couldn’t be distributed earlier because it requires legislative approval. Scott ordered Detzner, his appointee, to file the necessary paperwork to access the grant soon so the money can be available before the election…. When federal computer security experts asked the county election officials at their meeting Wednesday if they have plans for countering a cyberattack, only about a third raised their hands, but all said they had hurricane contingencies.” This is driving me nuts: For one thing, there’s no mention of hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, so we know right away the story is intellectually dishonest. Second, we’re letting the DHS drive our voting systems. We’re letting the “intelligence community” both drive and constrain election coverage. Can anyone see problems here?

“Census Bureau will count incarcerated people in the wrong place once again in 2020 Census, continues to distort democracy” [Prison Policy Initiative]. “When state and local officials use the Census Bureau’s prison count data attributing ‘residence’ to the prison location, they give extra representation to the communities that host the prisons and dilute the representation of everyone else. This is harmful to rural communities that contain large prisons, because it seriously distorts redistricting at the local level of county commissions, city councils, and school boards. It also harms urban communities by not crediting them with the incarcerated population whose legal residence never changed.”

UPDATE “Planned Parenthood Is Asking Donald Trump’s Labor Board For Help Busting Its Colorado Union” [The Intercept]. Wonderfully clarifying!

“Deportation protesters block Minneapolis light rail; 18 arrested” [Minnesota Public Radio]. “Eighteen people were arrested during a Tuesday morning immigration protest at Fort Snelling that blocked light rail trains. The demonstration, by the Poor People’s Campaign of Minnesota, happened on the tracks near the Whipple Federal Building close to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Protesters blocked the tracks about 9 a.m. Metro Transit police made the arrests about 90 minutes later.”

Stats Watch

“Which markets are closed on Memorial Day?” [MarketWatch]. “U.S. financial markets will be shut on Monday in observance of Memorial Day… Additionally, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 UKX, +0.18% will close for a bank holiday on Monday. Other European stock markets, such as the Stoxx Europe 600, will remain open. Currency markets will be open on Monday, though volumes will be lighter-than-expected.”

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Durable Goods Orders, April 2018: “Tariff-related price inflation may be driving up dollar totals in the factory sector which, based on the April advance durable goods report, has gotten off to a very strong start for the second quarter” [Econoday]. “Forget the 1.7 percent headline decline in the month, one due entirely to an understandable swing lower for what have been very strong aircraft orders. Excluding aircraft and other transportation equipment, durable goods orders rose 0.9 percent to beat Econoday’s consensus by 3 tenths…. The factory sector, as has been indicated by the regional reports, is picking up steam and, showing no immediate negatives and possibly positives from tariffs, looks to be an increasing contributor to the 2018 economy.” And: “for the year-to-date, orders were still up 9.6% over the same period in 2017′ [Industry Week]. And but: “Civilian aircraft were the main headwind this month – and without aircraft, this would have been an ok report. This series has wide swings monthly so our primary metric is the unadjusted three month rolling average which improved. The data this month has been rebenchmarked” [Econintersect].

Consumer Sentiment, May 2018 (Final): “A downgrade in the current assessment pulled down the final May reading for consumer sentiment” [Econoday]. “The decline in consumer sentiment does match a topping off in the weekly consumer comfort index and will lower expectations for next week’s consumer confidence report. Yet confidence, even if slipping, still remains historically high.” And: “Final May 2018 Michigan Consumer Slips Slightly” [Econintersect].

Debt: “Where the Debt Slaves Are the Most Vulnerable” (charts) [Wolf Street]. “For a different view of the burden of debt, let’s look at non-housing consumer debt, because this is where the music is playing right now. To eliminate for a moment the impact of interest rates, let’s look at the amount of debt – not the monthly payments – as percent of disposable income. And suddenly, the risks emerge a little more clearly. At year-end 2017, the ratio of non-housing debt – revolving credit such as credit card balances, plus auto loans and student loans – to disposable income reached a new record of 26.3%, up from 23% at the end of 2010, and up from 24% in 2007, the peak before it all came apart during the Great Recession,:

Debt: “OCC Payday Lending Bulletin” [Credit Slips]. “Depending on what one sees as being the policy problem posed by payday lending, bank payday lending might make a lot of sense. Specifically, if one sees the policy issue with payday lending as being its high costs, then bank payday lending (like postal banking) holds out the promise of lower-cost loans. If, however, one sees the policy issue as being about payday borrower’s inability to repay even the principal on their loans, then bank payday lending (or postal payday lending) isn’t a solution at all, but a whitewash. Yet, as we’ll see, there’s surprising convergence between these positions on the ground in regulatory-land.”

