2:00PM Water Cooler 6/23/2017

By Lambert Strether of

Readers, because it took me fifteen minutes of router-wrangling to get going this morning, I didn’t get to all the political news, if news is the word I want, that I wanted to cover. I’ll have some UPDATEs shortly. –lambert

UPDATE The UPDATE’s are done; now for “Obama’s Secret Struggle…”

Trade

“Even as President Donald Trump is on the cusp of potentially taking major action against imports of steel and aluminum on the basis of protecting national security, lawmakers continued to urge caution against any move that might spark a trade war” []. “”My advice continues to be don’t rush this,’ House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said after a hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday. ‘Take your time and get it right.'”

CETA: “Canada ratification upsets Macron’s promises on CETA” []. “A ruling is due this summer. And Belgium, whose calls for additional guarantees had led to a confrontation with Brussels, has promised to take its concerns to the Court of Justice of the European Union in the coming weeks. Most recently, it is France’s new President Emmanuel Macron who has put the issue back on the negotiating table, promising in the last days of his presidential campaign to set up an expert committee to examine the CETA agreement before ratification.”

“OPINION 2/15: ADDING SOME SPICE TO THE TRADE & ENVIRONMENT DEBATE” []. “In its Opinion 2/15, the Court, unlike AG Sharpston, found that the entire sustainable development chapter (Chapter 13) in the EUSFTA fell within the scope of the common commercial policy…. For the Court, therefore, non-compliance with provisions in this chapter could constitute a material breach of the agreement.” Super-geeky post, so any European trade law experts please chime in!

Politics

Policy

“For con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans in the new norm of the Trump pres­id­ency, noth­ing is easy, and everything is hard. Rais­ing the debt ceil­ing in or­der to keep the gov­ern­ment from de­fault­ing on its debt is nor­mally easy; now it is hard. Passing an om­ni­bus budget bill to simply keep the gov­ern­ment op­er­at­ing (for­get the idea of passing the full bat­tery of 12 ap­pro­pri­ations bills) is go­ing to be hard. Com­ing up with a health care bill in the Sen­ate that could be passed by a simple ma­jor­ity through the budget-re­con­cili­ation pro­cess usu­ally would be easy with a 52-48 vote edge and a vice pres­id­ent in place to break a tie. But this time, it will be hard. Spend­ing money to fix our na­tion’s in­creas­ingly dilap­id­ated in­fra­struc­ture—that’s hard too. And then there are things that would be hard un­der any set of cir­cum­stances, such as tax re­form. That’s even harder” [Charles Cook, ]. And not because of powerless Democrats, but contradictions within the Republican Party itself. “The Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­it­ies in the House (55 per­cent to 45 per­cent) and Sen­ate are re­l­at­ively thin, and the House and Sen­ate GOP con­fer­ences are any­thing but mono­lith­ic. Each has mem­bers that span the polit­ic­al spec­trum, from those who are some­what con­ser­vat­ive and may need the votes of in­de­pend­ents and maybe even a few Demo­crats to win reelec­tion, all the way to mem­bers who are to the right of Genghis Khan and can eas­ily win with no in­de­pend­ent or Demo­crat­ic votes—just as Demo­crats range from some­what lib­er­al all the way to the left of Karl Marx.” That’s silly. If Sanders were to the left of Marx, he’d have called for the collective ownership of the means of production (not to say that crowdsourcing capital allocation on Twitter, Boaty McBoatface-style, would be worse at capital allocation than the Silicon Valley cronies Venture Capitalists who shovelled $60+ billion into the black hole of Travis Kalanick’s deeply unprofitable ).

Ossoff Aftermath

“Meet the Man Behind the Ossoff Campaign — He’s Just Getting Started” []. Please kill me now. “But holed up in the campaign’s boiler room in the Westin Hotel, [Keenan] Pontoni, Ossoff’s 30-year-old campaign manager, still saw a path to victory, through outstanding mail-in votes.” The Westin, eh? Pretty nice. I wonder if all Ossoff’s consultants stayed there. I think this is the worst election night coverage I’ve ever read; it presents the obvoius (early voting, mail-in ballots) as dramatic events. More: “Pontoni has a complicated relationship with his craft.” This is what we’ve come to; hagiography for a losing Democratic strategist. That is where we are.

Health Care

“Mitch McConnell: Replacing failed Obamacare” []. “Next week, we expect the Congressional Budget Office to release a score. After that, we will proceed with a robust debate and an open amendment process here on the Senate floor.” Interestingly, McConnell lays out a set of requirements that “We agree on” (nice use of anaphora in the piece) without saying how the AHCA will meet the requirements. Granted, the Republican plan we have now (ACA/ObamaCare) doesn’t meet those requirements either, but for every single requirement, the way forward is #MedicareForAll. Too bad all that funding for “the resistance” went to a push to #SaveTheACA, and not to a program that would actually meet McConnell’s requirements. But, Democrats.

UPDATE “There are not currently the 50 votes necessary to advance the legislation that Mitch McConnell unveiled Thursday. There will need to be concessions and compromises, and there are several ways the push could still fall apart in the coming days” []. “But pretty much every Republican, including the current holdouts, wants to pass something. And no GOP senator wants to bear the brunt of the blame from the base for inaction. That factor must not be discounted.” What I find interesting is that Susan Collins didn’t shake down the administration for a destroyer at Bath Iron Works, which is the obvious concession to her. I’m reluctant to make a call either way, things are poised on such a knife edge. I don’t think it makes sense to underestimate how feral Republicans can be, with regard to their agenda, to screwing the Democrats, and to screwing their social inferiors. Finally, another obvious concession is to have the pain kick in slowly, like after 2018. “We can always fix it later.” If their opponents were anybody but the Clintonite Democrats, I’d say the Republicans are hosed, but the Democrats can make anybody look good.

“The New Senate Republican Bill Will Transform American Health Care” [Avik Roy, ]. Tax credit wonkery.

Warren on the AHCA:

I’ve read the Republican “health care” bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren)

So where are you on #MedicareForAll, Liz? And where were you in 2016, when it mattered?

New Cold War

“Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault” []. For my “hermeneutic of suspicion” on stories in this ongoing narrative, see yesterday’s Water Cooler. So far as I can tell, the sourcing is Obama and three “senior” aides, which immediately raises the question: If all this was happening in August, why was the story kept under wraps? (For example, this sentence: “With Obama still determined to avoid any appearance of politics, the statement would not carry his signature.” Dear Lord. I think immediately of Obama standing up Perez to defeat Ellison and screw Sanders when he was no longer President. Obama has no problem with appearing political at all.) I’ll have more on this in a bit.

* * *

UPDATE More on “Obama’s Secret Struggle.” As the “hermeneutic of suspicion” above would suggest, I’m just going to look at this as a narrative. For all I know, the story is “true,” though that would be a welcome change of form from , , and who form the bulk of the sources for this story. (And then there is Obama: “The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our Willingness to Be Tricked.”)

So, considering the story only as a narrative, then, and performing a media critique:

First, consider the lead:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

I believe I called this on May 18:

So, if [theatre critic Frank] Rich’s view of the world is correct, and Russian hysteria/gaslighting/what you will (not using “-Gate”!) is like a well-made play, then we can expect to see an instance of the “lost or stolen documents” plot device. In fact, we’re seeing it already with Comey’s notes*, but perhaps there are more documents to be discovered — or “discovered,” as the case may be. , from our previous McCarthyite period….

