2:00PM Water Cooler 12/26/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I’m going to be lazy today as well. I’ll return with a full Water Cooler tomorrow. For today, here’s some of the material that’s built up in my Xmas Folder. –lambert



ME-02: “Poliquin drops challenge to ranked-choice voting, clearing way for Golden to take seat in Congress” [Portland Press Herald]. “In his statement, Poliquin continued to term ranked-choice voting as ‘unconstitutional, and therefore illegal’ and said that in the statewide referendum, voters in his district of central and northern Maine rejected the election method. Poliquin did not formally concede the election in his statement, but said he had been honored to serve in Congress for the last four years and wished Golden ‘personally the best during the coming term.'” • Classy, as is dropping the news on the day before Christmas. More important than the office holder is that the challenge to RCV failed. That’s quite a Christmas gift!

Realignment and Legitimacy

Concrete material benefits:

The only political institutions doing this are DSA and the churches, apparently…

Xmas Cheer

Robert Mueller devotional candle:

One for the Brits:


A good obsession to have:

A musical interlude for Cassie’s three-year-old, though not especially Christmas-y:

Prophetic, though.

News of the Wired

This is a good thread (and not especially gendered when you go through it):

And the follow-up:

* “Context, of course.” Not “contest.” Dammit, @jack, where’s that edit button?

* * *

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 (PM):

“First rule: Don’t place the subject in the centre of the frame. Second rule: Don’t place the subject in the centre of the frame. Third rule: Don’t place the subject in the centre of the frame.” Heinrich Vandenberg, “Not the First or Second Rule,” Phototips: Composing Nature.

* * *

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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. Geo

    The deification of Mueller continues. It is a funny devotional candle though!

    Enjoyed the article comparing stocks to used cars. Reminds me of Wolf Richter’s (of wolfstreet.com) book “The Testisterone Pit”. If anyone is looking for a short, fascinating, funny, and insightful read, I highly recommend it. It’s like Glengary Glenross meets Wolf of Wall Street but set in the world of a local car dealership. My favorite line, “You’re selling the American dream: To have something they can’t afford.”

    I broke my longstanding boycott of Amazon to buy the book (its only available as an ebook) and it was worth it. Plan on rereading it again soon.

    1. Carey

      I really do hope that everyone who’s in need of a St. Mueller, and the hoped-for actions
      he represents, gets at least a nice candle.

      Hopey-changey v2018

      1. Skip Intro

        I’m holding out for the trinity version with Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as insubstantiated by Mueller, Beto, and Hillary

  2. Eric Patton

    I don’t think Ted Kennedy deserves as much credit as you’re giving him in your other article. Per the late Alexander Cockburn:

    After reelection, Nixon did promote a health plan in his 1974 State of the Union speech, with a call for universal access to health insurance. He followed up with his Comprehensive Health Insurance Act on February 6, 1974. Nixon said his plan would build on existing employer-sponsored insurance plans and would provide government subsidies to the self-employed and small businesses to ensure universal access to health insurance. Kennedy went through the motions of cooperation, but in the end the AFL-CIO, with a covert nudge from Kennedy, killed the bill because Nixon was vanishing under the Watergate scandal and the Democrats did not want to hand the President and the Republicans one of their signature issues. Now the Republicans scream “socialism” at exactly what Nixon proposed and Kennedy killed off 38 years ago, in 1971.

    1. polecat

      Take that term “signature issues” and reverse it to “issue signatures” .. and THAT’S exactly what the neolibracons have become .. signatures of no issue – except perhaps the only issue of imporance being the treasury secretary’s $ignature !

    2. John k

      I do remember this.
      Nixon is not just to the left of today’s reps, he’s to the left of the so called centrist dems… I would call them right wing corporate lackays that never saw a war they didn’t like.

      1. JBird4049

        Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of the German Empire made public healthcare a reality. I guess he was a communist.

        It’s been awhile since I have done any reading of the history of healthcare, but as I remember about every generation since about 1900, there have been serious proposals for some kind of national healthcare. Every twenty to thirty years. The proposed legislation is always popular and often it almost gets past then somebody sneaks a shiv into it.

