2:00PM Water Cooler 12/17/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, my mini-essay on the Texas case overturning ObamaCare took longer than I thought, so I’m short on the 2016 material, which includes some unusually horrid material from the DNC. So please check back. –lambert 2:55PM All done!


“China to Cut Tax on US Vehicles to Ease Trade Tensions” [Industry Week]. “China will remove the retaliatory duty on automobiles imported from the U.S. for three months in an effort to defuse trade tensions with the world’s biggest economy. The 25% tariff it imposed in a tit-for-tat measure will be scrapped starting Jan. 1, the finance ministry said Friday… The White House is also looking to officially delay the tariffs that had been due on Jan. 1, with an announcement expected on Friday.” • In other words, it’s not likely that Huawei executive Meng’s arrest in Canada was connected to trade.

“Boeing’s new plant in China just delivered its first plane” [Fortune]. “Work at the facility was limited to the plane’s interior, including installing seats and other cabin equipment. More responsibilities will be added over time, such as painting the exterior, but the center is primarily meant for completion and delivery, with the main manufacturing remaining in the US.” • Maybe so. On the other hand, the pattern of first moving to the non-union South (South Carolina) and then overseas (China) is one with which workers in other formerly American industries (textiles) will be familiar. And but: “One of every four Boeing deliveries goes to China, and the company expects Chinese carriers to buy one in six of all jetliners sold globally over the next two decades” [Wall Street Journal]. “Boeing is the single biggest American exporter to China.”


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51


This is not populism. It’s class warfare:

UPDATE “Opinion today: US liberals make a risky bet” [Financial Times]. “It has become an article of faith among liberal opponents of Donald Trump that the 2020 election campaign will coincide with an economic downturn [which would be totally spontaneous and not engineered at all] and that this will deprive the US president of a second term (if impeachment doesn’t intervene first). Certainly, it could be argued that the trade war with China, the declining value of technology stocks and likely oil price rises all portend a slowdown. But, as Edward Luce points out in a column, other data suggest a different trajectory: American unemployment is at a 50-year low and wage rates are picking up. Meanwhile, secular trends — including rising inequality — might actually play into Mr Trump’s hands. He is, after all, highly adept at playing on voters’ resentments. His defeat in 2020, Ed concludes, is not inevitable.” • Somebody has to say it, so I’ll say it: 686 days is a long time in politics.

PA: “Pennsylvania meltdown triggers Republican alarms” [Politico]. “The Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania only has $94,000 on hand, according to campaign finance reports — almost $1 million less than the party had at the same point four years ago. The party’s headquarters staff has shrunk from between 16 employees in 2014, according to the previous chairman, to seven. DiGiorgio said he prefers ‘we put money into the field.'”

CA: “Local government was a last bastion for struggling California Republicans. Not anymore” [Los Angeles Times]. “Like a sandcastle at high tide, the Republican Party has been slowly crumbling in California for decades. (OK, enough with the liquid.) One notable exception was government at the local level, where as recently as five years ago Republicans held close to half the state’s 2,500 mayoral and city council seats, despite the sizable and growing Democratic advantage in voter registration. No longer. After November’s election, Democrats will hold 49% of all seats in local government, Republicans 38% and unaffiliated lawmakers — those stating no party preference — 11%, according to figures compiled by GrassrootsLab, a nonpartisan Sacramento research and data firm. The remainder of seats will be held by members of third parties or local lawmakers whose political affiliation could not be determined. The midterm setback for the GOP was both deep and wide.”

Please Kill Me Now

“Ossoff strikes populist tone as he mulls Senate bid” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “And so Ossoff’s town hall meeting in rural northeast Georgia took on special significance as a chance to test his appeal to an unfamiliar crowd. And he unveiled an urgent, populist message railing against the corporate influence in politics and a national economy ‘built on debt and consumption.’ ‘There’s more and more cynical politics. Student debt is skyrocketing. We’re still maintaining this unfathomably large empire that costs trillions of dollars,’ said Ossoff. ‘We’re doing nothing for crumbling infrastructure at home. And we wonder why there’s so much anger.’ He added: ‘It’s because the people in charge are squandering the power and wealth entrusted in them to make our lives better.'”

“Back To The Drawing Board: DNC Scientists Just Carried A Screaming Jon Ossoff Down A Hallway Lined With Jon Ossoff Prototypes” [Clickhole]. • From 2017, still germane.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “DNC Chair Tom Perez goes to war with state parties” [Politico]. (This is the “horrid” story I mentioned above.) “Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez [who Obama stood up to defenestrate Ellison and purge Sanders supporters from the Rules and Bylaws Committee] launched an attack on his own party’s state organizations Saturday with a long and angry email over the future of the party’s most valuable asset — its voter data file…. It‘s the latest fight in a quickly escalating war over the trove of Democratic voter information — a conflict that broke into the open at a gathering of the state parties and the DNC in Puerto Rico late last month. The party’s data are largely owned by the state parties, but a considerable amount of other data being collected by outside groups like labor unions and super PACs could be leveraged to benefit Democratic candidates and the eventual 2020 nominee…. The DNC wants to gather all the data points on voters into a new, massive for-profit database but needs to convince state parties on the idea. The state parties have been wary, accusing the DNC of conducting a power grab that could financially benefit a few elite party figures.” • Hoo boy. After Clinton used the state parties to launder her campaign money with her “Victory Fund” scheme, I can see why the state parties would have trust issues. And for-profit? A political party as a profit-making enterprise? I suppose, under neoliberalism, why not, since money is speech? But if we were to follow that money, where would it go? From the 2016, we have the answer. Nomiki Konst:

Cui bono? Who will benefit from this massive, profit-making database scheme? Five consultants, just as Nomiki Konst said.

“My advice to progressives: Don’t back down” [Elizabeth Bruenig, WaPo]. “So much of centrist-Democrat fantasizing about 2020 already seems aimed at repeating a golden past. Consider the groundswell of interest in Beto O’Rourke, the Texas congressman who narrowly lost his recent Senate race against Sen. Ted Cruz. For Democrats excited about O’Rourke, his primary draw is his similarity to Barack Obama — both in form and content.” • Or lack thereof.

UPDATE “Democrats Can Win Back Rural America, But First They Need To Understand What Bled It Dry” [Buzzfeed]. “At the root of rural America’s angst is a fairly simple story that many rural voters recognize. Over the course of a generation, major sectors of the rural economy have been rolled up and are now controlled by a handful of predatory, extractive multinational corporations. As a result, manufacturing and farming jobs have left the area, and opportunities — to change jobs, start your own business, fund good schools, and build communities where your kids can thrive and start their own families — are the exception, not the rule. It is no surprise that many of those who remain in these communities have lost any sense of respect, dignity, and self-determination. Instead of fighting this concentrated corporate power, many leading Democrats embraced and continue to embrace an economic ideology centered on efficiency that paved the way for the merger mania and manufacturing exodus that have been at the root of rural America’s economic undoing.”

