2:00PM Water Cooler 8/22/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Rain began to fall on my garden office, so I had to pack up and move. I’ll add just a touch more material shortly. –lambert


“China-US trade war: Vice-President Wang Qishan ‘the firefighter’ might not be sent to front line” [South China Morning Post]. “Wang Qishan is widely considered China’s most powerful vice-president, but the man dubbed ‘the firefighter’ for taking on tough jobs might not have the hands-on role in US trade talks that many observers had expected, according to a source who met Wang recently…. Wang is reputed to be one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s most trusted and important allies… With his reputation as a skilled hand with a wealth of knowledge in trade, finance and China’s relations with the United States, Wang also had extensive contacts with American officials such as former Treasury chief Henry Paulson.” • Not an expert in China tea leaf-reading, but if you don’t send your best guy to a negotiation…

” The Trump administration is planning to formally announce on Thursday that it has reached a breakthrough in NAFTA talks with Mexico, a move that would pave the way for Canada to return to the negotiating table, three sources close to the talks told POLITICO. The White House is expected to announce that the U.S. and Mexico have made enough progress on various two-way issues in talks over the past month to be able to present what one source described as a “handshake” deal. President Donald Trump is expected to be in attendance. But it’s likely to be a U.S.-only announcement, as Mexican officials are wary of making any formal announcement before Canada is back in, one of the sources said” [Politico].



“Report: Nearly 70% of students who applied for New York’s free college program were rejected”” [MarketWatch]. • Well, I guess Cuomo won’t be running on free college, then; a result like that would only appeal to Republicans, and Democrats would hardly support that, or a failed, faux version of a Sanders program. Oh, wait…


GA Governor: “Brian Kemp’s Bid for Governor Depends on Erasing the Black Vote in Georgia” [Slate]. “In November, the popular Democrat Stacey Abrams will compete for the governorship against Republican Brian Kemp, the current Georgia secretary of state. Kemp, who has devoted his time in office to a ruthless campaign of voter suppression, called upon Randolph County to abandon the plan [to shutter polling locations in predominantly black districts] when it spurred widespread outrage. That being said, the key figure in the Randolph County controversy is a Kemp ally who was handpicked by the secretary of state to close polls throughout Georgia.” • Kemp and Kobach are using the same vile playbook. Worth a read for the brazen tactics.

“Trump says Mollie Tibbetts’ death ‘should’ve never happened,’ calls immigration laws ‘a disgrace'” [Des Moines Register]. “President Donald Trump called the United States’ immigration laws ‘a disgrace’ Tuesday night, referring to the undocumented immigrant charged in the death of Mollie Tibbetts. Trump, a Republican, was speaking at a rally in West Virginia. He said Tibbetts’ death ‘should’ve never happened.'” If Trump wants to make 2018-2020 even dirtier than it already is, here’s the perfect distraction. However, via real an excellent wrap-up from Bleeding Heartland, actual reporting from Associated Press:

Yarrabee Farms, a family-owned company that operates dairy farms in the rolling hills outside Brooklyn, said that [Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the illegal immigrant charged] had been an employee in good standing for four years and that it was shocked to learn he was implicated in the crime.

The company is owned by the family of Craig Lang, a prominent Republican who previously served as president of the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats wish to draw attention to the role of employers in illegal immigration, so no doubt Republicans will continue their shameless exploitation of the case, while Democrats flail about, having tied their left, class warfare hand behind their backs (though in all fairness, that hand has been tied so long it’s probably atrophied in position. But pity them, because it’s not easy to get your right hand into the cookie jar with your body contorted like that).

New Cold War

Sober assessments:

“Indictments? Impeachment? A look at Trump’s legal woes” [Associated Press].

“Michael Cohen pleads guilty, says he coordinated hush money with Trump to influence election” [Los Angeles Times] Also sober. “The Manafort verdict marked a clear victory for the special counsel, who brought the charges. Mueller’s office also collected the initial evidence on Cohen, and passed it to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.” • So both the Manafort and Cohen cases were a victory for Mueller.

“Michael Cohen Plea Agreement: Possible Meanings of the Campaign Finance Counts” [Bob Bauer, Lawfare]. “As Nixon found when one of his lawyers also became a witness for the government, this can be the beginning of very hard times.” • From Obama’s White House counsel; well worth a read. I’m not sure, however, that the Nixon/Dean (Watergate) Trump/Cohen analogy holds (even though this writer, unlike others, doesn’t engage in triumphalism). The correlation of political forces is different; the parties are different; the press is different; the challenges facing the country are different. In the glory days of Watergate, Bauer’s appeal to The Norms Fairy might have worked. But today, there are no “wise men” to enforce the norms, and take the President aside and tell him he’s done.

“What to Make of the Cohen Plea and Manafort Convictions” [Andrew McCarthy, National Review]. From an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; also well worth a read. “The conduct here is not of the egregious nature that rises to high crimes and misdemeanors — it is an infraction committed by many political candidates and often not even prosecuted. More to the point, it is remote from the core responsibilities of the presidency, implicating pre-election actions to conceal alleged indiscretions that occurred a decade earlier. And while the president has denied the indiscretions, it is not like the allegations come as any surprise to the public, who, while well aware of his flaws, elected Donald Trump nonetheless.” • In other words, “it’s in the price”; voters already marked Trump to market.

More Watergate, with charts of shifts in public opinion. Thread:

The final charts are suggestive; they suggest that Nixon was facing economic headwinds toward the end of his tenure. If the next recession is what’s needed to take Trump down, my guess is that volatility under President Pence will increase, not decrease.

AOC’s take:

Smart, because systemic.

“Dirty Business: In Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen Has the da Vinci of Spin” [Ryan Lizza, Esquire] • Rawther meta, since most of the article consists of Lizza writing down what (long-time Clinton operative) Davis says. Entertaining, though! Especially a vivid after-action report from the Acela…


I have my yellow waders, but I don’t have a moonsuit, so I hesitate even to bring up QAnon. Nevertheless, this thread from the Italian japesters, the Wu Ming Foundation, is so suggestive I cannot forebear:

Because I am in a Biblical mood today, cf. Matt 7:16-20.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“data demystified #2: Analyzing ‘Don’t Knows’ and ‘Neithers'” [data for progress]. “Policy alternatives such as public banking, universal basic income, and job guarantees are for the first time gaining widespread interest among advocacy groups and candidates. [These ideas] are unfamiliar to the mass public, and this can complicate attempts to “measure” their attitudes on these subjects…. Survey respondents who do not have a strong opinion on issues that are new to the progressive agenda, or whose interests are “uncrystallized,” face two options when answering survey questions. They may choose to select the middle option (“neither agree nor disagree”) or they may choose to say they “don’t know” how they feel about the issue. Survey respondents who are self-conscious about their knowledge may respond that they “neither agree nor disagree” with an issue rather than admit that they do not know enough about the issue to provide a response. This is often called satisficing…. [P]olitical science and psychology literature has shown that some groups of people are more likely to take the middle stance on an issue or declare that they “don’t know.” In studies of political knowledge, for instance, women are shown to have a lower propensity to guess when they are unsure; that is, women are more likely to say that they don’t know, while men are more likely to try and come up with an answer on the spot. Moreover, research has shown that lower levels of political knowledge among ethnic and racial minority groups are more likely the result of different political experiences that provide different kinds of knowledge. Therefore, analysis of public opinion surveys needs to consider how responses may have raced and gendered components.” • The writers “account for the uncertainty that accompanies new issues” by adding ideology into the mix.

“Daily Digit: How many people identify with the “alt-right”?” (video) [Yahoo News]. “Today we’re looking at the number of white Americans who identify with the alt-right. A new study that polled white Americans on how strongly they felt white identity, solidarity, and discrimination shows that roughly 11 million of 198 million white Americans, or 6%, identify with all three. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean such people are involved in radical movements, some are susceptible to racial resentment. The same study also shows that most white Americans oppose white identity politics, but there are still silent supporters.” • So one would think that minimizing those numbers would be a smart thing to do…

“The Media Are Missing a Movement” [Morton Kondrake, RealClearPolitics]. • I thought this would be interesting, but it’s a puff piece for “No Labels,” and that ilk.