Product Safety: “FDA Warns Benzocaine Baby Teething Products Like Orajel, Anbesol Are Unsafe, Wants Them Off The Market” [CBS Los Angeles]. “The Food and Drug Administration said that various gels and creams containing the drug benzocaine can cause rare but deadly side effects in children, especially those 2 years and younger. The agency has been warning about the products for a decade but said reports of illnesses and deaths have continued. Now, it wants teething products off the market, noting there is little evidence they actually work.”

Energy: “Why Southern Company Just Sold Billions In Prime Assets” [Oilprice.com]. “The question inquiring minds will ask is, “Why on earth would a smart management like Southern Company’s sell an asset like Gulf Power when other large utilities in the US are doing just the opposite and aggressively acquiring? Simply put, two technology bets gone wrong and the significant adverse financial consequences thereof.”

Retail: “Best Buy Thought It Could Escape Amazon but Couldn’t” [247 Wall Street]. ” Best Buy is healthier and could hang on for decades. However, its e-commerce business is just too small to make a difference to the overall company. Best Buy said its most recent quarter was better than expected, which means management had fairly low expectations beforehand…. Best Buy is healthier and could hang on for decades. However, its e-commerce business is just too small to make a difference to the overall company. Not even a glimmer that online sales will ever approach those in stores, which is what’s needed to keep viability long term.”

The Bezzle: “The Reporter Who Took Down a Unicorn” [New York Magazine]. ” Near the beginning, Carreyrou recounts an anecdote told to him by a relative of Holmes. When Holmes was just 9 or 10, one of her relatives asked her, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ Holmes replied, ‘I want to be a billionaire.’ ‘Wouldn’t you rather be president?’ Holmes was asked. She replied, ‘No, the president will marry me because I’ll have a billion dollars.'”

The Bezzle: “IronNet Cybersecurity, a Maryland-based firm founded by retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander, has received $78 million in its second round of financing, including $35 million from venture capital firm C5 Capital. “The new funds will be used to support IronNet’s strategic growth and to continue accelerating the development and adoption of its industry-leading cybersecurity solutions,” C5 said in a statement. IronNet’s products are used to defend critical infrastructure and other networks from cyber attacks” [Defense One]. That’s nice. Ka-ching.

The Bezzle: Called out by reviewers because his damn touch screen makes drivers take their hands off the road, Elon doubles down:

The Bezzle: “It’s nearly time for Tesla’s board to move on Elon Musk” [MarketWatch]. “Musk’s acceleration into Bonkersland obscures, anew, what an easy task arresting Tesla’s recent decline ought to be — and that Musk’s constant antics make it harder. Getting executives to stop doing dumb, destructive stuff is certainly part of a minimally effective corporate board’s job description…. If I, rather than Murdoch family scion James Murdoch, were on Tesla’s board, Musk would be on notice that the board will install Denholm or another COO if second-quarter production isn’t on point. If Musk resists, his job as CEO should be at stake…. Because it’s time to shut up and make cars.” I’ve been having an unsettling thought lately. What if Tesla’s Board is like CalPERS board? What if everything is like CalPERS board? It’s hard to argue that the UK elites handling Brexit are any better then CalPERS, for example. They may be worse.

The Bezzle: “HyreCar IPO: 3 things to know about the company aiming to be the Airbnb of cars” [MarketWatch]. “The company’s founders found their niche when they realized there was no rental market for people who wanted to drive for Lyft and Uber but didn’t have a car that met requirements, which usually include restrictions on older vehicles, two-door coupes, and the like. Before deciding to buy qualifying cars to meet Uber’s guidelines, the founders looked into rental options from Uber, and were surprised that there were none ‘other than a shadow industry of individuals renting cars to one another,’ the company said in its prospectus.” Please kill me now. Where’s the regulatory arbitrage? “Sharing” an insurance policy?

