2:00PM Water Cooler 12/18/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Politics

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

2020

“How to Fix the Democratic Presidential Debates” [Politico (RH)]. “As the 2020 campaign beckons, the Democrats are facing the improbable probability that more than two dozen candidates will be pursuing the presidency. Imposing a rational structure for TV debates with such a large field will be not just improbable but impossible. Well, with one exception: The only way to do this fairly is to get rid of all the debates. That’s right: No debates! Let’s cancel political Christmas, at least for all of next year…. The DNC, according to the Washington Post, is contemplating going beyond poll numbers—”possibly including staffing, fundraising and number of office locations”—to decide who participates and how.” • Idea: Take the debates away from the DNC, which obviously wants to rig the process again, and give them back to the League of Women Voters. Then let them figure it out.

“O’Rourke marvels at Beto-mania, conceding it’s ‘a great question’ whether he’s ready for White House” [Dallas Morning News]. “‘The fact that we came close doesn’t diminish the bitterness of the loss,’ [O’Rourke] said, acknowledging the very real doubts about whether someone who couldn’t win election in his home state deserves promotion to commander in chief. ‘Oh yeah. I think that’s a great question,’ he said. ‘I ask that question myself.’… Over and over, he said he wants time to ‘regroup’ after nearly two years on the road. ‘I’d love to take a backpack up into the Gila Wilderness’ — a vast expanse in New Mexico, a hundred miles from El Paso — ‘and just spend some time thinking through stuff,’ he said.”

New Cold War

“New Senate Reports Are an Indictment of the White House’s Inaction on Disinformation” [Slate]. This is Slate’s lead:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has just released two new reports on Russian disinformation, revealing in unusually rich detail the scope of Russia’s interference not only in the 2016 U.S. presidential election but also in our day-to-day democratic dialogue since. One report was prepared by New Knowledge and the other by the University of Oxford and Graphika. Each report’s specific findings are well worth close study by anyone concerned with foreign interference in U.S. elections and our broader democratic processes; so is an excellent summary offered by New Knowledge’s co-founder Renée DiResta. (Full disclosure: Renée and I both serve on the editorial board of Protego Press.)

Never mind the incestuous relationship in the disclosure; that’s common in the Beltway. What strikes me as odd is the instant credibility given to New Knowledge and Oxford’s “Computational Propaganda Project.” Why do we give them any more credibility than CrowdStrike? Is it conceivable they’re talking their book? Or that they’re simply cut-outs for the intelligence community? Taking off my tinfoil hat, and putting on my close reading trifocals, I note the phrase: “our day-to-day democratic dialogue.” As with “our democracy,” you should always question who the implicit “we” is. Is the concept that “our democratic dialogue” — with David Brock’s million dollar trolling for the Clinton campaign through Brietbart’s video fakery to access journalism driven by anonymous intelligence sources — was somehow pristine, clean, pure until the Evul Russkis joined in the fun?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Here’s What The Big Fight Over The DNC’s Data Is Really About” [HuffPo]. “On one side, Perez, top DNC staff and a host of other top national Democratic operatives argue that Democrats must develop their own version of the Republican National Committee’s Data Trust. The Data Trust is an independent for-profit entity that houses all of the Republican Party’s national and state-level voter information for use by presidential and congressional candidates and outside Republican groups…. Currently, state-level Democratic parties own the voter data through a voter file co-operative managed by TargetSmart, a private data management firm. The parties share the data with the DNC, which operates the software through which users access the data. Campaigns use the information for such things as how to decide where candidates should campaign and what messages they should emphasize, to predict how different constituencies will react to certain issues and to complement traditional polls of the race. But a key gap in the Democratic system is the inability of outside groups to access and input data in real time instead of after its collection…. “We can change the current system to see the data in real time,” said Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb. “My problem is turning over decades of work to a group of consultants who are not on the ground and who are not accountable to a whole state infrastructure that has lived before us and will live on well after us.'” • Those five consultants who took, IIRC, $700 million from the Democrat Party for setting a dumpster on fire, as Nomiki Konst pointed out.

“Women’s March in Washington State Disbands Citing Farrakhan Ties to National Leadership” [The Tower]. • I’d be more concerned with what happened to the money from merch, and all the weird governance issues.

“WHAT IS TRUMP?” [New Left Review]. “[T]he issue is not to explain why, in the aftermath of a severe financial and economic crisis in the capitalist core, accompanied by a massive upward transfer of wealth by ruling centrists, blue and red, right-wing—and, in a few instances, left-wing—outsiders have come to power, but rather why these politicians have largely remained within the established framework. In short, the question is not why our contemporary politics resembles those of the 1930s, but why it does not. For this, it is necessary to take the comparison seriously, systematically contrasting the era of classical fascism—roughly, from 1922 to 1939—with the present period, in order to enable greater theoretical and political clarity about the situation today. I do so along four comparative axes: geopolitical context, economic crisis, relations of class and nation and, finally, the character of civil society and of political parties.” • As usual with NLR, the style is fruitcake-dense, but the analysis is rigorous and very interesting. Grab a cup of coffee.

Stats Watch

Housing Starts: “Mostly good news finally greets the housing sector as both starts and permits are showing an uplift in November results that top Econoday’s consensus range” [Econoday]. “Year-on-year rates continue to speak to the general weakness of housing with total starts down… Today’s report is positive especially for builders of multi-family units but the weakness on the single-family side won’t be giving much lift to what are downcast expectations for the nation’s housing sector.” And: “The backward revisions this month were slight. The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month to month (mostly due to weather) so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series – and it shows permits rate of growth improving and completions rate of growth now slowing” [Econintersect]. “We consider this a stronger report relative to last month.” And: “Total housing starts in November were above expectations (due to the volatile multi-family sector), and starts for September and October were revised up, combined” [Calculated Risk]. “Note the relatively low level of single family starts and completions. The ‘wide bottom’ was what I was forecasting following the recession, and now I expect some further increases in single family starts and completions.”

Retail: “As Sex Ceases to Sell, Modesty Has Its Fashion Moment” [Bloomberg]. “In October a forum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology defined ‘modest fashion’ as generally ‘loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of the body as the wearer wishes.’ Steven Frumkin, dean of the Baker School for Business and Technology at FIT, says the fresh attention is the result of several factors but suggests it was catalyzed primarily by the new influence and buying power of Muslim women.”

Banks: “European banks bleed millions from physical cyber attacks through devices like the Raspberry Pi” [IT Pro]. “Posing as job seekers, couriers and inspectors, the cyber criminals used three types of device to connect to a bank’s network and syphon data. Netbooks, Raspberry Pi devices and Bash Bunnies – a special tool for carrying out USB attacks – were all used after access to the building was gained… The clandestine devices were simply plugged in and left, only to be controlled remotely via GPRS, 3G or LTE by the attackers. Meeting rooms were a common target as tables often have multiple communications and data transfer-related sockets to facilitate presentations, which can be accessed and exploited easily for ill-gotten gain.”

The Bezzle: “Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla’s Production Hell” [Wired]. “When he arrived, Musk began marching through the factory. He walked along the assembly line, red-faced and urgent, interrogating workers he encountered, telling them that at Tesla excellence was a passing grade, and they were failing; that they weren’t smart enough to be working on these problems; that they were endangering the company, according to someone who observed him. Employees knew about such rampages. Sometimes Musk would terminate people; other times he would simply intimidate them. One manager had a name for these outbursts—Elon’s rage firings—and had forbidden subordinates from walking too close to Musk’s desk at the Gigafactory out of concern that a chance encounter, an unexpected question answered incorrectly, might endanger a career.” • No wonder stuff catches on fire.