“Why the Democratic Socialists of America Won’t Stop Growing” [In These Times]. “DSA may soon have 50,000 members across 200 local groups in all 50 states—up from 6,000 members in 2015. The surge in freshly minted socialists came in three waves: First, those energized by Bernie Sanders’ primary run; second, those brought in by Donald Trump’s election and the Women’s March; and third, those inspired by 27-year-old DSA member Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in May over incumbent—and Democratic heavyweight—Joe Crowley…. Members I spoke with took [“democratic socialism”] to mean everything from taking public goods like healthcare off the private market (along the lines of Scandinavian social democracies) to worker-ownership of the means of production. Central Iowa DSA co-chair Caroline Schoonover was among many to say that democratic socialism means “taking power from the few and giving it to the many.” All saw small-d democracy—people having a say in the decisions that affect them—as central, both in politics and workplaces, and in DSA itself.”

* * *


The question of standing (1):

A useful reminder that liberal Democrats have no standing to yammer about corruption as long as they’re running Menendez; it’s exactly the same issue with Bill Clinton and #MeToo. Cf. Luke 6:41-42 (and I like “plank” and “speck” vs. “mote” and “beam”).

The question of standing (2): “Obama records video backing Pritzker for Illinois governor” [WGNTV]. • Squillionaire Pritzker, but not AOC? Really, Obama? Really?

“The surprise is not that Trump surrounded himself with advisers who committed crimes, or that Trump himself encouraged his advisers to flout the law. The surprise is the mere possibility that any of them will pay for it” [Adam Serwer, The Atlantic].

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of August 17, 2018: “Posting the first increase in 6 weeks, purchase applications for home mortgages rose” [Econoday].

Existing Home Sales, July 2018: “Housing is the one sector of the economy not showing any life. [Below consensus, and] the lowest rate in 2-1/2 years. Year-on-year, resales are down 1.5 percent” [Econoday]. “Rising mortgage rates aren’t a plus for housing and neither are construction constraints for labor and materials that are slowing the new home market where weakness bleeds into resales. Third-quarter GDP looks to be very solid but apparently won’t be getting much lift from residential investment.” And: “The rolling averages have been slowing since the beginning of 2017. The rolling averages remain marginally in contraction. Housing inventory is low for Julys – and if you do not have enough houses for sale – then that means home sales cannot improve” [Econintersect]. And but: “This is a reasonable level for existing home sales, and doesn’t suggest any significant weakness in housing or the economy. The key for the housing – and the overall economy – is new home sales, single family housing starts and overall residential investment” [Calculated Risk].

Shipping: “Cargo rollovers cause chaos on Transpacific” [Lloyd’s Loading]. “After carriers culled capacity on the trade earlier this year, the transpacific box trade quickly become a sellers’ market with spot rates edging up throughout early summer and General Rate Increases gaining traction…. [Sriram Vaithiyanathan, Panalpina’s ocean freight trade lane manager] said the Sino-US trade war, which has already seen tariffs introduced on thousands of Chinese imports with more due to enter force later this year, had added to the cargo surge by encouraging some US importers to ship cargo early.”

Shipping: “Global box growth brakes sharply in second quarter” [Lloyd’s Loading]. “Growth in container volumes slowed in the second quarter of 2018, as a strong showing from the transpacific and transatlantic trades was unable to offset weak performances elsewhere, including most notably Asia-Europe…. The weak second quarter performance for Asia-Europe resulted in only moderate half-year growth of 1.2%, a trend that analysts Drewry put down to softening demand from the trade’s two largest inbound markets, the UK and Germany, which account for approximately two-fifths of westbound cargo.” • Brexit? Yes: “‘A lack of clarity as to what Brexit will really mean for the nation’s economic health, coupled with a rise in petrol prices, has prompted British households to take a more cautious approach to borrowing and spending,” added Drewry.”

The Bezzle: “Deal-hungry investment bankers walk Tesla tightrope” [Reuters]. “[N]o company of Tesla’s size has ever been taken private by financial investors as Musk has suggested, as opposed to being acquired by a bigger company. Moreover, the standard method of doing so, saddling the company with debt in a so-called leveraged buyout, is not an option for Tesla given that is already servicing a debt mountain of some $11 billion and is not making any money. It reported an operating loss in 2017 of $1.6 billion. Debate over the deal’s feasibility has polarized bankers.”

The Bezzle: “World’s top cryptocurrency miner may be losing its edge, analysts say” [South China Morning Post]. “Speculation about Bitmain’s finances has intensified in recent days. Unverified investor presentations purporting to show details of Bitmain’s business have been circulating online, prompting discussions in cryptocurrency circles over the company’s exposure to falling virtual currency prices. Bitmain has likely been acquiring large amounts of Bitcoin Cash, posing a ‘major risk’ as the bitcoin offshoot’s value declines….” • Never sample your own stuff. What’s wrong with these people?

The Bezzle: “Berkeley’s Bold Bet on Bitcoin” [Governing]. “Later this year, it plans on becoming the first municipality in the country to issue municipal bonds using the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrency. The project is the brainchild of Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett and is being billed as a way to make investing in municipal bonds more accessible than ever. That’s because, unlike the minimum $5,000 bond denomination common today, “cryptobonds” can be issued in denominations as low as $5 or $10. The bonds also have the potential to open up a whole new way for the city to raise money for housing…. It was around [the time of a homeless encampment fire] that Bartlett and Arreguín began talking about alternative fundraising with both Neighborly, a municipal finance startup that helps governments issue municipal bonds in small-dollar bundles, and the University of California at Berkeley’s Blockchain Lab, a research center for cryptocurrency technology. The idea to issue municipal bonds using blockchain technology was born. In May, the city council directed staff to evaluate the benefits of a pilot program in which Berkeley would offer municipal debt using blockchain technology.” • A startup for municipal bonds in bitcoin…

Manufacturing: “Arcing on 777 traced back to manufacturing defect” [FlightGlobal]. “A short circuit that sparked a fire on-board an Etihad Airways Boeing 777-300ER last October has been traced back to incorrect routing of a wiring bundle during the manufacture of the aircraft four years earlier…. [Boeing] issued a service bulletin requiring inspections and corrective action on 777s with line numbers 1-1527 onwards, while it is considering design changes on new aircraft to prevent a re-occurrence.” • So the system worked, but I have an uneasy, non-quantified feeling it’s being more and more tested.

The Fed: “How Well Do Yield Curve Inversions Predict Recessions?” (video) [Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis]. “In this video from a recent Dialogue with the Fed event, Director of Research Chris Waller reviews previous yield curve inversions and shows that they are indeed a strong predictor of recessions.” • A primer; but how strong is “strong”?


“As Wildfires Rage in California, So Does the Battle Over Who Will Pay” [Climate Liability News]. “Wildfire season is now essentially year-round in the state and 2017 featured the state’s largest-ever fire, the Thomas fire, which scorched more than 281,000 acres in Southern California last December, according to CalFire. Already this year, it’s been surpassed by the Mendocino Complex fire and more than 800,000 acres have burned across the state. Sixteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California have taken place since 1999. Historically, insurance companies, utilities and taxpayers have shared the bulk of the expenses of wildfire damage, though not in equal measures. With the damage piling up, fierce fights have broken out in courtrooms and in the state capitol to try to shift the financial burden. A novel strategy emerged over the past year as eight cities and counties sued oil and gas companies for money to pay for the impacts of climate change, from sea level rise and flooding to wildfires.”

Guillotine Watch

“Inside the Private Las Vegas Club For Crypto Billionaires” [Bloomberg]. “In fact, the MORE club is a crypto paradise where members can leave their cash and plastic at home. Instead they use cryptocurrency to purchase bottles (priced from around $2,500 to $50,000), table service or nights in the hotel. …. And it’s not just table service and fancy dinners that can be purchased on crypto. MORE members can rent a Lamborghini, Ferrari or a Bentley while in Sin City using their crypto. Or, purchase a personal training session with a UFC fighter with digital coins inside the club. Or, schedule a personal meet-and-greet with one of the club’s performers.” • It’s going to be hard to get all that service on Mars….

Imperial Collapse Watch

A salutary reminder, especially for those who came in late, that the Bush administration was, if anything, more shambolic than the Trump administration. Read the quotes in this thread:

Of course, Bush has now been rehabilitated by the #Resistance in an effort to appeal to suburban Republicans, so the Iraq debacle is no longer discussible in polite society..

