2:00PM Water Cooler 12/10/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“‘There’s a deal:’ Mexico says USMCA trade pact to be signed Tuesday” [Reuters]. “Canada, Mexico and the United States have reached an agreement on a new North American free trade deal and they will sign it on Tuesday, but the pact still needs the approval of U.S. and Canadian lawmakers, Mexico’s president said. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the three countries had agreed on tweaks to labor, steel and aluminum provisions in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), after U.S. Democrats pressed for changes, particularly to strengthen enforcement of new Mexican labor laws.”


“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.

We have new Morning Consult and Monmouth polls, as of 12/10/2019, 12:00 PM EST. Biden leads, Sanders strong second, Warren six points back, Buttigeig trailing. This seems to be an established pattern (or, if you prefer, narrative). On to the next debate (December 19), and Iowa:

Here is the latest result, as of 12/10/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

For grins, I output the polls in a Tufte-like “power of small multiples” format:

Evident is Biden’s remarkably consistent lead (If you toss a few outliers), Sanders’ steady rise, Warren’s rise and fall, Buttigieg’s rise, and Bloomberg’s entry.

CAVEAT I think we have to track the polls because so much of the horse-race coverage is generated by them; and at least with these charts we’re insulating ourselves against getting excited about any one poll. That said, we should remember that the polling in 2016, as it turned out, was more about narrative than about sampling, and that this year is, if anything, even more so. In fact, one is entitled to ask, with the latest Buttigieg boomlet (bubble? (bezzle?)) which came first: The narrative, or the poll? One hears of push polling, to be sure, but not of collective push polling by herding pollsters. We should also worry about state polls with very small sample sizes and big gaps in coverage. And that’s before we get to the issues with cellphones (as well as whether voters in very small, very early states game their answers). So we are indeed following a horse-race, but the horses don’t stay in their lanes, some of the horses are not in it to win but to interfere with the others, the track is very muddy, and the mud has splattered our binoculars, such that it’s very hard to see what’s going on from the stands. Also, the track owners are crooked and the stewards are on the take. Everything’s fine.

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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Buttigieg (D)(1):

Sanders (D)(1): “Veteran returns to thank Bernie Sanders after cry for help at Carson City rally prompts outpouring” [Nevada Independent]. • If I quote from this, I’m going to turn into a squeeing fan boi, so I won’t do that; but do click through and read it yourself. There are at least two morals here: First, Sanders needs Nevada, so this is good for him. Second, Sanders is running a really good campaign. Contrast how this incident was managed to Warren tearing up.

Sanders (D)(2): “Cardi B: Unfiltered, Unapologetic, Unbowed” [Vogue]. “‘One thing that I like about Bernie,’ she adds, ‘is that, you know, there’s proof that he’s been doing this for years. That he been caring about people for years. That it’s inside of him, being a humanitarian. When I see the candidates be like, oh well, some of his bills, they not perfect. If he’s such a perfect person, why is Vermont not perfect? People are not perfect, but he has the perfect intentions. He naturally cares about minorities. He actually cares about people getting Medicare because he knows they can’t afford it. I don’t feel like he’s just saying these things ’cause he want the vote.'”

Trump (R)(1): “Don’t Look Now, But Things Are Getting Brighter for Trump” [Bloomberg]. “The economy appears to be in a much better place than experts feared: good news for an incumbent president heading into an election year…. A recession no longer seems likely. Gallup’s latest poll found that 55 percent of respondents rate economic conditions as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’… Trump’s superpower is to polarize absolutely everything—it’s the key to his political survival. That’s how he got through the Mueller Report without incurring any meaningful Republican defections. Currently, there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to pull the same trick when the House and Senate vote on impeachment. So far, his poll numbers have barely budged. As with everything Trump-related, caveats are in order: Trump is volatile and can blow up anything, anytime with a tweet.” • Volatility benefits speculators…

Warren (D)(1):

Warren (D)(2): “Elizabeth Warren Built the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It Became a Revolving Door.” [Daily Beast]. “When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began staffing up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 and 2011, she did something that appeared, at first blush, to be highly counterintuitive. Instead of limiting staff to those with extensive background in consumer activism and regulatory policy, she chose people with places like Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and Capital One on their CVs. Those financial institutions were the very entities that the CFPB was supposed to haunt. The agency had been included in financial regulatory reform as a wishlist item for Wall Street-skeptical progressives. And yet, here was Warren—the intellectual godmother of the CFPB—handing out key roster assignments to officials from those very institutions.” • That’s her theory of change…

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“‘High crimes and misdemeanors’: Dems unveil impeachment charges against Trump” [Politico]. Here is the text. “House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment on Tuesday charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power [UkraineGate] and obstruction of Congress, a historic step that will define Trump’s presidency and plunge Washington even deeper into a state of partisan polarization… “Despite everything we have uncovered the president’s misconduct continues to this day, unapologetically and right now,” Schiff said. ‘The argument ‘why don’t you just wait’ amounts to this: Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election?'” • Clever wording from Schiff, since it implies RussiaGate without stating it (“one more”), when in fact RussiaGate is not one of the articles. From the conservative side of the house:

Hard to disagree. My ideal outcome is that liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans destroy each other, leaving the left standing. A million-to-one chance, but what can we do?

“Ladies And Gentleman Of The Jury, Would You Impeach?” [The American Conservative]. “It is always easy to forget the basics. Quid pro quo is not Latin for bribery. The president conducts foreign policy with extraordinary latitude to say what the national interest is, not the State Department and its ambassadors, no matter how smart they think they are. Foreign aid is a policy tool and is offered in return for something. As an exasperated Mick Mulvaney told us, of course there is always a quid pro quo—vote our way at the UN, let us have a military base, help us negotiate with your neighbor. Presidents often delay aid to get what they want. An investigation is not meddling. Foreign governments work with us on criminal, financial, and other investigations all the time. The Democrats asked Ukraine to investigate Trump in 2018. Providing information is not interfering in our democracy.” • Case for the defense.

“Horowitz report is damning for the FBI and unsettling for the rest of us” [Jonathan Turley, The Hill]. “Horowitz did say that the original decision to investigate was within the discretionary standard of the Justice Department. That standard for the predication of an investigation is low, simply requiring “articulable facts.” He said that, since this is a low discretionary standard, he cannot say it was inappropriate to start…. That threshold finding is then followed by the remainder of the report, which is highly damaging and unsettling. Horowitz finds a litany of false and even falsified representations used to continue the secret investigation targeting the Trump campaign and its associates…. From the outset, the Justice Department failed to interview several key individuals or vet critical information and sources in the Steele dossier. Justice Department officials insisted to Horowitz that they choose not to interview campaign officials because they were unsure if the campaign was compromised and did not want to tip off the Russians. However, the inspector general report says the Russians were directly told about the allegations repeatedly by then CIA Director John Brennan and, ultimately, President Obama. So the Russians were informed, but no one contacted the Trump campaign so as not to inform the Russians? Meanwhile, the allegations quickly fell apart. Horowitz details how all of the evidence proved exculpatory of any collusion or conspiracy with the Russians.” • I guess the RussiaGate stuff is so good the Democrats aren’t using it for the impeachment. They want to keep their powder dry and use it in the general.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Only About 3% Of Americans Actually Fought About Politics On Thanksgiving” [HuffPo]. “[W]hile advice for these holiday fights is ubiquitous, the actual conflicts they’re meant to address are vanishingly rare, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.”

“Feminism for the 99%” [Verso]. “Clinton’s defeat is our wake-up call. Exposing the bankruptcy of liberal feminism, it has created an opening for a challenge to it from the left. In the vacuum produced by liberalism’s decline, we have a chance to build another feminism: a feminism with a different definition of what counts as a feminist issue, a different class orientation, and a different ethos—one that is radical and transformative. This manifesto is our effort to promote that ‘other’ feminism.”

Stats Watchd

Commodities: “After Aramco’s Record IPO, Barely Any of Its Stock Will Trade” [Bloomberg]. “Saudi Aramco will surpass Apple Inc. as the world’s biggest listed company when it debuts this week after a record-breaking initial public offering. Unlike the tech titan it displaces, barely any of its shares will trade. The Gulf oil giant sold a 1.5% stake in the IPO, while the remainder stays in the hands of the Saudi state. That free float, or the proportion of stock owned by public investors that can change hands, is among the lowest globally.” • So more “initial” than “public”?

Credit: “Super-Rich Families Pour Into $787 Billion Private Debt Market” [Bloomberg]. “Direct loans to far-flung oil exploration projects, luxury real estate projects, private equity-backed businesses, and cash-intensive tech startups can pay yields more than twice as big as the junk-bond market. That’s lured the likes of the Denisenko family and other members of the global elite such as former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt Jr. Stockholm-based Proventus Capital, which spun off from the family office of Swedish financier Robert Weil, is investing on behalf of wealthy clients, as well as institutional investors, in the market. More commonly, family offices are investing in the private credit market through funds. The Pritzker family, which owns the Hyatt hotel chain, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust have also put money into funds that invest in private distressed debt, tax filings show. Spokesmen for McCourt and the Gates Foundation Trust declined to comment. Requests for comment from the Pritzker family weren’t immediately returned. Private credit has boomed globally as banks, under pressure from regulators since the global financial crisis to reduce risk, have pulled back from lending to smaller, potentially more vulnerable companies.”