The Bezzle: “Blue Apron becomes a penny stock, trading under $1 for the first time (APRN)” [Business Insider]. “The meal-kit maker has had a rough go of things since announcing its plans for a public listing. First Amazon announced plans to buy Whole Foods, causing Blue Apron to slash its IPO range to $10 to $11 a share, down from $15 to $17, as investors fretted over the competition such a deal would bring. Then, less than a month later, Amazon rolled out its meal-kit business….. [A] few months later, Blue Apron’s announced it was having trouble keeping its customers.” • Blue Apron is also another tech startup that abuses its workers. So, schadenfreude!

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin ATMs May Be Used to Launder Money” [Bloomberg]. “Bitcoin has crashed since hitting an all-time high last year, but the market for machines that allow people to buy Bitcoins in person hasn’t slowed down at all. BTMs are a legal and fast-­growing part of the crypto world, despite flying under the regulatory radar. They’re fast and require less hassle than online exchanges such as Coinbase. Over the past few years, they’ve been popping up in corner stores, casinos, and smoke shops…. BTMs are almost by definition perfect vehicles for dirty money. A Bitcoin bought at a machine in Harlem would be instantaneously deposited into a digital wallet, which could be owned by the person standing at the machine, a drug cartel in Colombia, or a ransomware hacker…. By his estimate, more than half the machines in the U.S. aren’t following the rules—meaning they don’t verify identification or impose limits on transactions—­potentially resulting in more than $500 million in illicit cash being laundered annually. “That should be getting someone’s attention,” [Arnold Spencer, general counsel at Dallas-based Coinsource, the largest BTM operator in the world] says, adding that there are plenty of legitimate customers using BTMs—speculators, for instance, and immigrants sending money home to their families in countries like the Philippines and Mexico.” • $500 million doesn’t seem like very much, at least as an absolute number.

The Bezzle: “Corruption is costing the global economy $3.6 billion dollars every year” [World Economic Forum]. • That seems low.

The Bezzle: “The auditor of Citi, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank was tipped off before regulatory inspection” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “The auditor of some of the world’s largest banks including Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank was tipped off before a regulator inspected them. It’s been previously reported that KPMG executives were able to extract from the regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, confidential information ahead of inspections, and use that information to correct their work and at least in one instance, withdrawn an opinion…. The SEC moreover said in January that the KPMG audits of these companies should continue to be relied upon…. Corporate governance expert Nell Minow, the vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, said investors shouldn’t be satisfied with the SEC’s statement. ‘The breadth and seriousness of the charges and the importance to the financial markets of the companies affected should require a through internal investigation with results made public. If the SEC or KPMG do not insist on it, investors and clients should.'”

The Bezzle: “The Silence Of The Brands: 90% Of Consumer IoT Vendors Don’t Let Researchers Report Vulnerabilities” [Forbes]. “In all, a total of 331 consumer product companies were included in the results; collectively responsible for many hundreds of IoT product lines and millions of devices sold. These covered everything from Internet connected toys from the likes of Hasbro and Mattel, through to weapons brands such as Armatrix, Tracking Point and Vaultek, not to mention D-Link, NEC, OnePlus, Sonos and TomTom. A shocking 299 (90.3%) of them had no form of public vulnerability disclosure policy, leaving just 32 (9.7%) with any form of scheme for security researchers to use. Of that 32 only 15 had an incentive, or bug bounty, program to encourage security researchers to find the holes in their products that could be exploited by threat actors. One company actually went as far as to state that security research was not permitted by putting restrictions on security research in its terms of service.”

Tech: “Amazon has explored getting into consumer health diagnostics — testing for disease at home” [Business Insider]. “If Amazon moves ahead, “the notion of being able to connect consumers to a health testing product that sits in the home, as well as delivering treatments, would be quite revolutionary,” said Greg Yap, a tech-driven life sciences investor with Menlo Ventures, who does not have direct knowledge of Amazon’s plans. Yap said there are a lot of potential hurdles, including regulations that require a physician to interpret the results. Amazon has also been in talks with telemedicine companies in recent months, says a different person familiar, which might hint at a potential solution to the problem. Amazon could work with a network of doctors to remotely approve a prescription via a smartphone or laptop.” • So Alexa hears me cough…

Tech Dystopia (1):

Tech Dystopia (2):

Transportation:

So why did the bot catch fire?

Mr. Market: “Stock Market Votes With Its Feet” [John Authers, Bloomberg]. “[T]hese technical factors could not have had such a powerful effect without deep underlying unease. That will be put to the test in the new year, but the final Federal Reserve meeting of 2018 now gives one big opportunity to change or reinforce the negative narratives out there. The market has voted with its feet in the last few weeks; we must await the Fed meeting, and then the new year, to find out if it is weighed in the balance and found wanting.”

Mr. Market: As I keep saying, we seem to be talking ourselves into this one:

The Style section?

The Fed: “Fed Stuck In An Uncomfortable Situation” [Tim Duy’s Fed Watch]. “The Federal Reserve faces a most uncomfortable confluence of events as central bankers begin their two-day meeting to ponder the path of rate policy. In a nutshell, equities continued to struggle in the midst of fairly solid data as President Trump complains yet again about rate hikes while stoking the uncertainty that appears at least partly if not mostly to blame for the volatile equity markets…. Recent data remain largely consistent with the Fed’s outlook… Households continue to spend at a healthy rate… Even initial jobless claims, the boogeyman of the bears, tumbled sharply… All told, outside of the downdraft in equities and related financial tightening, I don’t think there is much here to induce large shifts in the Fed’s forecasts for 2019…. In a sense, Trump’s weaponized uncertainty drives down equity prices which in turn induces the Fed to do what Trump wants and stop raising rates. How much does the Fed have to do to cushion the stock market against Trumpian uncertainty? How much to cushion the economy against the same?” • Fascinating exercise in reflexivity.

Gaia

“On Having No Head: Cognition throughout Biological Systems” [National Library of Medicine]. “Here, we survey a wide-ranging literature on memory and sensory systems-based cognition in organisms (biological systems) lacking animal/human-type brains. Our goal is to acquaint readers interested in cognition with numerous aneural model systems in which this subject can be pursued, and to draw the attention of bench biologists working on those systems to cognitive, information-focused perspectives on the mechanisms they are studying. Importantly, in discussing cognitive performance in the various systems, we do not mean the full-blown human-like cognitive performance, or human-type of self-awareness and consciousness. We are avoiding issues of the ‘Hard’ problem of cognitive science, and do not claim anything like higher-order symbolic representations. Our definition is purely functional and minimalist (Calvo and Baluška, 2015), drawing attention to the similarities in computational tasks performed by diverse biological systems, at all levels of complexity, other than animal and human brains.” • Fascinating, and “aneural” is a strong candidate for Word of the Day.