The “envelope” is, very precisely, the document in a well-made play that drives a plot turn; a in contemporary terms.

Second, consider the “drip drip drip” aspect. Today’s story can be viewed as the exposition following the reveal which “connects the dots” for previous events in the play, some mysterious. As we linked to on March 23:

[T]he steady sound of drip-drip-drip is the telltale sign of a political campaign, where items are leaked bit by bit to paralyze the target. Journalists, on the other hand, have to get their story out there as quickly, and as fully, as possible because they’re always worried the competition is going to beat them to it.

In other words, some may be under the illusion that WaPo is practicing investigative journalism here, but they’re not. They’re practicing , and the reveals are coming at the pace, in the order, and with the content and the framing that the sources want.

Third, consider those sources:

This account of the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s interference is based on interviews with more than three dozen[1] current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

In other words, we have what we’ve had from the beginning: Anonymous torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists telling a story based on evidence that we can’t see. And these torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists are playing for enormous stakes, and have interests in the outcome — as do the access journalists purveying the story. (Jeff Bezos, for example, has an enormous contract with the “intelligence community” for Amazon Web Services.) Why do we accept their, and WaPo’s, argument from authority?

Fourth, consider the timing. The “envelope” arrived in August. And here’s how summarizes impact today: “WaPo: CIA Intel Showed Putin Directly Ordered Operation To Get Trump Elected.” Interesting, if true, eh? And it would have been even more interesting before Election Day, surely? So what kind of sense does it make that information that could delegitimize a Presidential election was never made public until after the election? If making sure voters were making an informed choice was the priority, that is. Are we saying that the greatest orator of our time couldn’t frame the issue properly? (I’m not saying that the administration had “connected the dots” completely, but given the risks, doesn’t it make sense to have the reveal when it would have made a difference, rather than later? Remember all the furor about handing Trump the nuclear codes, which Obama (presumably) did, knowing what he knew?)

Fifth, consider a key omission:

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent…. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

Note that WaPo carefully avoids explicitly saying who stole the DNC emails, although the way the paragraph begins (“outlines of the Russian assault”) implies the Russians did. In other words, the reporters erase the possibility of insider threats, for . (I said “prima facie,” not “.”) It’s almost as if the reporters are pushing a particular narrative, isn’t it? And airbrushing inconvenient possibilities away?

Now, just because WaPo’s story exhibits formal characteristics of a carefully crafted work of fiction — in this case, serialized in the press — doesn’t mean it is fiction. I’m doing a media critique, here, nothing more. However, if we’re going to depose a President who took the oath of office after getting a majority of the votes in the electoral college — and that has been the goal of the torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists who are the sources for this story since the “faithless electors” effort after November 8, 2016 — we need to demand evidence, not claims about evidence. And I think anybody who remembers the Iraq WMD debacle should give consideration to making the same demand.

NOTE [1] of “A de facto directorate of several hundred managers sitting atop dozens of military, diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the National Reconnaissance Office, has come to dominate national security policy, displacing the authority not only of Congress but of the courts and the presidency as well.” This seems to overlap conceptually with The Blob, and three dozen interviewees is an appreciable fraction of that class.

NOTE If anybody wants to prevent the election from being hacked, the policy solution is hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. I can’t think why this isn’t on the agenda.

* * *

“Now that President Trump has tweeted that he didn’t tape James Comey, the anti-Trump zealots are accusing him of witness intimidation” [Alan Dershowitz, ]. “This is most the absurd of the many absurd charges leveled against Trump by those out to get him without regard to the law. Trump’s bluff was calculated to get Comey to tell the truth. How can that be witness intimidation? If it were, Abraham Lincoln would have gone to prison rather than the White House. As a young lawyer, he, too, bluffed a witness into telling the truth.” I hate to agree with Dershowitz on anything, but it seems that 2017 is going to be as rich with irony as 2016 was!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Where are all the missing leftist voters?” []. “The most recent bit of such evidence is an important study based on a survey of voters in the 2016 election. It shows that while a good number of people who voted for Trump may well be reachable by progressives on economic issues, many of them are also likely to be put off by the left’s uniform hostility to any kind of cultural conservatism, whether on social/religious issues or immigration. Apparently, the overwhelming majority of voters on the left combine economic progressivism with strong support for open borders and no-questions-asked abortion-on-demand — a mixture of positions that is likely to remain a deal-breaker for many middle-of-the-road Americans who don’t already vote for liberals.”

UPDATE This excellent tweet storm answers the question above:

Thread.

— Michael Graham (@BLUpfront)

“Clearly, the energy and fire are on the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren left. Moreover, the crudity of party chair Tom Perez’s attacks on Trump and the GOP, being echoed now by Democratic members of Congress, suggest that the new stridency to rally the angry left is gaining converts” [Patrick Buchanan, ]. I think Buchanan, as conservatives will do, conflates liberals and the left. Warren went all in for Clintonite Trump-baiting. Sanders did not. Liberals are “We’re not Trump.” The Left is #MedicareForAll. And so on.

UPDATE “Johnny Depp: ‘When was the last time an actor assassinated a President?'” [].

UPDATE “Nebraska Democratic official ousted for allegedly wishing Steve Scalise dead” [].

UPDATE “Prominent Democratic Fundraisers Realign to Lobby for Trump’s Agenda” []. “After President Donald Trump’s upset election victory, Democratic insiders who worked on Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid weren’t necessarily relegated to the sidelines. Many, in fact, are cashing in as lobbyists — by working to advance Trump’s agenda. Lobbying records show that some Democratic fundraisers, who raised record amounts of campaign cash for Clinton, are now retained by top telecom interests to help repeal the strong net neutrality protections established during the Obama administration. Others are working on behalf of for-profit prisons on detention issues, while others still are paid to help corporate interests pushing alongside Trump to weaken financial regulations. At least one prominent Clinton backer is working for a health insurance company on a provision that was included in the House Republican bill to gut the Affordable Care Act. While Republican lobbyists are more in demand, liberal lobbyists are doing brisk business that has them reaching out to fellow Democrats to endorse — or at least tamp down vocal opposition to — Trump agenda items.” Ka-ching.

Stats Watch

Purchasing Managers’ Index Composite Flash, June 2017: “The economy is solid, at least the service sector, but on the whole is losing momentum, based on Markit’s flash data for June” []. “The service strength in this report keeps it from being downbeat, though the weakness in manufacturing, which has been struggling this quarter, is not welcome.” And: “According to Markit the data is consistent with GDP growth rates of around 2.0% and monthly payroll increases of around 170,000” []. “The data suggests solid growth in the economy with potential acceleration in growth over the second half while the increase in services-sector inflation is potentially important and should boost Fed confidence in higher inflation levels.” But: We’ll have to see if real data bears out this survey data!

New Home Sales, May 2017: “Housing is back on track following Wednesday’s strength in existing home sales and today’s very solid gain for new home sales” []. “The real surprise in the report is enormous strength in selling prices. The median surged 11.5 percent in the month to $345,800. The year-on-year increase is 16.8 percent which, however, is nearly double the 8.9 percent gain in actual sales. This price traction is related not only to demand but also to supply of new homes which is very tight.” And: “US new home sales increased 2.9% in May to an annualised rate of 610,000 from a revised 593,000 in April which was adjusted sharply from the original estimate of 569,000. This was slightly above consensus estimates of a 600,000 rate and also represented an 8.9% annual increase” []. “Sales increased in the South and West, although there were declines in the North-east and Mid-West.” And: “This was above expectations of 590,000 sales SAAR, and the previous months were revised up. A solid report” []. But: “This month the backward revisions were significantly up (partially improving last months terrible data), but still the rolling averages significantly declined. Because of weather and other factors, the rolling averages are the way to view this series – and the rolling averages were within the levels seen in 2017” []. “The sales prices were significantly up – so much so that the number looks suspicious. This data series is suffering from methodology issues which manifest as significant backward revision – and this month the revisions were up.”