Class Warfare

“A rundown of all the ways Trump is overseeing an all out, under-the-radar attack on workers” [Salon (RH)]. A good list: “In addition to all that, the Trump administration has proposed $2.6 billion in budget cuts—an enormous 21 percent—to the Department of Labor. Those cuts include a proposed elimination of four department programs and their services, such as training for worker-safety and for migrant farmworkers. The budget also seeks to significantly slash funding for Job Corps, a program that provides job training to disadvantaged youth, by $407 million, or 24 percent. Dimitri Iglitzin, a labor attorney in Seattle, says that “Of all of the ways that the Trump administration has been crushing labor, the most important has been the neutering of the Department of Labor. On a day-to-day basis, the agency that should be fighting for working people is doing so no longer.” • Three takeaways: First, if Obama’s Democrats had passed cardcheck, unions would be in a much stronger position. Second, liberal tropes that Trump is senile, insane, stupid, and so forth, just aren’t helpful, profitable though they may be. Exactly as with the courts, Trump has moved efficiently and with dispatch — in a word, strategically — to service his constituencies, and act in his own class interests, and in the interests of his donor class, despite all the sound and fury. Third, by not focusing on what Trump is actually doing, liberal Democrats cripple future efforts to undo it; hysteria is no match for hysteresis, in other words.

“Why Prosperity Has Increased but Happiness Has Not” [New York Times]. ” Researching happiness and age, I did a deep dive into the relatively new discipline of happiness economics and emerged impressed by two findings. One is that all happiness is local. According to World Bank data, the share of the world’s population living on less than $1.90 a day (inflation adjusted) declined to under 10 percent in 2015 from 44 percent in 1980, an astounding achievement. But ordinary people’s well-being depends mainly on their immediate surroundings. If you are an autoworker who loses your job in Massena, N.Y., when G.M. closes its local plant (moving some jobs to Mexico) and who spends years out of work and who watches as schools shut down and shops go dark and young people flee — for you, the fact that America’s big coastal cities are doing great, or that more than half a billion Chinese have been lifted out of extreme poverty, merely rubs salt in your wounds.” • Yes, the spectable of well-off 99%-ers extolling average well-being while studiously ignoring decreasing life expectancy in the regios they themselves helped de-industrialize and destroy, is one of the more entertaining features of the current zeitgeist. “Great train, the Acela; almost European. Just stay on your cellphone, and never look out the window!

News of The Wired

“Need More Self-Control? Try a Simple Ritual” [Scientific American]. “[P]articipants who enacted a ritual while eating carrots subsequently made healthier choices as compared to those in the other groups. The results suggest that following a stringent set of steps, however strange, before eating may be a better weight-loss strategy than adhering to a stringent diet.” • The leap to religion is an easy one to make…

“Theft! A History of Music” (comic) [Center for the Study of the Public Domain], This comic lays out 2000 years of musical history. A neglected part of musical history. Again and again there have been attempts to police music; to restrict borrowing and cultural cross-fertilization. But music builds on itself. To those who think that mash-ups and sampling started with YouTube or the DJ’s turntables, it might be shocking to find that musicians have been borrowing—extensively borrowing—from each other since music began. Then why try to stop that process? The reasons varied. Philosophy, religion, politics, race—again and again, race—and law. And because music affects us so deeply, those struggles were passionate ones. They still are…. You will read about the Holy Roman Empire’s attempts to standardize religious music with the first great musical technology (notation) and the inevitable backfire of that attempt.” * Cool, for this notation maven!

“After the bullets, the brushes: how the First World War transformed art” [New Statesman]. “The immediate postwar years were a period of artistic retrenchment and a retreat from the abstraction towards which Wyndham Lewis and Bomberg had been heading with their prewar paintings of skewed and stylised buildings and robotic people composed of rectangular, girder-like shapes. Only in Russia did the experimentation of the early 1910s take hold, because the new Soviet regime demanded an unprecedented art to accompany its grand social experiment.”

“What’s it like being the editor of a newspaper in Eve Online?” [Rock Paper Shotgun]. “Battle reports become much easier to piece together after the fight is over. There are player-developed intelligence tools which tell us which ships were destroyed and where, all using player account APIs. Basically, a ticker tape of death data. These are called “killboards“. As a battle rages or a conflict emerges, the ships lost will be listed on the killboards of the alliances involved. So even if an alliance maintains total radio silence, their PVP activity is still public. Major losses can’t be hidden. At this point, finding battles to report on is much easier as the losses become apparent. And once we’re aware of a battle, and its participants, it becomes more straightforward to pursue the story.” • Not like the real world, then? Readers?

* * *

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 (C.Hustle):

C.Hustle: “Attached is a pic of a butterfly bush doing what it does best.” And as if on cue, the ginormous fritillary is checking out my sunflowers again!

Readers, I have an end-of-month expenditure I need to make. It’s nothing big, so if just a few of you would click the hat, my stress and angst would be greatly reduced. Thank you!

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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. jo6pac

    I was wondering when you come back could you fix the BOLD thingy. It’s hard on my old eyes;-)

    Nap time for me.

    WOW it’s been fixed, thanks.

  2. ambrit

    The Vegas Crypto Club thing will export just fine. After all, Las Vegas is already more than half way to Mars.
    Adding: the Crypto thing is more than a bit Aspirational; just like the Mars crew.

  3. Tertium Squid

    The results suggest that following a stringent set of steps, however strange, before eating may be a better weight-loss strategy than adhering to a stringent diet.

    Cooking your food follows a stringent set of steps…

    1. polecat

      “Stringent” .. !! Where’s the fun in that ??
      Perhaps if one is preparing something such as haute FRENCH cuisine, but I personally find cooking on-the-fly is kinda fun, as well as challenging. And what doesn’t ‘pan’ out goes to the chickens .. who definitely have no ‘weight-loss’ issues !

  4. lyman alpha blob

    Can someone please explain why this Cohen confession is a big deal? Not asking rhetorically.

    IIRC Trump’s porn star friend had boasted about her affair with Trump in some tabloid years before he ever ran for president so it was already public knowledge prior to the election. I still don’t understand why when it became an issue again, Trump didn’t just say he paid her off to avoid opening up old wounds that would cause any embarrassment to his family. He could have even argued that she was blackmailing him. But instead he clammed up and now they might have something against him they can make stick. But no one ever accused Trump of being the sharpest tool in the box …

    1. lyman alpha blob

      And I meant to add that the fact that this was public knowledge prior to the election begs the question of why didn’t Clinton bring it up then in the first place? Well I can see why she wouldn’t, womanizing president husband who she protected and all, but she has an army of surrogates to do her dirty work.

      So how can they claim that he covered up an affair to influence an election when the affair was already public knowledge that the opposition could have brought up at any time?

      1. Code Name D

        Ugh, I am not looking forward to the impending phone call from my folks when they crow about this and how it some how proves RussiaRussiaRussia. And watching the news tap-dance around the Collusion issue, directly implying it while never mentioning it, is getting tiresome. Of course, my old man was astonished beyond belief when I told him the Cold War ended in the 80’s. Apparently, the fall of the Berlin Wall was just a Putin ploy to lull us into a false sense of victory. (Pause for face-palm).

        My take is this is the point where the boy who cried wolf one too many times discovers that help isn’t coming – just when he needs it. The Manafort convictions are not nothing, and is evidence that corruption is systemic. (As if we didn’t know this already, but the Democrats still seem to be clutching their purls over this anyway.) Not sure how you build an impeachment case over this though. Perhaps it might expose financial corruption from the Whitehouse, but I doubt it. Having been under incitement from the start, it’s likely he would have been kept far far away from any Whitehouse laundering, if they exist at all.

        But Trump is actually using this on the campaign trail, rightfully calling it a witch-hunt. I note that Clinton was accused of far more egregious activities, but her magical political plot armor some-how kept her clean.

        I tell you, 2024, when Trump finally leaves office, can’t come soon enough. I only dread the Republican to follow him.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > some how proves RussiaRussiaRussia

          So far, all we have is that Cohen is going on Maddow and saying he’s got tapes, or some such. Maybe he does. But it also smacks of Lanny Davis engineering something.

          I believe the next Manafort trial has a more R-cubic focus. So, as we have been doing, all we can do is wait for real evidence, and then assess it and its provenance.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          The Manafort convictions are another one I can’t wrap by head around.

          He was convicted for issues having nothing to do with Trump, he only worked on the Trump campaign for a short time, and Trump fired him IIRC.

          So why hasn’t Trump simply said he hired him on someone else’s recommendation (which is likely the actual case) and dismissed him when he realized what a bad actor he was. And Manafort and the rest of those involved with the coup in Ukraine are bad actors.

