2:00PM Water Cooler 12/16/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, lots of political events over the weekend, but my connection was tooth-grindingly slow, and so I’ll have a bit more shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done!


“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.

Nationally, we have a new poll from IBD/TIPP as of 12/16/2019, 12:00 PM EST. Biden leads, Sanders strong second, Warren three points back, Buttigeig trailing (Bloomberg flirting with the bottom feeders). This seems to be an established pattern (or, if you prefer, narrative). On to the next debate (December 19), and Iowa:

And the numbers

The Biden juggernaut rolls on! Since the press seems to be puffing Klobuchar I thought I’d add her. Hilariously or ominously, she and Bloomberg are tied.

As a lagniappe, here is a HuffPo survey on enthusiasm v. upset, and electability (dk):

Bloomberg is upset: 12% enthusiastic if he is the nominee; 27% upset.

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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Bloomberg (D)(1): “Bloomberg’s bottomless wallet funds hiring frenzy” [Politico]. “Mike Bloomberg is making up for lost time — just two weeks after his late entry into the Democratic presidential primary, the former New York City mayor has hired more than 300 people so far to work on his campaign…. His headquarters on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side employs more than 200 people, including familiar faces from his days in City Hall. Former deputy mayors Kevin Sheekey and Patti Harris are his campaign manager and chair, respectively. Among his recent hires is Jeff Glueck, CEO of Foursquare, a mobile app that allows users to virtually check into bars and restaurants. Glueck, who cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, will work as director of digital research & engagement, according to a release from Bloomberg’s team.”

UPDATE Bloomberg (D)(2): “Bloomberg opens NC HQ on Sunday, promises to send Trump ‘back to Mother Russia'” [Charlotte Observer]. “The former New York mayor drew nearly 200 people to the opening on North Tryon Street. The crowd included U.S. Rep. Alma Adams as well as as state lawmakers, members of Charlotte’s city council and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, a national co-chair of the presidential campaign. Bloomberg was welcomed by council member James Mitchell, his North Carolina campaign director, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. The former mayor was in Charlotte a year ago to announce the city a winner of his American Cities Climate Challenge, a designation that has brought the city more than $2 million. ‘I am a better mayor because of Mike Bloomberg,’ Lyles told the packed crowd. ‘We’re a better city because of Mike Bloomberg. And I think this country can be a better country because of Mike Bloomberg.'”

Buttigieg (D)(1): Then:

Buttigieg (D)(2): Now:

Gosh. Lot of dunking on this one. A thread:

Buttigieg (D)(3): “Pete Buttigieg Was Part of McKinsey Team That Pushed Postal Service Privatization” [HuffPo]. “The United States Postal Service has been reporting billion-dollar losses annually for more than a decade. In 2010, the agency hired private consultants who advised it to cut back operation days, increase mail delivery times, automate postal services and replace unionized labor with non-unionized labor. Pete Buttigieg was on that team of consultants as an employee with McKinsey & Company.”

Buttigieg (D)(4): “Buttigieg’s Bundlers Include Blackstone Vice Chair, Tech Chiefs” [Bloomberg]. “The disclosure of the names of the so-called bundlers — supporters who collect campaign contributions from multiple donors — comes in response to rival Elizabeth Warren, who has criticized Buttigieg for what she says is a lack of transparency.” And–

Buttigieg (D)(5): “Mainstream media sees a puzzling obstacle to Pete Buttigieg’s rise: The voters” [Salon (RH)]. • Pesky voters! This is an old-fashioned media critique, and it delivers quite a beating.

Klobuchar (D)(1): “Amy Klobuchar Stakes Her 2020 Candidacy on a Narrow Path in Iowa” [Bloomberg]. “Since mid-October Klobuchar’s support in Iowa has more than tripled to 6.5% from 2%, though she still is far behind Pete Buttigieg, who leads with 22.5%, or Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, whose support is between 16% and 19%, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Possibly in her favor is that Iowans are known for being late deciders, many voters making up their minds only weeks before the caucuses. A November poll from the Des Moines Register and CNN found that more than two-thirds of Iowans could be persuaded to change their vote or had no first-choice candidate. Klobuchar, 59, is building her candidacy on a record of bipartisanship in her three terms in the Senate and presents herself as a moderate who can win over Midwestern blue-collar voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. She won re-election in 2018 with 60% of the vote in a state that only very narrowly went for Hillary Clinton two years earlier.”

Sanders (D)(1):

Sanders (D)(2):

Sanders (D)(3): Trial balloon:

Sanders (D)(4): “How Bernie Sanders’s Endorsement Of An Ally Blew Up In His Face” [HuffPo]. “When Bernie Sanders endorsed Cenk Uygur’s congressional bid in Southern California on Thursday, it was not altogether surprising. Uygur, a founder of the left-wing Young Turks network and outspoken critic of campaign finance corruption, is one of Sanders’s loudest and most prominent supporters in the media. But the backlash, particularly among the Vermont senator’s allies on the left, was swift and overwhelming, triggered in part by Uygur’s history of sexist and otherwise offensive comments. By Friday, Uygur claimed he was no longer taking endorsements, and Sanders withdrew his blessing. The net result was a negative two-day news cycle for a Democratic presidential hopeful who often lambastes media outlets for ignoring his candidacy. The campaign looked amateurish and had alienated some of its closest supporters in the process.” • Sanders is ordinarily very chary in his endorsements (see, e.g., Tim Canova). So I’m not sure what went wrong here.

UPDATE Sanders (D)(5): “You Don’t Know Bernie.” [Buzzfeed News]. Really interesting detail on the Sanders media operation: “The visit continues like this. ‘Show them,’ [Sanders] keeps saying. ‘Show them.’ He speaks only to ask questions, prompting Pamela to ‘explain’ this or that, pointing her to an unseen audience on the other end of his camera lens. It’s like he’s directing his own video — except the video isn’t about him or his campaign or his policy agenda. He is, it seems, somewhere offscreen, an omniscient narrator, felt maybe, but not seen or heard. This is not a public event. There is no crowd. There is no podium, no speech. Mostly, there is silence. The leader of the political revolution — a man who has spent 50 years of his life trying to talk about his ideas — is not saying much at all…. ‘Who wants to share their story?’ he’ll say. ‘Don’t be embarrassed. Millions of people are in your boat.'” • Extremely interesting, and in great contrast to Warren’s selfie line.

Trump (R)(1): “What if Trump Weren’t Nuts?” [Politico]. “Trump’s ideas on trade — as reflected in this week’s deal on a new North American trade agreement — show how he has routed a free-trade orthodoxy that was once embraced by business-minded elites in both parties. Likewise, his view that the United States should recognize China as a long-term adversary on economics and projection of global power is ascendant in both parties. So, too, is his view on the need to extract the nation from “endless wars.” So, too, are his tolerant views on Big Government spending and his blithe rejection of old notions of fiscal restraint and discipline. His ideas on immigration, by contrast, are deeply polarizing, but even there he has drawn support from many working-class voters who used to be instinctual Democrats. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found that 57 percent of voters say they are “better off” financially since Trump became president — an obvious reelection asset.” • A welcome dose of sanity. As I keep saying, Trump will be a formidable opponent. A second article with the same message–

UPDATE Trump (R)(2): “Why Trump’s path to reelection is totally plausible” [Poltico]. ” There is a path to reelection for a president who never cracks 50 percent approval in polls that is entirely plausible. It’s not because the normal dynamics of politics do not apply to Trump, but because they do… Trump strategists differ modestly on some details or use different language to say the same thing, but all describe a plan that rests on three pillars”:

— Narrative: First, the campaign intends to repackage Trump, albeit within the narrow limits possible for a politician whose public image is already indelibly cast. The message: Sure, Trump is wild, but a disruptive character is precisely what’s needed to disrupt a failed status quo and force change. Second, the campaign will use its overwhelming financial advantage to repackage — i.e., viciously demolish — the public image of whoever becomes the Democratic nominee.

— Turnout: Trump aides assert they can outperform their polls in key states by 2 percentage points or more on the strength of a voter ID-mobilization-and-turnout operation that likely will be vastly better organized and staffed than what Democrats will be able to muster…. Trump’s team points to public polls that show he is competitive with prospective Democrats in the small number of states that will be essential to either side if the Electoral College landscape remains mostly as it was in 2016.