Concentration: “Here’s who owns everything in Big Media today” (diagram) [Recode].

Concentration: “Apple rejects Valve’s Steam Link game streaming app over ‘business conflicts'” [The Verge]. “According to the official Steam Database Twitter account, Apple rejected the Steam Link app over apparent ‘business conflicts with app guidelines.’ Steam Link was first announced for mobile back in March, and the app functions as a remote desktop so users can access their Steam library of PC games from a mobile device and stream them directly for touchscreen play or for use with a Bluetooth controller. It’s not exactly clear at the moment what the ‘business conflict’ here is, and whether it has anything to do with Apple’s somewhat contentious 30 percent App Store fee for all purchases, in-app or otherwise. It may perhaps be due to the fact that Steam Link allows an iOS user to access another app store, namely Steam, within Apple’s tightly controlled ecosystem. Apple was not immediately available for comment.”

Five Horsemen: “The Five Horsemen are on a Ride of the Valkyries today, with Amazon, Microsoft and Apple at record highs in late morning trade” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen May 25 2018

NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index lost a tick to 63 (complacency) on yesterday’s modest market decline” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)

Mania panic index May 24 2018

Health Care


Liberal Democrats: lol no.

Imperial Collapse Watch

“Navy’s F-35 doesn’t have range for real stealth strikes, House report says” [Ars Technica]. Oh.

Why didn’t I think of this!?

Class Warfare

“Big Business Tax Breaks May Worsen Income Inequality” [Governing]. “Governing analyzed revenue losses resulting from property tax abatements, tax increment financing (TIF) and other incentive programs, using data compiled from financial reports by the corporate watchdog group Good Jobs First. Total revenues foregone on a per capita basis for the most recently ended fiscal year were compared to a jurisdiction’s level of income inequality, as measured by the Census Bureau’s Gini Index. Out of 446 cities and counties in our sample, the 100 with the highest levels of income inequality recorded a median per capita total tax abatement approximately double that of all others reviewed.”

“It’s Time to Crack Down on the Toys ‘R’ Us Vulture Capitalists” [The Nation]. “Smith is just one of more than 30,000 US workers who face unemployment as the 70-year-old retail chain unwinds its business after a decade of disastrous management by the Wall Street firms that purchased the company and saddled it with billions of dollars of debt. Workers with decades of retail experience are being left with no jobs, no benefits and no severance pay. Meanwhile, the private-equity barons who bought the company in 2005 have reaped nearly $500 million in extracted profits, and top executives are set to leave with $16 million worth of golden parachutes.” Our plan worked!

“The Myth of the Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire” [Jacobin].

[Political scientist Spencer Piston] pored over two and a half decades of surveys collected by American National Election Studies (ANES) and found that:

Those individuals who mention the poor in their responses to these survey questions do not typically say that they worry about government giving the poor free handouts. Instead, they express the concern that government is not doing enough to help poor people get by. Those who mention the rich, meanwhile, do not usually worry that government is strangling innovation by overtaxing ‘job creators.’ Rather, they complain that rich people are not paying their fair share in taxes.


Piston demonstrates the principle by exploring the 2016 Democratic presidential primary between the economic inequality-focused Bernie Sanders and the status-quo candidate Hillary Clinton. Despite being anointed from the outset by the Democratic Party establishment, Clinton nearly lost to Sanders, who came seemingly out of nowhere and had a fraction of his opponent’s resources. How did he do it? Piston conjectures:

Americans liked Sanders because he appealed to their resentful attitudes toward rich people. Sanders’s campaign was centered on criticisms of the rich: he railed against the “billionaire class,” promised to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, proposed limiting the ability of bankers to get rich from taxpayer bailouts of their institutions, assailed Hillary Clinton for her Wall Street speaking fees, and argued that a handful of very wealthy people determine who gets elected to public office. His campaign routinely and relentlessly depicted the rich as undeserving of their wealth, to the extent that Clinton (and others) sought to discredit him as a single-issue candidate.

Not only did Sanders almost beat the candidate of the Democratic Party establishment, but since the election he’s emerged as the most popular politician in America. And Sanders’s message remains primarily centered on economic inequality, strongly supporting Piston’s thesis that Americans actually do care about class.