          But as I said earlier, nobody ever described Trump as the sharpest tool.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Let’s not forget that Strzok worked for Mueller briefly (maybe longer than Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign).

            Perhaps that’s for the second special counsel.

        3. Amfortas the Hippie

          Re: dealing with Team Blue Folks
          I cooked last night at mom’s. Msnbc was on, as always, and the Cohen/Manfort story was impossible to ignore.
          They kept looking at me, while talking about it…but never addressed me directly.(my radical doomer leftyism is no secret, at this point)
          But over dinner, msnbc was still on…then the local austin news, which was identical…and I said, “well…we let a war criminal president off scott free…why should we care about a payoff to a porn star?”
          They hated Lil George, so this apparently hit pretty close to vitals.
          Utter silence.
          wife ribbed me under the table…trod upon my toes…
          the scary thing is that I introduced them to Rachel Maddow and the rest of the more left leaning crew at msnbc…back before the Russian Koolaide, when they still had a more or less lefty crew.
          But then Obama happened and the war was won, apparently.
          “Thou shalt not criticize a Democrat, no matter how odious and filled with lies”.
          I keep my opinions to myself, mostly…unless it’s just too egregious(the entire effort that began with ProporNot, for instance).
          I have to live next door to these people, after all.

        4. drumlin woodchuckles

          The next Republican after Trump could be Ivanka. Imagine that! Ivanka Trump elected America’s First Woman President. I hope Hillary Clinton is alive to see it.

        5. foghorn longhorn

          The boy who cried wolf is exactly what struck me yesterday.
          Two years of this sh*t and this is it.
          Push on that string some more dumbass.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > So how can they claim that he covered up an affair to influence an election when the affair was already public knowledge that the opposition could have brought up at any time?

        I’m not sure what the legal standard is. It may be that intent to influence, by causing information to be suppressed that would otherwise come out [hmm], is enough.

      3. cnchal

        Narcissists always think they are smarter than everyone else, so getting away with using campaign money to pay for someone’s silence was an easy decision. Super smart combined with super cheap ends up looking not smart, now.

        Had he paid from his own pocket, it would have gone nowhere. This detail matters.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          I will admit to not following the details too closely as I’ve still been waiting for any actual evidence, but I thought that Cohen had paid Daniels out of his own pocket and at first denied that Trump had any knowledge – Cohen was just a fixer doing his job fixing things for his boss. It was the Resistance types who claimed that Cohen making the payment was equivalent to using campaign funds. Nobody actually wrote a check from the TRUMP 2016 campaign or have I missed something?

          And again, if intent is the issue here and it is the case that no payments were made directly from the campaign, couldn’t Trump still claim the payment was to save his family emotional distress? How would they prove otherwise?

          1. cnchal

            Mea culpa, lyman. My interpretation of what the MSM was saying is a bit off, to say the least.

            Anyhow, it’s a comical farce. Spending big bucks to buy silence, and the result is loud screaming.

        2. MK

          It’s been proven that they used ‘campaign money’?

          All the reporting I’ve seen indicates the payment was made to affect the campaign – not that the funds were actually from the campaign bank accounts??

          1. Hameloose Cannon

            Michael Cohen used fraudulent invoices to recoup the funds and disguise $420k in payments that were made by the Trump Organization, a real estate company. So unless loan papers were drafted, you could add “embezzlement” if “campaign contribution” makes you feel uncomfortable. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt, and all.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Not sure if it would be embezzlement or a simple matter of not properly classifying that expense, for a private corporation like the Trump Organization.

              A lot of exotic dancers would be out of work if their customers accountants can’t file correctly.

        3. Beniamino

          Ditto – if you’ve seen any reporting actually alleging that Trump / Cohen diverted campaign funds to pay off Daniels, maybe you could supply some links. All the coverage I’ve read relied on the contention, IIRC, that the pay-off amounted to an indirect campaign contribution which exceeded legal contribution limits and wasn’t properly reported. I dunno whether that’s a novel legal theory but if such activities (i.e., unreported expenditures in excess of campaign-donation limits which directly or indirectly benefit a political candidacy) are really deemed to constitute campaign-finance violations, the prosecutors might want to re-examine the Wall Street / Silicon Valley / Hollywood fundraisers that were being held for Clinton, not to mention all of the Clinton Foundation donations. Seems to me there’s a wealth of deep-pockets prospective defendants out there who are ripe for a shakedown if anyone’s interested.

          The characterization of the Stormy Daniels pay-off as a campaign contribution is particularly counter-intuitive insofar as the cost appears to have been ultimately borne by Trump himself. So now every expenditure that political candidates incur to further their interests or protect their brands is supposed to be governed by the campaign-finance laws? Clearly this legal standard only applies to Trump for now, although Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, & Co. are next in line if the gatekeepers get their way.

          1. John

            Cohen testified in court, under oath, that he conducted illegal activities at the behest of Donald Trump making Trump a co-conspirator. Cohen testified that he was repaid by Trump who failed to report (aka lied) this as a campaign contribution. Presumably he would not have made these claims if he didn’t have recordings/videos/documents to back up such claims.

            1. Beniamino

              I get that that’s a colorable legal theory but what about the claim that the payments were diverted from campaign funds? Did we just make that up or no?

              1. marym

                If a candidates spends their own money on their own campaign it counts as a campaign contribution and has to be reported. (Link)

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s not the confession that’s the big deal; the issue is the channels the money flowed through to handle the payoff which so far as I can tell, did violate the law. If the story Trump’s detractors tell is true, you have Trump telling Cohen to break the law. (Whether the violation of campaign law was “serious” is another question entirely). Is that an impeachable offense? That depends. McCarthy makes the point that it will be hard to prove intent, especially if you view Trump as being invincibly ignorant of detail.

      It’s also worth noting, from the perspective of Christian morality — I do seem to be in a biblical mood, today — that the treatment meted out by Trump to his partners in consensual sex, payoffs, is considerably more merciful than the treatment meted out by the Clinton apparatus to The Big Dog’s partners in both consensual and non-consensual sex: Smear campaigns.

      1. Scott

        There’s an interesting take over at The Intercept.


        This gets to one of my thoughts about all of these Trump investigations – his team simply isn’t as good at covering things up as Clinton’s (or Bush’s or Obama’s). And this is where the talking heads have the problem. It isn’t that what he did is morally wrong; it’s that it is illegal, while what Bill and Hillary did was ok because it was legal.

      2. Skip Intro

        “Impeachable Offense”?? I was pretty sure that the Paula Jones case demonstrated that a sitting president could only be prosecuted for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ committed while in office, because these offenses would have to be abuses of Presidential power. Other claims must wait until he is out of office. If anything will convince Trump to pick up the 2020 election, it would be the threat of prosecution when he leaves office. As it is, he could cruise in for reelection, particularly is the Dems keep avoiding substance. The Clinton impeachment surely backfired on the GOP, not only in the polls, but also by preventing the president from supporting more GOP pet projects, like the elimination of Social Security.

        Moreover, an impeachable offense is really what the Senate says, indictments from the House notwithstanding.

        1. The Rev Kev

          November 4th 2024

          “I, Donald J. Trump, with the US Federal election due tomorrow, hereby issue a Presidential pardon in my name for any and all offenses related to the Presidential campaigns for 2016 and 2020. Thank you and God bless”.

    3. Hameloose Cannon

      Just because Trump’s ambisinister associates’ simultaneous convictions marked the worst afternoon of the Trump presidency, while still only appearing to be just a mere amuse-bouche before the legal equivalent of breaking out the black gloves and kitchen knives at the gialli dinner party, does not mean we may wallow in the nihilistic assumption that after dessert, the whole house is burning down. But for nihilism is idealistic in nature, the secure belief that nothing may change the world. Being stitched up with a witness that establishes a pattern of unlawful activity, and your other guy jammed up, the campaign chair with a history of engaging on behalf of foreign clients to conduct political warfare, is looking down the barrel at life, and knowing that a pardon of a potential witness is prima facie obstruction on top of nullifying the witnesses ability to plead the fifth [not to mention fraud, obstruction, bribery, unlawful computer access, and witness tampering are RICO predicate acts] may not be just blowing vapor. We’ll see what the Place the Blame Meetings churn up, should be good given the record thus far… Could not have happened to a nicer guy, too.