Housing: “The current median price for a home in San Francisco is now $1.5 million. This is for your standard crap shack flavored box” []. “This is how a mania looks like in the form of home prices. People seem to think just because we don’t have NINJA loans or no-doc products that somehow no bubble can ever occur again. Have you been to Las Vegas? People routinely put actual cash on the table and lose it. This isn’t a shock. Just because you use cash or have a sizable down payment doesn’t mean a correction can’t happen.” I wonder what will happen to the Bay Area housing market if the Uber bezzle pops (or whatever bezzles do).

NAFTA: “United States trade with its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico increased 0.8% annually to $91.1 billion in April, the most recent month for which data is available, according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)” [].

Debt: “Farmers Take Out Millions In Loans To Raise Chickens For Big-Box Retailers” []. “As pork and poultry production grows in the U.S., this is an increasingly common arrangement. Farmers sign multi-million dollar deals to do business with big corporations [like CostCo]. The company provides animals and . The farmer builds the barns and cares for the animals. It requires a major investment from the farmers who enter into the agreement.” Just because it’s done on a multi-million dollar scale doesn’t mean it isn’t sharecropping. (Hey, maybe if they start dealing with Amazon, they’ll get a break at the company store Whole Foods!

Shipping: “The shipping industry is no longer a newcomer in capital markets. Yet, despite almost 50 publicly traded international shipping companies on the two major exchanges in New York, only eight of them have current market capitalisations over $1bn” [. “No real barriers exist to companies merging their shipping activities. Commercial and technical functions are scalable, debt is typically rolled over, and there exist no regulatory barriers, except perhaps in the container sector. The impetus to merge should be there given that the bar of getting financing, particularly equity financing, has gotten much higher. Only company executives resist to acknowledge the obvious.” Moar concentration!

Supply Chain: “Asset-light e-marketplaces and other nontraditional shopping channels, combined with shifting demographics, are upending industrial distributors’ inventory-heavy model more rapidly than previously thought” []. “According to the , the biggest shift comes from millennials (defined for this study as those currently ages 21-34) who grew up in a digital era and are bringing their tech-savvy and nontraditional purchasing habits – for example, bypassing the middle man and working directly with the manufacturer – with them into the workplace.”

Supply Chain: “Electronics supply chains in the U.S. are about to get a big boost. Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group is preparing to decide on seven states where it plans to spend some $10 billion to expand its contract manufacturing operations” [].

UPDATE The Bezzle: “When the Bitcoin Bubble Bursts” []. “If bonds are the old world’s safe haven, Bitcoin is the millennial generation’s apocalypse insurance. Crypto-currencies are marketed as a direct expression of opposition to central-bank and government policy, far more so than gold.”

The Bezzle: “3.6 Billion Mobile Ad Clicks Are Fraudulent” []. “According to a recent report from Tune, a provider of mobile analytics and performance software, the firm combed through 24.3 billion clicks on more than 700 mobile ad networks and found that eight of the ad networks were totally fraudulent and another 35 were at least 50% fraudulent. The average fraud rate across all ad networks is about 15.2%, or 3.6 billion of the 24.3 billion clicks analyzed.”

The Bezzle: “The resignation of Uber Technologies Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick may help bring back customers disillusioned by his leadership of the company. But the factor that might prompt a return of riders is if the ride-hailing service lowers its costs, according to a survey from Morning Consult, a media and technology company that provides research and data on trends in business and policy” []. Idea: Enhance Uber’s lease-to-own program so that when drivers sleep in their cars, they pay an overnight rate. I know that’s on the revenue side, not the cost side, but why leave money on the table?

The Bezzle: “The coup that brought Travis Kalanick down at Uber has left open an intriguing and problematic throne” []. “[W}e’ve thought this over and it would be almost irresponsible for Uber not to offer the CEO job to [JP Morgan’s] Matt Zames… [A]ny concern that Zames might not be able to handle the perpetual crisis mode that plagues Uber, we’d like to remind you that when The London Whale scandal blew up it was Zames who King Jamie dispatched to fix it. If Zames dealt with the one of the most embarrassing and public risk management clusterf*cks in financial history, it stands to reason that he can manage Uber through implementation of The Holder Report and prevent any more “Miami Letters” from being passed around on company email. Zames is also a financier who understands how public companies behave. As we’ve said ad nauseum, what hurt Uber the most was Kalanick’s seemingly willful lack of care towards Uber’s high-wire financing or the importance of an eventual IPO.” It would be irresponsible not to speculate…

Political Risk: “The Arab states embargo on trade with Qatar is triggering a business boom for logistics companies in Turkey. Transport demand through the Turkish capital of Ankara is already soaring” []. “The blossoming trade is a vivid illustration of how business and profits are moving ahead …. even as diplomatic relations in the region remain fractured.”

Political Risk: “The Dow’s tumultuous 120-year history, in one chart” []. “At its simplest, the chart proves once again that over the long term, the stock market always rises because ‘intelligence, creativity, and innovation always trump fear,’ according to [Chris Kacher, managing director of MoKa Investors]…. As his 120-year chart clearly demonstrates, the market always recovers. But sometimes, it just takes a little longer.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 50, Neutral) []. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jun 23 at 12:09pm.

Health Care

“Iowa insurance market collapse could ground young entrepreneurs’ dreams, early retirees’ plans” []. The answer not being the broken ACA, but #MedicareForAll.

Class Warfare

Trump: “So, somebody said, ‘Why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy?’ … I said, ‘because that’s the kind of thinking we want'” []. Obama did exactly the same thing, but on the down-low, as Democrats do.

“The Wrong Kind of Entrepreneurs Flourish in America” [Noah Smith, ]. “Crony capitalists seek to generate profits without producing anything of value.” Exhibit A: Uber. (The article is a primer on rent-seeking.)

“Report: The World’s 10 Worst Countries for Workers [] (). “And according to the 2017 International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)) , quite a few of those countries are key to sourcing…. In assessing workers’ rights violations around the world, like trade union rights in particular, the index found the 10 worst countries in the world for workers are: Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, the Philippines, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Korea, Guatemala, Turkey and Bangladesh. And while Myanmar didn’t make the top 10 on the naughty list, its ranking went from bad to worst.”

“[J]ust a couple days ago Bob Murray and his company Murray Energy were threatening John Oliver with a SLAPP suit if Oliver’s satirical report about the coal industry was used to ‘defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy'” []. Now Murray has filed suit. ” [Oliver’s report] falls into a variety of clearly protected categories, including opinion, satire and rhetorical hyperbole. The idea that there were materially false and defamatory statements that were put forth knowing they were false (or with reckless disregard for the truth) is laughable. There is no way that this lawsuit succeeds — but, as we’ve been pointing out — that’s not really the point of most of these kinds of lawsuits. SLAPP lawsuits are designed to create a chill on free speech, by making that speech costly.” I know I linked to Monty Python’s Piranha Brothers sketch the other day, but :

VERCOTTI: [They told me I had to see] Doug (takes a drink) Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I’ve seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.