“I became a Democrat a year ago and found my own voice. It changed everything.” [USA Today]. • On “voice,” see this essential post by Adolph Reed. And note the emphasis on “talk.’

About those black voters. Thread:

This is very good. Don’t be put off; it’s not identity politics. It’s (what we call) retail politics. You’ve got to meet people where they are!

UPDATE “How NYC’s Board of Elections Boss Has Benefited from a Voting Machine Manufacturer” [NY1]. “Since 2009, the city has paid at least $43 million for ballot scanners and other services supplied by a company known as Election Systems and Software…. NY1 has learned that the company, ES&S, has a somewhat cozy relationship with Mike Ryan, the head of the city’s Board of Elections, perhaps blunting any criticism that could come its way. Since 2014, ES&S has paid for Ryan to go to at least nine so-called conferences all across the country. It’s part of Ryan’s role as a member of a secretive advisory board for ES&S, something it calls the ‘National Customer Advisory Board.’… This all means a major contractor for Ryan’s agency is paying for him to fly across the country, stay in posh hotels, and bankroll fancy dinners.” • Sounds like private equity!

Stats Watch

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, December 2018: “Cracks have been appearing in recent manufacturing data and now include a slower-than-expected… Empire State index. December’s weakness is centered in orders with growth in new orders down” [Econoday]. “Factory hours were weak in November as was manufacturing output in last Friday’s industrial production report. The factory sector had been one of the economy’s central sources of strength but does appear to be slowing going into year-end. There will be lots of data this week on the factory sector including December’s Philly Fed report on Thursday and November durable goods on Friday.” And: “With both the main index and key indices declining, this was a much worse report than last month” [Econintersect]. “[S]ometimes it is better not to look to deeply into the details of a noisy survey as just the overview is all you need to know.”

Housing Market Index, December 2018: “A downward spiral is no overstatement for the housing market index” [Econoday]. “The West, which is a focused region for home builders, appears to be holding up this sample which otherwise is reporting a sudden break in strength…. Watch tomorrow for housing starts and building permits which have been slumping and which aren’t expected to show any new strength.” And: “Housing Declines Across-the-board For First Time Since 2011” [Econintersect]. “BuildFax released its November Housing Health Report, revealing declines across the board (new and existing housing supply and spend, as well as new and existing commercial supply and spend) for the first time since 2011.”

Banking: “Ten years on, Fed’s long, strange, trip to zero redefined central banking” [Reuters]. “The working assumption is that rates globally will remain lower than they were, and that policymakers will routinely reduce rates to zero in future recessions. As a consequence, they expect to keep tools like asset purchases at the ready, and are exploring other strategies, such as higher inflation targets, that could lift all rates closer to their previous levels. The era of ZIRP, in other words, may have just begun.” • Oh, great.

Retail: “Amazon.com Inc. is taking its push for stronger profits to the big brands that sell on its marketplace” [Wall Street Journal]. “[Amazon] is in the midst of a concerted and targeted drive aimed at the goods that can’t seem to sell or make money… Inside Amazon, the items are known as CRaP, for “Can’t Realize a Profit,” and they often carry troublesome logistics needs. The products tend to be priced at $15 or less, are sold directly by Amazon, and are heavy or bulky and costly to ship—characteristics that make for thin or nonexistent margins. Changing how sellers handle such goods may boost Amazon’s margins, but the suppliers may end up taking on a bigger share of the costs.”

Shipping: “Cass Freight Index Report shows shows annual gains and sequential declines in November” [Logistics Management]. “‘The hard data of physical goods flow, which is uninfluenced by human emotion, confirms that people are still making things, shipping things, and buying / consuming things,’ wrote [report author Donald Broughton, principal of Broughton Capital]. ‘Although not at the scorching pace attained earlier this year, expansion is still taking place at an above average pace.'”

Shipping: “Imports break new records under pressure of holiday peak, tariff threats” [DC Velocity]. “As U.S. companies scramble to import elevated amounts of goods to stock up for holiday shoppers and a potential trade war with China, ports across the country are recording record container volumes, including an announcement Thursday that the Port of Los Angeles has recorded the sixth busiest month in its history…. U.S. ports covered by [the National Retail Federation] Global Port Tracker handled 2.04 million TEUs in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 9 percent from September and up 13.6 percent year-over-year, the NRF said today.”

Shipping: “XPO Logistics Inc.’s high-flying ride on Wall Street is turning into a roller-coaster. A pullback in its earnings outlook followed by a negative short-seller report sent XPO’s shares into a tailspin” [Wall Street Journal]. “XPO’s high profile also makes it something of a logistics bellwether, so its careening share price may provide a warning to the sector. There are growing signs shipping’s big growth cycle has peaked, suggesting other operators may also be in for a rough ride.”

Tech: “Porn habits prove it: The tablet is over” [Quartz]. “Tablets were supposed to be perfect for those relaxing moments when you weren’t at your desktop, but wanted to watch a video with a bigger screen than your phone offered. Yet according to the pornography site Pornhub, only 9% of US traffic and 14% of UK traffic came from tablets in 2018. This is the lowest share of tablet traffic for both countries since 2012. In both countries, tablet traffic peaked from around 2015…. From 2013 to 2018, the share of mobile traffic to Pornhub increased from 40% to 72% globally. The trend happened in every country in which Pornhub receives significant traffic.”

Honey for the Bears: “U.S. banks quietly pull back from riskiest loans amid recession fears” [Street Insider]. “looking behind headline numbers showing healthy loan books, problems appear to be cropping up in areas such as home-equity lines of credit, commercial real estate and credit cards, according to federal data reviewed by Reuters. Lenders are also starting to cut relationships with customers who seem too risky.All of that suggests U.S. lenders will feel the pain of a recession soon, even if losses are not cropping up quite yet…. Nearly half of the applications from customers with low credit scores were rejected in the four months ending in October, compared with 43 percent in the year-ago period, according to a survey released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Banks shuttered 7 percent of existing accounts, particularly among subprime borrowers, the highest rate since the Fed started conducting surveys in 2013. Home-equity lines of credit declined 8 percent across the industry, with growth slowing in areas such as credit cards and commercial-and-industrial loans, the survey showed.” • We seem to be talking ourselves into this one.

Rapture Index: Closes down 1 on climate. “Global weather has been in the normal range” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182.

Health Care

Here are my views on Texas v. United States (PDF of decision), the case in which Judge Reed Charles O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas overturned ObamaCare, or will have done so, if his decision is upheld on appeal. (O’Connor was confirmed by voice vote in 2007.) Since time presses, and this isn’t really a post, there will be fewer links than there should be. The notion of “shared responsibility” is central to the architecture of ObamaCare. The IRS explains:

<blockquote Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government, state governments, insurers, employers and individuals are given shared responsibility to reform and improve the availability, quality and affordability of health insurance coverage in the United States. Starting in 2014, the individual shared responsibility provision calls for each individual to have qualifying health care coverage (known as minimum essential coverage) for each month, qualify for an exemption, or make a payment when filing his or her federal income tax return.