  5. Roger Smith

    We MUST vote & flip the House 11/6. — Ocasio-Cortez

    Uh… why? I don’t want Democrats anywhere near the legislative handles, especially right now. One, for obvious reasons (see the last time they were) and two, their winning of a majority in either congressional body guarantees the further strengthening and legitimacy of this ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ Epidemic. So what? Trump may have knowingly violated campaign finance laws? Whatever he may have actually done, it is going to be spun into some ridiculously elaborate narrative that is confirmation that he has Putin on speed dial, that Trump!(tm) is some sort of exception to ‘normalcy’ and we should all burn him at the stake. It’s bad enough that the political sphere in this country is this overly hostile simply because some of the powers that be didn’t get their way. It is dangerous to legitimize this psychotic outrage. I hope the Democrats get creamed in the midterms. I also sincerely hope that people leaning new deal like OC stop flying the tainted Democrat banner and drop the dead weight.

    1. prx

      it would be good if republicans couldn’t do things like pack the courts or pass tax cuts for the superrich or ban abortion or outlaw being brown..

      1. Code Name D

        If the Dems will not fight for while in the minority, what makes you think they will fight for you when in the majority?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I once ran into a nice young person who said ‘I want to become the richest person so I can help the poor.’

          I wonder where that person is now…

      2. pretzelattack

        the democrats will nominate republicans to the supreme court and pass tax cuts for the superrich and bomb a few more million brown people. however, it is true that they will not ban abortion, which would affect their funding. they are arguably the lesser of 2 evils, at least domestically. however, they might start a nuclear war with other white people in russia.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        If the Dems get their majority, their Pelosi-Hoyerats will join the Republicans to pack the courts with Republican judges and pass tax cuts for the superrich.

        It would be better to take this opportunity to exterminate the Pelosi-Hoyer wing of the party from political existence.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The ancient Egyptians after Akhenaten so hated him, that they had to obliterate all images of him. It’s like the Catholic equivalent of annulment, instead of divorce.

      “It didn’t happen in the first place.”

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’d be perfectly happy if the Democrats won the House or the Senate, because gridlock is our friend. If they win both chambers, impeachment looms (Pelosi regardless) and I think that would tear the country apart (not a good thing, I think).

      1. Epistrophy

        … I think that would tear the country apart …

        The country is already irreparably divided. The tearing apart has already begun. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, there are moneyed interests who are going to do whatever they can to put violence in the streets. You can see this in the attitudes of the MSM (owned or sponsored by these interests) who have generally refused to disavow Antifa and their violent acts.

        Even more shocking to me (and a sign of the depth of their intent) was the recent Manafort trial and the broad based attempts by the MSM to DOX the jury. This shameless and unprecidented tactic was clearly an attempt to intimidate the jury and pervert justice for political ends.

      2. JohnnyGL

        “I’d be perfectly happy if the Democrats won the House or the Senate, because gridlock is our friend.”

        — Let’s be clear, Dems don’t actually vote against Trump’s agenda. They just complain about his personality, appearance.

        If you want real gridlock, I offer you….the House Freedom Caucus….slayer of Trumpcare’s awfulness!!!

        That’s the biggest blow we’ve seen so far to the Trump agenda, and Dems were only bit players, not the swing vote. And let’s be clear, the town hall spectacles of the citizenry going ape-$hit over losing their health care terrified any potential defectors on team dem, and withered the will of the Repubs.

        1. Jason Boxman

          I believe the Freedom Caucus also saved us from the Great Betrayal under Obama. It’s going to take a Democrat to kill Social Security, I’ve always said.

    4. Katniss Everdeen

      Ocasio-Cortez seems not to have noticed that her precious dems have not exactly welcomed her with open arms. Someone needs to tell her that clinton’s sabotage of Bernie was real and the Russians had nothing to do with it.

      And if this withering bipartisan jihad against anything Trump for merely suggesting better relations with Russia is any indication, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of her ever getting close enough to the levers of power to make a scintilla of difference as long as the old guard runs the show.

      Regardless of the high she’s currently on, she’d better wake up and realize that if they get Trump, she and her fellow political travelers are next in line.

      1. a different chris

        “Seems not to have noticed” is carrying a lot of weight, here. Maybe she noticed but thinks that not reacting to it is the best path forward.

        I personally have zero experience of being the *it* girl/guy of the moment, but it’s tricky I bet.

        Agree with your final two paragraphs.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sometimes, you worry when it’s too quiet.

        Are they currently working on sabotaging her?

        1. JohnnyGL

          I think they’re letting the Repubs take a few swings at her….”Venezuela!!! Socialism!!! Gulags!!!”…and seeing what that does. They aren’t attacking her too much because….unity!?!?! or because she might be a good campaigner and might have coat-tails to get some more of Team D into congressional seats.

          Part of me wonders if they 1) are figuring out how to sabotage her and 2) are realizing that giving her air time probably helps more than hurts her.

          I also think they are trying to woo her over to their team, a bit, perhaps to at least manage/control her. “Let’s work together and attack those Republicans”.

          Keep in mind, Joe Crowley still hopes to sneak an upset in her district. He’s got that WFP and is hanging onto it. :)

          1. Matt

            Venezuela seems to be the major one. I can’t imagine they actually try a Gulag line, how would that go down in the current climate?

            “She wants to confiscate the assets of the billionaires and send them to labor camps for WORK!”

        2. Elizabeth Burton

          Yes, of course they are. They were just smart enough to learn from their earlier attacks on progressive candidates to not be blatant about it. Their weak point may be their arrogance—they seem convinced all these silly socialists will either fail miserably, since everyone knows the real voting bloc to be pursued are moderate Republicans, or will be easily intimidated on the off-chance they actually win and will slink into the fold like good little sheep.

          There was a reason the Greek dramatists blamed hubris for tragic outcomes.

          I just wish people would stop attacking the progressives for running as Democrats, as if there were an actual choice.

          1. dcblogger

            I just wish people would stop attacking the progressives for running as Democrats, as if there were an actual choice.

            so good, it had to be repeated

      3. Rosario

        Yep, it’s always seemed to me that this whole affair with Trump, from the beginning, had less to do with any of his personal traits or potential impropriety (for chrissakes look at Bill Clinton) and more to do with him not being in the DC club (this goes for both parties). Though Trump is an intolerable prick, he really is an outsider (even the voters noted that), and DC power players (again both parties) hate it.

        Ocasio-Cortez has the same problem. One/Ten Percenters don’t like people who say they are socialists, and they will work very hard to silence or sideline them.

        I think Bernie has been around long enough to know just how corrupt DC really is and how entrenched capital is in US politics. This might be why he is low sloganeering and high long-game message. She still has some time to learn. We’ll see what happens.

  6. Summer

    The history of music is also filled with collaboration and sharing. Artists were accustomed to other artists borrowing ideas (not the notes and frequencies that have always been free for everyone – music has always been free – tech mavens did not free it). What became new was a rise in people thinking they didn’t have to credit the original ideas.

      1. Summer

        Musically, the copyright is not about the notes. Everybody shares the same notes and frequencies. A melody is about the space between those notes and that infinite variety.

        A music copyright is technically for words and melody (see space between the notes). Chord progressions (generically) and rhythms are not copyrightable techinically – although writers will share depending on the weight they give to the chord progression and rhythm oe depending on the relationship between the musicians amd writers.

        Nothing wrong with copyrights for works musical or literary.

      2. Summer

        That copyright is inherently bad is the tech maven meme. They wanted to make money of music free of charge – using music a lure to their sites and advertising dollars. Meanwhile, they’ve built a monument of a building in the bay area to protect their intellectual property – patents.

        To show you how much copyright never got in the way of sharing:

        “The Most Stolen Song in The World”

        This is a jam of a chord progression used for the longest. Over those chords, the melodies will vary but contain much of the same tonality. All separately copyrighted songs….

        If you’ve ever been to a piano bar and been amazed at how many songs the player knows and wonder how he memorized them, he didn’t. The majority of it is recognizing the patterns of similiar chord progressions used throughout time…

        1. Shane Mage

          Copyright certainly has gotten in the way of Saint-Saens “Carnival des Animaux,” which cannot be accompanied by Ogden Nash’s delightful verses neither in performance nor even in broadcast of a recording (of which several existed during Nash’s lifetime).

      3. Summer

        Just another thought:
        The type of music copyright I was discussing was songwriting/publishing.

