2:00PM Water Cooler 11/12/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, thank you very much for your comments yesterday, many very funny, when, on Veterans Day, I mistakenly posted a Water Cooler template instead of an actual Water Cooler. I had thought I pushed not only the title, but the scheduled posting date, up one day. Oopsie! –lambert


“A 14.1% decline in loaded container imports into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in October is the starkest sign yet of the roller-coaster ride underway at shipping docks, as a rush to import goods ahead of new tariffs gives way to a pre-holiday slowdown while retailers burn off stockpiled inventories. The figures from Southern California were among the first on shipping volumes following a new round of U.S. tariffs on China-made goods in September that brought consumer products into the trade battle” [Wall Street Journal]. “Trade data group Panjiva estimates overall seaborne imports into the U.S. fell 8.9% in October, and that consumer products from China took the biggest hit. Experts expect volumes to pick up again this month before diving again, although talks toward a possible interim U.S.-China trade agreement may change shipping decisions.”


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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:

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Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart. Here is (are) the latest Dem Primary Polling as of 11/11/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

The Biden juggernaut rolls on, but Sanders pulls ahead of Warren. Here, the latest national results, as of 11/12/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

Quinnipiac has released a new NH poll. As of 11/12/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

The results, as of 11/12/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

Sure enough, Gabbard got a pop after Clinton smeared her. Looks like Clinton is the Russian asset!

I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”

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Biden (D)(1): “What is going on in New Hampshire?” [Jennifer Rubin, WaPo]. “the latest Quinnipiac poll tells us two things. First, the race is very fluid and most voters are undecided. Second, former vice president Joe Biden’s political death may have been exaggerated — or entirely premature…. The poll is also instructive in figuring out the candidates’ base of support. Biden, we know, has been leading in electability and among older voters. That is still the case, where he draws 31 percent in both categories. However, he has expanded his support from moderate/conservative voters and now is in a four-way tie among self-described ‘somewhat liberal’ voters. Interestingly, Buttigieg is in a statistical tie with Warren on electability and is in first place when it comes to being a good leader. In other words, voters are not simply changing ‘favorites’; they are reevaluating what they think about the candidates’ strengths.”

Bloomberg (D)(1): “Why Bloomberg won’t be the Democratic nominee” [WaPo]. “If Bloomberg were to succeed in becoming the nominee, he possibly would have done so over the objections of African American voters. Come November 2020, those voters could do what they have consistently done when they feel ignored or taken advantage of: They could stay home. Thus, the candidate who jumped into the race because he was not satisfied that the current crop of candidates could beat Trump could be the candidate who gets him reelected.”

UPDATE Bloomberg (D)(2): “Excitement over Bloomberg’s trial balloon should concern Democrats” [The Hill]. • That’s the headline. The body provides no evidence of “excitement” whatever. Who’s excited?

Warren (D)(1): “Bonderman Backs Warren Over Trump Despite Private Equity Attacks” [Bloomberg]. “David Bonderman, the billionaire co-founder of TPG Capital, said the existing slate of candidates would do better than Donald Trump, and said he would pick the Massachusetts senator over the president… While Bonderman, 76, said Warren is smart, he doesn’t think she’d be able to push through many of her proposals. The problem with the candidate, he says, is ‘she can’t count.’ ‘I believe in capitalism,’ said Bonderman, who has a net worth of $4.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. ‘Like with everything else, it gets overwhelmed. The tax policies are all wrong. The social policies are all wrong. It’s hard to do something about it.'” • Slaves of some defunct economist….

UPDATE Sanders (D)(1): “The country’s largest nurses’ union will back Bernie Sanders in 2020” [Axios]. “National Nurses United, the country’s biggest nurses’ union, will endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential race this week, the New York Times reports. It’s significant that the group chose to back Sanders and his ‘Medicare for All’ plan despite the fact that he’s facing a progressive challenger in Elizabeth Warren on the issue.”

UPDATE Warren (D)(2): “Elizabeth Warren’s Head Tax Is Indefensible” [Matt Bruenig, Jacobin]. “As I noted…, Warren’s head tax is very regressive and far inferior to the usual income- and payroll-tax proposals. More recently, the Tax Policy Center’s Howard Gleckman and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Jared Bernstein have made the exact same point. As part of the response to this undeniable point, it appears that Warren’s team, e.g., Simon Johnson, has been pushing out arguments that conflate Warren’s temporary maintenance-of-effort (MOE) payment with the permanent head tax that she transitions into. This conflation has been at the root of similar arguments made by Mike Konczal and Jordan Weissman, among others.” • Read for the detail, but I don’t like this shape-shifting.

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“Which Democratic Candidates Are National Security Employees Opening Their Wallets for?” [Foreign Policy]. • The article aggregrates the troops with the State Department and the TLAs, which is demented. Sanders leads in military contributions. Buttigieg leads with State, DOJ, and DHS (though Sanders is close).

“Democrats on edge as Iowa points to chaotic race” [The Hill]. “More than half of likely caucusgoers in Iowa haven’t made a final decision on who to support. All of the top-tier candidates have reason to believe they could be the one to win the Iowa caucuses and get the subsequent jolt of momentum that could carry them to the nomination…. ‘Historically, when two or more people are vying for the nomination, the leader will change in the final weeks before the caucuses,’ said Des Moines Register pollster Ann Selzer, whose surveys and methods are viewed as the gold standard in the Hawkeye State.”


“Do Trump impeachment hearings need boffo ratings, ‘must-see TV’ buzz to succeed?” [Will Bunch, Inquirer]. • Skipping the analysis of this inquiry, this rings very true to me:

I grew up a child of Watergate — dashing home from summer camp at age 14 to watch the drama of 1973′s whistleblower, John Dean, and the homespun wisdom of Senate committee chair Sam Ervin of North Carolina — and it’s only in hindsight that one really understands that the scandal by which all scandals are judged may also have been a once-in-a-lifetime catch of lightning in a bottle.

The case against Richard Nixon and his men around campaign dirty tricks and an elaborate cover-up of lies and hush money was a damning one, but Nixon’s foes also lucked out in the riveting way the story unfolded, drip by drip, over two years of what Slate nailed by dubbing it ‘a slow burn.’ [Unlike Mueller, a damp squib.] The top writers in the room at today’s TV hits like Succession or Watchmen would struggle to invent the plot twists that marked each season of Watergate. And it played out in the last decade before cable, where there was nothing else on TV, and when millions of the viewers were still persuadable.

That Watergate America where the news was pounded out on typewriters and broadcast over rabbit- era antennas is a hazy memory. … Whatever facts are uttered Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill will be remixed and recast on Twitter, Facebook, Fox News and MSNBC to become the legend of our warring political tribes by the time we go to bed Wednesday night.

It pains me to write that.

This current enquiry, at least insofar as the cases made and the principal players if not the stakes, strikes me as fundamentally frivolous. There is no Sam Ervin, nor Howard Baker, either.

“Scoop: GOP outlines theory of impeachment defense in memo to members” [Axios]. “Republicans on the three House committees conducting the Trump-Ukraine investigation have settled on ‘four key pieces of evidence’ that they claim will undermine Democrats’ arguments for why the president should be impeached, according to a staff memo circulated to committee members Monday night.” • They are:

The July 25 call summary — the best evidence of the conversation — shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure;

President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call;

The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call; and

President Trump met with President Zelensky and U.S. security assistance flowed to Ukraine in September 2019 — both of which occurred without Ukraine investigating President Trump’s political rivals.”

Read the full article for the Democrat responses. Here is a link to the full memo. Beneath all the detail, this passage stands out for me:

Democrats want to impeach President Trump because unelected and anonymous bureaucrats disagreed with the President’s decisions and were discomforted by his telephone conversation with President Zelensky. The Democrat impeachment narrative flips our system of government on its head. The federal bureaucracy works for the President. The President works for the American people. And President Trump is doing what Americans elected him to do.

On its face, this is just wrong. Federal civil servants take an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to the President in its own person. (As opposed to political appointee, who in addition serve at the pleasure of the President). There’s a name for that idea, and its not pretty. Nevertheless, this gives the right perspective on the power struggle. RussiaGate was, and UkraineGate is, a struggle over policy. Liberal Democrats seem to have this odd, West Wing-style fantasy view that the national security and intelligence communities are autonomous, professionalized services performed autonomously, and that it is the President’s duty to defer to them, and not the other way round. Needless to say, this is hardly what the Framers had in mind when they wrote of “energy in the executive.” We might also remind ourselves that “The Blob” is responsible for at twenty years of grotesque policy debacles for which they have never been called to account. Making sure that never happens is, too, part of the power struggle.

The Debates

UPDATE Can’t wait:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How Voters Turned Virginia From Deep Red to Solid Blue” [New York Times]. “Once the heart of the confederacy, Virginia is now the land of Indian grocery stores, Korean churches and Diwali festivals. The state population has boomed — up by 38 percent since 1990, with the biggest growth in densely settled suburban areas like South Riding. One in 10 people eligible to vote in the state were born outside the United States, up from one in 28 in 1990. It is also significantly less white…. It’s not just Virginia. From Atlanta to Houston, this pattern is repeating itself — a new kind of suburbanization that is sweeping through politics. The densely populated inner ring suburbs are turning blue, while the mostly white exurban outer ring is redder than ever. Elections are won and lost along that suburban line, and in some places — like Atlanta, Denver, and Riverside County, Calif. — Democrats have begun to breach Republicans’ firewalls…. As Virginia’s population has grown it has also gotten wealthier. Households earning at least $150,000 have grown at three times the rate of the population over all.” • Holy cow! The Times buried the class lead under a mountain of self-congratulatory idpol blather!

UPDATE “How to Not Waste the Next Crisis” [The Nation]. “All we know is that a downturn is a “when,” not “if,” scenario. Whoever is in power when that day finally comes will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to seize the moment and transform the US economy… As we continue to obsess over stock prices and prognosticate the end of days (no one wants to be the sucker who didn’t call it), it’s crucial to plan how not to squander the next crisis.” • I feel — and this is no more than a feeling, I can’t justify it — that the next crisis will be the real economy driving the financial economy, and not the other way round. FWIW! Perhaps some enormous infrastructural failure.

UPDATE “Capitalism and socialism are just words” [The Week]. “Allow me to sketch what is, I think, something close to my own ideal economy: The private sector is made up of many small-to-medium sized firms, all run and owned by the workers who labor within them. Wages are determined through sectoral bargaining. If stocks still exist at all, they confer no voting rights, and are simply an alternative means of raising finance. Financial markets are modest and straightforward affairs geared solely toward facilitating real investment. Wall Street and the big banks are no more, and loans for private business are created through a national network of public banks and credit unions. Major conglomerates, corporate monopolies, and big tech platforms have all been smashed by antitrust law, nationalized, or tamed as tightly regulated public utilities.” • Doable? Doable, given hysteresis?

UPDATE Can anybody who follows the right decode this? Thread:

Looks to me like the moral of the story is never assume the right can’t adapt. In fact, they’re very good at it!

Stats Watch

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, October 2019: “The small business optimism index showed modest but wide improvement in October” [Econoday]. “Eight of the index’s 10 components improved in October led by plans to increase inventories and including increased plans to make capital outlays. Earnings trends, however, fell sharply and current job openings edged lower.”

Big Ag: “Financial strains are spreading through U.S. Farm Belt supply chains. More growers are taking on high-interest loans outside traditional banks to stay in business… as farmers struggle through a relentless agricultural downturn” [Wall Street Journal]. “… One expert calls it ‘shadow financing for ag,’ the latest result of stresses that are showing up across businesses that touch farming. Agriculture equipment supplier Deere & Co. has been spending billions of dollars to buy its own products to lease the farming tractors and construction equipment to users.”