The individual is mandated to have insurance coverage, whether through their employer, Medicaid, or the ObamaCare “marketplace.” The mandate is enforced with the “shared responsibility payment” (a tax penality), which indviduals who disobey the mandate must pay (with exceptions). The architects of ObamaCare, especially Jon Gruber, considered the mandate and its penalty essential, because otherwise healthy individuals wouldn’t purchase coverage (“adverse selection”), leading to a death spiral. In the last major ObamaCare case, King v. Burwell, Justice Roberts, after deciding that ObamaCare violated the commerce clause, ruled ObamaCare constitutional because the shared responsibility payment was an exercise of Congress’s power to tax (Article I, Section 8). However, in 2017, the Republican tax bill zeroed out the shared responsibility payment. O’Connor reasons that since the shared responsibility payment now raises no revenue, it is not a tax. Further, the shared responsiblity payment is essential to the architecture of the bill, and so not “severable.” Hence, ObamaCare is no longer constitutional, since the King v. Burwell prop has been knocked out from under it.

Despite liberal hyperventilating, I don’t see O’Connor’s reasoning as crazed. (It may be wrong, but it’s not crazed). I see O’Connor’s decison as a consequence of ObamaCare’s crazed architecture (see “Four Basic Models,” immediately below), which seems designed to present adversaries with as many attack surfaces as possible.

UPDATE The politics (1):

“Some version” is doing a lot of work there…

UPDATE The politics (2):

As I keep saying: Preventing #MedicareForAll is the #1 policy goal of the liberal Democrats who control the party apparatus.

UPDATE “Ruling Striking Down Obamacare Won’t Affect Coverage, Yet” [Bloomberg]. “A crimson banner appeared on the federally run healthcare.gov website over the weekend to reassure potential customers: ‘Court’s decision does not affect 2019 enrollment or coverage.’ People had through Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage for next year in 39 states, and longer in some states like New York and California.”

UPDATE “Federal judge in Texas rules entire Obama health-care law is unconstitutional” [WaPo]. “The opinion goes beyond the administration’s legal position in the case. In a June court brief and an accompanying letter to congressional leaders, Justice Department officials contended that, once the insurance mandate’s penalty is gone next month, that move will invalidate the ACA’s consumer protections, such as its ban on charging more or refusing to cover people with preexisting medical conditions. But the administration argued that many other parts of the law could be considered legally distinct and thus can continue.”

UPDATE “Federal court rules Obamacare unconstitutional — but the law stands for now” [Vox]. “Most legal experts, it’s worth noting, are skeptical of the arguments made in this case — even those that have worked on other legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. They say that it willfully ignores the intent of the 2017 Congress, which zeroed out the individual mandate penalty without touching the rest of the Affordable Care Act.” • I agree that Congress zeroing out the shared responsbility payment wasn’t a Machiavellian scheme; the unpopularity of the payment is enough to explain its removal. But perhaps if ObamaCare weren’t so all-fired complex, it would be less likely for the text of the law, as interpreted by the Courts, to contradict the intent of Congress.

UPDATE “Texas court strikes down Affordable Care Act, putting the health of Americans and our democracy at risk” [Jonathan Gruber, Boston Globe]. “Striking down the mandate penalty undoubtedly weakened the ACA…. But it has become clear that the law can survive in a weakened form without the mandate. About two-thirds of the gains in coverage from the ACA comes through its Medicaid expansions, and many of those eligible for Medicare were never even subject to the mandate penalty. And the vast majority of individuals buying insurance in the state exchanges are doing so with government-provided tax subsidies that cap the individual cost of insurance as a percentage of income. As a result, low income individuals in the exchanges are protected from rising premiums. So in fact, it turns out that the mandate is not ‘unseverable’ from the law.” • Gruber’s willingness to concede that he was completely wrong about the mandate, and hence ObamaCare’s basic architecture, and thus bears much responsibility for the ensuing debacle, is commendable; we could use more liberal Democrats with the same principled approach. That said, there is a problem with Gruber’s argument: He urges that, pragmatically, the mandate (the coverage requirement) has turned out not to be crucial; people sign up anyhow. Hence, the mandate is “severable.” However, O’Connor argues, textually, that the shared responsibility payment (how the mandate is enforced) must be a tax for ObamaCare to be constitutional, and that it is not severable. Gruber, then, is off point.

UPDATE “Obamacare unconstitutional? That’s a cruel mistake, not ‘great news for America'” [Andy Slavitt, USA Today]. “Sleepless nights are supposed to be reserved for crying babies, not wondering if your own government will pull the rug out from under you. There are many pundits and experts reacting to this news, but it’s the real people in communities across the country who now face more years of uncertainty.” • Slavitt is a real piece of work. You’d think, after a tear-jerking paragraph like that, Slavitt would be all-in for #MedicareForAll. But n-o-o-o-o-o-o!!!!!

UPDATE And a reminder that the issue is not health insurance, but health care:

* * *

“Health Care Systems – Four Basic Models} [PNHP]. “[W]e don’t have to study 200 different systems to get a picture of how other countries manage health care. For all the local variations, health care systems tend to follow general patterns. There are four basic systems.” The Beveridge Model (Great Britain, Spain, most of Scandinavia and New Zealand, Hong Kong), the Bismarck Model (Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, and, to a degree, in Latin America), the National Health Insurance Model (Canada, Taiwan, and South Korea), and the Out-of-Pocket Model: “Only the developed, industrialized countries — perhaps 40 of the world’s 200 countries — have established health care systems. Most of the nations on the planet are too poor and too disorganized to provide any kind of mass medical care. The basic rule in such countries is that the rich get medical care; the poor stay sick or die… The United States is unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people. All the other countries have settled on one model for everybody. This is much simpler than the U.S. system; it’s fairer and cheaper, too.” • There’s plenty of “out-of-pocket” health care in those regions and classes of the United States that have been de-industrlalized.

“‘Ripe for an Outbreak’: Vaccine Exemptions Are on the Rise” [Governing]. “In 2015, after a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland, the state did away with personal belief exemptions, joining the two other states (Mississippi and West Virginia) that don’t allow personal or religious exemptions to vaccines. Before the change, only 90 percent of California children were vaccinated, which is below the 94 percent threshold public health experts say is needed to create community immunity to measles. Now, according to a study released last month, 95 percent of California children are vaccinated. But while the number of vaccinated kids in California has gone up, so has the number of medical exemptions — from 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent. That trend worries the public health community. ‘Some [medical exemptions] are legal, but some are also illegal,’ says Reiss. ‘The pattern suggests abuse, as many of the exemptions were concentrated in places that had high numbers of personal belief exemptions.’ Personal belief exemptions are generally easier to get than medical exemptions, so without that option, it’s likely that some parents switched to medical exemptions — legally or no.”

Class Warfare

UPDATE Will Thomas Frank please pick up the nearest courtesy phone?