        The mechanical copyright is another aspect. That has to do with recordings and the rights to those are signed over to distributor by the songwriters/publishers.
        The distributor is usually the record company or whoever is chosen to distribute the recording for financial gain.
        They distributor is paying for the right to distribute the recording.
        To copy a recording is what is referred to as sampling (different from “covering” or making a another version of a published tune).

  7. Synoia

    (even though this writer, unlike others, doesn’t engage in triumphalism Trumpalism?). /s

    But today, there are no “wise men” to take the President aside and tell him he’s done

    I’m sure John Bolton would not agree. And there is always John Brennan.

  8. Synoia

    Yarrabee Farms, a family-owned company that operates dairy farms in the rolling hills outside Brooklyn, said that [Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the illegal immigrant charged] had been an employee in good standing for four years and that it was shocked to learn he was implicated in the crime.

    The company is owned by the family of Craig Lang, a prominent Republican who previously served as president of the Iowa Farm Bureau.

    I believe businesses were required to verify SSNs by getting an I9 form completed by the job applicant. Was I mistaken?

    From wikipedia:

    Form I-9, officially the Employment Eligibility Verification, is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services form. Mandated by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it is used to verify the identity and legal authorization to work of all paid employees in the United States.

    1. RUKidding

      Did Yarrabee Farms actually require their workers to complete an I9 form? And did they verify that that all of their workers’ ID and other info were legal and correct?

      Methinks that they didn’t, as many many employers in certain industries and other businesses do not.

      Yes, they’re supposed to, but where oh where is the good investigative journalism to dig deeper and determine exactly what the employer did or did not do.

      I don’t know anything about Yarrabee Farms, but I can assure that there are loads of businesses that knowlingly recruit (in foreign countries, mostly central and south America) undocumented workers, pay to bring them here and then employ them for as long as they can before ICE shows up. It’s very lucrative for the business owners, most of whom are likely to publically decry “illegals” all while knowingly employing them at pennies on the dollar to work often in unsafe conditions.

      It is as Lambert says, however, that neither party – to my knowledge – has ever adequately addressed the issue of undocumented workers from the perspective of taking on the bosses who do this. At most the employers get a tap on the wrist, if that.

      It would be interesting to see what follow up happens with Yarrabee Farms, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for them to face any consequences.

    2. Todde

      The employer says he used everify to document his employee.

      There is a good business to be done forging documents, ive seen them, so it is possible.

      Sounds like we need a thorough investigation of the employer to be sure.

      1. a different chris

        I know we like to kick rich Rethugs but the whole “alien” thing, illegal or otherwise, needs to be dropped. They may or may not have known …and that includes willing blindness if he was illegal and they “didn’t know”. But where he comes from has nothing to do with the crime he committed, so the fact that they gave him a job is completely irrelevant.

        1. marym

          where he comes from has nothing to do with the crime he committed


          Also this:

          The CDC analyzed the murders of women in 18 states from 2003 to 2014, finding a total of 10,018 deaths. Of those, 55 percent were intimate partner violence-related, meaning they occurred at the hands of a former or current partner or the partner’s family or friends. In 93 percent of those cases, the culprit was a current or former romantic partner. The report also bucks the strangers-in-dark-alleys narrative common to televised crime dramas: Strangers perpetrated just 16 percent of all female homicides, fewer than acquaintances and just slightly more than parents.

          “Where he comes from” has everything to do with why this particular crime has Trump’s attention.

        2. JohnnySacks

          The fact he was an illegal is really what’s completely irrelevant. This hyper violent country kills thousands of people each year, and ignoring the genocidal illegals since 1492.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            In Okinawa, when a local girl is assaulted by a GI, where he comes from is a big deal.

        3. RUKidding

          I agree that where this person comes from and whether he is documented or not is utterly irrelevant.

          There’s many more murders committed here by “natural born” citizens than undocumented immigrants.

          However, the Republican party and their propaganda organs are already going nuts about this incident and pointing fingers about the guy being “illegal.”

          Ergo, it’s fair enough to bring up the fact that many many undocumented workers are hired – often knowingly – by employers. And typically the employers suffer no consequences.

          Just saying…

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    A couple of possible new names for the #Resistance people came to mind, to go with Jonestown Clinties and so forth.

    Clinton-humpers? Hillary-humpers? ( Feel free to ignore if too crude).

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      #Resistance is hysterical. Much like the Tea Party types calling themselves Teabaggers for six months, it just shows how shallow these people are as they clearly borrowed “resistance” from JJ Abrams Star Wars.

      They are the #resistance. They skipped brunch!

      Dubya was inspired, but their own names often simply works.

  10. marku52

    I don’t get the breathless excitement about Manafort. He seems to be convicted for doing things that half the occupants of DC could be convicted of (tax dodging, and taking foreign money), it anybody ever bothered to investigate.

    And no mentions of Russians!Russians! which is the only thing that might threaten Trump

    If there’s a big deal in there, I aint seein’ it.

    1. John

      More of that coming in the next trial, if it happens. Manafort will have a harder time in the next trial. He may decide to avoid trial and turn states evidence instead.

  11. cybrestrike

    Not at all surprised that Obama hasn’t thrown any support towards AOC, or any of the newer Democratic Socialists that have competed and won their primaries.

    Those Neoliberals absolutely despise anyone on the left. They occasionally do a good job of hiding it, but they’d be much happier if leftists would bow their collective heads and act like 2016 and the recent advent of Democratic Socialists never happened.

      1. JohnnyGL

        He’d have to get off Richard Branson’s private island if he were going to put any kind of shoes on.

        1. DonCoyote

          From The Jimmy Dore Show

          Not Barack Obama (NBO): You’re doing a heck of a job, Rahm. Chicago loves you.
          Jimmy Dore (JD): Seventy shootings in one day is a heck of a job?
          NBO: I’m weeping now as I speak. I feel your pain. We’re better than this. Thoughts and prayers.
          JD: So that’s what your post-presidential legacy’s gonna be like?
          NBO: Always take the middle road, Jimmy. The middle road is the one most travelled—As Robert Frost once said.
          JD: Frost never said that, Barack.
          NBO: When you sway too far from the middle-right, you stretch the space-time continuum. And that could cause a parallel universe to erupt–from cosmic dust. We’re not ready for that! I’m a man of grace, dignity, compassion, and intelligence. And, it turns out I’m really good at killin’ people. We are more than just the parts of our sum. Hope is a bird without feathers. May the force be with you.

    1. RUKidding

      Agree. Sadly. It’s why I didn’t vote for him the second time (yes: I did the first time figuring I’d see what happened, and the rest is history).

      Ugh. Color me unsurprised.

  12. Enquiring Mind

    Obama’s choices for recommendation just might be to pay off old debts, and who better to lend a lot of money than a squillionaire! AOC is penny-ante by comparison.

  13. Enquiring Mind

    Cohen’s plea agreement stories bring up that old Nixon-era attorney, John Dean. I didn’t think much of him after reading his book Blind Ambition, and thought even less of him after reading Kolodny’s book.

    Showing my age, but I change the channel when John Dean comes on, and when Oliver North does.

  14. DJG

    Novichok microdoser thread on Imperial Life in the Emerald City. Read the excerpt, Versaille on the Tigris, about the endless amount of pork in the U.S. cafeterias, which were also where the Iraqis who worked for the U.S. of A. were expected to eat. So the war was about / is about importing endless amounts of pork? The stupidity is prolific. U.S. soldiers, eating pork in Iraq in front of the newly conquered: Heck, yeah, thank you for your service.

    There is a self-congratulatory video going around today of some “question” at a Beto O’Rourke citizens meeting in which some jamoke starts “asking” about football players kneeling and “disrespecting” the flag and veterans. And O’Rourke starts off with some endless amount of servile drivel about the veterans.

    The same veterans chowing down on pork in Iraq. Who evidently now demand that civilians defer endlessly to them. And we wonder why U.S. foreign policy now consists of bombs, drones, bribery, and bullying? And muscularity, if you are Hillary. And barbecue for the homesick among the dastardly Muslims.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Didn’t help when some US soldiers whipped out their bibles and tried to convert the locals to Christianity. That went down like a lead balloon and the Pentagon had to step in and tell them to knock it off.

      1. Plenue

        Doesn’t exactly help that Bush himself described the war on terror as a ‘crusade’. Wasn’t there some general who did the same thing as well? With the highest of the higher-ups setting that kind of precedent, of course some of the overzealous grunts are going to go out and preach.