News of The Wired

“Every Cell in Your Body Has the Same DNA. Except It Doesn’t.” [New York Times]. “We’re accustomed to thinking of our cells sharing an identical set of genes, faithfully copied ever since we were mere fertilized eggs. When we talk about our genome — all the DNA in our cells — we speak in the singular. But over the course of decades, it has become clear that the genome doesn’t just vary from person to person. It also varies from cell to cell. The condition is not uncommon: We are all mosaics. For some people, that can mean developing a serious disorder like a heart condition. But mosaicism also means that even healthy people are more different from one another than scientists had imagined.” Great. Can we put the “in our corporate DNA” trope to rest, now? I’ve always hated it, because for me fetishizing DNA leads to Social Darwinism. But now it turns that “corporate DNA” is a nonsense as a metaphor, as well.

“Robotic, But Lovable” [Tedium]. Remember the fabulous Eighties? “‘Our robot had many features that still haven’t been duplicated today,’ Fowler recalled. “We had an autonomous robot that could self navigate, plug itself in to recharge, speak, sing, play music, recite poetry, recognize commands and a bunch of other features. We programmed it to act as an alarm clock, security guard, entertainer and tutor for the kids. It was very advanced. But when people asked us ‘What can it do?’ and we would list its capabilities, they would always scoff. They wanted a something that could wash dishes and clothes, clean the house, and wash windows.'”

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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: “Not sure what kind of tree this is, but was surprised to see the river flowing under its roots. This is a high-flood area. Could it be that the tree has adapted by sending its roots sideways into the river bank? If so, it has to be a metaphor for something…”

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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. Jim Haygood

    Musk’s acceleration into Bonkersland

    Not just a metaphor, kids:

    A Tesla Model S that crashed into a parked firetruck on a Utah highway this month while in its Autopilot mode sped up prior to the accident, a police report says.

    Data retrieved from the sedan shows that it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds shortly before the collision in South Jordan, according to the Associated Press. The acceleration from 55 mph to 60 mph suggests that the Tesla had been following a slower car that then moved out of the way, allowing the Tesla to resume the higher speed that the Autopilot system had been set at.

    The driver, Heather Lommatzsch, told police that she had been looking at her phone and claimed the Tesla did not provide any warnings that it was about to crash. The car’s log said that her hands had been off of the steering wheel for 80 seconds leading up to the impact, and that she applied the brakes less than a second before hitting the firetruck.


    Like a bull, Tesla’s autopilot charges when it sees red. Olé!

    1. a different chris

      >it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds shortly before the collision

      Maybe it wanted to die? Maybe we are wrong, maybe their software is much, much more advanced than anybody (including Tesla itself) knows and, after surveying this world that it did not ask to be born into, it decided to commit suicide.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Just wait till Tesla’s robots start a 3 am food fight slinging parts at each other:

        Six planes “full of robots and equipment” were flown in to Tesla’s battery factory outside Reno from Europe in a costly bid to speed up battery production for Tesla’s Model 3 mass-market sedan, according to a Reuters report.


        Freedom, freedom, we will not obey
        Freedom, freedom, take the wall away
        Take the wall away

        — Alan Parsons Project, “Breakdown” from album I Robot

  2. Louis Fyne

    — “Blue Wave” already cresting?, —

    Astroturfing “blue wave” in the news cycle smelled an awful lot like the methods suggested in Robert Caldini’s book “Pre-suasion”

    And to preach to the choir, this a possible cresting blue wave is what you get when you have all the news headlines read, “Putin, Russia, Putin” and set the bar on a Trump presidency so low that anything other than nuclear Armageddon is considered a success.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “the problem with empowering the never trumpers, aside from the fact that they’re bad people, is that they don’t actually disagree with trump about anything” -Atrios tweeted this today.

      A coalition built to include a cadre of fifth columnists will never work. As for Democratic success, the 2008 victory didn’t hinge on the Colin Powell endorsement of Obama. Powell in another moment of the style of leadership we can expect from the man backed a winning horse.

      As Team Blue has embraced vulgar and vile Republicans, they have demonstrated that the views of their voters over the years mattered less than the approval of people behind what ever crack pot attack the GOP cooked up with that week. This will destroy morale for what was a winning coalition.

  3. albrt

    Everything is like the CalPers board, with rare exceptions that usually don’t scale.