— Minority voters: … Trump will use highly targeted advertising in key states combined with the presidential podium to tout how the robust economy has helped African Americans. If the notion provokes eye rolls — how does someone despised by Democrats more than any president in generations expect to cut into Democrats’ most loyal constituency? — recall that this strategy does not need to work a lot to be pivotal at the margins.

UPDATE Warren (D)(1): “Elizabeth Warren’s message for final sprint before Iowa: ‘I believe in markets'” [Yahoo Finance]. “‘I believe in markets,’ Warren said without naming the Vermont senator who identifies as a Democratic Socialist. ‘I’m proud of what American businesses can create and I want them to thrive.’ She was a bit more direct when she pushed back against those who choose to label her a socialist. Noting that her plans will ‘save people money and spur economic growth and innovation, but every time I talk about them, there’s somebody who wants to call me a socialist or a radical.’ She went on to note that Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama — two popular Democrats — faced similar attacks.” • “Two popular Democrats.”

Warren (D)(2): “Rapinoe kicks 2020 into gear with endorsement of Democrat Warren” [Reuters]. “Rapinoe, who won the World Cup Golden Boot and Golden Ball, as well as the Ballon d’Or, claimed Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year prize on Monday, where she told Reuters she was enthusiastic about hitting the campaign trail in 2020. ‘Get me on the bus, get me on one of those planes,’ Rapinoe said. ‘I want to rile people up! Something about me is motivating people to do something, or people are interested. ‘If I’ve got to knock on doors to get people to vote, I’m down.’ Rapinoe will next take to the field with her U.S. team mates in the 2020 Olympic qualifiers starting in January.”

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IA: “Iowa Democrats worry ‘Medicare for All’ hurts key industry” [Associated Press]. “Nearly 17,000 Iowans are either directly employed by health insurance companies or employed in related jobs, according to data collected by America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry advocacy group. Des Moines, the seat of the state’s most Democratic county, is known as one of America’s insurance capitals partly because of the high number of health insurance companies and jobs in the metro area. Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s health insurance headquarters employs roughly 1,700 in the metro area, and that’s just one of the 16 health insurance companies domiciled in Iowa, according to the Iowa Insurance Division. For many Iowans, the Medicare for All debate is personal, and the prospect of losing a job could influence whom they support in the Feb. 3 caucuses.”

California voters, pay attention:

What the tweet does not mention is that the tricky “American Independent Party” is a honeypot for voters who want to be “Independents” (AFAIK, “No Party Preference”) and who will “accidentally” get deked into signing up for the AIP, an actual (albeit a straw) party.

Health Care

“Choice” is a health insurance talking point. Thread (dk):

Candidates using the “choice” talking point are doing P4AHCF’s work against #MedicareForAll. The real choices here are being made because P4ACHF controls a gusher of campaign cash and has an army of lobbyists.

“Why a Medicare for All public option won’t work” [Charlotte Observer]. “Abraham Lincoln didn’t end slavery incrementally, nor did we incrementally become a nation or defeat Hitler. Some things require bold action to help the most people. Medicare for All is one of those things. There are two fundamental reasons that a public option cannot work. The big, solvable issue in our healthcare system is the 30 percent of every healthcare dollar that is squandered on administrative overhead… A public option cannot save that $500 billion, nor can it reduce healthcare costs. It will only add one more choice of insurance provider to the current complex mix…. The other fatal flaw in a public option is that it will likely become the insurer of last resort to the sickest and oldest among us. The insurance playing field will be anything but level. As deficient as they are, for-profit insurers will cleverly market themselves to the young and healthy, leaving those who use more healthcare to the public option. Its costs will balloon, dooming it to fail, to the delight of for-profit companies.”


“Freshman Democrats want Justin Amash as impeachment manager: report” [New York Post]. “Many of the Democrats believe Amash would be able to speak more effectively to conservative voters on the fence about impeachment and could fight GOP claims that the party is seeking a partisan impeachment process, several Democratic Party officials told the newspaper. Democrats reportedly believe the staunch libertarian would be able to reach independent and centrist Republican voters with whom the party would otherwise struggle.” • Cool, cool. Elevating a young, charistmatic libertarian Republican in an election year. What could go wrong?

“Jeff Van Drew’s party switch is a godsend for Donald Trump” [CNN]. “Van Drew was one of only two Democrats to vote against formalizing an impeachment inquiry into Trump and, as recently as last week, made clear he planned to vote against the articles of impeachment. His planned party switch (which led to the resignation of many of his staffers) seems entirely driven by his feeling on impeachment as, on other issues, he is a moderate Democrat. He even endorsed New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in the 2020 presidential race! The image of Van Drew, then, being driven from his party because of impeachment plays directly into Trump’s hands.” • Lol, I guess the DCCC shouldn’t have given that Blue Dog so much money.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What the U.S. Left Can Learn From the Labour Party’s Epic Loss” [In These Times]. “There are three key areas where learning will be essential, and contested: Staving off character assassination… Maintaining the coalition…. Spin, not socialism. The issue was that, in the end, it didn’t really matter. The raft of policies that the Labour Party ushered into its manifesto—the stuff of a progressive wonk’s dreams, and the hard work of so many brilliant and creative young policy thinkers in the UK—simply did not bring people to the polls in their favor. Simply put, socialism was not too strong an ideology, but too weak an electoral strategy.”

UPDATE Get out of Starbucks:

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Again, the only unique selling proposition I can think of for voting machines is that they emable election theft; a pitch with bipartisan appeal:

Stats Watchd

UPDATE Manufacturing: “New York Fed’s Factory Outlook Index Jumps to Five-Month High” [Bloomberg]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s survey measure of general business conditions in the next six months jumped 10.4 points in December to a five-month high of 29.8, according to a report Monday. The bank’s gauge of the orders outlook advanced 11.4 points to 35.6, the strongest since February. The U.S.-China tariff war has been blamed for holding back business investment, and now that could be changing. The Fed survey showed the outlook for capital expenditures climbed, while expectations for technology spending matched the highest since 2011. Factory manager outlooks for sales, unfilled orders and delivery times rose. Even with the bump in optimism, manufacturers have yet to see much of a change in sluggish demand. The New York Fed’s headline measure of current general business conditions crept up to 3.5 in December from 2.9 as orders grew at a slower pace.”

Manufacturing: “Boeing is reportedly on the brink of stopping 737 Max production while it waits for the troubled plane to return to the sky” [Business Insider]. “Boeing is reportedly considering halting or cutting down production of the grounded 737 Max aircraft after it failed to get approval last week for the plane’s return to service from the Federal Aviation Administration before the end of the year.

The Bezzle: “The Away Luggage Saga Shows Venture Capital Needs a Reality Check” [Marker]. “It has long been known that the short time horizon of the VC model stifles true innovation. While a new luggage or CBD brand can (and regularly does, per the Verge’s article) speed up their growth to meet exits, startups working with A.I., blockchain, or biotechnology require longer implementation horizons. They are unlikely to have a breakthrough within the timelines enforced by VCs. Couple this with a decrease in federal funding of science over the last 40 years, and it’s clear that we need a new model of investment…. But the VC industry needs a reality check beyond reckoning with the pace of scientific advancements. As Uber, Tesla, Deciem, WeWork, and now Away and Equinox show, VC-fueled startups aren’t held to the same business and operational standards as their publicly traded counterparts…. VCs rarely seem to think about how ideas they fund fit within the existing social and economic infrastructures. ‘There is nothing innovating about underpaying someone for their labor and basing an entire business model on misclassifying workers,’ California State Senator Maria Durazo said of Uber.” • Yep.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 81 Greed (previous close: 75 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 68 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 16 at 12:39pm. Mr. Market delivers his verdict on impeachment?

Rapture Index: Closes up one on volcanoes. “Several volcanoes have erupted in the past week” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I would expect the Rapture Index to jump if evangelicals thought impeachment was likely to hurt Trump. So it looks to me like this index is delivering a verdict on impeachment as well.

The Biosphere

“Preservation or development? Brazil’s Amazon at a crossroads” [Associated Press]. “Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, won last year’s election with support from farmers, truckers and miners by resurrecting the dictatorship-era desire to develop the world’s largest tropical rainforest. But he did so at a different stage of human history, one where scientists recognize the Amazon must remain to suck carbon from the air and help arrest climate change. Some also argue the Amazon, which has lost some 20% of its original forest, is nearing an irreversible tipping point. In that sense, Brazil itself is at a crossroads.” • This is really good, about a highway through Amazonia.