The Bezzle: “Away replaces CEO Steph Korey after Verge investigation” [The Verge]. “The news comes after days of public backlash due to leaked documents showing Korey routinely intimidated employees on public Slack channels. After The Verge’s initial story broke, new leaks showed Away was directing employees not to engage with the article even from their personal social media accounts.”

The Bezzle: “SoftBank ditches stake in dog walking start-up Wag” [Financial Times]. “In an internal memo seen by the Financial Times, Wag chief executive Garrett Smallwood wrote that ‘as a more focused company with a solid capital base that is right-sized to the needs of our business and strategy, we have plenty of runway to execute our plans to accelerate our progress toward profitable growth.'”

Honey for the Bears: “Have We Really Escaped a Recession? Google It.” [John Authers, Bloomberg]. • Technical analysis of Google Trends?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 68 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 10 at 11:59am.

The Biosphere

“Plants May Let Out Ultrasonic Squeals When Stressed” [Smithsonian]. “Measuring in the range of 20 to 150 kilohertz, the researchers found that even happy, healthy plants made the occasional noise. But when cut, tobacco plants emitted an average of 15 sounds within an hour of being cut, while tomato plants produced 25 sounds. Stress from drought—brought on by up to ten days without water—elicited about 11 squeals per hour from the tobacco plants, and about 35 from the tomato plants. The shrieks were also surprisingly informative. When the team fed the recordings into a machine learning model, it was able to use the sounds’ intensity and frequency distinguish whether they were related to dryness or physical harm, or were just regular, day-to-day chatter.” • Not peer-reviewed, however. And we don’t know how the plants vocalize make sounds.

“Why you should plant trees in square holes” [Guardian (Nippersmom)]. “[S]ystematic planting trials have shown that roots are not that good at growing round corners. When they hit the tight, 90-degree angle of your square hole, instead of sneaking around to create a spiral, they flare out of the planting hole to colonise the native soil. This has been shown consistently to speed up tree establishment and make the specimens more resistant to environmental challenges, such as drought. Considering that spade blades are flat, digging a square hole, to me at least, seems far easier than cutting a perfectly circular one. It’s an easy win-win.” • Cool!

“Alberta ignores the ticking time-bomb of orphaned oil and gas wells at its own peril” [Globe and Mail]. Yikes:

The Calgary Herald estimates that Alberta is home to 93,000 inactive and orphaned oil and gas wells. While many of those wells are owned by financially viable companies, an increasing number are not. This represents a “looming financial and environmental crisis” reminiscent of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, according to an investigation last year from The Globe and Mail. “A growing proportion [of inactive wells] are owned by companies that can least afford to clean them up … when their commercial life ends.”

When that happens in Alberta, those inactive wells become the responsibility of the Orphan Well Association (OWA), which is primarily funded by an industry levy that is increasingly understood as insufficient. The OWA’s chief executive credits a provincial $235-million loan for enabling it to reclaim about 1,200 wells since 2017, bringing the current inventory down to 3,406 wells – but more wells in need of reclamation are on the way.

One of the primary barriers to a clear understanding of the problem appears to be the absence of a credible and transparent assessment of cleanup costs. Based on its recent experience, the OWA suggests that average costs range between $27,000 and $34,000 a well. Critics, such as the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, dismiss those numbers as primarily based on easy-to-cleanup wells, and point to internal Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) estimates that suggests the costs could potentially rise to $210,000 a well, which would add up to a staggering $100-billion in total liabilities. Those same estimates also looked at oil-sands mines and provincial pipelines, which could bring the number up as high as $260-billion.

Hoo boy. Texas, Louisiana, California, Pennsylvania… Listen up!

“Drax owner plans to be world’s first carbon-negative business” [Guardian]. “For decades the UK’s largest single power plant pumped millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning coal to make electricity. In recent years Drax has converted its huge coal generation units to run on renewable biomass, or wood pellets. The transformation has required subsidies of about £2m a day. The next phase of its climate action plan will require further government support to develop technology that can capture millions of tonnes of carbon emissions from the plant before permanently storing the gas in underground caverns. Will Gardiner, the chief executive of Drax, said bioenergy with carbon capture (BECCs) was critical to beating the climate crisis and creating a sustainable economy.” • See NC on BECCs here.


“1.9 billion people at risk from mountain water shortages, study shows” [Guardian] (original). “A quarter of the world’s population are at risk of water supply problems as mountain glaciers, snow-packs and alpine lakes are run down by global heating and rising demand, according to an international study. The first inventory of high-altitude sources finds the Indus is the most important and vulnerable “water tower” due to run-off from the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Ladakh, and Himalayan mountain ranges, which flow downstream to a densely populated and intensively irrigated basin in Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan…. The study says 1.9 billion people and half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots could be negatively affected by the decline of natural water towers, which store water in winter and release it slowly over the summer.” • Paging Michael Burry…

Health Care

“Surprise billing ban draft: Middle ground leaves few pleased” [Healthcare Dive]. “The latest details emerging on legislation to ban surprise medical billing includes nuggets meant to pacify payers and providers, but is not pleasing either… The independent dispute resolution process would be the so-called baseball style arbitration, where each party can submit one payment option to be decided on by an independent arbiter. That third-party would be required to consider factors like market-share, patient acuity, treatment complexity and a provider’s training, education and experience. The party that initiated arbitration can’t bring the same other party to a resolution process over the same item or service for 90 days after the decision.” • Yeah, let’s add another epicycle to save the phenomena.

Yet another health insurance horror story:

Our Famously Free Press

“7,700 people have lost their jobs so far this year in a media landslide” [Business Insider]. “In the past month, layoffs and cuts have hit Gannett, the CBC, and Highsnobiety, bringing the total number of media layoffs in 2019 above 7,700, according to Business Insider’s tally. The latest cuts followed layoff and buyout announcements at BuzzFeed, Verizon, Vice Media, and Disney. For comparison, it’s estimated that some 5,000 media jobs were cut from the market from 2014 to 2017.”

“McClatchy Goes Digital to Ward Off ‘Ghost Papers'” [Bloomberg]. “Although they’ve had their share of layoffs, McClatchy’s 30 media properties, which include the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are not ghost papers…. McClatchy has reduced its debt from $5 billion to $700 million and has pushed off further payments to 2026. McClatchy family members haven’t received a dividend in a decade. And it is negotiating with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to take over its pension, which holds $1.3 billion in assets. These three moves — assuming the latter happens — will free up the cash McClatchy needs. To do what, exactly? [CEO Craig Forman’s] goal is to complete a digital transformation that will allow McClatchy to thrive again by going from a business that relies primarily on advertising to one that relies mainly on digital subscribers, just as the New York Times and the Washington Post have done so successfully. That may sound obvious, but no other regional chain has been able to accomplish it.” • Every McClatchy paper I track is a good one. McClatchy’s predecessor was Knight-Ridder, and they were the only venue to get Iraq WMDs right. So they have been punished, and the hysterical warmongering disinformation purveyors at the Washington Post and the New York Times have been richly rewarded, like the lying weasels they are. If there is a McClatchy paper in your area, consider subscribing.

Groves of Academe

“Mom to plead guilty to paying for son to cheat through Georgetown classes in college admissions scam” [CNN]. “A California woman paid over $9,000 to have a person affiliated with Rick Singer’s college counseling business take online classes for her son so he could graduate Georgetown University…. Littlefair is the 53rd person to be charged in the sprawling college admissions scam first announced in March. Singer was the mastermind of a brazen scheme to cheat on standardized tests and bribe college coaches in order to help wealthy parents game the admissions system. He has pleaded guilty to several charges and has been cooperating with prosecutors.”

Class Warfare

“Why MBAs Are Thriving Everywhere but America” [Bloomberg]. “At a glance the MBA might appear to be in trouble. Applications worldwide to advanced business programs dropped 6.9% this year, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which administers the GMAT test, a key benchmark for prospective students. But the world outside America tells a very different story. Two-thirds of European full-time MBA programs reported an increase in applications in 2019, with a similar number in Asia reporting growth, the GMAC data show…. Non-U.S. students who might ordinarily flock to the prestigious American programs are turned off by the Trump administration’s hostile environment for immigrants, supporting universities in their home countries. And a broader shift in the base of power toward emerging economies, coupled with countries like China engaging more on the global stage, makes outward-facing MBA programs more popular than ever.” • Great. Let the MBAs run somebody else’s economy, for a change.

“What if the foundational theories about how to run a company have been corrupted?” [Quartz]. For example: “After digging through the archives at HBS, [professors Todd Bridgman and Stephen Cummings] discovered that Wallace Donham, the former dean who popularized the case study beginning in the 1920s, later decided it was too limited in scope. In reading Donham’s writing and his correspondence with the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, in particular, it became clear to the researchers that Donham sincerely believed the case study’s decision-forcing exercise—designed to channel students’ mental energy toward hypothetically improving profits at a single business—was too indifferent to societal consequences and equality among workers.”