        I seem to recall that there was a lot of evangelical penetration of the military during the Bush 43 years, and which apparently hasn’t really gone away.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Something similar happened with the Spanish military contingent that was helping occupy Iraq. When they sent their first troops to patrol Iraq, they were wearing the Cross of St James of Compostela on their shoulders – popularly known in Spain as “the Moor Killer”. This dated to the Crusade to push the Muslims out of Spain and is akin to sending US troops to Africa wearing Ku Klux Clan hoods as part of their official uniforms.

          1. alex morfesis

            christians whipping out a bible and trying to convince muslims that jesus is the answer…to which muslims laugh and respond by asking…how many times a day do you christian geniuses pray for the return of jesus to fix the world ?…

            muslims pray 5 times a day for the return of jesus…and that little crescent on their flag…that is the symbol for mary, mother of jesus…

            muslims must get a kick out of christians asking them only to pray one time a week on sunday for the return of jesus…

    2. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

      Reading the Emerald city (a window on Americas’s soul?):

      A fascinating window into how the empire functions currently. The main take away for me is it that the US operates on the avoidance of experts*. If what the author says is correct – that the State Department (as I recall it) had policies and measures ready to go for post invasion Iraq, but all of them were thrown out by the military** – I can only conclude that the Mesopotamian war whole war is just a live exercise – with ‘democracy’ as a very transparent fig leaf.


      * Nothing new here – Lewis E. Lehrman makes the same point about FDR in his book Churchill, Roosevelt and Company – Studies in Character and Statecraft.

      ** The military were probably correct to throw those plans out because you cannot impose democracy on a culture. Anocracy – yes, but never democracy.


      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I am going purely on memory now, but I think it was the military which had its plans ( whatever they were) thrown out. The very first Occupation Overseer — General Garner — was fired to make that point. He was replaced by Paul Bremer on behalf of the Cheney-Rumsfeld NeoConservatives who wanted a “year Zero” burndown-rebuild of every trace of institution and culture in Iraq.

        Paul Bremer . . . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bremer

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      I’ve had a similar reaction when I see women diplomats sent to negotiate with Islamic leaders. It’s an insult to the traditionalists, which makes one wonder if it’s deliberate.

      1. Shane Mage

        Why would it “insult” the people they want to sell weapons of mass destruction to? None of them is any more a traditionalist than Trump himself is a republican.

  15. zagonostra

    It’s so damn tiring and trying to be deluged with non-stop Russia/Trump/Cohen/Stormy/Manafort/etc… stories. When will someone say enough, we need Medicare-for-all, need to stop punishing young people with debt peonage to get an education, need some savings in our bank accounts for retirement, need to stop working 60 hours a week with only two weeks a year off for vacation, need to stop locking up millions of people in jail, need to get out of this god damned traffic…can those bastards (MSM/political/power elites) start working on creating the social and economic conditions that allow me and my children to live a decent life…basta!

    1. RUKidding

      Righteous rant!

      Never forget that those who create the “news” are filthy rich and don’t have to deal with any of those issues, and they frankly don’t care that you do.

      The propaganda wurlitzer is doing the job that they intend it to do. Great distraction.

  16. PKMKII

    The article on Berkeley is unclear. The headline and much of the story is describing the city as having embraced cryptocurrency. However, the actual description of the plan states that they’re using blockchain technology, which is just a logistical methodology and not cryptocurrency itself. Is there any actual cryptocurrency involved? Or did the city just pay a lot for a fintech contractor based on buzzwords?

      1. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

        ‘own cryptocurrency’

        – reminds me of all those investment scams that spruke: ‘just like cash’.

        To paraphrase the Thai: Same-same but encrypted.


  17. Lee

    As I grow older and older, And totter toward the tomb, I find that I care less and less, Who goes to bed with whom.
    Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/dorothy_l_sayers_390623

    And as for who pays off whom for what, hasn’t all that been pretty much legalized? If our political elites, instead of dealing with real issues, keep climbing up their own arses, maybe they’ll just implode and disappear. Ever the optimist, me.

  18. Plenue

    Re : Eve Online

    Eve is interesting for a lot of reasons. The in-game industry is entirely player driven. Everything from the gathering of raw materials to the manufacture of parts to the building of ships is done manually by players. And because play time can be bought with game in game currency or real money, there’s a way to gauge the real-worth worth of in game assets https://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/1wcdt6/for_those_wondering_what_these_eve_ships_cost_in/. So we get scenarios like this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodbath_of_B-R5RB where more than a quarter million dollars in ships was destroyed in a single battle.

    The monetary system is also effectively MMT, though I’ve never seen anyone describe it as such. New in game money can only enter the economy through players completing quests/missions (so, money creation when there’s demand. Just no interest rates). The existence of quest givers and their rewards is entirely controlled by the developers, who could shut it all down on a whim. A certain amount of money is removed from the system via various taxes. But in the fifteen years the game has been running, the money supply has increased massively. As has, yep, the amount of economic activity.

    Also, note that I said it’s interesting. This isn’t the same as fun. Eve is an acquired taste. It’s largely a spreadsheet simulator with a 3D spaceship component.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Not my thing but I can see how a lot of people are into it. Would you believe that it became necessary for Eve to hire their own economist about a decade ago?


      That quote “At this point, finding battles to report on is much easier as the losses become apparent.” is telling as in the real world casualties are hidden with full press cooperation. As an example – during the Iraq war when US dead went past their first thousand mark the Pentagon decided not to report those killed that were not directly combat related. This not only included US soldiers killed in accidents (dead is still dead) but included those evacuated to hospitals in Germany where they succumbed to wounds. See, their deaths did not occur in Iraq. In addition a Russian officer at the time claimed that a lot of wounded were being taken to places like Cyprus to hide the numbers. And now? Does anybody really care about any US soldiers that died fighting the Iraq resistance anymore? Apart from their families that is. Or is it too far in the past?

      1. Plenue

        Last I heard there’s now five economists on staff for Eve Online. They monitor the markets and suggest tweaks and interventions to the devs. So I guess it’s a very mixed economy, despite the games reputation of being a libertarian sandbox.

    2. ChrisPacific

      It’s fairly common for MMO style games to deliberately target a high rate of inflation, often upwards of 100% per year. (If that sounds like a lot, remember that a real world year is a long time in gaming). The money supply typically grows steadily over time by the means Plenue described, and it’s also common for developers to deliberately introduce a large step change in inflation – often several hundred percent – coinciding with the release of new content.

      The main reason they do this is to encourage new players by creating a more level playing field (new content releases are typically accompanied by marketing efforts to attract more players). In a world with no (or low) inflation, longer term players with large amounts of established wealth would dominate, and new players would find themselves effectively shut out of any competitive elements of the game, and would have more and more difficulty catching up. As it is, legacy wealth typically diminishes in relative terms to the point of irrelevancy after two or more content cycles.

      Comparison of this system to conditions that prevail in the real world is left as an exercise for the reader…

    3. Musicismath

      I recently discovered that an old friend of mine is writing his PhD thesis on virtual crime in the EVE universe.

  19. ChristopherJ

    Breaking news here in Australia, former home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, who resigned from the ministry following a lost challenge to PM Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday 47 to 35, has asked for another spill this morning. Last day of sitting week for 3 weeks…
    Liberal National coalition looks very shaky.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Just what Australia needs. A right-wing, conservative, monarchist hack as Prime Minister. I think that I would rather keep the present ex-banker Prime Minister.

      1. ChristopherJ

        Yes, Kev. There is also that eligibility issue for Dutton which is unresolved and could see a byelection.

        Dutton would be a bad choice for the Libs, would hand the next election to Labor, as if they need any further stimulus.

      2. witters

        Well, from where I sit in OZ I have not yet seen your banker-preference stand up to anything from the Liberal right. Enlighten me.

    2. RUKidding

      hmmmm…. thanks for the update. Sounds like Turnbull might not be the worst thing that could happen, after all. Whocouldaknowed?

      1. witters

        I think he was the worst. In the classic neoliberal sense. He presented as the unifying centrist progressive we all long for. One commentator indeed (looking at you Elizabeth Farrelly) claimed he would lead us into the light for 40 years. And then, in being no-more than a deceptive mascot for the right, allowed the ALP to refuse to move left. Surely you must be familiar with this sort of thing in the US. I’m surprised at the response to all this of my fellow ozians here.