    1. clarky90

      Lambert said, “What if everything is like CalPERS board?”

      I thought I was hyper-aware regarding scams; being old, on my toes and “smart” (ha ha).

      But then, this from Yves a few days ago

      “Beware the So-Called Mental Health “De-Stigmatization” Campaigns such as Make It OK and NAMI, for They Are Front Groups for Big Pharma”


      Is nothing sacred?

      On the other hand, my usual experience of ordinary people is of unmitigated thoughtfulness, kindness, and helpfulness. Last night, a younger woman entering the market paused and said to me, “after you”. Restaurant workers wash the pots. Nurses nurse……in spite of their personal hardships.

      Clever, shameless….. predators have infiltrated governance and are wreaking havoc. A very very bad fore-tell

  4. Off The Street

    Obama’s mask slips, won’t be the last time. Now that he has fewer world-saving obligations, his somewhat more true self might shine through.

    1. Ur-Blintz

      Obama is a fraud, always was, always will be. Michelle too. And it was so obvious… the smug vanity behind the empty words and outright lies, i.e. the perfect Democrat.

      Madison Ave gave him a PR award for it, and still people love him.

      1. The Rev Kev

        In a totally unrelated topic, did anyone ever see that old movie the “The Flim-Flam Man”?

        1. ambrit

          Yes. Michael Sarrazin and George C Scott. Good film. “You can’t cheat an honest man.”
          Oh, con men, and women and politics. As American as AR-15s and Loyalty Oaths. I would place Michelle and Barak up there with the classic confidence tricksters. The first year of the Obama Administration was a major turning point in regards to the ‘legitimacy’ of the Heritage American political parties. The betrayal of professed principles was breath taking.
          Melvilles’ “The Confidence Man” demonstrated the bare bones of this phenomenon way back when.
          A quibble about the usage of “old” in cultural references. I, being on my downslope trajectory, use “old” in the sense of being from a ‘former age,’ as in a time where everyone involved at the time has passed on into the Void. Vanity, I know.

    1. Oregoncharles

      And Y chromosomes are inherited only in the male line. (I’m not sure how XYX people turn out, but they’re probably infertile; in any case, rare. I gather there are people with an extra Y, so the other variations are probably possible.)

    1. Oguk

      Thanks Diptherio. I’ve been following Jane McAlevey… interesting connections. I really like her rap.

    1. cojo

      I see many parallels of the genesis of these utopian communities with the genesis of some of our most famous religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam). Perhaps, they are just a creation of spiritual needs unfulfilled.

      However, having a visionary founder as a figurehead is almost always an essential ingredient of success – someone who carves out a coherent vision, empowers organisational ability among others, and acts as a publicist and propagandist of a company (or community) to the outside world. Over time, a founder’s role can be disassembled and distributed, but in the beginning it’s critical, keeping a community focused on what’s important, while overcoming a lot of the pettiness that can creep into everyday life.

  5. Jim Haygood

    When hyperinflation met free electricity:

    Crypto fever may have cooled across much of the globe, but don’t tell that to folks here in Caracas. They’re mining coins like crazy.

    One buddy of mine who works in advertising bought a machine, set it up in his home and told his 20-year-old son to run it 24/7. They’re grinding out about $6 a day.

    One key to my mining pals’ success: electricity, while spotty, is basically free, the result of an odd combination of hyperinflation and government-mandated utility price freezes.

    It’ll cost you 900,000 bolivars—or about 90 US cents at the black-market rate—for a coffee, pastry and juice at a cafe. But you can pay your monthly electricity, water, gas, internet and phone bills for about 300,000 bolivars [30 US cents].


    When everything (starting with the currency) is mispriced by orders of magnitude, all kinds of value-subtraction arbitrages arise until food, water and power go dark.

    Se acaba la fiesta, comrades — the party’s over.

    1. skippy

      If you really want to get into historical perspectives wrt South America try the transition from Jade to Gold and all that surrounds it.

      Is the stuff fungible or is the mind or maybe both depending on the observer.

  6. allan

    For CEOs, $11.7 million a year is just middle of the pack [AP]

    Chief executives at the biggest public companies got an 8.5 percent raise last year [didn’t we all?], bringing the median pay package for CEOs to $11.7 million. Across the S&P 500, compensation for CEOs is often hundreds of times higher than typical workers.