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“UCSC grad students strike, saying they will withhold grades until given a raise to afford housing” [Santa Cruz Sentinel]. “Saying they cannot afford the cost of living in Santa Cruz, a number of UC Santa Cruz graduate students are engaging in an unauthorized strike — and plan to withhold students’ grades until given a raise. A group of graduate students announced Sunday they are demanding a $1,412 monthly raise. The raise would serve as a cost-of-living adjustment that accounts for the higher cost of housing in the Santa Cruz rental market compared to their peers at UC Riverside, according to the students. The strike coincides with the end of UCSC’s fall quarter, with students’ grades due Dec. 18. Until they receive the raise, the graduate students say they won’t submit those grades as part of their teaching assistant duties. Research assistants participating in the strike were planning to refuse additional work.”

“File an Information Request with Every Grievance” [Labor Notes]. “It is a good practice to attach an information request to each grievance. Additional requests may be made based on the material initially provided or on employer contentions during the grievance. Continuous requests add leverage for the union. Over time, managers come to understand that if they violate the contract, they will be hit not only by a grievance but also by enforceable demands for sizable amounts of data, often including sensitive records. Whenever possible, demand correspondence between the employer and involved parties. In a grievance over subcontracting, for example, ask for letters, emails, and text messages between the employer and the subcontractor. Following grievance meetings, review the employer’s arguments and demand that the employer back up its contentions.” • News you can use!

“There’s A New Kind Of Inequality. And It’s Not About Income” [NPR]. No, of course not. “Global inequality is now more about disparities in opportunity than disparities in income.” Something Clinton might have said. This isn’t new at all.

Adding my little bit on Volcker:

News of the Wired

“The artificial skin that allows robots to feel” [CNN]. “Scientists last month unveiled an artificial skin that enables robots to feel and respond to physical contact, a skill that will be needed as they come in increasingly close contact with people… But if robots end up working more closely with their fleshy colleagues, one concern is how they will interact safely.” • “Fleshy colleagues.” Maybe I should have filed this under “Class Warfare.” Useful for the Jackpot, though, assuming robots can get their other issues sorted.

“L.A. Affairs: I started online dating at 85 (but said I was 75!)” [Los Angeles Times]. “After months of widowhood — after consoling family and friends had scattered back to their own lives, and the casserole dishes were empty, and I couldn’t take another minute of TV programs written for the intelligence of a 2-year-old — I decided to give ‘it’ a try.” • Months!

“The most effective form of exercise isn’t ‘exercise’ at all” [Quartz]. “Our paper, published today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, shows this type of regular, incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing is likely to produce health benefits, even if you do it in 30-second bursts, spread over the day. In fact, incorporating more high-intensity activity into our daily routines—whether that’s by vacuuming the carpet with vigor or walking uphill to buy your lunch—could be the key to helping all of us get some high quality exercise each day. And that includes people who are overweight and unfit.” • Big if true. I’m no gym rat.

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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 (taunger):

taunger writes: “Witch hazel blossom with changing leaves background.”


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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. Stephen V.

    Tulsi G. announced on the Twitter today that she would not be participating in the Dec. 19th Dem *Debate*-so-called.
    Must be the tip of a bigger iceberg. She is possibly being messed with in unspeakable ways. Or am I just foily and cynical?

    1. grayslady

      Tulsi is basically a conservative, anti-war Democrat. People mistakenly assumed she was progressive because she backed Bernie the last time around; but once she announced her public option health care plan, she lost a lot of potential support. New Hampshire is the only state where she is polling above 2-3%. If she can’t get on the board in NH, she’s out of the race. She currently doesn’t have the money to fund a national campaign, and she will not be seen as viable unless she shows some upward movement in at least one of the early states. The “debates” are for the ultra-wealthy and the true national contenders. At this point, that isn’t Tulsi, and I think her decision is a logical (but unlikely) Hail Mary pass.

    2. Hepativore

      I wonder if this is a sign that Tulsi Gabbard will be dropping out, soon? While I support her candidacy for the most part, I think that Gabbard withdrawing from the 2020 race would probably be a good idea at this point. The more we can winnow the field, the better, as priority one is helping Sanders. Still, I hope that Sanders considers Tulsi Gabbard for a position in his cabinet in the highly unlikely event that the DNC lets Sanders win.

      Those stubborn Biden voters are becoming a problem. I realize that a lot of the people idolize the Obama years, and Biden has a lot of visibility and recognition going for him. The problem is that it is no easy task to dissuade people who have been raised on a steady diet of CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times for their news for years. Any narratives to the contrary from these media sources is subconsciously rejected.

      Sanders is indeed going to have to be more aggressive in going after Biden and attempting to court voters in the Silent Generation and Boomer demographics. However, he is going to have to do that very cautiously. The media would love to spin it as some mean and crazy old guy beating up on “wiser and more pragmatic elder statesmen” like Biden.

      1. russell1200

        My guess is she is calculating that she has more potential upside from the discussion about her skipping – presuming of course she qualifies – than from anything she can do at the actual debate.

        1. jrs

          Hahaha really. I mean she came on strong in the initial debates, but now I hear people say “all she does is pick fights with other candidates”. It may not be all she can do, but it’s an impression people are getting, and maybe not helping.

        2. CoryP

          I hadn’t thought of it but that seems perfectly accurate. Whether to cynically generate news coverage or simply the reality that they won’t let her say very much.

          1. Danny

            Allows her to gracefully help Bernie win the nomination, then ask her to be his vice presidental candidate. Couple her service record, combat experience and her rank (Major), along with this:
            “Veteran returns to thank Bernie Sanders after cry for help at Carson City rally prompts outpouring,” and you have massive support from the military voters and their families.

            1. Massinissa

              I love Tulsi but I’m *really* not convinced she would be a good VP choice for Sanders. Among other things, her unfavorability rating is higher than any other Dem in the race except Bloomberg. I just don’t think she would be Bernie’s best option.

              1. richard

                well, with sanders/gabbard you say goodbye to a sizable swath of suburban and war industry motivated clinton voters
                and also maybe some more people who have been heavily propagandized
                because she has been lied about a f$#@ing lot, let’s be real
                so not a totally tiny number
                however many people that actually works on anymore
                choosing her would be a very bold move by sanders
                throwing in with anti-interventionism
                It could also pay off huge
                the forever war isn’t popular at all
                soldiers and generals and the lot remain popular, much to my civilian chagrin,
                but the wars suck hard, and everybody knows it
                I don’t know enough about gabbard’s domestic policy ideas
                other than her horrible backslide on med4all
                she hardly ever talks about that stuff
                i say go for it though
                do it bernie, throw down
                i’m with you

            2. Fiery Hunt

              Never gonna happen.

              Sanders needs, what? ..15-20% of the Blue-no-matter-who Clintoniistas? Add Gabbard and you’ll just get 2% at best. She doesn’t bring anything to the table. She probably can’t carry Hawaii at this point.

              Best to have her endorsement and no further contact.
              Sad but this is life or death politics and she’s not worth the loss.

        3. Mo's Bike Shop

          The Deep Democratic Party is, by all appearances, muffling the primaries. I would not be surprised at this point if they agree to a Christmas Break for Bipartisan Impeachment and Aperitifs.

          Can anyone document how the winning ‘gotcha’ from, say, the third debate is bearing on the minds of the undecideds and Should I Votes? (Especially remembering the accidental censorship that all goes one way)

          So I agree there’s probably more movement in opting out. Every debate has to be a huge distraction for a campaign. And in less than two months we may have to wrap our head around the common knowledge that those Iowans have always been in cahoots with the Russians.

          1. JBird4049

            Sigh. The short article in The Hill has a bit of the hagiographic feel to it. It looks like the film might be another bit of propaganda for the Sainted Hillary. The church does not fail, it can only be failed.

      2. WJ

        It is Warren who must be destroyed.
        Sanders must be willing to draw stronger distinctions as many have been led to think that Warren is roughly equivalent with Sanders. Ideally she will bomb out in the early primaries. She’s bad enough at politics to make this a possibility, though unlikely.

        Buttigieg will hopefully last as he detracts from her voters.

        If Warren implodes and Buttigieg stays Sanders can beat Biden.

    3. dcrane

      The statement cast the decision in terms of focusing on SC and NH primaries. Whether that is true, or she’s just trying to reduce impact of anticipated failure to make the poll criterion I don’t know. She has already declared that she is not running for her House seat in order to focus on presidential campaign, so it could be for real.

      I like her campaign b/c I hope it will mak Bernie raise foreign policy to a higher priority. But I hope that if she does not outperform expectations after the first primary/caucus or two, she then decides to endorse.

    4. HotFlash

      In this Skype call today with The Hill’s Rising team, Tulsi cites the low speaking time she was given and says she feels her time would be better spent talking to voters. Starts at 4:37 but the whole clip is worth it.

    5. anon in so cal

      Tulsi supporters interpret this as Tulsi sticking it to the DNC. Others point out that she was apparently not going to qualify. According to Nate Silver, the Monmouth poll did not have her at 4%. Tulsi has gotten a lot of support for this decision and on Twitter, at least, it is not being interpreted as leading to her dropping out. Centrists have unmercifully ridiculed her over this.

      1. Sol

        Idea: Gabbard spends the debate livestreaming commentary, with Joe Rogan, James Charles, Maureen Dowd and bourbon.

        1. ambrit

          Jimmy Dore and his associates raised a similar idea last night. Have Gabbard and Yang on at the same time as the debate and run a “debate in exile.”