        Obamacare is like at least the fifth time in over a century of serious attempts. Looks like we’re going to need at least a sixth attempt to actually do it right. What was Winston Churchill’s saying that Americans will always do the right thing but only after doing everything else?

        1. Carey

          Class, class, class, working always in the service of the very few.
          *That’s* why we can’t have nice things here in late-stage USA.

        2. Skip Intro

          Except of course, that Obamacare was an attempt to prolong the life of the privatized healthcare denial cartel, which was in an even fiercer death spiral than today. It was not really a ‘proposal for national healthcare’, but a barrier to such proposals…

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            the healthcare debate began about 2 years into my Cripplehood…so I had the time to dig into all of it, as well as the incentive(6 1/2 years to finally get a hip).
            I lobbied and agitated…even to the extent of a nasty argument in our weekly little paper’s letters section with the local repub women.
            ACA could have been a “stepping stone”, albeit a rather slippery, slime covered one….but that possibility was quickly removed by Blue Dogs.
            Still, the ban on preexisting conditions was and is still worth the effort to hold the line….that’s a huge deal in access(!) to healthcare.
            from the get-go, I wanted a canadian system.
            remove “market” altogether from the provision of health.
            it’s a story I still tell whenever healthcare comes up in my wanderings…feedstore, etc.
            when I was in between eighth and ninth grades, I went with my grandad to Toronto, as a board member for a job installing sound traps at the airport there.
            I had recently cut my thumb(juggling a machete, no less) and had stitches that it so happened needed to be removed while we were there.
            so grandad and I went into an ER…waited for a time for them to triage a few people from a car wreck, and then they removed the stitches.
            Grandad is running around with his wallet open like a small bird, trying to pay somebody…”no sir…it’s paid for”….which to him sounded like charity.
            They explained:” the high cost of gasoline, and a bunch of other things pay for this”–the implication, not condescending at all, was that this is civilised.
            putting the stitches in had taken most of a day in Tomball, Texas…and cost around $300.
            In Toronto, it took less than an hour and cost nothing at all.
            This little anecdote has great purchase in the minds of even the most right leaning people out here…in spite of all the mindf&ck and partisan blather about bootstraps and “skin in the game” and all the rest, they know that we’re doing it wrong.
            add in the more well off out here now regularly going to Mexico for dental work and other medical things, and single payer/MFA+ is an easy sell…even out here in rural Texas…so long as it’s worded correctly.
            bake sales do not make a viable system, it turns out.

  3. ChiGal in Carolina

    Also, S1804 preserves Medicaid as a separate program, though only to pay for LTC.

    HR676 includes LTC as a Medicare benefit.

    And Gillibrand I believe it is has suggested some unholy ammendments to S1804 basically involving a public option.

    Given that nonprofits behave increasingly like for-profits, possibly an equally important difference is that there will be global budgets in HR676.

    This should be a link to HOPE’s comparison of the two (from my phone, so if it goes nowhere you can find it on their website)


        1. ambrit

          That should be a St. Mueller vigil candle cover. Something appropriate for a saint dedicated to blocking the cleansing power of light.
          From “The Legend of Saint Mueller”:
          “And then the Priest of the Temple named Mueller didst procure screens with which to block out from the sight of the People those necessary sins taken upon themselves by the Priests to protect that same People from the Forces of Evil.” In later days, that Priest named Mueller was elected to the ranks of the anointed as the patron of all who cast shade and do other evils in the service of a Good Cause. His Saint Day is February 29. The prayer to Saint Mueller begins: “Redactio ad absurdum.” His sigil is ‘A Candle Under a Basket.’

        2. just_kate

          i appreciate this community so much… people i respect and love are simply out of their minds wrt mueller and whats coming that will expose trump once and for all!! and ps gwb is now such a nice old man, giving michelle obama candy – what a charmer!