Class Warfare

“Ambient Cruelty” [Real Life]. “The freedom to vent feels empowering, but when unleashed on a reputation-based labor market, where a widespread reliance on reviews and ratings is the primary monitor of quality assurance, negative self-expression allows users of apps like Uber or TaskRabbit to enjoy the benefits of an arbitrary power of punishment free of guilt. By emphasizing the user’s ‘right’ to have their opinions heard, and to dissatisfaction with any less-than-perfect ‘experience,’ platforms encourage users to be cruel without feeling cruel. Normalizing negativity creates a slush fund of data that employers can use at their discretion against employees.” • Precarity rather does resemble slavery, doesn’t it? At least in the constant presence of the lash.

He got a good rating:

Joke! Ha ha….

“Predictim Claims Its AI Can Flag ‘Risky’ Babysitters. So I Tried It on the People Who Watch My Kids.” [Gizmodo]. “The notion that a private algorithm was being deployed to analyze teenagers’ and low-income workers’ musings and selfies on social media, determine their “risk level,” and deliver the results to excitable parents struck many as a grim portent for the future of the informal workforce.”

“Star Economist at Harvard Faces Sexual Harassment Complaints” [New York Times]. “Former employees said Dr. Fryer often reminded junior researchers that his recommendations could vault them to top graduate programs — or ground their careers. Several women said Dr. Fryer had written negative recommendations after they angered him in some way, or refused to write a recommendation at all.”

Xmas Cheer

Dealing with package thieves:

Hat tip to whoever forwarded this to me; I watched it for a lot longer than I should have. Part of me says “Business model!” Another part of me says that our environment is already booby-trapped enough.

News of the Wired

“Twitter is relaunching the reverse-chronological feed as an option for all users starting today” [The Verge]. “[Twitter] said today that it will introduce a prominent new toggle in the app to switch from the ranked timeline to the original, reverse-chronological feed. The company says the move comes in recognition of the fact that Twitter is often most useful in real time, particularly during live events such as sports games or the Oscars.” • Or insurrections…

“Smartphones Are the New Security Blanket for Kids” [Medium]. “Pediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined the term ‘transitional objects’ in the mid-20th century. He recognized that young children often become attached to a special blanket, a teddy bear, or some other toy [or “security blanket”]. Today, my son is 13, and now his Android smartphone fills the transitional role…. Just think about what it must be like for kids to hear us refer to their transitional objects in the same language we use to describe cigarettes, cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates. It’s not helpful, nor is it a valid analogy. Yes, playing video games activates the brain’s dopamine pathways. If it didn’t, they’d be no fun. All pleasurable experiences raise our dopamine levels — running around outside, reading a good book, riding a roller coaster, eating a hot fudge sundae. But hard drugs raise dopamine levels by about 10 times as much. It’s a totally different thing. So much so that by stuffing digital devices and dangerous inebriants into the same linguistic container, grown-ups could be doing their kids a serious disservice.” • I dunno. I’d be curious to know what any parents in the readership think about this (noting that Silicon Valley squillionaires don’t agree).

He kicked it in the head and quit clean:

So Mossberg finally surrendured his transitional object?

* * *

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):

Musa coccinea (red torch banana).

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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.

137 comments

  1. cnchal

    > Tech: “Amazon has explored getting into consumer health diagnostics — testing for disease at home” . . .

    Vampire squid squared?

    1. clarky90

      Ten years ago, when I heard the term, “apocalypse”, I had robotically imagined the Dominant, Hollywood Narrative- aliens, The Devil, climate change, meteor strike, a Neo-Black Death…

      However it actually means “an uncovering”. So, I have been dwelling within the apocalypse for the last three years or so? (wow) I am aghast. I experience weekly, (sometimes daily) New Revelations. What a time to be paying attention! (My hat is off to the NC crew of Vampire Hunters!)

      “Our” present was fore-shadowed by the unmasking of The Wizard of Oz, in 1939.

      Re; “The Apokálypsis”

      “An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω, literally meaning “an uncovering”) is a disclosure of knowledge….. a disclosure of something hidden…”

    2. FreeMarketApologist

      Hmmm… who could be the public face of this? Who knows all about consumer-operated diagnostic tools? Wait! Isn’t Elizabeth Holmes looking for a job? And she could hire poor unemployed Travis Kalanick to run the delivery department.

  2. JohnnyGL

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/17/venezuela-nicolas-maduro-warns-us-columbia-brazil-invade-sacred-soil

    I know we’ve gotten used to looking towards the Middle East as the next possible crisis flashpoint because….well, it always is…

    After Russian bombers made a courtesy visit to Venezuela recently, and combined with Maduro’s chest-thumping speech to the troops, are we underestimating the chances of a Cuban-missile style crisis?

    Venezuela’s government isn’t stupid (for all its faults) and has a strong survival instinct, so I’d suspect that they must feel like they’re in serious danger to invite Putin to land bombers in the country. Perhaps that failed drone-strike assassination really sent shockwaves in Maduro’s inner-circle?

    This may be more dangerous than Saudi Arabia or Iran. US hasn’t reacted well, historically speaking, to problems in its backyard.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I have long thought that the Middle East is the less-than-most-likely place for a really major war to get started from. The reason being that everyone expects a really major war to start from there, so everyone is trying their best to contain every medium war that breaks out there.

      Whereas little-to-zero attention is paid to other distressed areas, and a spreading ripple-pattern of war could spread out from one of these distressed areas before anyone even realizes that they should try to contain it.

      1. WJ

        The latest “The Russians are coming!” headlines combined with recent and ongoing events in Ukraine and the Black Sea make me fear that an incidence of “Russian aggression” is in the works, courtesy of NATO and certain ‘rougher’ elements of the freedom loving Ukrainian Right. Hope I am wrong.

        1. Chris51

          I think it’s safe to relax, WJ. The manufactured Kerch Strait ‘incident’ was all about Poroshenko’s desperate need to improve his chances in the coming Ukraine national elections. Parliament agreed to impose martial law in the Eastern provinces most likely to vote against Poroshenko, but only for one month, not three he asked for.

  3. jsn

    “Corruption is costing the global economy $3.6 billion dollars every year” – That seems low

    I expect it just counts the corruption that remains illegal. The worlds largest economy (US for the period we’re looking at) has spent the last 40 years decriminalizing most forms of graft, embezzlement and corruption, so there probably damn little execrable behavior, short of physical assault, or maybe even that (see Case Denton, seems to me in the old days there would have been a tort there), that’s still illegal.

    After all, what’s the point of neoliberal deregulation otherwise?

  4. douglass truth

    Amazon and health, can’t help but think of THX1138 + Philip K Dick: If you don’t take your meds your door won’t let you out.

  5. Pat

    Facebook.

    I ended up having a conversation, use that term loosely, with a graduate of MIT about Facebook. She tried to tell me I didn’t understand how Facebook works when I pointed out that supposedly Russia influenced the election with less than a tenth of the amount of posts and advertising of the Clinton campaign. Besides the absurdity of telling me about the posts being shared over and over (not recognizing what that said about the multitude more of the Clinton support posts), she thought I was changing the subject when I brought up the data collection. I brought up the one thing that had even remotely had any evidence of election interference with Facebook and she didn’t recognize it. She did however leave Facebook after she found out about Russia!Russia!Russia!

    Facebook has had an ethical problem from practically the moment it was formed. A careful reading of the terms of service should have had people running from it, the trackers were just added reason. That tech ‘experts’ like Mossberg and my MIT grad didn’t recognize how much the company’s values were really about theft and surveillance far earlier only make it clear that their values really aren’t that divergent.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      It all boils down to who is using whom. I and my posse of about 125 use FB to keep up with grandkids, anniversaries, cool vacations, new books we published, professional achievements of some of our not-retired friends, and so forth. I am also a member of my grammar school group, and my high school group (which I recently started – small prep school – everyone still knows everyone, but only a fraction of us are Facebookies – too technical).