    1. JohnnyGL

      Yes, his Morning Consult numbers have been steadily increasing. His favorability #s are unmatched, he’s improving in the 2nd choice numbers, too.

    2. Lee

      And then there’s this in the New York Times:

      Don’t Think Sanders Can Win? You Don’t Understand His Campaign

      Mr. Sanders … has tapped into the anger and bitterness coursing through the lives of regular people who have found it increasingly impossible to make ends meet in this grossly unequal society…. His demands for a redistribution of wealth from the top to the rest of society and universal, government-backed programs have resonated with the forgotten residents of the country…

      Under normal circumstances, the multiracial working class is invisible. This has meant its support for Mr. Sanders’s candidacy has been hard to register in the mainstream coverage of the Democratic race. But these voters are crucial to understanding the resilience of the Sanders campaign…

      1. John

        The anger and bitterness coursing through the lives of regular people that not one talking head on TV can see. They all keep telling us the economy is roaring.

        I guess they don’t know any Americans who don’t own stock.

    3. WJ

      The raw polling data must be forcing the firms to do this as they’ve found every which way to justify and/or produce a lower % for Sanders.

      It also raises his expectations for early primaries.

  2. Wukchumni

    “Why you should plant trees in square holes” [Guardian (Nippersmom)]. “[S]ystematic planting trials have shown that roots are not that good at growing round corners.
    I think because when you buy a tree from a nursery it comes in a round container-there’s an emphasis on round holes, whereas when I receive bareroot fruit trees from online sellers, the roots are kept moistened en route to you and there isn’t any dirt, so i’ve been doing square holes for some time.

    Now about my sworn enemy, the underground movement that terra-rizes me with pincer attacks on trunk hated trees, they don’t seem to have a hole preference, and I can’t very well pump 10,000 gallons of water down there to teach them a little lesson.

      1. Oregoncharles

        In the vineyard I worked at, pruning in the winter, gophers were a major problem: they could chew off a mature grape vine just under the ground, so it fell over as you finished pruning it. They used a “gopher gun”; insert long double tube in gopher tunnel, feed in propane and oxygen, light it (striker at end of tube.) VERY gratifying explosion; the shock wave was supposed to kill the underground beaver. Once or twice, one flew out of the hole. The guy who used to do this seemed to enjoy it far too much.

        Don’t let the kiddies try it.

  3. Samuel Conner

    If I may offer a thought on the DK poll presentation project:

    I think there is something flawed in the standard published assertions about the uncertainty in the polling numbers.

    It appears to me that the standard assertion is that in a poll of N respondents, the stated uncertainty will be 100% times SQRT(N)/N

    So, for example, in a polling sample of 1000 respondents, the stated uncertainty in the polling numbers will be about 3% ( Sqrt(1000) is ~ 30).
    And this is asserted as though the uncertainty is the same for all candidates, which is bonkers.

    I don’t know with certainly what is going on under the hood of this assertion, but it looks very much like a simple extrapolation from (and misapplication of) Poisson statistics. In a Poisson process, the variance is equal to the mean, so the standard deviation is the square root of the mean.

    But that applies to the mean of the process, not the total size of the sample.

    In a poll of 1000 respondents in which Candidate “X” gets 10 votes, Candidate “X”‘s mean vote total is 10 (as there is only a single measure, the estimated mean of the process is simply the measured value), and so the vote ratio with its appropriately calculated uncertainty is

    NOT 1% +/- 3%, [ie, 100% times 10/1000 +/- 100% times Sqr(1000)/1000) ]

    but rather 1% +/- 0.3% ( since SQRT(10)/1000 is ~ 0.3%)

    IOW, the uncertainty in Candidate “X” numbers should be computed from the square root of Candidate “X”‘s vote total, not the square root of the total sample size.


    So: a suggestion for DK’s project:

    could you add “error bars” or an “uncertainty envelope” that is properly computed based on the actual uncertainty in each candidates vote share?

    This would also permit statistically rational smoothing and combination of polling results assigning appropriate statistical weights to different polls, which might help to discern trends.

    1. dk

      Thank you for putting some thought into this, but I’m not sure it’s reasonable as presented. When candidate X gets 10 votes out of 1000, those 10 votes are solid, not approximate, at least within the context of that poll. We might, by the same theory, question whether the poll’s sample size was actually 1000, and multiply in another ±3.16%. even before calculating a range for Candidate X.

      There is a single event, the question asked (“If the election were held today, would you vote for [long list of name] (pick one),” so Poisson does not apply, it’s for a series over time, and *when* something is going to happen, not what the internal measure(s) event will be (when will the bus arrive, not how many passengers will be in it).

      And in this case that event is the Democratic presidential primary, which happens over 19 different days across five months, and administered in a variety of ways particular to each state (open/closed, caucus/primary, etc.) but still no Poisson calculation because the exact dates are known.

      Having had to deal with polling information in the course of working on political campaign data, and being presented with a lot of different methodologies for calculating their relevance, I have taken a different approach. I look at the rawest numbers I can get and take them as facts at a given time (and place, and sample subset), and I look for comparisons to other patterns in voter data, as well as comparing between different polls (from different pollsters, so their methodology becomes significant). While tedious and somewhat opaque to drive-by self-proclaimed experts, I was able to produce consistent win rate above 75% (87% peak in 2002). Then the data modelers took over and enabled idiots with short attention spans and fewer scruples to lose winnable election while blaming this or that identity group.

      Math is (maths are) great for specific calculation and pattern insight, but fuzzing up numbers so their boundaries can seem to fit arbitrary curves strikes me as fantasy, I’m not interested (no personal offense, just generally). And since I’m writing this program for no particular compensation, its unfortunate users are stuck with my choices on this (I’ve discussed this with Lambert). Periodic averages make sense to diminish noise and more easily recognize trends over time, but the range of variance in the hard poll numbers must be significant as well, since it’s actually present without arbitrary calculation (beyond deliberate manipulation, which should be recognized when possible and not massaged away). I would like to produce an envelope visualization to make the range easier to capture by the untrained eye, but the current graphics library makes the very difficult (and so far very very slow), it’s something I’m working on but haven’t solved yet.

      While I do think that all 2nd+ hand news is (and always has been) rumor, and should never be considered accurate by default, rational skepticism/credence doesn’t come from any fixed proportions but from how well the information matches up with our own rolling aggregate of all information we individually have about the universe at large. If the universe were individually subjective (as some faux-physicists suggest), our observations of physical phenomena would diverge much more wildly than they do (indeed, the physical phenomena themselves would have to be disuniform, from the disparate influence of so many different identities). Our societies and cultures however are subjective and intrinsically imaginary, no surprise that our opinions on those matters cannot find easy/comfortable uniformity across multiple millions (which would in any case be fascism). Democracy ties to balance individual assertion with group cooperation, easy to see that the premise breaks down with larger numbers and geographic expanse, but here we are.

      1. Samuel Conner

        My understanding of Poisson statistics is that it is generally appropriate when the underlying process is describable by a mean rate of events (whether spatial or temporal). The standard example is in photometry, measurement of light intensity by counting photons. The uncertainty in the measured number of photons detected within a specified time period is the square root of the number of photons detected.

        The analogy to polling (which I think must be being made by the pollsters themselves because of the obvious similarity of their stated “uncertainty” to the Poisson prescription, but bizarrely using the sample size rather than the measured numbers) is that voter preferences are indeed describable by a mean rate (“rate” in the sense of “per total votes cast”) of voter preference for each candidate — that’s what the poll results report as clues into what might happen when the votes are ultimately cast. The reported results of polling are attempts to measure this underlying mean rate of voter preference for each candidate.

        Re: “When candidate X gets 10 votes out of 1000, those 10 votes are solid, not approximate, at least within the context of that poll.”

        This may misunderstand my concern. The point of a poll is not to know what the specific subsample is thinking, but to try to understand what the entire electorate is thinking, using the subsample as an representation of the whole. But it’s inescapable that the results of measurements of subsamples will deviate from the underlying population properties; the magnitude of these deviations can be estimated with the appropriate model of the underlying process.

        And so it seems to me important to try to estimate accurate uncertainties in the stated “top-line” poll results: If this poll were repeated with a different sample of people drawn from the same population, what is the probable range of variation in the results that would be measured?


        A more fundamental analysis, I suppose, would require one to employ a multinomial probability distribution. I’m less familiar with this; dealt with binomial distribution in basic probability theory decades ago and got a glimpse of the multinomial distribution, but never had occasion to do anything with it.

        One would visualize the total electorate as a giant bag containing balls of different colors (corresponding to individual voters’ preferences for the different candidates) and one randomly selects N balls from this bag in order to construct one’s survey. The distribution of the colors of the balls in this sample is a measured estimate of the unobserved true distribution of colors of the balls inside the bag.

        Given the consistent pattern that stated uncertainties invariably look like they were computed using the Poisson prescription (misapplied to the sample size rather than to the measured mean event counts), I feel pretty confident that pollsters are not descending to this more detailed level of analysis.

        I suspect that the results of a multinomial distribution prescription for estimation of uncertainty would not differ materially from the poisson distribution prescription.

