By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Patient readers, here again is a skeletal Water Cooler to get you going. I will finish up my foray into Medicare Part D, and then return with more, later. –Lambert UPDATE Finished, having run errands 5:35PM
“2020 Contender Elizabeth Warren Unveils Her Plan to Drain the Swamp” [Roll Call] (the bill). “Warren said the Trump administration has ushered in the most corrupt Washington era to date. ‘But they are not the cause of the rot,’ she said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. ‘They’re just the biggest, stinkiest example of it.’
“‘Padlock the revolving door’: Warren makes anti-corruption pitch” [American Banker]. “The legislation includes a ban on individual stock ownership by members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, senior congressional staff, White House staff, federal judges and senior agency officials. It also includes restrictions on former federal employees joining the lobbying ranks, as well as on lobbyists going to work for the government, among other things. The bill would prohibit the world’s biggest companies, including banks, from hiring former senior government officials for four years after they leave the public sector. It would impose lifetime lobbying bans on presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, federal judges and Cabinet secretaries. Lobbyists, meanwhile, could not take government jobs for two years; that period is six years for ‘corporate lobbyists.’… ‘Sure, there’s lots of expertise in the private sector, and government should be able to tap that expertise,’ Warren said. ‘And, yes, public servants should be able to use their expertise when they leave government. But . Padlock the revolving door.'” • I wonder if anybody asked Warren about security clearances…
“Elizabeth Warren introduces sweeping ethics bill that faces tough odds on Capitol Hill” [CBS]. “Asked later by a reporter to cite a Democrat who she believes of harboring similarly corrupt behaviors, she cited Mary Jo White, the former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a former federal prosecutor. She faulted White for light enforcement of federal rules on corporations and then returning quickly to working for them in private practice.” • Not Eric Holder?
And speaking of corruption…. “July was the sixth consecutive month the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised more than the National Republican Congressional Committee. The DCCC ended the month with $4.7 million more in its bank account” [Bloomberg]. • Go team!
“Sex, lies and DUIs: GOP dumps oppo on Dem House hopefuls” [Politico]. “[W]ith so many first-time candidates running on the Democratic side — without the baggage of legislative voting records or controversial positions adopted over a long public career — and the political environment tilting toward them, GOP efforts to keep them out of the House may hinge on specific personal critiques, vetting them publicly for the first time. That’s how Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican super PAC, is starting its campaign against Democrat Sean Casten in Illinois, blasting him for ‘mismanagement, fraud, greed’ at his company in a TV ad released Wednesday. (Casten’s campaign called it ‘false attacks’ in a statement.) The group is also hammering Randy Bryce, the Democratic nominee in Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, over a drunk driving arrest. And there’s more to come….” • Politics ain’t beanbag.
“The Problem With ‘Electability'” [FiveThirtyEight]. “In short, because the U.S. is majority white, and because a significant number of Americans have some negative views about nonwhite people and women, a heavy emphasis on electability can be tantamount to encouraging any candidates who aren’t Christian white men either not to run in the first place — or to run only if they are willing to either ignore or downplay issues that involve their personal identities.”
“Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republicans” [Associated Press]. “The expanding list of marginalized GOP leaders underscores how thoroughly Trump has dominated — and changed — the Republican Party in the nearly two years since he seized the presidency. The overwhelming majority of elected officials, candidates and rank-and-file voters now follow the president with extraordinary loyalty, even if he strays far from the values and traditions many know and love…. The forgotten Republicans — people like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — have been unwilling to sit quietly as Trump steers the GOP away from free trade, fiscal responsibility, consistent foreign policy and civility. Isolation and political exile have been their rewards. Their diminished roles leave fewer Republican leaders willing to challenge Trump under any circumstances, even in his darkest moments.”