2nd INTERVIEWER: What did he do?

VERCOTTI: He used… sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and… satire. He was vicious.

Ludicrously, coal boss Bob Murray stands in for the terrified Vercotti, and comedian John Oliver for the vicious gangster “Doug.” Grow a pair, Bob, my advice.

“A Dive Into the World of Academic Publishing” []. This is very good:

today “just four large commercial firms each publish more than 2,000 journals: Springer Nature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis”, and according to the paper “this ‘oligopoly’ of big commercial firms has most influence in the social sciences, where they publish 70% of articles globally”. The authors note that “their profitability has become so reliable that they are regarded as sound investments” (p. 10).

And this:

[T}he list of publications became the standard way of demonstrating disciplinary expertise

In other words, if you want academic credentials, these four oligopolies are one set of gatekeepers (especially in “the social sciences”).

“THE DEVELOPMENT EFFECTS OF THE EXTRACTIVE COLONIAL ECONOMY,” M. DELL & B. OLKEN (2017) []. This is fascinating, methodologically and historically, and relevant today if you frame the flyover states as colonies of the (“BlueSecessionist”) metropolis. From the conclusion:

I continue to await Suresh Naidu’s book on labor coercion – it is astounding the extent to which labor markets were distorted historically (see, e.g., Eric Foner on Reconstruction), and in some cases still today, by legal and extralegal restrictions on how workers could move on up.

“Were”? of Dell and Olken’s paper.

News of the Wired

“Practical waterholing through DNS typosquatting” []. Fun stuff, if this is your sort of fun.

“A new law allowing the German police to hack into mobile phones for even minor crimes, is expected to be passed by the German parliament this week [update: the law has now been passed]. Currently, the use of a “Staatstrojaner” – government trojan – is only permitted in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. Under the new law, the authorities will be allowed to implant surveillance malware to help secure convictions for over 70 types of crime. These include serious ones such as genocide, treason and murder, but also less serious crimes such as money counterfeiting, vehicle theft, computer fraud, rigged sports betting and tax evasion. Two kinds of trojans will be available. The first allows the authorities to eavesdrop on calls made with the mobile phone, whether using standard telephony or VoIP, while the second gives access to all information held on the device” [].

“The latest version of ‘Mark and Mandy’s Relationship Contract,’ a four-page, single-spaced document that we sign and date, will last for exactly 12 months, after which we have the option to revise and renew it, as we’ve done twice before. The contract spells out everything from sex to chores to finances to our expectations for the future. And I love it” []. Marriage as a service-level agreement for young professionals. And indeed, why not?

* * *

And here’s today’s plant (KR):

Ragwort. KR writes:

These are all from back yard or beside the house. I keep trying to get up close despite the limitations of the camera, because I’m so fascinated by the power of these ostensibly fragile beings.

Yep!

* * *

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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.

103 comments

  1. Lambert Strether Post author

    Sorry this was a minute late to appear; I got interested in the WaPo story on “Obama’s Secret Struggle,” and forgot to press the Submit button.

    Please check back soon for additional material on that, and a few more UPDATEs

    1. clarky90

      “My Struggle”, by Barack Obama. If only there was a cosy little prison cell, somewhere, for him to put his soul into words?

  2. Enquiring Mind

    That chicken farmer debt issue has me angry. I see the next round of debt peonage, leading to foreclosure and trouble all around the farm. Is that a disguised real estate play to get farmers hooked, like happened to truckers and others? Get them loaned up to the rafters, squeeze every last cent out, and then terminate, with extreme prejudice. Yet another reason to eliminate chicken from my diet.

    1. IHateBanks

      This has been a topic of discussion at my house for a while. My wife and I are borderline deplorables who can raise our own organic meat birds 25 or 50 at a time in our back yard. She wants to do it, but I say we can buy a huge organic chicken for $10 at Costco, s us both twice, so why bother with the hard work and nastiness involved with chicken slaughter.

      After reading this article, she just might win the argument. I don’t want to support this type of agribusiness, organic or not.

        1. IHateBanks

          Damn! That is beyond disturbing. I won’t even show it to my wife. We already have our own cage free eggs, but it’s nothing like that video, I can assure you! She puts “relaxing herbs” in their bedding, so they sleep better at night. And yes, I tease her about it.

          Looks like I will be raising my own meat birds soon. And they won’t be those Cornish crosses that are genetically engineered to weigh 8 pounds at 8 weeks old, either. Many of them can’t even walk the last couple of weeks. That is what you often get in the supermarkets these days.

    2. Huey Long

      This business model has been the norm in chicken farming for decades:

      In 24 years, Craig has been a consistent good performer and has been named top producer many times. But behind the “Top Grower” hats he received and Perdue’s marketing campaigns boasting about happy farmers, healthy chickens and transparency, the reality was that Craig felt like a serf on his own land. As is the case in the contract poultry system, Perdue owned the chickens, delivered the chicken , and told Craig exactly what to do to raise the best flocks. Craig, on the other hand, owned the massive debt, the chicken houses, and the mountains of waste the chickens produced.

      What makes today’s article relevant IMHO is that Purdue and Tyson are getting cut out of the action by the big boxes. I wouldn’t be shocked if Tyson and Purdue are lobbying the congress critters to pass some sort of bill to protect their chicken farmer debt racket, or starting a financial subsidiary that loans money to chicken farmers at usurious rates, sort of like a GMAC/Ally for poultry.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        These all seems to be victims of the same playbook, maybe with some variations:

        1. Fast food restaurant franchises
        2. Truck drivers
        3. Uber drivers
        4. Chicken farmers
        5. Online order parcel deliverymen

        Who’s next?

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef...

            Never let a good idea go to waste, I guess. So, it’s not surprising.

            We can offer some resistance by anticipating the next target.

    3. perpetualWAR

      The banks came after the farms for the first time in 1970-1980, regarding the massive foreclosures farmers faced. The farms were sold off cheap to Big Ag.

      The farmers told the city folk that soon the banks would come for their city homes. It only took 27 years for the crooked financial industry to do so.

      And the bubble is forming again in both farms and houses.

      When are the plebs gonna scream “I’m mad as hell & I ain’t gonna take it no more!”

    4. different clue

      Maybe the chicken to eliminate would be the corporate debt-slave chicken. Maybe the goor-may boo-teek chicken for $5.00 a pound does not lead to that kind of indentured servitude and then eviction for the goor-may boo-teek artisan farmers who produce it.

  3. Googoogajoob

    RE: “Police use of trojans to hack into mobile phones will become routine under new German law”

    No way that this will be isolated and re-purposed. Nuh uh, no way, no siree!

  4. dcblogger

    But over time, Pontoni, an economics major, has lost his devotion to data. As a math teacher in the Bronx with Teach for America, he didn’t like the way test scores dictated education policy. In the campaign world, he’s troubled by the prioritization of certain metrics.

    he is from Teach for America. Are we done here?

    1. fred

      dcblogger,

      Pontoni is from Ann Arbor, Republic of. Andy LaBarre was a staffer for John Dingel of Michigan before becoming a county commissioner. They are examples of the up and coming liberal class of political professionals. Nothing says outsider quite like an A2 liberal in Georgia. I suspect they don’t know what the term carpetbagger means in that district. If this is the best example of Democratic organizing then they are in for a rough ride in 2018.