        A more profound objection to using any of these methods might be that the actual “measured” vote counts in these surveys are not reported; what is reported has been massaged in various ways. But one might counter-argue that the stated results are their estimates of the actual measurements that they would have made had the sample not been subject to whatever biases they corrected for. Granting the validity of the pollster’s de-biasing methods, one could treat the “top-line” results as if they were actual measurements and then analyze the implied uncertainties.

      2. Samuel Conner

        Agreed on principle re: Poisson, though the two give similar results for the current situation in which all candidates have relatively low vote shares.

        Googling a bit, the multinomial distribution, not the Poisson distribution, is the right model of the population and sampling process.

        For small vote shares, the multinomial distribution prescription for the variance and standard deviation is close to the Poisson distribution (converging to it as the vote share becomes very small). Poisson obviously fails for large vote shares (as the vote share for the leading candidate approaches 100%, the uncertainty in the measured estimate ought to approach zero; multinomial does this while Poisson leads to an absurd result.)

        If you have access to raw measures, you could readily compute uncertainties in the implied estimates of the total electorate preferences.

        Using the multinomial distribution, in a survey sample of size N, if candidate “X” got n_X “votes”, the estimated rate of voter preference within the entire population of which the survey is a sample,

        n_X / N ,

        is uncertain within a range (using the square root of the distribution variance, the “standard deviation,” as an estimate of the width of that range)

        (1 / N) * SQRT[ n_X * (1 – n_X/N)]

        This might help when comparing polls near in time but of significantly different sample sizes.

        1. Samuel Conner

          A silly thought, perhaps, but one might wonder why a simple calculation like this, the uncertainty in each candidate’s estimated vote share, is never provided in polling results.

          Surely, one might guess, pollsters would want their poll-consumers to know what the actual uncertainties in individual candidates’ vote shares are.

          I think that there might be a simple answer to this:

          I have the impression that pollsters jealously guard the models of the voting population and survey respondents that they use to massage the raw numbers in order to arrive at their best guesses of actual population preferences or actual election day choices.

          This massaging means that the survey result raw vote shares differ from the final reported percentages. It also means that the properly calculated uncertainties (which need to be scaled by the same factors that are used to scale the raw survey ratios) would differ from the simple binomial distribution prescriptions based on the raw survey ratios.

          I think this means that if the pollsters reported accurate uncertainties at the candidate level, it would reveal the scale factors they had used to massage the raw vote ratios, and that would disclose something about the models they use to counteract the biases in the sample. It might even be possible to reverse engineer the models, which the polling corporations might prefer to regard as proprietary IP.

          This might be the reason behind the, IMO bone-headed, single number uncertainty that is always presented with these polls and that means very little.

  4. JohnnyGL


    Again, I have a lot of love for Kyle and Secular Talk, but I haven’t heard this stunning admission form Pelosi before.

    She said she sat on the intelligence committee briefings in the run up to the Iraq War and knew there wasn’t an imminent threat from Iraqi WMDs and that was fine. She let Bush go to war and didn’t say anything!?!?!?


    The idea that she can casually, openly admit this in public and not face howling calls for her to step down and be impeached speaks volumes about our political culture.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      Kulinski making it digestible for the non-political junkies of a certain age to understand in easy terms how rigged it all is. May he, Krystal Ball, Michael Brooks, and David Doel continue sparing no sacred cows whatsoever.
      Sanders himself was on his show earlier this year. Nearly 800K subscribers. The old media is dying, the new one is being born.

      1. JBird4049

        She is the Speaker of the House and her connections to the California Democratic Party is decades deep. Including her family and their connections in San Francisco and Sacramento, might make it near a century. The only way I she her leaving is feet first by stretcher to a hospital, or if she loses an election, which I do not see happening anytime soon.

    2. john ashley

      Nothing a little duct tape and plastic sheeting can’t fix.

      By the way, where were all those patriots in the Intel community back in the day warning that this was all bogus propaganda. They knew , but ……..
      Now the hero INTEL are everywhere.
      What a joke.

      I recall taking a ton of *&^&&&(( over the Iraqi war runup at the time.
      It was not hidden if you had made the effort to dig a little.

      That’s why she can “get away” with it.
      The country was like a rabid dog to go to war.
      It was everywhere.

      1. BobW

        While I was in a restaurant some guy was muttering about 9/11 and raring to have the US go at Iraq. Of course, blundering idiot I popped up and said Iraq had nothing to do with it. Boy, he got real scary then. Don’t bother some people with facts. You may live longer.

        1. shtove

          In the week when Powell waved his teeny-weeny vial around the UN, I was in an Irish pub in the company of some insurance executives, everyone drinking G&Ts. I laughed off the headlines, and it’s the only time I’ve had a woman scream in my face. They’re a global tag-team.

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      And that admission won’t even be one of the “takeaways” from this bs Town Hall…it matters more to the MSM that she said Bill was impeached for being “stupid.”

    4. richard

      I seem to remember hearing about this briefing before, not sure this is “hot” news.
      It is certainly damning news though
      here is j. dore’s take on it
      he and steph and ron also make fun of Pelosi’s incoherent rambling
      enjoyable if you like that sort of thing

  5. JTMcPhee

    From the Grauniad, and even headline-reported in my own very conservative local newspaper: “US lies and deception spelled out in Afghanistan papers’ shocking detail.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/09/afghanistan-papers-military-washington-post-analysis The local headline reads “In Afghanistan, A U.S. War On Truth.”

    Got to read quite a ways down the page to get a flavor of the “story.”

    In other news, after earnestly promising Charlie Brown she would not do it this time, Lucy van Pelt once again pulls the football trick. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me infinity times? Presumes I have the choice of policy to disbelieve and stop the game, in the face of the realities of power and the grand success of Bernays’ insights into human nature. There’s also a new crop of suckers that comes along constantly, prepared to continue self-subjugation to the Powers That Be by the constant barrage and flood of indoctrination and propaganda from all corners.

    Nice twist-and-spin to the reporting on the revelations-in-FUD-context: It was just a matter of not pulling out the right plan, you see. The Empire was going to nation-build by building up self-sustaining national militaries and police forces. By pouring billions of MMT dollars into the inlet funnels marked “graft” and “corruption.” A reverse cornucopia, yet again. But you see, if only the generals had adopted a different Doctrine, and a more appropriate Plan, and prosecuted it vigorously, THIS time, good old Charlie Brown would have kicked that good old ball right between the good old Goalposts! Implicit in the framing is the notion not that this was a fool’s errand (the wealth transfer says the mopes are the fools) but that even now, the “Situation” can be salvaged by “getting back on course.” With more money and men and materiel. No mission statement given by any of the players, Pentagram or Foggy Bottom or Langley… just “pursuit of US National Interests,” haw haw haw…

    Shelve the “Afghanistan Papers” alongside the “Vietnam Papers” and the “Panama Papers” and the other deformed “Revelations” of vast perfidy, and wait for the dust to settle down on the ever-growing collection… As to all the “casualties,” well hey, they’re pretty much silent, the silence of the grave or the drowned voices of mopes run over by the whole Great Game Juggernaut… Can’t make a war-is-a-racket omelet without breaking a few eggs, amiright?

    And hey, it’s only $83 billion over what,18 years — just a rounding error, when you get down to it. I wonder what the real number is, of course. Would they lie to us? Again? In Notagainistan? On to Tehran!!!

    1. ambrit

      If the Russians subvert the Iowans in favour of their “puppet” Goldstein, it will be “On To Des Moines!”
      “We have always been at war….”

  6. Summer

    RE: we-got-our-management-history-wrong-and-capitalism-is-worse-for-it

    “At least two former students tell me they had no complaints. He is “a really engaging teacher,” says Ruth Weatherall, who took Bridgman’s organizational behavior class more than a decade ago.

    Weatherall was so inspired by the course that she later chose to specialize in critical management studies, focusing on nonprofit and social enterprise management, and lectures on the topic at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia. …”

    “Another former student, Ben Walker, who now teaches at the same university as Bridgman, says his experience with Bridgman in his second year of business school resuscitated his faith in education itself…”

    Maybe another decade the students critical of management theory will actually work at companies and, well-armed with the well-deserved critique, manage people

  7. WheresOurTeddy

    If Warren had any instincts at all to read the political room, she’d be denouncing Volcker as the top-down class warrior criminal he is.

    People show you who they are.

    1. Oguk

      Matt Stoller has a nice bit today on Volcker: On the Tragedy of Paul Volcker. “His goal was to crush wages, straight out. To give you a sense of how strongly he felt about this goal, consider that during this period, from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Volcker walked around with a card of union wages in his pocket to remind himself that his goal was to crush the middle class.” Yet “Volcker encouraged Obama to stop banks from gambling with internal hedge funds, but Summers wanted banks to keep gambling with internal hedge funds. Summers won the bureaucratic fight.” Criticism, humanity, and no hagiography.

      1. Yves Smith

        Please read my post.

        It was not a card of “union wages”. It was a card of construction worker wages as his proxy for union wages.

        Stoller also misses that the Republicans reversed themselves on junk bonds. The Treasury in October 1987 proposed ending the tax deduction for interest on highly leveraged transactions. But the 1987 crash killed that going forward.

        And also see how Stoller wasn’t remotely cynical enough about Obama’s use of Volcker or his position on why there was a crash. Volcker did not blame financiers.