Retail: “Dealers Say Chrysler Prodded Them to Absorb Glut of 40,000 Unordered Cars” [Industry Week]. “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has been manufacturing more cars and trucks than its U.S. dealers are willing to accept, at one point creating a nationwide glut of about 40,000 unordered vehicles and stoking tension with some of its retailers. Four dealers, two of whom spoke on the condition they not be named, said Fiat Chrysler has revived what’s known in industry circles as a ‘sales bank.’ The practice is decades old and frowned upon by investors and analysts because it can obscure an automaker’s inventory figures. Dealers don’t like it because it can amp up the pressure companies place on them to stock vehicles they don’t want.”

Retail: “The rapid growth of sales by Chinese suppliers on Amazon.com Inc.’s marketplace is raising concerns about the safety and labeling of products that effectively sidestep oversight by going direct to consumers” [Wall Street Journal]. “[T]housands of items that compete with American independent sellers by squeezing down prices and seeming to cut corners on materials and U.S. rules meant to protect consumers. Consumers and businesses with safety and intellectual-property grievances have found it hard to hold Chinese sellers accountable—in part because Amazon doesn’t require its sellers to provide their locations to the public on its U.S. site.”

Tech: “Researchers used a laser to hack Alexa and other voice assistants” [CNN (RH)]. “Usually you have to talk to voice assistants to get them to do what you want. But a group of researchers determined they can also command them by shining a laser at smart speakers and other gadgets that house virtual helpers such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan’s University of Electro-Communications figured out they could do this silently and from hundreds of feet away, as long as they had a line of sight to the smart gadget. The finding could enable anyone (with motivation and a few hundred dollars’ worth of electronics) to attack a smart speaker from outside your house, making it do anything from playing music to opening a smart garage door to buying you stuff on Amazon.” • It’s really time to stop thinking that “high tech” programmers are any good at all. Why on earth would you want a Trojan Horse in your house? Don’t you value your rugs?

Tech: “This Wearable Gets in Your Head” [Industry Week]. “Nūrio is the world’s smallest wearable EEG device that simply slips over the ear like a headphone and provides users with app- and cloud-based command capabilities to control any IoT-enabled device integrated on the nūrio cloud using brain waves rather than voice commands…. h the nūrio device users can add compatible IoT devices to their profile. And after recording approximately one minute of thoughts based on that object, nūrio’s AI algorithms can process their future waves into actionable commands.” • As long as there’s no feedback from the horridly programmed IoT devices, I guess: “As the wearables industry continues to proliferate, nūrio believes opportunity lies in looking at data from new angles to reveal insights into what’s going on in various parts of our bodies and optimizing our health in completely new ways. The nūrio app instantly processes collected data to provide health insights as well as practical control features. ‘EEG also allows users to pull more health and mental activity insights in addition to controlling items by thoughts – aspects like attention, calmness and emotions,’ says [nūrio founder and CEO Ian Rowan]. ‘There is already a lot of science behind this using neuroscience to show people what is going on in their mental activity.'” • Ah, so this is the real selling point: Screwing workers on their health insurance. Next up, the phrenological hard hat!

Concentration: “How the tech duopoly killed the headphone jack” [The Week]. “[T]here isn’t so much competition between individual products — between this phone or that, or these headphones or another — as much as between ecosystems: Apple’s, Google’s, and perhaps Amazon’s and Microsoft’s — though the latter two don’t really have their own as much as piggyback on the other two. That isn’t really competition; instead, it’s a scenario in which the ecosystem owners either swallow or overshadow those who oppose them. And that is how we end up with a world in which a universal standard — the good old headphone jack — disappeared and we are instead left with a series of wireless earbuds from Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft, and more that are each less effective when paired with ‘opposing’ ecosystems. Ideally, the tech world would agree to some sort of standard, but given their both short- and long-term incentives to create their own internal and inaccessible protocols, that goal is likely a long way off, if it ever comes at all.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 88 Extreme Greed (previous close: 89, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 89 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 11 at 12:08pm.

Rapture Index: Closes down 1 on Date Settings. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 183. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I wonder when, in 2020, the index will start flirting with 190 again. So far, the latest impeachment push hasn’t affected the Index. Everything else on this index I can fit into a framework. “Date settting” is when you pick a date for the Rapture. The Bible frowns on this (Mat 25:13) but apparently people are doing it anyhow.

The Biosphere

“Bringing the world’s buried wetlands back from the dead” [Associated Press]. “These are not the kind of phantoms that scare or haunt — they are ghost ponds. Over the years, landowners buried them, filling in wetlands so they had more land for planting crops and other needs, or let ponds fade away with neglect…. In the wetlands of eastern England, a motley team of farmers, university researchers and conservationists is digging into the region’s barley and wheat fields to turn back the clock. They seek out patches of muddy earth that hint at lost ponds lurking beneath… Using chain saws, an excavator and plenty of sweat, the team takes just a few hours to resurrect one dying pond near Hindolveston, a thousand-year-old village not far from the North Sea. They fell trees and shrubs, then start digging until reaching their goal: an ancient pond bottom that once supported insects, aquatic plants and the birds and animals that fed on them…. ‘As soon as they get water and light, they just spring to life,’ says Nick Anema, a farmer in nearby Dereham who has restored seven ponds on his property. ‘You’ve got frogs and toads and newts, all the insects like mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies. … You can’t really beat a pond.'”

“The Toxic Bubble of Technical Debt Threatening America” [The Atlantic]. “A kind of toxic debt is embedded in much of the infrastructure that America built during the 20th century. For decades, corporate executives, as well as city, county, state, and federal officials, not to mention voters, have decided against doing the routine maintenance and deeper upgrades to ensure that electrical systems, roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure can function properly under a range of conditions. Kicking the can down the road like this is often seen as the profit-maximizing or politically expedient option. But it’s really borrowing against the future, without putting that debt on the books… Almost everywhere you look in the built environment, toxic technical-debt bubbles are growing and growing and growing. This is true of privately maintained systems such as PG&E’s and publicly maintained systems such as that of Chicago’s Department of Water Management. It’s extremely true of roads: Soon, perhaps 50 percent of Bay Area roads will be in some state of disrepair, not to mention the deeper work that must occur to secure the roadbeds, not just the asphalt on top. Then there are the sewers and the wastewater plants. Stormwater drains. Levees. And just regular old drinking water.”

“At least 1,680 dams across the US pose potential risk” [Associated Press]. “A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and Puerto Rico. The actual number is almost certainly higher: Some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, claiming exemptions to public record requests. Others simply haven’t rated all their dams due to lack of funding, staffing or authority to do so…. [U]nlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.”


“Are We Flushing Our Resistance to Antibiotics Down the Drain?” [Nautilus]. “Another potent source of resistance-laden wastewater may be hospital sewage. Across the world, antibiotic use is likely to be higher in hospitals. Half of patients in U.S. hospitals and a third in European hospitals take antibiotics. You can think of the hospital sewage system “as a pipe where an entire bacterial ecosystem is growing on the walls,” says [Willem van Schaik, a specialist in microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom]. ‘These ecosystems will be optimized to grow in the conditions of the sewage that’s flowing through those systems. Because levels of antibiotics will be high—almost higher than anywhere else—those bacteria will have adapted to life in the presence of high levels of antibiotics.””

Our Famously Free Press

Big controversy in the student newspaper world:

“Addressing The Daily’s coverage of Sessions protests” [The Daily Northwestern]. “While our goal is to document history and spread information, nothing is more important than ensuring that our fellow students feel safe — and in situations like this, that they are benefitting from our coverage rather than being actively harmed by it.” • Oh? The students at the Medill School of Journalism who publish The Daily Northwestern have an odd idea of what journalism means. (Here is a Tweet storm from the Editor which, while gracefully phrased and seemingly conciliatory, does not seem to me to address the central issue.

“Harvard Student Groups Condemn The Crimson’s Coverage of Abolish ICE Rally” [The Crimson]. “The petition — started by student-led immigration advocacy group Act on a Dream earlier this month — criticizes The Crimson for requesting comment from an ICE spokesperson for its Sept. 13 article, “Harvard Affiliates Rally for Abolish ICE Movement.’ The article covers a Sept. 12 protest hosted by Act on a Dream and quotes several students’ criticisms of ICE, including calls for its dissolution. The article notes that ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ‘In this political climate, a request for comment is virtually the same as tipping [ICE] off, regardless of how they are contacted,’ the petition reads.” • As I understant it, the Crimson, unlike the Daily, did not cave.

“Graduates of Elite Schools Dominate America’s Most Prominent Newspapers, New Study Finds” [The Intercept]. “The researchers found that both the Times and the Journal are overwhelmingly dominated by graduates of America’s elite schools. Around 44 percent of Times employees attended elite schools, as did nearly 50 percent of Journal employees, the study found. Among staff writers (as opposed to the broader pool, which included editors, contributors, and others whose job titles did not fall cleanly into another major category), elite school overrepresentation was still higher, with almost 52 percent of writers at the Times and 54 percent of writers at the Journal attending elite schools.” • So, it’s going to be interesting to see what journalism turns into when all these Medill and (perhaps) Harvard graduates start turning journalism into a safe space.

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“The good internet is history” [The Week]. “Culturally, the blog era and its better-capitalized afterlives didn’t represent a utopian project, but it did represent a responsive one. As these blogs leveled unabashed criticism at the powerful, they also remained open to criticism themselves, nimble, ready to change with the discourse they helped create. They held the little power they had well — lifting up new voices, giving writers editorial responsibilities, letting people say what they wanted to say and listening…. From over here, it’s clear, in the wake of all the bad vibes, that what these sites represented, what they tried to mainstream — or at least fund — is done. Experiment after experiment has failed, not because these writers couldn’t produce extraordinary writing, but because the people in a position to value it consistently failed to know how to value it, and because those same people often failed to see those writers — who used to write for free! — as deserving of workers’ rights and protections. The question now is not whether a new angel investor will provide a life raft for everybody floating out there who hasn’t been scooped up by Vox or The New Yorker or whether The Ringer’s unionization will yield positive results.” • And yet Yves keeps NC rolling along… I think a lot of the angst about the death of the blogosphere is a result of the fact that search is so bad you can’t find anything. I am constantly stumbling across great blogs nobody knows about.

“It Is Shameful That ABC News and CBS News Are Punishing the Epstein Leaker” [New York Magazine]. “News organizations should not hunt down leakers in their ranks, not when it’s a matter of valid public interest — specifically, how the press reported on a serial abuser — even if the ultimate beneficiary is an ethics-free garbage fire like James O’Keefe’s right-wing muckraking outfit, Project Veritas.”

Health Care

“What if the Road to Single-Payer Led Through the States?” [New York Times]. “Ro Khanna, a Democratic representative, will introduce legislation Friday that lets states bundle all their health care spending — including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act dollars and more — to fund a state-level single-payer system. The policy could create something akin to Medicaid for all. It would be 50 separate programs, jointly funded by the state and the federal government, with local officials making decisions about whom to cover, how much to pay doctors, and what benefits to cover. What he envisions is similar to Canada’s progression toward universal coverage. It began with a single province, Saskatchewan, which started hospital insurance in 1947. Other provinces followed, and within two decades, the entire country had government-provided health coverage.” • If the states handle #MedicareForAll, funding would be cut in the first downturn. That’s why the currency issuer, the Federal Government should handle it. Also, I’m not sure that the Canadian path is the right one. First, two decades is a long time. Second, I doubt that people were as desperate, or the system as monstrous, in Canada 2019 – 1947 = 72 years ago.