      I doubt that any of us ever buy something advertised on FB. None of us consider it to be a valid source of news, so we just skip that crap unless one of us posts an interesting story. And of course, for most of us, Social Security is a monthly check, not an indication from Facebook regarding our popularity, how much we are loved, or how much we influence others.

      Personally, I think that people who boast they are quitting FB because of some moral righteousness or because they think that doing so will be vengeance for Cambridge Analytica or some other abuse are either slow-to-woke or self-deluded.

  6. IXL

    I note that in the 2008 election cycle the press screamed in horror that the Democrats were “forming a circular firing squad” simply by dint of having a contested primary (while raising few or no such objections to the mere existence contest on the Republican side). This was also basically the stance of both the Hillary and Obama camps as well, though each thought it was the the other who was guilty of selfishly stealing the spotlight from the Clearly Destined Candidate.

    This time they seem to be actively trying to split the field as finely as possible and to avoid directing enough coverage to any one contender to allow a clear front-runner to emerge, which I have to imagine is in service of a larger “for Pete’s sake don’t let Bernie win on the first ballot” strategy. Without a hung first ballot, the super-delegates are left out in the cold and the Filthy Rabble might actually get a candidate for President who actually gives half a crap about them.

    1. WJ

      Just as–as Lambert keeps pointing out–the number one priority of elected liberal Democrats is to prevent the passage of single payer health care, so the number one priority of the liberal dominated DNC is to prevent the 2020 Democratic Primary from being democratic.

    2. John k

      Sanders is smarter than we thought… half the dems are conservative, have good health care, see no need for m4a or Bernie… what do do?
      Divide and conquer! Take a leaf out of trumps playbook, be the only person different from the other neoliberals… and get a couple of dozen of them to run! You could win! A loser in Texas? You were close! Go for it!
      He’s gonna be the only one pushing m4a. Liz? She’s a proud capitalist, just like Pelosi and all the others.
      Most of the primaries are winner take all… guess who wins if eight get 10% each and one guy gets 20%?

  7. NotTimothyGeithner

    . That’s right: No debates! Let’s cancel political Christmas, at least for all of next year….

    I’m not sure American political debates can be fixed, and “political Christmas” sums up the problem. The fascination is the unwrapping of presents and speculating what is under the tree. Even returning to the League of Women Voters wouldn’t fix this problem as we are primed to not care.

    We (society) are trained to see these debates as chances for gaffes and quirky one liners.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKfMpzpF6Hk (Original airdate October 9, 1994; FoxNews launched October 7th, 1996 coincedentally and the question asked by the Rush Limbaugh parody was very similar to a question asked by CNN’s Bernard Shaw in 1988 when the League of Women Voters pulled out of the debates)

    I think interviews which are long form discussions can be beneficial, and I do like town halls for the opportunity for non-elite versions of questions or non-elite approved issues to be asked or raised. Even with good questions, the whole debate process is a farce. The League of Women Voter did the Presidential debates in 1976, 1980, and 1984. So…yeah…Ronnie Raygun…

    1. flora

      The DNC, according to the Washington Post, is contemplating going beyond poll numbers—”possibly including staffing, fundraising and number of office locations”—to decide who participates and how.”

      oh. that’s sounds democratic. /s

        1. ambrit

          Hmmm…. You need to get your STAFF on the line. (Sarcasm Tag Activation Filtering Function)
          Some of us tinfoil hatt aficionados would prefer an ‘ends-testing’ protocol.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          Since Hillary didn’t pay her interns until she was shamed into it, would she not be invited to the debates?

          1. ambrit

            That doesn’t sound quite right. Hillary being able to experience shame, much less modifying her behaviour as a result.
            My best guess is that a “focus group” came up with a recommendation that the apparat pay those interns. I’m willing to wager that Hilary herself did not pay a cent to the interns. Someone else had to do it for appearance sake.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              “Hillary being able to experience shame, much less modifying her behaviour as a result.”

              to be fair, the mu-mu hasnt returned since its unfortunate rollout

    2. Carey

      Odd choice of titles for that Politico piece, or maybe the Few trolling us again?
      Little doubt in my mind that the Democrat debates will be “fixed”.

    3. nippersdad

      Even town halls have their issues, though. The one put on by Univision for Hillary Clinton, for example, spent a lot of time on immigration but literally zero on why central America is on the move. That seemed like a major oversight on the part of people who should know better.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        When I say town hall, I mean a town hall, not an event where questions such as “Mr Burns, your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?” aren’t planted by the campaign team. If a thousand people go to an event, its easier to claim crowd control concerns and have a few people ready to ask soft ball questions.

        I saw more of the 2008 primary in New Hampshire in 2007 than I wish to remember, but the questions asked of the non-HRC/Obama candidates were quite good. Tough but fair. I wouldn’t call a “town hall” as presented by Univision a town hall.

        New Hampshire and Iowa will force many of these candidates to interact with voters in a way they have not in a long time if ever. Their opponent isn’t Newt Gingrich. Its someone who may not be entirely awful (lets pretend Joe Biden doesn’t run). HRC and Obama were able to hide behind crowds, but with smaller crowds, people will ask questions that matter to them versus the press. That Adam Johnson who has a pod cast likes to harp on the number of questions asked about global warming and poverty at the various Presidential debates in the 2016 season, and I think he noted the only ones asked were from the audience. The best part is it will all be recorded now. We will get to see if politicians even know what country they are in. How does Kamala Harris respond to being asked about her support for full time workers when many of the people in the room juggle part time jobs or contracting jobs?

        1. nippersdad

          You’re right, actual town halls would be perfect, if they could be made readily accessible. A good project for the social media, and one that undoubtedly looms large in rationales for recent attempts to censor it. With no one asking why she had spent decades trying to starve out their actual hot sauce toting abuelas, that Univision farce should have been a low point in the national town hall experience. Somehow, though, I don’t think it will be.

          Re Kamala Harris: I would LOVE to see her put on the spot for any number of things, but being asked by people with several jobs about her position on keeping as much cheap inmate labor on hand as possible at tax payer expense would be a goldmine. That may be why it will prolly never happen. They all have a baggage train that they will guard with the lives of their unpaid interns.

          But I would be thrilled to be found wrong.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            HRC was a very odd candidate in 2008 and 2016. She was like a sitting President running with the size of her operation and name recognition. Obama was the main anti-Clinton candidate and then Oprah showed up giving him a sheen of celebrity. Of course, she started to self destruct with their efforts in South Carolina.

            If Harris doesn’t do the direct outreach, she won’t be taken seriously. She could have all the money in the world, but she won’t be a real celebrity. Judging from the embrace of Sanders and subsequent rise of Medicare for All in the national lexicon, I don’t think there is a demand for a celebrity candidate. Obama was still a television candidate. As cord cutting has become all the rage and younger people get their news from online sources, what is the shelf life of an article similar to “Barack Obama Inc” by Ken Silverstein of Harper’s. Its pretty damning. Obama was able to paint himself as a fighter against lobbyist money, but based on the reaction to Beto O’Rourke and his campaign donation, I think there has been a sea change. The Democratic elite are certainly desperate to produce a celebrity candidate, but it kind of ignores how Obama’s original celebrity came from 2004 when Shrub was President and Kerry was reporting for service. Sanders and AOC exist now. My guess is most of these wannabes leave early. The GOP has those sugar daddies who will keep guys like Ted Cruz fed, but I don’t know if Democratic Party donors will do this. Besides if they have Clintonistas on the payroll, they will blow through the money faster than Jeb!’s campaign.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > “Mr Burns, your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?