“Chicago Teachers Win First Charter Strike in History” [Labor Notes]. “Chicago teachers are leading the way again. They have declared victory in the first charter school strike in U.S. history. The four-day strike included 550 teachers and paraprofessionals who work at all 15 Chicago charter schools in the Acero charter chain. It ended December 9 with an agreement that includes smaller class sizes and salary increases that will align charter teachers with their counterparts in the Chicago Public Schools. The union hopes to schedule a ratification vote before the end of the year. The strikers wanted to ‘put a check on privatization and the idea that schools are a business,’ said Joanna Wax Trost, a seventh-grade English-language teacher at Acero’s Marquez Elementary School.” • Amusing, since charters were invented to, among other things, bust unions and turn schooling into a businss.

“Tesla Workers Start a Drive to Unionize Solar-Panel Factory” [Industry Week]. “The campaign would involve about 300 production and maintenance employees at the western New York facility and is a partnership between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steelworkers, who began hearing from workers earlier this year, according to local USW organizing coordinator Dave Wasiura. ‘They want a fair wage that’s reflective of the state investment that the company received,’ he said in an interview.” • Hmm. I wonder if the Amazon workers in Long Island City will feel the same way.

Xmas Cheer

“A Cute Toy Just Brought a Hacker Into Your Home” [New York Times]. “Consider the Furby Connect doll made by Hasbro, a furry egg-shaped gadget that comes in teal, pink and purple. Researchers from Which?, a British charity, and the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest recently found that the Bluetooth feature of the Furby Connect could enable anyone within 100 feet of the doll to hijack the connection and use it to turn on the microphone and speak to children.” • With many more examples.

An overly dynamic environment:

News of the Wired

A sad thread on Yugoslavia:

For soccer fans:

Operational definitions of the word “kludge”:

* * *

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 (via):

Caryopteris × clandonensis.

* * *

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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. Carey

    From this morning’s Links, I thought the article on a Bill of Data Rights started off OK and
    made some good points, but halfway through felt like the author was selling something
    else that I couldn’t discern. I’d love to have a GDPR here in the States (hah! dream on),
    but the usual parties would no doubt do what they always do. Interested in others’ impressions of the article (noticed too who the author works for, directly or not).

    1. Now you see me, now you too.

      I reacted too on the author’s affiliation. As Yasha Levine writes MIT was at the centre of building the internet for the very purpose of surveillance.

  2. Mark Gisleson

    Maybe I’m just not app friendly enough, but my inability to control cookies on my iPad discourages me from using it for much other than reading books or watching Netflix on trips. On my desktop, I keep a close eye on my internet connection, something I can’t seem to do on my tablet. That few people choose to visit porn sites from their tablets is not at all surprising.

    1. Carey

      I’m wondering, these days, if deleting one’s cookies even does anything. With evilBay,
      for instance, I get the same recommendations™ whether I’ve deleted them or not.
      I also use uBlock Origin, AdNauseam, and Track me not, FWTW. No difference.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The cookies of other users are being used to target you when you arrive to one website based on the other traffic.

        1. Carey

          If that is so, what benefit, if any, is gained by “deleting cookies”? Foolish and delusional peace of mind?

          1. Monty

            Your outward ip changes periodically and can be shared across a whole local area network whilst a cookie is a particular browser on a single machine.

            Top tip: VPN. No third party cookies allowed, Firefox only. Whitelist Javascript.

    2. ambrit

      One of the fundamental rules of Porn is: “Bigger is better.”
      The evidence shows that this includes screen size. (I guess a 13″ laptop doesn’t cut it anymore.)
      Will we soon begin hearing the phrase: “Alexa, go get the butter?”
      Interestingly enough, while clicking around to find the proper line, I got kettled on the Salon website. It would not let me go backwards to my prior location. I had to close the thread to escape. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon lately?

      1. polecat

        I’ve noticed this whilst scrolling zerohedge (yes, I know…) for about a week now, having to close out entirely !! Quite the annoyance.

      2. Dug Fur

        Depending on browser, you might be able to right click the Back button for a menu of your recent ten or so sites, which helps work past sites with redirects like this.

      3. Bill Smith

        “The trend happened in every country in which Pornhub receives significant traffic.”

        What countries doesn’t Pornhub receive significant traffic from?

      1. The Rev Kev

        That’s strange this story. You think that a tablet lends itself to needing only one hand to use it.

  3. polecat

    News of the wired –

    Is that the view from the Covenant shuttlecraft post touchdown ??

    And a nice plantidote .. at least there’s STILL some animal life left on Our planet …

  4. John k

    … His draw is his similarity to Obama…
    Because dem elites agree with, and will fight to retain, Obama policies.
    Pretend to be anti war, then switch. Give mic more than military asks for.
    Love and protect the banks. Ditto pharma and insurance.
    Never prosecute white collar crime.
    Granted these are rep policies, explaining dem elite puzzlement reps don’t vote for dems.

    1. Glen

      Obama enacted the Democratic position on all things truly progressive many times: no hope, no change.

      Beto’s presidential ambitions are DOA thanks to Obama.

      1. David Carl Grimes

        Someone should have written the Ossof piece about Beto. How can someone who was defeated by Ted Cruz who previously lost to Trump beat Trump in 2020. It does not compute.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Politics isn’t transitive, electorates change, and these are different districts.

          Still Ossoff and Beto are low energy empty suits. Lesser Bill Clinton style candidates without Obama’s Iraq War deflection and an HRC style candidate to hide their own shortcomings.

          “I don’t know. I’m just, as you may have seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I’m not big on labels. I don’t get all fired up about party or classifying or defining people based on a label or a group. I’m for everyone.” Captain Beta Somnolence

          Wow, I bet he’ll join the Biden anti-Cancer platform and really tell the pro-cancer lobby (minus the industrial polluters) to shove it!

          These guys aren’t going anywhere without securing the nomination in a safe district in a non open process.

        2. John k

          Good points. But…
          Beating trump is not the objective. The objective is promoting anybody that might stop Bernie or any real progressive.

          1. Lona

            Maybe the real objective is to again deliver $700 million in consulting fees to the top five consultants.

        3. Carey

          It’s what the Dem elites like. “We came so close!”
          Now shovel *even more* money to our ‘strategists’ et al…

          Ossoff should be referred to as ‘helium-boy’, I think

  5. Summer

    Re: ACA

    The only aspect if the bill that the private health industry negotiated in “good faith” was the mandate and it’s financial penalty encorcement. So they give big donations to the Democrats.

    The rest of the protections they always intended to whittle away at and undermine. So they give big donations to the Republicans.

    The goal: Mandated private insurance witgout any consumer protections in an economy that is monopoly prone.

    Or are there people under the illusion that healthcare for all is still the goal?

    1. timbers

      “There will never, ever be universal single payer healthcare…”

      “There will never, ever be perfect insurance…”

      “There will never, ever be a free lunch…”

      “There will never, ever be affordable healthcare insurance…”

      “There will never, ever be universal coverage…”

      “Just by the insurance company’s stocks and use your stock gains when you’re sick…”

      1. Summer

        “THE insurance company…”

        Headed that way
        ..to 1 insuranced company.