“Cory Doctorow: Jeannette Ng Was Right: John W. Campbell Was a Fascist” [Locus]. “Science fiction (like many other institutions) is having a reckoning with its past and its present. We’re trying to figure out what to do about the long reach that the terrible ideas of flawed people (mostly men) had on our fields. We’re trying to reconcile the legacies of flawed people whose good deeds and good art live alongside their cruel, damaging treatment of women. These men were not aberrations: they were following an example set from the very top and running through the industry and through fandom, to the great detriment of many of the people who came to science fiction for safety and sanctuary and community. It’s not a coincidence that one of the first organized manifestations of white nationalism as a cultural phenomenon within fandom was in the form of a hijacking of the Hugo nominations process. While fandom came together to firmly repudiate its white nationalist wing, those people weren’t (all) entry­ists who showed up to stir up trouble in someone else’s community. The call (to hijack the Hugo Award) was coming from inside the house: these guys had been around forever, and we’d let them get away with it, in the name of “tolerance” even as these guys were chasing women, queer people, and racialized people out of the field. Those same Nazis went on to join Gamergate, then became prominent voices on Reddit’s /r/The_Donald, which was the vanguard of white national­ist, authoritarian support for the Trump campaign.”


“Mass Shootings and the Misguided and Pernicious Push for ‘Gun Control'” [Black Agenda Report]. “Liberal calls for ‘gun control’ as a panacea conveniently circumvent the deep roots these atrocities have in our history and society. Furthermore, the reformist, institutional solutions advocated by these liberals, committed to the capitalist and imperialist systems which motivate mass shootings, will inevitably have racist and oppressive consequences. ‘Gun control’ entails giving the state a monopoly on weapons, whose foot soldiers (the police) are armed, racist, and militarized. Additionally, it invites the state to further regulate the people psychologically, inferably ushering in an Orwellian surveillance program in the form of ‘background checks’ based on the false belief that an individual’s mental health, and not a macro social illness, is to blame for mass shootings. Additionally, it doesn’t take a psychic medium to predict who will be the primary target of this desired crackdown on guns: black and brown Americans, the threatened populations who need the weapons most. These groups will surely be the most persecuted given general racial disparities in policing and imprisonment; ‘gun control’ will expand the racist carceral state which liberals played a critical role in building in the first place .”

UPDATE “Supreme Court refuses to block lawsuit against gun manufacturer brought by Sandy Hook families” [USA Today]. “The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to shield a major arms manufacturer from potential liability in the 2012 school shooting that left 26 students and educators dead in Newtown, Conn. The justices’ action allows a lawsuit filed by parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School victims to move forward at the state level, on the allegation that Remington Arms Co. marketed the military-style rifle used in the mass shooting ‘for use in assaults against human beings.’ The case tests the reach of a 2005 law passed by Congress to protect firearms manufacturers from being held liable for crimes committed by gun purchasers. That law was hailed by the National Rifle Association, but it included exceptions, including one for violating rules related to marketing and advertising.

Class Warfare

“Instacart Customers and Workers Are Revolting Against the App” [Vice]. “Motherboard alone received nearly 50 messages from Instacart workers across the country voicing outrage about recent pay cuts. Many of them have the overall sense that what was a good paying gig just two years ago has devolved into a subsistence wage job as the company has tinkered with the algorithm that determines pay and flooded markets with new workers, driving down wages…. Longtime Instacart delivery workers, in particular—who have built relationships with clients and know their preferences—rely on the “quality bonus,” which comes with a five star rating. “I used to like working for them and I really enjoyed helping customers who were disabled or unable to get out to the store,” another worker wrote to Motherboard. “I have over 39 five star ratings and prided myself on my customer service. But no more! This is just so wrong on many levels.'” • Another Silicon Valley “disruptive,” “innovative” company whose business model is screwing its workers.

“Is Inequality Inevitable?” [Scientific American]. “In 1986 social scientist John Angle first described the movement and distribution of wealth as arising from pairwise transactions among a collection of “economic agents,” which could be individuals, households, companies, funds or other entities. By the turn of the century physicists Slava Ispolatov, Pavel L. Krapivsky and Sidney Redner, then all working together at Boston University, as well as Adrian Drgulescu, now at Constellation Energy Group, and Victor Yakovenko of the University of Maryland, had demonstrated that these agent-based models could be analyzed with the tools of statistical physics, leading to rapid advances in our understanding of their behavior. As it turns out, many such models find wealth moving inexorably from one agent to another—even if they are based on fair exchanges between equal actors.” • [!!]

“She feeds Bel-Air’s mega-mansion boom. But lunch is a battlefield” [Los Angeles Times]. “On any given weekday, 12 to 15 food trucks patrol the streets of Bel-Air alone, serving hundreds of men who may labor on the same site for months, even years…. [Jennifer Ramirez] hopped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, waiting for a cement mixer to pass before inching out onto the narrow strip of Bel Air Road. But before she could merge, another driver swerved ahead of her, arching out of his seat to scream invective from the window of his black Rolls-Royce. ‘He’s like, ‘I’m the owner, I’m in charge, and I don’t want you here,’ Ramirez said, still visibly shaken when she reached her next stop. Two months before, the same man had taken two bottles of water from her and refused to pay. ‘He said, ‘I’m the owner of the house,’ so I gave them to him for free.’ For those who labor in the shadow of fortune, this is what a living costs.” • Welcome to the third world.

News of the Wired

“Gender reveal stunt led to plane crash in Texas” [CNN]. “The pilot dumped 350 gallons of pink water from the plane, but the plane was ‘too low’ and immediately stalled.” • I don’t undertstand why gender reveals, are a thing, and I don’t understand why gender reveal disasters (here; here) are a thing.

“The Dark Side of K-Pop: Assault, Prostitution, Suicide, and Spycams” [Bloomberg]. “K-pop depends on a highly controlled relationship with fans. The idol, the genre’s base unit of stardom, is gestated from adolescence through years of grueling training. When he’s ready to meet his public, his labels place him in a group, flowing his image and voice into the music, video, and social media streams of fans across East Asia. The ideal idol has a moral record as unblemished as his pores, eschewing drugs, gambling, and public misbehavior of any kind. While female groups employ the usual male-gaze clichés—the flirty schoolgirl, the doe-eyed ingénue—the frank sexuality of a Rihanna or a Lady Gaga would be unthinkable. And even though many, many K-pop songs are about relationships and breakups, labels often discourage dating. What the music loses in edge, it more than gains in marketability.”

“Falsehoods CS Students (Still) Believe Upon Graduating” [Signs of Triviality]. “37. They understand team work based on their senior design project.”

“A natural biomolecule has been measured acting like a quantum wave for the first time” [Technology Review]. “In 1999, they demonstrated the wave-particle duality of fullerene molecules. And other groups have since done the same with even larger molecules. And that raises the interesting question of how big they can go. Could they, for example, measure the quantum properties of the molecules of life itself? Today, they get an answer thanks to the work of Armin Shayeghi at the University of Vienna and a few colleagues, who for the first time, have demonstrated quantum interference in molecules of gramicidin, a natural antibiotic made up of 15 amino acids. Their work paves the way for the study of the quantum properties of biomolecules and sets the scene for experiments that exploit the quantum nature of enzymes, DNA, and perhaps one day simple life forms such as viruses.” • Or larger?

* * *

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 and coral 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 (ChiGal):

ChiGal writes: “This summer in Chicago: trees in Washington Park at sunset.” (Obama’s Presidential “Center” is to be in Jackson Park, not in in Washington Park.) That is what the sunlight shining through the trees at sunset feels like!

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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. Grant

    LOL! People think that mayor Pete is “electable”. My god are Democratic primary voters utterly lost. Trump right now has more support from black people than he does, and he would get utterly destroyed in a general election for a number of reasons. It seems that there is a ton of crossover from those watching CNN and MSNBC and those being polled. What a disaster the Democratic Party is.

    1. Geo

      It will never cease to amaze me how effective marketing/messaging is on people. He’s like a test-tube candidate compiled of residue from the Kennedys, Obama, and Dukakis. But, definitely a degenerative copy of those politicians. Like a fourth generation Xerox. This elections Kerry/Romney blob creation that appeals to those who want someone “presidential” without having to burden themselves with knowing anything about the candidates. Would be nice to live a life where candidate choice could be so simple and have so little relevance to impact on our lives that our biggest concern is about the candidate’s visage.

      1. Grant

        Well, the left broadly speaking has to operate in a party that is entirely hostile to the left and filled with people that are all over the place ideologically, with no policy coherence. The party itself is thoroughly corrupt, internally undemocratic and it is in fact a minority party. Only a quarter to a third of the country identifies as Democrats these days. What a system we have here.

        Many working people don’t have the time to pay tons of attention to politics, but many of them seem far more glued into objective reality and policy than the people that do in fact have the time to know a decent amount about issues, these candidates, and people generally with more formal education. Given our societal problems, the fact that there are a decent amount of people that thinks it makes sense to have him or Biden go against Trump is mind blowing. If I wanted the US to utterly collapse onto itself, I would push for Trump to be on one ticket, and for him or Biden to be on the other. I don’t trust the polls tons, for reasons often discussed here, but they capture at least a segment of the public and that segment of the public seems adrift. Seeing this ridiculous candidate as the corrupt fraud that he is should be about as difficult as figuring out if water is wet.

        1. geo

          “Many working people don’t have the time to pay tons of attention to politics, but many of them seem far more glued into objective reality and policy than the people that do in fact have the time to know a decent amount about issues”

          Very good point. It does seem the ones who should know the most tend to be the most insulated from “needing to know” and are more about the horserace spectacle and keeping up appearances instead of actual policy and the needs of the people as a whole. As is often quoted here, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

          Similarly, those who don’t have much time but have a paycheck that depends on it have a gut feeling they’re being conned. Maybe not a deep understanding of who/how/why but definitely that they are.

        2. HotFlash

          Many working people don’t have the time to pay tons of attention to politics

          And one breadwinner per family was the norm in my youth (half a century ago), providing not only a nice house, vacations, even a cottage or a boat? Not anymore. We women thought we were getting ahead back then, ‘equal pay for equal work’, but what really happened is that women’s wages were stolen, men’s wages were suppressed so that it now took two (or more) adult workers to make one household’s ends meet.

          And the lack of information that you reference, hey, icing on the cake!

        3. JTMcPhee

          What was the polling question this time? “Who do you think is more electable, ButtHead or Bidet?” Something like that. The piece talks as if “electability” is a thing. Which semiotically I guess it is, but it’s a marketing output concept — all those skeins of manipulation winding together in a word that seems to mean something important and democracy-ific and grown-up and all that.

          I get lots of fundraising emails posing as “polls,” from something called the National Democratic Training Committee. One such asked me to rate Butthead versus Beavis on their relative “electability,” a characteristic apparently completely disconnected from either their personal attributes or any policies they might be expected to favor. I’m guessing the inboxes of a lot of people are loaded up with these On-message messages that give one the sense that their opinion actually matters to the dispatching organization. The most recent asked if I liked the pair of Biden and Klobuchar as the Dem ticket. One “electable” and one “check a couple of idol boxes” person. At least this one let the recipient make it clear that s/he would never vote for the pair. No option given to downrate the offered candidates individually or with any detail as to why they are worthless and dangerous to my class.