“Is the tide turning in favor of a Blue New Deal?” [Grist]. “The clearest sign that ocean research is starting to impact policy discussions is Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s new ocean policy proposal. At CNN’s climate town hall in September, a shellfish fisherman asked Warren whether she’d support a “Blue New Deal,” a climate action agenda for the world’s oceans. “I like that!” Warren replied. Three months later, on Tuesday, she released a proposal by that very name. It’s the first policy plan in the 2020 presidential field to focus explicitly on the role government can play in both reducing the impacts of climate change on oceans and using oceans as a tool to fight the crisis. (Warren’s plan was influenced by 2018 Grist 50 member Ayana Johnson.)” • Good for Warren. This speaks well of her.

“It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.” [New York Times] • Photos of methane emissions in Texas. Impressive.


“Mutazione review – warm-hearted gardening in a neglected world” [Eurogamer (AC)]. “It’s an exploration game as you learn to find your way around an island where a now-distant catastrophe has given life to a new culture, where bars and archives and boat yards are pulled together out of leaning chimneys and stoved-in roofs, where weird nature is on the march again. And yes! It’s a gardening game – a gardening game! – as you plant seeds and learn how to grow different types of shrub and lichen and tree and grass, each one reaching up to form the kind of dreamily abstracted, almost childish shapes beloved of Clarice Cliff and her Bizarre Ware.” • And a second review–

“Mutazione’s gardening reminds me that when video games give me order, I want chaos” [Eurogamer]. “It doesn’t seem like a huge act of player freedom to let them grow a garden willy-nilly, but I enjoyed it so much because I simply couldn’t go wrong.” • That has been my experience with gardening in RL. I like being in a situation where even bad decisions can bring good results. Plants are smarter than I am!

Xmas Pre-Mortem

Several words of the day, including philoxeny:

On the new movie version of Little Women:

I read Little Women when I was young; it’s a great book, and Louisa May Alcott is an interesting historical figure. And yes, they were all poor. It’s a theme of the book!

“‘You’re My Present This Year’: An Oral History of the Folgers Incest Ad” [GQ]. • Well, er: “The reaction to the ad was an example of the internet at its most fun—the phenomenon of collectively realizing that the specific thing that you believed you’ve singularly noticed is actually a widely-held opinion.”

Class Warfare

UPDATE If you accept GDP as a useful metric:

“Even Hermit Crabs Have Wealth Inequality” [New York Times]. “The team used a number called the Gini coefficient to measure overall inequality among the crabs. It found a value similar to that in small human populations, though not as great as in today’s large countries. The top 1 percent of hermit crabs owned only about 3 percent of the total shell weight, Dr. Chase and his co-authors noted: ‘There are no Warren Buffetts or Jeff Bezoses.’ There is also no transfer of shells between crabs and their offspring…. The notion that crabs can teach us about human wealth distribution ‘may be a little preposterous,’ Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder added. But she said this kind of idea sharing between studies of humans and other animals is making social science, as a whole, richer.”

“Transgender and Gender Diverse Children and Adolescents: Fact-Checking of AAP Policy” [Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy]. The abstract: “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published a policy statement: Ensuring comprehensive care and support for transgender and gender-diverse children and adolescents. Although almost all clinics and professional associations in the world use what’s called the watchful waiting approach to helping gender diverse (GD) children, the AAP statement instead rejected that consensus, endorsing gender affirmation as the only acceptable approach. Remarkably, not only did the AAP statement fail to include any of the actual outcomes literature on such cases, but it also misrepresented the contents of its citations, which repeatedly said the very opposite of what AAP attributed to them.” • Hmm.

News of the Wired

“Gary Snyder on the Sacred Power of a Little Bit of Dancing” [Gary Snyder, LitHub]. “I was standing outside the wood-frame community hall of the newly built St. Johns Woods housing project in Portland, Oregon, on a Saturday summer eve, 1943. It pulsed, glowed, and wailed like a huge jellyfish—there was a dance going on. Most of the people who had come to live in St. Johns Woods were working in the shipyards, but there were a few servicemen home on leave, and a lot of teenagers from the high school. Most of them were from the Midwest or the South. I was from farther north, up by Puget Sound, and had never heard people speak southern before. I hung around and finally got up my nerve to go in and listen to the live band play swing and jitterbug. At some point they were playing the Andrews Sisters song ‘Drinking Rum and Coca Cola.'” • This is terrific, especially for our friends in the Pacific Northwest.

The Internet, foretold:

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CR: “Plantidote—grocery store parking lot maple, October 2019, NE Ohio.” The square format really works here.

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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. grayslady

    “Buttigieg’s Bundlers Include Blackstone Vice Chair, Tech Chiefs” [Bloomberg].

    Didn’t Bloomberg News say it was only going to report on Trump so as not to put its big, fat thumb on the Dem. scale? That didn’t last long.

  2. Henry Moon Pie

    Gender diverse children–

    I love the smell of science in thrall to Mammon. Well, not really. But this instance is certainly quite odoriferous.

      1. hunkerdown

        The trade association’s ideology IS business. Not just $$$, but the investment in their place in society, their “Careers”. Trade associations are literally the conspiracies Adam Smith warned us about.

      2. polecat

        Both !
        So, in so many words :

        “We coaxingly transgendered some moar youngin folk” .. who didn’t realise they needed to be such ..

          1. Jessica

            It also showed that adults can be induced into moral panics not based on reality, particularly in the name of protecting children.

          2. Cafefilos

            Frontline produced a remarkable three-part documentary, by Ofra Bickel, called the Innocence Lost Trilogy, about similar moral panics in the same era.

    1. Plenue

      “Although almost all clinics and professional associations in the world use what’s called the watchful waiting approach to helping gender diverse (GD) children”

      and ‘watchful waiting’ is exactly what it sounds like:

      “Watchful waiting (also watch and wait or WAW) is an approach to a medical problem in which time is allowed to pass before medical intervention or therapy is used. During this time, repeated testing may be performed.”

      In other words, they’re freaking kids and going through a phase.

      This is all going to blowback so badly on the left (or should I say “””left”””) in fifteen or twenty years.

      1. John

        What I find interesting about all the gender diversity hubba hubba is that no mention is made of the fact that polluting endocrine disruptors are awash in our environment today. Good neoliberalism…don’t look at causes, just accept results as money making opportunities.

        1. CoryP

          Well, yes. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we found out the recent excitement around gender and sexuality has to do with how we’ve poisoned ourselves and our children over the last generation.

          That being said, knowing I’m gay or trans or whatever because I was exposed in utero to some toxin, doesn’t change the end result — the person still has to deal with the consequences as best they can. (Not that you implied otherwise).

    2. Dr Mike

      I think some context here is important. I’m a doctor, large transgender practice, not kids so much but lots of adults and teenagers.

      The article you’ve quoted works on a common conservative talking point that tries to set up a false dichotomy between “watchfull waiting” and “gender affirming.” The actual dichotomy is between gender affirming and reparative therapy. Lots of places that claim they are watchful waiting take a kid who’s saying “I’m trans” and tell them “come back in 10 years and if you’re still trans then, we can help you.” Gender affirming care means when a kid says “i’m trans” you don’t say “great here’s hormones right away,” you say “cool, we’re going to support you, some people go through phases, some people this is who they really are, we’re on you’re side and going to work with you either way to help you be happy with yourself and your body, however that turns out.”

      Most kids don’t get any medical intervention. The ones that do, before age 16 generally are getting a reversible medication that puts puberty on pause. This prevents the development of permanent sexual characteristics that can be very harmful later (taking estrogen at age 20 won’t get rid of a prominent Adam’s apple, nor will testosterone make breasts disappear). This is a form of watchful waiting – put puberty on hold, give the kid a few years to discover themselves, if they change their mind we stop the blocker and puberty resumes, if they don’t change their mind then as a later teenager they start estrogen or testosterone. Puberty blockers give kids the space and time to sort themselves out without the ticking clock of permanent puberty changes.

      Saying “don’t do anything until they’re older” sounds responsible, but there is tremendous harm in with-holding intervention to a kid who really needs it, who is 100% trans and will live their life as a trans adult, and who you are subjecting to unnecessary and distressing purbertal body changes because you’re not comfortable with the idea that most trans people know they are trans before puberty. We tend to focus on the risks of providing an intervention, but we also have to consider the risks of NOT providing an intervention. With-holding treatment is not a benign or neutral choice.