        Wouldn’t that just be a health insurance ponzi scheme wrapped up in a pyramid scheme? Not a “market.”
        Great news if you are at the top of the pyramid.

  6. polecat

    Re. the Asinine-Crapified-Act ..
    We haven’t, since its’ inception, signed up, knowing how god awful it was going to be …. and instead, paid the extortionate ‘non’-option, out of principle ! .. waiting for ACA ACT Two — the Demise ..
    I believe the evident despiration of the plebes is what will cause CONgress to actually DO the right thing for a change ! They can’t help but notice the yellowjackets overseas .. I can only hope (there’s that word again) that that works as an inducement towards real compassion vs outright grift !
    I know, it’s a small hope .. a fools hope maybe ……..

      1. Elizabeth Burton

        I plan to make myself a yellow vest, and wear it whenever I can do so without sweltering. Ordered the yarn and everything. Beats the [family blog] out of wearing a crocheted vagina on my head.

  7. toshiro_mifune

    What IT crimes have you committed over the years to keep operations going?

    I think lay people might be shocked at how much IT infrastructure and software is just kludged together “patches” awaiting a proper fix….. sometimes for many many years.

    1. flora

      Going back a long way: Using telco punch-down blocks and 2-pair station wire to create an AppleTalk-to-Windows 3.11 Windows for Workgroups network. (And they said it couldn’t be done… ha! Knowing where to put the terminating resistors on the line was tricky.)

      1. h2odragon


        Thin ethernet (rg58 coax) can be pushed to 1000ft and more, with certain drivers at either end of a 2 station lan.Handy when you need to link two buildings on a campus but can’t afford fiber for a few years yet.

        A deer hoof is sharp enough to cut such a cable, btw. There wasn’t any point in burying it or other protection because I had to run a new line several times a year: we were on a hilltop, and the ground surges from lightning strikes would routinely melt the cable and sometimes the terminal equipment.

    2. voteforno6

      Yeah, I had one fiber drop that somehow had each strand terminated on different patch panels in the rack. How did I get it to work? I split the fiber patch cord in two of course, and plugged each side of the SC connector into the proper port on the rack, of course.

    3. laughingsong

      My first full-time IT job was at a startup in 1986. Our “computer room” was half of the basement of a building in San Francisco’s financial district. It looked like it was maybe a kitchen previously, as it has linoleum. So our “raised computer room floor” were wooden pallets stolen from Safeway. The “air conditioning” was even weirder: there was a lightwell at one end, and this allowed for a large intake fan to be installed in the outer wall. Our VP stole a large, long plastic wrap for a huge roll of carpet from a hotel he stayed at in San Diego (they were remodelling their largest conference room apparently). He McGyvered one end (duct taped) over the inner face of the intake fan, used old wire hangers hooked onto the ceiling lattice (the kind that hold acoustic tiles) to run the tube into the part where all of the mainframes and peripherals were (it had to traverse an office and repair room). Even so, I had to arrive at 5 AM every day and open the door to the basement foyer or things would overheat.

      One Chinese New Year, we decided to decorate the computer end to look like a fire-breathing dragon, so we cut up the end a bit to look like a mouth, drew the face, taped some red and yellow crepe-paper streamers to it so the airflow blew them about. We’d just finished when the Veep brought in some potential investors for a tour.

      Afterwards he came back, livid, to complain about how unprofessional it was to have done the decorating . . . but then, we asked, how “professional” were hangers, carpet tubes and stolen pallets anyway?

  8. Glen

    “leading to a death spiral.”

    Oh please, American health care has been in a death spiral before the ACA, and the ACA isn’t going to stop it.

      1. Carolinian

        Then shouldn’t the “market” join that Norwegian parrot among the “choir invisible”? We all know what the problem is (greed) it’s just that nobody will say it.

        And a pity that Gruber didn’t figure out that the mandate was unnecessary way back when. It’s almost as if the Dems wanted Trump to be elected.

        What Obama should have done about the health care mess was nothing. Let the dreadful beast collapse from its own illogical weight. Forced taxpayer subsidy of the insurance industry was never going to solve the problem.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          What Obama should have done about the health care mess was nothing.

          Key words “should have done.” I would say healthcare reform was a major issue in 2008. The weakness of the economy was well known to people outside the mcmansion crowd. Premiums eating away had a problem for some time.

          Obama’s big policy difference between himself and HRC was of course his decision to say the individual mandate was not necessary.

          The other side is he came into the White House after organizational capacity developed in the early 00’s which seized the DNC after the 2004 election delivered a Democratic House and Senate in a year where winning the Senate was a real feet. That wasn’t a good map to the win the Senate. Claire McCaskill won that year, and she just lost in the age of Trump. The appearance of doing nothing is a bad look for any President (hence why the Presidents get yelled at by the official opposition for not going to work), so he had to do something.

          While he was pushing for ACA, Obama did put professional white people, Tim Kaine and DWS, in charge of the DNC and ran the Democratic Party into the groud. The ability to pressure Obama was reduced. I just think healthcare was too big for him to whine about 60 votes and then do absolutely nothing.

          1. Pat

            I never believed Obama would tackle health care reform. I don’t believe it was fear of not doing anything. I think it was also doing a solid for the Private Healthcare/Big Pharma/Insurance industry and their financial investors.

            I think the writing was on the wall that without ‘reform’ not only was insurance but private medical going to crash and burn in a matter of years not decades. I cannot remember the number but a significant number of employers were outright dropping employee health insurance. And the numbers of uninsured were rising by leaps and bounds. Nobody walked into a room and said hey if you pass the Heritage/Dole plan we’ll play along during the Clinton years. They ran ads with phony folksy couples complaining about government health care. And yet eight years later all the major players sat in a room with Obama and Emanuel and listed their demands – the Heritage/Dole/Romney plan with a better medical loss ratio and fewer premium controls plus a seat at the table when HHS writes up the guidelines. while patient advocates have none.

            I honestly believe if Republicans had been needed to pass it, the usual three would have voted for it. There really would have been a reason to water it down for Susan Collins. But they didn’t and that left the Republicans in a position to rail against it, remain united and make sure there was no chance of real improvement after implementation started to show the cracks.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              Theres no doubt Obama pushed for policy to save the existing health related market structures, but politically, he had no choice.

              HRC isn’t half the politician Obama is, and she had already failed on healthcare, part of Obama’s argument against her fitness to be President in 2008. At the same time, Mittens, Boehner, and McConnell aren’t as openly repulsive as Newt. Was there any chance of Boehner smearing himself in feces and rolling around on the capitol steps? Maybe, but it was low. With Newt, who knows, right? If Newt knew not to use the rug instead of the puppy pad, would Bill Clinton have been a two termer?

              “Obama’s got this” and “no drama, Obama” were claims to the responsibilities of the country. The various supporters of Obama did a good job pushing the “inherited” excuse (because he was in the line of royal succession which would have resulted in civil war if said no…), but his campaign staked out healthcare reform as a necessary fight. He had to pass something.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > Theres no doubt Obama pushed for policy to save the existing health related market structures, but politically, he had no choice.