IA-03: “Why ‘Medicare for all’ is playing poorly in Democratic primaries” [Politico]. “‘The problem is Medicare for all just isn’t one of those litmus tests for Democratic primary voters,’ said John Anzalone, a veteran Democratic pollster whose firm helped defeat a single-payer advocate in an Iowa swing district this year. ‘Voters are smart enough to know that Medicare for all isn’t going to happen right now, or maybe ever.” • Of course, if the party establishment — including this “veteran” pollster — weren’t fighting #MedicareForAll tooth and nail, it might have a better chance. Cindy Axne is the only IA candidate on Anzalone’s list; she just got added to the DCCC’s Red to Blue list. Axne supports the so-called “public option.”
2016 Post Mortem
“Association of Chronic Opioid Use With Presidential Voting Patterns in US Counties in 2016” [Journal of The American Medical Association]. “This cross-sectional analysis of a national sample of Medicare claims data found that chronic use of prescription opioid drugs was correlated with support for the Republican candidate in the 2016 US presidential election. Individual and county-level socioeconomic measures explained much of the association between the presidential vote and opioid use.” • Although I drew attention to opiods in “Salient Economic Characteristics of the Counties that Flipped to Trump, Sorted by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” this study was not available at the time of writing.
“Pollsters: Trump and GOP are losing young, female voters permanently” [The Hill]. “Pollsters Anna Greenberg and Dan Cox said on Monday that President Trump and Republicans are losing young women to Democrats permanently. ‘When you ask , about 65, 68 percent would actually vote for a Democrat in the generic congressional race, so that puts them as base Democratic voters,” [said] Greenberg. ‘What we know is that in your coming of age years, from sort of your teens into your early 20s, have a profound, long-term impact on what your partisanship and voting patterns are for the rest of your life,’ she continued. ‘So, not only in this moment are these millennial women heavily, heavily Democratic and heavily hostile to Trump, but it’s likely that they are going to sort of be the vanguard of, I think, the feminization of the Democratic Party,’ she said.” • Several points: This is the liberal Democrat’s favorite “Demographics is destiny” talking point, which is important operationally because it implies that Democrats never need to change; all they need to do is wait. True, that hasn’t worked for fifteen years, but maybe it will work at some time in the future. Second, that’s likely voters. True, Democrats are resolutely opposed to expanding their base, so non-voters don’t matter to them, but I for one would like to know where the non-voters are going and what they’re thinking. Third, despite Greenberg’s pseudo-revolutionary language — “vangaurd,” “feminization,” identified, I would imagine, with “feminist” — Greenberg has nothing to say about policy, let alone ideology. If we’re looking a generation of Hillary Clintons, why would that be a good thing? We really do have to get away from the idea that ascriptive identity is a good thing in itself. If it were, Obama, The First Bank President, would have been the FDR so many Democrats of good faith (including Thomas Frank) thought he would be.
New Cold War
“Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others” [WaPo]. • That was fast!
“Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Says He Acted at Trump’s Direction” [Wall Street Journal]. “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to payments he arranged before the 2016 presidential election to silence two women who alleged having affairs with Mr. Trump, directly implicating his former boss for the first time in a scheme to violate campaign-finance laws.” • They got Al Capone on income tax violations…
“Donald Trump should sue John Brennan to bring civility back to our politics” [USA Today]. “Of all people, the ex-CIA director should know what treason is. That is why Brennan is special — he knowingly or recklessly made the false statement. Applying each of the libel criteria, it is evident that Brennan committed an actionable libel: Did Brennan make a false statement? Yes. Was Brennan’s accusation defamatory? Yes. Were Brennan’s statements made with “actual malice”? Yes. Even tough actual malice is difficult to prove, the case of John Brennan is particularly compelling. Indeed, his statements demonstrate that he had actual knowledge of the legal requirements of the crime of treason, and despite that, he leveled the false accusation, knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth.”