      It would be interesting to know just which organizations got how much of the millions of dollars that Ossoff blew through to see if it went to the usual establishment suspects.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Tell it. When I was a University of Michigan student, the insularity of Ann Arbor never ceased to amaze me. After I graduated and went back for visits, it really bopped me over the head.

  5. Carey

    A provisional opinion: at this time the Democrats™ want to lose, and want to appear as hapless as possible.

    Cui bono?

      1. jsn

        Of course they’ll turn left, just as soon as we lefties start shoveling more money at them than their corporetulent donors.

        1. Ian

          The shoveling money by the donor class is just the set up and signaling for the sweet payoff in board seats, speaking fees and various other power and money related perks at later stages in their life. The left can’t offer that.

    1. flora

      hmmmm… Keenan Pontoni’s page* (assuming it’s the same Pontoni who managed Ossoff’s campaign) say’s he managed Mich. state Rep Gretchen Driskell’s campaign for US Congress. He hired on in Feb ’15, in March ’15 she led her GOP opponent 42-37%, but by Sept ’15 she was behind 32 – 49%, and went on to lose 40 – 55%. source: Wikipedia – ” Driskell was endorsed by former Republican governor William Milliken,[7] who also endorsed Hillary Clinton”

      So a Michigan Dem candidate doing relatively well hires on a very young, newb Dem campaign manager and loses. Not surprising. Did the DCCC recommend Pontoni to her. Did the DCCC recommend Pontoni to Ossoff? And if Ossoff’s race was so important to the Dem estab, so must-win, why use the same 30-year-old who lost Congressional race in Michigan, a more Dem leaning state than GA?

      *

    2. Vatch

      I agree that the Democrats™ want to lose, but most members of the Democratic party (no trademark) want to win. That’s why it’s crucial for people to vote in primary elections (and if time and energy are available, people need to actively support insurrectionist candidates before the primary election occurs).

  6. TK421

    One of my favorite parts of Shattered was reading Team Hillary’s explanation for why Russia supposedly hacked our election: they did it because Putin was mad about mean things Hillary said about him. That’s just so hilariously petty and self-centered that it has to be projection.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I also enjoyed the part about the effort to turn this Russian hacking thing into a Story That Could Not Be Ignored. The initial planning was done by people who were surrounded by Shake Shack containers! At the Brooklyn HQ!

      1. polecat

        My God !! ….. it just comes off like a really bad Saturday Night Live skit …. seriously ! … and the public thinks it’s the real deal …

        Amazing

        ‘Shake sHack’ …. Ha ha !

    2. kimsarah

      There has been an awful lot of projection. It seems to be one of the more favorite Republican traits that the Dems have copied.

  7. DJG

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Just in case people think that these kinds of panics haven’t happened in the U S of A before:

    And in these cases, they at least made the children give testimony that was taken to court. I recall a writer telling me that DuPage County, Illinois, was just chockablock with Satanists.

    Americans are a fearful people. See: FDR’s famous inaugural speech.

    1. Darn

      A better analogy would be the Red Scare 100 yrs ago, mass hysteria turned on and off like the flick of a switch. If that latent power existed *before* WW2 and the cold war I suppose it still exists. Doesn’t need to be because Americans are relatively gullible.

  8. Carla

    Speaking of Warren & Democrats on healthcare, where is Bernie’s bill? It’s not hard to write companion legislation to HR-676 (Expanded, Improved Medicare for All) for the Senate — unless, that it, you’re a U.S. Senator.

      1. Carla

        Sherrod? Elizabeth? Kamala? (her own state is doing it).

        I’m telling you, the only way we get single-payer is with a multi-national like UnitedHealth as that payer. Doubt that’s what we want.

        As I’ve mentioned before, UnitedHealth, under the name Optum, is already playing a profitable role in the UK’s NHS.

      2. JohnnyGL

        If that’s the case, he should have a staff member leak word it to the press. Once people hear about it, they’ll call their Senators. I’m sure Our Revolution could send an email or two.

        Bernie looks more agitated with the Dems of late, perhaps he needs to escalate things a bit to put some heat on them? I don’t think he does this sort of thing nearly enough. He should help rile up lefties against their Dem Party members in Congress.

        I’m enjoying the knives coming out for Pelosi….I’d love to see a big fundraiser like her get de-throned. That would be a nice scalp to have.

        1. polecat

          Have you looked at her recently ?? She reminds me of the goodie hawn characters in the movie ‘Death Becomes Her’ …. she’s about ready to start losing body parts … ! … I mean, That Grimace … ewe !

          Scalps ?? … no thank you!

    1. Vatch

      It is very frustrating. I just got an email message from one of the Sanders organizations. Note the final sentence; maybe something really will happen soon?

      This is literally insane.

      Senate Republicans are talking about passing a bill that impacts one-sixth of the American economy, that touches every single American family, and it is going through a process where perhaps a dozen Republicans are the only people in America who know what’s in this bill. They’ve kept it secret, kept it hidden, and now at the last possible second are going to rush it before the U.S. Senate to get a vote.

      It’s a disgrace.

      They call it a health care bill, but how can it be a health care bill when it throws 23 million people off of insurance, slashes Medicaid, and defunds Planned Parenthood? God knows what the implication of this legislation will be on our children, the elderly, and those with chronic illness.

      Sometimes you have a hard time understanding what kind of world these guys are living in.

      Time is running out. It is up to all of us to act in an unprecedented way. We have to think big and do everything humanly possible to make sure this horrendous piece of legislation does not become law.

      So this week, I am going back on the road to visit states where there are Republican Senators who can and should vote to stop this moral abomination. I will be in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia on Saturday and Sunday. I will be talking about how unspeakable it would be to throw millions of people off of health insurance and in the same bill give tax breaks to the rich and multinational corporations. We will share the stories of people who will be impacted by this bill.

      But I will also be asking why is it that the United States is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its people as a right. I will be asking why we pay far more per capita than any other nation for health care with worse outcomes and the highest prices for prescription drugs.

      And I will be discussing the Medicare-for-all, single-payer legislation that I will soon be introducing in the United States Senate.

      1. Carla

        “And I will be discussing the Medicare-for-all, single-payer legislation that I will soon be introducing in the United States Senate.”

        WHEN?

        1. Vatch

          Well, if he’s in your part of Ohio this weekend, ask him. For those in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, do the same: ask him.

  9. craazyboy

    “I’ve read the Republican “health care” bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.”

    Ergo, the apt moniker, blood money. It rhymes in principal!

    ========

    “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”

    Gawd, we’ll hafta wait for the update on this story.

    The news is getting even more boring than usual.

    Good news is that, altho sleeping well last night, free of bad dreams, I awoke with a jumble of words bouncing around my skull and was able to capture many of them with quill and paper, and am in the process of decoding the hidden meanings within.

    It’s happy song, but then quickly turns foreboding, as the star of the tune, the American Neolib Brainwashed Consumer, succumbing to the temptations of rabid, out of control, consumption, not so slowly eats the planet Earth.

    It could be a Republican or Democrat song, either way, as both sides voraciously gobble each other across the aisle and straight into the others fat belly.

    It can only end with a belch and a pfft.

    Actually, a train whistle. The title is, not so coincidentally, Locomotive Breath, by Jethro Tull.

    I’ll also post the guitar tabs, chords and sample guitar riffs from a new website I discovered. Cool place. Can stop and start the music with a mouse click and the marker moves from note to note in real time with the audio!