          1. ambrit

            Don’t forget Hillary/Michelle 2020!
            The campaign will, I’m told on background by a knowledgeable source, spin out a line of P—y Pink ‘memorabilia.’ I don’t expect a pink vigil candle because of the likely association with a phallus. Not on the spin doctors agenda.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              over at mom’s(100+ yo stone house) while the giant scary looking squall line passed(anticlimactic, it turns out). stepdad, drunk on nasty box wine, switching between msnbc and “local”(Austin) news.
              i hear in passing trump saying that he has no plans to abandon Iraq(like he supposedly did to syria and the graveyard of empires).
              Mom:” well at least!”
              I’m well past trying to introduce a little perspective or remind of our long term, pre-trump ideals and convictions….so the following can be thought of as “just f^%king with them”:
              Me: “due to tariffs,us aluminium industry has apparently risen from the grave, creating thousands of jobs.”
              –“trump banned bump-stocks”
              –“”trump made noises about withdrawing from wto…and even nato….which is what we’ve been For for a long, long time(“we” being me, my mom and stepdad)”
              all of these and similar asides have the effect of casting suspicion on me as a secret trumper….which, sans TDS, would be patently ludicrous.
              I see this madness as the result of a combination of 1. organic old age dementia, which I have been monitoring for some time. and 2. trump as a second 9-11…a psychological shock that induces both planetary PTSD and a malleability of the individual psych…allowing a surreptitious and subtle re-writing of the base code.
              My bunch, to their credit, resisted the 9-11 re-writing…in no small part due to my influence…explaining history and cultural differences, and providing a different narrative framework than the historia officionale.
              it’s different this time around.
              last time, for all their shortcomings, the Dems were seen as an actual resistance to the forces of darkness…now, my folks cannot countenance that Team Blue are just as perfidious and craven as the goptea.
              of course, resisting the Mindf&ck is hard….so perhaps it’s just exhaustion…and having Msnbc on 24/7 prolly doesn’t help.

    1. Richard

      Can you elaborate a little on what a global budget is, either chigal or anyone who knows?
      Thanks for the handy comparison, Lambert! Whip smart to the point and well-evidenced as usual, on a subject of intense common interest. Now why can’t the msm do that? Oi.

  4. BoyDownTheLane

    These Portraits Were Made by AI: None of These People Exist *
    December 26th, 2018

    Via: PetaPixel:
    Check out these rather ordinary looking portraits. They’re all fake. Not in the sense that they were Photoshopped, but rather they were completely generated by artificial intelligence. That’s right: none of these people actually exist.
    NVIDIA researchers have published a new paper on easily customizing the style of realistic faces created by a generative adversarial network (GAN).

    Posted in Media, Rise of the Machines, Technology

    [BDTL: Instant patsies in a computerized Petri dish…]

  5. Grant

    Claire McCaskill, the amazing outgoing politician doesn’t really get why Ocasio-Cortez is a thing. You know, governing is really about “pragmatism” and compromise. She is certainly someone that should waive her finger at those seeking more structural changes. After all, people like her and those to her right have been running the show for decades in this country, and boy is it in great shape. Decades of stagnating wages, the costs of healthcare, housing and education far outpacing wage growth for a long time, massive inequality, a gigantic infrastructure gap, a pending environmental crisis, systematic corruption within the political system and within her own party, among countless other things. No big deal that people like McCaskill have absolutely no solutions and have made things much worse with what they actually favor. A huge surprise that someone like McCaskill, who profits off of the present system, doesn’t really get those that want to change the system. Oh, and check out the comments section in that article. Who is worse and more annoying, the Clinton types in the Democratic Party or the Trump types and the libertarian types that think the word “socialism” constitutes an argument?


      1. polecat

        I’ll bet, sure as there are carts to horses, that she has aquired some fine ‘investments’ as a result of her position as a senator. I’d be shocked .. Shocked I Say !! .. that she DIDN’T become more, uh, avariciously ‘comfortable’ due to holding office .. I mean, isn’t that a senator’s perogative?

    1. Carey

      I thought it was, too; excellent analysis! One thing that concerns me if, that I’ve heard
      correctly, is that Rep. Jayapal is currently rewriting (read weakening, I’m thinking) HR676, with no revised text currently available. Maybe someone else has more/better info on this.

      1. marym


        [From letter to Jayapal] “Some of your public statements recently have caused concern. In particular, statements about your desire to align the text with the Senate bill, S 1804, which is inferior to HR 676. Indeed, the Senate Bill is so deficient that many in the single payer movement cannot support it unless it is significantly revised.”