  8. Lee

    “Flowers scream when they are picked”

    While James Bond and Gala Brand are having their afternoon together and getting to know one another a little bit in Moonraker, Gala picks a bee orchid.

    “You wouldn’t do that if you knew that flowers scream when they are picked,” said Bond.

    Gala looked at him. “What do you mean?” she asked, suspecting a joke.

    “Didn’t you know?” He smiled at her reaction. “There’s an Indian called Professor Bhose, who’s written a treatise on the nervous system of flowers. He measured their reaction to pain. He even recorded the scream of a rose being picked. It must be one of the most heartrending sounds in the world. I heard something like it as you picked that flower.”

    Our Mr Bond certainly is a wealth of information! The reference here is to Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, (1858-1937) the founder of Bose Institute, who in addition to being a pioneer in the field of radio, and an early writer of science fiction, was also a botanist who indeed did embark on a study of plants and their reaction to pain.

    Fleming’s Bond

    1. ewmayer

      LOL, “nervous system of flowers” … but it does point up my main objection to pieces like the Smithsonian article, which is the anthropomorphization implicit in words like “squeals” and “shrieks”. I recall as a kid once walking around outside in my new Xmas Moon Boots on a brutally subzero-cold day, and noting how the snow actual squeaked when I stepped on it. So I could reasonably infer that the snowflakes – whether the special kind or not – were shrieking in pain?

      Now there may well be an evolutionary utility for plants in emitting some form of broadcast distress signal – we already know about the chemical ones, the ultrasonic ones are new – in such circumstances, but word choices as above imply a corresponding sentient and subjective experience of pain, which *would*, so far as we know, require a nervous system of some kind. One can always find – or imagine – parallels if one looks hard enough. So let’s see – nearly all animals get eaten at the end of their lives, and no animal species are known to willingly be done so, thus evolution there has been very clearly and strongly shaped by “avoidance of being eaten”, foremost in form of mobility. So if plants “feel pain when eaten” (or stepped on), one should look for similar avoidance-of-pain-and-death adaptations. Instead one finds plants to be sessile, and in fact many species have specific adaptations which make them more attractive to the eaters, and have actually incorporated being eaten as a vital part of their reproductive cycle. So could one just as reasonably conclude that ultrasonic shrieks are cries of joy? “Yay! I’m fulfilling my life purpose as food for another species! Everybody else, there’s eaters about, emit lots of chemical signals and maybe you’ll get eaten, too!”

      1. ewmayer

        “no animal species are known to willingly be [eaten]” — that was too simplistic on my part: e.g. parasitic worms get eaten as part of their life cycles, but that is not eaten in the sense of “killed and digested”. OTOH in praying mantids and certain spider species the male gets eaten in the fatal sense after mating with the female, the evolutionary tradeoff which has led to the males willingly going to their doom is that have transmitted their genes prior to doing so, and their bodies further provide valuable nutrients to the female, i.e. being turned into a meal helps boost the odds of the males’ genes getting propagated via eventual live offspring.

        1. none

          Marvin Minsky once wrote that vegetables on your plate do everything in their power to avoid being eaten.

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        Instead one finds plants to be sessile, and in fact many species have specific adaptations which make them more attractive to the eaters, and have actually incorporated being eaten as a vital part of their reproductive cycle.

        Not the whole plant, though. I find it easier to just say ‘sorry’ when I pull out a magnificent weed.

        1. shtove

          I apologise to the peas as my fork chases them round the plate. Their cries are distressing: “Please don’t eat me!” Then silence.
          “The world is a more interesting place with you in it, Mr Broccoli.”
          “Dr Lecter? Dr Lecter?”

      3. fajensen

        , so far as we know, require a nervous system of some kind.

        Maybe not. Or maybe not something we would recognise as a nervous system.

        There are interesting papers being published on “unconventional computing” and on a sub-set named “reservoir computing” which seems to suggest that “the capacity to do computing” is maybe more like a property of matter and radiation than the very specific arrangements of hard- soft- and wetware we are currently using as a model.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      Serial Gardening is Metal AF really. All of those sprouts on the compost pile. I changed my mind about having a bush here and snip.

  9. doug

    Contrast how this incident was managed to Warren tearing up:
    Concrete material benefits vs a fleeting hug….

  10. Trent

    Others may disagree but I think online dating is the worst way to meet someone. I’m not surprised she waited “months” because for the most part online dating isn’t dating. Its a time kill, you look at all the profiles and pictures but nobody really talks to each other. I’ve been doing it for years and have yet to meet anyone I dated longer then two months. Could just be me.

    1. Lee

      Bars used to work for me but then I gave up drinking. Also, having been twice married, the mere thought of pursuing a relationship and all the effort to behave well that it requires fills me with a strong desire to take a nap. But then I’m older and if not wiser, I do tire more easily.

      1. Trent


        I’m with ya. Dating is like a job, everyone takes it so seriously. Nobody seems to try and actually find anyone who’s company they enjoy. Seems to be more of a what can you do for me atmosphere. Bars are just as terrible and if you aren’t making 100K you aren’t going to turn any heads.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          the trick , i’ve found, is to stop looking altogether.
          then you trip over your future wife while working in a nursing home.
          like water down a hill.

          1. RMO

            That worked for me… though I was in my 40’s before I found someone. It can take some time. I did first meet her when I was 30 but circumstances kept us apart for over a decade before a chance meeting with a common friend got us in touch again. She had stopped looking too before we got back together. It turned out we were at this point living within a ten minute drive of each other and I was taking classes at a school across the street from her apartment.

          2. polecat

            Well sure, as long as one doesn’t slip on all those Id Pol/raging Feminist glass shards …

            I’m glad that I’m too old to do the new-n-unproved dating game.

            1. ambrit

              Someone we knew who tried the online dating ‘scene’ once described it as a form of online gaming. “It’s the original ‘First-person F—-r’ game!”
              He later met his wife at a restaurant when the place got overcrowded and he was inveigled to share his table with a stranger. They are still going strong.

          3. ambrit

            Exactly our experience. Phyllis had stopped looking too. I was not really looking, just trying to figure the ‘scene’ out. She was 35 when we met. By the way, ours is a Mutt and Jeff pairing.
            The whole experience makes me take the concept of “Fate” seriously.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              “By the way, ours is a Mutt and Jeff pairing.
              The whole experience makes me take the concept of “Fate” seriously.”

              amen to that.
              22 years, now.
              like dragging waterhose and tying it thereby into an incomprehensible knot…or that serendipitous conspiracy of small accidents in the kitchen where you catch a cord on your finger, and the fridge empties onto the floor.
              ” i couldn’t have done that on purpose”.

    1. DJG

      GF: Article has since been revised, now claiming 300 grounded.

      And there’s this little statistic: 850 Saudis studying military in the U S of A.

      Basic question: Why? To continue the genocide in Yemen?

      We’ll see if this scandal continues to grow or is one more that get tamped down by the “authorities.”

    2. VietnamVet

      Pensacola is 9/11 and Afghanistan, all over again. 14,000 American soldiers back into Islam’s birthplace is guaranteed to bring on more “green on blue” attacks. The Meritocracy learns nothing and forgets nothing.

      1. fajensen

        I know someone who went to Afghanistan. They were ordered to never turn their backs on any of the Afghans. Because that’s one of the probable ways one will get killed, the other will be an IED, actual combat is way down on the list.

        Thus, when instructing afghans in any capacity, there would always be a team of 3 people – the instructor and two, more heavily armed soldiers, covering the blind corners behind the instructor.

        Which is not a good way to build trust and influence, but, that was never what that shambolic mission was about anyway. The Danish military understands the concept of “Satisficing”: doing only what is strictly necessary to meet managerial targets with minimal actual commitment :).

        The thing is: “They” just don’t like “us” and so far “we” are not prepared to be giving “them” any good reasons to assume a different take on things. Training “them” and pretending that this will somehow buy influence and/or make “them” respect us, is just useless and futile.

  11. Summer

    RE: UC Grad Student Strike
    “…and plan to withhold students’ grades until given a raise. A group of graduate students announced Sunday they are demanding a $1,412 monthly raise.”

    Better keep it secret or rents will be jacked up $1,412 a month from the current price.
    That’s the problem with focusing on minimums (floors) and never maximums (ceilings).

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      No, they will make changes so that missing grades at certification are no impediment to certification. I am surprised that this leverage point still exists out there. Our U innovated that sort of thing out a long time ago.

    1. DJG

      And there’s this moment in the article, which is on a par with the bird landing on his lectern:

      Sanders thanked Weigel and took the patch but said he could not accept the jacket.

      “It’s a beautiful jacket. It’s a jacket that you earned and I want you to keep it,” the Vermont senator said, before telling the audience that returning veterans deserved “the best quality health care that this country can provide them.”

      I, too, will attempt not to turn into a squeeing fan boi.

      Meanwhile, Boot Edge Edge is still trying to “unpack” his résumé, and Hillary Clinton is giving daily “Let them eat those little brioches” statements.

  12. Misty Flip

    Operation Crossfire Hurricane. Lifted lyric from the Stone’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Allusion to Mick and Keith being born in a Crossfire Hurricane in ’43 during the air campaign over Kent? Spitfires, Hurricanes, Germans falling out of the sky, and then youth during the depressing post-war years. The Jumpin’ Jack Flash riff — reverse sequence of Satisfaction’s riff — the return to the Blues.