      1. kramshaw

        Thank you for sharing your expertise and compassion.

        I love this blog (read it almost every weekday!) but keep getting the willies by content that seems really down on trans and gender “nonconformity.” It kind of seems like folks are conflating transgender stuff with the general neoliberal / entitled-socioeconomic-elite bathwater that is sloshing around. But if I myself were trans, I think this content would hurt and scare me off.

        I don’t really understand where the negativity about transgender issues is coming from exactly, so I don’t want to guess. I know that transgender experience can be really uncomfortable and seem wrong for a variety of reasons. But I promise you that I personally know at least a dozen adults and several children for whom their transgender inner experience is absolutely genuine. (For what its worth, I don’t know any for whom it’s not genuine..)

        All of this leaves me with an open request. I want to ask that other folks take my word for it and act/write here as if they knew trans folks whose experience they trusted the way I do. Not in terms of necessarily acting really affirming/politically correct if you’re truly uncomfortable with it, but more just politeness and not trying to undermine people’s ability to accept their own inward experience. Maybe it’s too big of a request for now, but I still want to make it.

        /me goes back to dedicated lurking

        1. Dr Mike

          Well said kramshaw. I find the transphobic comments on here really disheartening. You think trans people are all white liberals who drink lattes? Most of my trans patients are poor, suffering the horrors of neoliberalism, and just trying to live with some dignity.

          1. Plenue

            “You think trans people are all white liberals who drink lattes?”

            No? I think they’re confused kids from all backgrounds who are being overly indulged by insular internet communities that pander to their neurosis.

            ‘Buy our product and change your gender’ is itself one of the horrors of neoliberalism.

            1. Grachguy

              Thanks for your comment above Dr. Mike. I’ve also been pretty disappointed by the community here, which I generally consider to be the best community on the internet. We are usually good at critical thinking, but it seems that there is an uncritical acceptance of transphobic rhetoric here. Plenue, friend, please consider for a moment that this “neurosis” you speak of is a medical condition, very likely caused by genetic factors. Information about the latest research into the biological foundations of transsexuality is literally available on wilipedia.
              You claim that gender identity is being weaponized by capitalism in order to make money. You are of course right about that, but, as I think you are probably aware, capitalism subsumes and weaponizes every identity. Marginalized communities can still be marginalized even as capital superficially supports them (see, African Americans).
              Given that transsexuality is a medical condition, it needs to be treated. Currently, the best treatment (the best of bad options according to most) is gender reassignment. I hope you will think more deeply about this. Give it a chance and evaluate it in light of the cold, hard facts. I think in that case you’ll find the situation to be much more nuanced and difficult than you’re making it.

              1. Plenue

                Your blind acceptance that it is a medical condition is part of the problem.

                My position is what it is precisely because I applied critical thinking.

                Not that I particularly expect you to believe me, but not so long ago I did just blindly accepted the T part of LGBT. It was active observation of and engagement with trans activists and ‘the community’ that drove me away from it. The entire thing is built on sand and astroturf. And, again, I expect it to blowback in the coming decades as more and more mutilated people start coming to the horrifying realization that they were led on, mostly by well intentioned ideologues, but also by entities that just wanted to sell them crap.

          2. Yves Smith

            That is straw manning. Skepticism about medical interventions on underage children who cannot give informed their informed consent is warranted.

            There is no track record as to the long term health and other impacts of these interventions, and that makes them high risky and arguably reckless.

            This has nothing to do with your trying to depict this as prejudice and everything to do with the precautionary principle. I can cite numerous instance of early treatments for medical conditions, such as the early versions of the pill (high dose of hormones, which led to high rates of cancer), early root canals (screw used to anchor posts cracked teeth, necessitating extractions), hormone replacement therapy (now used on a vastly more limited basis than initially due to cancer risk), lobotomies and electrocshock (the latter still used on a very limited basis).

            In addition, you also ignore that some out groups, such as lesbians, express concern about what they believe is a strong propensity to overdiagnose non-gender-conforming inclinations as trans, when the representation of gays versus trans in the population at large says they are more likely to be gay. They point out that in the current environment, their youthful tomboyisness now would have been all too often treated as a sign they were trans. I am not in that community but adult lesbians report they have seen enough pressure of this sort inflicted on young girls that they are alarmed.

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            I’m a little surprised that your first response is to position and fire the Phobia Cannons, rather than to engage with the article, which ought to be simple to do, if its claims are as wrong as you believe them to be. First, do no harm, and all that, even in so minor a matter as a blog thread.

            1. CoryP

              I felt like his first (lengthy) response DID engage with the article… Even if I do disagree with labelling the discussion transphobic.

              1. Yves Smith

                Lambert is being too polite. This is what he quoted from the article:

                Remarkably, not only did the AAP statement fail to include any of the actual outcomes literature on such cases, but it also misrepresented the contents of its citations, which repeatedly said the very opposite of what AAP attributed to them.

                Let us call a spade a spade. The AAP has evidenced flagrant intellectual dishonesty. Lambert calmly in his linked comment above that the proper response would be to produce evidence that actually backed up the AAP’s cliams.

                Instead, trans advocates show up, making baseless slurs and ad hominem attacks rather than producing the goods. This is enough to confirm doubts about the medical soundness of their “treatments”.

                1. Carey

                  Thanks to you and Lambert for these comments.
                  Labeling those who think a precautionary principle
                  ethos in this context is “transphobic” is.. questionable.

                  cui bono?

        2. Plenue

          “but keep getting the willies by content that seems really down on trans and gender “nonconformity.”


          Gender is largely a social construct. I have zero problem with people not conforming to whatever society says their sex ‘must do’. I do have a problem with people destroying their bodies in some mad quest to be what they simply aren’t. And I especially have a problem with adults indulging and encouraging this in kids.

        3. JTMcPhee

          It’s a complex mess, isn’t it? As pointed out above, our bodies are being loaded with endocrine disrupting chemicals, brain-damaging pesticides and heavy metals, and megatons of other toxins produced for profit and unconstrained by any reasonable application of the precautionary principle. We live in a fog of FUD generated to atomize and dizzy us while our lives are shortened and our meager wealth stripped fro us.

          People who participate here seem to be looking for the handles and linkages that might lead to a better world for most of us. But we mopes can so easily be brought to abuse each other, can’t we? History and culture and biology map out all the fault lines and points of friction. Our culture is pretty much in the toilet when it comes to distribution of critical resources of all kinds. Just one of many impacts on the body politic that has the Looters in command.

          Our politics on the left includes groups who seem to identify principally with items, like gender issues. a narrow subset of women’s rights (glass ceiling Dems) and the numerous other hot-button “idpol” bits. My local Dem party is kind of dominated by “inclusiveness” persons who (dare I say it) offer to trade their bloc vote (in a losing cause, here in FL) for higher priority for their particular interests. This is a long-standing weakness of liberal politics — flip-chart triangulation, based on attempts to assemble a significant political weight out of groups who seem more attentive to group interests (“rights”) than to finding the common interests (working and deplorable class) that might ride over the power of the billionaire class and its meritocratic Quislings. Bear in mind that if one does not have the power to enforce a claimed right, one does not have any such right. So lots of effort goes into playing to smaller-group interests, in the effort to build a “coalition,” with built-in fault lines that have so often been exploited to divide and conquer, or have just ignited intramural squabbles leading to more lost battles in the class war.

          And yes, some people do see the reality and the disabling effects of the corralling and saddling of particular groups as horses to be ridden by the 10-percenters, who have demolished the class consensus in pursuit of their group interests while telling the rest of us we have to submit to them and eat whatever dirty meat they drop down on the floor for us, because “there is no alternative.”

          Nice thing about being a billionaire or a resident of The Villages — one is spared the kind of effort that I think Japanese people, and now anyone not wanting to be pilloried for faux pas in the minefield of rights, must put in to always be “acting properly,” in this brave new world of constant recording and surveillance and viralization of moments that spin so often out of any reasonable context, with respect to all the people who make claims of rights or entitlement.

          One wonders if maybe “conservative” interests have not done some catalytic work to advance the smaller-group claims, to the detriment of any awakening to the truly one-sided violence of the class war and any ability to gear up in a body to join the battle on better footing.