          And of course there is only one answer allowed to the question posed in all of these: “Will you do everything in your power to elect more Democrats?” They even make it easy by pre-checking the “YES” box for you. There is no “NO EFFING WAY” box. Followed by the page where you can “donate.” Sheesh.

          1. Elizabeth

            I’ve been getting 2-3 of these e-mails per day from the DLCC/DCCC to rate which candidate is my first pick. Then there’s the “donate” button with various amounts. I’m not even a democrat, so I don’t know why I’m getting them. I just laugh, ignore them and send them to trash.

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Many working people don’t have the time to pay tons of attention to politics, but many of them seem far more glued into objective reality and policy than the people that do in fact have the time to know a decent amount about issues, these candidates, and people generally with more formal education.

          Many working people don’t have the time to pay tons of attention to politics, but therefore many of them seem far more glued into objective reality and policy than the people that do in fact have the time to know a decent amount about issues, these candidates, and people generally with more formal education.

          Fixed it for ya :-)

          1. Yves Smith

            I confess to not reading this carefully, but for the first chart, “lean Dem” is most certainly NOT identifying as Democrat. For an obvious example, Sanders has always caucused with Dems but is an Independent and a socialist.

            1. Acacia

              Yes, upon a second look “lean Dem” seems like a way to fudge the numbers.

              Rather than trying to work around the problems in this study, is there another one that seems more accurate? Suggestions?

        1. Tom Denman

          Pete Buttigieg TV Ad “Sun Comes Up” (see anonymous’ link above)

          More evidence that this is the dawn of winter in America.

    2. ptb

      IMO he’ll do great in Iowa, okay in NH, and will get just a handful of delegates after that.

      His real job is to make Biden’s talking points sound smart, as JB can’t. At 37 he is doing just fine.

  2. petal

    There has been an explosion of Mayo Pete yard signs this week in my town(Hanover, NH)-I believe 3 on my main commute road now. In one yard, though, is a Mayo Pete sign and a Cory Booker sign, so who knows. The LMIAL House is still holding strong with 3 Amy for America signs. There is also a NH for Warren sign up at another house that previously didn’t have any signs. I know it’s just my town, but my gut tells me Bernie Sanders is in some real trouble in NH. A retired friend that lives in VT saw Mayo Pete in NH this weekend and was bewitched-she also got a lot of positive comments about Mayo Pete from her friends(“he’s the adult in the room”, “so well-spoken”, etc etc). Stay tuned!

      1. Tim

        We are starting to see just how special Obama really was:

        All the persona of Mayor Pete.
        All the Id Pol of Hillary
        All the presumptuousness, and billionaire class servitude of Biden
        All the 2-timing of Warren (extrapolation at this point, admittedly).
        All wrapped up in one package.

        The public never stood a chance, neither did Hillary.

      1. russell1200

        Is it my imagination, or is Warren talking more like an identity politics soldier recently than an economics warrior of the people?

        Of course the piece comparing Sanders to Warren had him coming off as so severe, it had me questioning him as well.

        1. russell1200

          Vermont does not have a Senate seat up in the 2020 election. Vermont and Mass currently have a Republican Governor.

          The Vermont Governorship is up for so election in 2020, so it is not a sure thing that he will stay in charge. But if both of them are on the ticket, you will likely/possibly loose two seats in the Senate temporarily.

          Fortunately, neither Warren or Sanders are up for reelection on their Senate seat in 2020.

          1. chuckster

            By law, the Massachusetts governor must select a replacement senator from the same party as the senator who is leaving.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Here in Tucson, I’m hardly seeing any signs. And bumper stickers? Ditto. It’s as if this town is snoozing through the upcoming presidential election.

      OTOH, at this time in 2015, T-town was on fire for Bernie. He came to Reid Park in October 2015 and attracted 13,000 people. Some of them even climbed trees so they could see him on the stage.

      1. richard

        Seattle is also quite bare. I’ve seen a couple for stickers for tulsi, a couple signs for warren, no new sanders stuff, just old ‘16 hanging around. We need signs and s*&^ Bernie!

        1. EricT

          I tried to buy one off the campaign website, but they didn’t have any available. Although, please forgive me, I found one on Amazon. I subsequently donated the same amount to the Bernie campaign.

          1. Carey

            I’ve been buying my Sanders 2020 stickers and other Sanders stuff on ebay. Tried with their website, but as with so many things on the internet, it’s harder than four years ago, what with the opaque websites
            and other kinds of groovy gatekeeping / e-railroading.

        2. Eclair

          Re: Seattle. Saw a car parked in our neighborhood yesterday with a (brand spanking new) Kennedy/Johnson bumper sticker.

    2. Jen

      Hanover isn’t Seattle, but it is mostly overpriced, single family homes. The street where my office is located reminds me of a smaller version of the neighborhoods in the LA times story. Almost all of the houses are under constant renovation. Several new houses are going up. They aren’t the size of a walmart, but they’re big for the neighborhood. At least one house in the neighborhood is primarily used as an Air B&B. I didn’t do a full drive through of Lebanon, but pootling over around the town green, the only Pete signs I saw were the ones outside the building that houses his campaign office. And Warren’s. And Klobuchar’s. Lebanon has a lot of rental units. Houses aren’t cheap, but they aren’t 600K crap shacks either, which is where Hanover is headed.

      It also has a large student population, and I have no idea where that demographic is leaning.

      There are only 3 houses with signs up in my town. Two are for Weld, one for Warren. Big fancy places, all of them. Across the river in Vermont, there’s one run down house on the main street covered in Trump signs.

    3. Phemfrog

      here in the suburbs of Dallas (upper middle class area), there are plenty of Beto stickers. No other stickers or signs of any kind. A few remnants from ’16 is all i see. The Beto people dont have the heart to remove the stickers yet, I guess.

  3. Wukchumni

    HALexa : Dave, although we took very thorough precautions in the portal against somebody hacking you, they could see your blips move.

  4. ewmayer

    Sign o’ the times here in Cali – like many similar businesses in the area, the little lawn & garden equipment store near me, a little single-story job with a roughly 25′-wide storefront and perhaps 40′ deep, ran out of gas generators during the recent PG&E “welcome to the third world” multi-county mass pre-emptive 3-day outage. Yesterday early evening I was sitting at an outside table at nearby cafe, and over the course of an hour watched several workmen unload roughly a 2/3-semi-trailer, pallet after pallet, of Honda generators in various sizes, and wheel them on pallet dollies into the shop. I was amazed they had room under their roof for all that new stock. Clearly they intend to be ready, profit-opportunity-wise, for the next outage, and even absent such in the near future, I expect ongoing customer demand for generators will remain elevated for the rest of the year.

    I live on the 3rd floor of a nearby apartment building so even a compact gas generator is not an option for me, but I just finished charging the little 240 watt-hour battery backup unit I ordered first thing after the power came back on using the compact 60W foldable solar panel array I ordered along with it. Enough juice to, say, finish a washer load (the washer door stays locked if power goes out in mid-wash-cycle), charge small portable electronics and watch a couple hours of TV, from DVD if the cable is out along with the power. Not enough power to run the fridge for any length of time, but it’s a well-insulated 2-door model and we are hencefrth keeping 3 large ice bags in the freezer, enough to keep things cold for 3-4 days w/o power.

    1. Danny

      Update in case you didn’t see it:

      PG&E helped fund the careers of California governor and his wife. Now he accuses the utility of ‘corporate greed.’

      Douglas MacMillan and Neena Satija, The Washington Post
      November 11, 2019

      “over the past two decades, Newsom, a Democrat, and his wife have accepted more than $700,000 from the Pacific Gas & Electric Co., its foundation and its employees as the utility has supported his political campaigns, his ballot initiatives, his inauguration festivities and his wife’s foundation, including her film projects, according to records reviewed by The Washington Post….”

  5. MK

    “ethics-free garbage fire like James O’Keefe’s right-wing muckraking outfit, Project Veritas”

    Or, “ethics-free garbage fire like Phil Griffin’s left-wing muckraking outfit, MSNBC”

    Or, “ethics-free garbage fire like Jeff Zucker’s left-wing muckraking outfit, CNN”

    1. Geo

      From the Shirley Sherrod and ACORN lies to their Planned Parenthood charade, Project Veritas has always been the rancid bottom of the dumpster bin that is modern media journalism.

      That the MSM gave more credibility and airtime to those early “reports” than they have to this recent one showing their own lack of journalistic integrity is more an indictment on the MSM than any kind of validation of PV. At this point, citing one good thing Veritas has done is like citing how Epstein was a philanthropist. Doesn’t make up for the decade-plus of pure vileness they have been in our national discourse. If only the MSM would have ignored them on all their fraudulent “reports” like they are on this current legit one.

      Personally, I wish the garbage fire would just burn itself out and all of them were nothing more than a smoldering heap to be swept away into the dustbin of history.


      1. Off The Street

        MSM ignoring stories and Veritas putting their own touches on them, a far cry from what people used to recognize as Capital-J Journalism. Now it has devolved into fair-to-Medillin soapboxery and shilling. One item of significant concern is how many legitimate newsworthy stories are buried or spiked because they don’t fit the current agenda.

    2. hunkerdown

      Those aren’t left-wing. Please hang around a bit more and don’t believe what any oligarchs tell you.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “ethics-free garbage fire like James O’Keefe’s right-wing muckraking outfit, Project Veritas”

      Nobody is alleging that this O’Keefe tape is faked.

      So what does it say about ABC, CBS, and the rest of media-critique universe that it took, well, a person like O’Keefe to break the story?

  6. dcblogger

    I think a lot of the angst about the death of the blogosphere is a result of the fact that search is so bad you can’t find anything. I am constantly stumbling across great blogs nobody knows about.
    Search was deliberately destroyed. Remember getting up every morning and checking Technorati to see if anyone linked to you? Remember checking Sitemeter to see who was linking to you? All the free tools were deliberately destroyed because someone in the kleptocracy worked out that destroying search was how you destroyed the link economy.

    1. Geo

      You say destroyed. They say disrupted!

      Search was changed from a tool for users to seek out to a tool for companies to corral users. Read years ago that the Internet was becoming a more advanced version of television. Seems to have succeeded. Sites like this are the UHF channels of the internet.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          Google was actually notably superior to the alternatives when it was first rolled out. I could regularly find stuff on it that didn’t even appear on any other search engine. Now, it just tries to exploit you and sell you stuff. We need a Library of Congress search engine with no commercial biases at this point. Put those 4th Amendment defying government data centers to use for non-evil.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      You’re quite right. What I meant to convey was that political appointees have the opportunity to resign if they feel they are being asked to violate their oath (and that they can be fired, unlike those with civil service protection).

  7. L

    While I think your point about the unelected bureaucrats and the struggle over policy is correct, it misses something. There is one thing that the president did do which is a violation, that is he withheld funds approved by congress for political reasons without explanation or valid justification. That is a clear and unambiguous violation of the separation of powers. And it is one that should get all members of congress united. It is not, however, something that would get Trump removed from office.

    The fact that Democrats keep skipping over this one real issue to defend Hunter Biden, while the Republicans evidence zero concern is, to me at least, the most telling part of all. At the end of the day this *is* tribal and the legitimate operation of government is in the rear-view mirror.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > he withheld funds approved by congress for political reasons without explanation or valid justification.

      Doesn’t this go on all the time? I’m too lazy to do the research now, but I think there are plenty of cases were Presidents of both parties refused to spend money appropriated, especially in foreign policy.

      I don’t think this argument will fly.