The Liberals Have Lost Their Minds
Lovely. Most of it bog standard, but at the lower left:
— Aimee Terese (@aimeeterese) August 21, 2018
Life’s little ironies: #Resistance Democrats, who revel in slogans like “love Trumps hate,” also revel in homophobic tropes, as we’ve seen over and over again. If — since? — doublethink and lack of principle is what the Democrat “Blue Wave” comes down to, why am I happy about it? And — I smell business model! — please don’t tell me there’s another product line of liberal tsotchkes with Sanders’ face swapped in
Realignment and Legitimacy
It would be nice if this were an outlier:
it seems the corporate media's constant smear of progressives has taken hold of my local party. it's not just on twitter that people call each other berniebots and Russians, my local dem party has deteriorated into nothing but insane accusations
congrats, MSNBC and CNN, you won
— beth, an alien™ (@bourgeoisalien) August 21, 2018
But I’m not so sure it is. At my Bangor meetup last year, one of the attendees, a Sanders supporter, was driven out of his local party.
“He brought an American flag to protest fascism in Portland. Then antifa attacked him” [OregonLive (o4amuse)]. “As he carried his flag, two people dressed in black and covering their faces approached Welch and demanded he turn it over to them, calling it ‘a fascist symbol,’ he said.” • Of course, the “two people” could be cops, doing the agent provocateur thing. But that’s rather the problem, isn’t it?
The Bezzle: “Tesla whistleblower says company spies on employees” [Sky News]. “A former Tesla employee has claimed the company spies on its workers and allowed a drug cartel to operate inside of its plant. Karl Hansen made the whistleblower complaint to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to his lawyer Stuart Meissner. Mr Hansen was a member of Tesla’s internal investigations team before he was fired.” • Missed this one. A drug cartel on the plant floor — gotta get through “production hell” and a world of flaming paint booths somehow — would explain a lot about the build quality.
The Bezzle: “Internal documents reveal the grueling way Tesla hit its 5,000 Model 3 target” [Business Insider]. “Internal documents show that Tesla had to rework more than 4,300 of the 5,000 Model 3 vehicles it built during the last week of June, when it hit its critical production target.” • “Gruelling” is hardly the word! Note that the teardowns show that the Model 3 can be profitable (modulo liability). That’s not at all the same thing as saying that Tesla can manufacture them profitably. Here are the bullet points:
— Paul Huettner, CFA (@Paul_M_Huettner) August 21, 2018
First pass yield of 14%. No wonder Tesla doesn’t allow outside firms to sell parts or do repairs; each Model 3 must be its own unique little snowflake, shipped after a “mallet expert” banged the parts that don’t fit into place…
The Bezzle: “Tesla Model 3 Tracker” [Bloomberg]. “Our best estimate is that Tesla has manufactured 72,791 Model 3s so far, and is now building approximately 5,942 a week…. This projection relies on Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), unique strings of digits displayed on every new car sold in the U.S.” • Well, for some definition of building…
The Bezzle: “JPMorgan analyst cuts Tesla price target by 37%” [Axios]. “JPMorgan analyst Ryan Brinkman cut his Tesla price target from $308 to $195, stating that it appears “funding has not been secured” for Elon Musk’s take-private proposal as originally claimed, reports StreetInsider.com.” • I first mistyped the category as “The Bezla….” Pretty good, eh?
This is the best description of Bitcoin there will ever be. https://t.co/T1SSQEHUdi
— Tigerfort (@StripeyCaptain) August 16, 2018
Hurrah for permissionless innovation!
Tech: “Steam’s content-driven freeze on game approvals expected to last for months” [GamaSutra]. “Valve has since started work on the filtering tools … that aim to let players better curate their own feeds, however the company has yet to offer developers much information up front about how game releases and approvals are being affected in the meantime. We’ve reached out to Valve for more information on this freeze and will update this article with any additional comments from Valve following a reply.” • One of the chronic, minor fears that haunts me is that there will be some major development — economic, cultural, or even political — on the gaming front, and I won’t even notice it, or understand it (like a world-building Presidential campaign with a candidate’s avatar. And the last thing I need is another time sink).