          Maybe people who lived the Occupy experience have some insights here. I know a couple of groups of liberal types I once connected with sure seem to have had their share of provocateurs. But outside agitators are often not needed — between prickly personalities, passive aggression, the Left’s wondrous and fractured internal dialogue of correctness and division, and the millstone of debt and the time demands of “getting a living” in the neoliberal muck, there are more than enough reasons why decent people can’t seem to agree to all pull on the same end of the rope, in the same direction, for any significant period. Let alone even getting the people who are the so-far losers in the class war to even see that there is a rope, or who want to argue earnestly about whether everybody should be pulling on THEIR particular rope rather than that big central one.

          Inward experience, under the bombardment being rained down by the Dominant Powers, is ipso facto valid, but at some point there might be a recognition that making claims on others via guilt-tripping or riding the discrimination machinery while establishing one’s identity tends to weaken whatever larger identity one might feel with the billions of others in the 90%, that identity that needs to be strengthened if there is any hope of defeating the Kochs and Dimons and Trumps. One can bet that the Trump voters have a pretty clear notion of how to pull on their end of the rope, even though that’s just tightening the garrote around their own necks.

          Is this the kind of negativity about transgender issues you were raising? This is a power game All of us are born into and will die out of, an actual war, a truly hybrid war as the MIC defines it, baldly acknowledged by creature like Warren Buffett (“Of course there is class war, and my class, the rich class, is winning/has won.”), the few against the many. It’s been going on a long time, and us ordinary mopes have almost always been the losers. And yes, bringing people into the big group involves including respect for and attention to differences, that’s politics, but some recognition is needed that as practiced by the Dem Party, that particular political process has been signally unsuccessful — though people like Pelosi and Wasserman Schultz and Obama and so many others have ridden the horse to grab the gold ring for themselves.

          Oh, and I see the US Navy is naming a “fleet oiler,” a vessel that delivers petroleum fuels to combat ships and other parts of the Fleet in the Great War to protect the Navy’s sources of petroleum, after Harvey Milk! Progress! https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/12/16/harvey-milk-us-navy-ship-named-military-san-francisco/ There’s a lot of background and nuance and history in this article, way more than just the headline…

          1. CoryP

            Thanks. Although you went all over the place this is what I like about the commentariat here.
            +100 for being humble and questioning.

      2. WJ

        “and who you are subjecting to unnecessary and distressing purbertal body changes”

        That’s not me. That’s nature.

        1. Dr Mike

          The whole point of medicine is that nature isn’t always our friend. Nature means lots of preventable suffering

          1. WJ

            Sorry, but puberty is not best described as “preventable suffering”–as though it were a disease or an injury. Biological sex is not negated by subjective feelings, even if there is a lot of $$$ to be made in pretending the opposite.

            Gender roles, however, are historically contingent, culturally influenced, and under-determined; hence a boy who pretends he is a girl by dressing like one, saying he wants to be like mommy, etc. is perfectly unproblematic and even to be expected given the *non*essential and fluid nature of gender “identity.”

            Transtheorists, however, treat gender as though it were essential–as though there WERE such a thing as “femininity” or “masculinity” per se–and biological sex as though it were contingent and malleable. As though sexual dimorphism were not an indisputable feature of our animal nature. Sorry, but that’s a conceptually incoherent position, and saying so does not make me intolerant or transphobic or whatever.

            If a biological male decides he wants to be treated as though he were a woman, I am happy to oblige as best I can, and to the extent his doing so does not demand implausible levels of accommodation from biological women. What I am not obliged to do is to believe that somebody who is biologically male is *actually* female, and this is because I cannot be obliged to believe something that is false.

            That the medical community has come to push this false belief on children and parents in the interests of $$$$$ and appearing woke or whatever is scandalous, and will in future decades be eventually judged as such.

      3. Plenue

        It’s rather terrifying that you think ‘we just give them drugs to delay puberty’ is some sort of reasonable compromise position.

        1. Janie

          Since I have zero knowledge of said drugs and know no one in the trans community, I probably should just keep reading. That said, it sounds as if drugs to delay puberty would be more benign than surgery. Are these drugs similar to contraception pills or hormone replacement? Those drugs have a long track record.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Are these drugs similar to contraception pills or hormone replacement? Those drugs have a long track record.

            A little cursory research discloses significant side effects in the early Pill (“The first oral contraceptive preparations contained 100 to 175 µg of estrogen and 10 mg of progesterone. At this dose, significant adverse effects were seen, including increased risk for venous thromboembolism”). The drug was refined to minimize these effects. Of course, this medical experimentation was performed on adults. Not children, tweens, or teens.

      4. Octopii

        Thanks doc. It sure does suck to have been one of the kids (way back when) who didn’t change their mind. Those years of run-around really make living life extra difficult.

      5. Lambert Strether Post author

        Here is the key sentence from the article:

        Remarkably, not only did the AAP statement fail to include any of the actual outcomes literature on such cases, but it also misrepresented the contents of its citations, which repeatedly said the very opposite of what AAP attributed to them.

        However, this thread veers off into attributions of motive (“transphobia”) instead of engaging with the article. If outcomes literature exists, it should be easy to produce it; indeed, this is the sort of material I would expect a committed advocate to have at their fingertips. Since it has not been produced, I therefore assume it does not exist. Similarly, if the AAP citations are not inaccurate, it should be possible, especially for those with access to professional journals, to show that by examining them. Since that has not been done, I assume the article is correct there, as well.a

    3. CoryP

      I think this is a fascinating topic. I’m glad to see it discussed on here even if I’m disappointed to see things get a little heated or emotional. I suppose it goes with the territory.

      I feel like people often assume bad faith on the part of the people they disagree with when it comes to this topic. For instance, I find the radical feminist perspective on transgenderism to be at the very least interesting and coherent (if maybe an untestable hypothesis). People who bring it up are often dismissed as TERFs, without having their argument actually engaged.

      I don’t know. I think everybody is at least partially right. I think most are concerned with preventing irreversible damage to children and adolescents. Going through puberty as the wrong gender (whether naturally or medically-induced) has to be pretty devastating.

      Anyway, it’s a complex topic worthy of discussion and I enjoy reading everybody’s thoughts.

      1. CoryP

        I think looking back at the history of gender non-conforming people in earlier societies or even present ones (Native American “two-spirited” etc) can shed some interesting light on this.

        Sadly I haven’t done the in-depth research myself.

      2. CoryP

        I’m going to spend $50 buying this article because I’m annoyed at myself for getting worked up over the interpretation of an abstract. What the hell is that free journal access page…..?

      3. WJ


        I agree with you that the radical feminist perspective on transgender theory is coherent and persuasive. It is called “radical” feminist perspective now but is really just the kind of second-wave feminism you find in Simone de Beauvoir’s *The Second Sex.*

        People just seem to have forgotten that second-wave feminism argued, persuasively, that biological sex was distinct from and did not by itself determine gender–i.e. femininity or masculinity; what it means to be a man or a woman in the world. The *fact* that women differ biologically from men does not entail that “femininity” entail their wearing high-heels, or staying at home, or being demure, or sexually passive, etc. This is because “femininity” is a malleable and historically and culturally variant ideal that is *learned* and *internalized* over time. The gradual freeing of the biological sex of femaleness from heavily determined gender “role” of femininity has always been crucial for women’s political-economic-social liberation in the west.

        Transtheory basically reverses the gains of second-wave feminism by treating gender as though it were essential and natural and biological sex as though it were contingent and malleable. It posits that I can *know* I am really female *because* I identify with the performance of *femininity.* If I identify with this performance even in the absence of my being an ovum-producing member of the species, then I am *really* female and a woman. If *do not* identify with this performance, then even though I am an ovum-producing member of the species, I might not be female.

        An especially good analytic critique of transgender theory–one which historically contextualizes its emergence, and links its credibility to surgical technology and the $$$ motive for performing it–is *Gender Hurts* by Sheila Jeffreys.

        1. Plenue

          Not only is TERF a slur, the very term itself is calculated to pigeonhole those it’s applied to. In fact most of the people called TERFs are not particularly ‘radical’. The words used here are cynically chosen to make those who question seem to be the be fringe weirdos.

          And yes, transgenderism is completely in the hole for gender presentation straight out of the 1950s. MTFs especially are downright obsessed with ‘passing’ and being sexy.