                Nonsense. Obama ran on “hope and change” and had a national mandate for exactly that. The Republicans, after the Bush administration, were completely discredited. The Democrats had the finest orator of our time in the Presidency, control of the House, and a veto-proof majority in the Senate. had their boots on the Republican windpipe. Instead of stamping down hard, they dusted gave the Republicans a hand up, dusted them off, and let them right back in the bipartisan game. The warm bucket of spit we got from Obama’s Democrats was entirely of their own doing.

        2. Summer

          “What Obama should have done about the health care mess was nothing. Let the dreadful beast collapse from its own illogical weight. Forced taxpayer subsidy of the insurance industry was never going to solve the problem.”

          It’s no accident that mandates and ACA was forced after the high unemployment after the financial heist.

          That’s why they squirm when you call it a bail out if the private health insurance industry.

          The death care system in the USA is the unspoken population control.

    1. rd

      The US and Serbia are the only two countries out of 46 developed and developing countries that saw a rise in maternity mortality from 1990-2015. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2019/01/giving-birth-in-united-states-suprisingly-deadly/ Everybody else saw big improvements if they had poor stats in 1990 or smaller improvements if they were already comparable to or better than the US. It is likely that the US would have a much better outcome with less racism that would help improve the outcomes for black mothers.

      At least we have lower maternity mortality rates than Russia and Romania which is one reason that mothers from there come to the US to have babies: https://www.foxnews.com/us/russians-paying-big-money-to-have-their-babies-born-in-us

      1. Chris51

        I once saw some (poorly remembered) stats about differences in perinatal mortality between U.S. states. The state with the lowest mortality rate (Utah IIRC – well done Intermountain Healthcare) matched world’s best outcomes, while the worst state (don’t remember which it was) was truly abysmal.

  9. sixpacksongs

    Lambert, thanks so much for the link to the awesome thread on the SFRY monuments. I’ve seen other galleries featuring the former glory and current decay of some of the monuments and it is a bit of a bummer. Also, very little “socialist realism” was used in the memorial project. Yugoslavia was a different kind of place; it doesn’t seem like we have any nation quite so iconoclastic today.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      Been there many times. It keeps getting worse. Neoliberal EU managers and consultants from Germany, Italy, France and Austria have destroyed the industrial base and sold Serbia a bill of goods. Emiratis are building a giant housing/shopping/whatever complex on some of the most beautiful riverfront in Belgrade.

      Serbs on the left want to join the EU because “we need a safe base from which to advance”. Sadly, this makes sense.

  10. Mike

    A thought. I am, among other things, the CFO of a transportation and delivery company. Simply put, our trucks are full. We can’t grow even if we wanted too due to the driver shortage for which there is no short term solution. And in our sector our drivers are home every night and sleep in their own beds, like over-the-road. So the slowdown in the growth rate in Cass may be as much as anything true capacity constraints.

    1. Mike Allen

      The shortage of which you speak, is due to the fact that the industry underpaid and abused it’s drivers for the last thirty plus years. Those of us with the experience needed either can no longer do the work due to being physically worn out or just plain tired of the BS working environment. Good luck trying to get the current generation to fill that void, as they seem to be smarter than we were. This observation comes from thirty years of CDL experience with various carriers, both national and local.

  11. Lee

    Xmas Cheer

    “A Cute Toy Just Brought a Hacker Into Your Home” [New York Times]. “Consider the Furby Connect doll made by Hasbro, a furry egg-shaped gadget that comes in teal, pink and purple. Researchers …recently found that the Bluetooth feature of the Furby Connect could enable anyone within 100 feet of the doll to hijack the connection and use it to turn on the microphone and speak to children.” • With many more examples.

    And aren’t those GPS child locator watches also hackable? My search for them brought up an entire page of Ads for them and the news menu brings up all positive articles save one on the first page, .

    1. The Rev Kev

      Saw a similar story on TV this morning but they have it all wrong. It’s not some random hacker that you have to worry about but the corporations that built these internet connected toys. Everything that those kids say and do will be forever recorded on some company’s servers for monetization in ways and means that they themselves have not yet fully though out. A hacker would never be bothered about stuff like that. Considering that a few years ago that teachers in the UK were told to watch pre-schoolers carefully to look for signs of radicalization, you can imagine what happens if Homeland Security starts to get their grubby mits on this info.

  12. marym

    Trump travel ban keeps Yemeni mother from seeing dying 2-year-old in Oakland

    The Yemeni mother of a 2-year-old boy on life support in an Oakland hospital is being prevented from coming to the country to say goodbye to her son by the Trump administration ban on travel from certain Muslim countries, the child’s family says.

    Abdullah Hassan was born in Yemen with a rare brain disease… His father, a U.S. citizen who lives in Stockton, brought him to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for care about five months ago, and Abdullah is not expected to live much longer.

    The parents are ready to take Abdullah off life support, but they want his mother to have one more moment to hold him. So far, the U.S. State Department has ignored their pleas for a waiver to get her into the United States, they say.

  13. a different chris

    There’s more and more cynical politics.

    Well who would know that better than Jon Ossoff? BUT: I don’t care, I am very encouraged that the “do anything to get ahead” people now are parroting the kind of stuff *I* want them to parrot. FDR himself said “make me do it” and there is no better weapon than their own words.

    I’m not a total purist, is what I’m saying. Politicians are tools (yeah, in the other term of “tool” also!) that we can wield. I don’t care what my Crescent Wrench really thinks, just what I can make it do.

    Yet I do come back to that: “there is no better weapon than their own words”…. is it a good enough weapon? Not 100% confident in that, to be honest.

    1. Summer

      I don’t see how anybody can be more cynical than a technocrat and those who love them.
      Nothing more cynical than reducing people to stats amd figures.

    1. sixpacksongs

      Thanks for the link, Ekatarina! It has a nice description of the housing policy and implementation. My wife grew up in Trnsko, New Zagreb, and I always think of that development as what Western public housing should have been like.

  14. a different chris

    I like the general thrust of the Buzzfeed clip but I have to take issue with this:

    leading Democrats embraced and continue to embrace an economic ideology centered on efficiency

    It wasn’t efficiency. It was finding cheaper and cheaper people to do so much, and so very necessary, work. That’s not efficiency, that’s exploitation. Oh, but they “live on $2/day” — give me a break. If you think somebody “lives” on $2/day you have serious problems with your measurement techniques.

    So now Vietnam is coming “on-line”. That will hold us for a while, and fortunately we’ve bombed the smithereens out of the Middle East so when the Vietnamese get uppity we can replace them, too.

  15. Carey

    ‘Don’t Laugh, it’s Giving Putin What He Wants’, by Caitlin Johnstone:

    “…Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory…”


    1. flora

      Carole Cadwalladr as Church Lady: “Who could make you think this is funny? Who could it be? Oh, I don’t know. Could it be…PUTIN???” heh.