          Once it was The Onion that had the best coverage. Now it’s the Simpsons, too.

    4. BlakeFelix

      I think the best thing for debates would be to adopt range voting for primary elections. Being able to get partial credit for answers that are moderate and sensible even if you aren’t someone’s first choice would go a long way. And having your vote tally relatively unrelated to the particular makeup of the field would make primary results far less dependent on the losers.

    5. EricT

      You do know both parties terminated their agreement with the league of women voters. They wanted more content control, the LofWV refused.

  8. Wukchumni

    Gila team seeks to sharpen stuff…

    ‘I’d love to take a backpack up into the Gila Wilderness’ — a vast expanse in New Mexico, a hundred miles from El Paso — ‘and just spend some time thinking through stuff,’ he said.”

    1. nippersdad

      I saw that and my first thought was, “Yay! Where can we mail the chardonnay and mountain lions.”

      The Green in me thinks he would be good for their environment.

      1. polecat

        Maybe he can channel The ghost of Don Juan from across the border for some sage advice.
        However, he will need to brush-up on his peyote hunting skills, to find a mouth-stitched lizard … so he’ll need to ditch the chardonnay.

        1. ambrit

          Knowing politics over that-a-way, he’ll channel the ghost of “Chorro.” As in, “Quiero un chorro de votas.” No BDSM mask needed.

      2. Big River Bandido

        O’Rourke might be good for the environment but it depends how deep in the ground you plant him.

  9. Synoia

    Transportation:

    so a delivery robot caught fire on berkeley's campus and students set up a candlelight vigil for it pic.twitter.com/alen7vF7Ho

    — James Wenzel 🦊 (@ratherbright) December 15, 2018

    So why did the bot catch fire?

    It self-immolated due to forced feeding (overcharging), and no medical (maintence) plan!

  10. Synoia

    He kicked it in the head and quit clean:

    1/ Some personal news: I've decided to quit Facebook around the end of the year. I am doing this – after being on Facebook for nearly 12 years – because my own values and the policies and actions of Facebook have diverged to the point where I’m no longer comfortable there.

    — Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) December 17, 2018

    So Mossberg finally surrendured his transitional object?

    Nah, he got a wife, who demanded more attention, and used better methods to raise his dopamine levels.

  11. FreeMarketApologist

    “Consumer IoT Vendors Don’t Let Researchers Report Vulnerabilities”

    Compare that to the great computer scientist Donald Knuth (see link to excellent NY Times article in this morning’s NC links), who paid readers when they wrote him about errors in The Art of Computer Programming.

  12. lambert strether

    I highly recommend the New Left Review article on a Trump in historical context. It’s worth the time.

    1. Carolinian

      I think that is a good article in its knotty, academic, making a short story long sort of way. It’s obvious to anyone with even a cursory familiarity with history that Trump is not a would be Hitler with a copy of Mein Kampf by his bedside (as was once comically reported by the NY Post). Indeed it’s probably a mistake to ever take Trump too seriously except insofar as he has all the power in the world via his unexpected (to him as well no doubt) presidential win. What’s very good about the article is its view that fascism was an outgrowth of 19th century imperialism rather than the racism itself which was more a “blaming the victims” byproduct. Given that some of the most fervent Trump opponents are also neo imperialists one might suggest that they are far closer to the 1930s than Trump is. It’s why some of us felt even Trump would be better than Hillary.

  13. DJG

    Interesting proposals in the Riley article, What Is Trump?:

    Of course the defence of basic civil and political rights is an important task for the US left. But does this mean defending an imperial presidency, superordinate Senate-appointed federal judiciary and first-past-the-post electoral system, rigged by the two dominant parties, as specified by the separation of powers and the Constitution? The American state as currently configured is one of the clearest exemplars of what Luciano Canfora calls the mixed system: ‘a little democracy, and a great deal of oligarchy’. [57] In response to the right’s call for a new constitutional convention—which ought to be welcomed, rather than greeted with horror—the left should put forward its own political vision: proportional representation in multi-member districts; a directly elected unitary chamber to which the executive, the central bank and the judiciary should be ultimately accountable; the abolition of the FBI, the CIA and the Department of ‘Homeland Security’.

    I’d venture that a problem with the anodyne Nancy Pelosi, the somnolent Steny Hoyer, and the incremental-change-monger Hillary Clinton is that they have made politics anhedonic. The left recognizes a need for experiment–for the joy of disobedience, as a friend of mine has put it. (And in Italy, the best cooks all seem to be commies.) So instead of the puritanism of name calling, which starts Riley’s article (not by Riley–a long litany of quotes of name calling from Very Important Writings and Experts), maybe it is time to engage the right and defeat the right. And you can’t do that with a “presidential archive” and real-estate scam in Chicago that is planned to have no books in it. Is it possible that the left now dares to have ideas–or finally to use a bullhorn to shout its many good ideas? (Meanwhile, liberals seem to want naps on their piles of Tubmans.)

    1. Carolinian

      left should put forward its own political vision: proportional representation in multi-member districts; a directly elected unitary chamber to which the executive, the central bank and the judiciary should be ultimately accountable; the abolition of the FBI, the CIA and the Department of ‘Homeland Security’.

      I’m so sure the current American left is going to pull that off–not. They can’t even boot Pelosi as “left” leader. The US right will give in when something else defeats them as happened in the 1930s. One hates to be cynical but it is what it is. Happy to be wrong…

      Meanwhile no Constitutional convention, please.

      1. flora

        no Constitutional convention. Agreed. The Kochs, ALEC and others have their model legislation tee’d up waiting for a Constitutional convention. The GOP controls most of the state leges. I’ll be impressed if the ‘left’ ever gets out of academia and into the real world and looks around. Nominally left Dem legislators who don’t bother learning about real world economics, or everyday economics, because it’s not identity politics, or it’s uninteresting to them? Houston, we have a problem….

        https://ballotpedia.org/Gubernatorial_and_legislative_party_control_of_state_government

        1. WJ

          As somebody in academia I have two quibbles with the following:

          “I’ll be impressed if the ‘left’ ever gets out of academia and into the real world and looks around.”

          One, there’s not much of a Left left in academia. Two, not sure academia is any less “real” than most other parts of what currently counts as the “world.” Which is not really to defend academia, mind you.

            1. flora

              Adding: the author is a prof at UC Berkeley in the Sociology Dept, with ‘Research Interests in
              Political Sociology, Comparative Historical Sociology and Social Theory’, according to his webpage and vita. Most of this essay is in that area, and is very interesting, and educational. I’m glad to read it.

              When he makes an offhand remark about a critical US political process the authority of his writings in historical sociology also carries over into and lends credence to his opinion in a field in which I think he is clearly unconversant , and unintentionally misleads.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > “I’ll be impressed if the ‘left’ ever gets out of academia and into the real world and looks around.”