    The OIG Report on Operation Crossfire Hurricane in basic, “Carter Page volunteered information. Emails were in play. Emails delivered to Wikileaks. Then the Republican convention platform changed. Carter Page said he had nothing to do with it. The FBI didn’t believe Page and got a FISA warrant. Turned out, Page had nothing to do with it. Two other people monetizing the Trump campaign changed the platform. Papadopoulos later corroborated Page’s claim, adding Wikileaks was a Russian asset, but Trump was going to lose. Papadopoulos was trying to roll this go-between gig into work for the CIA [nope], so who cares?”

    FFwd. Giuliani and Trump, possibly the only two people on Earth who did not believe the above omni-botch was a waste of time. The project was a success in their Boss Tweedin’ eyes [paying no never-mind to the personal betrayal by close associates, Source 2 and Source E]. Mick and Keith re-worked an earlier hit while coming off acid. Rudy and Donald re-worked the Wikileaks scheme… far out.

    1. Off The Street

      Awaiting next Rolling Stones number to go with today’s AG Barr comments. More news tomorrow, so Ruby Tuesday?

        1. Anthony G Stegman

          I was born in the desert. Raised in a lion’s den. My number one occupation was stealing women from their men.

  13. Danny

    “Why you should plant trees in square holes”

    Another thing, you want the roots to go as deep as possible in urban situations to avoid, for example the roots lifting sidewalks and creating tripping hazards, entering sewer joints or interfering with utilities.

    The only way to assure that is to use a tree root barrier. It’s a flat piece of hard plastic about 3’x4,’ or larger. It has heavy ribs on one side. It is curved into a tube shape and hooked together, ribs inside, going vertically. Tree is planted inside this with top edge of barrier at soil line. When roots hit ribs, they go straight down and then flare out to the sides in a fan shape below the bottom of the tube. Another advantage is that it holds moisture so that water does not flow out to sides when watering. Dog pee goes straight down too.

  14. Pookah Harvey

    The Bloomberg article “Have We Really Escaped a Recession? Google It” says that there are hints that a major recession cold be just around the corner.

    What might support that supposition comes from a Guardian story on the bankruptcy of Celadon trucking. 4,000 truck drivers across the US were notified on Monday that their employer was ceasing operations after filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The filing makes it the largest bankruptcy in trucking history. Here is the interesting part:
    “But Celadon’s collapse also comes at a difficult moment for the industry. Thousands of truckers have lost their job in 2019 as the freight market stalled and “spot” prices for shipping – those bought on the open market rather than as part of a contract – fell.

    A slowdown in a variety of markets, including housing and autos, and the impact of the US’s trade wars have also contributed to the drop.

    About 795 companies shutdown in the first three quarters of 2019, according to transportation industry data firm Broughton Capital, three times the total number of trucker failures for the same period in 2018.”

    Anybody have an idea on how strong an indicator this might be?

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        It is impossible to have a recession while central banks are inflating economies by creating trillions of dollars out of thin air.

        1. Craig H.

          They don’t go so far as to say a recession is going to happen. They claim that if the China trade can’t be put back together then growth ain’t happening. Well, Leo Abruzzese claims that.

  15. Pelham

    Re McClatchy: They may find the online subscription model won’t work for them as it does for WaPo and NYT, simply because those two papers have national and even international audiences. McClatchy on that scale is not well known, it’s not a name.

    For newspapers with primarily local appeal, it’s my untested opinion that controlling the medium is key. And that means publishing in ink on paper AND going completely offline. Given all the desperate experimentation in the dying newspaper biz over the past 15 years, it seems odd to me that not one paper has tried this.

    1. jackson

      Your comment is right on track. If you are not a online subscriber to the Idaho Statesman, you can’t read full articles. I just look at the headlines.

  16. Oguk

    1) Re: “The artificial skin that allows robots to feel”: I’m reading The Peripheral (to learn more about the Jackpot), and one observation I have about Gibson is, his vision revolves around materials science technology changes (I was going to write “advances”). These are the most everyday changes the characters are likely to experience, and they imply the dark infrastructure without requiring all the details. It’s masterfully economic writing.

    2) “The most effective form of exercise isn’t ‘exercise’ at all” : I think “exercise” is a con (or maybe the gym). If you’re working with your body, you don’t need “exercise”. I love digging holes, sweating in the garden, picking blueberries, or walking most places, up and down stairs, not using technology (cars, elevators), you’re getting all the exercise you need. Not all the time, not if you hurt, reasonably – of course! I used to take stairs 2 at a time, then slowed down to a moderately fast 1 step at a time (as I aged). 3 flights is nothing, 4 or 5 gives me a gentle pant and elevated heartbeat, and I love it. I’m not really against gyms, but I think they’re overrated.

    1. Wukchumni

      One thing i’ve noticed with gym fit people you run into on the trails in the mountains, is they often look fabulous and yet sometimes have scant strength when it comes to endurance, their physical activity world revolving around repeated short bursts in the great indoors.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        Yes, plus they seem to have a great need to be listening to something in their ubiquitous headphones while “working out”.

      2. inode_buddha

        … as contrasted with the construction crews I’ve hung with, who look like Archie Bunker and can wear you right out while chain smoking and nursing a hangover. Just saying from experience: you will think you’re dying the first month, then after that you’ll start getting in shape. When your job depends on your body, that’s what happens.

        1. ambrit

          When your body starts to go, so does your job. I ran into that brick wall. When I picked myself back up, I limped off to scrounge whatever I could find. And here I am.

          1. inode_buddha

            Am currently running into that wall myself.

            Re Volcker carrying around a card of wages,

            Did he not realize most construction jobs are temporary and seasonal? Up here in NY anyway, most of the run 8 or 10 months and you get unemployment the rest of the year. That is why they post high wages, to try and attract workers by “filling in the gap”.

            The only full-time crews that I’ve ever seen are private maintenance crews working for large manufacturers (what I do, skilled trades), and–

            Public works crew, working for the city/town/state.

      3. fajensen

        That ‘sudden loss of strength/energy’ happens because they haven’t learned how to burn fats yet. Been there, and done all that!

        The body and brain are lazy. When exercising, the body will chose to just grab all the easily available sugar floating in the blood, then go for the sugary nutrients stored in the muscles and then, finally, go for the fat because the fat is kinda hard to break down and it might take a while. The brain will collude by making it feel really, really, bad to run the blood sugar low.

        “The user experience” is: Sudden loss of energy and strength to the point of almost dropping the bar when hitting 2 lifts above their limit on the reps. This happens when the blood-stored sugar runs low. The ‘gym rat’ will then respond by chugging some ‘energy’ junk food.

        But, to become any good at performing quality physical work, this is the wrong approach.

        The way to get the body to stop slacking and do its work better is to get used to hunger and get used to long, low intensity, training sessions in the 20 – 40% range of max heart rate.

        One needs to eat ‘slow’ carbs, like vegetables, oat porridge, then do ‘slow-runs’ which feels like ‘nothing at all’ interspersed with a few ‘peak sessions’ where one slams the heart rate into the rails for 5-10 minutes or so. Most people do hill-running or intervals for that. Only 20% of the exercise should be in the ‘above 40% of max heart rate’ regime*!

        (Some of) The ‘peak sessions’ can even be weight training. This is for the advanced trainee, but will lead to huge growth both in usable strength and stamina. One will be looking “wired” not like a body-builder at all.

        During the ‘slow runs’, the brain will figure out through repetition that going with low blood sugar is maybe annoying but it is not an immediate emergency so there is no need to fire up the pain feelings to 11 at the first hint of a food shortage.

        “The new & improved user experience” is: A very light dizziness after 20-30 minutes of ‘slow running’ like ones mental centre is shifted maybe 50 mm to one side and one has to correct a little all the time. This is the transition where they body is out of the easy sugar and start burning stored sugar and fat, which is exactly what you want to happen.

        This state can go on for a long time. As long as there are still accessible stored sugars in the tissue, one will feel OK and relaxed, strained maybe, but in a relaxed and comfortable way.

        If one overdoes it, and the stored sugars run out, then, Pain will come. One will function but the exercise now feels really hard physically and mentally. This is because burning fat entirely without sugars is a messy and slow process which leaves lots of metabolites in the body that also has to be cleansed out – while running low on ‘fuel’ to do it with.

        To keep going without the suffering of the ‘raw’ fat burning, most endurance athletes will eat some of the ‘energy’ junk food a little bit before they run out of stored sugars and keep ‘topping up’ according to a personal schedule. To do that, they first have to find out where ‘their wall’ is. A half-marathon will help doing that for most people. The point is that the ‘energy’ junk is also useful under the right conditions, being fundamentalist about it is not useful.

        If one can afford it, I would absolutely recommend to hire a personal trainer for the transition to becoming a functionally fit person. Joining a local running club is another thing that one should do. To have a social routine supporting the exercise regime. I prefer trail running, because the people doing it in my area are super-laid-back about it, it’s about being outside and seeing lots of forest, maybe stay out for a day and run back.

        This is not at all as hard as it sounds, it just takes a relaxed determination and persistence to make it a habit and then it is easy to do.