Regulation: “The $23 Trillion Argument Against Dismantling U.S Earnings Rules” [Bloomberg]. “Flexibility and lower costs were the reasons given by President Donald Trump in ordering regulators to consider spacing out earnings reports to six months. In a market where $23 trillion of value has been created since 2009, some money managers wondered it if was a solution without a problem.” • For some definition of “value”…..
Our Famously Free Press
“Why building a business that’s dependent on Facebook is ‘crazy'” (interview) [Recode]. Digiday President and Editor in Chief Brian Morrissey: “I don’t think many people are going to build publishing strategies and their models around Facebook anymore. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that publishers should build their own strategies and as much as possible control what you can control. Facebook will do what’s in Facebook’s interest. The idea of being dependent on Facebook or being dependent on any other platform is crazy.” * It was always crazy. And here’s Naked Capitalism, chugging along….
“How Colorado’s Water Law Affects You and Our Rivers” [American Rivers]. “. Perhaps you’ve heard of ‘first in time, first in right,’ – this phrase refers to the water law system. Prior appropriation allows individuals or entities who first apply water for a beneficial use to be entitled to that appropriation into the future (and has priority over subsequent users). Holding a water right doesn’t actually imply ownership over the water (water in Colorado is ‘owned’ by the people) but is instead the right to use the people’s water for a beneficial use like agriculture, municipal water, and now more recently, in benefit of the environment as in-stream flows.” • With podcast.
“Chairman Pai Doesn’t Know How to Measure Investment” [Free Press]. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is trying to gut Net Neutrality protections at the agency by claiming they’ve stifled broadband investment…. Chairman Pai has insisted that aggregate broadband-industry investment has been on the decline since the FCC passed strong Net Neutrality rules under Title II authority. That argument is wrong on its face (aggregate investment is actually going up)…. But it also relies exclusively on aggregate investment data, which are, at best, only mildly informative…. .Technological developments also mean that for many internet service providers, it’s getting cheaper to expand capacity and upgrade their networks. For example, once cable companies have already deployed a new cable line, they increase capacity primarily by upgrading the electronics at each end of the line. As technology improves, those electronics get better and cheaper. In other words, ISPs may be spending less while still making their networks faster.” • Which doesn’t speak to coverage — let’s just have municipal broadband everywhere — but does show, as if we didn’t know it, that Pai is a bad actor.
Police State Watch
“Police say they accidentally ran over a fleeing suspect with a bulldozer during pot bust” [USA Today]. • Yes, and it wasn’t easy….
“What’s in the Administration’s 5-Part Plan for Medicare Part D and What Would it Mean for Beneficiaries and Program Savings?” [KFF] (further to today’s post). “The Administration’s 5-part plan for Part D would likely affect all Part D enrollees in terms of their out-of-pocket costs, premiums, and access to medications, although some enrollees would be affected to a greater degree than others. The Administration has emphasized that these proposals are intended to be implemented together, since eliminating any of them would change the impacts of the plan overall. This makes it difficult to precisely measure the effects for beneficiaries, since the effects would depend on several factors specific to an individual enrollee, including what drugs they take, what plan they’re enrolled in, how their plan premium changes, how their formulary coverage and access to medication changes, whether they receive low-income subsidies, their level of drug costs in any given year, whether they reach the coverage gap and/or catastrophic coverage phase in any given year, and the level of rebates negotiated by their plan for drugs they take.” • What a hoot. All this complicated eligibility determination jargon — “coverage “, “catastrophic coverage ” — that nobody can understand, except to the extent that it can’t possibly mean anything good.