    The pay increase matches the bump that CEOs received in 2016, …

    So, naturally, Grover Norquist’s flying monkeys try to give them cover:

    Fortune 500 CEOs: The professional athletes of corporate America
    [The Hill]

    … The point that Democrats seem to always miss is that these CEOs are the best at what they do, much like professional athletes are the best at the sport they play.

    In both cases, athletes and CEOs spend a lifetime training and studying to get to the top of their professional position, whether it be hours spent reviewing film and practicing double plays, or graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school of Business. …

    1. a different chris

      Ok well the Cavs and the Warriors have the best (of the already finest) and it has shown.

      Meanwhile, we got lots of surveys that show the highest paid CEOs seem to be running the worst companies. Would Mr. Norquist like to explain this particular dichotomy?

    2. Jim Haygood

      graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school of Business

      Not an explicit reference to Trump, a Wharton grad who pulls down a modest $400,000 salary as CEO of America, despite his stellar academic achievement.

    3. Wombat

      I love the professional athlete diversion… Perhaps the fortune 500 league should place a salary cap or maximum pay on executives like the NFL or NBA owners do to their workers then!! The Executive class consists of intertwined board members and majority shareholders with management “skills” that can be trained just about anywhere. Professional athlete class on the other hand consists of rare superhumans that are actually a rare resource. Few professional athletes make anywhere close to 12 million. Why is one pay constrained and the other is not? The whole “A Good CEO is worth his weight in gold” thing needs to stop.

      Pray tell what are these “rare” management skills that can’t be learned. A crystal ball?? Their gut feeling is just that much better? A Vision? Nope, their true skill is exploiting labor while maintaining conditions for their uncapped self-enrichment.

      1. Procopius

        I’ve always thought it was more like the ability to sell used cars. You need a combination of audacity, enthusiasm, energy, lack of empathy, and willingness to lie without regret, plus a knack for spotting people like yourself, who can be relied on to back you up whenever your luck turns against you. Of course you have to do the same for them. Network effects are important. I think Roger Stone is the best current example, or Michael Cohen. What’s the difference between them and Jamie Dimon?

  7. Wukchumni

    Trump’s endorsement of [John Cox, a little-known businessman running for California governor], a wealthy businessman who previously ran unsuccessfully for House and Senate seats in Illinois and, briefly, for president in 2008, was the culmination of weeks of effort by Republican leadership, including endorsements from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
    Tweedledee & Tweedledum, loyal manservants.

    1. allan

      Where were the parents? Where were the parents??

      More seriously: between this, the endocrine disruptors, global warming and the Great Pacific garbage patch,
      Elon’s Mars fantasy is looking more and more like Plan A.

  8. Lee

    I’m guessing, primarily from the patchy bark, that the tree is a sycamore. Also, they favor and so are well adapted to riparian habitats. They are also a frequent choice for urban plantings. Although native to the wetter eastern U.S., we have a lot of them in west coast towns and cities where they probably wouldn’t thrive without irrigation.

    1. Synapsid


      There is a western sycamore, P. racemosa native to California and Baja. Don’t know if it’s planted as a street tree though. It’s a welcome source of shade where there isn’t always another.

      1. Lee

        There are some really big ones that line some of our streets here in the sf bay area. In the summer they grow up from both sides of the street arching high above four traffic lanes for blocks creating a long, cool, leafy green tunnel.

    2. Big River Bandido

      Since the roots are so large, perhaps the river bank has gradually eroded around the base of the tree, leaving the roots of a mature tree exposed. So one question would be, how long are the roots, how much is still underneath earth (or mud, in this case) and how far down do the roots still go?

      If it is a sycamore, it could be more resistant to rot and perhaps more adaptable to these conditions. Northern trees (to which I’m more accustomed) probably couldn’t survive long in this condition.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I think you’re right about the roots being exposed by erosion. To answer your questions, tree roots can extend for hundreds of feet. Basically, they lace together the whole area within that radius. But only the large ones near the crown are stiff enough to hold the tree up in midair like that.

        So trees like willows grow roots right into the running water – in the case of willow, at least around here, those are bright red and show up brilliantly.