  20. Steely Glint

    Nothing to do with WC today, but would appreciate in-put from CPAs. If inducements are given in the form of tax abatements or development costs by U.S. states (thinking
    Amazon, Foxcom, Walmart, etc.) to attract corps., could this be taxed by federal and/or state tax authorities as “shadow income” much like reduced settlement on credit card debt or mortgage principal reduction are considered as miscellaneous income. It just might even things up a bit.

  21. timbers

    Nixon, Watergate and Partisan Opinion. This topic comes up often enough these days that I think it worthwhile to lay out the facts in some detail in hopes of clarifying how partisans and the public at large reacted….

    IMO, a better comparison than Trump to Nixon and Watergate, would be Obama to Nixon…as when Obama committed fraud before the FISA court by classifying the Steele Dossier so that he could present it as credible “evidence” even though he and everyone else knew it was no such thing – so he could illegally spy on his political enemies with ill begotten warrants.

    1. Eureka Springs

      Great question.

      What did Obama know and or directly order or simply say nothing? Also HRC? WHo by hook and crook stole her nomination and did her level best to steal the election… even if it meant risking war with Russia.

      In re FISA, it should be abolished, not just as a failure but a danger. Church Committee did not go nearly far enough.

      I keep saying the #resistenceispurile, #evencheneywaswithher, but that lets them off too easily. All of this corruption from the D side is most troubling by far. This time.

  22. Jason Boxman

    The Salon article notes that the NLRB reversed an Obama ruling regarding organizing a union without including all the job functions at an employer. The Wagner Act brought unions under the auspices of the state, neutering union organizing in many ways. It’s worth asking why the state has any role in this?

    1. Shane Mage

      That was the deal the Socialists and Stalino-Communists made with FDR to limit wildcats and sitins and prepare for the United Front in the next war by institutionalizing and domesticating the industrial unions that workers were creating in the last labor upsurge America ever experienced.

  23. Lambert Strether Post author

    More on Cohen: I bought a copy of the New York Times and read the Cohen coverage carefully. (The newspaper is a great medium; too bad we’re destroying it.)

    Some reactions:

    1) I did not see any specifics on what law Trump is supposed to have broken. There’s lots of “illegal,” “illegal” but no “illegal under ______” or “would have violated §_____,” That seems odd. Maybe it’s out there in other sources, or (presumably) the court documents.

    2) At the level of law: If the argument is “gave X amount of dollars” to influence the outcome of an election*, how is that different, at least in terms of intent, from the Clinton campaign seeking to “elevate” the Trump campaign through an enormous in-kind contribution of “earned” coverage in the media, through the Pied Piper strategy?

    3) At the level of impeachment: Grant that Trump broke the law. Surely that’s trivial beside Bush’s multiple felonies for his warrantless surveillance program, which gutted the Fourth Amendment? Especially since then-Senator Obama voted to give the telcos retroactive immunity for their part in the program?

    Now, since Cohen seems to have shifted his allegiance to Clinton’s faction (interestingly, not Obama’s) there may be plenty more to come, but other than Mueller finally delivering on something, is the Cohen conviction, in and of itself, worth the triumphalism? After all, we must have heard “Finally, this is what will do Trump in!” a hundred times, already….

    * Distinct from the technicalities of what channels the money was given through.

    1. Yves Smith

      The AP story I linked to in Links was good on the legal issues: https://apnews.com/27bb7773c8bc4d4292862057d89b5146.

      And there is a difference between being paid $ to kill stories and (sadly) taking planted stories. This is widespread in the media, see Eddie Bernays finding in IIRC 1926 that half the stories on the front page of the Times were planted. But it is telling that the supposed paper of record can’t be bothered to explain the legal issues since that would lead one to think more clinically re what this means for Trump.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        That article has this:

        They don’t say specifically Trump directed Cohen to make the payments, an allegation Cohen made in court, but the documents do note Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign.”

        The money, the government says, was intended “to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

        The intent is essential to the case. Corporations aren’t permitted to contribute to campaigns and money intended to influence an election must be reported as a contribution. The money to Daniels and McDougal was not.

        All told, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight crimes, including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and false statements to a bank. He could get about four to five years in prison at sentencing Dec. 12.

        I don’t see a statute mentioned for Cohen, but especially not for Trump. That’s just odd. Lanny Davis says “”If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” One obvious answer is if Trump’s intent counts, so Davis is question-begging. And Trump throws out so much bullshit who can tell what his intent is about anything?

        Perhaps I’m so counter-suggestible I’m hairsplitting, but a lot of readers like to geek out on this stuff. So where’s the sidebar saying exactly which law was violated, and how? I don’t like curious omissions.

        1. Eureka Springs


          Count 8 says that he made the payment to Woman-2 (Stephanie Clifford/Daniels) “in cooperation, consultation, and concert with, and at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign ….” This vague language is the only part of document that could be interpreted as referring to Trump.

    2. relstprof

      Because 2) and 3) are irrelevant. What happened in the Clinton campaign or the Bush administration doesn’t matter.

      It comes down to this: ““In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement,” prosecutors wrote”

      So either Cohen is lying (which could be true) or he’s telling the truth, and the lack of a retainer agreement gives credence to his statements.

  24. VietnamVet

    Under the headings Class Warfare and Gaia:

    Seattle/Tacoma had the worst air quality ever from the burning of British Columbia and Eastern Washington.

    When I was raised in the Suburbs there, nobody had air conditioning. There is no place to retreat for clean air except large buildings. Neo-liberalism kills people. Say whatever you want about Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke; but it is clear that they are intentionally destroying our world to exploit resources that enrich a very few wealthy persons.

    1. knowbuddhau

      Yes, true, point taken, them – and every elite, since ever. The ruining of the world didn’t just start under the Trump Gang. You make it seem like they set the fires themselves. This fire’s been a long time coming, friend.

      1. John k

        The critical thing is that reps and dems have been sharing the same donors for decades. And sharing big money is rarely comfortable, so competitive. Each side strives to stroke the donors better than the other.
        So dems support their blue dogs, and this means dems can support all bills that benefit donors without seeming to.

    1. clarky90

      Thanks for the link, DCB

      I don’t farm plants for food. I nurture/protect them as my friends, companions and pets. Unconscious people believe (erroneously) that they can just kill a plant or its seeds (emryotic children), and callously eat them, with absolutely no negative consequences to their own being. If fact, they think that the feeling-less, unconscious plant WANTS to die in order to nourish people? That plants exist only to feed humans and decorate our yards? Guess what?Not, remotely, so

      Your video link makes this obvious fact, more obvious

      1. ewmayer

        So you live on plankton, then? And how do the poor hapless little planktons feel about that, do you think?

  25. knowbuddhau

    >>> “A useful reminder that liberal Democrats have no standing to yammer about corruption as long as they’re running Menendez; it’s exactly the same issue with Bill Clinton and #MeToo. Cf. Luke 6:41-42 (and I like “plank” and “speck” vs. “mote” and “beam”).”

    Of all the banes plaguing us, the mere utilitarian use of speech is one of the all-time worst. Tbh lib Dems have no standing with me any more. The whole party could go pound sand in the wilderness for a thousand years for all I care. And then apply for one of too few slots for rehab. Sick to death of their betrayals.

    But we haven’t got that long. And we’ve got a short time to get from here to any where near decarbonised by midcentury.

    There’s a Japanese expression involving a plank and obscured vision, too. Just learned it the other day reading a Suzuki Roshi transcript, Special and Equal.

    So equality is-at the same time should be speciality-speciality at the same time, you know, equality. So if you put emphasis on just equality, that is-we call [you] “tamban-kan” [laughs].[3] Tamban-kan means — tam is carry. Ban is board. “Carrying board fellow.” [Laughing.] He is carrying board, so he cannot see the other side. He can see this side only because there is partition. If it is very high I cannot see this side [probably gestures]. If I carry a big board here [probably gestures] I cannot see the other side.

    And my mashup is: “Don’t be eying another fellow’s ban, when you’ve got such a big one yourself.”

  26. bruce wilder

    Yield curve inversions do not “predict” recessions, they cause recessions.

    The yield curve is an indicator of the state of a core mechanism of the credit and payment system, borrowing short to lend long.

  27. John k

    Really, Obama? Really?
    Why, of course, young man. And I suggest you do what I do, and what you have, on occasion, suggested yourself:
    Follow the money.

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