            I would guess most of the left in academia is in state schools, probably out in the boondocks, or working as adjuncts. Not a bad thing, tactically.

      2. Rosario

        Ditto WRT constitutional convention.

        I don’t really think the authors of the article understand how US constitutional conventions work. It’s not like every “left” luminary in the country gets a say and vote in the convention. It works with the existing congress and state legislatures (2/3 approval), and “left” they ain’t, short a handful of people.

      3. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Right, left…Makes no difference.

        A Constitutional Convention is needed for our 250th anniversary.

  14. DJG

    On a lighter note: Fashion and modesty. Sorry, not buying it. Why are cars larger than ever? Why is the SUV the car of choice for those who never exercise? Americans are bigger than ever. Many things are now designed for overweight and obesity, including cars.

    Take the current fad for untucked shirts among men. Modesty? No, it is the age-old question: Does this shirt make my ass look big?

    I see way too many people in flowing clothes, cheaply made, in shades of olive and beige, all a sign of depression, a kind of malnutrition, a distrust of the body, and (undoubtedly) incompetence at flirting.

    Uber! Get me an Escalade. Pronto.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” — Karl Lagerfeld.

      1. BoyDownTheLane

        My sweatpants and sweatshirts are comfortable and wash easily and keep me warm in a house I can’t afford to keep at 72F because I’m on Social Security and spent my life working for non-profits in the field of response systems for sudden death and disability so I have no 401(k).

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgTjuDh7dVA

          as for untucked flannel in drab and dun… here i thought i was just a trendsetter, however unlikely.
          most cold days, I can disappear entirely with a sideways lurch into the nearest vegetation.

          total disregard of appearance,too, could be thought of as a cry…not of desperation or despair…but of transcendence.
          “the Dude abides”

      2. Stephanie

        Ethical-fashion darling Everlane sells $100 cashmere sweatpants, for when you want to lose control of life in semi-affordable luxury.

    2. Lemmy Caution

      Went to the lab this week to get my blood drawn for my annual physical. They had me get into the padded chair with the hinged arm rest as usual, except this chair was over twice as wide as the normal chair. I commented on how big it was and the tech ruefully replied, “a lot of people actually fill it up.” That chair had to be 32″ wide if not more.

      1. Eureka Springs

        Friend of mine is a radiologic technologist who says the average weight of her patients is well over 300 lbs.

    3. sd

      Thank you thank you. I thought I was the only one who thought, d’uh, everyone’s fat and trying to hide their bulges.

    4. Stephanie

      Eh, “modest fashion” has mostly become an Instagram euphemism for “stuff you can find at Shabby Apple”: Maxi dresses & knee-length skirts with a retro pin-up vibe. Clothes for sorority girls who want to be Kate or Meghan rather than Kim or Kylie, or Brooklynite hipsters living out some Anne of Green Gables fantasy in braids (very Instagram fabulous) and ruffled-yoke blouses. I’d put it in the same category of aspirational living as #beardlife and artisanal pickles.

  15. None

    Who is Mossberg and why should those of us who were never on Facebook in the first place care whether Mossberg quit? Thanks.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      As I remember, Mr. Mossberg has been for many years a reviewer of digital devices, tools and instruments of many kinds for the retail end-user customer-readers of the Wall Street Journal — I think.

    1. ambrit

      Funny in a “Manufacturing of Consent” kind of way.
      The harder the MSMs rail against Trump, the more his core supporters will back him. The disconnect between the ‘Elites’ and the ‘Deplorables’ is now out in the open. This is a bombshell. It could be the beginning of the end. The ‘Elites’ must feel those walls closing in on them.
      I for one welcome their hate. It is clarifying and a bit cathartic.

  16. clarky90

    How can we deal with the terror of “our” looming, private jet fuel shortages?

    Here,Todd May, (professor of philosophy), innovatively, cogently, explains why most USAian are not allowed to have affordable healthcare.

    NY Times; “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/opinion/human-extinction-climate-change.html

    “…..One might ask here whether, given this view, it would also be a good thing for those of us who are currently here to end our lives in order to prevent further animal suffering. Although I do not have a final answer to this question…”

    1. nycTerrierist

      one way to prevent further animal suffering and slow down climate change:

      stop eating meat/dairy, esp. from factory farms!

      but mass suicide is a more appealing prospect??

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If global warming slowdown is the priority, and then global dewarming after that, then one would START eating meat strictly from carbon-capturing range-and-pasture integrated systems.

        The meat and dairy to boycott would be the CAFO factory corn-soy fed kind.

        1. nycTerrierist

          not following you here, however, agreed CAFOs are the worst.

          why keep raising animals to suffer when humans can eat
          a plant-based diet?

          1. ambrit

            You forget those pesky essential amino acids we can only get from meat sources. We do come from a long line of omnivores, not herbivores.

            1. JBird4049

              Humans do require eating something from animals to survive but the absolute minimum can be provided by eggs, dairy, and fish. I believe it is the B-12 vitamin. In some cases it can be a few years between servings because it is stored and recycled.

              Of course, permanent damage to your nervous system can happen without that minimum so I will just keep eating the occasional cheeseburger just to be safe.

              ;-)

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            Why would I specifically say that eating specifically range/pasture meat is a carbon CAPturing activity? Because the one out of 50,000 or so farmers who have figured out how to integrate tight-bunched fast-moving-from-paddock-to-paddock livestock into their systems are claiming organic matter increases in their soil. And that organic matter is bio-sequestered carbon drained from the air by the plants and injected into the soil by those plants through their roots.

            A farmer who has been doing this and making these claims is Gabe Brown from North Dakota. He has videos scattershot-distributed on You Tube. It takes time to watch them. Here is one of the “shorter” ones where he briefly synopsizes the five working principals of soil-rebuilding while making a living through farming. One of those principals is livestock-animals integrated into the farming operation. He claims faster soil-organic-matter buildup AFter integration of livestock into his system than beFORE that integration took place. His claims can certainly be proven true or false. So far no one has claimed to prove his claims are false.

            Here is the video link.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzrKJo01-kE
            He has other videos. So far I haven’t been able to find again the video where he offered a bar-chart of rising rates of soil-carbon buildup after every new wrinkle added to his program. I know I saw it but I can’t find it just now.

            So that’s where the element of “buy and PAY FOR and eat Carbon Capture beef to help subsidize and support the capture and bio-sequestration of carbon on farms comes from.

            About the ethics of imposed suffering, a rising tide of evidence is forcing people to give up the fond belief that plants are furniture and can neither feel nor sense attack. I no longer can maintain that fond belief. I now have to accept that salad is murder, that eating micro-greens is mass- infanticide, that grinding seeds into flower for bread is mass abortion. And that’s okay. Nature IS violence, green in tooth and claw.

            Can we direct and apply the violence towards global de-warming and the restoration of previous carbon/oxygen/nitrogen/water/etc. cycle balances? Can we do that without carbon-capture range and pasture under livestock as part of the system?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      When all the sentient beings end their lives, and enter Nirvana, those left behind should have more animals to eat.

      “…..One might ask here whether, given this view, it would also be a good thing for those of us who are currently here to end our lives in order to prevent further animal suffering. Although I do not have a final answer to this question…”

      Not…a…good…ideas.

  17. DJG

    Why does this sound so much like the tiresome rationale for why we maintain tipping in the U S of A? Could it be that tipping, too, is a master-slave relationship?