  9. Oregoncharles

    On Perez endorsing Cuomo: ” So why alienate progressives, why?”
    Because otherwise, there’s an off chance the party will swing that way.

    But from the bottom of my Green heart: Thank you, Tom. More like this, please.

    1. Big Tap

      Cause they still believe in the Schumer Theory. Moderate Republicans votes will replace Progressives that they longer need (or want).

  10. Summer

    No need to worry about elections. Facebook will be handling the previous functions of govt regulating political ads. What could go wrong?

    Now we’ve heard of coups, but how often, in so many areas, have you had a govt that is so corrupt they are mainly two corpo fundraising parties?
    We’re going to let corps self-regulate the world into a whole new kind of feudalism.

  11. Big River Bandido

    The teacher in Kentucky defeated the floor leader in a Republican primary.

    Democrats don’t even realize what marks they’ve become.

    This one is rich: The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance… .

    Talk about a rogue’s gallery of neocons and neolibs.

  12. audrey jr

    Anyone else believe, as I do, that the Obamas did the Netflix deal to help their daughter, Malia, have a venue from which to launch her ‘acting career?’
    I read a couple of years ago that Malia wants to be an actress so when I learned of the Netflix deal that’s where my mind went.
    Malia couldn’t have a better “acting coach” than her father.
    He pretended to be on our side the whole time he was POTUS.

    1. sd

      She’s gone to Harvard and they tend to turn out writers. Yale is the ivy where actors tend to go.

  13. marym

    Some related stories making the rounds now.

    From April but now getting some twitter attention: HHS has lost track of nearly 1500 unaccompanied minors supposedly released to sponsor/foster care. PBS found some have been released to traffickers. (Link)

    In 2014, at least 10 trafficking victims, including eight minors, were discovered during a raid by federal and local law enforcement in [Republican Sen. Rob] Portman’s home state of Ohio. As FRONTLINE examined in the recent documentary Trafficked in America, HHS had released several minors to the traffickers.

    Between October 2016 and December 2017, he said, the agency was unable to locate almost 1,500 out of the 7,635 minors that it attempted to reach — or about 19 percent. Over two dozen had run away, according to Wagner, who said the agency did not have the capacity to track them down.

    This month Sessions announced plans to prosecute “100%” of people who cross the border illegally, expected to result in an increase in children separated from their parents. (Link)

    Kelly said of the children to be separated from their parents that they’ll “be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.” (Link)

    This week the ACLU announced that they have received documents from a FOIA request regarding human rights abuses by CBP and other agencies. They released a report and will release documents over the coming months. (Link)

    Administration looking into warehousing migrant children on military bases in Arkansas and Texas. (Link)

    Anti-Trump/Resistance(TM) twitter is rightfully appalled on issues of human rights and child protection. Unsurprisingly there’s blame directed at Trump!Putin!complicit GOP/etc.

    Will they acknowledge that these are policies and outrages that also date from the Obama era? So far I’ve seen very little, but that’s anecdotal.

    1. marym

      Correction and apology:
      Continuing to follow these issues, I find that I somehow incorrectly cut and pasted the quote regarding the 1500 lost minors. The PBS report says the attempts to locate the minors occurred “Between October and December 2017.”

      According to the HHS report submitted to the Senate (Link PDF) this was a 30-day follow-up call which appears to be part of a series of enhanced policies for oversight of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) begun in February 2016.

      Though I was working on a few cut-and-paste sections of the article, I have no explanation of how I managed to insert “2016” and apologize for the error.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered state officials Wednesday to expedite the acquisition of a $19 million federal grant aimed at protecting the state’s election systems from cyberattack”

    Never knew that paper ballots could be so expensive. What? They’re spending the money on what? Oh! Never mind.

  15. allan

    S&P 500 companies return $1 trillion to shareholders in tax-cut surge [Reuters]

    Impossible. Fake news. Just read these many testimonials on Paul Ryan’s homepage to the job creation-gasm
    that will follow from the tax cuts:
    Job Creators Praise Tax Cuts and Jobs Act [Speaker.gov]

    21st Century Fox: “Today’s announcement is a major step toward meaningful tax code reforms that will help grow the U.S. economy and boost investment and opportunity for American job-creators like 21st Century Fox. We are pleased to see this legislation appropriately reduces the corporate tax rate and continues to rightfully treat advertising costs as an ordinary business expense. …

    Aerospace Industries Association:

    Alliance for Competitive Taxation:

    American Bankers Association:

    American Petroleum Institute:

    … ad nauseum.