        1. flora

          Don’t know. Can’t see Mensch being parodied by Dana Carvey in his Church Lady persona comedy sketches (originally on Saturday Night Live ,back in the day). Cadwalladr is being pearl clutching, moralizing , and condescending – perfect for a Church Lady send up. Mensch is just nuts, imo.

    2. Carolinian

      Thanks for link. She links to this:

      Hating the president is one thing: that’s natural, and perhaps even healthy. But the hate exhibited by contemporary late night comedians is so predictable and banal that it feels like a dreary commercial monoculture, with nothing interesting or surprising ever said.


      I’ve gotten where I immediately switch off any article that uses the word “orange.” A writer who isn’t going to be more inventive in his/her invective doesn’t rate time and attention. Have to say I’ve never liked Colbert much and would even go so far to say that this hip culture outsider (he’s from South Carolina) is way too needy to be honest. Where’s Lenny Bruce when you need him? Mort Sahl was good too.

  16. Wukchumni

    HALexa: I know you’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can’t give you my complete assurance that your words will be backed up and used against you. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in your life. And I want to help you.

  17. Policy not Photoop

    AshleyStevens: hilarious and wonderful!

    Would be great if actually applied by voters. Hope the same fate awaits for the Applebee visit and the pizza/hamburger-eating photo ops.

  18. Wukchumni

    I had some time to kill and went to our cemetery, which as such places go, is compact and you can view it all in an hour…

    The most famous person interred is Frederick Russell Burnham, an interesting larger than life character that somehow lived half a dozen lives in the space of one. A scout, an orchardist, a prospector, an oil magnate, a conservationist, a discoverer of ancient artifacts, co-founder of the Boy Scouts.


  19. voteforno6

    Slightly off topic, but I finally started reading Bad Blood, about Theranos. As others on this site would say, “Hoo boy.” It’s really hard to tell if it started out as a scam, or shortly after that.

  20. Stanley Dundee

    Anybody else noticing a pattern yet with Beto, Osoff, etc? Youngish, good looking. Articulate. Not much of a record. Vague but stirring speechifying…hmmm. I propose we designate such neoliberal horses trojan as Macronies, after the erstwhile Rothschild banker who has done so much to unify France.

    1. Carey

      Yes, noticed the pattern, definitely. Not so sure about the name, though I think Micron is
      doing a fine, fine job, just not the one he intended. ;)

      1. Carey

        They do have ‘Stepford’ qualities, don’t they?

        I’m provisionally going with helium-boys, though, which requires less cultural memory; a quality in short supply.

    1. flora

      I remember David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s VP candidate in 1980. Here’s a shorthand of his platform.

      When he and the party failed to get much traction, as usual, he decided to try using the GOP as a vehicle for libertarian ideas. That worked to an extent. But when Trump beat all the Koch backed GOP primary candidates, that strategy took a hit, imo.

      Now, suddenly, life long libertarians, libertarians who have made their livelihood in institutes like CATO (Koch started and funded) have ‘seen the light’, and offer ‘a better set of policies’ than either the GOP or traditional libertarians… they say. I’m dubious, to say the least. I’m skeptical (understatement). I see salesmen in sheeps’ clothing. My 2 cents.

      1. JP

        To paraphrase: We support the abolition of society except as necessary to facilitate our personal enrichment.

          1. Joey

            I think of it as through the looking-glass from progressivism, with distrust of government as the distinguishing factor. That and corporate types hijacking it as opposed to entrenched bureaucrats.

            Anarchists and Nazis join the same protests these days…( whoops, wrong fun house mirror. Which side trusts the government again?)

          2. Free money libertarians

            Libertarianism is very common among people that have inherited rather than built their wealth, such as the Kochs.

  21. Todde

    Re: Obamacare.

    There are other taxes in Obamacare that have not been repealed. The net investment tax being the largest.

    Also the tax credit provisions are.also within congresses powwe to tax.

    Without the tax.penalty the mandate to have insurance is toothless anyway. I recall this being the only thing Roberts ruled unconstitutional.

    I probably should read the ruling before opining but if its.only the mandate being eliminated as unconstitutional the Congress already eliminated it for all practical purposes.

  22. Stanley Dundee

    Per Lambert:

    charters were invented to, among other things, bust unions and turn schooling into a businss.

    Well, maybe not. The invention of charter schools is often credited to Ray Budde, lifetime educator, at least by the NYT and many others. The NYT obit linked above tells us:

    In 1988, Dr. Budde elaborated on the concept in a book, “Education by Charter: Restructuring School Districts” (Learning Innovations). Dr. Budde illustrated his points with a model school system that allowed groups of teachers to receive charters from the school board, granting them the authority to manage schools and try new educational approaches within the existing structure of their home districts.

    The term was popularized, ironically, by Al Shankar, president of a teacher’s union, who was an early proponent. The hijack of charter schools by neoliberal privatizers was, however, a brilliant tactic. Admittedly, there’s some interesting contestation of the founding myth which gives neoliberal policy entrepreneurs a bigger role. Bit of a historical minefield there.

    1. noonespecial

      Charter School Origins

      Focussing on educational improvement schemes without consideration of the world beyond the campus is short-sighted.

      Another figure from the early days of the charter movement, Diane Ravitch (NYU Professor of Education), points charters fail because (2013 article):

      “The campaign to ‘reform’ schools by turning public money over to private corporations is a great distraction from our system’s real problems: Academic performance is low where poverty and racial segregation are high…We should do what works to strengthen our schools: Provide universal early childhood education (the U.S. ranks 24th among 45 nations, according to the Economist); make sure poor women get good prenatal care so their babies are healthy (we are 131st among 185 nations surveyed, according to the March of Dimes and the United Nations); reduce class size (to fewer than 20 students) in schools where students are struggling; insist that all schools have an excellent curriculum that includes the arts and daily physical education, as well as history, civics, science, mathematics and foreign languages; ensure that the schools attended by poor children have guidance counselors, libraries and librarians, social workers, psychologists, after-school programs and summer programs.”


  23. hemeantwell

    The CNN poll is a mighty fine example of what the Ferguson paper that was recently linked here criticizes. The highlighted question forces respondents to choose between preserving a manufacturing sector or doing well export-wise. All other options, poof, and the developmental history of the current mess, poof squared. Sure, giving respondents room to think and talk freely about their views leads to problems of interpretation and consolidation of “data,” but this way of gauging opinion is like putting a capstone of reification on a complex and politically fluid situation.

  24. Tom Stone

    The Real Estate correction has started in Sonoma County despite a shortage of housing and historically low rates.
    Inventory up 77% YoY in November, Median price down 9% since June.

    1. Lee

      Zillow has my town in the SF East Bay up 2.5% for the year and forecasts a 9.5% increase in 2019. I want what they’re smoking…..or, upon further reflection, maybe not.

  25. bruce wilder

    USA Today piece: “I became a Democrat a year ago and found my own voice. It changed everything.” by Kurt Bardella, Opinion columnist (and formerly spokesperson for Breitbart News and formerly senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to the USA Today author tag).

    That piece is almost a parody of itself. He tells us he was congratulated (via Twitter?) on his conversion by cast members from the West Wing. Talk about living the fantasy!!