    “The freedom to vent feels empowering, but when unleashed on a reputation-based labor market, where a widespread reliance on reviews and ratings is the primary monitor of quality assurance, negative self-expression allows users of apps like Uber or TaskRabbit to enjoy the benefits of an arbitrary power of punishment free of guilt. By emphasizing the user’s ‘right’ to have their opinions heard, and to dissatisfaction with any less-than-perfect ‘experience,’ platforms encourage users to be cruel without feeling cruel. Normalizing negativity creates a slush fund of data that employers can use at their discretion against employees.”

    “To Insure Prompt Service,” indeed.

    1. nycTerrierist

      “Ambient Cruelty” – v. interesting re: class warfare:

      “The repercussions of using ratings as a widespread way to monitor workers go beyond specific apps or platforms; they chip away at our sense of responsibility towards one another. Through online ratings systems, consumers are being encouraged to see the cruelty of arbitrary punishment as a benefit they can enjoy. The consumer power they are encouraged to embrace asks them to review the worker rather than the company, and to focus on the minutiae of their own comfort and satisfaction rather than the labor conditions under which services are produced.

      The roles of customer and worker are hardly fixed; most of us occupy both of these, and an economy in which more and more affective labor is required to stave off punishment is empowering only for companies managing through paranoia and fear. As customers are ever more closely aligned with bosses in everyday transactions, we work against our own collective interests.”

    2. JBird4049

      Tipped workers’ minimum wage in parts of the country is still a few dollars (as low as $2.13 per hour). Employers are supposed to make up the difference to a few dollars more but that often does not happen. So if that Waffle House waiter is not tipped…

  18. John

    “The Democrats are facing the improbable probability that more than two dozen candidates…”
    Translation: we have no candidate. We hope to heaven that we will find a candidate. We are terrified that we will not find a candidate.
    Consider: Is it really necessary to be over 70 before running for president or, alternatively be the adorable loser of an election who looks a bit like Bobby Kennedy, or a first term Senator whose previous experience is as a state attorney general. I am one of those oddballs who prefers presidents to have some knowledge of the world beyond the borders of the USA. Mr Trump did not and does not. Mr Obama sounded savvy but proved not to be. Mr Bush the more recent took the advice of a bunch of cuckoos. I am not aware of anyone among the current crop who can find their backside with both hands once they leave the old neighborhood.

    I suppose it doesn’t really matter as the owners of the country will do as they please and set the marionettes on the chosen path regardless of what we pesky voters might have to say.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      One, we won’t be able to necessarily find a General Washington type figure or even a Hoover (an interesting person) anymore. That kind of world can’t exist.

      Candidate recruitment is still the problem. The Democratic Party isn’t a party of AOC’s. Its a party of Beto O’Rourke’s. As such the party elites are going through the various clowns, hoping for a repeat of the Obama magic. At the same time, they have morally bankrupt ideology thats been on display recently. Obama’s most ardent defenders largely just blame everything on Republican obstruction, but they don’t pretend he was good anymore. In 1992, Paul Tsongas and Moonbeam made Bill Clinton look like Trotsky. Its important to remember JFK represented more than just a cool, young guy. Camelot was apt. He represented a post war generation entering politics with a more expansive understanding of “white” or “not black.” “Irish need not apply”…umm…the President is Irish. JFK beat the Boston Brahmin to get into the Senate.

      Going back to Obama and “hope and change,” there is a sense of a bait and switch. Anyone who comes after Obama in the near term is going to get raked over the coals.

      1. Daryl

        > One, we won’t be able to necessarily find a General Washington type figure or even a Hoover (an interesting person) anymore. That kind of world can’t exist.

        They will, howver, be able to find a lot of Washington General type figures to run as Democrats.

      1. Carey

        That would be great, but I think we would or will see a bipartisan™ declaration
        of martial law and national emergency, than see Senator Sanders elected as President and allowed to assume office.

    2. Code Name D

      Try 23 ringers and one golden child. While the ringers split the progresive vote, the neo-liberal rises to the top. They may also be a stratigy to keep the super deligates in play during the convention. Remeber, the SD can only not vote in the first round. So as long as the first round dosn’t produce a clear victor, in jumpts the super deligates.

      This of course assumes Clintion dosn’t run again.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        They may also be a stratigy to keep the super deligates in play during the convention.

        Winning and targeting those kinds of delegates is tough. And remember the Clintonistas certainly didn’t understand the delegate allocation in 2008 or the electoral college in 2016. They desperately want Obama 2.0, not grasping Obama could largely exist because HRC was a terrible candidate in 2008.

  19. Hameloose Cannon

    First, we discuss, “Is Trump a Hegelian?” Then, oh CznAP, Michael Flynn was ready to walk out of court with probation today. But that was before dumping his kit, and the “FBI ambush” and “I’m just a mixed-up kid slash former director of a US intelligence, what do I know?” pundit bait came rolling out. Which would infer his plea allocution was a fraud upon the court. Judge Sullivan, privy to the un-redacted, blurted out, “You sold out your country.” That’s what we in the biz call an “excited utterance”. That’s not not a bad day for those with interests common with the defense.

    1. integer

      A case can be made that Flynn did sell out his country, although unfortunately for Russiagate conspiracy theorists, it was to Turkey rather than Russia. That said, I’m no fan of Erdogan but I find it pretty hard to give a damn about Flynn lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government to extradite probable CIA asset Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Turkish cleric behind the attempted military coup in Turkey, especially in the context of the Mueller investigation.

  20. The Rev Kev

    “Predictim Claims Its AI Can Flag ‘Risky’ Babysitters. So I Tried It on the People Who Watch My Kids.”

    Know the only place that this might actually work? China with its citizen rating system so unless these boofheads are going to be hiring Chinese babysitters they may as well save their money.

  21. rd

    This may bet he scariest development of the year: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/18/trump-machine-swallows-rnc-1067875

    The Trump re-election campaign has effectively taken over the RNC and will control its operations for 2020. This is how dictators work – preventing democratic institutions from working independently of the leader’s wishes. This means that the RNC will likely not support anybody who is not toeing Trump’s line.

    If Trump is forced to leave the presidency or loses 2020, this will likely leave the RNC in a shambles. If Trump wins 2020, then he will have a party that is entirely beholden to him.

    1. Big River Bandido

      ??? Um, no.

      The party central committees (RNC and DNC) have a single purpose: the election of a president from their party. That is their sole function.

      If the party is the “out” party, the central committee is run by party insiders chosen by its corrupt leadership.

      If the party is the “in” party, its central committee becomes by definition a political arm of the President. Every party and every president under this system has worked the exact same way. IOW, Trump is simply acting exactly as his predecessors, and the Republicans are already “beholden to him”, as you say. So I’m not sure what the article is so hair-on-fire about.

      Actually, I take that back; I know exactly what it’s about…it’s about Trump Hysteria. Period.

    2. flora

      This is how dictators work – preventing democratic institutions from working independently of the leader’s wishes.

      ha! Sounds like DNC chair Tom Perez trying to take over state Dem parties’ voter data.

      1. Carey

        I’ll be watching *that* little brouhaha, and how it does in fact get settled, as closely as possible.

    3. anon in so cal

      Didn’t Hillary Clinton effectively commandeer the DNC?