“A Closer Look at How the Opioid Epidemic Affects Employment” [Harvard Business Review]. “In short, while the opioid epidemic has caused wide-reaching devastation, aggregate employment appears not to be one of its victims. Furthermore, evidence suggests that poor economic conditions cannot be blamed for the crisis itself. What this means is that we must look at the opioid epidemic for what it is: a self-inflicted perfect storm that arose from a combination of newly available opioids, new attitudes about the importance of pain management, loose prescribing practices, and a lack of professional accountability. The solution to the problem must lie in addressing some of these root causes.” • The methodology of the study is interesting; I’d welcome reader comments.
As usual, things are more complicated, in this enormous country, than they appear at first sight, in this case the role of “non-slaveholding Southerners” in the Civil War. Thread:
— Keri Leigh Merritt (@KeriLeighMerrit) August 17, 2018
“A Confederate veteran speaks: What the monuments mean” [USA Today]. ” One local historian recently told a reporter he ‘has never heard nor read about the statues being a testament to white supremacy.’ Perhaps Wiley N. Nash, Mississippian and Civil War veteran, can add something to the conversation. ‘What good purpose,’ he asked in 1908, ‘is subserved, promoted and supported by the erection of these Confederate memorials all over the South?’ Nash had studied both literature and law at the University of Mississippi, so his answer came fully attired in his best rhetorical finery: ‘Like the watch fires kindled along the coast of Greece that leaped in ruddy joy to tell that Troy had fallen, so these Confederate monuments, these sacred memorials, tell in silent but potent language, that the white people of the South shall rule and govern the Southern states forever.'” • And much more.
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“Why Prisoners Are Going On Strike Today” [The Nation]. “Prisoners across the country are launching a strike today, on the anniversary of the death of incarcerated activist George Jackson. Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party, was a leading voice and theorist in the 1970s prison movement—a time that saw hundreds of uprisings behind bars. On April 24, prisoners in South Carolina announced the strike, which is expected to last for 19 days and ends on the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in New York… Their second demand, which reads: ‘an immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor,’ has been a theme in work strikes over the past five years and speaks to a [Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS),] slogan, “#Abolishthe13th,” referencing the 13th Amendment of the constitution.”
“I’m For Disruption: Interview With Prison Strike Organizer From Jailhouse Lawyers Speak [Shadowproof]. JLS representative: “the biggest thing that we can ask any of these [outside] groups or any organization is to hold some type of event, particularly an event that can get the radio’s attention, news media attention, anything that can get back into the jail cells and the prisons. The more radio programs that pick it up, the prisoners can listen to it. Particularly the prisoners that don’t have access to phones or internet access, they can at least get it while they’re listening to their radios or they can see it on television. This is very, very important. This is how Florida’s strikes spread so fast, because they were able to get it in through the channels. They were able to raise enough hell to where the media caught on to it and it was getting back into the prisons and cells that [prison officials] really didn’t want it to get into.” • And innovation, too, apparently…
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“Walmart And Others Offer Workers Payday Loan Alternative” [NPR]. “Forty percent don’t have $400 to cover an emergency expense, such as a car repair. And many working-class people turn to payday loans or other costly ways to borrow money. But more companies are stepping in to help their workers with a much cheaper way to get some emergency cash. Startup companies that offer better options for workers are partnering with all kinds of businesses — from giants like Walmart to little fried chicken restaurants….. [Founder and CEO Safwan Shah’s] PayActiv compay lets workers get access to that money they have already earned. ‘So let’s say they’ve already earned $900’ by earning $100 a day for nine days, says Shah. But payroll is still five days away and they need the money right away. Shaw says they open the app and ‘they will see a number which is half of the amount they have earned that is accessible to them.’ So if they need $400 for a car repair or a trip to visit a sick brother, they tap a few buttons and the money gets zapped to their checking account or a prepaid card. And the fee is $5. (Some employers pay the fee or a portion of it.) And a lot of workers are deciding that’s a much better option than getting stuck in a cycle of debt with costly payday loans.” • Walmart has this. I grant this sounds better than payday loans — though gawd knows what PayActiv does with the data — but I can’t get away from the sneaking suspicion that Walmart sees PayActiv as a substitute for decent wages, rather than a complement.