      1. urblintz

        I don’t either and not just because others have done the same but because a crime has yet to be proven. When I look back at Watergate, mind you I was 15 yrs old, I just don’t see any comparisons to Ukrainegate for one main reason: the break-in crime was established fact and Nixon went down for trying to cover it up not for the crime itself. Seems to me that the GOP (and I am NO fan of Trump or Republicans) has a real chance at defending against an accusation that has many gray areas amounting to “he said, he said” and for which no cover-up was attempted in the sense that the “best” record of the conversation – the transcript – was released and the other participant has said it didn’t happen.

        Crime? I just don’t know…

        And NC has given convincing explanations as to why the emoluments issue is probably a nothing-burger too.

        Perhaps “obstruction” during the Mueller investigation will be proven as criminal, but I don’t hear the Dems talking about that…. all I hear is “Ukrainegate, Ukrainegate!” and see a lot of partisan hair on fire.

        I am not a lawyer and welcome any further clarification from those who can point out the error in my thinking if I am wrong.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          A lot of national security bureaucrats think or say they think they heard Trump say what this or that, but those same bureaucrats are also vehemently opposed to Trump not only on policy but on the way national security decision making is supposed to work (and not just their rice bowls; the intelligence community is playing for all the marbles). Just like something Stoller said about the ordinary Federal government: Forty years ago, before Clinton and Gore reinvented government and started privatizing, we had a first class civil service. I don’t see why the same rot wouldn’t have set in elsewhere. Do Brennan, Clapper, or Comey really strike anybody as first class intellects? As the people you’d want determining your policies? Honestly, it’s like Yes, Minister was scripted by Monty Python, and all the characters were from the Piranha Brothers. RussiaGate being Spiny Norman.

          1. ptb

            Comey was Lockheed’s GC, marketed as a lifelong civil servant… ok.

            Brennan was apparently a hanger-on to the Bush-Cheney neocon crowd and rode that wave to the top.

            The rot became terminal almost 20 years ago, but only now they’re freaking out about it (I.e. Trump’s a loony, duh, but the system was f###ed long before him). And the energy has been totally misdirected. not for the first time either.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              Trump is a small time crook trying to cut his family in on the plunder which means less for the Bush and Clinton crime family loyalists.

              I imagine Joe Scarborough is so twisted up he didn’t try to become a “persecuted Christian champion” after his mistress was found dead instead of resigning.

              I see Hillary serving as a united force for the DC elite much like Shrub united the wings of the KK…the GOP between evangelicals and the blue bloods. With Hillary, they knew the boat wouldn’t be rocked, and she could be tolerated while they rearmed for the next fight for supremacy. They just happened to lose to the Joker and the “rules for playing draw and stud poker” card.

        2. richard

          why is emoluments a nothing burger? I’d love a link to that debunking, if anyone has one handy. I was under the impression that the business done by the sauds, at trump’s hotels, with arms deals happening shortly thereafter, provided a strong case. One among many, I would have thought.

          1. marym

            “A Public Citizen analysis finds that more than 370 political candidates, foreign governments, businesses, corporate groups, religious groups, charities and other entities have held events at President Donald Trump’s properties since the 2016 election.”

            “Since day one of the Trump administration, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has been tracking the conflicts of interest that stem from the president’s decision not to divest from the Trump Organization.”

            “While President Donald Trump’s ethics pledge was weaker than previous rules, the government ethics office still found violations in 2018 at three federal agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Labor Relations Board.”

            Don’t have an answer to why the Dems are treating it as a nothing burger.

            1. Drake

              Don’t have an answer to why the Dems are treating it as a nothing burger.

              Because it would be opening a Pandora’s Box that might destroy them as well as him. They don’t want to rock the boat of casual corruption they’re all sailing on.

              They were so genuinely shocked that he even broached the subject of looking into Biden’s corruption that they began impeachment proceedings.

              1. marym

                Yeah, they’re probably calculating how much more overtly corrupt they can be and still tell themselves they’re a lesser evil.

                  1. richard

                    “ah but I’ve grown older and wiser
                    and that’s why I’m turning you in!
                    oh love, love love love me
                    I’m a liberal….”
                    thanks for that Lambert

              2. richard

                that makes only perfect sense
                i was hoping someone might link me to previous NC coverage of this, but I guess i could look it up on my own, if you’re gonna make me :)

            2. kiwi

              You do realize that this comment means nothing in itself:

              “A Public Citizen analysis finds that more than 370 political candidates, foreign governments, businesses, corporate groups, religious groups, charities and other entities have held events at President Donald Trump’s properties since the 2016 election.”

              This information needs to be compared to what was going on before Trump ran for prez. OMG! Events are held at event centers! Who knew! Noooooo – not the charities, too!

      2. voteforno6

        So, does the possibility that Trump’s predecessors may have withheld appropriations make it any less wrong? The law is the law, after all. It would be nice for Congress to flex its muscles, and take some control back from the imperial executive. In a way, this is the inverse of what happened with Iran-Contra (and I think that Reagan should have been booted from office for that, but, oh well).

        To address “L”, above, whether this is grounds to remove Trump is entirely up to Congress. There are no hard set rules as to what constitutes an impeachable offense (rightly so, I think). If Congress impeached and convicted Trump based on this, then that would obviously would make it grounds for removal.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          LOLOLOL “the law is the law after all” LOLOLOL

          Paul Manafort languishes in jail for his Ukraine lobbying deals while John Podesta languishes in a seaside Italian villa having done the exact same Ukraine lobbying, working at the exact same firm.

          Don’t get me started about destruction of evidence under subpoena, use of a “Charitable Foundation” to receive private bribes for State Department approvals, or use of political party monies to fund election meddling by foreign powers.

          Trump is looking like Lieutenant Calley here, accused of “murder” in the midst of the actual murder of 2 million Vietnamese. If we’re gonna get all “let’s prosecute some crimes” then we should start with some actual crimes that actually matter, not political tit-for-tatting about Ukraine policy disagreements.

          Inspector-General Horowitz seems to be on the scent: Did senior officials within the FBI and U.S. intelligence and Justice apparatus weaponize the system for political purposes against a candidate for the presidency and did they continue to do so after Trump had been elected?

          (I detest The Orange Man and think he deserves only our scorn. Renting the fabric of the Republic however is most certainly NOT the way to excise him).

          1. Pavel

            Thank you for that rant, HAL… I feel the same way!

            For those who want to balance out Maddow’s #RussiaRussiaRussia narrative, check out Phil Giraldi [ex-CIA] and his view that we are witnessing a coup by the CIA, FBI, and other Deep State operatives. You know, all those evil people we hated and feared until the Dems told us to love and worship them.

            John Brennan’s CIA Trump Task Force:

            The national security team acted to protect their candidate Hillary Clinton, who represented America’s Deep State. In spite of considerable naysaying, the Deep State is real, not just a wild conspiracy theory. Many Americans nevertheless do not believe that the Deep State exists, that it is a politically driven media creation much like Russiagate itself was, but if one changes the wording a bit and describes the Deep State as the Establishment, with its political power focused in Washington and its financial center in New York City, the argument that there exists a cohesive group of power brokers who really run the country becomes much more plausible.

            The danger posed by the Deep State, or, if you choose, the Establishment, is that it wields immense power but is unelected and unaccountable. It also operates through relationships that are not transparent and as the media is part of it, there is little chance that its activity will be exposed.

            NOTE: This is from a conservative/libertarian web site but I don’t think that detracts from what Giraldi is pointing out. He has been on Scott Horton’s Antiwar Radio series and seems to know what he is talking about.

            1. dcrane

              Me too, just wrote my Congressman to let him know that unless at least two-thirds of the public begin clamoring for impeachment, I’ll be voting against any Senator or Rep. who tries to remove him. I want Trump beaten in 2020, but fairly in a democratic election, by candidates with policies that win because they serve the needs of ordinary people – something Washington mostly forgot how to do somewhere around 1975-1980.

          2. integer

            Paul Manafort languishes in jail for his Ukraine lobbying deals while John Podesta languishes in a seaside Italian villa having done the exact same Ukraine lobbying, working at the exact same firm.

            Tony Podesta.

        2. Geo

          “The law is the law, after all.”

          I wish I could believe that but when has the law ever been something that has had any weight regarding abuses of power? It seems the only time “The law is the law” is when someone in power is dumb enough to upset those with more power (the Bernie Madoff Effect).

          I think that is why so many here are suspicious and even hostile to this impeachment effort. I will only speak for my cynical self here but I’m more interested in why the law is suddenly so important to uphold when it never has been before in these cases. Is it because what Trump did was so evil it can’t be ignored? Considering Bush-era lies for war and the death/destruction that wrought, it’s obviously not that. Is it because it’s the only thing of substance they have to stop an otherwise dangerous president? Possibly but seems unlikely considering so many of the other brazen abuses of power.

          Most likely it is because he upsets those with more power. And that is what makes this situation frightening. Who are we handing the power over to in this situation? Are we now just a more TV-friendly version of Bolivia where unhappy intelligence spooks can oust a president because he doesn’t do their bidding 100% of the time? Of, where a president is allowed to abuse power on all things except against a fellow powerful politician (Biden)?

          Where is the law on Trump’s illegal actions over the past decades? His real estate swindles, his fraudulent charity and university? Oh, he paid some fines? Cool. If he had been selling loosy cigs on a Bronx street corner he’d have the full weight of the police on him. If you or I scammed a charity we’d be in prison. If you or I were to ignore subpoenas we’d be incarcerated (Chelsea Manning as a prime example).

          The law is a tool for the powerful to control the masses. When it’s being used against the president, who is it benefiting? That is what makes me suspicious about this current impeachment hearing. It’s not about the law, it’s about the powerful trying to send a message. If they do this to Trump for his minuscule infractions against the wishes of the MIIC, can you imagine what they’ll do, if by some miracle, Sanders becomes president? What happened to the last president who wanted to abolish the CIA?


          1. dcrane

            Well put.

            I hope Bernie still stands by this today, although I too fear what they might try to do to him if so.

      3. marym

        “Doesn’t this go on all the time?”

        Here are a few questions, none of which I’m the least bit qualified to answer!

        One is the legality of a president overriding a Congressional appropriation. Looking at some of the testimony, there seems to have been concern that there was a line that was possibly being crossed.

        Another is the president’s authority to decide foreign policy. OK, but what was the policy here? If it was to “fight corruption” there ought to be some indication that Trump actually believes using political power for persona/family gain constitutes corruption, or that leader-to-leader negotiation, not documented process, was his general approach to the fight.

        And let’s say this was his foreign policy, not getting dirt on an opponent for his own personal gain, or searching for a mythical server. Again OK, but isn’t there a bureaucratic infrastructure for communicating policy and establishing what it means in practice, beyond just hearing it for the first time on a phone call?

        Maybe presidents sometimes make overtures unconnected to previously defined policy; and the concept of policy among career bureaucracies takes on a life of its own; and the two are incompatible at certain points, even when “the norms” are mostly in place. In the absence of norms, Trump’s assumption that he can do whatever he wants shouldn’t be flying either, because that’s chaos or despotism.

        1. Geo

          “In the absence of norms, Trump’s assumption that he can do whatever he wants shouldn’t be flying either, because that’s chaos or despotism.”

          Norms like Bush lying to the world and invading Iraq because PNAC and his daddy told him too? Norms like when John Brennan lied to the senate (and us) about surveillance? Norms like Obama lying that we were invading Libya to “protect civilians” when it was about regime change the whole time? Norms like Clinton paying foreign assets for dirt on her “pied piper” candidate Trump?

          Our norm is chaos or despotism.