        This comparison [Link to PDF] between the House Bill and S.1804, whose lead sponsor is Sen. Bernie Sanders, describes some of the serious deficiencies of that bill. Many single payer advocates cannot support the Sanders bill because, for example, it leaves out people who require long-term care, protects the profits of investor-owned providers and has loopholes that allow the insurance industry to continue to participate, making it, in essence, a multi-payer bill. HOPE will also focus attention on Sanders and his co-sponsors to push for improvements to that bill, but the threats to the gold standard bill, HR 676, are more imminent.

        1. Joey

          There also needs to be a rollback on apportionment. My sister works reviewing bills to make sure anthem/united/Humana don’t accidentally pay for something state farm ‘is responsible for’. Just this year, my medical has inquired where I cut my foot and where my son broke his nose. Free at point of service will likely meet resistance from the ambulance-chase…. Er, trial lawyers.

  6. ambrit

    About that cactus picture.
    The three rules; “Don’t place the subject in the centre of the frame. A B & C,” can also be very appropriate for a related subject: ‘Resurrectips: Composting Nature.’

    1. Anon

      Umm, try right-clicking the image. Image Info indicates it’s a sunflower seed. (Slightly off-entered.)

      1. ambrit

        Hmmm….. Right click the image. What an illuminating concept. I guess my problem with right clicking in general is that I’m a leftist (small ‘l’.) No wonder pragmatism gets categorized as an ideology so often.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Yeah, just found out about her passing myself. Truly an extraordinary person and a great presenter.

  7. witters

    Antiques Roadshow always sees the remark “Well, religious items are not really in fashion these days.” Well, they would have been if Sister Beckett was an expert assessor.

  8. John

    So the stock market saw its highest daily gain in history…because of some good news about Christmas sales.

    Am I the only one that thinks that that is sheer insanity?

    Certainly doesn’t seem to me like we have a very stable foundation under our feet.

    1. ambrit

      I’ll bet the VIX is going ballistic. But, when I look closer, I find that the VIX opened at 35 and steadily declined to close around 30. This is the range seen from 1997 to 2002 and then from mid 2007 to mid 2008. Hmmm. What happened then?
      I remember listening to my Dad and Uncle Gerry talking about something they called a whipsaw effect in the markets. Wild extremes in trading supposedly presaged a market break. The more extreme the swing, the more dangerous the market was. Both, I believe, would get out of the market in times like that and wait to pick up some of the pieces after the break.
      The cynic in me would remark that there seems to be too much money chasing too little yield right now. The optimal strategy, absent some miraculous spike in productivity or retail demand would be to shrink the money supply. I foresee a new Economics course: Destructive Destruction: 101.

      1. John

        I think this has been the problem for almost three decades. In the 90’s and 00’s we saw a credit glut, huge asset bubbles, and huge growth of money stocks all around the globe. In other words, even with China and India industrializing and urbanizing like crazy, there stillweren’t enough profitable destinations for capital in the real economy, so investors had plow their capital into assets (stocks, real estate, etc.).

        What happens when there is far too much capital sloshing around the system and not nearly enough places to invest it? What’s the solution?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Am I the only one that thinks that that is sheer insanity?

      And/or the Plunge Protection Team. Daily Mail:

      Dow surges ONE THOUSAND points in the biggest single-day gain in US history on the first day of trading after the markets took the biggest Christmas Eve plunge ever

      Wheeeeee! And:

      Though oddly only in the video, not the text of the article.

      UPDATE Ugh, Reuters on December 24:

      The Treasury said Mnuchin will convene a call on Monday with the president’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which includes Washington’s main stewards of the U.S. financial system and is sometimes referred to as the “Plunge Protection Team.”

      The group, which was also convened in 2009 during the latter stage of the financial crisis, includes officials from the Federal Reserve as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

      Curious timing.

  9. polecat

    New moves coming out in the knew ear :

    ‘I’m Curious 1s and 0s’
    ‘Hot credit Cakes’

    ‘Behind the Green Moar’

    ‘The Devil’$ in mrs. Clinton’$ “Bones”

    Lastly, there’s .. ‘Nancy does Ballast .. Badly !’

    …. and for you SiFi fans .. ‘Beto, the MAN with the X-RAY LIES’

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