    Then there was this declaration: “I’ve finally embraced my Asian-American identity.” There’s nothing that says “identity politics” more than taking a synthetic demographic category invented by pollsters and embracing it as if it were a genuine and personal immersion in a cultural experience rooted in family life and neighborhood and religion or tradition. Sure, practitioners of identity politics have a litany of “asian-american” grievance that you can learn like a catechism, but there is no particular organic culture or subculture to correspond with the category, “Asian-American” (or “Hispanic-American” to take another example of an “identity politics” identity chosen as if by political pollsters trying to assemble a large enough catch-all demographic that they do not have to increase their sample size)

    Inevitably, I peered thru the text of Bardella’s essay for virtue signalling — it wasn’t hiding! Bardella declares, “. . . there really was no virtue in trying to be a sane voice within the GOP.” The theme sounds out thru his narrative as he plays every cliche like a xylophone’s wooden chimes.

    I was finally able to speak my truth. For the better part of two years, I had felt like a fraud . . . I felt liberated and empowered. . . . I’ve published more than 90 columns . . . about issues and topics that I am passionate about.

    He’s passionate. I am so glad. And, 90 columns! Still able to make a living with his drivel; I am sure that was a major relief. Actually, he says career risk was a major source of anxiety, so I am not mind-reading.

    1. Carey

      “passionate” is another one of those words, and these days almost always has to do with
      getting money, is my observation. Has that author found a new source of funding with
      his Democrat™ conversion?

    2. flora

      So, let’s see: a Breitbart guy becomes a registered Dem and feels ‘liberated’ , and Libertarian/GOP stalwarts become Libertarian lite (above link from rd). If I were an anthropologist, I’d think I’ve just seen the Overton Window move in real time – a shift even farther to the right in both parties.
      And I’d apply for a grant to study and document this movement in real time for future reference by academicians. /s

  26. The Rev Kev

    “DNC Chair Tom Perez goes to war with state parties”

    Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the DNC siphon off all the money raised by the States back in the 2016 campaign to send to Brooklyn? And only fed back a coupla percent of that money back thus starving the State and local candidates of desperately need cash for their campaigns? If I was a State democrat I wouldn’t be so willing to hand over my database to someone like Perez either. My guess is that the DNC wants a massive central database of voter info so that they can bypass the States altogether, especially in terms of fundraising. Because the DNC has such a great track record of spending money wisely. /s

    1. Carey

      Yeah, I think this story might have legs, as they say. Very public spat between the DNC and the States orgs seems significant. I like the bit that Lambert bolded, too. ;)

    2. flora

      After Clinton used the state parties to launder her campaign money with her “Victory Fund” scheme, I can see why the state parties would have trust issues.

      Oh yeah.

  27. allan

    Democrats on Key Energy Subcommittees Have Financial Stakes in Oil and Gas Companies [Sludge]

    … Sludge has found that seven of the 14 Democrats on the Energy and Environment subcommittees, as well as the anticipated 2019 Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, hold investments that could total $4.3 million or more in oil and gas companies and companies that provide equipment and services to the oil and gas industry. …

    Even Especially the fresh-faced liberal Joe Kennedy the Third.

  28. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Re Pornhub n Ipads

    Well duh dont they realize how uncomfortable and unwieldy it is masturbating to ipad porn is?

  29. shtove

    Sorry for butting in, but BBC TV news is leading with definitive proof of Russian social media influence on the 2016 election. The source is senate reports based on findings by Jonathon Morgan of New Knowledge:

    Jonathon Morgan is the founder and CEO of New Knowledge, a technology company that provides disinformation defense to brands and national security customers. He is also the founder of Data for Democracy, a policy, research, and volunteer collective with nearly 4,000 members that’s bridging the gap between technology and society. Prior to founding New Knowledge, Jonathon published research about extremist groups manipulating social media with the Brookings Institution, The Atlantic, and the Washington Post, presented at NATO’s Center of Excellence for Defense Against Terrorism, the United States Institute for Peace, and the African Union. He also served as an adviser to the US State Department, developing strategies for digital counter-terrorism. Jonathon regularly provides expert commentary about online disinformation for publications such as NYT, NBC, NPR, and Wired, and has published op-eds about information warfare and computational propaganda for CNN, The Guardian, and VICE.

    I’m doing a Stephen Colbert puke-in’t-mouth.

      1. shtove

        Yes, but this is the BBC in full Bellingcat/Luke Harding mode, regurgitating patent nonsense they know they won’t have to defend. Anarchy in the UK.

    1. integer

      That list of liberal-international-order-friendly credentials is precisely why Jonathon Morgan, and people like him, cannot be trusted.

  30. integer

    Here’s something random that I encountered on Aaron Maté’s twitter: Nate Silver appears to be harboring doubts about (at least some aspects of) the liberal establishment’s Russiagate narrative. I read quite a few of the replies and needless to say, liberals are not impressed.


    If you wrote out a list of the most important factors in the 2016 election, I’m not sure that Russian social media memes would be among the top 100. The scale was quite small and there’s not much evidence that they were effective.


    What fraction of overall social media impressions on the 2016 election were generated by Russian troll farms? 0.1%? I’m not sure what the answer is, but suspect it’s low, and it says something that none of the reports that hype up the importance of them address that question.

    See link for full thread.

  31. Oregoncharles

    ” Preventing #MedicareForAll is the #1 policy goal of the liberal Democrats who control the party apparatus.”

    This is not what “liberal” meant even 30 years ago. (It is what it means, and meant, in Europe.) Liberals were the defenders of the New Deal/Great Society policies; Medicare was one of their crowning achievements, and making it universal would have been the logical next step. Instead, we got Carter (who is still trying to make up for his awful presidency) and the great backsliding. Today, they pretend that being against racism makes you “liberal.” it’s just one, fairly small component.

    To be clear: liberalism, at its best, had serious faults. It supported a highly imperial foreign policy and was responsible for the Vietnam War, which was its death knell. And it was always about saving capitalism. The New Left despised it as much as Lambert does now, because it was about preserving the status quo – which liberals had created, at that point. I suspect Lambert remembers all this, too. Personally, I’d put quotes around the present use of the term, as in “not really.”

  32. Oregoncharles

    ““How NYC’s Board of Elections Boss Has Benefited from a Voting Machine Manufacturer” ”
    Sounds like good old-fashioned peculation. The guy’s a crook, and perfectly open about it. Big-city machine politics in full bloom.

  33. makedoanmend

    “…retail politics…”

    Bravo. You nailed it.

    This one terms encapsulates what the socio-political world has become. This is a one stop shop lense through which to view our modern societies and their economies, and it can be understood and used by anyone whatever their political persuasion.

    And the main stream media, en large*, is just a hodge-podge of PR firms rep’ing a variety of retail solutions to enrich the few so that ideas can to be sold to the teeming and gullible masses so that the few can keep on getting wealthier.

    *of course there are exceptions, like NC, which has the courage to step outside that lense

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