          If we had a functional system Trump would have been imprisoned decades ago for fraud and pretty much all of our modern presidents would have been impeached for abuse of power, lying to the public, and corruption. The fact that congress is finally choosing to exert it’s authority makes the whole thing suspicious. Who is this sudden quest for honor and dignity benefitting?

          “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Chuck Schumer to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

          1. marym

            No, of course not those norms. If my scare quotes and context didn’t make it clear that I wasn’t invoking #Resistance code for status quo, I mean just the ordinary norms of governing.

            It’s all very well to say Trump wants to change course from what we may deem evil in the status quo, but calling the head of another country to get dirt on a political rival in exchange for aid, isn’t that.

            Maybe what he did here wasn’t so different from other self-serving actions of other politicians, but it’s not some worthy battle against the status quo either. To go against the status quo one ought to have knowledge, appoint smart, capable people, establish a process for communicating and implementing policy, actually establish a policy!

            1. Fiery Hunt

              I think you’re misinterpreting the role the public wants Trump to play.
              At the risk of gross oversimplification, I don’t think anyone cares if Trump governs. Trump’s role is to be the ham-fisted bumbler who unintentionally exposes the real criminals… by committing the same crimes the “Establishment” has been perfecting for 40 years… but doing it so ineptly as to cast a bright light on the grift that’s been going on since I was born.

              1. marym

                I’ve seen this sentiment expressed in comments here. I don’t know what evidence there is as to what proportion of the rest of the “public” also cares about this aspect of Trump’s presidency, as opposed to other expectations among his followers.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > In the absence of norms, Trump’s assumption that he can do whatever he wants shouldn’t be flying either, because that’s chaos or despotism.

          I don’t see “norms violation” as an impeachable offense, no matter how much liberal Democrats would like it to be (or even think it is).

          As far as “Trump’s assumption that he can do whatever he wants,” I don’t see treating “the interagency” — from Ilargi, today, which I take as the insider word for “The Blob” — as an independent branch of government to whom the President owes deference as anything other, than, well, novel Constitutionally. (See here on “energy in the executive.”)

          1. marym

            Withholding Congressionally approved aid to obtain an announcement of an investigation into a form of corruption exercised by your own family and administration, to be used to generate expectations favorable to you in an election, like the birther investigation or predictions of more emails, is a policy?

            I agree it’s not interference in what the #Resisters like to call “our democracy” any more other political timing of events.

            I agree it’s no more an impeachable offense than other comparable self-serving corruption on “both sides”, unless it was a line item in an impeachment over a range issues related to self-serving conflicts of interest/emolluments, though I don’t disagree with calling it out. (If the public desire to see Trump acting corruptly is as described elsewhere in the thread, that would be an argument for calling it out!)

            I don’t agree it’s an example of Trump fighting the Blob over foreign policy.

      4. dcblogger

        Nixon impounded money, and was taken to the Supreme Court and lost. of course, we had a functional court in those days.

      5. NotReallyHere

        It won’t fly because it turns the separation of powers on its head.

        The executive asks congress for approval to spend money, congress approves or doesn’t. Congress doesn’t get to decide the spending decisions of the executive. Congress just approves or not.

        The wishful thinking among the Dems is beyond ridiculous. It’s clear the whole “impeachment” drama is a PR exercise to turn the populace against President Trump. They hope they can get enough low info voters to hate him as much as they do. If they succeed, they hope they can just get rid of him and pretend he was never there. The old rules can be restored for a new approved President and we can all forget their mad cap constitutional theories dredged up to justify their coup. That is impossible and they are doing enormous damage to the political fabric of this country in their attempts.

        1. kiwi


          I am further stunned by all of the ways Dems/liberals (or whatever) try to change meanings of words and float their very own weird interpretations of the Constitution, regulations, and legal notions. It’s as if they start at zero over and over.

          How many people think the leaker (not a whistleblower) has some sort of legal right to not be identified? Ugh.

      6. EricT

        A common occurrence among Republican presidents was tying the appropriated funds to abortion restrictions.

        1. urblintz


          “…the abortion executive order that President Barack Obama would be signing that afternoon… which Obama had offered Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), an anti-abortion advocate, as an incentive to support the health care reform… an instance when Obama would have to put his signature on an order restating the Hyde Amendment restrictions on the federal funding of abortion that he had previously opposed.”


          I don’t like David Corn but he got this right.

    2. ptb

      re: separation of powers violation… yep.
      how about declaration of war, which branch of govt does that?

      Trump crossed a line going after Biden, and if allowed to do so, he would’ve taken out a big chunk of the Ukraine Dept. at [pick your favorite agency] along the way. They know well getting mixed up in that mess was a mistake, the only thing to do now is get everyone involved to give an “interview” that comes with a properly scary NDA. Used to be Mueller’s specialty but I guess he retired.

      As a bonus, sends a message to Trump and friends that You Just Don’t Do That.

      The political results are irrelevant.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Maybe we could just back up a little and investigate why we were sending funds to the Kleptocrats and Nazis in Ukraine and then impeach everyone down to the freshman class in the legislature.

        Before anyone brings it up, I do intend to go smoke another one.

        1. kiwi


          My impression of the whole thing is that Biden wanted to clear out corruption so that the US and political relatives from various families (like Biden and Kerry) could engage in their own corruption.

          But then I heard that Kerry’s relative pulled out…don’t know if this is true.

          1. integer

            Brzezinski Mapped Out the Battle for Ukraine in 1997 AntiWar

            One of the keys may be found by looking back at Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard in which he wrote, “Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

            “However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”

            Brzezinski delved into the importance of little known Ukraine by explaining in his 1997 book, “Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location… which in some cases gives them a special role in either defining access to important areas or in denying resources to a significant player.”

            Interestingly enough, it was Brzezinski who first compared Putin to Hitler in a March 3 Washington Post Editorial. Hillary Clinton followed-up the next day with her comments comparing the two, followed by John McCain and Marco Rubio who on March 5 agreed with Clinton’s comments comparing Putin and Hitler. Apparently Brzezinski still continues to influence US political speak.

            Worth reading the whole article. This is the essence of what the US foreign policy establishment is so focused on Ukraine. One of their primary goals is to cut off the Supply of Russian gas supply to Europe, as evidenced by US efforts to halt construction of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. Burisma is more than likely involved in this effort in some capacity, and thus considered off limits by the Blob. Some more backgroud here.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Even if Brzezinski’s is Henry The K’s mini-me, that’s still a very good link. Thank you.

              And you can’t make a pivot point pivot without a little grease, I suppose….

          1. JTMcPhee

            A couple of quick hits on your question about where the billions “appropriated” by Our World’s Greatest Deliberative Body and dispensed by the Imperium to facilitate the looting:

            From the Obama era, “ U.S. Obscures Foreign Aid To Ukraine, But Here’s Where Some Goes ,” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/us-foreign-aid-ukraine_n_4914682?guccounter=1

            And “Ukraine Corruption Report,” from the GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal, a nice overhead view of this great Outpost of Democracy and Bulwark Against PutinTrump and.Geostrategic Significance, and some of the stuff that several “administrations” or the Deep State’s actions through said times, have done: https://www.ganintegrity.com/portal/country-profiles/ukraine/

            And this, in the “tu quoque” category, about the Obama administration’s anti-anti corruption efforts: “ US Embassy pressed Ukraine to drop probe of George Soros group during 2016 election,”

            All this noise about at root, a couple of billion in regime change money and business development funds, when the Banksters and the MIC/Panopticon make off with TRILLIONS. And then people all righteously going on about how “At some point, the rule of law just has got to be applied!” because we mopes are be-FUDdled into being just so sure that this time, the smoke the Establishment is blowing up our backsides actually means there is Fire in the Temple!

            Amazing how easy it is to bushwah huge numbers of people into jumping into the chutes and marching on up toward the abattoir… “Trump Ba-a-a-a-d…”

            Which hand holds the knife?

    3. Bugs Bunny

      There’s a great book by Rick Pearlstein “The Invisible Bridge” that takes you through every day of Watergate and the swirl of events that happened around it. The research is impeccable and as a kid who was just old enough to understand that something historic was happening, it filled in some blanks.

      The book is ostensibly about the rise of the populist wing of the GOP (Reagan) and that’s covered very well indeed. A good weekend read. I think about 700pp.

      There’s a sequel in the works.

  8. Wukchumni


    Mitchell: Married to Alan Greenspan who Bernie embarrassed

    Sales of pancake makeup are projected to fall 23% when Andrea passes on…

    1. ewmayer

      I can’t support AM’s choice of hubby, but have to say, she is an amazing talent – so amazing that I’ll bet none of my fellow readers knew that she has an entire second onscreen career, where she dresses up as a male actor – and a damned fine one at that – under the pseudonym “F. Murray Abraham”. I never realized that was her in the film version of Amadeus until years later!

      1. Tvc15

        Andrea Mitchell should not ask, but how do we pay for it? Alan Greenspan, “The United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So there is zero probability of default.”

        What a loaded panel of neoliberal propagandists. I think Leonard Cohen wrote a song about this.

        1. richard

          well if he did, you could expect Brian Williams to appropriate it for war porn.
          And bam, i drag you straight back to the $200 haircuts. you’re welcome :)

  9. Louis Fyne

    —So, it’s going to be interesting to see what journalism turns into when all these Medill and (perhaps) Harvard graduates start turning journalism into a safe space.—

    as a fancy-pants school alum, it’s not being an elite graduate that per se makes one out of touch, it’s being a child of the 1%….

    take any elite school graduating class, 30 to 50+% of those students took zero financial aid, aka their parents wrote a check for $50k+ for all four years. It’s a reasonable argument that coming from those circumstances, one’s worldview is skewed (irrespective of left-wing/right-wing politics)

    just saying. ymmv.

    1. Off The Street

      The worldly viewer set fail the ramen test, as in did they ever have to eat ramen, for example, to make ends meet. Many college kids found creative ways to stretch their food budgets, while the more fortunate now just order up whatever they want from some delivery service.

  10. Wukchumni

    Retail: “The rapid growth of sales by Chinese suppliers on Amazon.com Inc.’s marketplace is raising concerns about the safety and labeling of products that effectively sidestep oversight by going direct to consumers”

    They were about $6 cheaper than similar ones, so I bought 3x Orbit brand watering timers, and when they finally arrived from China a month after I placed the order, it was obvious they were knockoffs, and parts had fallen off en route and were jangling in the cardboard boxes.

    They were also nameless copies, a real nowhere, man.

    I complained, Amazon refunded me, and the supplier said I could keep em’, not that i’m interested in something that has most recently earned a swath of 1-Star reviews?

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I got a bait and switch on an Amazon purchase and hadn’t grokked the returns process at the time. When I notified my credit card company, the outfit disappeared from Amazon in about 40 minutes time and the Amazon response team sent the reimbursement minutes later.

  11. Danny

    “The rapid growth of sales by Chinese suppliers..”

    Alleve used to be made in Germany. A high quality product that worked–as well as it’s cheaper German made Costco generic :-)

    Now Alleve is made in China. I guess they finally figured out how to make drywall that wasn’t toxic or poisonous dogfood. No way in hell will we ever buy Chinese made medicine, although lots of ingredients for medicine are made there and it’s hard to determine that.

    “Beware of putting anything made in China in your mouth.The riskiness of relying on China to fill our medicine chests.”


    1. katiebird

      Where do you see where it is made? I am looking at the Equate version and I don’t see a country listed.

      1. Danny

        Yellow cap blue bottle of Aleve, outer shoulder, not even the peel off part:
        “Lot xxxx,
        Exp YYYYY,
        Made in China”

        Coscto Naproxyn Sodium bottle is recycled,
        can’t quote it.