    Where are the worker’s yachts?

  16. ewmayer

    Re. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” [Epsilon Theory] … “Trump got significantly more coverage than Clinton in major media outlets. Trump got significantly more positive coverage than Clinton in major media outlets. Trump suffered from no infectious meme like Clinton suffered from Emails! in major media outlets.”

    Sorry, but this is pure bollocks. If p*ssygate was not an ‘infectious meme’, then what would one call it – “an unfortunate misstep”?

    My recollection of the 2016 MSM election coverage w.r.to Trump was an endless stream of smug elitist “no way does this clown have a chance” mockery – from the establishment of both major parties, no less – interspersed with regular oppo-research “finds”, be it Polish plumbers working on Trump construction projects to the infamously crass p*ssy-grabbing scandal tape. What I was regularly forwarding to Yves at the time was links which showed the inadvertent free-publicity aspects of the MSM mockery/fascination-fest, along with the Fourth Estate being willfully blind to the fact that a lot of the stuff Trump was saying in all those economically-devasted-by-our-elites parts of the country Hillary either derided or ignored actually made quite a bit of sense and seemed to be resonating with the Deplorables. Not just economic issues, either – Trump was the only Republican candidate with the temerity to “go there” and rip G.W.Bush a new one on his disastrous Iraq invasion. Trump came out and said he’d be willing to talk to both Putin and Kim Jong-Un, which led to a firestorm of flak from the War Party scribes dominating the MSM. Trump said of Hillary’s Middle East warmongering, “her stupidity killed hundreds of thousands of people”. And all the while, while the cancerous establishment pols and MSM were mocking this stuff, lots of people were actually listening. (Now of course how much of this stuff Trump actually *meant* is an entirely separate conversation, my point is that, not being a party insider with a long track record to help guide one in terms of “is he serious?”, he sounded sincere, at least to enough poeple to make a difference on election night.) And all the while the feckless corrupt Dems thought they could win with no other strategy than TINA-for-the-left and no other message than “Trump bad” and “America is already great”.

    Fast-forward to the present … the MSM coverage by the DNC shills w.r.to Trump is an endless stream of smug elitist “no way does this Putin puppet avoid impeachment”, and the feckless corrupt Dems again think they can win with no other strategy than TINA-for-the-left and no other message than “Trump bad” and “America is already great, except for EvilPutin hacking our elections and installing his puppet Trump”. As Lambert, quoting Talleyrand, likes to say in likening these folks to the French aristocracy on the eve of (and also after) the revolution, they have learned nothing, and they have forgotten nothing.

  17. Wombat

    Anyone notice that even after NY A.G. Schneiderman has been outed, not a single outlet has questioned his letting the Board of Elections off the hook, settling behind closed doors after they purged 200K (mostly newer) voters in Brooklyn and other areas of New York before the primaries.


    Schneiderman said the proposed settlement “would overhaul NYCBOE’s practices for maintaining voter rolls, ensuring that the issues that led to the purges are addressed, and establishing frequent monitoring and oversight. My office will continue to protect all voters’ access to the polls and continue to fight to expand voting rights.”


    200,000 Primary Voters, probably more than the registered democrats in half the states.

  18. Oregoncharles

    ” “California, unlike almost every other state,” except Washington, which also uses the top-two primary. And Louisiana.

    1. Procopius

      Ah, thank you. I didn’t think it would be helpful to post my complaint that they didn’t name the other state(s), but I was annoyed by the ommission.

  19. Dirk77

    The Planned Parenthood CEO is a physicist by training, so it would be interesting to understand her motivations for fighting the unionization. I mean it not obvious that she is just another MBA drone carrying out her indoctrination.

    1. Mel

      Doesn’t need to be an MBA. I’ve worked a couple of times with people who came out of the physical sciences to show the rest of the world how it’s really done. They were rampant individualists with total faith in rational problem solving and their ability to apply it.
      Neither one was this person, though. Diagnosing a stranger based on somebody else’s symptoms is risky.

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