      “Collusion between the Clinton campaign and the DNC allowed Hillary Clinton to buy the loyalty of 33 state Democratic parties last summer. Montana was one of those states…..In August 2015, at the Democratic Party convention in Minneapolis, 33 democratic state parties made deals with the Hillary Clinton campaign and a joint fundraising entity called The Hillary Victory Fund. ”

      “the tacit agreement between the signatories was that the state parties and the Hillary Clinton Campaign would act in unity and mutual support. And that the Super Delegates of these various partner states would either pledge loyalty to Clinton, or, at the least, not endorse Senator Sanders. Not only did Hillary’s multi-millionaire and billionaire supporters get to bypass individual campaign donation limits to state parties by using several state parties apparatus, but the Clinton campaign got the added bonus of buying that state’s Super Delegates with the promise of contributions to that Democratic organization’s re-election fund.”

      https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/01/how-hillary-clinton-bought-the-loyalty-of-33-state-democratic-parties/

      “First on CNN: Clinton campaign takes control of DNC”

      “Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking the reins of the Democratic National Committee, installing a new top official on Thursday to oversee the party’s day-to-day operations through the general election.”

      https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/16/politics/hillary-clinton-campaign-dnc/

  22. cwjnewsradio950

    The package booby-trap video made me think of how much of a oversize concern the theft of such packages is to people who view their house as a fortress and their neighbors with suspicion.

    Buying stuff from ‘the everything store’ on a whim has grown up without the kind of consumer-end infrastructure (let alone quite all of the delivery infrastructure/labor!! – as noted elsewhere on this blog) to handle frequent delivery of variable-size packages. Instead of dedicated storage space & procedures for handling such a regular stream of packages, we have a patchwork of throwaway gadgets that profit off of paranoia.

    Amazon (presumably) has deep enough pockets to make package thefts are mere inconvenience (by re-sending the item or refunding the purchase) – that other online retailers probably can’t match. It’s in their best interest to keep people in the habit of making online purchases (as w/ the push toward prime memberships).

  23. BoyDownTheLane

    In re: high-tech security blankets for kids:

    I’m 70, have two adult children (both leaders in their fields making ample money, one with two masters’ degrees) who have three bright intelligent kids among them. The female mom is an elementary school teacher. Both were elite athletes and went to college on athletic scholarships; she was also an honors student. The proper approach, IMHO, is to keep their bodies active outdoors on playsteads in early grades, athletics from grade six on (no football), a normal diet of chores, and unstructured free play with minimal adult supervision (outdoors when possible) during which they engage in play, problem-solving, and collaboration (to decide what to do and how to do it together). Light gaming is permissible on devices, but instruction on how to use said device as a tool for communication, learning, problem-solving, etc. is mandatory. When my kids were in high school, there were no smart phone and even cell phones were new, but they both drove their own cars to school. Nope, no accidents, crises, crimes….

    1. a different chris

      Congrats, but…. everybody’s so sure how to raise children. Everybody is wrong. You can just do what seems to make sense to you, you make sure they know they are cared about, and… it still sometimes goes wrong. Once in a while terribly wrong (Dahmer’s mother had a master’s degree in counseling). I’ve been lucky with my kids, too. But that doesn’t convince me I know a family-blogging thing.

      1. BoyDownTheLane

        Yes, you are right. I was raised by an absentee father who was distanced from his father and disowned me, and his third wife (who was a LPN/social worker who psychologically, physically, verbally and pseudo-sexually abused me). I simply did everything they didn’t and avoided doing what they did. Both my son and daughter have issues and family problems, but so far none of us have assaulted or killed anyone or anything, been in jail, or are heavily addicted to anything beyond coffee or social alcohol. Their mother is a registered nurse; she gets the credit.

        Yes, I thank God frequently …

      1. BoyDownTheLane

        Actually, I did. It was online once (no longer, but still available), and it was called “Summon The Magic: How To Use Your Mind to be a better athlete (or anything else you want to be”). It was 1,400 pages of excerpts from over 300 books from the cognitive sciences, sports and performance psychology, and related fields. An earlier version of its bibliography was preserved by someone here: https://spotidoc.com/doc/963474/summon-the-magic-bibliography-with-notes-the-achievement-

        If you want four books noted as starter points, try Eric Booth’s “The Everyday Work of Art”, Laurence Boldt’s “How To Do, Be or Have Anything”, Dr. Richard O’Keefe’s “On The Sweet Spot: Stalking The Effortless Present”, and — as of a few days ago — Eric Maisel’s “Ten Zen Seconds”.

        I did also attend two 30-hour post-graduate seminars in counseling psychology at Springfield College, and that material is incorporated.

        1. BoyDownTheLane

          Since posting, I noted that the “spotidoc” link now coughs up something that may have been corrupted, and so I advise not downloading….

          I sent an updated copy of the bibliography to Lambert.

  24. nippersdad

    I’m sorry if this as already been published here, but I was just following some Moon of Alabama links and came up with this: https://www.ukcolumn.org/article/integrity-initiative-look-deep-state The final paragraph reads in part:

    “Again, What is The Institute for Statecraft?

    ………..Everywhere we look we find links to what could be described as the “deep state”, including but not limited to (by a long way), The Institute of Modern Russia, 77th Brigade, the Information Warfare Initiative, Prop or Not and a host of other organizations which, rather than protecting us against disinformation, appear to be running covert disinformation operations via the corporate media and on social media.”

    Wow! Y’all have made some real enemies. Not that you didn’t already know it, but there could be no better reference for all of the good work you do.

  25. The Rev Kev

    “Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla’s Production Hell”

    Imagine if the Tesla production line was run by a professional with Musk restricted to being only the ideas guy. They might have gotten a decent car out of it. But we know that that was never going to happen. Maybe Musk could go on to invent an AI to replace himself – but without the emotional outbursts and the manic up and downs. That would make his investors happy.

    1. John k

      It is a decent car, most owners quite happy, it’s selling way more than all the lux brands. Who are copying tesla just as fast as the behemoths can manage. A manufactured item were exporting to China, even though nyt says we can’t make anything here. Made with union workers. And which China wants so bad they are letting them be the first company not requiring local control.
      Wish we had more companies like them.

    1. ambrit

      Sorry, but this more like travelling down in Dante’s Inferno. One must go all the way through to transcend. There is no going back.
      The needle threading was necessary because the word “fascism” has been stripped of ‘real’ meaning by partisan redefinitions that aim to use an emotionally charged term to advance factional agendas. That is why so many logic jokes end with a punch line of; “For some definition of….”
      What is most important about this analysis is what it shows us about what to expect in the near and mid future from the Trump phenomenon.
      What all too many commentators miss is that Trump is an object lesson in what happens when the Elites abrogate their responsibilities concerning the old social contract. If the Elites defeat Trump without addressing the underlying factors that gave him the win, then there will be another Trump. Could be better, could be worse.
      Hopefully, I’ll be dead by then. I’m too old to be going through “Interesting Times.”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Well, that was a lot of needle threading over definitions of fascism.

      Sorry you found the article challenging. I’ll try to focus more on sloganeering in future.

    1. RMO

      Read the comments on that piece, they’re mind boggling. Lots of rubbish about the sharing, the way that they can cleverly use accurate targeting to get the most effect from a post and THAT is how they were able to turn the election – in response to Nate talking about posts that came AFTER THE ELECTION!

      Awe-inspiring actually. Apparently Putin is a Timelord – maybe the Roger Delgado iteration of The Master.

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