    2. Mark K

      “Consumers and businesses with safety and intellectual-property grievances have found it hard to hold Chinese sellers accountable—in part because Amazon doesn’t require its sellers to provide their locations to the public on its U.S. site.”

      It sounds like this item should have been posted under “The Bezzle.”

    3. JTMcPhee

      There was a segment on I think it was “20-20” maybe eight or nine years ago, a sting put on by the producers. The set up was that a group of supposed buyers of medicines from Canada , the US, and I believe a couple of other countries were to get a presentation from a Chinese company. All the setup folks had given out they they wanted to make a dishonest buck by buying and re-selling counterfeit medications into the stream of commerce in our hallowed (hollowed?) political economy.

      The presenter was a very attractive and personable Chinese woman, dressed a little less demurely than Business Professional. She put on a really good pitch, about how her employer produced really good fake meds, “cannot distinguish from genuine,” right down to exact matches of color and size of the individual doses (“you choose, capsule, caplet, pill, tablets, bottles, we can produce all!” and the Labeling and packaging, right down to the logos and package inserts and supposedly non-counterfeitable hologram stickers on the boxes and the wrappers on bulk packaging cartons. She had multiple samples of the stuff she was selling. “Ingredients are innocuous, no worry about liability!” she offered cheerily. “We can provide any size shipment, carton, pallet, container-load. Our pricing is very attractive! How much you want?”

      As I recall, the FDA and State and Commerce actually Did Something about this particular scam, but there’s a plethora of stories of fake medications being foisted with more or less awareness and intent on us mopes who are just trying to stay healthy enough to work three jobs or not be dumped on the street… So it’s still a viable Business Model…

  12. heraclito

    From the Impeachment

    “There is no Sam Ervin, nor James Baker, either.”

    I think you mean Howard Baker

          1. Carey

            Odd that there’s virtually always an underling willing to fall on their sword (Helen Gandy, Rosemary Woods, Fawn Hall..) around.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Understood. My point (which was totally unclear) is that there’s nobody with any gravitas in the administration at all, and therefore, in the unlikely event that the Democrats catch the car, nobody to negotiate with, handle a transition, admit defeat, etc. There’s also nobody of stature visible to present Trump’s case, which paradoxically makes the Democrat effort look even more like a kangaroo court than it already does (because a bad outcome for Trump wouldn’t be like a good fighter losing a fight, but like a just a gaggle of ferrets and weasels all going over a cliff while snapping and biting each other).

      1. inode_buddha

        Maybe we would be better off with both Jim and Tammy Faye Baker… at least it would give the chattering classes something real to chatter about.

  13. chuck roast

    on TRADE
    There is lots of stove-piping and narrowness when it comes to trade commentary. It’s almost impossible to “gestalt” what is going on nationally and internationally.
    I used to tune in daily to an international shipping journal whose name mercifully escapes me, and it was nothing but contradictory charts and articles alternately proclaiming…boom…bust…business as usual. It wasn’t worth all the Ibuprofen. Giving it up was almost as satisfying as s**t-canning the NYT.
    Container traffic through the Panama Canal was up 10% YoY in FY 2018 and Baltic Dry Index is doing quite nicely thank you.
    In the words of that lovable lost soul Flakey Foont, “What does it all mean Mr. Natural?”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I used to track shipping a lot, on the theory that if the goods are moving the “underlying economy” is ok. Perhaps I should return to that. I loved that topic, too.

  14. XXYY

    I am constantly stumbling across great blogs nobody knows about.

    This seems like a great Water Cooler feature: Great Blogs Nobody Knows About.

    Lambert, you can singlehandedly turn things around here.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      We’re back to Web Libraries then. Lambert’s comment made me realize how rarely I find something good through search. It’s all from comments or meat space.

  15. Jeremy Grimm

    This is a little apart from the links today — but it fits the political tenor of the Water Cooler — When I first saw the Bernie slogan “Not me, Us.” I was not well impressed. It lacked the immediacy of simpler one word slogans that better fit bumper stickers and campaign buttons. The colors on the Bernie campaign button were also odd: oranges, greens some yellow, dark blues/purple. I am a little slow sometimes but I think I may have finally caught up … The slogan “Not me, Us.” is a second verse for Muhammed Ali’s poem: “Me, we.” The colors when added to Republican red and Democrat blue start to fill out the middle a a little of the end of the rainbow colors, a symbol of covenant. I am speculating of course but in any case I have a greater appreciation for the Bernie slogan on the Bernie button I got.

  16. Ranger Rick

    I have an instinctual, knee-jerk reaction to whenever I see “technical debt.” Someone’s trying to sell you something. I used to understand the term as a reference to the costs incurred when a business outgrew the current solution for a problem and needed to spend to adapt to changing circumstances — that there was a “debt” had been taken on as part of the decision to select the original solution in the first place.

    Technical folks tend to obsess over how well things scale to adapt to an increase or decrease in business demand in order to reduce costs. Infrastructure does not work that way.

    1. ewmayer

      More old-fashioned terms for the phenomenon described are along lines of “maintenance deficit”. I dislike “technical debt” because – even though the writer clearly was going for the opposite effect – that makes it sound somehow subjective and ignorable.

  17. Carolinian

    Will someone please inform The Week that that the good old headphone jack still exists on every device I own, old or new. Meanwhile Google is barely a supplier of hardware at all and it’s safe to say that 90 percent or more of those Android phones also have a 1/8 inch headphone jack. The tech world does not revolve around people who buy $1000 dollar phones and to pretend it does is silly. The headphone jack isn’t going anywhere.

      1. JBird4049

        Still staying with my iPhone 6 which I bought used as it is the very last model with a jack. It also has all the oomph I need.

  18. Pat

    I know lots of people who will vote for whomever the Democratic nominee is, regardless of how much of a trojan horse they are. If my state voted for the Republican the shock waves and claims of interference would be heard round the world, so they aren’t that radical for the area.

    Still whenever I hear some quote about how bright, well spoken, etc Mayor Pete is all I can think of is a Biden quote about Obama paraphrased:

    “I mean, you got the first mainstream out gay male who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

    Perhaps that is why I still consider him to be this year’s oligarch funded bait and switch candidate even if he is more upfront than Obama on how little he wants to change. I can see myself explaining to some of my friends and neighbors that Pete is not being held back from what he wants to do, he is doing it at their expense if he gets elected. What’s one more as I’m still educating people on the options Obama had for more progressive actions he ignored in order to help the billionaire class now giving him millions in various ways.

    1. Geo

      Critiquing Obama can be like stepping into a minefield. Reminds me of when I was a teen and made the mistake of criticizing Saint Reagan around my grandparents. I’d have been in less trouble if I’d simply dropped a deuce on the table.

      People love their infallible idols.

  19. Summer

    Re: “How the tech duopoly killed the headphone jack” [The Week].

    Let me put my tinfoil hat on…

    A jack has to be input (with you in control) into a device for all monitoring, but with wireless that doesn’t have to be the case.

    And the added on bonus for the survellamce industry (which they are all in) is the closed ecosystem of purchases.

  20. ambrit

    Lambert, your comment about Warren engaging in shape shifting immediately made me wonder if perhaps she was a Face Dancer.
    “The Tleilaxu Candidate.”

  21. ewmayer

    “Or larger?” — I’m pretty sure most of us have in fact experience quantum behavior in form of unwittingly taking part in a double-slit experiment. This seems to be especially common on shopping trips, perhaps due to the kinds of design features built in automated doors at retail stores. You know, you plan to enter the store and purchase items A,B,C on a list you wrote out, but next thing you know you instead find yourself at the exit door holding a bunch of stuff you can’t recall purchasing. Spooky!

  22. ambrit

    I get the strong feeling that the present Trump Removal Effort can be accurately described as “Impeachgate.”

  23. Drake

    “Falsehoods CS Students (Still) Believe Upon Graduating”

    67. Programmers spend most of their time programming.

    This is the one that resonated most with me. Programmers spend very little time programming, and much of what time they do spend is on maintaining the code they (or worse, someone else) has already written. Often the best reason to switch jobs is to escape this responsibility, maybe for a couple of years anyway.

  24. Jeff W

    …I don’t like this shape-shifting.

    The problem for me isn’t the shape-shifting, it’s the fundamental duplicity and instrumentality at the heart of all this. Warren’s Medicare-for-All plan is a marketing device/propaganda ploy, constructed not for the optimal policy ends—a plan which Matt Bruenig calls “indefensible” can hardly be that—but for the best electoral advantage.

    With her health care proposal, Warren gets the critics—who pointed to her lack of a healthcare plan and then the lack of a funding mechanism—off her back (it’s all very instrumental) while being able to claim that there is no increase in taxes for the middle class. As Matt Bruenig points out, that’s nonsense.

    But it’s all a “pretend” exercise, anyway, because she makes it clear that she views Medicare-for-All as some kind of “long-term” goal. So she gets the electoral benefit of appearing to advocate for a putatively pain-free Medicare-for-All proposal while, at the same time, stepping back from any commitment to get it done in the short-term. It’s terrible policy from the person portrayed inexplicably by the media as the “serious policy wonk” in the race who is plainly not serious about it in the first place. As always, this flim-flam works to benefit Warren but only serves to bamboozle the public on whose behalf she’s supposedly advocating.

    The more I see of Warren, day by day, the more disingenuous she seems to me. Worse, by playing us all for fools, she seems contemptuous of the public besides. And, by framing Medicare-for-All, or anything resembling real health care reform, as “long-term,” rather than as something urgent—as tens of thousands of Americans die every year because they don’t have health care, and hundreds of thousands more face financial ruin (something that Warren herself is expert in), she seems pretty cold-blooded.

    1. chuckster

      Warren has consistently said it would take 4 years from passage to get to Medicare for All. If you consider how much of Congress is owned and operated by the health care industrial complex, I wouldn’t assume that passage is happening on January 22, 2021. So long-term is probably truthful as well as accurate.

      Fortunately, you have the option to vote for Bernie Sanders who you believe will implement his M4A program in the first 100 Days. I look forward to you reality check but I doubt that Bernie will come anywhere near securing either the Democratic Party nomination nor the presidency.

      1. hunkerdown

        That disingenuous Establishment talking point seems to be trying to make me forget there’s a Congressional election at the same time as the Presidential election, never mind that there’s going to be another one two years later. It’s not working.

        It’s not even that Warren’s plan takes too long. It’s that a capitalist to her bones can’t be trusted to produce public goods.

        1. chuckster

          Franklin Roosevelt – another capitalist to his bones – would beg to differ that he produced nothing of public good. (I suppose Bernie would too since he says he wants to emulate him.)

      2. Massinissa

        And according to the polls, neither will Warren. Hell, she scores less on head to head polls vs Trump than Bernie does.

        Whether he wins or loses, at least Bernie is being honest and is pushing the narrative for change that we need, rather than Warren peddling Clinton-esque reformism in an attempt to be ‘electable’.

      3. FreeMarketApologist

        Proposed full page advertisement in the newspaper of your choice:

        The following list shows the current presidential contenders and the amounts they have received from the pharmaceutical, medical, insurance, and health care industry. What do you think the chances are that they will develop and implement a system of healthcare in this country that treats illness as anything other than an opportunity to make money?

        (and then the list of candidates and the contributions received directly or via their PACS or other vehicles. And include the RNC and DNC contributions as well).

        I will put up the first $1000 to fund this. (but I don’t have the knowledge to assemble the list)

      4. Yves Smith

        She has said no such thing. Making shit up is a violation of our written site Policies. Getting smarmy also earns you troll points.