    Should be ready to publish for NC viewing consumption tomorrow AM.

    1. robnume

      Looking forward to that, craazyboy. Knowing what a big Buckethead fan you are, did I tell you about one time when I saw Buckethead live in NorCal and I noticed that his bass player was none other than Viggo Mortensen?

      1. craazyboy

        Ya, I remember. I didn’t know he played with Victor- I’ll have to check youtube and see if they got a concert. Lots of em with his Bucket of Bernie Brains band. Great name.

        I seem to recall reading he was from OC – I wish I could have seen him there. Don’t know how I missed him all these years? But we had Van Halen, and about 500 hot metal garage bands. A few jazz guys too – Larry Carlton being one.

  10. Kim Kaufman

    For Lambert:

    Ignore the title and even point of the article. Some fun pushback from Stein to… Neera Tandem. Being good at Twitter, however, is not enough to get my vote.

    For The Record, Jill Stein Would Have Made A Great President

    1. DJG

      Kim Kaufman: I believe that it was Altandmain who posted the link yesterday. The whole thing is a hoot. Jill Stein does well. What lurks in the background, though, is if the Green Party is a one-person operation. Where are the other candidates? Couldn’t they have shown up in any of these by-elections?

    2. jo6pac

      KK thanks for the link.

      DJG, if you get on the Greens mailing list you see were they are running for office around Amerika. Offices from dog catcher to congress were do have a chance unlike demodogs.

      1. Jess

        Running for office? You mean like putting their name on the ballot and then sitting around being congratulated by all their Green party friends? Or do you mean actually campaigning, knocking on doors, doing mailers, attending neighborhood meet-and-greets, trying to attract not only independent voters but disgruntled Dems and Repubs? Because if you’re talking about the latter, I’ve never seen it.

  11. dcblogger

    Institutional Factors in US Violence
    The pervasive violence in American society is driven by many factors, including easy access to firearms and Hollywood’s glorification of killing, but there are also institutional factors, as Lawrence Davidson explains.

    1. Carla

      I’m reading an interesting book passed on to me by my daughter, “Angels and Ages, A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life,” by Adam Gopnik. (Darwin and Lincoln were both born on Feb. 12, 1809.)

      Re: Violence in American Society:

      “In his first important public speech, the Address before the Young Men’s Lyceum, in Springfield in 1838, Lincoln declared a radical insistence on ‘reason’ to be the only acceptable form of public discourse, the cure for the prevalence and epidemic of violence in American life.

      Lincoln was arguing for something, but above all, he was arguing against something, and that was the code of honor that insisted that a higher law lay outside mere procedural obedience. It is hard now to grasp the cultural authority that the code of passionate honor — with its elaborate rituals of feuds and duels — held in the period, and the primacy that it seemed to give to the South. Not merely a political edge but the poetic priority seemed to lie with the feudal and honorable South against the commercial and mouthy North. (It was a cultural advantage that persisted right up through, and perhaps beyond, the Atlanta premiere of ‘Gone with the Wind.’

      It was the toleration, even the admiration, that this extralegal code inspired, with its violent consequences for public life, that the young Lincoln set out, ambitiously, to end.” (page 39)

      On so many levels…hhhmmmm….

  12. Kurt Sperry

    I think this is the worst election night coverage I’ve ever read; it presents the obvoius (early voting, mail-in ballots) as dramatic events. More: “Pontoni has a complicated relationship with his craft.” This is what we’ve come to; hagiography for a losing Democratic strategist. That is where we are.

    The press has never been so openly partisan in my memory. They have always leaned machine, corporate Democratic in that span, but it’s become astonishingly flagrant with the arrival of Trump on the scene. And they hate anything approaching the actual left just as much, probably more. This is a “center” not of any flavor of actual political moderation but of “winners” and dogs under the “winners'” tables desperately wanting to grasp at any possible entitlements and extend the looting further while the getting’s good.

    The rhetoric is often ideological, if vile, pitching markets and fear, but I don’t really feel any allegiance to it; any sincerity. The people at the top are mostly just self-servers, they would have under different circumstances, I expect, adopted nearly any policy set that helped their individual careers and situations. Kissing up and punching down is simply the path of least resistance to where they want to get and stay.

  13. Roger Smith

    WAPO: Changing the Past; Russia and Obama, the Tragic Hero

    Pleaseeee…… How serendipitous that his garabage would appear right as I begin to see more people realizing the incongruity between the Trump/Russia Hack investigation and the administration that was actually in charge when this ‘definitely, probably, maybe’ didn’t happen.

  14. WobblyTelomeres

    “Practical waterholing through DNS typosquatting”

    Lambert: just curious. Have you run dnstwist on NC.com?

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Frankly, I don’t think it would be a profitable enterprise to typosquat on the NC domain. But, there may be other factors involved (“hey, what do I know?”).

        It appears to be a simple script on github. If you have a linux box somewhere with python, it would appear to be a 10 minute diversion. Mine is under some sheets at the moment as my wife decided a moth grey was preferable to mint green for my office walls.

        Requirements:

        GeoIP==1.3.2
        dnspython==1.14.0
        requests==2.11.1
        ssdeep==3.1.1
        whois==0.7

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Note: ANYONE could run dnstwist for any website (DNS resolvable name) they choose, not just the domain owner. The script (python program) is a simple loop that iterates over the name, substituting characters from the alphabet and attempting to see if the newly formed name can be resolved. Obviously, such a thing can be enhanced in myriad ways. From a cursory examination of the script, extending it should be trivial, left as an exercise for the student.

  15. Carolinian

    Wolf Richter on the Amazon venture into the gig economy.

    “Amazon Flex” is not in every city yet, but it’s in “more than 30 cities” in the US, Amazon says. “And we’re adding new ones all the time.” It’s a way to “make $18-$25/hour delivering packages with Amazon.” It’s an app that allows you to choose a time block in which to pick up and deliver packages. Your pick-up location may be an Amazon facility or “a store or even a restaurant.” You can use your car, bicycle, or whatever to deliver the packages. “Be your own boss, set your own schedule, and have more time to pursue your goals and dreams,” it says. It’s part of the gig economy.

    And there are “Amazon Delivery Providers.” OK, the name isn’t fancy, but it works. “You choose the cities where you’d like to deliver. Whether you have one van or a fleet, our volume and your business could be a great match,” Amazon says. “All deliveries are within a specific service area and delivery services vary by location.”

    You pick up at “a local facility.” You use “Amazon’s routing technology,” which “helps you navigate efficiently.” You “earn money by delivering packages to Amazon customers.”

    Those not using bicycles are expected to BYOV (bring your own van) and the vehicle cost comes out of the $18-$25 per hour. A friend in Phoenix has been receiving packages this way and perhaps this delivery venture is Bezos’ backup plan to the loony quadcopter scheme.

    Ama-uber?

    1. Huey Long

      It seems like a shrewd move on the part of Amazon considering Uber may soon go belly up. I mean all those drivers are still going to need to make their car payments, no?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Uber drivers make $0.56 per mile on average, average vehicle maintenance costs are $0.57. Counting everything, I think Amazon indentured serfs Delivery Providers will do about as well.
        No worries for Kalanick and Bezos however, hyper-free money and hyper post-legal non-enforcement means billionaire monopolists and Ponzi operators pocket 9 or 10 figure payments. How many Aspen chalets and New Zealand farms does one man really need?