“Massachusetts gives workers new protections against noncompete clauses” [Ars Technica]. “In a Thursday phone interview, [state Rep. Lori Ehrlich] told Ars that her work was motivated by hearing from hundreds of Massachusetts workers who had suffered from the abuse of noncompete laws. ‘We heard from people working at pizza parlors, yogurt shops, hairdressers, and people making sandwiches,’ Ehrlich said. ‘Those stories were incredibly compelling and really drove the narrative for change.'” • “Drove the narrative for change.” Ugh. More: “The legislation bans the enforcement of noncompete agreements against minors, student interns, and workers who are laid off. The law also bans the enforcement of noncompete agreements against what’s known as non-exempt workers—hourly, generally low-wage workers who are eligible for overtime pay.” • The focus of the article is on non-compete clauses in the tech elite. But it sounds like Ehrlich has done a good job for the hourly workers. So, great! After all, the tech elite will do fine, no matter what.
You don’t need a weatherman:
Holy Shit, the onion. pic.twitter.com/qYRwFGusdv
— Ras (@Rasmp42) July 22, 2018
A compressed version of the Jackpot, in fact.
News of The Wired
All this tech. LCDs, ARM processors, gigs of RAM, WiFi, VMs, just so I can avoid opening the fridge door? pic.twitter.com/7hJDXXC62w
— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) August 14, 2018
I dunno. There’s plenty of times I haven’t wanted to open my refrigerator door. But I probably wouldn’t have wanted to look inside it, either, even digitally.
Contrarian views on Mastodon (1). Thread:
I think Mastodon kind of sucks, actually. If everyone moved there, the abuse problems would mostly be worse.
— three-fingered fox (@3fingeredfox) August 16, 2018
I dunno. I set up an account, and it seemed a bit clunky. The user population is small, but there’s some attraction to writing the, er, platform and its user base into existence…
Contrarian views on Mastodon (2). Thread:
So, Mastodon. Just FYI, if a SINGLE hostile user on a SINGLE malicious instance follows you, all your posts may be kept forever —
— 𝖆𝖉𝖗𝖎𝖊𝖓𝖓𝖊 (@adrienneleigh) April 6, 2017
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Silicon Valley’s social media debacle, it’s that assuming people will be at their best, while providing them tools to do their worst, produces a highly profitable platform with a suboptimal user experience.
“Derek Smalls on Going Solo, Keeping Drummers Alive and the Future of Spinal Tap” [Consequence of Sound]. “With the future of Spinal Tap up in the air, the band’s legendary bassist Derek Smalls has gone solo, unleashing the album Smalls Change, featuring a who’s who of renowned guest musicians… Smalls Change is a 13-song opus with instant classics like “Butt Call,” “She Puts the Bitch in Obituary” and more, as Smalls steps into the role of frontman with a power and force akin to an 18-inch stonehenge replica crashing into the ground.” • Pitch perfect. In all senses…
“Maine’s Obsession With Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy” [The Daily Beast (RH)]. “[Maine’s] most persistent aberration may be its lasting fondness for Allen’s Coffee Brandy…. [Portland bar owner Andrew Volk], in Northern Hospitality, his forthcoming book about Maine cocktails co-authored with his wife and business partner, Briana, notes that the melting of the snow in late winter heralds a Maine phenomenon: “Empty bottles [of Allen’s] found in the spring along snowmobile trails are called ‘Lilies of the Tundra.'” • Well, I dunno if I’d trust a barkeep from a Boston suburb talking his book — gracefully as the Daily Beast author wraps that up — but the article is filled with genuinely interesting information about our Great State. But the moment artisanal coffee brandy hits the market, expatriation is gonna move a lot higher on my list.
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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 (Stephen V.):
Stephen V. commennt: “No pollination required.” Parthogenesis?
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