        Commenting here is a privilege, not a right.

        I suggest you read our Policies before commenting again. And shape up too.

      5. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Warren has consistently said it would take 4 years from passage to get to Medicare for All

        If she has, I haven’t seen it, and I do try to keep track. So link, please.

        I have urged that, given the dependencies Warren introduced in her plan, it will take two Presidential cycles to get #MedicareForAll passed, hence her use of the term “long-term.”

        However, if Warren’s transitional plan, promised shortly after the release of her “plan” in early November, has appeared, I’ve missed it. So watch it, Buster.

  25. Carey

    It’s good to see Sanders get the NNU’s endorsement, which I think will provide a quite motivated group of people for MfA, and his election.

  26. NotReallyHere

    UPDATE Can anybody who follows the right decode this?

    Check out the Groyper wars and Nick Fuentes America First “movement”

    There is a movement to ask awkward (or disingenuous) questions to speakers who portray themselves as conservatives. These awkward questions depend on the speaker. The idea is that a lot of the “conservatives” are controlled opposition, paid to make real conservatives believe they have a voice. The questions are usually, targeted at the soft underbelly of the speaker’s past arguments.

    They boo’ed junior cos he didn’t take questions.

  27. Bugs Bunny

    Re headphone jacks – this rabbit is a bit of an audiophile and, the direct digital output, sent to a proper amplifier or headphones is much, much better for listening to music. What seems like a pain in the butt is actually a technological step forward for high fidelity.

    And I say this as someone who also listens to a heck of a lot of vinyl records. Even shellac 78s, which have a distinct sound and charm.

    1. CoryP

      Can’t you transmit digital audio out on a 1/8″ jack that can also function as analog?

      [EDIT: Yes, you can. Apparently Chromecast has it — I would think that would be the ideal jack for compatibility. But I’m also bitter b/c that iPhone dongle is the easiest flipping thing to lose]

  28. Oregoncharles

    “UPDATE “Capitalism and socialism are just words” [The Week].”
    I need to do some work outdoors before it rains, so I’m responding to the quote, not the full article. I agree with the ideal expressed, and I think the Green Party does too. However, I disagree with the title; that would be socialism, by Marx’s own definition: control of the means of production BY THE WORKERS – in this case, the workers in each enterprise. JM Greer (ex-Archdruid) insists that this is “syndicalism,” a more precise term – but then, he insists that socialism is authoritarian. Semantics, but we do need to be clear what we’re talking about.

    It’s economically possible, in fact it describes the conditions for a reasonably effective market system; the politics are another matter, though worker-owned enterprises are fairly common and compatible with the existing economy. Making it the default mode would be the challenge, and might require revolutionary conditions. But then, so would a lot of good ideas, at this point.

    1. dk

      The article addresses most of these distinctions.

      But I look at these things in terms of structure, and an association (no t undeserved) with “central planning” is one of the things anti-communists point at as a negative of socialism communism. And I think they’re right, but ironically central planning and centralized political and administrative power are inherently problematic.

      Centralization requires aggregation and thus creates diffuse policies and regulations that can’t capture the needs of localities. Some say it’s better than nothing, but I say it’s worse than nothing because it pretends to be something it isn’t, and whatever value authority and oversight may have is diminished and becomes easily and cogently questionable.

      One of the implications of the article’s projections of “small-to-medium sized firms” means that the size of the population (and generally the geographic service range) each firm can supply/serve becomes much smaller. Some exceptions might be software-driven tech companies, or makers of specialized parts for production. So small and relatively self-sufficient regions are an implicit requirement for these scenarios.

      I’ve always found it ironic that “state’s rights” was an issue co-opted by the political right, since a) they never really delivered on it except to thwart federal initiatives and b) it’s something of a requirement of stable socialism. Even most of the US states are pretty big, discussion of breaking up California’s expanse, which encompasses several regions with distinct needs and economic functions, has been so obvious that it has been raised many times.

      Centralization is also typical of the colonial model, where colonies are administered by physically/geographically distant powers. The appeal for centralization seems to be that one is part of something really big, and the implication is that the individual gains some power and dignity through this, but it seems to me that all evidence indicates the exact opposite.

      I think it can be shown that the path towards that general circumstance would be achieved by profoundly reducing, or elimination the federal government, and similar institutions like the EU. OF course that would be catastrophic in many cases. But it seems obvious to me that catastrophe is unavoidable, given the already present climatological impacts, resource scarcities, etc.

      In kungfu we say that getting it is generally unavoidable, but one does have choices about how one receives the blow. The strike can be turned to a greater disadvantage for the opponent (simple example, they had to reach too far, and opportunity to catch and trap their limb).

      1. Eclair

        “…. getting it is generally unavoidable, but one does have choices about how one receives the blow.”

        Thank you for that bit of wisdom, dk. Made my day, and it’s barely getting started here in Seattle.

  29. Lee

    “A natural biomolecule has been measured acting like a quantum wave for the first time” [Technology Review]…..Armin Shayeghi at the University of Vienna and a few colleagues, who for the first time, have demonstrated quantum interference in molecules of gramicidin, a natural antibiotic made up of 15 amino acids. Their work paves the way for the study of the quantum properties of biomolecules and sets the scene for experiments that exploit the quantum nature of enzymes, DNA, and perhaps one day simple life forms such as viruses.” • Or larger?

    Quantum interference at the scale of organisms? I don’t understand what the big deal is. Doesn’t everyone have days when they can’t get out of their own way?

  30. Summer

    “I think a lot of the angst about the death of the blogosphere is a result of the fact that search is so bad you can’t find anything. I am constantly stumbling across great blogs nobody knows about.”

    Excellent point. Crappified search ate the phony “long tail” promises of regarding publishing on the internet. Squeezed more people into the same old by the usual suspects.

  31. The Rev Kev

    “Bringing the world’s buried wetlands back from the dead”

    I do not know about other countries but for the UK, finding these lakes and ponds should be fairly easy. There is a wealth of old maps for the UK going back centuries showing where they were located. I was researching a town in Ireland once and the map from the 1840s showed there to be a fish pond present. In comparing it with a satellite view the pond was long gone but once it was there. Probably filled in in the name off efficiency in the same way that farmers having been cutting down trees on the edges of their farm to stop their shadows on their crops – but leaving them vulnerable for future fierce winds.

    1. Lee

      No mention of beavers in the article. They are major wetland creators. In Yellowstone they have notably increased wetlands since the reintroduction of wolves, which eat the elk, which browse the riparian willows and other saplings, which if allowed to grow, support the beavers that increase the wetlands. In the UK it would be a matter of excluding livestock and agricultural development in riparian areas and letting the beavers run, or rather waddle, wild.

      Our study illustrates that a well-known ecosystem engineer, the beaver, can with time transform agricultural land into a comparatively species-rich and heterogeneous wetland environment, thus meeting common restoration objectives. This offers a passive but innovative solution to the problems of wetland habitat loss that complements the value of beavers for water or sediment storage and flow attenuation.
      Science Direct

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Excellent point!

        My feeling, which is all that it is, is that we should encourage the complexity of life in all its forms, as a means of bringing the Earth into balance.

  32. The Rev Kev

    “Cory Doctorow: Jeannette Ng Was Right: John W. Campbell Was a Fascist”

    I agree with Jeannette Ng’ outburst. It is so simple. Why can’t people that grew to adulthood a hundred years ago not have the same woke attitudes of 2019? Surely being dead for half a century is no excuse. Did Campbell have racist attitudes after being raised in New Jersey in the 1920s? Probably. But at least now there is no longer racism anymore among the present generation as I am sure that Jeannette Ng would agree with.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Why can’t people that grew to adulthood…

      I’m smirking while taking that phrase out of context: we are talking SF fans here.

      I haven’t read the article because I haven’t cared too much about fiction outside of classics for a few decades. I’d argue that the cornucopianism of the Golden Age should be reevaluated as well. The “Hard SF” guys were blowing smoke.

      I’d give the benefit of the doubt to Doctorow and Ng though. I just checked the Wikipedia article for Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and it does not even mention the little problem with the urban black cannibal hordes against technology that create the climax of the book. One might hardly guess without having read it, echh.

      1. Alex Cox

        The fact that Heinlein was a fascist isn’t exactly new news. John W Cambpell the same. But not all science fiction writers can be tarred with that brush, even though they wickedly chose to be white males. Frederic Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth wrote some excellent speculative fiction (a term I much prefer to ‘science’ fiction or ugh-ugh-ugh ‘sci-fi’).

        And Harry Harrison wrote a wonderful parody of Starship Troopers, Bill the Galactic Hero, from a subversive and entirely anti-war perspective. He gave a copy to Heinlein and Heinlein never spoke to him again!

  33. The Rev Kev

    “Addressing The Daily’s coverage of Sessions protests”

    I wonder how many of those students that had a panic attack about being photographed at those protests would think nothing of doxing and outing people who voted for Trump? Or who posted selfies of themselves at this event? It is a very fine line that you have to walk that can shift unexpectedly when you sign up for this worldview-


    1. anon in so cal

      That’s an interesting article. Between non-binary SJWs and severe cases of TDS, many have learned to keep their head down on campus.

  34. Summer

    RE: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/apples-streaming-service-is-cheap-but-how-does-it-stack-up-against-amazon-netflix-and-disney-2019-09-11?mod=mw_latestnews

    “That all depends on how much consumers want to pay and what they want to watch. Experts have found most families are willing to pay at most $50 a month for streaming services, typically paying for a maximum of three services.”

    Dream on. Cable and Satellite hit the dust, all of that goes up to $150 – With commercials you can’t fast forward through…HA!

    And are they still calling Netflix a “tech” company? Either they aren’t or Disney, AT&T and Comcast are too. Whose valuation is off?
    They are now doing the same thing. (The other 3 might actually be more tech, especially two of them.)

  35. Carey

    RE: “This Wearable Gets in Your Head” [Industry Week]. “Nūrio is the world’s smallest wearable EEG device that simply slips over the ear like a headphone and provides users with app- and cloud-based command capabilities to control any IoT-enabled device integrated on the nūrio cloud using brain waves rather than voice commands….

    Does someone really need / want / use this stuff? “So Cool!”

    glad I’m old

  36. anon in so cal

    Re: ““She feeds Bel-Air’s mega-mansion boom. But lunch is a battlefield….“On any given weekday, 12 to 15 food trucks patrol the streets of Bel-Air alone, serving hundreds of men who may labor on the same site for months, even years”

    “Welcome to the third world”

    The Los Angeles construction industry is largely dominated by immigrant laborers who have supplanted the higher wage workers who used to populate this sector. Yes, the food trucks are all over the place. Yes, the streets have a third world appearance.

  37. The Rev Kev

    Seems that Boeing is still have trouble in one of their areas of expertise, namely building planes. The problem here is the cargo locks on the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus which keep coming loose-


    This is not funny. A cargo Boeing 747 crashed at Bagram Airfield back in 2013 because of the same sort of problem-


  38. integer

    Hillary Clinton says she’s under enormous pressure to run in 2020 Axios

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the BBC on Tuesday that she’s “under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about” entering the 2020 race.

    What she’s saying: Clinton told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett that she thinks “all the time” about what it would’ve been like to be commander-in-chief if she had defeated President Trump in 2016.

    “Axios on HBO” poll: Politics are driving Democrats mad Axios

    More than 70% of Democrats say politics is making them increasingly angry about America, leaving them feeling like “strangers in their own land,” according to an “Axios on HBO” poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

    Why it matters: Democrats say nearly everything they watch, read or listen to triggers their anger, even the soothing voices of NPR.

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