  16. Louis Fyne

    “..Keenan] Pontoni, Ossoff’s 30-year-old campaign manager, ”

    lol, this explains why Ossoff’s TV ads look like parodies (see Ossoff campaigns youtube channel)….. the manager genuinely doesn’t realize that Ossoff’s TV ads were all political tropes and worn cliches.

    15 seconds after the start of an Ossoff ad I fully expected Hans and Franz to barge in and declare their need to “Pump you up” Joe Ossoff

  17. Huey Long

    The Saudi-Qatar Spat – An Offer To Be Refused

    Is it just me, or is the Saudi-Qatar tiff starting to look more and more like the Austria-Hungary v. Serbia dispute of July 1914?

    Hopefully cooler heads will prevail because to paraphrase Bismark, Qatar isn’t worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.

    1. marku52

      There is no international situation that the intervention of the United Stated can’t make a hundred times worse.

      OTOH, what the hell were the Saudis thinking? That they were going to invade Qatar, with the biggest US base in the ME being there?

      I wonder if the Lords of the Universe are ever going to realize that our BFF the CIA, the Saudis and the Israelis are causes of a whole lot of our troubles……

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        One:

        There is a new crown prince, and its a son of the king. To our ears in the U.S., this might seem normal, but father to son dynasties are quite rare and rarely last. The strength of the English monarchy over the years is largely due to its powerlessness. Moving forces, who might be loyal or have officers from other elements of the family, might be a good idea while the crown prince tries to get recognition from world leaders. The Saudi Royals are susceptible to a Libya style operation. All we need to do is pick a new set of rulers. We don’t want an oil supply disruption, but if the next king was deemed to be unstable, every country on the planet would be going through the list of royals to see who would be a good king to back.

        The other reason is Saudi Arabia is a glorified plantation. They aren’t rich because they are smart. They are rich because they have the oil. The Beverly Hillbillies has a good deal of truth*. Democracy in theory time limits bizarre leaders without violence, but who is to say the powerful king or his son is rationale? At this point, we are discussing individuals with no means of control over them. As bizarre as the msm is, it still serves as a check on our own bizarre President. Congress, the courts, the bureaucracies and so on.

        *The Saudi clan, which is what they are, like any other group of people has its own share of nasty, irrational people. Money and diplomatic status has put them in a position where these people never learn to act or can be ignored. When we discuss the House of Saud, we aren’t discussing a Sunni sect who follow Mohammed with so many Angels on the heads of pin argumet. We are discussing the Beverly Hillbillies with diplomatic status and mean streaks.

  18. dcblogger

    too lazy to find all the links, but this weekend Bernie will be holding health care rallies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and for all I know elsewhere. With any luck he can put the fear of God into certain senators.

    1. hemeantwell

      I got an email from MoveOn — I keep track of them, with malice — that Sanders apparently composed urging people to attend those rallies. Does anyone know how deep the cooperation runs between OurRevolution and MoveOn?

    2. JohnnyGL

      Bernie may frustrate at times, but often, it seems he’s the only one even trying. God bless that guy.

    1. Archie

      I’m finally starting to appreciate the debating skills you honed back in the day. Those were some prescient calls you made. I would maintain, however, that those same skills inhibit your ability to become cynical enough.

    2. Darn

      Hmm fascinating that they say they intercepted ORDERS FROM PUTIN to meddle… and didn’t reveal that at the time though he was caught red-handed with a smoking gun? Suspicious yes to reveal it only afterwards.

      Btw here is real footage of Putin in the Kremlin

      1. integer

        Here’s a on this topic with , the WaPo reporter who broke this “story”. In the context of knowing the enemy, I watch some of CNN’s (and MSNBC’s and Fox’s, for that matter) reporting on US politics via YouTube, and, at least to my eye, the talking heads (Alisyn Camerota in this case) at CNN have been looking a bit shaken lately.

        Oh, and remember this?


        By Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous

        Hmmm.

  19. hemeantwell

    I think Buchanan, as conservatives will do, conflates liberals and the left.

    +1. Is that their political version of TINA? I’ve been bewildered at the way people at Sic Semper Tyrranis, who can overcome what you’d think would be the gravitational pulls of their military and national security backgrounds to do very good criticisms of current US foreign policy, will just tank when it comes to domestic politics and imagine themselves to be confronting a “left” that’s just a collection of Hilbot liberal interventionists. It’s as though they never heard of the opposition to the Iraq war, or to the wars in Central America, etc. I don’t think it’s a matter of ignorance, perhaps it’s a way of maintaining an antifraternization barrier.

    1. Zzzz Andrew

      The juxtaposition of this with another quote in today’s Cooler gives me the chance to ask Lambert something that’s been on my mind for a while:

      … the House and Sen­ate GOP con­fer­ences are any­thing but mono­lith­ic. Each has mem­bers that span the polit­ic­al spec­trum, from those who are some­what con­ser­vat­ive and may need the votes of in­de­pend­ents and maybe even a few Demo­crats to win reelec­tion, all the way to mem­bers who are to the right of Genghis Khan and can eas­ily win with no in­de­pend­ent or Demo­crat­ic votes …

      This is talking about politicians rather than voters, but implicit in its discussion of constituent demands is the idea that those demands are so varied as to be paralyzing. It airbrushes away of any mode of response other than a grudging move to the status quo center, but that account of things rings as hollow as it does when it’s trotted out on the left: if all that distinguished the constituents of these GOP pols was the magnitude of the tax cuts and bomb deployments for which they long (/s), we wouldn’t be seeing this kind of paralysis, or disorder, or whatever it is we’re apparently seeing.

      Lambert, you’ve formulated the illuminating idea that there are really three (rather than two) ends of the political spectrum in America — conservatives, liberals, and the left — where the left is the common enemy of the conservative/liberal factions, etc. But don’t you also see signs of a split on the right, in symmetry with the one on the left?

      That is, if “left” is a good term for the distinction vis-a-vis liberals that you want to make on the left (and I think it’s a fine term) then don’t you see signs of an active “right” that can be distinguished from conservatives in many of the same ways? Starting with the distinction that folks on “the right” care about policy as opposed to the conservative stock-in-trade of idpol and grift, and moving on from there?

      Obviously, folks on “the right” and “the left” will sometimes have very different ideas about what kind of policies America needs, but that’s not always true. For example, “left” and “right” might find quite a lot of common ground on questions of war, empire, and bailouts; and I suspect that’s just a beginning. At any rate, it would seem useful to acknowledge the difference between the part of that end of the spectrum that’s sincerely policy-oriented and the part that isn’t, just like we wish conservatives would make the distinction between liberals and the left.

      Is it just me, or does this characterization of a four- rather than three-way split seem accurate/valuable to you, too?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Starting with the distinction that folks on “the right” care about policy as opposed to the conservative stock-in-trade of idpol and grift

        I’m not sure that makes a difference if ideologically they have more in common than not.

        1. Zzzz Andrew

          Thanks, I’ll think about that.

          I guess I don’t consider myself an ideological leftist: I’m pro-single payer because e.g. you can’t shop for emergency care, pro-regulation because e.g. an unregulated market naturally ends in monopolies, etc. etc. (lots of other reasons for positions like this, but to me those are the most obviously solid ones). If you push me to the wall I’ll say “I just want a system that is close to fair, and in which rights are real.”