        *) It is always a good idea to have the heart checked out before high intensity or endurance exercise, some people have hidden heart failures that give them no trouble at all for 30 years and then they suddenly die during a half-marathon!

  17. Summer

    Re: “Away”
    “After The Verge’s initial story broke, new leaks showed Away was directing employees not to engage with the article even from their personal social media accounts.”

    If only there was someway to contact someone far away without showing my face or typing…hmmm…wonder if that was invented yet….

  18. RMO

    “as a more focused company with a solid capital base that is right-sized to the needs of our business and strategy, we have plenty of runway to execute our plans to accelerate our progress toward profitable growth.”

    What has to be done to someone’s brain for them to talk like that? Does it involve heavy metals in the blood? gamma rays? a Haitian Zombie ritual?

    1. Duck1

      Haven’t you heard of their fireplug app? So smart and disruptive too! They are picking up a solid capital base that was just lying in the street waiting for monetization.

  19. Wukchumni

    The study says 1.9 billion people and half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots could be negatively affected by the decline of natural water towers, which store water in winter and release it slowly over the summer.”

    Big water tower looms large and i’m about the 44th person in line for the largess right behind me on the front porch of the back of beyond. No development to speak of, and nothing commercial has been built in that watershed for the last 129 years. By far my most important investment.

  20. turtle

    Regarding every McClatchy paper being good, I looked at their properties to see if any of them would be relevant to me. The Sacramento Bee might be useful to keep track of goings-on in the state capital, but isn’t that the paper that has also consistently failed to properly report CalPERS misdeeds? How to reconcile those two opposite things (good paper, but bad CalPERS reporting)?

    Are any of their papers more generic or national in scope?

    1. polecat

      Yes,Thumbs down on McClatchy, if the Bee is any indicator of journalistic ‘merit’.
      It’s too bad that the Sacramento Union wasn’t able to continue, as they most likely would’ve keep the Bee on their tarsi (insect version of ‘toes’ ..) .. but with Sacramento being a one-newspaper-town since the late 80’s-early 90’s, That rag has degressed to the point of being a pitiful idpol klaxon, with an extra side of security-state/law enforcement hero worship !

      1. turtle

        Thanks for the confirmation on the Bee. I’ve been trying to decide on a California newspaper to support with a subscription. I guess it may be the LA Times. It seems that the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register have both been taken over by vultures.

  21. Tim

    “Big if true. I’m no gym rat.”

    Every study I’ve seen in the last 10 years has been coming to the same conclusion: there isn’t something you can do for an hour a day to make up for a lack of wellness the other 23 hours a day. Meaning you can’t sit at a desk for 8-10 hours then go work out at the gym and make yourself well. You can improve your athletic performance, but general health? Not so much.

    What you do through the day is what matters most. Get the blood flowing a little in maximum intervals of 30 minutes. That, social and nature interactions are the key to maximizing your longevity.

    1. Yves Smith

      That is flat out false.

      First, people in the know have known for 20 years that high intensity training is vastly more beneficial, both in terms of fitness benefits and general health benefits, that protracted moderate activity. This study is yet one more confirmation. You are better off doing 6 30 second sprints and resting 3 mins in between each (you need that much recovery time to go flat out again) than a 20 min jog. I first learned that before 2000.

      So what this study is doing is debunking the VERY long-standing fad of “aerobic” activity. Unless you are doing aerobics for sports reasons, you are way better off doing ANY exercise intensely in 30 second to max 2 minute full on sprints. You then need to recover 5-6x your work interval before you try again. That is basic sports physiology on how the lactic acid system works.

      I also don’t see how vacuuming is a high intensity activity. This is pandering to readers. Burns only 200-300 calories an hour. About as strenuous as walking. High intensity = flat out, balls to the wall, as my trainer used to say.

      Second, there is also tons of evidence that getting out of the sedentary category has the greatest health benefits. Anything beyond that is gravy. So moderate walking is still beneficial provided you do enough over the course of a day.

      Third, you do not need to exercise all that often. Weight training, which if you lift heavy enough relative to your capacity, is a high intensity form of exercise, has been found in high quality studies even by people in their 80s to lower their biological age, in some cases by decades, exercising a mere three times a week.

  22. JohnnyGL


    Gotta love how Bernie threatens to walk out of the interview after about minute 23. NYT acts like this is solely a problem of Bernie’s discomfort and doesn’t acknowledge the dumpster fire quality of questioning in this previous interview with the NYT.


    TL;DR version
    Q: Did they say mean things about America?
    Bernie: America should stop killing people and overthrowing governments it doesn’t like
    Q: okay, but those mean chants, did they happen?
    Bernie: You cannot be serious!!!

  23. Jeff W

    “Elizabeth Warren Built the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It Became a Revolving Door.” [Daily Beast]
    Benjamin Studebaker and Aimee Terese, What’s Left podcast, “The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau”:

    Benjamin Studebaker: …every year JP Morgan Chase has a revenue of 109 billion dollars which means that every year the CFPB transfers an amount of money [i.e., $2 billion] from the financial sector back to the consumer of about 2% of JP Morgan’s annual revenue. If all of that money was taken just from JP Morgan, JP Morgan could shrug that off and continue to exist as a company. But that $2 billion is collected from all the banks in the United States—all of them, okay?…This is been sold as “big structural change.” This is what [Warren’s] plans are designed to do, 2% of JP Morgan’s annual revenue.
    Aimee Terese: (reading from Elizabeth Warren’s 2007 piece arguing for a “Financial Product Safety Commission”):

    It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street–and the mortgage won’t even carry a disclosure of that fact to the homeowner.…Why are consumers safe when they purchase tangible consumer products with cash, but when they sign up for routine financial products like mortgages and credit cards they are left at the mercy of their creditors?

    The difference between the two markets is regulation.

    Clearly, it is time for a new model of financial regulation, one focused primarily on consumer safety rather than corporate profitability. Financial products should be subject to the same routine safety screening that now governs the sale of every toaster, washing machine, and child’s car seat sold on the American market.

    The model for such safety regulation is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent health and safety regulatory agency founded in 1972 by the Nixon Administration.

    So why not create a Financial Product Safety Commission (FPSC)?

    Benjamin Studebaker: So the big idea is to duplicate a Nixon-era regulatory program in the financial sector.

    Aimee Terese: Yes, because the only difference between toasters and subprime mortgages is regulation.

    Benjamin Studebaker: And what really gets me about how unambitious this is is that I thought we already had this argument and won it in 2016—because in 2016 the Bernie people were arguing with the Hillary people about Dodd-Frank, and everybody was saying that Dodd-Frank wasn’t good enough and that Hillary’s reform plans were too modest and that something much more aggressive was necessary. And what we argued at the time was that we needed to decrease the size and power of the financial sector. So if you look at the financial sector in the United States it’s about seven and a half percent of the economy—that’s $1.5 trillion. JP Morgan makes up about 115th of that. And that’s a really immense sector with a lot of influence—it’s got a lot of ability to fund campaigns and candidates.

    And so the Sanders strategy was to break up those big banks—make them smaller, make them less influential to the economy and in our politics— because, when you have a really large banking sector, if there are problems in that banking sector, that spills out into the real economy and causes a lot of duress. And Sanders thought— and most of us argued with him—that it was a good idea to make the economy less dependent on the financial sector and to make our political campaigns less dependent on money raised from the financial sector. And now we have people making the argument that, because Elizabeth Warren created the CFPB—which is, by the way, part of Dodd-Frank, the bill that we all agreed—everybody ranging from quite left-wing to just mildly Progressive—was totally inadequate, totally insufficient, we needed to go much further—because of Elizabeth Warren’s contribution to Dodd-Frank, we’re now supposed to support her as a progressive alternative to Bernie Sanders. I just find that completely absurd.

    Another [element of this CFPB thing that I think it is frustrating] is that people talk about it as a political accomplishment for [Elizabeth Warren]. But one of the things that we’ve got to remember is that Elizabeth Warren managed to alienate people in the Senate so much during the creation of Dodd-Frank that they wouldn’t even confirm her to head to CFPB. And this is often passed off as some kind of strength like “Oh, yeah, Elizabeth Warren stood up to the senators so much that she became persona non grata. Isn’t she radical?” But if you rhetorically antagonize people to the point where they are unwilling to work with you or support things that you’re trying to do what that means is that you don’t get to do stuff. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t get to run the CFPB because she yelled at a bunch of senators so much that they couldn’t stand her. That doesn’t bode well for her ability to work with Senators, most of whom are still in office. It’s mostly the same group of senators that we had in 2011.

    [My transcript.]

  24. integer

    Plenty of REAL issues on US-Russia agenda, seek truth about 2016 ‘election meddling’ in secret Obama cables – Lavrov RT

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he did not discuss ‘election meddling’ with his US hosts, but that Moscow is willing to publish communications with the Obama administration showing that nothing happened in 2016.

    Insofar as the subject came up, the top Russian diplomat mentioned that Moscow was perfectly willing to publish the correspondence conducted with the Obama administration between October 2016 and January 2017, using the since-shuttered cybersecurity cooperation channel.

    Lavrov noted that he did not understand why the current administration is refusing to release the documents, which he said would show that Russia had offered to help and clarify any allegations of “meddling” in the 2016 vote, only to have the Obama administration “categorically refuse.”

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