          1. CoryP

            Well.. being a hot-blooded male where everything eventually devolves into sex…

            I should think that I would want to “pass” if I were in their shoes. Why wouldn’t you want to be sexy as the gender you believe you are? That seems like a pretty basic desire, even if it’s obfuscated by intellectual arguments on behalf of those who can’t “pass”.

            This goes again to the whole puberty thing since that is basically the decision point for “passing”.

            1. Plenue

              Because it isn’t actually a desire to be female. It’s a desire to be a hot chick, ie an idealized object of male lust. It’s an extreme fetish. They’re claiming to be women trapped in men’s bodies, which is undermined by their entire view of womanhood being T&A and lingerie. It’s a man’s self-serving perception of the essential qualities of femininity.

              And before someone comes in with “well I’m not like that/the trans I know aren’t like that”, good for you. But I can find an endless amount of exactly what I’m describing. Just as with the casual death threats against anyone who dissents, the obsession with sex and passing is completely ubiquitous in trans forums and social media.

              1. CoryP

                Thats interesting, I hadn’t thought of it like that.

                Still: Im sorry, these people are playing the shitty card that we the wider society have dealt them.

                So what should be our compassionate position?

  3. Samuel Conner

    Re: “Cool, cool. Elevating a young, charistmatic libertarian Republican in an election year. What could go wrong?”

    Well, from the perspective of the establishments of both parties, a progressive senator who must not be named in mainstream media might be elected President in 2020.

    All sorts of extraordinary measures are warranted to avoid this eventuality.

    1. inode_buddha

      … Maybe we can get the UN to chaperone and oversee our elections. I am actually being serious.

    2. anEnt

      I’ll just leave this here…

      I think Amash brings several things this impeachment effort could badly use.

      First, Democrats missed an opportunity in the House Judiciary hearing on Constitutional issues behind impeachment to call someone like Paul Rosenzweig, a Republican who worked on the Whitewater investigation, who backs impeachment in this case. While a bunch of Democratic lawyers were testifying, Amash was and has continued tweeting to his colleagues about how important impeachment is to the Constitution. It is critical to have a voice making the conservative case for upholding the Constitution. Just this morning, a long time local Democratic activist I was speaking to was hailing how Amash has used his University of Michigan law degree to make the case for impeachment.

  4. diptherio

    File under Class Warfare:


    When they crash, self-driving Mercedes will be programmed to save the driver, and not the person or people they hit. That’s the design decision behind the Mercedes Benz’s future Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous cars, according to the company’s manager of driverless car safety, Christoph von Hugo. Instead of worrying about troublesome details like ethics, Mercedes will just program its cars to save the driver and the car’s occupants, in every situation.

    One of the biggest debates about driverless cars concerns the moral choices made when programming a car’s algorithms. Say the car is spinning out of control, and on course to hit a crowd queuing at a bus stop. It can correct its course, but in doing so, it’ll kill a cyclist for sure. What does it do? Mercedes’s answer to this take on the classic Trolley Problem is to hit whichever one is least likely to hurt the people inside its cars. If that means taking out a crowd of kids waiting for the bus, then so be it.

    Not even trying to hide their contempt anymore…

    1. Geo

      Reminds me of this article from years ago where a small plane carrying a missionary family in the DRC crashed into a marketplace killing 36 locals. When asked about it the missionaries said god saved them because he “still had work for them to do.” Apparently, in their minds, God had no use for the 36 Africans in the marketplace anymore.

      Mercedes knows it’s customers well: Narcissists.

      1. Tom Doak

        I am sure that the onboard computer in the Mercedes is actually furiously calculating which people’s net present earnings value is greatest, so it can make the correct choices.

        1. Geo

          I wonder how the computer would react if a lesser model Mercedes was about to hit a more expensive one? Would it make the lesser model self destruct before impact?

    2. hunkerdown

      I am reminded of San Francisco 20 years ago when the artist punk locals, the ones who lived there, used to key SUVs on principle. Any parked self-driving Mercedes is a sitting duck for disfigurement and mutilation. That’s how to fix a narcissist.

    3. Jeotsu

      I think it is more likely that it is a more solvable problem.

      As it is now self-driving cars currently have one (and only one, AFAIK) contingency in an emergency — apply the brakes.

      Maneuvering to protect the car/occupants is the next ‘easiest’ step. Trying to engineer a self-driving car that can real-time perceive and understand complex scenarios with multiple cars, pedestrians, etc is impossible. And likely will be for a long time.

    4. Kael

      It’s ‘nice’ they aren’t saying that AI is going to solve the problem with magic. Baby steps toward reality.

    5. JohnnySacks

      These algo decision trees are designed in committee rooms and should be no surprise. Wouldn’t this be the desired algorithm of anyone who purchases an autonomous vehicle, no matter the brand? Why punish Mercedes for telling the truth?

  5. Samuel Conner

    Re the DCC funding of JVD (I live in Van Drew’s district):

    where have all the Blue Dogs gone? (long time passing)

    when will they ever learn?

  6. mle detroit

    “Drinking rum and Coca-Cola”…I like the tune (and the drink) but all the rest of it — young girls, mother and daughter working for the Yankee dollar…not so much.

  7. mle detroit

    “Elevate a young charismatic [former] Republican…what could go wrong?”
    What could go right? With Gary Johnson’s money and Justin Amash’s youth, charisma, intelligence and integrity — plus Libertarian ballot access in 33 states — perhaps enough votes could be drained away from Trump…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Aww…you don’t really believe that about Republicans. Its a pipedream of Democrats who are desperate to jettison the working class.

    2. ambrit

      Hah! “..drained away from Trump…” indeed!
      More like drained away from the Democrat candidate. This looks like a backup plan to damage Sanders if he does become the Democrat Candidate.

  8. John Beech

    Mayor Pete has shown his values are ‘flexible’. Thus, I think he needs to season enough to come to stand for something. Smartest kid in the room? No question. But I’d like to see him running in 20 years, instead. Maybe after a couple of terms as Indiana’s governor plus a couple elections won as Senator. That should do the trick. You know, let’s see if he can fool common sense Indianans as a whole to give him a shot at more than a mid-size city and not fumble the ball. Not once, but twice! And let’s see if he can maybe learn enough to get the blacks in Indiana to give him a shot instead of the shiv in the back he’s received from locals in South Bend. Maybe then he’ll be ready for a shot at the top job in the land. Until then, IMHO, he needs to season just as much as a new cast iron skillet needs to be seasoned before being entrusted to cooking for the family.

    My 2¢

    1. Geo

      Why would he wait that long to cash in on his “public service”? Fully expect him to spin this campaign and his newfound national notoriety into books, tv punditry, lots of board of directors gigs, a few think tank positions, and a new home amongst his aspirational peers in Martha’s Vineyard. If he doesn’t “retire by 40” he’ll be the slacker amongst his Harvard classmates!

      1. polecat

        As a flexian, he seems to limbo really well.

        “How low can ya go ?”

        Me thinks the Mayor needs a new moniker .. how’s about PeteMoss ? That’s pretty low ….

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I think he’s pure CIA. Obscure guy with little experience comes out of nowhere and gets massively funded. What precisely was he doing in “Naval Intelligence” and whom did he meet there?

      I think it’s the Obama schtick redux. Last time it was “I know, we’ll put in a black guy, then people will be bamboozled when he does all of our same status quo corporo-fascist stuff”.

      This time: “I know, this time let’s put up a gay guy, then people will be bamboozled when he does all of our same status quo corporo-fascist stuff”.

      Maybe someone on the campaign trail should shout “Treadstone! Treadstone!” and see how he reacts.

      1. Off The Street

        Pete’s Post Office Pimping-Out has earned him a Forever Stamp of disapproval. He joins DiFiChiSpy in the USPS Hall of Shame.

      2. Annieb

        Bingo! Super smart Harvard grad Rhodes scholar at Oxford, who could have been hired at any one of a number of reputable organizations but in 2007 takes a job at McKinsey, “the firm that built Enron” according to Ritholtz, quoting from the Guardian and Business Week.
        Then in 2009 he goes into Naval intelligence.

        Seems Mayor Pete has had some interesting career goals.

  9. NotTimothyGeithner

    Re: Amash as impeachment manager

    This isn’t about politics but Team Blue elites are effectively so lazy they don’t want to do any of the work necessary to earn aplomb or stardom. They want celebrity delivered by MSNBC and spouting banal platitudes, but the idea of actual work (the floor manager will have to count votes and so forth) is repulsive to these people.