          When I talk to people e.g. at work who self-identify with the right, in the same way that I self-identify with the left, I get a similar vibe on a lot of counts: they have a different map for getting to “fair” and a different prioritization of rights, but they’re not on a different planet. And a lot of them appear to have exactly the same problems with conservatives that I have with liberals.

          Of course it’s also possible that I’m projecting my desire to find common ground and a broad enough consensus to actually drive changes. But it would be a pity to anathematize if the distinction, and the potential for common ground, is actually there.

    2. Liberal Mole

      Yes. I figure their foreign policy experience is great and deep, but that they live in some rarefied atmosphere/retirement village, never saw a Bernie rally, and don’t cruise the internet for the thinking left. You’d think with the fights going on (Perez-Ellison, the CA Chair) they’d notice the Elite Dems are trying to squash a rebellion in the ranks.

  20. allan

    [SJ Mercury News]

    The troubled ride share company Uber was sanctioned Friday for its failure to comply with a search warrant for records on a driver who allegedly sexually battered a female passenger for more than 10 minutes.

    For weeks, Moraga detectives have been waiting for the company to comply with a signed search warrant that asked for 90 days of records on 42-year-old Leonid Beker, a former driver who was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of sexual battery. Police were supposed to meet with county prosecutors to review the case on Monday, but Uber’s failure to turn over records has hampered the investigation. …

    Sure, there are no profits, but the “culture” is a problem, too.

  21. The Rev Kev

    Re the latest version of ‘Mark and Mandy’s Relationship Contract’. These guys are amateurs. For a real relationship agreement, that should see Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s work

  22. Biph

    The problem for the Republicans if they pass AHCA is that they will own healthcare.
    It doesn’t matter if A doesn’t kick in till 2018 and B till 2022 voters aren’t engaged enough and the GOP margins for victory too narrow for that kind excuse making to matter. Once they pass AHCA they own every insurance premium increase and every problem with medicaid/medicare that pops up until the AHCA is replaced.

    1. John k

      Well deserved…
      Course, it’s bipartisan. They both deservedly own it.
      New thought for me… maybe it took something as bad as o care to get the masses behind Medicare for all.

  23. ewmayer

    Re. Obama’s Secret Struggle — I really, really hope the 0-man decides to appropriate that title for the next installment of his multivolume autohagiography, in which case I will definitely get a copy … of the German-translated version. “Mein Geheimer Kampf”, really rolls impressively off the ol’ Zunge, wouldn’t you say?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama seemed desperate to rehabilitate the GOP…so…it would be a natural evolution.

  24. NotTimothyGeithner

    Concerning sending a destroyer to Collins, my thought is the Republican Senators (not just the GOP) at large have grown envious of Maryland/Virginia (especially) defense boon of recent years. They all want the money for their own districts, but I think they are too disorganized to achieve these goals.

    I don’t think a destroyer will win many votes.

    The danger with AHCA is much ObamaCare is by declaring ownership of a decrepit system the premiums (even if they are increasing at rates slower than the Shrub Administration) and other issues will be blamed on the party that declares they passed trans-formative healthcare legislation. Collins isn’t a complete a dope when it comes to politics. She likely understands this.

  25. darthbobber

    Ahh.. that Washington Post blockbuster. Am I not supposed to notice that the only elements that arguably had some impact (because they made true information available that the DNC would have preferred to hide), came well before the breathlessly flogged launching of an “operation” by Putin? Or that most of the “operation” consisted of nefariously flogging anti-Clinton stuff on RT and Sputnik? Without much regard for accuracy, but that hardly differentiates them from many of our domestic news purveyors.

    btw, what do we think Radio Free Europe, and its hilarious “fact-check the Russkies” site, Polygraph, are? Might they be intended to influence the political behaviour of RUssian, Ukrainian, et al consumers? Is this meddling?

    One thing that IS interesting here, is that this story mentions something that floated up in a story or two in the fall, in that they were expecting “worse” material to be released than the DNC email trove. (I think those were September, early October stories, mentioning the Clinton campaign trying to inoculate itself against another shoe dropping.) Now they’ve added the proviso that the Russians might have EITHER had it OR been willing to forge it. But its pretty clear that everybody seemed to think that there WERE worse looking things about either Clinton or the DNC that would count as a bombshell if revealed. Hmmm…

    The Post story, like most of the stream of vacuousness I’ve seen, relies on extreme imprecision about what Russian “interference” is. We’re supposed to think of it all as John leCarre stuff, but much of it is just the very prosaic use of the standard propaganda methods widely used by pretty much everybody.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > We’re supposed to think of it all as John leCarre stuff,

      I found the breathless focus on the bureaucratic detail vaguely pornographic. Of course, it is DC….

      1. darthbobber

        I believe it is what Poo-bah referred to as: “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

  26. kimsarah

    Any site that didn’t buy into the Daily Kos, Alternet, Truthout, NYT, Wapo directive to coronate Clinton was “guilty” of spreading Russian propaganda to help Trump win (even though he lost the popular vote). You were either for her or against her. God help everyone who was against her, especially if she had won.
    Maybe it’s time to look at who in the deep state fed those Clinton sites with anti-Trump propaganda to try to influence the outcome. Looks like they succeeded based on the results of the popular vote in her favor.
    Fact is, Obama didn’t do anything about Russian interference because it was assumed by everyone that Clinton would win and thus publicizing Russian interference would have tainted her victory.
    Another fact, it still hasn’t been proven that anybody other than a disgruntled DNC insider leaked those damning memos to Wikileaks.
    Another fact is, despite Russians preferring Trump over Clinton, nobody has said the voting machines or numbers were tampered with that benefited Trump.
    Another fact is, it’s been pretty well-established that Clinton ignored late campaigning in those key states that cost her the electoral vote.
    What has yet to be established is how far people like Wasserman-Schultz and Lynch went, including obstruction, to make sure Clinton won.
    Also yet to be seen is Clinton apologizing for all the crazy b.s. she’s putting everyone through because she won’t admit that she caused her own defeat because of a flawed campaign strategy, laziness, arrogance and stupidity.
    And an investigation into her foundation being used as a quid-pro-quo money making machine.
    And finally, yet to be seen is an apology by the news organizations for propagating this anti-Russia and guilt-by association hysteria that has made McCarthyism look pale by comparison.

  27. Altandmain

    As a Canadian, I’m very unhappy with the CETA right now.

    Canada has repeatedly been a victim of ISDS actions. I fear now it will not just be the US, but also the EU that sues.

    We could also see lower wages and the destruction of other key employee protections.

  28. meeps

    On Mark and Mandy’s Relationship Contract (which I nearly skipped):

    If young, professional couples want to attribute their inter-personal relationship success to their contract, so be it. It doesn’t appear to have prevented them from learning the same lessons other couples learn from working through things on-the-fly.

    Still, I chuckled, as I remembered, The Flight of the Conchords, A Kiss Is Not a Contract

  29. relstprof

    Re: academic publishing

    There are some departments (even in the humanities) that make hiring and tenure decisions based on an internal ranking of the publishing houses (e.g., Oxford, Yale) and journals agreed to by department members.

    Yeah, it’s that sick.

  30. Michael C.

    “NOTE If anybody wants to prevent the election from being hacked, the policy solution is hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. I can’t think why this isn’t on the agenda.”

    I agree. It works in other countries quite efficiently and seemlessly. Why not here. Publically done, hand counte ballots at the precinct level. Our reliance on technology to do this is stupid considering that technology can be hacked so easily by a myriad of actors, internal, national and international.

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