      1. Darius

        I always thought this was one of Obama’s major motivations. He’s always trying to impress these people but it’s never enough.

        1. Off The Street

          Almost makes one pine for the olden days, where a gratuitous effort trying to impress an anonymous valet attendant or service worker was about as far as some would sink. New depths to plumb in the new era.

  10. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: “‘You’re My Present This Year’: An Oral History of the Folgers Incest Ad” [GQ]. • Well, er: “The reaction to the ad was an example of the internet at its most fun—the phenomenon of collectively realizing that the specific thing that you believed you’ve singularly noticed is actually a widely-held opinion.”


    What lovely lives these people must lead to have visions of incest dancing in their heads at Christmastime. I know it’s the first thought that crosses my mind when I see adult siblings who are happy to reconnect with each other during the holidays.

    And don’t even get me started on those commercials showing lecherous grandparents who come to visit and insist on cuddling their young grandchildren on their laps while pretending to “enjoy” their cups of cocoa.

    1. Danny

      Guess working to help poor Americans in Appalachia wouldn’t be far enough to get him away from an interstate arrest warrant?

      Just back from West Africa after the statute of limitations expired?

      Ebola, the gift that goes on giving. Whole block quarantined.

      That’s what I first thought of.

    2. Big Tap

      Never saw this ad till now. Where’s the incest? People like the author of the article are warped in the head. The sister was happy to see her brother unexpectedly after a long length of time. That’s all there was to it.

    3. Pat

      Thank you. Funnily enough I remember that ad, and where I went “rogue” was I thought more about someone stationed overseas not peace corps. Probably because I have known more than a few younger sisters AND brothers over the moon at homecomings in my life even when overseas wasn’t as dangerous as the last almost two decades.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        I remember it too and my reflection was the same as yours. I’ve spent a bit of time up and down that area and at Western watering holes, you will occasionally run into French “Renseignements” off duty and the occasional odd American – I thought they were involved in something weird over there but the commercial made me think that I’d spaced out an entire invasion. Now I realize it was just about incest.

  11. neighbor7

    We’re so fortunate that scientists have a social conscience! How would we have known about wealth inequality if we hadn’t chanced to spot it in our planetary comrades, the hermit crabs?

    1. Geo

      Maybe we should model our economics after the crabs? If you can’t carry it on your back, it’s too much. Imagine a “billionaire” crab trying to haul around a shell roughly the size of the Hoover Dam. The crab would be laughed at as a lunatic. We should see our own billionaires as the same – lunatics hoarding wealth to the point of mental illness.

      “You can’t take it with you” as our new economic slogan. :)

      1. ambrit

        Alas, as much as “You can’t take it with you,” may work in some nebulous afterlife, here and now, “You can take it away from everyone else” is the operative theme.

    1. Arizona Slim

      And, right now, my ears are being beaten by yet another one of those Partnership for America’s Health Care Future ads on YouTube. Boy, is that outfit wasting its money on me. If I didn’t support Medicare for All before their ad barrage, I really do now.

  12. JohnnyGL


    Chris Wallace of Fox interviews James Comey. Wallace grills him admirably and thoroughly.

    Comey, in a weird, sort of consistent way, applies the HRC email standard to himself and his organization, “you can’t prove bad faith intent”, so it’s fine.

    Just another example of elite rottenness on display. No accountability, ever. Elites can’t fail, they can only be failed by those under them.

    1. Trent

      “No accountability, ever. Elites can’t fail, they can only be failed by those under them.”

      I think that should be Hillarys new campaign slogan when she inevitably throws her hat into the ring.

      Or at least we should start selling tshirts with this slogan. Get some of that capitalism for ourselves.

    2. Geo

      I’m gonna use that “you can’t prove bad faith intent” next time I have a traffic ticket. Wish me luck!

      1. Jeotsu

        The great irony is the presumed bad faith is the underlying ‘crime’ driving the impeachment.

        Gotta love that nuclear-grade hypocrisy.

      2. Danny

        Or, how about your just forgetting to participate in the voluntary federal income tax system to fund Comey’s pension?

      3. Lemmy Caution

        > I’m gonna use that “you can’t prove bad faith intent” next time I have a traffic ticket.

        Or in the case of a traffic accident, “I believe we should look forward as opposed to looking backward.”

    3. Pat

      I would presume that means He is appalled at the impeachment of Donald Trump.

      Oh wait… what was I thinking. That can’t recognize bad intent thing only applies to the select few insiders.

  13. Grant

    “So I’m not sure what went wrong here.”

    Those attacking Cenk, per usual, have nothing what so ever to offer on policy, they are threatened by his focus on corruption in politics, and so they focus on personal attacks. The David Brock means of getting power. Cenk has said a number of things that his opponents can focus on, live on air, and so they probably think that they don’t have to get around to proving how their policies will improve the lives of people more than Cenk’s would. Bernie should have known that they will do this, and that Cenk would have said enough that they could focus on that as a means to undermine him. But, this doesn’t matter tons in the end. We have to pretend it does because the same people attacking Cenk want to stop Bernie, and the only way they can is with ridiculous personal attacks and silly identity politics. Can you imagine what is coming if Bernie wins Iowa?

    I am sure that Neera Tanden is going to get around to that unity thing though, as soon as they have their people in positions where they need votes from the left. When they have to compete with the left for votes, guerilla warfare and fake outrage when people on the left critique their preferred candidates on corruption and inferior policies. But, once they’ve thrown tons of money against leftist candidates, slimed them, attacked them, then unify around their preferred candidate. Does anyone know of cartoonish media figures in Pravda back in the day?

    1. Hepativore

      I support Cenk as well. While I think that much of the Young Turks is the left-wing version (Sensationalism is not strictly a right-wing phenomenon) of sensationalist nonsense, I still support Cenk Ugyur. His controversial remarks are from years ago, and if anything he has gone full-scale social justice warrior, now. Nonetheless, I still support his policies if not his identitarian nonsense that he is prone to spouting off on with the Young Turks.

      One of the worse aspects of identity politics and “cancel culture” is the notion that sins against IdPol are unforgivable and that people should be forever punished for things that they said and did in the past. This sort of thinking will cause many leftist movements to languish if people are going to regard the left as being holier-than-thou IdPol absolutists. We are already smeared as such for being already so by our political opponents and this only adds fuel to the fire.

      1. Geo

        I completely agree with you on all points here. One selfish reason I hope Cenk wins is so I don’t have to listen to him rant on TYT anymore.

        But, my guess is that those who are outraged by his past are cool with the “evolution” of Liz Warren’s from her Federalist Society days, Clinton from her Goldwater Girl days, etc, etc, etc.

        It’s all tribalistic virtue signaling with no substance at all. They don’t like him. This is just a means to an end for them. Anything to protect establishment power structures!

        1. Isotope_C14

          Cenk is a deranged Russia-Gater. I’m sorry, but someone who can take an evidence-free conspiracy and draw all kinds of insane connections to “Russian Oligarchs” isn’t fit to lead. Obviously the “American Oligarchs” are angels and benevolent stewards of the lost pesantry.

          He’s bombastic, rude, and more than likely now a 3-Letter organization plant.

          Cenk should be relegated to a sports channel, or a color commentator for monster truck events.

          1. JBird4049

            I can understand not liking Cenk Uygur, but I also dislike the use of modern IdPol with its associated use of canceling people’s existence; Mr. Uygur is not some annoying program. He is a man, a human being, with many flaws and an evolving, hopefully improving life.

            We already have people become social and economic pariahs for what would have be forgiven, or at least forgotten, just twenty years ago, but are now part of one’s permanent public record. Worse, what is acceptable then is not now, and what is acceptable now, might not be in the future. So anyone is facing a future damnation of their memory, or worse, of their still living existence for violating rules today that will only exist in the future.

            Finally, this use of IdPol and future crime is like crying wolf. When people falsely smear someone like Corbyn of anti-semitism or Sanders of not caring about blacks (or the Jewish politician of being anti-Jewish!!) weakens the cries and charges against actual hatred and bigotry when the KKK and the neo-Nazis rise up again. If nothing is real or matters only in the moment’s advantage, can anything of solidity, of permanence, actually exist?

            1. Isotope_C14

              This has nothing to do with IDpol.

              He’s a deeply polarizing figure, who jumps to unfounded conclusions about “Trump/Russia”, and as Taibbi stated in the Useful Idiots podcast, “You don’t start at a conclusion, and work back from there”.

              His judgement is not sound.

              1. Carey

                Thanks for this comment. Mr. Uygur uses bombast and ridicule instead of facts to make a case. Not a guy you need in your corner, thanks.
                I do not understand why Sanders endorsed him in the first place.

                1. JBird4049

                  My apologies. I am being unclear because I am reacting to and linking several things that I believe are related into one evil.

                  It is true, not liking a candidate because of what kind of person he is, is not IdPol, but not liking a person because of what they said or did years ago regardless of what they are now is linked to the same fecal matter as Identity Politics, bigotry and the modern version of damnatio memoriae. This regardless of what kind of person they are themselves. The past cannot ever be allowed to be the past, but must remain alive to be perhaps the sole judge of the present, and the worth of someone cannot be intrinsic, but based on the ever present past claimed sins that they may not even be responsible for.

                  Some are not chastising Cenk Uygur for what kind of person he is now, but for the crime sin of being vulgar, even bigoted, more than a decade ago. Even if he becomes a living saint, some would judge that not enough to cleanse of his past bad thoughts and words. That is what is making me unhappy with the labeling of him as unclean.

    1. richard

      Here is part of uygur’s interview with j. dore. This segment covers his evolving views on russia cubed. An interesting man with ambition coming out of his ears.

        1. CoryP

          Yeah that interview went downhill in a hurry. I have to say I dislike Cenk but I found the first half of that interview to be better than I thought. Were I an American I’d probably support him for his candidacy as a least worst option.

    1. Geo

      Just started reading it and this, from the first paragraph, should dismantle the main message of Biden’s campaign:

      “Biden got a ‘commitment’ from George W. Bush“

      He claims he got swindled by Bush, yet he always claims that only he can make deals and get Republicans to be reasonable.

      I know most people don’t really pay attention to this stuff but how can anyone see Biden as anything other than a fool (at best), if not a complicit part of the problems we have?

      In the words of the Great Decider: “Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!”

      1. Hepativore

        Oh, but W. Bush is now the new darling of the neoliberal Democrats. After all, you have Michelle Obama heaping praises upon him, saying that they had mere differences in ideology.

        Biden probably sees W. Bush as being a lovable scamp akin to Eddy Hascal from Leave It To Beaver. The past schemes and shenanigans caused by the Bush presidency such as torture, destruction of the 4th Amendment, violation of due process, various wars, and corporate tax cuts which all haunt us to this very day were mere follies all in good fun in the eyes of corporate Democrats like Biden and the media elites.

    2. Geo

      For anyone interested in a look back at the lead up to war, this video from a few weeks before “Shock & Awe” by the British comedy duo Bird and Fortune is one of the most in-depth and insightful of any I’ve seen. One more example of comedians doing the work out news media refuses to do.


      Sadly, it’s a low quality video. Have not been able to find any high res versions. Still, I highly recommend it. Some fun humor interspersed with thoughtful criticism of the (at the time) impending war, it’s likely fallout, and the propaganda used to build the case for war.

  14. VietnamVet

    In a world awash with digital money, burgeoning debt and a “glorious” economy booming in coastal big cities (but not in rural America or for the homeless), reality appears to be about to take a vicious bite. Shutting down the 737 Max production line and halting purchase of parts will be a real hit to the largest American export and Fortune 500 Corporation and its suppliers. Industry consolidation, deregulation and the dismemberment of western democracies to enrich the few is about to implode on itself. Propping Boeing up as another too big to fail company won’t work. Like Lockheed Martin, Boeing no longer can design and build an airplane to cost that works. Safety first is a primary requirement of commercial aviation. It was dumped to increase profits and replaced by public relations.

  15. Mark Gisleson

    “late deciders” is media for ‘yet again the Iowa voters wouldn’t do what we told them to do.’

    Post-Carter, they’ve done this dance every four years as they insist they have poll numbers for the caucuses. You cannot poll the caucuses. That’s the whole point of doing caucuses: it reduces each precinct/township into just the people in the room that night and no one else counts.

    An organizer’s dream, an election fixer’s nightmare.

  16. Danny

    “California voters, pay attention:
    Everyone check your voter registration.”

    Watch UNCOUNTED on Youtube. This same corporate criminal who shilled for Hillary and screwed over independents and Decline to State voters, Alex Padilla, the secretary of state, is still in office and looks to be up to his old corporate Democrat tricks, as evidenced by this.

    The Democratic donkey is Naying at Frau Klobluchar.

    Every time her name is mentioned….

    1. jrs

      Yes, these have just been sent out in the mail, some people actually are NPP. But a problem is still with almost no time to mail them back (due in less than the 7-10 days regular mail may take to get there, they were received REALLY REALLY late for this type of transaction, the average credit card or utility bill has more time to send back a payment than these do). One could email or fax them back though.

      1. Jeff W

        “One could email or fax them back though.”

        That alternative (and others) is stated on the California Secretary of State site:

        No Party Preference voters who do not respond to this postcard will be mailed a ballot without any presidential candidates listed. If this happens, they are still able to request a crossover ballot from their county elections official via:


        Voters can also take their non-partisan vote-by-mail ballot to their polling place (or any vote center in a Voter’s Choice Act County) and exchange it for a ballot with presidential candidates from the American Independent, Democratic, or Libertarian Party.

        [emphasis added]

        It would be better if those alternatives were stated on the postcard (assuming they aren’t).

  17. inode_buddha

    Re Bloombergs GDP in coastal cities, I have to wonder what the FIRE sector would do if they didn’t have other people’s value to manipulate. You know, the value that is actually created by the efforts of those in flyover country.

    1. notabanker

      My prediction is the US will be the only country in the world that re-certifies those planes. Europeans and Asians will refuse to fly in them, and the US is the only country capable of forcing their citizens to do it.

  18. The Rev Kev

    Pete Buttigieg: “Now if you’ll excuse me, potholes await.”

    Pete Buttigieg as pothole fill? Sounds like a plan to me.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “‘You’re My Present This Year’: An Oral History of the Folgers Incest Ad”

    I’m sure that the family were only going to play a board game after. They could play the board game “Incense” – a game the whole family can play.

    1. CoryP

      Someone above had a sort of pearl-clutching comment on this. I find this hilarious.
      If you could watch that and think the siblings did not want to bang, you’re missing out on something.

    1. integer

      Comey gives himself away by being too eager to concede that mistakes were made and too quick to deny there was any political motivation.

  20. Darthbobber

    In impeachment land, Schumer cracked me up with his harping on how important it was for McConnell to include testimony from witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney.

    As I recall, and it’s only been since mid-November, when Bolton said he’d contest a subpoena if issued the house decided not to issue one, as their railroad timetable would be thrown off schedule by litigating that.

    Same thing when Mulvaney responded to their subpoena by relying on the administration’s assertion of executive privilege. They refused to go to court to challenge that assertion, again on the grounds that there just wasn’t time.

    But apparently McConnell, some time in January, should decide he has the time for what they couldn’t be bothered with, or he’s just an evil SOB.

    And I’m supposed to take this all seriously?

  21. Pat

    Voting Machines.
    shocked someone here in NY when I said “if my vote gets counted correctly since we have no idea with the machines.” Got told how NY has machines from a reputable company. They didn’t quite know how to take my “at least the old mechanical machines had to be hacked individually rather than wholesale” or my “Thanks for voting” screens don’t even allow you to see what they say they are reading. This is a smart person who is relatively internet savvy but they just trust that the people running our system wouldn’t go there and that there is enough security to stop outside forces.

    Then again more than a few of my younger co-workers just shook their heads at me when I said using internet connected thermostats, refrigerators, stoves, home security, etc were asking for trouble. Shocked them when I remind them that “yes, you could have known if you had thought about it” as troubles get reported. They are learning, when I went off on self driving cars recently many joined in on why this was a very bad idea. Voting machines are less clear. I’m hoping that if I keep pointing out that different people will be in charge of the programming over time and it won’t always be someone you like or trust…

    Paper ballots counted by hand in public.

  22. CoryP

    On another note. There’s a bit of a flip-out happening at MoA today regarding Max Blumenthal / Grayzone and their switcheroo on Syria policy (I wasn’t following them back then — I have a video interview where Max speaks about this bookmarked on twitter but I haven’t watched it yet).

    Anyway, sad to see the circular firing squad, but interesting nonetheless. NC has such a better comment section :)

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